Monthly Archives: November 2009

A thankful outdoors weekend …

While it wasn’t in the familiar woods of Western NY, the extended holiday weekend provided a number of adventures to the woods and waters. And it’s been refreshing to tote various types of weapons over the course of the last several days.

Hunters awaiting the afternoon flight of those pesky doves

Two trips to a neighborhood deer stand served as bookends to an active trip to the dove field with great friends and an unsuccessful duck hunt on a beautiful but chilly morning.

Combine that with joining several hunting buddies to cook 25 or so Thanksgiving turkeys for some of Charlotte’s less fortunate on Thursday and it’s been a weekend to remember.

It’s also been a tiring weekend!

Sage has been napping the entire afternoon. She’s moved only when she heard the Pro Plan hit her steel bowl and when she was reminded that her bladder had to be full! She’s probably forgot that tomorrow is Sunday – a day of outdoor rest in North Carolina!

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An idol’s reply …

The passion for the outdoors is rooted in my soul as deep as the tentacles of a 100-year-old white oak. I daresay that anyone who knows anything at all about your faithful blogger knows that hunting is a major part of my DNA.

That was no different some 15 years ago when, as a young adult, I needed to seriously consider what my future held in front of me with respect to a career. Since the seventh grade, it was understood that I wanted to be a journalist. And looking back, it was crystal clear that those aspirations included covering and/or writing about the outdoors in some capacity.

Charles Alsheimer was among my idols. Growing up just a rifle’s report away from his Steuben County, NY, home (mine in neighboring Allegany County), it captivated me to read his articles and see photos of deer that could theoretically run the same woods that I hunted. And there was no mistake that Alsheimer was among the kings of outdoor media – still in its infancy at the time when compared to today. Staples upon receiving Deer & Deer Hunting each month included checking contents page to see if he had photographed the cover photo and then flipping directly to his articles to read them first.

It was with that admiration and respect that I opted to send Mr. Alsheimer a letter one fall in search of perspective of how I could fulfill my outdoors passion by merging it with my professional career.

What I received back from Alsheimer will stick with me for a lifetime. His counsel was honest, it was clear and it helped shatter an adolescent dream. Ultimately, it also helped me plot a course into what is a very enjoyable career in marketing communications – albeit minus any considerable connection to the outdoors world.

Alsheimer noted that he appreciated my letter, and was humbled by my interest in him as a role model. He added that he has been extremely fortunate in the world of outdoors and that it came with many sacrifices – some that he wanted me to be well aware of before I decided to make a career in the outdoors my life’s calling.

Simply put, he was right. As a young adult, those sacrifices to focus on the outdoors would likely have been too much to bear. The opportunities for working in the outdoors at the time were far less than what they are today. Mass media has literally grown the industry tenfold over the last decade alone.

I still have the letter from Alsheimer. And the fact that he took to time to hand-write a note to me and provide more than a “Go get them, Tiger” message sticks with me as a very sincere gesture. For that I thank Mr. Alsheimer – in fact, I was able to send a note back at the time expressing that as well.

Who knows? Someday I might be able to retire to a career that rekindles my early dream.

For the record: A hunter must possess a child’s imagination when navigating a long sit in the deer woods. It keeps the spirit alive when nothing much else seems to be moving. It’s that same imagination that keeps reading Alsheimer’s articles a favorite of mine. For that wide-framed 10-point buck he’s analyzing in his article, very well could be the next deer I see out of my treestand!


Time changes gun openers too …

As the 2009 New York gun season approaches this Saturday, I’m reminded of how my excitement for that first day has changed throughout the years.

During my elementary school years, it took everything I could to make it through the school day (the season opened then on a Monday) in order to race home and check with my mom if she had heard from my father. On more occasions than not, my dad had taken a buck on that first day – a feat I couldn’t wait to get to school the next day to brag to my classmate and early hunting nemesis (and later hunting comrade) Andrew Harris.

Shortly thereafter, my opening day anticipation changed to checking on the success of both my dad and oldest brother, Mike. It was about this time, that I looked very much forward to Thanksgiving and the first Saturday as those were days that my dad usually let me tote along as bystander of the hunt. After his rookie season, Mike also decided to allow his little brother to tag along with him in the woods. It was many of those initial trips with him that set the foundation for my hunting future. My middle brother, Doug, would start hunting a couple years after Mike and the three of us would start sharing the woods togehter.

Because you needed to be 16 to hunt Big Game with a gun in New York, my early teen years focused very much on the archery season. Having a leg up on taking a deer made it much easier to sit among the older hunters at the poker table in deer camp. During these years, I got to tag along, but toting a shotgun had to wait.

Then came my own rookie season. As if The Big Guy upstairs had it all planned out, my birthday falls right smack dab in the heart of deer hunting. It was with my 16th birthday that my dad surprised me with a new shotgun the day before the gun opener. After practicing for months with his first gun (Ithaca Deerslayer 20 ga.),

The Ithaca Deerslayer was the gun targeted to join my first hunt!

I was shocked beyond belief when the new shotgun was in the leg of my new hunting suit (where I stored the trusty Ithaca) upon arrival at deer camp. A few Remington Sluggers out of the barrel and I was ready to roll.

My primary focus on the gun opener in those early years was laser targeted on success. While my brothers, uncles, cousins, etc. all relished in the camaraderie that came with deer camp, my priority was on making sure I did everything I could to take a deer.

It’s amazing how a few years and a notch or two in that leather sling will change that perspective. I’m fortunate in that I spend many hours a year with a bow in tow to get my ultimate deer hunting fix. And I still enjoy taking to the woods with a gun. But the primary reason of anticipation for the gun season now is the opportunity to catch up with family and friends, share stories about the buck that got away or the IOUs written on napkins from poker games past.

