Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Range & New Shooter Report

Well it was only a quick stop for Brendan, his girlfriend Julia, and myself this afternoon. I had Brendan shoot the scoped Marlin 336, and the Remington 870 with iron rifle sights. At 25 yards the shotgun was shooting a bit high for Brendan, yet we had it sighted for 50 yards. I would have thought it would be shooting a bit low. Still it was good enough for deer from 25 to 50 yards away Besides that I was getting it pretty much right in there at 25 yards unsupported. The rifle was shooting a bit low for both of us, and that was as it should have been because it was sighted for 50 yards and we were shooting at 25 yards. It was about 1 to 2 inches low, good enough for government work if we see a deer that close, and I am sure it will be right on at 50 yards. That fairly inexpensive Tasco scope on the Marlin has taken some quite bumpy rides in the trunk and always remains zeroed. By the way, it is a Tasco from a few years back before the business name was sold to the present company, so I am happy it works well as the lifetime warranty on it is no longer in effect since the old company went under.

Julia, Brendan's girlfriend, came along, and since they do not allow spectators at this range, I paid the range fee for her. She had never fired a gun before, but we gave her some fairly basic instruction (especially safety stuff) and allowed her to shoot he Marlin if she wanted to do so. She was very hesitant, worried it would hurt, worried she would drop the rifle, and I guess just afraid because it was a gun. She did take one shot, and as far as I could tell it was right in there with all the rest of the holes on target. Next time she comes along we should have more time to shoot, and will probably have a .22 rifle for her to shoot. She said the Marlin kicked and hurt somewhat, but she figured what she did wrong, which was not holding the stock against her shoulder correctly. To me it sounds like she would like to shoot again if she uses a 22, and I think I can make that happen. I guess Brendan and I are in the process of developing a NEW SHOOTER and that is a very good thing.

All the best,
Glenn B

Excuse Me While I am off To The Range...

...with Brendan, so we can make sure that the scoped Marlin 336 is still sighted in. I would like to have had a chance to do this at an outdoor range at 50 yards but all we will get to do is go to an indoor 25 yard range. I guess it will not make much difference from 25 to 50 yards, just aim a bit higher for 50, about an inch or two. By the way, yes we usually only sight it in for 50 yards because where we hunt it can be truly said: 'The woods are wonderful, dark and deep'; or in other words thick and full of young trees, bushes and the like - so shots have to be fairly close in. Time to go, later for all of you.

All the best,
Glenn B

No Dear...

...was the answer I would have given to my wife had she asked me if I had gotten a deer last weekend. When I told her I struck out she was ecstatic. Of course, Brendan was disappointed, but he gets his chance to strike out like his old man bag a buck this weekend. Whether or not either one of us gets a deer on this trip, the good thing about it is that we are going on a hunt together. The camaraderie developed on hunting trip is hard to match to that developed in other ways. Yes strong bonds can be, and are often are, developed in other situations, but none usually as strong, as rewarding, and as satisfactory as on a good hunting trip; and that includes even when the game gets away.

My solo trip over the past few days was a winner even though did not even see a deer while afield, and despite the fact that a normal person would have thought there were more setbacks along the way than was worth it all both while hunting and before the hunt. I started off my trip all packed and ready to go. The only thing I needed to do was stop at my bank to use their ATM. Of course as I drove right on by the bank I did not even think of cash because all I could think about was a monster buck. Oh well, I had enough in y pocket anyhow, and ATMs are all over the place. Instead of heading straight toward upstate NY, I made a detour to Glendale, my old neighborhood in NYC. I stopped at a local gin mill and had a beer while I talked to some old friends and dropped off some Forensic Psychology books for one of the barmaids. Small world, she goes to the same graduate school as did I, and takes the same subjects. After that I was off.

