Fifty-one degrees at daylight and this is December 6. What is that all about? My owl is complaining about the weather and even though I am sure, it will eventually get light enough to see, it is sure taking a long time. I like owls. The Indians, who we are now told to call Native Americans, view owls as harbingers of trouble. I don’t care.
Wilson Post Blogs
Blog entries categorized under John Sloan - Outdoors
We all know you can freeze to death and we have all heard of hypothermia. To put it simply, that is when the body core gets so cold, basic metabolism and body functions do not work. What is cold enough? Would you believe 95 degrees? True dat. When your body core gets to 95 degrees and stays there long enough, you start shivering and possibly having trouble thinking and focusing. Those are signs of early stages of hypothermia.
I take my time and slip the Parker-Hale .308 off the hook. Lord, the hunts I have had with that gun. I position the Steady-Rest against my hip and nestle the stock into my shoulder. I remember to slip the damn glasses off my nose and settle the crosshairs just behind her shoulder.
Every Thanksgiving, health permitting, I go hunting for an hour or so before the eatin and greetin begins. I suspect this year will be no different. Last year, on a beautiful TG morning, I killed a double, a small buck and a doe. It set the stage for a great Thanksgiving, much better than the one five years ago when I was in a coma in the Vanderbilt ICU.
Tennessee hunters trade one long gun for another Saturday.
Muzzleloader season closes Friday and rifle season opens Saturday. Of course, during the rifle season, hunters may use bow, muzzleloader or rifle. Just be sure and wear the required hunter orange. The bag limit is still three does a day and a total of three bucks for season here in Unit L.
There has been much talk in some areas of late regarding canned hunting. It got a push when a man supposedly shot a deer on an Ohio deer preserve, alleged to have over 600 inches of antlers. I do not know if any of that is true but it sure got folks talking.
What is a canned hunt?
Front stuffer, smoke pole or muzzle loader, call it what you want. Hunting with a muzzleloader is fun and our season opens this Saturday and runs through Nov 16. We can kill three does a day here in Unit L and no more than one buck a day, limit of three for the entire year.
Tam Apo must have worked overtime this morning. I have watched thousands of sunrises. This one, as they all seem, is special. The light filters through the vines and still green leaves, just touching the forest floor here and there. I like it. I enjoy just watching it unfold.
Is it a passing fad or is hunting slowly becoming the “in thing”
Can hunting be the next purse dog, those ugly little dogs that famous actresses and actors, the ones who seem to be out of work and in trouble, keep carrying around?Mark Zukerberg, the billionaire who started Facebook has become a hunter. He has vowed, so they say, to only eat food he has killed, gathered or grown himself. He is becoming a hunter.
Guy named Dwight Garner, another writer I never heard of, wrote a front page story for the NY Times on the new wave toward hunting. It ran Oct. 1, and I reckon the last time hunting made the front page of that august rag was when Cheney shot the guy.
Speaking of Veeps, our current Republican vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan is an avid bowhunter. The WI native not only hunts, he hunts seriously and has killed some record book animals. In other words, it is not a fad with him. Don’t vote for him just because of that.
Anyway, this guy Garner mentions many people I am not familiar with and a few I am. We all know Sarah Palin is a hunter. Pretty lousy shot from what I saw but a hunter. Course, we all know Uncle Ted Nugent, the loudmouth rock singer. But how many of you have heard of Lily Raf McCaulou, Georgia Pellegrini or Steve Rinela? The truth is, I never heard of any of them. Truth is I had to ask Jeanne who Zukerberg is. I am not on Facebook.
It seems these folks are well known if you are among the garden set or travel in some circles. They are city folks who moved to the country and took up growing things and hunting and writing books about it as if they just discovered dead deer are good to eat. Imagine that!
What spurred them to do so was the desire to eat healthier food, food sans various additives. Some also claim to want to kill their own food.
Make no mistake. Hunting is about killing. It involves blood and guts and if you process your own as I do, it requires some work. They seem to like it. They have come up with all sorts of recipes and ways to serve wild game. About 100-years ago, I published a recipe for wild turkey using Wild Turkey bourbon in the dressing. Folks at Austin Nichols sent me a case of Wild Turkey. Imagine that!
