Friday, November 13, 2009

Hopefully Back to Blogging...Plus Another Deer!

The past two weeks have been extremely crazy. I had to work day shift for a whole week and I was still in the process of moving into my new place. I finally got internet tonight, so hopefully my blogging will increase. I have hunted twice since my last post, which briefly detailed the first hunt at the farm I am living on. I have managed to kill one more deer, a button buck, where I am living.

I have finally started to see some rut activity, including 9 bucks chasing one doe. The night I shot the button buck, I had two bucks sparring within 75 yards of me, and a 4 point chasing a doe. Unfortunately the weather hasn't been great due to heavy rain and high winds. Tomorrow morning is the first day of rifle season here in Virginia, so I hope to harvest a big buck . When I hunted Wednesday morning two shooter bucks were spotted by other hunters, so hopefully somebody knocks a big one down tomorrow! There hasn't been a big deer killed on the farm I hunt since I shot my 140 inch 11 point out there 4 years ago. Its about time one of us gets another big one.

Hopefully I'll have a good story and some pictures to add with it tomorrow. Best of luck to all of you out there hunting!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Muzzleloader Buck

I spent all day today moving stuff from my parents' house to the farm where I am now living. Since I have permission to hunt the farm too, I decided I would take my climber and hike through the woods and scout. I walked a good bit and it looks like this is a great place to deer hunt. There is sign everywhere and the woods are mainly oaks. It is also nice and open, so there are lots of shooting lanes.

I finally picked a tree that was about 75 yards from a bedding area that was just across the property line. I climbed up about 15 feet and got situated. It could not have been more than 30 minutes before a herd of 5 deer came into view, feeding on acorns. I watched them for about 45 minutes before another hunter came by and scared them away.

I talked to the guy, who is about my age, and found out that I had picked one of the best spots on the property. We talked for awhile and he moved to a different area to hunt. At about 4:15 I heard deer footsteps and looked to the West. A large bodied five point was heading my way. Now, normally I wouldn't shoot a five point, but this farm isn't managed and I may not got to muzzleloader hunt again this year. He finally got within 50 yards and I managed to bring him down.

After a short tracking job I found him, field dressed him, and drug him out of the woods before dark. Even though he is a small deer I am proud of the fact that I shot him out of my climber on the first night I hunted a new property. Plus I got him with my new muzzleloader! It is good to know that there are a lot of deer on the farm I am living on. There is also a nice 10 point that is running around, so maybe I'll get a crack at him one of these days.

I'll try to post some pictures of the deer soon and hopefully I'll have a chance to hunt before rifle season starts in a week. Good luck to all of you out there hunting!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Long Time No Blog

Wow... It has been 20 days since I last blogged about anything. It is an understatement to say that I have been busy. I have been working a lot so I haven't had a lot of time to blog or go hunting. That is all going to change this weekend when muzzleloader season opens here in Virginia. My Dad and I are planning on heading out to our buddy' s farm on Saturday and our hopes are high. No one has hunted the property at all this year, so hopefully there are some nice bucks hiding!

I also bought a muzzleloader so that I don't have to use my bow while everyone else is using a gun. It is a Remington Genesis .50 caliber. Black synthetic stock and stainless barrel. The gun belonged to my girlfriend's Dad, but he never hunted with it, so he sold it to me. I killed a deer with it two years ago the one time I hunted with it, so hopefully my luck continues! I put a Tasco scope on the gun today and I hope I have no issues sighting it in in the next few days.

I also managed to score another hunting property and a place to live all at once. I am going to be moving to an apartment on a 150 acre farm that has a big pond and a nice patch of woods and some fields. The current tenant says he has no problems killing deer and turkey every year and that the ducks and geese are almost tame. I can't wait to move in out there and start hunting! I think it is a pretty good deal, 600 bucks a month for a house and primo hunting property!

I may try and squeeze in one more archery hunt this week, but my top priority is getting my gun sighted in and getting ready for my move. I hope I don't go 20 days without blogging again but I can't promise anything. Best of luck to all of you out there hunting!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Deer Number Two Down!!!

Well, I finally managed to get a real deer hunt in this evening. Since I started working 12 hour long night shifts, I haven't had a lot of time or energy to hunt. I did hunt a few mornings after work, but I never stayed in the stand for more than an hour or two for fear of falling asleep and falling out! I had yesterday and today off and I had planned on hunting both, but exhaustion and high wind kept me from hunting yesterday.

I decided that I wanted to hunt this evening, so I headed out to a small Christmas tree farm that I have permission to hunt. The property is only about 15 acres, but it is covered in trees and also has a few acres of nothing but woods and vines. The deer love to hide there during the day and feed out at night. The landowner wants all the deer killed so that they don't eat his seedlings, and I am happy to oblige!

I got into the stand at about 2:30. It is on a sycamore tree and overlooks a small swampy area that holds water. Since it was a warm day, I figured this was probably the best place to get a crack at a deer. I finally heard footsteps at 6, and the doe I ended up shooting walked up to the watering hole.

She walked up on me so fast that I barely had time to stand before she was in the water and within range. She got jumpy for a few seconds and actually stared at me, but I managed to stay still long enough to keep her from busting. The doe grabbed one more sip of water and started to turn away. I drew my bow back and released almost in one motion.

I made a good shot, albeit high, and the deer ran off with arrow sticking out of both sides of her. I knew I had hit her well so I climbed out of the stand after a few minutes and started to track. She only ran about 60 yards, so I found her after only a few minutes of tracking. I continue to be amazed at the Rage 3-Blade broadheads I am using. Due to the high shot I only got the far side lung, but the holes the Rage made allowed the doe to bleed out very fast. After field dressing the deer I drug her out and made the short drive home to hang her up! This was my first hunt of the year in my home county, so I was glad that I managed to knock one down.

I have to work the next three nights, but I am going to try to sneak a hunt in Saturday morning when my shift ends. Luckily I only work two days next week, so I'll get lots of hunting in! I think I am going to buck hunt the rest of archery season, so hopefully my next deer post has some horns in it. Best of luck to everyone as your deer seasons get underway!

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Been Awhile

I feel like I haven't blogged in forever. Truthfully I haven't had much that was outdoor related to blog about. This is because I finally started my new job as a corrections officer. I am finally working a set shift and getting into the swing of things, so I hope to start blogging more.

I know I am going hunting tomorrow morning. A massive cold front has moved through, so I am hoping there will be a bunch of deer moving. I would like to shoot one more antlerless deer before the real season starts this Saturday. Luckily I have that day off, so I'll be able to do some horn hunting! Deer season sure has snuck up on me this year even though I hunted a few times during the early season. I guess having a job does that to ya!

Hopefully I'll knock down a few deer in the next week and have something cool to blog about. Best of luck to everyone who is preparing for their respective hunting seasons!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

4-Wheeling In The Mountains

Today was an absolutely amazing day. My girlfriend's Dad and Uncle took me along on a trip to a local campground that also has approximately 35 miles of 4-wheeler, Jeep, and rock crawler trails. The trails range from 2 to 22 miles in length and have beginner to expert level trails. We road from 9:30 this morning until 2:30 this afternoon.

My girlfriends Uncle was riding a Suzuki 500, her Dad a Yamaha 400, and I was riding a 2WD Yamaha 250. For the most part the bike I was on hung with the 4WD bikes, but I did manage to get stalled going up one steep stretch of trail. Needless to say we all got stuck in the mud holes that were placed every few miles along the trails. This is me getting stuck in one and getting pulled out!

There are some easy fire road trails, lots of technical rocky trails, some steep up and downhill stretches, moguls, logs, muddy stretches. All in all it is what I would consider to be a perfect place for riding. There is also some incredible scenery since a few of the trails bring you to the top of mountain ridges with views into Virginia and West Virginia.

There was also abundant wildlife. We saw one very big buck, a bunch of turtles and salamanders, as well as this big guy! This was a 4 1/2 foot long Timber Rattler, which is a very large Timber Rattler. They usually are only 2-3 feet long, but this big guy was stretched completely across the four wheeler trail we were riding on. I stopped to take some pictures because this is the first rattlesnake I have ever seen. I was impressed with how beautiful this snake was and at how well it blended in with all of its surroundings. This snake had 8 buttons on its rattle. From what I have read, one button equals one year, so this could possibly be a pretty old snake.

