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Category Archives: Day Afield

Never How You Want to Find Them

As I found him.

Where I found him

My fears had come true. It was May 11, 2013 and I was out chasing spring gobblers in Upstate New York when I stumbled upon him. It was the end of the mystery – I now knew what had happened to this buck 8 months prior.

It’s something we as hunters never want discover, but unfortunately we do from time to time. Finding a dead rotten buck is never a pleasant sight, especially when it’s a deer you recognize. It’s a theme that many deer hunters experience, we focus in on a particular buck only to have the animal disappear for one reason or another. Such was the case here.

I had captured several trailcamera photos of this buck back in mid-September. They weren’t the best quality images, but I saw enough of the deer’s antlers to interest me. I knew the buck was a definite up-and-comer and I looked forward to monitoring his progress and finding him back the following season.

Trailcam image from Sept. 2012.

Trailcam image from Sept. 2012.

The 2012 hunting season came and ended without a single sighting of this buck.

The next time I would lay yes on him would be that warm May morning. The buck lay dead nearly a mile from where my Bushnell Trophy Cam had captured those images of him back in September.

It’s always a bitter-sweet moment when you discover an animal like this. On one hand you’re relieved that you know what happened to him and on the other; you’re disappointed and saddened that he’s gone and won’t be around for the upcoming season. And then there’s always the question of how the animal died.

G5 T3 - Illegal in NYS.

G5 T3 – Pokes out from bone.

I began inspecting the 8-pointer for clues as to what may have lead to his death, and there in pain sight was the answer. A G5 T3 Broadhead was wedged in to the buck’s right shoulder blade. The finding left little doubt that the deer had been shot by a fellow archer and never recovered – most likely because the arrow never penetrated the deer’s vitals.

This story would end here if I lived in Texas or Illinois, but I don’t. I reside and hunt in New York State. I tell you that to tell you this: G5’s T3 Broadheads are illegal for hunting purposes in NYS.

A quick check of the NYS Department of Conservation’s website will tell you that ANY barbed broadhead is illegal. Period.
broadhd

Image if T3 - illegal in NYS.

Image of G5 T3 – illegal in NYS.

Here’s how the DEC defines a barbed broadhead: “A barbed Broadhead is one in which the angle formed between the trailing or rear edge of any blade and the shaft is less than 90 degrees.”

Clearly the T3 fits this description.

I’m unsure of who shot the buck – and to be honest, I don’t really care, but may I suggest that he or she pay a visit to http://www.dec.ny.gov prior to heading out to the local pro shop to stock up on next season’s broadheads.

As for the buck, I salvaged his head and plan to do a european mount on him.

It’s a shame really, but at least I now have answers to my questions.

Mystery solved.

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Exercise the Ol’ Fashion Way – Chasing Rabbits

My feelings on rabbit hunting weren’t firmly in place until college.

While I managed to pop a few bunnies here and there as a teen on our farm, it wasn’t until I met two beagles named Flash and Barney while away at school that I found out just how enjoyable it can be to round-up rabbits.

Now I just wish I could do it more often.

My brother-in-law Jeff Albaugh, and his son, Brock, allowed me to join them (and their beagle Abbie) for a holiday hunt last weekend and it brought back a lot of the memories from those rabbit hunts way back when.

We opted to take along a couple handheld cameras in order to make a blog post out of the hunt. Have fun watching it, if for no other reason than you get to see me in a funny hat.

Here’s hoping you all have a great start to the New Year!


My Formula For Not Keeping Score

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The question is better than the answer I told him. My friend had stopped over to the house to take a look at the buck I had harvested earlier that day. That’s a nice buck Greg, he said. What does he score? I haven’t put a tape to him I said, and I’m not sure I ever will.

The buck, a big 9-pointer with a small G5 on his left side that could possible make him a ten, was one of the heaviest racked New York State bucks I had ever killed in my 20-year plus whitetail hunting career.

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I had anchored the buck on the afternoon of Nov. 19 with a Winchester slug fired from my Remington 1100 Special. The encounter happened by chance, as I ascended to my stand for the afternoon hunt and spotted the buck standing in a nearby CRP field. A few shots from the stand and a finishing shot from the ground, and the buck was mine for good.

After admiring my kill, my buddy’s question really got me thinking. How do we as hunters really value our trophies? Is score the end-all, be-all in the whitetail woods? Gosh, I hope not. I’ve never been big on score; in fact I’ve never had any of my deer officially scored. That’s just not me. I hunt mature deer, period.

