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Category Archives: Day Afield

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.

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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.


Brock’s First Buck is a Bruiser!

Persistence can be a hunter’s best friend. It’s something that I often remind myself when my outdoor adventures don’t seem to be panning out quite as planned. After more than two decades of hunting whitetails, I’m also well aware that the closest cousin to persistence is frustration.

Brock holds his first buck, an Ohio giant!


My 13-year old nephew, Brock Albaugh, epitomized persistence this fall, parlaying many hunts and a few close calls into his first buck this morning. And a dandy it is, sporting 10 points and enough headgear to make topping it quite a challenge for the rest of his hunting career.

Brock earlier had been hunting another Ohio giant that he and his dad (my brother-in-law Jeff) had been seeing on a regular basis. After seeing the deer on several sits with his bow, Brock was nearly devastated to find out another hunter was able to take that buck a few weeks ago. Instead of getting frustrated, he decided to keep hunting. And instead of shooting a young buck that would make many a hunter proud, Brock stayed hell-bent on waiting for the right mature whitetail to make his way by him.

Brock, 13, passed several marginal deer awaiting his chance at a mature buck


Can you imagine? I’m not aware of too many young hunters that could pass several bucks that would be fine “first deer” in lieu of just the right buck! I’m proud of him for being able to do that even though I’d have been proud with whatever buck he was able to take.

His hunting schedule did get a little cramped when basketball season started a couple weeks ago. Archery season turned into the general firearms season. And this morning proved to be the magical day for Brock as he and his dad entered the woods, joined by Brock’s uncle Bart. Amidst a cold, snow-blanketed morning Brock was able to line his sight on this deer not once, but twice before taking him down with a well-placed shot from his dad’s Remington muzzleloader.

Another picture of the happy hunter!


As Brock tells the story, he watched the deer come out into the field he was hunting near. With his dad watching nearby, Brock was able to get one shot off at the deer before he reentered the woods. A reload and a relocation later, Jeff and Bart were able to drive the deer out of a hardwoods and right in Brock’s direction again. He provided a great shot for him and Brock made it count.

We have a standing agreement to text each other with any “good news” from the deer woods, so you can imagine my elation when the text came in under the heading “shot just a couple minutes ago.” That’s also when I realized that texting is great, but I couldn’t wait to hear Brock tell (and hopefully relive) the story of how it all went down. He did a fine job of doing that as well.

Congratulations, Brock!


The Hit-List Buck Falls

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Contributor

Grandpa always said he’d rather be lucky than good, but on opening day of the New York firearms deer season, I was a little of both.

Rewind one week to Nov. 13 when my hunting pal, John Koska, and I were hunting my family’s property in Livingston County.

The author with his Great 8 2010 NY buck


It wasn’t long into the hunt and I felt the vibration from my phone in my safety vest. The message was clear and to the point: “Shooter chasing a doe.”

After a short while John gave me a call and said he watched the buck breed the hot doe and then work past the treestand with the doe at about 25 yards. John said the doe trotted through the shooting lane and that the buck had followed. Not feeling comfortable trying to squeeze a Carbon Express arrow through the young saplings, he elected to pass the questionable shot. You have to respect that.

My question to him was “where did the buck go?” He answered “west,” and that gave me an idea. I had a treestand at the bottom of the hill where the buck seemed to be working towards and with the doe in heat I was confident he wouldn’t go far.

It took multiple encounters for this mature buck to fall

So, I packed my gear, climbed down from my stand and hiked to the truck. From there I drove around the block where I planned on entering the same block of timber, but from the west side. It’s probably about 9:30 a.m. or so at this point.

I eased up the hill and reached the stand. Once settled, I could see a flurry of activity up the hill and it wasn’t long before several does worked by. I then caught a flash of something running and knew that mature buck was exactly where I anticipated he’d be. This meant two things: First, I’d positioned myself so the shooter was now in between John and me; and Second, I was now in a position to try and kill him.

With the help of my 10x42s I could see the brute laying into a tree about 90 yards away. I watched for a few minutes and examined him. “Man, he’s got cool-looking bladed main beams,” I thought.

What now?

I decided to grunt – all while watching him through my binos. He didn’t react, so I became more aggressive with a snort wheeze. At this point I realized it wasn’t meant to be. There is no replacement for love and this bad boy was in it.

At 12:30 p.m. I called it quits, as my son’s birthday party was the next day and I had to tend to some household chores.