That is what the gun opener is about.


2009 New Gear Ratings …

New Gear Performance Ratings: Accompanying me this year during the archery season have been a few new pieces of gear. Below are my reviews of their initial use.

• Kodak Zi8 video camera: Awesome product. I was extremely pleased with the performance of the camera.

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It was not the Zi8 taking this photo!

The camera guy? He needed a little work. The HD video camera is small enough that it becomes a challenge to hold steady while your adrenaline is pumping hard with deer around! I got better at getting steadier the more I used it. The video was good quality in low- and high-light and the internal microphone did a great job picking up sounds. The one challenge is the stepped zoom. Instead of gradually moving in and out, the zoom jumps. It’s not a deal breaker for me. The hidden gem of the product: It doubles as an awesome tool for checking trail cameras afield. Just slap the SD card in the camera and get color photos from your trail cams. This product rates out as a booner in my book.

• Primos bow sling: This thing was a gift or I wouldn’t own one, but I’m kicking myself for never having one before hand. It’s sort of a hands-free device when you’re walking to/from your stand.

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The Primos Sling keeps the Monster settled ...

I also underestimated it as a nice shield for your string and cams when in transport. It’s another booner.

• Manzella Ranger bow hunting gloves: These were replacements for a pair of Rocky gloves that I’d had for a couple years. I almost pulled the trigger on buying a pair of Under Armour gloves, but opted to try these. Overall, they did their job. That said, they frayed a large amount for just one week’s use. And they seemed a bit bulkier between the fingers than some of the other gloves I’ve used in the past. I’ll likely be replacing these. I’ll rate these as a 100” 8 pointer!

• Mathews Monster: It sure looked good in the tree, but I sadly didn’t get to fling the first arrow from it. Shooting the foam target at camp – not quite the same as shooting at a deer – showed that it should perform well when given the chance. Holding the rating until it gets the “true” test.


Deer fail to heed memo about rut beginning …

Memories can’t be mounted, but they sure can be trophies. Thank goodness this year!

The archery season will conclude without the harvest of a whitetail for this happy hunting blogger. Despite several months of planning, earmarking and guesstimating, it appears our annual trip North was a few days early.

Bush Hog

Our horse for the week

Even though reports of sizeable activity among bucks chasing does in areas only a chip shot from our Allegany County properties, the deer woods didn’t seem to explode until this morning. The last two hours on stand this morning saw several deer make their way through the woods, none fitting the parameters I set for bow hunting this year. However, each made for quality video projects with the new Kodak Zi8 (I’ll be sure to get some of the videos on here soon enough).

My father also reported seeing several bucks on hoof this morning, which leads me to think we were a few days early from having our seemingly-normal successful trip. What was different this trip? For starters, the full moon turned into a buzz kill. Without question, the deer were feeding and moving throughout the well-lit night. The moon’s gaze made it possible to travel before daybreak without the use of a flashlight – that’s how bright it was.

While no arrow was flung, the six days in New York did create several lasting memories. Those came in addition to the hours of mental decompressing from 17 feet above the ground.

Nov. 4, 2009 will go down in the annals of history as the day the first-ever bobcat was spotted on our farm. Although I’ve encountered several of the pesky furbearers on trips to the Midwest, it came as quite the shock to see this cat in our woods. Upon investigating further, there have been a handful of sightings in Western New York the last year. Clearly, they’re on the way to the area, likely in droves.

This was the fourth season in a row that a coyote or two has graced us with his presence. Three years ago, a couple coyotes were taken off the tax roll. I wish all of them were removed from our ecosystem.

These sightings became noteworthy when realizing that half of the does that showed up this year did not have fawns with them. I have never taken notes to that sort of thing, but anecdotally speaking that was a first. That makes me think the fawn mortality in our area is at a high.

The Yankees returned to greatness during this trip, something I hope can only be forgotten if they win the next 20-straight pennants.

Never short of comic relief to add value to our trip, this year’s belly buster came when Kenny fell down the stairs of camp while trying to use the bathroom at 3 a.m. The incident was only mildly funny until he confirmed he was OK. At that point, it became hilarious!

Daydreaming for next year’s bowhunting trip to NY begins tomorrow.


The Chase for Perfection

I remember it well. I was in 10th grade and we were on the road against Allegany. Although I’ve hit literally thousands of baseballs since, I don’t recall seeing a delivery any better than this one from this tall, linky hurler. I remember the feeling of ease as my 31″ Easton bat sliced through the pitch.

I’ll also never forget the jabs I took after hitting that ball deep over the centerfielder’s head and into the tennis courts beyond the outfield. Sadly, there were no fences on this field and my decision to watch the ball travel a distance my 5’6″ frame wasn’t used to seeing, led to getting thrown out trying to complete the inside-the-park homer. I knew it right away though. It was, the perfect hit.

I’m still in search of that perfect shot with my bow and arrow. I came close once – in 1999 when I was able to connect on a heavy-horned nine point. Everything about that shot felt great, but it wasn’t perfect. What needed to change? I’m not sure, but much like that swing on the baseball I think I’ll know it immediately when it happens. Perhaps it was the fact that I needed to close the deal from the seated position or the failed attempt to see where the arrow hit the deer.

In 17 years of bowhunting, though, it was the only shot that has toed the edge and flirted with perfection.

This year could be the year. The thousands of arrows (ironically, also with Easton on their barrels) launched in my backyard and basement over the course of the last five months have set it up well. The new Mathews Monster is sending arrows at faster speeds than I’ve ever had in my arsenal. Yes, this truly could be the year.