Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Mind of a Mature Buck


This past weekend I was awarded a Pinnacle award from the Professional Outdoor Media Association for a story I wrote. Several people have asked that I post the story. Here is the story that won the award.


The Mind of A Mature Buck

            Over the past thirty five years or so, I have spent an inordinate amount of time tromping and plodding through forest and fields chasing mature whitetail bucks. Thousands of hours studying maps, analyzing weather patterns and wind currents. Dozens of pairs of boots worn thin scouting, tracing routs, marking rub lines and scrapes. Locating bedding areas, feeding paths, cutover hideouts, staging areas and all to sit in a tree in a well thought out location to see……..well nothing.
            Mind you, I have had a fair amount of success. Some would say, I have had my fair share of success since I only hunt a small piece of ground locally. But if truth be known, the majority of my time spent looking for a mature buck is passed by admiring does, ‘want-to-be’ bucks and of course the array of small game that seems to appear in biblical proportions during a deer hunt along an acorn ridge. Through all of this idle time of sitting, looking and thinking, I believe I have come to realize just how an old buck thinks. And this could actually be the game changer I have sought for so long.
            It has become evident that old bucks are really not that different from old hunters. Especially when it comes to the way they see the world around them. Old bucks are solitary creatures for most of the year. They like to get away from all of the noise, all of the confusion. Their lifestyle is not one of isolation, as it is one of independence and of all things, irony. I believe that the old buck likes to get away and think about things. To spend time on his ridge, looking over his territory and marvel at how his world has changed around him. The girls he has chased for years and the ones that got away. He lays and ponders his territory. “Will I walk the creek line today, or just stay close to home?” He thinks to himself. If the temperature is too cold, perhaps he will just take it easy so his old bones and joints won’t have to work quite so hard against the bitterness. Or when it rains, he decides to wait it out to keep from getting wetter than he already is.
            I can remember clearly one frosty November morning, back when Novembers were cold. Trying to ease into an afternoon stand early and enjoy the warming thermals. I was too late, the old boy had beaten me there. As I moved along the ridge, there he lay, beside the old blowdown just watching me. Hoping I wouldn’t see him and he could just let me pass him by so he too could just enjoy the warming of the day. Our eyes met at a mere twenty yards. He blew out of there like a boy late for a prom date and I just stood marveling at his grandeur. It was then that I started to understand that these old bucks are really not that different from me.
            As the weather begins to turn, and the oppressive heat of long summer days wane. The winter solstice approaching, he starts to feel young again. Just as October invigorates my soul, so too the mature buck. The cool air reminds him of days long gone when he could prowl for days on end looking for love. Days when one girl wasn’t enough, he needed more to make some jealous or to show off to the rest of the boys. The cool air invites him to parade his territory again, rubbing his growing antlers against the same trees as before. Making an exclamation point to all new comers that he is still here and very much alive. From time to time he will clean out a patch of ground beneath a licking branch along a forgotten field or logging road and say to all who pass by “this is mine!”
            But as his days increase, his ability to love decrease. His desire is there for sure, but the passion is gone. He now dreads the cold that is to come. So he eats even when he isn’t hungry because he knows. He knows what those half his senior could care less about. Winter is long, food is scarce and love is fleeting. So while he sneaks in a moment of romance for a brief period, his main concern is survival. His genes have been passed for several years, his work there is done. Now, just as a grandfather teaches his grandchildren different lessons than he taught his children. The old buck passes along lessons of longevity to other generations. Without knowing it, young bucks learn that the wisteria thicket is safe because that is where he lives. The impenetrable vines hold refuge, comfort and protection. They know this because this is where he determined years ago was the best place to be. From here, he can see every truck that enters the property and sneak away or lay still as he’s done hundreds of times before. He knows the knob near the creek is safe because the wind always swirls and prevents anything from approaching undetected.