It was a dark and cloudy night when at about 1200 AM I got onto the highway. I drove along in relative bliss, and I was making pretty good time. I figured I would be up near the hunting grounds by 0300AM. Then Murphy struck. You know Murphy don't you, the guy who wrote that silly thing called Murphy's Law. The rains started to come down in sheets. Driving slowed at least 15mph for me, although some nuts kept going at 65mph (the speed limit on this stretch of the road) or faster. I kept it between 50 and 55, it was really hard to see. I didn't think it could get much worse, and then Murphy showed his ugly face again. Fog blanketed the road. I don't recall ever having seen a really thick fog covering everything at the same time that it was raining down in buckets. Then the rain slacked off and the fog got worse, so I guess Murphy prefers fog. Not me though, I hate it, and this was bad. I could barely see 100 yards. I pulled off of route 17 and pulled over to the shoulder on a side road, far over on the shoulder, put on my flashers, and promptly fell asleep. That was about 0130 or 0200. When I awoke at about 0700, the rain had all but stopped and there was no fog, so I drove on. I stopped off at Roscoe NY for a nice breakfast, and I also stopped by The Little Store, sort of a general store wherein they sell rifles, and hunting goods. I got to the hunting grounds at about 1100AM. Oh well, I just kept driving because by that time it had started to pour again and I did not need to hunt that badly that I needed to get soaked and miserable. I drove right to my motel in Binghamton, NY, good old reliable Motel 6. Yes this was to be a cut rate trip as usual because I don't like it when my venison works out to more than about $40 per pound.

The motel experience was okay. They checked me in promptly when I arrived. Not bad because I was there ahead of usual check-in time. They were courteous and helpful as usual, and i even got a room in the section of the motel where I had requested one. Murphy does not always stick his nasty nose into my business! After settling in, I went to a few stores to stock up on food (I would eat in the field or in my room), and I also picked up some hunting needs at Dick's Sporting Goods. What I picked up was not really a need, it was more of a luxury. I purchased a ladder treestand. I lugged that up into my motel room, and thankfully had an old timer hold open the entry doors for me. This was a small one, only 45 pounds in weight, though it seemed heavier while walking up the stairs. Thank goodness it was only one flight. I put the whole thing together in my room to make sure it was all there. No I could not stand a 15 foot tall treestand up in y room, but I put the platform section together with all the nuts and bolts, and I made sure all the other parts were there, which they were not, but I did not notice right away. All the parts to put it together were there so it looked good to me. Then I assembled my day pack with what I would need while afield. After that I watched some TV, and had dinner. The I fell asleep by about 8. Thank goodness for a good night's sleep.

I was up at about 0300 the next morning, Friday. I had a quick breakfast, and loaded up my car with my gear. Actually I had already loaded the tree stand back into the car the night before before it got too late so as to disturb the other motel guests. It seemed lighter going down the stairs, thank goodness for the laws of gravity.

Once out in the field I looked for a good place to hunt deer and turkey at Quaga Creek State Park. I had previously scoped out this area, but actually found a totally new spot to hunt on this particular day. It was a good spot with some nearby deer rubs, a deer scrape, and three trails converging near a choke point by an old stone wall in the forest. It was also just off of a forest clearing. Prime deer country. It took me several hours of hiking around before I found this spot. I had lunch there; then tried calling in some turkeys to no avail. I had seen a flock when I had driven up to the park, and hoped they were still nearby, but it appeared I was the only turkey in the nearby woods at that moment. After a couple of hours at the stand site, I went back to my car, offloaded my shotgun and backpack, and took a rest. After about a half hour or so, I took half of the treestand out to the site I had found. Then back to the car for the other half. Amazingly I had remembered to bring along the two wrenches and directions for assembly. Yes I had assembled it the night before, but it had to be partly taken down to fit into the car. Not wanting to make any Murphy's that could result in a 15 foot fall for me, I was happy to have the instructions. I guess retrieving the ladder treestand and putting it together, and then actually getting securely against a tree took me about 2 hours. It was not easy getting that thing up against the tree by myself but I did it. I do not recommend it though since the instructions tell you to do it with two other people for a total of three. Alas there was only on knucklehead available and that was me. after it was just about altogether, I realized it was actually missing some parts. It was missing some pins that pinned the ladder sections to one another. Really though these were not necessary, except for safety (safety that the manufacturer would not be sued), and I figured what the heck. Really in my opinion they are not even necessary for safety, but that is just my uninformed opinion. They seem a redundant measure since the leg sections fit into one another when assembled, and the 5 or so inches of male sections that fits snuggle into female section is not coming apart when your weight is on it. I guess though if it starts to fall it will not come apart if pinned together as it should be, so it is probably much safer to use them; the thing was I did not have them.