With that, I hung up the Bowtech for another year and headed to work for the week, waiting for the following Saturday – the opening of firearms season – to roll around.

John and I talked and decided that the “Great 8” had leapfrogged his way to the top of the hit list.

On opening morning, I was carrying my Remington 1100 Special 20 gauge and entered the woods just hoping that I’d have a chance at the buck – or at least a mature buck. The morning hours came and went with many shots fired, but none from inside the perimeters of our property.

I backed out for lunch and John, my Dad and I discussed the afternoon hunt. After a sandwich, we were back at it. I reached the stand around 2 p.m. and settled in. Shortly after, a doe and yearling worked by. From there it gets a little blurry, because I dozed off in the stand. What? You’ve never done that? Whatever…!

Okay, after my cat nap I awoke to a much calmer woods. The wind, which had been stiff out of the west, had faded and the conditions had improved.

I sat and texted back and forth with John as he was hunting a stand in the middle of our property. It wasn’t long after that I caught movement to my right. Guess who? At 85 yards I struggled to find a clear lane to squeeze a Berennke through. That is until he stopped to work a scrape. I steadied my recticle on him and fired.

Bang.

The deer whirled, ran 10 feet and stopped. Bang. I fired again. This time, he went on a dead run through the woods, but angling towards me and closing the distance. I knew the second shot had hit him, but I wasn’t sure where.

I begged him to stop. And at 60 yards my recent string of bad luck ended as he applied the brakes. Bang. I shot a third time and with that he disappeared over the nearby gully.

So, you’d rather be lucky than good? Grandpa was right! Me too. That third shot had found its mark and entered his front shoulder.

I waited awhile and eased my way along the edge of the gully. What I saw at the bottom of the gully was the end of a lengthy, season-long quest. The “Great 8” was down! I stood at the top of the bank for 10 minutes or so collecting my thoughts before descending down to put my hands on him.

I couldn’t believe it had happened. I called John and told him the news. He was pumped and made his way over for the celebration.

Now my problem was talking my wife into another taxidermy bill. It’s like Dierks Bentley sings: Man what was I thinking?


Picture-Perfect Dream Buck

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, we were looking at two pictures. The 2,000-word part was easy. My struggle came with figuring out how many inches were in the photos.

Tyler Sellens had just returned Friday from checking his trail cams. And he wanted to know what I thought this one particular buck would score.

I looked quickly – too quickly – and threw a number out that Tyler and my hunting buddy, The Biscuit, clearly weren’t impressed with. The odd looks told me I’d have no problem proving I was running on two hours sleep the last two days.

At closer glance, my high 140s mark had absolutely no merit. This stud had huge main beams, he had long tines and his mass was of the deer that hunters dream about. I quickly retracted.

Tyler, who along with Josh Turner makes up Riverview Outfitters in Hancock County, Ill., had two pictures of this buck. The first picture was Thursday morning, the second from Friday morning – but both during daylight. But he also had a challenge.

Tyler explained that he and Josh had only one tree to hang a stand in this spot, and his gut told him this deer was working a high trail during his daily ritual of checking for does. If that remained true, he knew the shot on this deer might be a long one with archery equipment.

The Biscuit, and I were only an hour removed from target shooting our bows, doing so at nearly every yardage marker possible – including 50 yards. We both shot well and that had our confidence levels soaring. We both implied that we might be up for the challenge.

The stand that they put in this area was, unfortunately for the Biscuit, locked onto a small hickory tree. The Biscuit isn’t … well … small. I am.

With the wind correct, I was able to navigate to and climb that stand our first morning of hunting Illinois. I saw and videoed four small bucks over the first couple hours out of that tree. And as the winds were gusting at speeds well into the 40s, I figured the big bucks were probably off their feet and staying as much out of the wind as possible. I had just talked myself into not expecting much movement until the magical time before sunset. The wind remained favorable for this stand, blowing out of the southwest.

And that’s when it happened. Nine hours after I arrived at my stand, the biggest deer I’ve ever seen on hoof came walking out of a brushy pile of woods and started on a walk in my direction. As Tyler had predicted, he was on the high trail. I knew right away that everything would have to go perfect in order to get a chance at this deer. I remained very calm – and looking back I’m not sure how.

As every hunter who has a large whitetail walking his direction would do, I grabbed my video camera! I’m not sure why that came first, but thankfully I also grabbed my bow and fumbled both in my hands as I sized the situation.