We of course, those of us who have been so fortunate as to have grown up in an advanced section of the country, have always known how to cook backstrap with turnip greens and liver and lights. We know hunting is about killing. However, this is a different segment of the population we are talking about now. They figured their squab came from some store with a fancy name and had no idea it was just a fancy uptown pigeon.
This is a good thing, this exposure to hunting by the young gentry. There are already camouflage clothes with button down collars and even camo undies. But perhaps a more expensive line is on the way. Wonder how long before they realize fur is already a form of camouflage?
Okay. Time to get serious. This is a good thing, this exposure in other than the regular outdoor media. It may be a valuable tool in the preservation of hunting land. It may help to show hunters in a more positive light. However, it may also drive up the price of hunting.
I long ago quit worrying about anti-hunters and animal rights activists. They make up about 15% of the voting public. Hunters compose about the same number so that is a wash. Non-hunters compose 70% of the voting public. If they begin to view hunting in a more positive light, that is good.
Of course, there is a downside. If the more affluent begin to hunt, it could be that they will also begin to buy up land that is now available for hunting. That land is already shrinking. Hunting is on a slide toward the European style of hunting. That is hunting for only the rich and landed. That is not good.
We here in Tennessee are fortunate in that we have over a million acres of land open to hunting. Much of this land is in the form of Wildlife Management Areas-WMA. Fulltime managers manage these areas and much of that land is great hunting, open to all.
However, managing that land is not cost free. As that cost rises at the same time revenue for management decreases, some of the land may have to be sold. That is not good for hunting. In the meantime, I’ll take that positive exposure.
But hey, who are all those people I mentioned?
I was sittin in the back of the Tequila, havin an early beer before the rest of the sand monkeys showed up for the daily fishin report. This traveler was at the bar and I had seen him on the beach a time or two. Directly, he came walkin over with a fresh cold one that he set down in front of me.
It was hot last Wednesday, maybe you recall, 90 degrees at 3:30? I had not had a good day. Nothing major just seemed to stay mad at something all day. Therefore, I went hunting late in the afternoon. When you are about half mad, it is good time to try and kill something. Does that sound right to you?
Warm and windy, 68, right now. I should not even go. I usually don’t do well the first day of the season, Last year was a fluke. Last year I had doe dead by 7:15. It is opening day. I’ll go.It is a short walk and I am just heating up when I reach the tree. I suppose I am dressed strangely for deer hunting-short pants and a short sleeve shirt under my ASAT mesh, Ultimate 3-D camouflage. Traveling light, too. Just a few things in my pockets. The TenPoint Phantom crossbow rides nicely on my shoulder. We have done well, this crossbow and I. I wait.
I could shoot her easy. Probably make the landowner mad. Big cow and that signals time to leave. It is just 7:20, so I make the long, one minute walk to another stand and climb up.
Wind is picking up and it is warming. But it is so nice, I just don’t feel like getting down. I watch the squirrels and little birds and about half-nap between bouts of careful observance. Funny how age and years of opening days round you and blunt the anticipation. I can sit here quietly and just enjoy the woods. I give a nod to Tam Apo with thanks for the morning and my health being enough to enjoy it.
He comes silently, gliding in and stops just out of range. I ease the TenPoint crossbow off the hook and try to silently change arrows. I am not going to ruin a $10 broadhead on longbeard. Time slips and he putts and clucks away.
Coopers Hawk? I think so, maybe. Anyhow, one of the smaller, slicker economy models of woodland squirrel control devices. Every tree rat in the woods goes berserk. I grin to myself and seeing as how it after 10 and I am starving, make the call to get down.
On the way to the truck, I stop and pick some milkweed to use for wind checkers later and stop to admire a turkey feather and a nice deer track in the soft dirt. I smile as I cross the shallow creek-one of my favorite field dressing places.
I’ll hit the woods again this afternoon. Maybe the cold wave will be starting down by then. I’ll probably hunt behind the hayfield that needs cutting. For sure I’ll be back in the morning and probably for the next few mornings. Fifty-five, I think. Fifty-five opening mornings for me. Maybe 56, I don’t know for sure but thankee kindly, Tam Apo. I’ll have another if you please.