All in all it was a great day with two awesome guys. We are already talking about getting a few other fellas together so that we can head out again in the next few weeks. We are definitely going to go again when it cools down some more and the leaves start to change. I can't wait!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hunting The New Stand

I decided that this evening was a good time to try hunting the stand I hung the other day. A small front is coming through tonight and it is supposed to rain all day tomorrow, so I figured that there should be some pretty good activity. I got out to the property at about 4:30 and was in the stand by 4:45.

By 5 I had already seen my first three deer. Three small bucks came out into the neighboring field from the West and started to walk down the fence line towards me. They were at about 80 yards when one of the neighbors let out their 3 large dogs and spooked the deer off the field.

At 6, a large doe began to feed from West to East in the same field. She came out on the fence line 200 yards North of me, fed for 20 minutes, and then moved out of sight. The wind picked up after she disappeared and I didn't see anything until about 7. I looked behind me into the field and saw a group of 8 deer. There were 2 fawns, 4 small bucks, a nice 6 point and a large 8 point. All of the bucks were hard horned and you could tell they had just recently lost their velvet...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Second Hunt of The Year

This morning I headed out in the drizzle to try and knock down another doe for the freezer. Despite the rain, it was a beautiful morning to be out in the woods. When I arrived at the property there were about 10 deer in the landowners front yard and small orchard. Instead of stalking them like the other morning, I just geared up and hustled into the woods. I didn't bump any deer on my way in and I was settled into the stand by 6:10.

Despite seeing all the deer on my way in, there weren't that many deer on the ridge where I hunt. I had two does walk to within 43 yards at about 7:45. I routinely make this shot while practicing, but I just didn't feel the need to take the risk on a long shot like that during this early season. I am going to keep waiting for easy shots like the one I had the other morning. I'll save the long shots for some of the monster bucks I hope to see this year.

I stayed on stand until about 9:15 and then decided to hike around the back of the ridge to a bedding area. I can usually stalk up on bedded deer if the wind is right, and this morning it was. Unfortunately the 5 deer that I stalked within 20 yards of were all bedded down just on the other side of the property line. I watched them for about 15 minutes and then headed down the hill to hang a new stand.

My Dad and I decided to put this new stand at one corner of the property where two fields and a patch of thick woods meet up. There is a three board fence that acts as a funnel, so the deer usually walk around the fence rather than jumping it. There are also numerous trails leading from the woods out into the open field. We have killed deer at this spot before, but they have been from a ground blind. I am thinking this is going to be a great evening stand during archery season and a pretty good stand during rifle season. We'll see what happens!

The only downside to hanging the stand was that it was covered in poison ivy vines. I expect to have a pretty good case of it within a few days. Here are a few pictures of the stand and the view I will have from it...

I'll be back out there Friday and Saturday trying to get a few more deer before I start work next week. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Deer Down! Opening Day Success

I somehow managed to sleep a few hours last night, so I woke up ready to hunt this morning. I got up at 4:30, got ready, and then drove the 45 minutes to my hunting spot in northern Loudoun County.

On the way up the driveway to the property I hunt I saw about 12 different deer. One group of 5 was bedded in the property owners front yard, and I managed to stalk to within 25 yards of the group of does before they busted me. This was all before shooting light, but the full moon made the stalk possible and extremely fun!

I then walked into the woods and managed to get into my stand after only bumping one deer. Since the property is only about 20 acres, stealth is key to having a successful hunt. I got in my stand at about 6:10 and waited the 35 minutes or so for the sun to rise. During that time, the deer (a nice 6 pointer still in velvet) I had bumped on my way into the stand walked directly under me and proceeded to eat beechnuts. Luckily I had sprayed down with Scent Killer, so he never winded me or got spooky when he crossed my trail.

Then, at about 7 am, I saw a small herd of deer making their way up the ridge towards my stand. They had seen the buck and decided to come check him out. The group ended up being a spike buck and 6 does. I had enough time to range shooting lanes and get settled so that I would have a good shot if the deer came close. Finally, the deer all moved within my 40 yard range so I readied myself to shoot. All the deer ended up crowding into a bunch and walking directly towards the bottom of my stand! I had to draw and then hold my draw for about a minute, waiting for one of the does to turn broadside for a shot. One finally did at 30 yards, so I let fly!

The doe was walking and quartering slightly away when I shot, so I managed to get liver and one lung with the shot. The arrow passed completely through and the doe took off down the ridge. Then, she piled up 50 yards away and never moved again. I made an okay shot, but I'll give all the credit to my Rage broadheads here. The entry and exit wounds they create are amazing, so as long as you make a decent shot they are going to go down quickly.

I waited a few minutes, sent a few texts, and then got down out of my stand to field dress the deer quickly due to the heat. She ended up being a good sized yearling doe.

All in all it was a beautiful morning, and I was blessed with the reward of a beautiful deer. I then cut grass for a few hours and got my Dad to take a few pictures of me when he showed up to work. We also scouted a stand location and I should be returning to the property on Monday to hunt and then hang this new stand. I can't wait to get back out there!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Bow Is Fixed!

I really lucked out today and managed to get my bow fixed. My bow shop didn't have the Fuse string that is the exact replacement for my bow, but they did have a Bowtech string that was the right length. I spent about two hours and 60 dollars at the bow shop getting my bow back in shape, but it was all worth it. I am shooting better groups than I have been and I will be able to hunt tomorrow morning!

The forecast is for low 60's and low humidity with no wind tomorrow morning, so I hope the deer will be moving. If I do manage to get a deer I will have to hustle to get it on ice so that the meat doesn't spoil. My gear is packed, the Rage Broadheads are on my arrows, and my clothes are already laid out. I can't wait! I am going to tote a camera along tomorrow, so hopefully something exciting will happen that I get to take some pictures of. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An Archery Crisis

Tonight was going to be the last night I shot my bow before the bow season opens Saturday here in Virginia. I was going to give myself a break tomorrow and get a good nights sleep knowing I was shooting great. But of course, something always has to happen that changes even the best plans. In my case, it is a severed bowstring.

I was shooting off of my barn roof, and my Dad was watching me shoot. I invited him to try and shoot my bow. Now, I am a lot bigger and stronger than my Dad,(5'8 145 vs. 5'10 215) so he wisely declined. I egged him on though saying, "Oh come on, you have shot it before." Then he said okay, he would try. My Dad wanted to try and pull the bow so that he could make sure he would be able to pull it back before he used a wrist release, which he is not used to. He grasped the bowstring with all of his fingers, locked them in place and pulled...

I was impressed, because it looked like he was having no problems pulling my bow. Then, right as he hit the let off point on the draw, his grip slipped and the bow fired. He and I both know full well how bad dry firing a bow is, so the moment seemed like it was in slow motion as the bow fired. There was a loud SNAP, and then a dangling string! Luckily only the main bowstring broke and not the other two strings that are on my bow. All the limbs check out and nothing appears out of place but my snapped string.

Needless to say my Dad is way more upset than I am. He thinks he has ruined my opening day. That is definitely not the case. Anyways, I hope I can get the bow fixed tomorrow. The bow shop I use will hopefully have the string in stock, and then all they should have to do is install my peep sight and string loop in the new string. I was surprised to find the Fuse string on my bow is only 35 bucks. Worst case scenario is that I don't hunt Saturday, and that may be a good thing because the forecast is calling for 90+ degree temperatures.

All in all I find this pretty funny. The only reason I feel bad is because my old man is upset. What I told him is that I have broken plenty of his stuff before, so it is no big deal. Stuff happens. Ultimately, we both learned how much power is stored in a modern bow and got to see what happens when something goes wrong. Lesson learned: dry firing a bow is bad! I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope that I get everything squared away tomorrow, and if not, it is no big deal.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Finally! Elk Restoration in Virginia. Maybe....

I was just surfing the internet and happened upon this link on the VDGIF website. It seems my home state of Virginia has finally come around to the idea that restoring elk in Southwest Virginia is a good idea. Elk were once native to Virginia, but it has been centuries since an actual "population" was present.

Currently Virginia has an elk season that runs concurrent with deer season and allows the use of deer tags to check elk. Elk are present in Virginia because Kentucky has undertaken a restoration program in the past decade that has resulted in a breeding population of elk and a hunting season. Occasionally these elk cross into the mountains of Virginia and a few are killed each year during deer season. The new amendment calls for elk hunting to end in Virginia so that restoration can begin. I am all for a halt to the killing of elk until a stable population is restored in the state.

