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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Saga of the Honey Hole, My Walden

The honey hole is quickly becoming my go to place.  It is not the best place.  It is not the most remote.  The deer are not guaranteed to move through.  I have only seen two bucks there in three years. The deer are ridiculously skittish and prone to go nocturnal.  But it is convenient to my home, less than a quarter mile away, isolated and there are deer, coyote, squirrels, and raccoons.   Public hunting land is nearby, but the proximity to the honey hole often wins out.  It's my Walden.

Last November, I logged my third and final deer of the season. Despite three hunts in front of hounds and several trips to the "big woods", fittingly my last deer was a doe from the honey hole.  A last minute hunt, during the middle of the day.

The season is over, but she will be there.  Each afternoon, I will walk my dog along the edge of my suburban oasis and invariably there will be whitetail deer to wave, "good bye".  Perhaps tomorrow I'll visit again, bow in hand and sons in tow to hunt squirrels and rabbits in the fresh snow.

Now, I turn to the flyrod and bassbugs; spinning reels and floats, baitcasters and cranks.  Standing in a stream, waders on, and "waving a stick"..... my favorite way to hunt.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

First Deer of 2013 - Archery Hunt


I had a few days off and got in some great public land hunts.

Day 1: Temperatures dropped into the low 30's overnight. The high temperature for the following day was expected to be in the mid 50's.  After weeks of warm temperatures in the 70’s and 60’s, deer should be on the move.  I intended to hunt an archery zone where buck or doe harvest was legal.  So, after dropping the kids off at school I, met up with my hunting partner and headed out to the woods.  The lunar calendar said it was a great day with prime activity between 10am and 1pm.  A pre-hunt inspection of my bow revealed a serving that was coming apart.  We had time so I went back to the house grabbed a shot gun and hit a different piece of public land open to firearms.  About 11:15am I caught a glimpse of a large mature buck crossing a shooting lane about 60 yards off.  I watched as he followed a ridgeline headed my way.  I lost him in the trees.  About 15 minutes later I am surprised by the sound of shots fired behind me, I turned and between me and my partner stood a 6 pointer.  I got off one shot at 16 yards and missed. 

Day 2: After doing some cleaning around the house I decided to do an afternoon hunt.  After all, the trusty calendar said the prime time for today was 2:40pm - 4:10pm.  I prepared to go out with the shot gun when the phone rings..... My bow is ready!  I ran out figuring I could pick it up about noon, sight it in at the shop and hit the woods by 2pm.

With bow in hand, I slipped in downwind of an established travel corridor.  In the past, I have seen rubs along the ridge, lots of deer passing through and one or two mature bucks.  This corridor is a deer favorite because it provides access to the entire property without crossing any open areas and all wind is funneled through.  They can smell and hear anyone the moment they step into the woods.  However, if you make your way within 30-40 yards of the ridgeline, there is a prevalent cross wind that carries your scent away from the corridor. A perfect ambush site.

I reach my tree and climb up about 25 feet with a Lone Wolf hand climber. I tie off my life line, notch an arrow and take a seat. Less than 5 minutes into the hunt, to my right, I see a large doe making her way out cautiously testing the wind.  Immediately I know her, the Nanny Goat.  I and this ole girl have been going at it for a few seasons. She is a very large and mature doe.  Almost every time I hunt this area, I lock wits with the Ol’ Nanny. Her markings are very distinct. I have watched her lead the herd in this heavily travelled corridor of public land for at least 3 seasons.  She is the first one to appear and the guardian who stomps, snorts and blows to warn everyone else.  Smart and wily, I have been busted by her more times than not. In fact, she got wind of me a week earlier.  I only saw her, but she stomped and it sounded like a cavalry scattering in the forest around me.

She appeared about 60 yards out surveying the tree line.  I could see several more does about 20 yards beyond her eating.  She was on sentinel duty, as usual, apart from the group.  She gradually began to forage and wandered out of sight into the trees. I know this game.  She wanders away out of sight, but keeps an eye on whatever in the tree line got her attention. While foraging, she will constantly circle the area to catch wind of anything untoward and peak into the canopy for anything unusual, movement. I did not move and barely breathed for fear of giving off enough scent to blow my cover.  If she picked me off again, it would be same story…. I draw at a deer, she stomps, snorts and everyone runs.  