Warm and windy. The usual opening day for me. The normal. And the afternoon passes without even a squirrel to break the boredom.
Even so, I enjoy the afternoon. I manage to not get too hot walking in and there is enough breeze to keep me from roasting.
My stand is comfortable and before I know it, it is dark. Time to brave the hayfield again. A morning for which to wish. Cool, bordering cold and calm. The plan is simple. I will hunt stand #2 until 8:30.
If I have not seen anything by then, I shall move to stand #3 and hunt until 10:30. I had not planned on the cramp in my neck at 9:30.
I have had considerable work done on my neck and when I feel a cramp coming, I get down. I wish I waited three more minutes. With a sort and a stomp and hearty hi-ho whitetail, she was gone. She had been on her way between #2 and #3.
Oh well, that is deer hunting and I have the whole season to go including the afternoon. I love afternoon hunts. Thank you Tam Apo.
On the way to the stands, I see seven does and three bucks. I also see a flock of turkeys. It is 4:10. Am I late? I reach my tower stand, a staggering eight feet off the ground and settle in to the plop of acorns and persimmons.
It is a pleasant afternoon, just cooling. I can hear kids playing at a nearby house.
He comes at dusk, just nibbling along. I saw him the minute he stepped out and I have the TenPoint Phantom crossbow at the ready. Thirty one yards.
I have ranged the tree he will pass. That makes him 30. That is the first dot, one inch high. That is where I hold. I squeeze the trigger, the arrow is gone and he drops in his tracks.
An excellent way to start the year and about as fine as deer meat gets. I estimate he will weight about 80-pounds, a fat spike. Perfect.
The TenPoint and I make an awesome combination and I still have the season to go.
Thankee Tam Apo, thankee kindly.
Deer kill on the rise
According to figures from the TWRA, the state’s deer bow kill is steadily climbing. On the opening weekend of 2012, last weekend, Tennessee bow hunters killed 3050 deer compared to 2811 on opening weekend a year ago.
The increase of 239 is double the increase from 2010 to 2011. The figures are somewhat of an indication of two things.
First, the deer herd is healthy. Despite isolated outbreaks of EHD, the overall population is strong,
And second, the weather has cooperated the last two opening weekends.
The moon is full. Werewolves should be happy.
It hangs low over the farmland, not yet covered by approaching clouds. Of course, there are clouds. The clouds are thick, full, about to burst again, still west of us. It is not time. Not yet. They have purged once.
It started with an antelope hunt in New Mexico with a muzzleloader. It was a long shot that first morning. Even at 7:15, it was hot. At 213-yards with a strong crosswind, I had to hold high and to the left. Still, it was a good shot and my hunt on the Tres Sombreros ranch was over.
It is a crapshoot. Who knew if we will even have enough to shoot last Saturday? They humble you in that way, too. Uncertainty. They come out of the sun, pretending to be Japanese Zeros. They twirl, dart, and hit the afterburners when the wind is right.
We are expected to hit them?
We got our shad below the dam with a cast net. About 15, was all we could keep alive and we carried them up the hill in 5-gallon buckets
That is comparable to running three marathons back to back. We were young and strong then. The ideal shad was about five inches long and we hooked them through the lips. The rig was a ½-ounce egg sinker above a swivel. The shad was on 18-inches of line below that.
“It turned white overnight.”
Those were the first words I heard that early September morning. I lay back on my cot in the tent and pondered just what Paul Brown meant. Then I studied the sagging roof of the tent and knew exactly what he meant. It had snowed. We had scouted hard yesterday and found plenty of elk sign. Now, I knew it did not mean a thing.
I swung my aching, aging legs over the side of the cot and sat up. At 58, the climbing we had done yesterday had reminded me I was no longer 25 and bulletproof. Even though we had been able to drive the truck to the tent camp, yesterday involved plenty of up and down walking. Snow was not good, aching legs or not. Snow would move the elk down and we were up. Our tent camp was at 10,500 feet and smack in the middle of elk country. But that was yesterday and yesterday was gone.
The storm had blown in overnight, dropping about four inches of the lovely (cussed) white stuff. Today we would have to hunt down and across a wide valley to get into the no snow country where the elk had surely gone. First, we had to make sure that was what happened.