Virginia's mountains have some great habitat for elk that is essentially the same as Kentucky's. Also, much of Southwest Virginia is covered in State and National Forest land. Hopefully this will allow a herd to be established quickly. It would be awesome to not have to travel out West to hunt this magnificent animal! My dream hunt is an archery hunt for elk. The only issue I have with this amendment is that if a herd is established and an elk season is eventually instated, I would want Virginia hunters to be the ones who benefit from this experiment. If Virginia sells tags to the highest bidder, and doesn't have a lottery that rewards Virginians I would be furious. Giving 75 percent of tags to Virginians in a lottery at a reasonable price, and then selling out of state tags at "market" value seems fair to me.

I'll try and stay on top of this story. I'd be very interested to your opinions on the policy of restoring native animals into areas that they haven't inhabited for centuries. Let me know what you think!

Monday, August 31, 2009

5 Days Until Deer Season 2009/2010

I spent today taking care of all the chores that had piled up while I was away on my cruise. After getting the "real life" chores taken care of this morning, I went to Gander Mountain to buy the last few items I needed for my bow. I only have 5 days until the opener here in Virginia, so I want to make sure I am 100% ready!

I needed to get a new insert for my Whisker Biscuit, as well as some broadhead washers, and some new nocks. I was also in the market for some new arrows. Unfortunately, Gander was sold out of almost everything archery related. They didn't have the Beman arrows I shoot, or any Whisker Biscuit rests! I was also unable to find the broadhead washers that I wanted.

I ended up buying a package of Goldtip nocks, some Scent Killer Spray, Hunter Specialties reflective trail markers, and a Luminock. The Luminock was an impulse buy. I have heard mixed reviews about this product, but I had no problems getting it to work with my arrows and bow. I also installed the new nocks on all the other arrows and shot about 20 times.

Since I had all of my hunting stuff out, I figured I would go ahead and organize my gear. I had all of my stuff crammed into two giant Tupperware containers, so I pulled everything out and organized it into warm weather gear and cold weather gear. I also washed all of my warm weather clothing, and am planning on spraying it all down with Scent Killer before I store it. I then organized my pack and checked out my Hunters Safety Systems full body harness to make sure it was in working condition.
I also made plans with my Dad to hang a new stand at the property I am hunting Saturday. Hopefully this stand turns out to be as productive as I think it will be!

The weather is looking great for this weekend, so hopefully I'll get a chance to knock down a few deer in the morning. If I don't, it is no big deal because I am going to spend the day at the property cutting grass and hanging the new stand before I hunt in the evening. My Dad may even be joining me to help hang the stand! Hopefully I can track down a new insert for my arrow rest before Saturday.

(I am still trying to get pictures from Bermuda squared away, and I hope to put some up soon. Hopefully in the next few days.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Exciting News

I am going to keep this short and sweet. I just got back from a great 5 day cruise to Bermuda. I'll hopefully have some pictures to share within the next few days. I'm doing a little bit more traveling this weekend before I head home.
I reckon I will follow my cousin Matt's advice and share this important development...The big news I have to share is that I received word that I have been hired as a Sheriff's Office Deputy in Virginia. After about a 5 month application process this was great news to hear. My tentative start date is September 17. That leaves me two whole weeks of nothing but Smallmouth fishing and early archery season deer hunting. After that I have 12 hour shifts and real life to look forward to! I am truly blessed to have been given this opportunity so soon after graduation. I can't wait to start.
Hopefully I'll have some sort of post up by Sunday detailing my trip to Bermuda. Thanks to all of you who have offered well wishes during my job search!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pics From My Latest River Trip

I spent the evening on the Shenandoah River again tonight. I caught a lot of fish, but no monsters this time. I did see some really cool critters hanging out down by the river though...

If you look close enough there is a huge Bald Eagle hanging out in the Sycamore tree.

Here is an Egret...

And this was my view on the way back to the boat landing...

I plan on being back on the river at least one more time before I go on my cruise to Bermuda. Hopefully Hurricane Bill doesn't change the plans!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Big Smallies On The Shenandoah

Today was the best day I have ever had fishing on the Shenandoah River. In the past week I have gone fishing three times from my kayak. All three times I have caught numerous fish, some of which have been decent, but tonight was unbelievable. What makes this night so special to me is that I caught really big fish on the river. For the past few years the Shenandoah has been plagued by fish kills which have wiped out the adult population of fish. Therefore large Smallmouth bass were a rarity to catch. This year there hasn't been a kill, and the river level has stayed up all summer long. This combination has made for some great fishing!

I got in the river at about 4 p.m. and paddled close to two miles upstream from where I started. I had fished this stretch of river the other day, but wanted to go farther upstream over some small falls that require portaging over. I caught a few small Smallies like this one, before I got to the falls. On the first cast after I crossed the falls and got back into my 'yak all that changed.

I cast my #3 Mepps Spinner and hooked into a big fish. After fighting it for a minute or two and being treated to some spectacular jumps I landed this hefty Smallmouth. This fish was wider than my kayak. I judged it to be about 16 inches long (longer than my forearm) and weighing between three and four pounds. After taking some more pictures I released it back into the river.

I caught two more nice fish that weighed around two to two and a half pounds in the same stretch over the next hour. Here was big fish number two.

Big fish number three.

The last fish I hooked into of the evening was a monster. I cast into a deep hole just above the falls that I had portaged earlier in the evening. I let the spinner sink, and then started a slow retrieve, barely keeping the blade turning. I was rewarded with a heavy strike and about a 2 minute fight with a huge Smallmouth. Because I was so close to the falls, I had to paddle with my left hand and fight the fish with my right. I finally felt like I could make a try at landing the fish, so I dropped my paddle and got the fish next to the boat. I had the fish out of the water and laying on the side of the kayak, when it gave a shake and broke my 8 lbs. test line. I swear this fish was around 5 to 6 pounds, because it dwarfed the first big fish I caught this evening. I only wish I had gotten a hold of it long enough to get a good picture. I am pretty sure it may have been a citation fish.

I was blessed with a great evening, and I hope to get back out on the river in the next few days. It would be great if I could convince my Dad or some other family members to join me on the river for some trophy Smallmouth fishing! We'll see what happens...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Bowhunting "To Do" List

I have been shooting my bow pretty frequently the past few days. I am happy to say that I have almost returned to last year's accuracy level. There are a few things that I need to do to my bow to allow me to shoot a little bit better...

I need a new insert for my "Whisker Biscuit" arrow rest. After three seasons of shooting, I have worn through the bristles to the point that my arrow occasionally falls through bristles and rests on the frame of the Biscuit.

I also need to retie a new nocking/draw loop or buy a plastic one to put on the bow. I have been looking at the plastic ones for a year or so, and can't decide whether or not to try one out. The only problem I have with the string loop is that it stretches and I can tell that I am not hitting the back wall of the bow when I draw.

New arrows are also a necessity, as I am down to just three. I started with 8 last year, but lost and broken arrows have dropped me down to three. I'll probably end up buying a 6 pack of Beman ICS 400 arrows to replenish by supplies.

Luckily, I don't need to buy broadheads this year. Last year I switched to Rage 3 Blade broadheads. I bought my first pack, and was so impressed with their performance that I bought another. I haven't used the second pack I bought, and two from the first pack are still in good shape.

Unfortunately the owner of the bow shop I use died suddenly over the winter. I am unsure if his shop is still open. I may end up going to Gander Mountain if his shop has closed down, but I am afraid to see how outrageous their prices are. We'll see whether or not I can manage to buy any of the items on my wish list. Luckily I have a birthday coming up soon, so perhaps I'll supply my family with my wish list and see what happens! Good luck practicing to all of you getting ready for bow season!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Less Than A Month To Go

In a few short weeks it will be opening day of archery season in some parts of Virginia. These are areas that have very dense deer populations, so a special early season is in place to allow the harvest of antlerless deer before the real season begins. I managed to bag a doe on opening day of this season last year. I find this season to be a great scouting tool, as I was able to pattern a group of bucks on the property I hunt. I look forward to being able to hunt a little bit more during this early season now that I am done with school.