Why, you ask? My answer is pretty simple really, I feel putting a label/score on a deer diminishes the hunt I had for him. Personally, I like to let the memory of the hunt marinate in my thoughts a while. It’s kind of like placing a back-strap in a bag of spiedie sauce for the weekend. Follow me? You have to let it sink in. To me, slapping a number on a trophy buck too quickly devalues the animal.

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Now having said that, I recognize the fact that The Pope and Young Club and the Boone and Crockett Club set whitetail records based on the score of a buck’s antlers size. My fear however is that in the new-aged world of whitetail hunting with so much emphasis being placed on harvesting trophy deer, the sport of hunting is getting lost in the mix. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with and practice Quality Deer Management. I enjoy hunting big bucks and like killing them even more, but does the score of a deer inflate or lessen the worth of the animal or hunter? I say no.

I embrace and cherish the sport of whitetail hunting. I live and breathe whitetails. Anyone who doubts this fact can ask my beautiful wife or taxidermist. I just don’t feel we as hunters should base a trophy on a series of numbers.

What say you?

Cat Tales:

I’d like to give a shout out to my Dad who spent the majority of these past summer months conducting a Timber Stand Improvement Project on our property. Dad and I are committed to growing big deer, but with two young children and a full-time job, much of the grunt work gets left to him. He rarely disappoints. Thanks Dad!

I’d also would like to publicly congratulate my friend and good hunting buddy, John Koska who put the hammer down on this mature 8-pointer while hunting my property December 1st.

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I cannot tell you how many bucks John has passed over the years on our farm looking for the right deer to take. This guy seemed like a fine candidate. Way to go John!


Back in the saddle

Fear and the observation that my nimbleness has lost some of its vigor in recent years led me to drop a little extra change before this hunting season started. And unlike that slumped over walk of shame you sometimes present around your wife after a hunting purchase, this one came with nothing but support.

HSS Lifeline

After doing research, I purchased the multi-pack of Hunter Safety System Lifeline in order to maximize my safety over the duration of my ascension into a treestand, and the subsequent climb down following. I’ve always worn a safety harness of some kind the last 20 years, but have zero reason why I haven’t completed my safety repertoire by having a climbing system in place.

Why now? Well it started with an innocent fall out of the back of my truck a couple weeks ago after my foot got hung up between the wheel well and 4-wheeler. A few days later, I slipped while adding corn to a feeder that led to a ‘(bleep) over tea kettle’ moment that knocked the wind out me. Simply put, I’m just not as nimble as I used to be. Call it age, lack of concentration or added weight to new places on my body (I don’t quite weigh the 150 lbs. I did as a young hunter), it’s just different.

I purchased the HSS Lifeline instead of opting to make my own for a couple reasons – none more significant than the fact that the cost was not significantly higher to purchase the sets already made.

I was able to put the Lifeline to the test already this season. The NC opener was Sept. 8 and my hunting buddy Jason and I were able to hit the woods for a few hours.

Jason Shell and me during a beautiful NC morning hunt. No shots fired.

Our hunting team is planning to do a lot more videoing this year after Jason’s resilience led to the purchase of a full set of HD equipment (all the top stuff). I’m looking forward to being part of both the hunting and videoing of several hunts throughout the season.

Where did all the posts go? Posts have been a little bit ‘off the radar’ for much of the year. Good news – the hunting season is upon us and I have a sleeve full of ideas to write about. The frequency of posts is likely to start climbing soon. There are a few AHT8 posts coming up too (8 questions from people you’ve heard of in the outdoors).

We’ll also be hearing more from our AHT Northern Field Editor Greg Johnston over the next several months. Please keep checking back for that.

Whether your season has started or not, here’s hoping the 2012-2013 season is the one where your outdoor dreams come true.


Lady Luck Nets First Bird Memories

It’s a little ironic that it took Lady Luck to close out an otherwise picture-perfect turkey hunt, which netted my hunting buddy Jason Shell’s first gobbler. The irony stems from the fact it was a small group of ladies who nearly botched it too!

This hunt started with a scouting trip to the area a week prior, where a tom strutting in a field piqued the interest of these hunters. Limited time afield this Spring left the final day of the North Carolina turkey season as the last call to try and get Jason connected with turkey numero uno.

We stationed a ground blind in the back corner of a freshly cut alfalfa field, plunked a tom and hen decoy in front of us and waited cautiously for day to break before making the first yelp of the morning.

Our excitement grew long before the first stroke on my David Halloran Sugartown Sweetness pot call as a tom presented a familiar, hair-raising shock gobble less than a football field from where we sat.

“Here we go,” I muttered.

A few series of yelps were met not only by the early-rising gobbler, but also by no fewer than two other birds within shouting distance from our setup.

We were in the game!