Like a ghost she re-appeared just beyond a tree about 40 yards out from me, head down, eating mushrooms. She was unaware of my presence and totally relaxed.   I had no intention of taking a shot that far.  I practice out to 50 yards, but 30 yards is about where I draw the line for hunting.  I had a narrow shooting lane and figured she would stay in that position until she finished the mushrooms off.  The canopy hid my silhouette. I could draw smoothly, set a good anchor, aim and hold it for as long as needed. I decided to give it a go; waited for the wind to settle; aimed small and released the arrow.  The shot was true.  I was able to trace the flight and heard a solid thud. She jumped turned and trotted off about 75 yards, made a hard right turn and disappeared over a hill.  I stayed in the stand focused on the last spot I saw her. Trying to memorized everything about that last positive sighting just in case there was no trail to track.  In the distance I heard rustling in the leaves.  I knew then she was down, I was certain that I finally got the Nanny Goat.

She was much bigger than I expected. No camera tricks, her body is as large as it looks below. She has some very distinct markings on her that allowed me to identify her.  This, to me, is the equivalent of a trophy buck, an OLD doe. The smartest deer I have ever hunted.




Thursday, September 19, 2013

Surprise smallmouth fishing trip on the New River


Long time since I've posted about flyfishing or spent time on the water. This week, a surprise team building event lead to an  opportunity on the New River with Tangent Outfitters in Montgomery / Giles counties. 



Flycasting form and accuracy came back quickly, but I missed a couple of hits. Fly fishing was a little slow but I managed to boat 2, one over 15". Earlier, we landed one about 18" on spinning gear. 



The fish on the fly...... Made up for a year's absence! 

Thankfully, I will be getting more time in the field and on the water now!!!!!! Also learned some new tricks!!!! 

Oh there was an alleged Muskie encounter by the other fly fisherman.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Time to catch up!!!

Wow, January 14th was my last post.  This has been an extremely busy summer. Aside from the usual (family, life, and obligations) I committed to forging a new career path and as such, I have had to sacrifice “recreational time” for long-term reward… delayed gratification I guess. I have a lot to catch up on a short period of time so I’ll be posting quite frequently before discussing my annual hunting objectives and gear about a week or two before the September 7th opener. New gear to show and strategies to employ for 2013.

We did make it out for our annual turkey bow hunt, but without success.  Not even a gobble this year.  We had a larger blind, better decoys, but no turkeys decided to visit.

 

We left with expectations to return, but it didn’t happen as I traveled out of the country for a couple of weeks and returned to a rainy and cool North Carolina. The start of a trend we never saw coming.  On the positive side we found lots of deer sign and this incredible rub? I don’t know what to make of it and would welcome any opinions. 

 

 

The rub extended from about just above level ground to I’d estimate close to 6’ and went around the circumference of the tree.  This picture was taken in early April and the tree was probably about 8” - 9” in diameter.  Several people have suggested bear.  I am not saying it is impossible, but they are not recognized as resident in the area.  Regardless, there were deer sign all over and one even paid a visit to the blind.

As always, I like to finish with some wildlife pictures and a story.  I was waiting inthe parking lot for my son's science fair to begin.  It was a warm late spring day and a brief rain shower did little more than wet the asphalt.  I got out of the truck for what I figured would be a really cool picture of condensation rising from the hot asphalt.  Little did I know that on the other side of my truck was a large strikingly colored copperhead.  These snakes are incredibly beautiful and the wet asphalt only highlighted it.
 

 

 

Not much for scale here but he was about 3 feet +/- a little.  Longer than most, but not as thick as expected for the length.   Generally, copperheads are pretty docile and the larger specimens even more so.  I decided to take a few pictures and move him out of the way.  This guy was warming himself on the hot asphalt and was at about an 8 on the activity scale to start and quickly went off the chart! He probably didn’t like me hovering over him taking pictures either.
 
I knew that if he stayed here, as parents arrived for the science fair, he would be killed.   Not that I would argue with it as he posed a real threat to young children. I got the stiff butt end of a fishing rod, placed him in a sack and a moved him to the safety of a set aside/creek a fair distance from the school with access to a non residential wooded area.  

 

He left me a few parting gifts on the cork of my rod to show his gratitude for moving him to safety.  These snakes are not endangered and I chose to move him becuase he was not a threat to anyone at that time and there really wasn't any reason to dispatch him.  As a sportsman and outdoorsman I understand that everything has its place.   Please do not take this blog entry as an endorsement of interacting with a venomous snake or any unidentifiable species.  Any wild animal is a danger when it feels threatened.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: Cabela's Cahill Combo (5wt)

As posted last week, I recently picked up a pair of "entry" level Cabela's Cahill combo's (5wt & 8wt) specifically for fishing some the local rivers and streams.  The late week warm up allowed me to take the 5 wt out for a test drive and I decided to post a quick review as I didn't find any extensive Cahill combo  reviews outside of the Cabela's site.  So let's start with the finish.  Not a bad looking rod, the coating was even, no drips, waves, exposed blanks or sharp edges at the base of any guides. The corks felt solid, no residual dust.  Once locked in, I worked the rod for about an hour and when I returned home, the reel was still locked in the seat.  So all in all, I would have to say the rod looked and felt like a rod that cost significantly more than $40.00.



