Monthly Archives: January 2010

Dealing with PHD

I’m not much of a sensitive guy. Hell my wife knows that more than anybody. But this heartache that’s left in my craw this time of year is something that nearly brings me to tears – almost fills any incremental daily thoughts with the what coulda beens, what shoulda beens and the almost wases.

What is it?

It’s Post-Hunting (season) Depression – or what we refer to around our house as PHD.

My fellow hunting brotheron knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s what’s left of the four-month chase for some of North America’s finer game animals. It’s the internal commencement ceremony for the long, grueling wait until the next chase begins.

The true opening of a hunting season is a good southern dove hunt. Kenny, Sage and I on opening day 2009.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy chasing Spring gobblers – and North Carolina is swiftly becoming a state worth chasing thunder chickens – but few things compare to Autumn’s evolution into Winter and the concurrent pursuit of whitetails with bow and arrow, and ducks alongside pooches and pals.

Tomorrow is the last day of duck and deer season. And I’m going to share this final day being a dad to my little girl. I’m OK with that, if it means not stepping the first foot into the deer woods or into the water. It’s been a down year for many of my personal metrics, but I wouldn’t trade a single day that I shared in the woods for anything.

There was the:
– Interrupted-by-work trip to Kansas with the smoke pole in mid-September
– The start of this very blog in October
– Being able to hunt 2 of 3 days in the first duck split – alongside great friends
– The annual pilgrimage north with Kenny (and his subsequent fall down the stairs in the wee hours of the morning!)
– Finally connecting on venison after the longest wait of my hunting career

One of my favorite shots from this hunting season ... Sage and I admiring the fog in the Piedmont

– The season that wasn’t in Ohio – and the gut-wrenching feeling of watching a 150″ 10 point knowing there’s nothing I could do about it
– Sage and my annual hunt on the Coast of Carolina with several friends

My little girl has been a key part of knocking my time in the woods down quite a bit this year, but I wouldn’t trade that for the world. That doesn’t change the fact that Feb. 1 will once again bring with it a serious element of PHD. Here’s hoping that in a dozen years or so, she too will share in her own bout with this terrible, terrible affliction!

Cat Tales:
How was your hunting season? Let’s hear about it – feel free to leave a comment!

I am a faithful subscriber to New York Outdoor News. Proximity to the Empire State makes it difficult to get the publication the same week it’s issued, but when my copy arrived this week, it was interesting to see the story (with quotes!) about Corey Wiktor’s suspicious shed finds. The story, which clearly was written prior to questions about the “find” coming to bear, goes to great detail highlighting Wiktor’s search for the sheds – noting he had once-before caught a glimpse of the antlers on the live deer in Cattaraugus County. The one point in the story I had not heard is Wiktor’s participation in leasing large tracts of land to essentially guide hunters. Reading that shines light on a clear potential motive for him going to such ridiculous lengths with the sheds.

Big Bucks in New York … The Sequel – Antlergate

Her name has slipped my mind. All I remember some decade-plus later is the duped feeling she left behind.

My buddy Gee and I were headed to a Dave Matthews Band concert in Rochester, NY for which I bought an extra ticket that carried with it the single agenda of getting me a date for the show. And I thought I had the perfect one targeted.

She was sweet as can be, cute as a button and we talked about a number of fun topics in English class – one of which was DMB. I asked her out and she accepted. As it turned out, though, she liked DMB a helluva lot more than she liked me – even though she carried on with just the appropriate amount of flirting to score my extra ticket to the show and a free dinner.

That “got one pulled over me” feeling is sort of the same way I felt when I learned that Corey Wiktor’s shed find (referred to in an earlier post) has been deemed a hoax. Learn more by reading here.

I’ve never met Wiktor and I don’t think I’d care to. However, his doings seem to be a common theme among other knuckleheads out there. Just last month, I read a similar story about a so-called hunter in California. Read that story, written by one of my favorite bloggers Nick Pinizzotto here.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried to do my best in giving hunters the benefit of the doubt when large deer are killed. In my opinion, if you’re going to brag about a kill, a shed find, etc., you would have to be a pure Nimrod to lie about taking it. It’s stories like the one circling about Wiktor that make it harder and harder to think all deer are taken in the proper manner, even though 95% probably are ethical kills with honest stories to back them. It’s sad that it’s gotten to a position where the fellow hunter has to prove his or her kill in order to have it appreciated.