Well once I had it up against the tree, sans pins, I had to climb it to secure it to the tree with a ratchet strap. That was scary, but I got it done, and it was secure after about the third or fourth attempt. This was the first time I had ever erected a portable treestand, and I think 3 or 4 attempts at securing it fast was a good number, not in excess. Did I say how heavy it was trying to lift it to place it against the tree; very top heavy with the platform sections up at the top. Oh my aching back. It was done though by about 1600 (4PM). I tested it a few times, and it was snugly secured to the tree, and that was good. I would pick up a set of pins at Dick's that night, or so I planned (I later forgot to do so). Being 15 feet up there, on ladder treestand with no side rails (this was just a seat platform and foot platform deal atop the ladder, was scary, but man oh man could you see better than on the ground. I imagined yes you could, but would later find out that was not always the case. These woods were thick with young new growth, under the mature tree to which the stand was attached, and that would come to be important the next day, the first day of rifle/deer season. Oh well, I was happy, tired, and ready to head back to town, so that is just what I did.

I made a stop at Dick's again, but somehow forgot about the pins. Oh well, that is muddled middle aged memory for you. Back to the motel where I had dinner. Then I rearranged the stuff in my backpack, taking out some items and adding others, this time for deer hunting. The next day would be the rifle season opener for deer. Again some television and off to slumber land for me at an unusually early hour. I was then up at at it at about 0300 the next morning. Sunrise would be about 0655, and I wanted to be out in the woods at least a couple of hours before that. A quick breakfast and I was off. The treestand, by the way, had been left out in the woods still up against the tree. I secured it with three cable locks so that all of the parts would be more difficult to steal - one never knows now does one.

I got to the parking area by about 0430, and I was at my stand by 0500. I put on my safety harness (did I forget to mention that - never use a treestand without a safety harness even if you are foolish as me me to use one without the pins) and was up on the platform in no time. Man it was chilly but I was pretty much dressed for it. At about 0630 or so, I am guessing at the time, I heard footsteps in the crunchy leaves. Amazing how dry leaves can become after having been soaked just a day and a half before. I thought maybe I was imagining things, but soon enough realized that yes what I was hearing were the methodical footfalls of something getting closer to me with each step. Whatever it was it was coming from my left, or from the direction of the parking area. Could it be another hunter, or was it a deer. After a few minutes I knew it was an animal, likely a buck because it was dragging its feet, then crunching down as it completed its steps. Typical behavior for a feisty buck during the rut when looking for a fight or a female. I had left a scent trail of doe and buck urine as I walked into my stand, and it soon it was evident that this deer was following that trail. When he got really close to me he veered off a little and kept about 15 yards from my stand. I had not seen him yet, but I could tell because of how much noise he was making, and I could see the top of the bushes and small trees shake as he walked beneath them. Remember how I said treestands are supposed to let you see a whole lot more, and I also said there was a lot of new growth in this forest; well thanks again Mr. Murphy because I could not see the darned thing (except for one grayish blur for about a second or two) since I was above and trying to look down through the tops of all those bushes and young trees. That really did not matter much, it had to be a good half hour before legal shooting time. I figured I would keep this guy in the area and gave a grunt on my deer call. He, or she, or whatever, stopped, then he started to move again a couple of minutes later. He just kept going and never looked back as far as I know. Gray ghost that he was I never got more than a look at a blur in the trees and bushes. I think now I should have used a doe bleat call instead of a buck grunt. My guess is that he was a smaller buck, and that he knew a larger buck had made scrapes in the area. He probably thought I was that larger buck. of course I could well have that wrong, he may have been the larger buck, but then I think he would have come in to challenge whatever buck he thought was there because I had grunted. Oh well, whatever the case, that is as close to getting a deer that I came. About 20 minutes later, still before legal shooting time by a few minutes, I heard a shot that I figure came from no more than a 1/2 mile to my right (probably closer like a 1/4 mile), the same direction in which my mystery deer had gone. My guess was that whoever took that shot got the same deer that had walked passed me.

