Category Archives: 2009

Success Misses Something, Sets Course for New Traditions

The setting was magical and paid off countless dreams my imagination summoned for the last several months.

I was in my favorite tree on the west side of the Mississippi. The wind was ideal and delivered what this day’s forecast had predicted over the previous five days. The calendar corresponded to

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The author with his 2016 Midwestern Whitetail Success.

those supreme days of November that eons of history have shown to be premium for having a shot at a buck-of-a-lifetime.

And I did.

It was an amazing feeling – euphoric in every way. Through the hours of jubilation that followed, though, I was quick to realize that something was missing. I knew it immediately, and I’d be lying if I didn’t forget for a moment that this great tale would miss an important piece that all others of its kind had held over the last two-plus decades of bowhunting.

Immediately following a moment like this, I have a small checklist of folks to communicate with to follow along with a fruitful hunt’s conclusion. My dad was always position No. 1 on that list. On this successful day, one of the most memorable and enjoyable of my hunting career, he was not there.

He passed away nearly three years ago, but him following along via phone calls or text messages when I connected with a big buck was among some of the best parts of the journey. No matter which state I was hunting.

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Another view of the beautiful deer.

I think it was fun for him too. He often offered advice or positive reinforcement from afar, doing his part to feel like he was alongside me the way he was all those years tracking deer on our farm in Western New York.

I wiped away a few small tears selfishly wishing I could call him.

I knew I couldn’t reach him, but prayed he was following from afar this time too.

Don’t get me wrong. Being able to connect on a majestic Midwestern whitetail remains one of the best feelings a hunter could have. This time was no different.

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A magical day, only one thing was missing from making it even better.

I celebrated success with some of the dearest friends a deer dude could ask for – both in person and by phone. It was just missing some of the individual tradition that had for so long accompanied the joy.

Like all traditions, this one must change too. For me, I welcomed the updated version of celebrating with my own kids, who are still too young to hunt, but know the passion the outdoors has sowed in my soul. I look forward to their successes afield someday. Then, I hope to become part of their small checklist too.

Maybe even position No. 1!

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Call Me Maybe – Alaskan Style!

With the exception of those who may have spent all of 2012 living under a boulder, you’re probably well familiar with the slew of “Call Me Maybe” cover videos that are circulating the digital world.

Some of the most famous include the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, the Harvard baseball team, Sesame Street and even Jimmy Fallon (who at least was joined by the original artist, Carly Rae Jepson, of Canada, for his rendition).

Well, there’s finally one to make hunters proud. And leave it to those wild and crazy folks in Healy Lake, Alaska to bring it to us.

It’s worth checking out, with the fair warning that you’ll likely not get the song out of your head the entire day. That is an issue if you’re a middle-aged gent who runs the risk of getting odd looks from co-workers and wives alike. If you’re a single woman, you should be fine.

Sadly, while videos of its kind have generated more than 1 million views from around the globe, the recently uploaded Alaskan Hunter version is up to a shade over 8,000 on popular sharing site YouTube. Give it time.


Harrison’s First Duck!

Youth Waterfowl Days are some of my favorites. Nothing is more enjoyable than seeing the excitement of the outdoors through the eyes of a kid.

As much as I enjoy it now, I cannot wait to take my own kids in a few years.

North Carolina added a youth day this season, identifying both Dec. 10 and Feb. 4 as days where only an accompanied youth – ages 15 or under – get to do all the shooting at ducks and other legal fowl.

Last weekend, I was able to join as a special videographer as Harrison Shell, 9, harvested his first duck – a beautiful drake wood duck. Harrison’s dad, Kenneth, spends a lot of time helping fuel the young hunter’s drive for the outdoors. It’s great to see – both that Harrison has a tremendous passion at such a young age, and that he has a dad who is willing to help him enjoy it.

With that, I give you a video episode to follow the action from the hunt.


3rd Annual AHT Holiday Gift Guide for Sportsmen

If you’re shopping for a sportsman, it can be difficult thumbing through the way-too-many Christmas catalogs that come from the big-box hunting retailers (Note: you know which stores they are – the ones that repackage the same catalog and send it once a week to your door. I joke, but I still go through each one!).