I figured tonight was as good a night as any to start practicing with my bow. I shoot a Reflex Growler that I bought 3 years ago. Reflex is the off brand of Hoyt and from what I can tell, it shoots the same as my friends Hoyt's that were made around the same time. I shot 5 arrows at 20 yards and managed about a three inch group. I then moved the target out to 30 yards and shot 5 more times. This time my group was a little erratic, although all 5 shots were in the "kill zone." I need to get my bow tuned and have a few more arrows made, but unfortunately I don't have the time or money to do that right now.

Saturday I get a private tour of the jail I have applied to work at. I have some other odds and ends to take care of during the next week, and then it is off for a 5 day cruise to Bermuda. I am looking forward to all the events on my calendar, but unfortunately they are going to cut into my shooting practice. I'll try to blog more often!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Flyfishing for Smallmouth

The past few weeks have been very busy for me, so I haven't had time to do anything fun outside. After tearing apart the engine of a lawnmower and ordering parts yesterday, I decided I would go fishing for a few hours on the Shenandoah River. The river is pretty low right now, so wading and fly fishing is my favorite way to try and catch Smallmouth Bass.
I was using my Cortland 5 weight fly rod, a 6 foot long tapered leader, and about 3 feet of 3 pound tippet. My go to flies and lures on this river is anything that is white and has a nice flash to it. I use white rooster tails when spin fishing. The closest thing I had yesterday was size 6 White Woolly Buggers with some Crystal Flash material wound around the body of the streamer.
I fished for about two hours and caught ten smallies, all on White Woolly Buggers. Most of them were around a pound but they put up a great fight! The biggest one I hooked was holding in some riffles that stretched all the way across the river. He struck at my fly 3 times before I finally hooked him. Unfortunately, he broke the tippet and the best glimpse I got of the fish was when he jumped out of the water and threw the fly from his mouth about 25 yards downstream. I would judge the fish to be about 2 pounds. I wish I had gotten a chance to actually fight the fish!
I am hoping that I will be able to get back out on the river at some point this weekend. I may take my kayak out and try fishing some of the deeper stretches of the river.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back From The Beach...Plus A Groundhog Hunt

I just returned from a few days of camping on Hatteras Island in North Carolina. It was an awesome trip, and for most of the time we had great weather. I spent many great hours on the beach swimming and sleeping. I really feel like this was the first break I have had since I graduated college and it turned into a great trip. The only downside to the trip was the fact that the high temperatures and humidity made sleeping in a tent rather uncomfortable. My girlfriend and I planned this trip in less than a few days, and managed to have a great time without spending a ton of money. Perhaps one of these days I should write something about camping on a budget...

Now for the groundhog hunt...

I spent almost all day Thursday shopping and packing for the trip. I had just returned home from the Wal Mart and was driving past my house into our field behind the house. I was heading up to the barn to get camping stuff out so that I could pack for my trip. When I was halfway to the barn I noticed that a giant groundhog was feeding in front of the barn! This groundhog has tunneled under all of the walls in our barn and has made a horrible mess inside it over the past 2 years. I have hunted her numerous times and have managed to kill a few of her offspring, but I had never gotten a shot at her. Until Thursday.
I stopped my Jeep and ran back down the driveway to my house. I decided I was going to put a stalk on the groundhog and try and get close enough to shoot her with a .22 caliber rifle. I grabbed the rifle and some shells, and then ran back into the field. Since there was no cover in the field besides grass that is about a foot and a half tall, I had to belly crawl the whole way through our field to the barn where the groundhog was feeding. It took me about 20 minutes to belly crawl the 200 yards through the field to where I could get a clear shot at the critter. That seems like a long time, but this groundhog was very wary and would eat for a few seconds and then stand on its hind legs and look around for any danger.
I finally made it to about 40 yards from the groundhog, and then took aim from the prone position. My first shot went just over the groundhog's back, but the second one was a direct hit! I was rather proud of the shot since the gun I was using only has open sights.
The groundhog made it into the barn, but I trailed it in and could just see its tail sticking out from behind a pile of junk. Not wanting to stick my hand in after it, I got my dog to go into the barn and pull out the groundhog. It turns out that it was a big female, and I would estimate that it weighed about 15 pounds. It was definitely the biggest groundhog I have ever killed.
Even though it was only a groundhog, I was rather excited to have stalked and killed a critter that had outsmarted me for the past few years. Hopefully there won't be any more of them in the barn any time soon!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'm A Lazy Blogger

I am failing to have anything to blog about lately. Most of my time has been spent working and taking care of odd jobs around the house. This weekend I am headed to Hatteras Island for a few days of camping at the beach. It will be nice to just hang out and not worry about anything for awhile. I really haven't had a break since I graduated, so I hope I'll feel rejuvenated after this weekend. I am going to spend some time on the pier and I hope to catch something good to eat!
Once I get back from the beach I'll be getting ready for another job interview with the sheriff's office. I'll also be starting a new part time job at the end of next week. Hopefully I'll have something good to write about before long...
Have a safe and fun Fourth!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

No Outdoor Adventures and LYME DISEASE!

Once again, I failed to spend any time in the outdoors this weekend. Stuff just keeps coming up in my schedule and I can't find any time to go fishing or anything else outdoors related. I cut a bunch of grass this weekend and did some other odds and ends, but that was as close to outside as I got.
In the past week I took and passed a polygraph, was contacted for another job interview which is tomorrow morning, found out my Mom has Lyme Disease, and then found out that my girlfriend has Lyme Disease. There were some other things that have happened that were frustrating and time consuming, but they are hardly outdoors related or relevant at this time. Overall it was just a long week with an equally tiring weekend.
The only outdoors related stuff that happened was finding out that my Mom and girlfriend both have Lyme Disease. They must have been bitten by Deer ticks, which are a horrible problem here in Northern Virginia. Both of them got giant red and white bulls eye rashes on there bodies and got mild fevers and horrible headaches. They also had pain that moved around their bodies. They both seem to be feeling a little better after starting 3 week long antibiotic treatments. My cousin Matt has written about Lyme Disease over at his blog and has had the disease multiple times. I need to find out if he has any secret remedies for the illness because if he doesn't I am afraid my Mom and Sarah are just going to have to tough it out for a few more weeks....
If ticks are in the outdoors areas that you frequent make sure you stay vigilant by covering your body with pants, long sleeve shirts, and bug spray. Don't forget to thoroughly check your body after coming in from outside and if you find a tick on you and start to feel ill a few days later or get a weird rash, GO TO THE DOCTOR.
I hope some of you are getting to spend more time outdoors than I am, and I hope to have something good to write about soon.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Small Fishing Trip

I finally got to take my kayak out for a few hours of fishing tonight. At about 7 p.m. I launched the 'yak at Lake Frederick. I planned on fishing top water for bass until dark and then catfishing for a few hours. I had a blast out on the lake and stayed until about 10 o'clock when it got black dark. I would have stayed later, but the mosquitoes ran me off the lake.
While catching sunfish to use as catfish bait, I found a nice spot where I am pretty sure I can catch a nice batch of crappie this summer. I pulled one out, and was able to see about a dozen others about 10 feet under the water. I had a few bass hit the Zoom Fluke that I was using, but I never managed to set the hook. I have found that it is a lot harder to set the hook on a bass when you are sitting practically in the water than when you are standing in a boat or on the bank. I did see a couple of bass in the 3 to 4 pound range cruising the edge of the weed beds I was fishing.
Lake Frederick is a great place to fish and I hope to get a lot more familiar with it this summer. I need to plan a little bit better next time so that I'll have a better shot at catching some of the monster catfish that inhabit the lake.
I am really trying to increase my blogging, but I have been so busy I haven't really had the time. I am hoping that things will start to settle down this week after I take my polygraph exam on Tuesday afternoon. Hopefully I'll have something else to write about this week!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Where Has All My Blogging Time Gone???

