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Friday, December 11, 2015

The recovery is on for Central North Carolina's Deer Herd..... Threeletters EHD.

My apologies for the ridiculously long break in posts.  So much to discuss. Lets start with one near and dear…. The 2014 travesty that was the North Carolina Deer season.  Epizootio Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD).  This is a viral disease, spread by gnats, which causes internal bleeding and is extremely devastating in areas where the deer density is high.  My hunting time was also limited last year so I sat in areas that were known to be high deer traffic areas.  In years past these were gimmees for does.  My goal was meat harvest.  I used 5 vacation days to hunt sun up- down and weekends.  Not only did I not harvest a deer I saw whopping 4 deer, period.  That includes a buck swimming across a lake, a lone doe running along side the road and road kill! Generally, I would see that many per day in front of my neighborhood.  The first sign of bad things to come was the fam across from my office.  Typically we would see herds of 10+ at various times grazing in the corn stalks.  Sometimes as many as 40 deer could be counted.  Last year ZERO.  Not one.  At first I thought it were development pushing deer to new areas, perhaps me… bad wind, timing, perhaps too warm for good movement.  Then gun season began…. A slight up tick but still guys hunting over bait, running dogs  were also coiming up empty  that is when I knew… this would not be good. 

How bad was it? Lets look at number sform some of the numbers comparing the 2013 harvest to the released 2014 harvest.  For camparison we will look at the North-Central counties which have traditionally had some really strong harvests. More importantly, these areas are heavily hunted with hounds, bait and rifles.  I metion this only to say the “great mast” theory does not hold water in this region.  So lets take a look:

2013 Harvest
2014 Harvest
Difference in total deer harvested (2014  vs. 2013)
% harvest decline  vs. 2013

 That was the past.  2015 I think will be a "good" year.  Early fall into late October provided some great opportunities. Folks were reporting sightings and harvests, I saw more bucks than ever and harvested one with my bow.  One observation, most of the deer look young.  It will be interesting to see how the year finishes with 3 weeks left in the deer season.  Hopefully we'll see more like this one harvested by my frat brother from a stand near Rougmount, NC.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An experiment to answer a couple of bow hunting questions

What causes a deer to "jump the string"? It happens within standard hunting ranges (20 to 30 yards),  but I often wonder, why?  Is it the sound of the string snapping upon release? Perhaps the deer sees the arrow in flight or better yet hears the arrow approaching. This weekend I conducted a simulation, an experiment of sorts. From a distance of 33 yards, I shot six arrows at a 5 inch target approximately 6 inches above my iPhone.  Of the six arrows, five were in the 5 inch circle and the outlier was about three quarters of an inch high and to the left.

The recording may not capture the audio as well as being there in person, but from this distance you can clearly hear my feet on the deck and the bow on the table.  You cannot hear the string snap or the arrow's release, but you can definitely hear a whisper just before impact.

This video makes me wonder: is the deer responding to the sound of the shot? This video raises another question: perhaps they're not responding to the sound at all, but instead they are catching movement associated with the process of shooting a bow and the arrows release.  Deer are acutely attuned to any movement. This may explain why shorter shots tend to have more"string  jumping" then longer shots.

Based upon the video what is your opinion?

A fishing trip, bike ride and all around fun day with my boys

So this weekend the boys and I decided to take a little bike ride (14 miles round trip) along the Neuse River and do a little fishing. The water was very high.  We tried a few spots and had a couple of short strikes but nothing was landed. We did enjoy a few wildlife sightings on a very mild late spring day. The high light was probably this black rat snake.  He was was about 6 or 6.5 feet long (the gravel easment is just over 3 feet from path to grass and he had another foot in there). Really beautiful snake solid black because a garden hose.

The fishing may have been slow but it was a productive weekend for herping.  While downtown looking at some gardens, I happened to notice what I consider to be a rather unusual site in the upper North Carolina peidmont, let alone downtown Raleigh. In a small walkway between bushes I looked as a way to catch a glimpse of a small green anole.  Warmed an active I watched him chase small bugs and flies for minute or two.

All in all it was a fun adventure.

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.