I had done my homework, picked a good spot, set up my stand there, but had not considered that being in a treestand would have made it harder to see what had been making all the noise. Later on when on the ground again, I looked in the direction where the supposed deer had been. I could clearly see the trail it had taken while under the canopy, but had been blinded to it while in the standby the canopy of smaller trees and bushes. I went over to the trail and checked it and there were fresh deer tracks there. Then I saw why the buck which probably had been making all that noise had not stopped. There were two sets of tracks, so my bet is that he was tending to a doe, and following her with high hopes. I stayed on my stand for the rest of the day, but not in my treestand. While up there a couple of hours later, I heard a repeated clicking noise. It had sounded to be right behind me and at first I had no clue as to what it had been. I turned around to look, and the tree stand wobbled. Holy shoot, I knew what it was then, and I got nervous. The ratchet strap was coming loose because the ratchet was slipping. I adjusted it and a few minutes later or so, it came loose again. I tightened it again, and while tightening it it was slipping - just note holding. That was it for me in the treestand. Pins or no pins in the ladder sections, I am not staying up in one when its ratchet strap is not holding it to the tree.

I hunted from the ground until about 1500 (3PM), even though I think sundown (the limit of legal shooting time in NY) was not until about 1630 (4:30PM). I decided to take apart the stand and get it to my car while I still had light. After that I hunted a bit more, I still had at least a half hour of hunting time when I had completed the task. Nothing though., just 'No DEER' for me. After I left the area, I went back to the motel, showered up, put on fresh clothes and headed to Dick's Sporting Goods to return the treestand. Of course, that meant I had to sort of re-box it which I did in my room (after I cleaned it, which took at least 1/2 hour). I got almost all the parts back into the box. only the harness and the small box with the nuts and bolts did not fit. I arrived outside of Dicks and put the stand, and an armrest kit I had bought but not unpacked, into - or I should say onto - a cart. I was a bit apprehensive about them accepting a return since I had used the stand, but i figured what the heck I may as well try. Once inside the store I went to the Customer Service desk. The lady there asked me why I was returning it, and I told her about the missing pins and bad ratchet. She asked for my receipt, circled some numbers, and sent me to the register - all with a pretty smile on her face. In less than 5 minutes I had my money back. I have to admit that was just about the best part of my day, except of course for the exciting part when those deer had walked by my stand, and my confirmation when I saw the tracks that indeed it had been a couple of deer.

No I did not get a deer, but I had come close and that was fine by me even if I had not actually seen them. I may have even caught a glimpse of those gray/brown ghosts, I did see some sort of grayish blur through the trees, and even saw the tops of the saplings moving as the deer made through the bushes that were thick up against the trees. I have to tell you, a hunt does not get much better than that, except of course if you bag your game. Then again, bagging your prey is not the whole of the hunt, not by a long shot. The only way this could have been more satisfying without getting a deer, would have been if Brendan could have been there with me. As for that, that is his being there with me, we are leaving tomorrow night after Thanksgiving dinner to head up to the same spot. Maybe somebody else got one of those deer, and maybe not. Even if they did, it was a well used trail, and if does are using it, then bucks are sure to follow. Time, and our next hunt, will tell.

All the best,
Glenn B