Breakfast over, such as it was, we slung packs and bows and started out in the dark. At daylight, we cast bugles in all directions. Not a sound. Yesterday, the Colorado Rockies had been golden and green with the just changing aspen leaves and elk had been on ever knob and in every meadow. Today, we figured they were below and across from us, feeding in the patches of oak brush and browsing on the open side hills. No way to drive to them. No horses to ride to them. Time to go footback, down, across and up. Sheesh!
In an hour, we were still in the snow but it was not as deep, mostly just a heavy dusting. We had not shed much clothing. It was still in the 20’s even down that far. We stopped on a rocky out cropping and Paul set up the spotting scope. I get nauseous when I use one, so I just started working open areas with my 10X Binoculars. We picked the open slopes to pieces where we had expected to find elk. No elk. None.
From far below us but on the same mountain, a bugle floated in on the rising thermals. Faint, just a whisper but definitely a bugle. We quickly got back in the snow-covered aspens. I pointed where I thought it came from and we discussed strategy. We both thought the elk would move up and stop short of the snow. How far up we did not know. Then it came again, closer and followed by a lot of chuckles. Time to pick up the pace and get under the snow.
Thirty minutes later panting like a dog in hot weather, we broke out above a beautiful lake. It was a mirror in the mountains with aspens standing snow free on the far side. It was time to take another break and see if we could coax another bugle. Paul bugled and I cow called and broke some branches. When you are elk hunting, sometimes you have to make noise. Elk are not quiet animals. Bang! Pow! A bull bugled behind us and another fired off in front of us. We were between two bulls. It does not get any better than that.
I took the bull in front of us and began trotting and sliding around the lake. There was a fresh trail muddied with dozens of tracks. Once on the far side of the lake, I set up. In a grove of aspens on a sight rise, I picked my spot and went to work. With each cow call, the bulls answered and challenged each other. The air was ringing with bugles.
Mine was coming in and coming fast. Then, I heard an elk running on the far side of the lake and he was tearing up anything in his way. My first thought was that Paul had stuck him.
Then, I did not have time to think. I had a bull 25-yards to my left, coming at a trot. When he hit a small opening, he ran right into my sight pin and I let the arrow go. Time to rendezvous.
I had blood, plenty of it on the ground and on the trees. Paul had hit a branch and the arrow slid over his bull’s back, just smacking him with the shaft. We started trailing my bull. I felt sure the shot was good but the trail kept going. An hour later and a whole lot closer to camp, we found him, piled up in the aspens. The shot was perfect. He was just a tough animal.
Time to go to work. We shed another layer of clothing and went at it. With two of us skinning and quartering, it didn’t take long to get him naked and on the pack frames. The snow was gone but for some reason, the mountain seemed a lot steeper than it had yesterday. Two trips and we had everything back at camp.
Dinner that night was elk fillet mignon with macaroni and cheese and green beans. Under the front seat of the truck, Paul found a nearly full bottle of Wild Turkey and we toasted our success. The next day, as I cut and wrapped elk meat, Paul killed a fat cow and the hunt was over.
Back at the main camp, Carl, the owner, asked us where we found the bulls. The answer was short. “Under the snow”.
We were a little late getting to the dock because we had to stop in Hendersonville for donuts and chocolate milk. It didn’t matter. The fish were waiting.
I can still hear her first squeal, “I got one daddy, I got one.” Her blonde ponytail bobbed and she almost reeled the fish right through the end of the rod.
There was a lump of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and turnip greens sitting in the bottom of my stomach. It felt as though it weighed more than the bass on the end of my line. I had eaten less than 30 minutes ago. It was just exactly 100 degrees in the front of Bubba Chandler’s, deep breathing boat. Unfortunately, that is where I was standing.
It leaves the plateau. Not in a rush or even a long, slow glide as the interstate highway does. It leaves in little jerks, jumps, and twitches, as a deer would leave the plateau. Later it begins to glide as it winds through the hills.
On sunny days, as the sun tops the rim and tendrils of smoky sunlight filter through the hardwood leaves and glance off the water, it winks and smiles. It seems as though it is always looking back at you and watching as you sight it through the trees. It talks to you.