            He’s learned that as his night grows longer and the mercury seldom climbs to freezing that the most important thing is food. The girls he sought for so long are gone, taking his heart and his genes. So he sleeps near where he eats. Saving energy from traveling great distances from one to the other for more important tasks.
            He’s seen a lot through his life. Great pine stands erased for cash then restored to provide a home for his children. Loosing friends who made poor decisions. Teenage romances that never ended well. He’s seen those who chose to play hard and love hard only to return to see their empty beds. He’s watched as mothers stood helpless as their young died way too soon. He’s worked hard and for a long time, and now just wants to rest in peace. To spend a few more cool autumns on his ridge and watch the bounding of children as they romp through meadows. He longs for days when his mere presence brought a sense of awe to the forest. But for now, he passes his days with the pleasure he finds in himself, knowing all too well these fresh springs are fleeting. That summer is coming with its hordes of bugs, sweltering heat and plentiful food. He knows water will be scarce, predators abundant and he knows the necessity of protecting what is rightfully his.
            Yes, I sat there in my tree stand and I watched as the old man, seeming to have let his guard down, or perhaps had a momentary lapse in judgement but more likely was moving slower than he should. I watched as his old weathered body struggled to walk down the steep ridge. One shaky foot in front of another, not really trusting himself. At the bottom of the ridge he pauses. At first I thought it was to catch his breath. His panting was obvious as the mist from his mouth poured into the morning air. Then I realized, he is not catching his breath, he’s admiring. He looks around his creek bottom soaking it all in for what could be his last time, Suddenly in what seemed to be a moment transfixed by time. He turned his head and as matter of fact as it could be, he looked straight into my eyes. One old man looking at another. When we locked eyes I did not see fear, I did not see trepidation or anxiety. I saw an old man wanting one more time to stroll through his creek bottom on his way home after a long night.
            It never crossed my mind to raise my rifle. This is the old buck that had filled my dreams. The one that caused so many sleepless nights, thousands of hours and dollars of my time and money. And there he stood, thirty yards away. His grey muzzle revealing what I had already known. This was an old buck. His eyes had seen so much. He seemed to know when he looked at me that I would understand. But also did not care if I didn’t. He was determined he was going home, on his time and at his pace. So he turned ever so slightly and wandered through the open hardwoods, passing by me at fifteen yards. Each labored step was methodical and glorious. I sat and watched as he drifted out of sight along the ridge that he called home.
            As I sat there, taking it all in, it dawned on me, that indeed we are not that much different at all. Now I am on the home stretch of my life in the out of doors. I am still not that old, but enough to realize that these moments are precious. So I savor each day, each moment and I hold onto them with vigor. I do not regret at all not raising my rifle. On the contrary, I cherish the moment greater than any trophy. A moment when two old men met in the woods. Looked at one another and understood that for now, that was enough.
            No the old buck is not that different from us at all. As our hair starts to turn, and our muscles begin to ache at the slightest of movements. We savor each day, and pray there is another day coming where we can again feel the freshness of cool autumn mornings.       