The reel was surprisingly better than I expected.  It had an adjustable disc drag, not a click and prawl, but quite honestly I wasn't expecting much as this will be a warm water/panfish rod and I prefer palming most anything that pulls significant drag.  Again, better than expected.



The reel is sold ready to fish: spooled with backing, WF-5 floating line and a leader attached.  Out of the box, no practice the, rod did not cast well, but after laying the line on water a few times it began to perform flawlessly.  In all fairness this rod was literally out of the box.  I unboxed/wrapped it in the parking lot and headed out the water!  So, I suspect the initial difficulties were due to casting an unconditioned (cleaned/lubed) line and partly to my rust as well.  That being said, I was able to cast size 6/8 beadhead buggers, clousers and nymphs.  After I warmed up I tried a few double hauls and the rod performed well.  Cabelas refers to the rod as "mid flex" but I would say it is more mid-tip flex (moderate-fast).  I am also going to try overlining with a 6 wt Clouser line.  I have a feeling that it was slightly underlined out of the box.  That being said, this combo exceeded my expectations for a $40.00 outift!  I would definitely reccomend it.  In fact I can pretty much guarantee this rod will see more action than my fast action rod which are more suited to long casts ......... Even at the regular price of $59.00, I am going to grab a pair to teach my sons.   One con:  It does not come with a rod sock or storage tube.  But really, would you complain at this price?

 

In January?!?!?

On a very unseasonably warm Sunday (74F in Raleigh, NC!!!!), I intended to meet up with Feather Chucker for some winter fishing and try out a new 5 wt Cabela's Cahill combo that arrived last week. Unfortunately, a long "honey-do" list and three children left me about 30 minutes late and I couldn't find him.  I decided I'd better fish the next good spot then head home to walk the dog and help another friend retreive a tree stand, before dark. I practiced casting, presenting and worked out my my new rod for a review to be posted. Just before leaving the water, I asked a lady riding by if she would take a series of pictures for my rod review.



She did, but as she left she jumped and had a startled look (I have that effect on people!) before riding off. A moment later, I exited the water where she stood and I ciaught a very brief glance of what appeared to be the tail of a fleeing Kingsnake. A quick flash of a black and yellow so I wasn't 100% sure of what I saw and being JANUARY, I probably had the same kind of startled look trying to make sense of what I thought I saw. About 2 miles or so from the parking lot, I see a couple with a dog pointing at something on the bike trail. I glance as I pass and it's this:



Yes!!!!!!! In the middle of January I am staring at a 2-2.5' specimen of Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen, the infamous northern copperhead sometimes referred to as a moccasin or upland moccasin. I am guessing this is a northern based upon the spots in the cross bands, but many specimens between central Va and central NC are intergrades with Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix, the southern copperhead to some extent so it is hard to discern in the field. Regardless, a copperhead in early January has to make for an unbelievable observation and what a way to start the season?!?!

 


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Look what came today........


Quick post about a little something that came via UPS today………





Just after Christmas, I found an offer I could not refuse and with the incredibly warm temps we are expecting, this package arrived just in time!!! I’m really excited about this……………….


Cabela’s had their Cahill Fly-Fishing outfits (4pc. 9’ graphite rod, reel, line and backing) on sale for just under $40. I could not resist. I ordered a five weight outfit for pan fish and an eight weight for largemouth, smallmouth and striped bass. So why am I so excited about these “low-end” beginner’s outfits?  It’s all about the action and purpose.

These are probably the bottom of the Cabelas’ line.  However, I really like their mid-flex action for warm water fishing. Unlike saltwater fishing where super stiff extra fast rods enable you to fling 60 feet of line into the wind with a single haul, fishing medium sized rivers,  small streams and ponds generally involves short casts.  Accuracy and placement are paramount.  The moderate action allows for very precise placement and the stiff butt provides power for casting large terrestrials, bass bugs, streamers, weighted nymphs, and Clouser’s.  Those are flies typically for largemouth smallmouth bass and panfish. More importantly unlike the higher in rods they really take a beating in the brush, trunk, closet and if you lose one… you won't miss it as much as a $600.00 Sage. So, that is why I'm really excited about what came in the mail today and hopefully a warm Monday through Friday will make for an exciting mid-winter excursion Saturday.