I guess this is semi-real life. The last few weeks have been crazy! With all of my commitments, working, and applying for jobs, I haven't had time to write anything. The only outdoors related stuff I have done is spreading fertilizer and spraying weeds. I'm not complaining, it is just that I need to find time to give myself a quality day in the outdoors, probably fishing.
I actually got to fish for about an hour the other evening. My girlfriend managed to haul in about a dozen sunfish and I caught a two pound largemouth bass and then had about a four pound one at the bank before it threw the hook. The water was really muddy, so the fishing wasn't all that great. At least I got to catch my first fish of the year though!
I am working the next two days and then am going back to Blacksburg to turn over the keys to my apartment and completely close the door on my college life. As long as the weather cooperates, I am going to try and spend a full day fishing over the weekend when I get back.
I apologize for my lack of posting and I really hope to increase my blogging in the near future. Thanks to those of you who have continued to stop by!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Today was a really hectic day. I was graciously given the day off from work in order to take care of some commitments that I already had. I started off the day mowing, weedeating, and setting up tables for a party. I then had a meeting for my other job (I run a local youth basketball league) to take care of scheduling and paperwork for that. Then it was back home to work on swapping rooms with my sisters before I had to head down to the local park to run the basketball league tryout.
I was also contacted by the local sheriff's office that I applied with. They advanced me again in the application process and I am now scheduled to take the polygraph examination in a few weeks. I'm a little nervous about the polygraph just because of the stigma that is attached to them by most people, but I think I should do fine.
Tomorrow will be spent at a party, and then it is on to Blacksburg Sunday to move out of my apartment. I hope I can go fishing on Monday. The river has been running high the past week, but I hope it will have dropped enough and cleared up so that I can take the kayak out and flyfish for smallmouth bass. If that doesn't work I'll either hit up the local VDGIF fishery, Lake Frederick, or go to a little honey hole that is guaranteed to produce a nice batch of sunfish and some bass in the 5 to 8 pound range.
I wish all of you a very fun and safe Memorial Day weekend, and hope that you get to spend it in the outdoors!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Been Awhile

Unfortunately I haven't had the time this week to post any of my graduation pictures or do anything related to the outdoors except work. I gave myself one day off this week, which was yesterday, but I ended up cleaning my room and cutting grass all day. Today I started a job which will hopefully tide me over until I find a full time gig. It is landscaping, which is what most of my work background is in. Hopefully I'll get back into work shape by the end of next week. All I know is that the 10 hour day I worked today kicked my butt! I have to get my girlfriends yard looking nice on Friday because her graduation party is on Saturday, and then Sunday it is back to Blacksburg to move out of my apartment. Hopefully everything will settle down and I'll get a chance to go fishing, perhaps on Memorial Day. I really need to check out other people's blogs, but I just dont have the time right now. Hopefully I'll be around soon to say hi!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Graduation Update

Somehow I managed to graduate college after four years. I received my Bachelors in History today at Virginia Tech. I finished my college career off strong and managed a 3.68 GPA this semester while taking 19 credits. Now it is on to UVA to watch Sarah graduate tomorrow. I'll hopefully post some pictures in a day or two!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Almost Done!!!

In four days I will finally receive my diploma! This week has been nuts and I have spent almost all of my time writing one last exam, cleaning my apartment, and continuing through the tedious application with the local sheriff's office. I'll finally have a few days of rest and I'll possibly go on a nice hike in the mountains tomorrow or Thursday. My family and girlfriend and are coming to stay with me the next few days, and following my graduation we will head up to Charlottesville for my girlfriends graduation at the University of Virginia!
I think I'll give myself next Monday off and then spend Tuesday running errands and getting moved back in at my house in Northern Virginia. A week from today I will be doing the job I know best , landscaping!
Unless I have a great hike in the next few days and am able to post pictures of it, I doubt I will be able to blog until after my graduation. Perhaps the next pictures I put up will be of me in a cap and gown holding a diploma!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Good Article on Morels

I am up late studying for an exam on Fungi tomorrow, and I just happened to find an article on ESPN Outdoors website about a turkey hunter's favorite second favorite thing about Spring, the Morel. These tasty mushrooms grow throughout the Appalachian range where I live and hunt, and I have been lucky enough to find some in the Spring during turkey season. Until recently, these mushrooms were virtually impossible to grow commercially, so you could sell them for quite a bit of money. However, if you are lucky enough to find some, I would recommend eating them and not selling them because they are quite a treat!
One word of caution here...if you go mushroom hunting, make sure your first few times are spent with someone who is an experienced mushroom hunter or preferably a mycologist. There are some nasty mushrooms out there that will make you very sick, or outright kill you.
The False Morel is one of these that you need to worry about. When cooked, the False Morel produces a toxic vapor called Methylhydrazine. This vapor is one of the same compounds that is in rocket fuel, so it is very toxic. With this particular type of poisoning, the human body functions on a tolerance level. You will feel fine until you reach your body's tolerance level, but once it is reached, you will more than likely die!
I'm not trying to scare anyone because mushroom hunting is great fun and the rewards of finding an edible 'shroom are great. You just need to be very careful while hunting.
Here are some rules to remember for Morel hunting...1. When in doubt, throw it out. 2. If it ain't hollow, don't swallow. 3. If it's red, you are dead.
These rules should be followed because if you are in doubt, it’s not worth accidentally eating a mushroom that could kill you. Morels are hollow, while False Morels are not, and False Morels also have a reddish coloring.
Check out the article I linked and start planning for next year's turkey and Morel season! Here are some pictures I found online...


False Morel

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Check This Out!

I saw this on another website that I frequent and I figured some of you may be interested. It is kind of sad and funny at the same time. It makes me wonder how these critters are smart enough to kick my butt in the woods about 99 percent of the time...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Crazy Week

It has been a long time since my last post, and chances are I won't be able to compose another substantial or outdoor related post for another week. My exams started today, so I will be overwhelmed with studying and exam taking until next Wednesday. I already have two of my final grades in, and both are A-, which is a pretty good start. My exam today was for geology, and I somehow managed to pull a 93% on the final which brought my grade in that class up to a B- I hope! I now have 4 exams left...hopefully they go as well as the one did today!

My job search is going pretty well too! I had to call the sheriff's office I applied with to get an extension on turning in all of my paperwork. Luckily they were very understanding about my exams and graduation, so they granted me a two week extension! I am also contemplating applying for a few other jobs in the next few weeks once my schedule calms down.

I'd also like to thank those of you who have been stopping by and leaving comments! I really enjoy the feedback and I am looking forward to visiting more blogs once I get done with the craziness that is my last semester of college. The past few times I have visited the Outdoor Blogger's Summit I noticed how many new sites have joined since I did a few weeks ago. It looks like there are lots of great sites to check out as soon as I get the time. I can't wait to stop by and say hi!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fish Kill on the Shenandoah River

I was just taking a break from writing a research paper and happened to stop by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website. I noticed a news release from yesterday that discussed the fish kills that have plagued the river for the past few years. I live about 5 minutes from the river and have fished it my whole life, so this article was of particular interest to me.
The Shenandoah is a beautiful and fast flowing river with a rocky bottom that makes it ideal for Smallmouth bass fishing. My Dad and I used to be able to wade out in the river and catch upwards of 50 bass in half a days time, and often some of these fish would be in the two to three pound range. After the first fish kill in the Spring of 2004, I remember not being able to catch more than a handful of Smallmouth, and most of them were less than ten inches long. We also began noticing that almost all of the Smallies and Sunfish we caught had lesions on them. Oftentimes we would see dead fish covered in lesions floating dead past us in the river.
There were still fish in the river, but the numbers and size of fish that we caught had significantly dropped off. Last year was really the first year that I started catching more fish, with a few of them being in the two to three pound range. One of my good friends caught an 18 inch Smallie out of a deep pool early this Fall.
The news brief states that many studies have been done, and some possible causes have been found, but they still don't know exactly what is causing the fish kills.
Unfortunately, despite its beauty, the Shenandoah is a very polluted river. There are industrial wastes and heavy metals that have contaminated the water so that you are cautioned to not eat the fish, and if you do, only in small amounts. There are also numerous agricultural contaminants that runoff into the river and cause a horrific algae bloom in the summer when the water is low. The Shenandoah is part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and undoubtedly the pollution and fish kills in the Shenandoah are poisoning the Bay.
Hopefully there isn't a horrible fish kill this year and hopefully the VDGIF and scientists will eventually find out what is killing the fish. Unfortunately, the river is so polluted and there are so many possible causes that I doubt they'll have a definitive answer to the problem any time soon.
Here is a map of the Shenandoah River Basin that I found on the NOAA website...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just An Update