Well, here’s hoping we can make it a little easier for the shopper. And if you’re the one being shopped for, just send this post to your shopper!

Touch of Outdoors
Remington Country, U.S.A. (Remington’s new, updated online store) has several items to accessorize your favorite outdoorsman. The site is loaded with great gift ideas. A couple possibilities with class include cuff links made from the brass of a Remington shell, as well as Remington money clips.

The new store also has several assembled gift boxes to choose from that include accoutrements such as cleaning equipment, knives, hats, etc. Those come in a number of price ranges (from $20-$80). There also is a gift box targeted (pun intended) at women.

Through Dec. 19, orders of a certain price get 15% off at checkout.

Compact Video Camera
This is the third year in a row that the compact video camera has made the holiday gift guide. And if your hunter does not-yet have one, he or she wants one. I promise. They take video, they double as a still camera. They are compact enough to tuck into a coat or pant pocket, and they take phenomenal HD-quality video.

And here’s the best news: They have come down in price over the last several years. In fact, I found this price for a Koday PLAYTOUCH digital video camera while doing a little searching for a friend. The great price is probably a sign of a new model coming next year, but this camera seems like a winner to me.

And if it’s headed to your favorite sportsman, remember to add a flexible tripod to make their life easier afield.

Trail camera
Much like video cameras, trail cameras have come out of the stratosphere with respect to price. Now, even if your hunter has 1-2 trail cameras, there is always room for another.

Several retailers have “get in the door” pricing on several cameras this year. There are pros and cons to buying any brand, but most do a respectable job based on the price point they’re selling at.

Blue Book of Gun Values
Most hunters who own more than one gun has an interest in the values of their own inventory, as well as some of the guns they would like to own down the road.

The best book I’ve found for this is the Blue Book of Gun Values. There are plenty of others, but this annual digest has an enormous list of gun values and breaks them down by the condition of the weapon. While it’s not necessary to get the updated version each year, it is nice to refresh with an updated version of the digest every five years or so.

A non-gamer’s video game
I am not a “gamer.” I don’t mind playing a little Wii bowling or tennis from time to time, but it’s been 20 years since I mastered the code to go straight to fight Mike Tyson in Punch Out on Nintendo.

That said, I’m more intrigued than ever by the new line of hunting “simulations” that are available across all gaming platforms. And since we have a Wii in our house, I think I could see myself playing the new Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012 from time to time.

My hunch is most avid outdoorsmen wouldn’t mind giving it a shot in the offseason.

A gun kit
Does your hunter double as a “Do It Yourselfer”? If so, how about purchasing a black-powder kit and allow him to build the gun that he will hunt with next season?

There are a few common brands that are affordable ($300ish) that essentially provide all the parts for a hunter to assemble a tack-driving nostalgic muzzleloading gun.

There are pistols too.

New floor mats for the truck!
Chances are, his or hers are dirty. And there are a number of aftermarket brands that make great, custom-fit floor mats that keep the dirt, grime and mud out of your truck’s floorboards. They range in prices, but they pay for themselves by keeping your truck clean.

Yeti Cooler
Looking to spend a little more dough on your loved one? A YETI cooler could be a perfect gift. Ranging in price ($250-$800) based on size, these coolers are about as good as it gets for keeping colds cold and hots hot. They have an unmatched amount of insulation and are molded to keep things from leaking.

They are really nice!

Big Rack Shedz
A neat little touch for any hunter, these miniature shed antlers are designed to hang from a rearview mirror. They are under $15.

The company also makes miniature European mounts of several animals that can stick to a dash.

Flaunt that you’re a hunter!


Waiting on The Waiting Game

AHT Contributor, Greg Johnston Reports From the Stand:

The trail cameras prove they’re there, but this week I failed to lay eyes on any of the mature bucks that visited my Moultree cams throughout the summer and fall. The calendar tells us it’s getting to be that time of year, but the deer haven’t yet cooperated. That will soon change.

A doe feeds on corn Saturday morning.

I expect activity to increase this coming weekend and really get rocking the week of Nov. 7th.

My hunts this week were fairly uneventful, although I saw plenty of does and yearlings. The most action I saw was last Thursday morning when a 1.5-year-old 8-point bumped several does past my stand.