            

Monday, June 19, 2017

POMA 2017

This past week I was fortunate enough to attend the annual business meeting of POMA the Professional Outdoor Media Association. The conference attracts writers, editors, broadcasters and journalist from across the country for four days of fun.

At this years conference, we spent a day at the range where we got to test several awesome guns and brands of ammunition. Some of my favorites were the CVA muzzleloaders. Having never shot a muzzleloader i was quite the novice. Thanks to Tony Smotherman for his patience in showing me all of the details of how to load, shoot and clean their guns. Before the week was over I bought a CVA Acura Muzzleloader! 

I shot the Optima and their Optima pistol. A fifty caliber handgun that is one of the most fun to shoot handguns I have ever fired. I will definitely be owning one of these soon.

In addition to the CVA, I also was able to shoot some Bergara rifles. These high end rifles are designed for extreme accuracy and long range power. They shot like their reputation suggests.

Then there were the Crosman air rifles. These are not your child's BB gun. On the contrary. These fine firearms are extremely powerful and accurate. Whether you are shooting the break barrel .177 caliber or the Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) in .22 caliber these are excellent guns for small game.

Lastly was the Aguila Ammunition. Both in the 20 gauge, 12 gauge shotshells and in the multitude of handgun ammunition I shot the ammunition was excellent. The shotshells were extremely fast. As soon as I pulled the trigger the targets exploded. With the handguns it was a little different. Our targets were close and static. But in the 9mm, the .380 and the .40 all shot extremely well and cycled through the semi-autos flawlessly. Even the new .38 Super shot very well.

All in all, the day at the range was beneficial and one that I took away a lot of knowledge of brands that I knew little about. But suffice it to say, I will be spending my money on these products for a long time to come.

After the gun range we had other activities to keep us busy. On Friday evening we were having a silent auction and a live auction. An awards ceremony and food. During the ceremony I was fortunate enough to win the Piccacle award for the Newspaper / Web Category.  A special thank you to Mossy Oak for sponsoring the awards.

I must admit that I was humbled and honored to have won this category at the event. Still, God is good and the sun will come up tomorrow.












Tuesday, June 13, 2017

National Senior Games

This past weekend I was fortunate to be able to compete in the National Senior Games that were held in Birmingham, AL. 

The National Senior games began thirty years ago as a way to get seniors more active and more involved in activities. These games are similar to the Olympic games and simulate the same atmosphere and activities. Much of the competition replicates the same activities found in the Olympic games. In total there are 18 categories of sports plus track and field. Everything from Archery (my sport) to swimming, bicycle races, road races, pickleball, softball, basketball are played. 

The Senior games are open to anyone over the age of 50 and there are age categories for all age classes up to and beyond 100 years old. In our games there were several centenarians participating. 

Competition is withing certain five year age classes to make the competition more fair to all who are participating. 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, 85-89, 90-94, 95-99, 100+. In the 2017 games over a thousand seniors are participating in these events stretched out over ten days. 

As I said earlier, I competed in Archery. I shot in the Compound release category in the 50-54 age class. There were over 150 archers in the compound release category participating. It was so exciting to see so many seniors out enjoying the spirit of competition and the camaraderie of fellow participants. I met some wonderful people. 

While I did not do as well as I hoped, I still had a thrill participating in these Games. It was an honor of mine to participate and to meet so many great people. I am already counting down the days until 2019 when the National Games will be held in Albuquerque New Mexico. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Water Filter vs Water Purifier

A few buddies of mine and me are in the process of planning a back country fishing trip with Kashabowie Outposts in Ontario, Canada. Part of the planning process includes providing potable water for four grown men for a week. Yes it is true we will be fishing on a very remote lake in the boreal forest of Canada where human interaction is  minimal but that doesn't stop the bacteria from infiltrating these pristine lakes. 

In doing research for some sort of water filter or purifier I came across an article written on a backpacking website that sells water filters and purifiers. MSR - Mountain Safety Research (https://thesummitregister.com/complete-guide-to-water-treatment/) explains rather simply the differences between water filters and purifiers. 


Quite simply, it is the difference in protection they provide. "A water filter is designed to remove waterborne protozoa and bacteria, but not viruses. A water purifier is designed to combat all three classes of microbes, including viruses." 


Viruses are much smaller and simply slip through most filters designed for bacteria. In order to remove the viruses traditionally we needed to use ultraviolet light, purification tablets or boiling the water for five minutes. This would either kill the viruses or scramble their DNA and render them ineffective. However some new mechanical pump filters are able to remove viruses also. 


When to choose a filter over a purifier. When traveling in the US and Canada a filter is all that is recommended. These filters will remove all traces of protozoa like cryptosporidium and Giardia, and bacteria such as E-Coli and salmonella. 