The buck walked through a little depression and stopped behind a series of saplings at 60 yards. He started rubbing his antlers on a small tree. I kept the video rolling and somehow managed to reach for my range finder. I’d already ranged this area several times in the morning but decided confirming the distance right now would be best. If he came out of those trees and remained broadside, he would be at 50 yards. If he came down the hill just a little bit, he would be in an opening at 44 yards. I dialed my sight to 45 yards and waited.

Somewhere in there I remember making up my mind that I was only going to shoot if everything went perfectly. I recall distinctly thinking that I was going to make this particular deer my week’s mission if the shot didn’t present itself. This was the first day of the hunt and I would have several days to play chess with him.

After a couple minutes of rubbing, the deer started moving again. That’s when I threw the video camera into my backpack. For some reason, I never even bothered to turn the record button off. Thus, the remaining pieces of the hunt were played out via sound on my video camera.

The buck broke out of the saplings and was walking slow. He walked a couple yards and turned toward my stand a bit. He was going to be on the 44-yard side of the opening.

I drew. At full draw I remember thinking that I would only take this shot if everything were still perfect.

I grunted. He stopped.

He was broadside at 44 yards. My HHA dial sight was dialed appropriately. I was looking through my peep sight and everything was perfectly aligned with his vitals. I squeezed the release and remained focused intently on where I wanted the arrow to hit. I did not see my arrow in flight, but saw and heard it hit the buck right where I was looking.

The buck turned up the hill and I could see the lion’s share of my arrow (all but the fletchings) sticking out of the opposite side of the deer … right where it would indicate a lung shot. I also saw blood – a lot of it – coming out of his side.

I was confident in the shot (as was later displayed when I replayed the video sound). I watched the buck run up the hill and out of sight. The shaking started.

I grabbed my video camera and realized that it was still on record. After taking a few moments to record my thoughts, which were all rooted in the sheer enjoyment of just shooting the biggest deer of my life, I called Tyler.

I climbed out of my stand and went to another hill and waited nearly two full hours for Tyler to meet me to begin tracking. As anyone who has ever shot a whitetail with a bow can attest, those hours are some of the most gut wrenching you can experience. You go through everything in your mind 1,000 times and try to recall any clues that will help in the recovery.

I started to question what I had seen. Was I sure the shot was where I thought? Was that blood I saw? Was he even as big as I think he was? Was it the same deer in the trail cam?

For the first time since the shot, I replayed the video. I listened to my entire first reaction and realized that there was no way I was seeing things. Replaying the real-time reaction helped build my confidence back up.

Tyler arrived and I played the video sound for him too. We started back into the woods to track.

We found blood early. The trail was easy to follow. After 70 or so yards, my arrow laid in his tracks. It was covered in blood. As often happens, the trail got wider with blood after that. We walked only another 15 yards and Tyler turned around smiling.

I’ve experienced ground shrinkage in the past. This is my first ground growage! He had points coming out of his main beams, his tines were longer than I remembered and he carried the widest rack I’d ever shot. He was truly a remarkable deer.

Tyler and Josh both were as excited as I was to have the bruiser on the ground. They’ve worked their tails off for several months to provide a hunter with an opportunity like this. And it so happened that in this case, I was the hunter. For that, I’m extremely grateful.

The buck ended up with 15 scoreable points – all intact.
And that picture ended up being worth a lot of inches – 185 4/8” in fact!

Cat Tales: I’m truly blessed. I’ve been able to shoot several nice bucks in my hunting career. Yet, I recognize that this deer is a “once-in-a-lifetime” kind of deer. And for that, I need to thank a few people for helping me fulfill a life dream. Thank you to Nick Pinizzotto, my fellow outdoor blogging friend who had never met me yet thought enough to ask me almost a year ago to join him in Illinois for a hunt with Riverview Outfitters.

I also need to thank “my girls.” My wife has dealt with my hunting obsession for over a decade and has been nothing but supportive – even though it often means a couple weeks of running our house solo each fall. My daughter Sara is living her third hunting season and gets almost as excited about deer as I do. And she is the best arrow holder this side of the Mississippi!

Finally, thank you dad for introducing me to hunting. I’m as passionate about this sport today as I was as a teenager running around our woods in Western New York. I wish a lot more kids around this world could see what I’ve been fortunate to see.


Learn more about Riverview Outfitters at www.RiverviewOutfitters.com


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.


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!