The closest bird seemed lazy not wanting to leave his overnight perch in the tree. As such, we started to focus on another bird that had clearly set foot aground and made his way our direction.

He was getting closer.

After a game of flirting back and forth, we knew the interested tom was just in the woods to the left of our blind, although we were not-yet able to see him. He seemed to be strutting back and forth along the hedgerow before making his commitment to enter the field.

That’s when he caught a glimpse of our decoys.

The bird entered our field just 25 yards away. Because we had a small handheld video camera in tow, I told Jason to wait on my call before pulling the trigger. He was going to be to our decoys soon and our picture-perfect hunt would be in the books.

Like most successful hunts, a small audible needed called in our game plan.

Just when everything was going too well, the turkey started veering away from our setup on a slow walk. Little did I know until afterwards, but a group of ladies were making their morning walk on the old road some 400-500 yards away from our setup. The ol’ tom had seen them and seemed to be heading toward safer woods.

It was time for Jason to shoot.

He dropped the hammer on the bird to end a great hunt that nearly turned sour. And his first turkey was on the board. I think it’s safe to assume he’ll be chasing more birds in years to come after this successful hunt and a number of close calls over the last couple seasons.


Season Recap – Antler Discovery

Four antlers, two deer and one lucky hunter. That pretty much sums up my 2011 hunting season. As documented here on AHT I killed a deer dubbed ‘The Ghost Buck’ on Nov. 19 with archery tackle in hand.

'The Ghost Buck' Mount

The only history I had with the deer was a single trail camera photo – or so I thought.

On Nov. 23 I tagged another hit list deer I had dubbed ‘The Shed Buck.’ I had both sets of sheds from the deer from the previous year. I was thrilled with the outcome of my season – one that I deem my best in my nearly quarter century hunting career.

'The Shed Buck' - And The Sheds


The story however got even better in early April when I picked up ‘The Ghost Buck’ from my taxidermist. After securing the buck in the trophy room and admiring him I recalled a set of sheds my then 3-year-old son and I had retrieved the previous year. We had found the sheds just a stone throw away where I arrowed the buck.

The Sheds

I dug through the shed pile and located the antlers in question. I held them up to the mounted animal and was amazed to see that they were a near perfect match. The deer had grown significantly, but carried the same characteristic – sweeping beams with small times, and more of them on his left side. There’s no doubt in my mind that indeed the antlers I found in 2010 are a match set to ‘The Ghost Buck.’ This discovery means I have matching sheds to both bucks I killed in 2011. You can’t ask for a more satisfying feeling in the deer hunting woods.

Proof that passing young deer grows bigger deer.

To say I’m tickled would be an understatement. We’ve put a lot of effort, time and money into growing deer on our properties.

My accomplishments in 2011 are the result of this effort. Taxidermy photos of ‘The Shed Buck’ expected in early May.


Hunting: An Impervious Bond

Editor’s Note: It’s been too long. And I’ve missed writing. The new year brought with it a lot of change in your favorite blogger’s life – almost entirely good change. Hello to a great new job, goodbye to a great old job. It all added up to a short break on the blog. We’re back now, and excited about a number of fun things going on for the blog in 2012. Here’s hoping it’s the greatest year of all, filled with many memories afield.

Making lasting memories with fellow outdoorsmen - and great friends

There are very few things that bond people like the camaraderie of the field. Time shared in the outdoors has a certain knack for binding people together as a brotherhood, a flock of kindred spirits in a world filled with forces that tend to crowbar people apart at every corner. The amazing thing about my favorite sport isn’t just how it connects one hunter to another, rather how it fastens communities together.

I was recently reminded of that in a way that I was simply not expecting: at a heartbreaking funeral.

Over and over again, the memories shared of one of those being remembered during the service, included time at the hunt club, or time together on this or that hunt. And with each memory, I found myself thinking that those stories sounded very much like the ones I imagine my family and some of my closest friends sharing. I could certainly relate to those moments.

Often times it’s hunting that binds together the people of the small, rural towns like the ground I grew up stomping in Allegany County, New York. It’s not just the actual hunters who share in the connection to hunting. Wives and mothers cooking, kids sharing stories about their dads at school and families sharing stories all year long about the hunts of seasons passed.

Those small towns exist all over this great nation, with hunting representing that local culture’s glue.

A friend who visited my neck of the woods made an astute observation that he shared with me year’s ago. He said that meeting people in most places of the world usually means some conversation about the weather.

“Beautiful today, isn’t it?” or “Big cold front headed our way.”

Not in Western New York. There, you’re always asking about deer.

“Did you get your buck yet?” or “Been seeing any good ones?”

You rarely even have to mention you’re talking about deer. For the town where I grew up, that is already known. Everybody knows.