I am going to be pretty busy this week as my college career begins to wind down. In 19 days I will be a college graduate! I am working on the last research papers I will ever have to write. One is for a geography class and is about public space and the other is on important people in modern Middle Eastern history. This papers are both due this week so I doubt I will get a chance to get outdoors, but I may get the chance to do some hunting or fishing this weekend. I know I said I was done with turkeys for the year but since I am going home, I may try and sneak in a hunt Saturday morning.
I am going home because I applied to be a Corrections Officer with one of the local sheriff's offices, and they advanced me in the application process. The next step is apparently the polygraph exam, so I need to get home to fill out the questionnaire that they use for that test. It needs to be returned within twenty days, so hopefully filling out the paperwork and returning it by early next week will give me a chance to take the polygraph test and have an in depth interview shortly following my graduation on May 16th.
I have often thought about a career in law enforcement, but over the past year or two I had ruled out those types of jobs as a career option. Unfortunately I will have a history degree, and there aren't many history specific positions open in today's economy. What is attractive about the job I applied for is that it is within a half an hour of my home town, you only work 14 days a month, the pay is pretty good (40k+), and the benefits are great. Hopefully I can keep advancing through the application process and I will have a full time job by the time my grace period on college loans runs out in six months! Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekend Adventure

Sarah and I decided to spend the day hiking and driving around some of our favorite places near Blacksburg. We started out by hiking to Bear Cliffs, which is one of the lesser known hikes near Blacksburg. Bear Cliffs is just past The Mountain Lake Resort, which is famous for being the place where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed. The hike is two miles round trip, and offers some great scenery. Unfortunately we weren't able to see the Virginia Tech campus due to the heat and humidity creating a haze, but it was still a great view.
We then drove a few miles up the road and went on a 4WD only trail. The trail was a lot of fun, and there were some great mud holes and some challenging spots on the trail. My jeep is now happy because it is covered with mud! This hole was a little challenging because I didn't find the deep spot that I was looking for and ended up sinking the front of the jeep so far that the water and mud came up over the windshield.
It was no problem for my jeep and we kept on going down the trail until we got to the Butt Mountain overlook and fire tower at about 4000 feet elevation. We stopped and took a few pictures and were lucky enough to be able to see the New River snaking through the valley below. This was the highest point on the jeep trail, so the road was all down hill and in better shape from that point on. At one point a hen turkey ran across the road and was too quick for us to get a picture of her. All in all it was a beautiful day spent hiking and driving through the National Forest just outside of Blacksburg Virginia!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Drooling Over the Thought of Turkey

I thought I was starting to recover from the turkey fiasco that was last weekend, and then my stomach started to growl. You would think McDonald's or pizza would pop into the average college student's head, but noooo, it has to be something to do with turkeys. I guess I am detoxing from turkey season, and this is my payback for being addicted.
I love to fry a turkey, especially a young bird. A good turkey fryer, some peanut oil, good seasoning, and the right cooking time do wonders to a wild bird. Today however, I had turkey breast on the mind. For some reason I am craving marinated and grilled whole turkey breast. Since I didn't bag a bird to cook, I figure I'll share this easy little recipe and hopefully get turkeys off of my mind and stomach for good.
The way I like to cook my turkey breast is to first fillet it off the breast bone very carefully so as to not lose any meat. If there is any fat at all, trim it off. Wash off the meat and set it aside. Then, get some Italian Salad dressing and pour it into a large bowl or dish that is deep enough to cover most of a turkey breast. Next, get some dry mustard and put approximately one tablespoon of the mustard into the salad dressing. Whisk the mixture until the mustard isn't clumped up at all.
Put the turkey breast into the mixture and poke a few holes into the breast with a fork. Cover, and put into the fridge for 24 hours, flipping the breast over after 12 hours.
You can cook this in the oven, or on the grill, and cook it just like you would any chicken breast. I prefer to roll the breast like the ones you can buy from the store and wrap it with butchers twine. You can lay the breast flat like a chicken breast, but I feel this tends to dry the meat out easier. When I grill the turkey, I use medium heat, and baste the breast with the marinade so that the meat doesn't dry out.
Use your own judgment as to when the meat is done, again, it should look and cut similarly to the way done chicken breast does. Laying the breast flat on the grill definitely cooks it faster than rolling it up with butchers twine, but that is up to you to decide how to cook it! The turkey goes great with some wild rice, sauteed asparagus, and a nice Riesling.(Okay, that sounded snobby, but trust me, it is good!)
Hopefully somebody out there will have bagged a bird and has some turkey breasts to try it out on!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Week Ahead

This is going to be a busy week for me. I have two exams, plus I have to start getting ready for graduation and moving out of my apartment. I doubt I will have much time to blog this week, but I hope to have an outdoors filled weekend when my girlfriend comes down to visit. The weather is supposed to be great, so we may get a chance to go hiking and possibly fishing. We may go check out the Bassmaster Elite Series Blue Ridge Brawl at nearby Smith Mountain Lake. I haven't visited the lake yet during my stay in Southwest Virginia, but I hear it is gorgeous! I need to find out a little more information on the event, but it would be cool to go check out the launch or weigh in on Saturday or Sunday morning. Once this rough week is over, I'll decide just what I want to do this weekend. Here are a few pictures of me and my best fishing buddy the last time we got to go fishing late last summer. If only she could learn to bait her own hook and take the fish off after she catches them...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Great Hunt Ends With A Miss

I was lucky enough to have my Dad go hunting with me this morning. It is only the second time he has ever gone turkey hunting, so I hoped I'd be able to get a bird in range or at least hear a bunch of birds. It's also my last day of turkey hunting this year, so I hoped it would turn out to be a great morning.
We got out to the farm at 5:30, and at 5:50 heard our first bird. He was in the same place I have been hearing birds the other two days I hunted this season. We eased back towards the birds, and as we crested a hill to drop into the woods, four other gobblers fired up. I pinpointed where they all were, and Dad and I set up 100 yards due East of where the hen was roosted the other day. It turned out that the two closest gobblers were in the same tree she was. The boys put on a show, and we must have heard about 150 gobbles before they flew down.
I started doing some tree yelps and was getting regular answers from the two gobblers in the tree West of us, as well as the other three to the South. We were lucky enough to be able to see one of the gobblers strut while he was in the tree. I did a flydown call, and about 5 minutes later both birds flew down towards us. The birds got quiet for awhile, and then I did a cutting sequence and we got lots of gobbles from everywhere, all within 200 yards.
A few minutes later, I started scratching the ground, trying to sound like a feeding hen. I also clucked and purred and all of a sudden, GOBBBBBBLLLLLEE, right in our faces, within 50 yards.
Unfortunately I set Dad and I up in a bad way, even though it was a good spot. Instead of sitting together, we were 10 yards apart. I should have sat with him so I could talk him through the process, but instead I had to whisper loudly, and when the bird was close, not at all. He was also torqued around to his left to try and get on where the bird was coming from.
Then, a white head came down the trail.20 yards, no shot. Bird hangs up, I cluck, and he starts walking. Ten yards from Dad and still no shot. It was a Jake, with a 5 inch beard, so I figured Dad couldn't see it and wasn't sure about shooting. Being afraid the bird would see us and run, I purred and he stuck his head up, but still no shot! So I hissed SHOOOOOT, right as Dad shot and the bird turned away. The bird flew a few feet, and then headed for the hills.
Turns out Dad couldn't see a beard so he was hesitant to shoot. He also had a small tree in the way, and because I was at a different angle I didn't realize he couldn't shoot. Needless to say, I am distraught, but Dad is laughing it off and saying how much fun it was. He's right, it's about the hunt, not the kill. I need to realize that I am still pretty new at this, so our combined inexperience is what cost us this bird.
This was probably the best hunt of any kind I have been on. It was beautiful this morning, there were lots of birds around, and we had a very close encounter with a bird. The best part is that I got to share it with my Dad, and I think I may be getting closer to getting him hooked on turkeys...
Here's a video that I took right before fly down. The gobbler answers my calls right at the end of the clip.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Morning Hunt

