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!