Waterborne viruses that we are concerned with are largely transferred by human waste. Making the use of a purifier where human traffic is minimal not necessary. However it is very important that your filter is designed to remove these protozoa and bacteria. Some filters are designed only to remove unpleasant taste and not the contaminants. 


The EPA recommends filters to remove contaminants down to 0.2 microns. 


If you are traveling to third world countries or concerned about the purity of the water and are unsure of the quality, err on the side of the purifier. It is important to remember that boiling and ultraviolet light and tablets do not remove sediment from the water. In these cases it is recommended that you purify and filter the water. A personal preference is to filter first and remove all sediment before purifying the water. 


For our trip we are going to use the filter system. Research is showing that there are several that fit the bill. We are opting for the gravity flow filter systems. It is simple. We fill a 4 liter bag with dirty water and hang it higher than the clean water bag. The dirty water flows through a filter removing the contaminants and deposits the clean water into the lower bag. We are looking at two different models, the Platypus Gravity Works, (https://www.platy.com/filtration/gravityworks-4-0l-filterand the MSR Gravity Flow Filter.  (https://www.msrgear.com/catalog/product/view/id/16277/s/autoflow-gravity-filter/category/7/)


We are leaning towards the Platypus (www.platy.com) because it is a 4 liter system while the MSR is a 2 liter system. Either way, it is important to understand the difference between a filtration system and a purifier. There is no need to purchase a purifier when a filter will do the job. 










Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Selecting a Predator Rifle

When it comes to hunting and shooting predators there is a large selection of firearms to choose from. Styles, calibers and actions all play a role in the choices. In recent times, what is commonly known as 'modern firearms' or military style firearms have seen a surge in popularity among predator hunters. Their accuracy, large magazines and function make them a popular choice. 

Many hunters, however still like the more traditional bolt gun for predator hunting. These time tested accurate rifles are capable of killing coyotes and foxes out to five hundred yards with relative ease. Let's look at a few choices of calibers and styles for taking predators this summer. 

When discussing this I always like to start with the caliber choices. In centerfire there are several wildcat cartridges, but for mass produced calibers, the .223, 22-.250 Rem. .204 Ruger and to a lesser degree the .220 Swift are all great choices. preference here is largely due to the individual. Many will argue about different ballistics, bullet variations, and availability. Personal preference is with the 22-.250 Rem. The little 55 grain bullet is capable of lethal kills out to very extreme yardages. And when mounted into a Remington 700 bolt action rifle, there are few better combinations available. (We'll discuss optics later) 

The 22-.250 in Remington 700 offers a time tested rifle in an excellent caliber that will send any coyote, fox or bobcat into never never land very quickly. This gun was designed to kill predators at long ranges and the fast expanding bullet is capable of killing larger game if needed. 

One of the major advantages of the .223 is the availability of affordable ammunition. This round is very popular right now with the popularity of the AR style rifles. This has driven the price of ammunition down. Aside from that, it is also a great round for predators. In some areas of the country it is the most popular round by a large margin. Chambered in any rifle, the .223 is an excellent choice for predators and varmints. 

With the introduction of the .204 Ruger. many hardcore shooters and hunters were converted. This is an excellent round, but the popularity from the beginning never really caught on like many thought it would. Essentially, it is falling the way of the 16 gauge shotgun. An excellent choice, but other calibers are just as good and already available. 

Lastly the .220 Swift has lost ground the past few decades. Once thought to be the best available, with the development of new and better bullets for the earlier mentioned calibers, the .220 Swift is not nearly as popular. It is still an great round for predators and should not be overlooked by those wanting something different. 