I made it home from Virginia Tech last night at about 11:30 pm. I set the alarm on my cell phone for 4:45 and promptly went to sleep. Unfortunately, I forgot to change the alarm from pm to am! My dad woke me up at 5:35, and I was able to get dressed and get out to the farm by 5:55. I hustled into the woods and managed to strike up a gobbler in the same place I did last weekend, except this time he was still on the roost. I pinpointed where he was and set up about 150 yards North of him, as it was already too light to sneak in any closer to his tree.
I started out with some soft tree calls and got him gobbling at almost every call I made. Unfortunately, my calls and his gobbling woke up the boss hen who was roosted about 75 yards due West of me. I was lucky enough to be able to watch her on the roost. She was pretty upset at my calling, and kept craning her neck trying to figure out which tree this other turkey was roosted in. Between 6:20 and 7:00 the gobbler gobbled close to 40 times. Then, right at 7:00, the hen pitched out of the tree and landed directly between me and the gobbler. She gave some pretty loud yelps once she hit the ground, and soon I heard the swoosh swoosh of the gobbler flying down. I can only assume she led him away from me, because there were no more gobbles after the flydown.
I stayed put until 8:00, and then went to where the gobbler had roosted with the hopes that he may return after he had taken care of business in the early morning. At 9:00, he fired back up about a half mile away and gobbled about 15 times, but never got any closer. I finally called it quits at 10:30 and hiked out of the woods. It was a beautiful morning and I can't wait to do it all again the next two days.
Tomorrow I am hunting another farm a half mile down the road from the farm I hunted today, hopefully the place where the gobbler from this morning ended up. I have never turkey hunted at this farm before so we'll see what happens! Should be a good morning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Long Weekend

In a few hours I will be finishing up the last lab of my college career and then heading home for a long and hopefully enjoyable weekend. It should be filled with good weather, great hunting, and a chance to see some of my extended family. Hopefully I'll get a bird or two, but even if I don't it will be a great mini vacation before my last weeks of school and my finals.
I may try this gadget I added to my blog last night that enables you to send texts and supposedly pictures from your mobile phone. It would be cool to give "updates from the field," especially if I am going to hunt from 6 am until Noon. I got the texts to work, but I can't figure out how to send pictures...Maybe one of you tech savvy bloggers out there would be willing to give me some advice. Thanks to all who left comments on my blog, they really give me extra motivation to keep this blogging experiment going!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Remembering April 16, 2007

Once again, I am stranded at school working on a paper. I am going to substitute an original post with something I wrote two years ago following the tragedy at my school, Virginia Tech. This was posted on the Bright Idea Outdoors Weblog shortly following the tragedy, but I'll go ahead and post it now that I have my own blog. Hopefully I will have a turkey story to write about on the 16th. Side note... I was home last year on the 16th and bagged my first gobbler that morning at about the same time the shootings had started the year before. I'll always remember dropping to my knees to thank God for the bird and to pray for those that had lost their lives at that moment the year before...

Candlelight on the Drill Field
April 17, 2006

Seven-thirty p.m. passed and my roommate and some friends were on our way to The Drill Field, the heart of the Virginia Tech campus. The mood during the two minute ride from my apartment to campus was not terribly somber, as my friends and I discussed the afternoon’s Convocation ceremony, as well as the media hype, and political repercussions that the previous day’s events will have on the state of Virginia, as well as the United States. There was even some laughing and joking, as well as discussion of music on the radio. Not until we had exited the car and walked across the giant Price’s Fork Road parking lot did all the feelings that go with such a tragedy begin to sink in to the small group I was a part of. At this moment we reached the stairs that led from the parking lot upwards towards the academic buildings on the Southwest side of campus.
Here we were handed candles for the imminent vigil, and we began the march up the stairs towards the Drill Field. Inadvertently we had taken a set of stairs the led past the side of Norris Hall, the site of 31 deaths the day before. Hoards of state police were present, and a mobile crime lab van was backed up to double doors that led into the building. The area from the edge of the path, all the way around Norris was encircled by yellow crime scene tape. As we reached the crest of the stairs and the ground leveled out we could begin to see the Drill Field, and the thousands already gathered to mourn the lives of those lost.
We found a spot on the edge of the crowd to the right of Burruss Hall, and waited for the vigil to begin. As the sun set, our small group was quickly surrounded as the mourners kept filing into the vigil. The ceremony began and the candles were lit, and sobs were soon audible to me as the speakers for the evening delivered the messages of hope and remembrance. All aspects of this scene touched me, but there are a few moments that I will carry in my heart forever.
The first moment was when a bugler played Taps, and the somber tones of the bugle were echoed off the buildings from across campus. The next moment was when I actually realized the amount of people that had turned out to mourn. I became cognizant of the mass of people that were really there because I noticed that the front of Burruss Hall was illuminated by the light of candles, nothing else. The ceremony was officially over but the crowd stayed, and in the moments that followed, I had a moment that truly touched me. From somewhere in the crowd, baritone voices began to sing “Amazing Grace,” and as I lifted my head to the sky to pray, I noticed the lit windows of a corner of Norris Hall. Lit in that window were the silhouettes of law enforcement, obviously investigating the crime scene. This is when the tragedy truly hit home for me, because I realized how surreal it was that 31 people had died a hundred steps from me, and that the killer had likely walked the very path I was standing on as he made his way to Norris Hall.
A female friend in our group began to cry, and as the cheers of “Let’s go…Hokies” filled the air, our group prepared to leave. Until this point I had felt like a person on the fringe of becoming a Hokie. I will be attending the school in the fall, but at many games, gatherings, and other campus events I had felt like an outsider. Now, sharing this moment with the whole Tech community, I was aware that the solidarity and strength displayed at this vigil were the real reasons I was drawn to become a student here. Then, just for a second, I shed a few tears, a half dozen at the most. To me, these tears signified that although unofficially a Hokie, I am already one at heart.
I will always remember this candlelight vigil as a moment in my life that will always be my first true memory of being a Hokie. Most importantly it was a moment for the Tech community to come together and unite. I will never forget the silence of forty thousand Hokies, or the light from forty thousand candles on the Drill Field, and I will never forget the variety of feelings that came over me as I stood honoring those lost on April 16th. I doubt anyone else at the candlelight vigil will ever forget this event, and to me, that means the vigil was a success. This is because the memories we have from the vigil are really the memories we will have of those lost in this horrible tragedy, and in turn those lost will never be forgotten.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Joined The OBS

I just saw today that I was added to the OBS blog roll. I've heard a lot about this organization from my cousin Matt and was encouraged to join. After reading some of the subjects that are discussed, as well as some of the members' blogs, I'm really excited to be a member. There are some blogs that I have viewed multiple times, and others that I still need to check out. Once my schedule calms down and I have a little more free time, I hope to be able to comment on more of these great blogs. Hopefully some folks out there will enjoy my blog as much as I enjoy theirs! Now it is back to writing a research paper on Charlemagne...what fun.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Terrible Day for Turkeys

Unfortunately my fears about the weather came true on Saturday morning. I fell asleep at 3 am to no rain or wind, and when I woke up an hour later, there were puddles outside and a cold wind out of the Northeast. Despite the lack of sleep and foul weather, I drove out to the farm at 5 am. Two of my hunting buddies showed up, and we sat until dawn cracked and then hiked into the apple orchard to try and elicit some gobbles and set up some decoys. No gobbles, 20 deer, and 2 hours later my buddies called it quits. I decided to hike the half mile to the other side of the property that is thickly wooded and try and strike up a bird. Finally, after cutting really loud with my mouth call, I got a gobble from within 200 yards. Unfortunately, the bird was henned up and I jumped two cattle that ran in his direction, so there wasn't much chance of him coming to me. I got two more gobbles out of him in the next hour, but each one was 100 yards further away from the first one. Even though I didn't get a bird, that first gobble of the year got my blood going!
I am going to eat Easter dinner with my family today, and then drive back to Virginia Tech for 3 days of paper writing and classes. Wednesday night at 8, I'll be back on the road for three days of hunting up here in Northern Virginia again. I think my luck should be better due to some weather changes and the fact that I will be hunting the property all by myself!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tomorrow Morning

Tomorrow is the opening day of Spring Gobbler season in Virginia. Unfortunately it looks like it is going to rain here in Northern Virginia from about 3a.m. until noon. A little rain wouldn't bother me, but what I am worried about is the wind. Wind makes it harder to pinpoint or even hear where gobbles are coming from. Heck, sometimes the birds won't even gobble when it is windy. Hopefully I'll strike up a bird on the roost, but if I don't I'll hunt until I get a bird or it is quitting time at noon. Good luck to anyone else out there hunting tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Turkey Crazy

Just received this from my lovely girlfriend Sarah. It about sums up my addiction to turkey hunting...