If you read my post on the big bucks in NY and how the what-was-believed-to-be Wiktor find helped drive my anticipation for returning to the woods in New York for the 2010 season, you can imagine that this does temper that excitement a bit. That’s where this story does take a different turn from the one about the DMB girl. Knocked just a bit out of my stride, I returned with excitement to that hunt!

The eyes can tell a story …

As my buddy John tells it, my eyes got real big!

We were hunting Pamlico Sound and were probably getting much closer to picking up our decoys than we were to the start of our hunt.

As hunters do, we started to relax from the ever-ready stance and glance of searching the sky for birds headed our direction. The fog was starting to roll into the Sound and the morning’s rain seemed to provide its last spitter upon these early risers.

Sage and I were on the bow of John’s boat – making no added effort to conceal ourselves into the covered blind area. Our hunting spot that morning was some 20 yards to our left, but a lull in activity led to a chat with the fellas. My Benelli was leaning against the frame of the blind and the only thing being shot at the moment was bull.

Sage waits on ducks at the front of John's boat. I was standing next to her when the Redhead dropped from the sky.

I first caught movement when the bird was fully cupped and dropping like a 10 lb. weight over our decoys – a familiar site for anyone that regularly hunts divers. That’s when my eyes got real big! John, who had just cracked a cola and was as relaxed as the rest of us, knew there was a bird over the spread. My eyes said that loud and clear.

I yelled “Holy (somethingorother)” and threw up the Benelli as fast as my arms could. I snapped a shot off – not sure I was aiming in the right direction. The bird fell.

“That’s a beautiful redhead,” John shouted.

Sage had the bird in her mouth and was returning to the boat shortly thereafter.

Sage, retrieving the Redhead

The duck was one of two birds that will make its way on my game room wall from this trip. Also shot was the prettiest American Widgeon ever taken by your faithful blogger.

For some odd reason, I did not take a lot of photos of either bird, which is quite a bit out of my norm.

The said Redhead

I’m hoping to get at least one more duck hunt in this year to call it the 2009-2010 season. Because we did not get drawn for our Georgia hog hunt, it looks like the next time afield to chase wild game will be with the Spring Turkey season.

World Class Bucks … In NY???

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know that I’m proud of my Western NY roots. It was there that my passion for the outdoors was developed and where the majority of my time in the woods is spent – even now when I live some 500 miles away.

That said, there remains a different level of anticipation when you’re sitting 18-feet high in a tree in NY as opposed to another tree in Iowa or Kansas. It’s best explained as a mananged anticipation. That’s because the number of bruiser bucks there is much smaller than the classic whitetail belt of the Midwest. And you rarely hear about many bucks killed to reverse that feeling.

My buddy Greg passed along a couple of noteworthy posts from this morning that will go a long way in helping that level of expectation rise when I return to the stand in New York next Fall.

The first was of the Mctarnaghan buck, which was killed in Livingston County on Nov. 6 (coincidentally, that means that I was sitting in a tree just roughly 45 minutes away when he arrowed this deer).

Matt McTarnaghan arrowed this deer on Nov. 6, 2009. Image borrowed from

The buck green scored a 186 4/8″ net and sports antlers not seen very often in NY! Congrats to you, Matt Mctarnaghan. My pal Greg owns land just a stone’s throw away from where this deer was taken and I can’t imagine how excited he is to see a deer this large taken in his area.

Not too far from where Mctarnaghan took this deer, and on the opposite side of my family’s land, a diehard hunter found matching sheds for a true monarch typical buck that will clear the 200″ barrier! Imagine that, the deer is still walking.

Corey Wiktor found this pair of sheds recently in Cattaraugus County, NY. Image borrowed from

Congrats go to Corey Wiktor on what is an amazing find. If harvested in 2009, the deer would have likely surpassed the Roosevelt Luckey record buck killed in 1939 (the first deer hunting season in NY) in my home county of Allegany.

Both deer represent what can happen in New York when deer are able to reach their potential. It’s a discussion I annually have with members of my extended family. Changing a half-century long practice of killing whatever buck you see has become a greater challenge than turning the Titanic. You can bet your lucky Buck knife though that both of these pictures will be passed around our camp next fall as a reminder of what could be. To think, our property lies right between where these whoppers have stepped hoof …