These are not the only calibers available for predator hunters, but they are some of the more popular. Whichever you choose, you really cannot go wrong with any of these choices. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Adventure Close to Home


As a young man learning about the outdoors, I remember vividly reading about remote lakes in Canada where Outfitters would drop you off and you would spend a week or more in the true wilderness. Cabins were provided along with boats and motors. The fishing was off the charts. Stories of catches of walleye exceeding 30 inches and Northern Pike pushing fifty inches were common. Through the years, I almost forgot about these places. Until a happenstance meeting. (although i do not believe in happenstance, I believe things happen for a purpose) 

This past March while on a Florida turkey hunt, I crossed paths with Fern Duquette, owner and operator of Kashabowie Outposts out of Atikoken, Ontario. After introductions, Fern and I began talking about his service. 


Kashabowie Outposts [(807) 929-2140]  www.kashabowieoutposts.com  owns ten remote cabins in Ontario. Their float plane fleet consisting of vintage Beavers, carry anglers and their gear to one of these remote cabins for a week or more. The cabins are as fine an many bed and breakfast I have ever visited. Solar lights, propane refrigeration and cooking. Wood stove heat, memory foam mattresses for the beds. These cabins are fabulous! 




We took a tour of several cabins, flying with one of Kashabowie's bush pilots, Yoan Soilen. We flew to eight of the cabins, and stopped by seven of them. Some of these cabins are capable of sleeping groups of up to twelve and a few as two. Everything from Smallmouth Bass, Lake trout, Walleye and Northern Pike are all available for the willing angler. Yoan has fourteen years flying experience and his handling of the Beaver was stellar. Several times I could not even feel the water landing. Gliding smoothly onto the surface as we approached each remote lake. 

Being in this kind of remote location is life changing. There are few places where you can go and truly be away from all human noise. Here a one hour flight from base camp, the silence causes your ears to ring for several minutes as your ears are trying to find some sort of sound. At one point, sitting watching a large Canadian beaver swim by at a few yards, I thought I could hear the water parting in front of his nose. The cry of the loons and the northern lights all wash away stress from everyday life. The sights and lack of sound are something all outdoorsmen and women yearn for. I have found the place and it is available and at an incredibly affordable price. 


The ten cabins are available to rent from May 20- September 15. Prices are based on how far they have to fly to get you there. Bring your spouse, your family or fishing buddies. Clients, customers whomever you want to spend some quality time with and load up on memories that could be life changing. 

Kashabowie Outposts has been in continuous operation since 1958. Serving customers for decades, building memories that last lifetimes. Whether you are looking for a great father son outing, a romantic honeymoon get away, or time with friends. This is the place where it all can happen. The staff are professional and know how to handle any situation. All you have to do is show up with your gear and food and they take care of the rest. 

A few bookings are still available for 2017, but are filling up fast. 2018 is also almost full. With repeat customers getting almost 85% of the slots, new customers have to book early to find their place in this paradise. In fact there are customers that have been returning since 1983 every year. One group from Kansas I spoke with said they have not missed a year since 2000. That is 17 years in a row that this group of friends have returned. That alone speaks of the quality of the experience. 

I loved my short visit so much, I am returning with friends in August to spend a week in one of the cabins to enjoy the quiet and the remarkable fishing. 














Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sitka Product Review

Product reviews is part of the job of an outdoor writer. From time to time we are given the opportunity to test new products or to run older products through the ringer and see how they hold up.

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to test some new products and some older products. The first one is Sitka Gear. Sitka has led the way in premium hunting clothing since they burst onto the scene in 2005. Since then, they have continued to raise the bar and push the envelope in making and designing clothing that is what every other brand is chasing.

My review is of all things Sitka, but it is especially on the all new Sub-Alpine line. This line was introduced during SHOT 2017. Designed for encounters of 50 yards or less. This pattern is an early to mid season product with everything big game hunters want or need.
You can read the full report by following this link.

http://blog.1800gear.com/sitka-gear-review-new-styles/

You can also purchase Sitka brand gear by following this link and find the best product you need for your adventure.

https://www.1800gunsandammo.com/collections/sitka

or here -
https://www.1800gear.com/collections/sitka-gear-big-game-whitetail-waterfowl-hunting