Two Days and A Wake Up

By this time on Friday I will be home and hopefully roosting some turkeys for the opening morning hunt on Saturday. The two farms I hunt are within a half a mile of each other. In all, it's about 500 acres that I have permission to hunt. The properties are very different despite their close proximity. My primary property has great cover and two different stands of mature hardwoods that the birds like to roost in. There is also an old apple orchard that the birds like to strut in, as well as a stand of white pines and a few pastures. One whole half of the farm is bordered by another property that has hardwoods going all the way to my other property a half mile away.
This property has about 40 acres of hardwoods, and then tree lines between 3 pastures and crop fields. I have never hunted gobblers there before, but I have the suspicion that those isolated crop fields may be the ticket for catching some strutting birds. Chances are I'll start my morning in the apple orchard at the other farm. Hopefully I'll have some birds fly off the roost into the open orchard. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to walk these properties since deer season, so roosting some birds will be my only attempt at "scouting."
This evening is going to be spent packing all my gear into the car and cleaning my apartment so it isn't a dump when I get back. My schedule is looking like I'll be home for Easter and opening day this weekend. Then back to Tech Sunday night, only to turn around Wednesday afternoon and head home to hunt for 3 days straight. If my plans work out, I hope to use up the two turkey tags I have left for this license year. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Exhaustion Is Setting In...

After studying from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. last night, then watching the NCAA Men's basketball championship, and then studying until 3 a.m. I thought I was tired. After getting 3 hours of sleep, going to class from 8 a.m. until 3 and taking an exam in essay format I realize I am exhausted! I should have skipped the ball game (I hate to see U.N.C. win), and gone to sleep earlier. Hopefully my studying pays off.
Now I have to write a six page paper, go to two more days of classes, and drive 3 hours to get home in time for the opening day of turkey season. I have been obsessing about opening day for months and suddenly today I am thinking more about fly fishing for smallmouth bass! I guess us sportsmen and women are fickle! I haven't gone fishing since July, and the promise of temperatures in the mid 70's plus all the new streamers I bought over the weekend keep me thinking about smallies! Maybe I'll be lucky enough to bag a gobbler by noon, grab a quick lunch, and then catch a few fish on the river by dinner time. Then again, maybe I'll get rid of the fishing itch tomorrow at the expense of some class and go fly fishing for some natives at this spot...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Not A Lot of Time Today...

I am in the process of studying for a test on the history of the Italian Renaissance that I have to take tomorrow, so I really don't have time to come up with a new post. I do however have a story I wrote a few years back about one of the coolest, and most frustrating, hunts I have ever been on. It was originally posted on, but that was a few years back. Hopefully somebody will read it who has never read it before...

I Think I'll Name My Decoy Murphy
April 14, 2007

After worrying about the weather for the past week and praying that the monsoon on track to hit Northern Virginia would stall long enough to allow a turkey hunt, my prayer came true. I was at my favorite place in the world, the 200 acre farm where I hunt in Clarke County. Better yet, I was all alone on this farm, where supposedly seventeen gobblers reside. As dawn was breaking, I was standing on a hill imitating an owl, and listening for answering gobbles. On the second hoot, five gobblers within a half mile answered at the same time.
Choosing which bird sounded closest, I headed into an old apple orchard that borders a thirty acre patch of mature hardwoods. I found my spot, an old apple tree that faces down a hill towards the woods, with only thirty yards of grass between me and the home of the aforementioned gobbler. I set out my decoy twenty yards away and nestled into the weeds underneath the apple tree. As I began to call, starting with some purrs and a few soft yelps, my quarry answered from his roost, a hundred yards deeper in the woods.
I played it safe and left off with the calling until he gobbled again, and then I let loose with a few yelps followed by a cutting sequence. I was greeted with a double gobble, and the sound of wings beating the air as the gobbler flew to the ground. I became more aggressive with my calling and the gobbler and I began to converse every five minutes or so. The gobbles came closer and closer, so I lowered my face mask and got in position to shoot.
But here’s where the fun starts. Being so intent on talking with Mr. Turkey, I had failed to notice the half dozen deer grazing up the grassy strip towards me. These deer were coming from exactly the spot I anticipated the gobbler to be coming from. The deer weren’t spooked by my calling which was great, however they did make it harder to notice any turkey heading my way. However, wild animals often play off each others senses, so I hoped the calm deer would help the approaching gobbler feel safe as well.
I had not heard the gobbler for a few minutes so I figured he had pinpointed where I was calling from. I began to call softly, purring and clucking to give him a sense of security. Then, right through the middle of the deer, the gobbler’s bobbing red head appeared. As the gobbler stopped in the middle of the deer to look for the love of his dreams, I shifted my gun into firing position. The gobbler and the deer were fifty yards away, just outside my comfort range, so I held off shooting and began to yelp softly at the bird. The gobbler suddenly spotted my decoy and started to strut and waltz his way into firing range. Little did I know that at this moment when I was preparing to harvest my first gobbler of the season, Murphy’s Law was about to take effect. For those of you who may not know, Murphy’s Law as I know it is “what can go wrong will go wrong at the most inopportune time.”
As I was drawing a bead on the gobbler’s head, a sudden movement ten feet to the front and right of me drew my attention. Out of the orchard stepped Murphy’s messenger of the day, a Red Fox. I can only assume the fox thought he would sneak over and see what a stupid hen, who sits in one spot and calls for a half an hour, tastes like. The fox looked to his right and saw the gobbler and the deer, and then to his left at me and my hen decoy. I became frantic and whispered at the fox to leave, and then kicked a foot at him, and all he did was move five feet closer and look me dead in the eyes from spitting distance away. As I prepared myself to fend off a pouncing fox, the fox turned, took two steps and pounced, not on me, but on my helpless decoy! The fox dragged the decoy to the ground, and realizing his meal was a phony, turned to look back at me, obviously with some sort of malicious intent in his dark eyes. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the deer and my gobbler scatter! The fox took a step towards me and having enough of my ruined hunt, (and fearing for my life) I shot into the ground near the fox, sending him sprinting into the woods. I then stood up and watched as my dreams of the past year went running into the forest, putting in alarm. Oh well, so much for marinated turkey breast tonight.
Anyway…I think I’ll name my decoy Murphy, because no matter how much I practice calling, nor how much money I spend on gear, Murphy’s Law will get me. I’ve called many a bird into range, but have never sealed the deal; Murphy has always gotten the best of me. Maybe if I start taking my nemesis Murphy into the woods with me, I won’t be stalked by Murphy and his evil tricks. So for now, I’ll take Murphy (the newly named decoy) and patch the teeth marks in her neck, and prepare for next weekend. There are plenty of birds, and I have plenty of time to plan my next hunt while my professors lecture me on the importance of math, proper grammar, and other such nonsense. Next weekend I plan to turn the tables on this whole turkey business because I am taking Murphy hunting for a change and we’re going to play some mean tricks on those old gobblers.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Turkey Season

Much to my family's relief, Virginia's Spring Gobbler season will open this coming Saturday, April 11. I say they will be relieved because I have been going crazy for turkey season since deer season essentially ended for me in January. I am compulsive when it comes to hunting, and practicing turkey calling in the house is one manifestation of this compulsion. I'll just say that my family does not appreciate the beauty of yelping, purring, and clucking as much as I do.
This will be my fourth spring turkey hunting, and I get more addicted to the sport each year. After two years of calling in birds, and having something go wrong at the last second every time one got close enough to shoot, I managed to bag my first spring bird during the opening week of the season last year.
I was lucky enough to be able to take a week off from school and spend the mornings chasing gobblers all around the farm I hunt in Northern Virginia. I don't think I will be lucky enough to hunt for a whole week this year, but at least I will get to hunt opening day. My friend who owns the farm said he saw some birds last weekend, so hopefully I'll get to at least hear some birds gobbling!
Hopefully I'll have some more turkey stories to post by next weekend, but for now I need to get back to schoolwork and applying for jobs. In the meantime, check out my cousin Matt's blog at and read some of his information on turkey hunting. (By the way, I need to give a big shout out to Matt for introducing me to blogging.)