With a week and a half of vacation time coming up this week and next, I’m confident that I can get on some mature deer. I’ll certainly be trying. I’ve got my Dad in the field along with another hunting buddy, so hopefully between the three of us we’ll get our hands wrapped around some bone at some point during the next few weeks.

Stay tuned.


Groceries almost a goner … Need restocking.

If it weren’t for the excursion zones, I’m not sure I’d have believed it. Seeing our five small food plots look like a field of dirt with a few scraggly green plants, I most likely would have cussed Mother Nature for not allowing all the seeds we sowed to grow this Fall.

Excursion zone shows the amount of browse taking place in one plot.


We have a new lease so we weren’t really sure what to expect once we started prepping and planting the plots. Clearly, the deer in our area are looking for more browse or our plot mix is just that tasty. Then again, it could most certainly be both too.

And the amount of browse at another plot


Curious what others think? Is the over-browsing of the plots a good indicator that we need more food sources in our area? The oak trees in our area are just now starting to drop a larger number of acorns. For our particular lease, there are not many crops within a range area of the deer on our land. The closest thing is a mature hayfield that borders our land. Any mast crops are miles away.

I’m anxious to see what these fields do the remainder of the fall – and whether or not there will be anything left to eat before late season rolls around (the time I really expected these to be “hot” spots).

Several deer eating from the first plot


Looking for a Few Good Men and Women

I recently attended an archery education course sponsored by the National Bowhunter Education Foundation. My motivation for doing so was rooted it it being mandatory for acceptance into the Bowhunter Certification and Referral Service.

It’s great that the Service makes it mandatory, however a majority of the content was definitely second nature for many in the room. After more than 20 years of bowhunting, I’m happy to report I knew most of the curriculum. Most in the room did too. But highlights of attending the free course included a small number of individuals looking to join the bowhunter ranks. I’m a huge proponent of bowhunting so appreciated those hunters taking the leap.

Some of the bowhunter course attendees following a faux blood trail


Another highlight included one of the “teachers” lining up a NC Wildlife Resource Officer to chat with the group. And kudos to area sergeant CN Ingram for spending more than 90 minutes with the participants of the course, answering questions and providing insight into a number of hot topics within the state of NC wildlife.

According to Ingram, one of the biggest current challenges the state encounters is finding volunteers willing to help serve as instructors for the state-sponsored hunter safety and education programs.

That’s a shame.

While the bowhunter course I took was more of a repeat, I do remember many years ago being a young want-to-be hunter taking the overarching hunter safety course. I remember spending much of the course imagining the chance to shoot a 12 ga. shotgun during the range portion of the course. I also remember learning some of the fundamental tools that piqued my curiousity about hunting. It sent me searching to learn more – both via feverish reading of outdoor magazines and through first-hand experimentation in nature’s classroom.

Simply put, that course was a great guidepost for my inquiring mind. And it’s a must for young people looking to learn about the sport. Like most states, in North Carolina the course is needed before a young hunter can legally hunt on their own. To me, the challenge of finding instructors likely increases the ability for youngsters to find places to take the course and could prevent or stunt their desire to become hunters.

For a sport in great peril for recruiting the next generation of hunters, that is not good.

I’ll put my time where my words are here and look into volunteering to become an instructor. So too are a few of my friends. It’s something we all should consider.


Cat Tales:
– I referenced above, the North Carolina Bowhunters Association’s BCRS program. It’s a great service that relies on archery hunters to help control and conserve deer populations in populated areas. More specifically, according to the group itself, “the primary goal of the BCRS program is to provide a “FREE” service to the public by offering certified bowhunters to assist with deer management programs.”

– I took a little video during the bowhunter course of Jamie, one of the instructors, showing the class how to tie a prusik knot. For anyone who doesn’t know how to tie one, it’s very easy and can help save lives. The knot is among the leading options for hunters as a knot for use with a safety harness in climbing in and out of treestands. Here is a video showing how to do the knot.

– Headed into the event, The Biscuit and I saw a big female red fox cross a driveway in front of us. After looking deeper into her whereabouts, we found a pair of fox pups hanging out in a nearby drainage pipe.

A red fox pup surveys his surroundings from a drainage pipe