Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ballseye's Gun Shots 101 - Preparing For The Hunt, It's Not Just About Your Gun

Brendan and I will be going deer hunting later this week. If we have any luck we will each bag a deer and maybe one of us will get a bear. Both extremely nice on the palate. With those high hopes in mind, I have been busily getting ready for the trip.

I drove up to the farm that my uncle used to own, stopped to see the current owner and asked for permission to hunt there. I think was about to tell me "no" when I added that I had stopped by last year to ask and she said 'no' then but told me to try again this year. That and a smile was all it took. We have permission to hunt on her farm, about 150 acres. We will only be hunting on the side across from the house and barn and open fields. it is mostly wooded but has a lot of deer trails and a lot of deer sign. I know about the deer sign, because once I had gotten permission I asked if I could also walk the property that day.

I headed across the road from the house, crossed a stone damn that holds a pond in place, and set out into the evergreen forest. After a short walk, maybe 100 yards at most, I was on the edge of the other side of the evergreens and about 50 yards from a rise going up to a ridge. The area I was in, as I well knew from hunting there for many years, is a natural funnel for deer on that side of the road. It is somewhat clear therein and in an area of about 40 or 50 yards by about 70 yards, I counted about 20 piles of deer droppings, most of the pretty darned fresh. The deer walk through this area to go to a lawn like area and some apple trees. They come down the mountain on a few different trails that converge on the northern end of this spot and either walk out through the evergreens the way I had come in or walk to the south end of the farm property and then head east to the grass and apples. I doubt there are anymore apples on the trees but to tell the truth I did not look. Regardless of apples or no apples, the deer use this area with some frequency. This is where I set up a stand for Brendan to hunt. I just marked off the area with hunter's orange tape and left it at that. Oh, I also set up a drip bottle full of Buck urine over a mock scrape. Traveling a bit further north to an even more open area, I banged a right and headed about halfway up the mountain to a spot I knew that bucks often came through in the past. I have not hunted her in about 8 years but there were the rubs, some on the same trees as had been used in past years. It was not a surprise to me, I know the lay of the land pretty well on this farm; it would have been a big surprise had I not found deer sign where I expected it.

All this deer sign does not guarantee anything except that deer have been there. There is no guarantee they will be there again,at least while we are hunting, and no guarantee we will see them even if they are there, and no guarantee we can bag one or two even if we see a bunch of them. Over all the years I hunted there, I am guessing I bagged about 8 to 10 deer there. That was in a period of about 19 years of hunting there once I moved back to NY from CA. I saw deer more often but did not shoot for one reason or another, the road or house in the path of the bullet should I miss the deer, a doe and I did not have a doe permit, the deer were too small (born the same year I was hunting), or they got spooked or just never got close enough for a shot (I almost always hunted with my shotgun so needed them about 50 yards or less). I am hopeful that this year, with us hunting on a place with which I am pretty familiar, we will not only see some deer but that Brendan will get one in his sights and that his aim will be true.

I am digressing from the getting ready for the hunt part, so allow me to get back to that. Most of yesterday, I got hunting clothing and gear ready for the trip. I did about 6 loads of laundry including all of our coats, rain gear, hats, and all other outer clothing we will be wearing while hunting. I also did some of the regular wash, heck am doing more of that as I type. As each load was in the machine, I set about making sure most of all of our other gear was in order. I packed a day pack for Brendan to include essentials he possibly would need in the event of an emergency. So far his pack contains:

His license back tag attached to the back of the pack

A pen (for license requirements if we get a deer or bear)

12 to 15 sheets of paper towel sealed in a Ziplok plastic freezer bag (stronger than toilet paper and just as soft, has many uses the most important being hygiene)

8 or more high energy food bars (like granola but the chewy type)

A first aid kit

A folding knife

A knife sharpener

A flashlight

Several extra batteries for the flashlight

A self adhesive Ace type bandage (this thing can have many first aid uses beyond a sprained ankle or wrist)

A space blanket

A plastic poncho

A Compass

Glow Sticks (some 12 hour duration, other shorter duration)

A few packages of hand warmers

A deer grunt call

A bottle of deer scent

A bottle of odor blocking spray (so the deer don't smell us)

Two packs of deer cleaning gloves

waterproof/windproof matches in a sealed container

An emergency whistle

Extra wool socks (in a plastic freezer bag)

An extra hat

A blaze orange safety vest

Extra gloves

Nylon cord (to make shelter if needed)

A walkie-talkie type portable radio

A couple to a few bottles of water will be added on the day of the hunt. And some other items will also be added. Being that we expect to hunt only about 100 yards from the road this year, we or you would not likely need all these items but if an accident happens, that requires you to stay out in the woods overnight or longer, you can bet you would be happy to have them. So I always hake such things with me. I had a small but full backpack on Saturday on my scouting trip. Yesterday, I also started to get the stuff ready for my pack which will include a few more items than what I mentioned above.

I still have a lot of stuff to get ready including the guns. Before I handle the guns though, I will, actually already have, packed the deer scent. I have several bottles of it this year - in fact too many. I bought some, forgot I bought it and got some more. I plan to use only one or two bottles on opening day. One is doe estrous scent from a single deer. It as a whopping $15 for one ounce. (Imagine getting rich selling deer urine.) The other is a bottle of buck urine. One is to attract the buck to a mate, the other is to get him there in a hurry and in a wired emotional state because he thinks there is a rival there for the same mate. One has to be careful about not getting either scent on ourselves as Whitetail Deer have been known to attack hunters who had deer scent on their clothing. The bucks sometimes get so enraged and or enaged during the rut (mating season) they are blinded by both love and jealousy- so to speak.

Then onto the guns. Getting them ready will include a cleaning tonight. I like to have that done at least several days in advance of the first day of hunting so residual smells from gun cleaning solution or oil will be less strong than if just applied. I also need to make sure we have the correct ammo ready to go. Nothing could ruin an opening day as much getting to your spot, then going to load up, only to realize you either forgot your ammo or brought the wrong caliber - well that is unless you forgot your gun. The shotgun and whatever rifle(s) we bring along on this trip will get placed into silicone gun socks before going into the gun cases. We will at least have a long arm apiece and I will probably bring one extra just in case one of the others has a problem. I will also make sure to bring along a gun cleaning kit and I will probably put that into my gun box along with some tools, cleaning solution, oil and so on.

Once done with them, I will waterproof my boots, probably also tonight, well in advance of being in the woods. (I bought new boots online, even got two pairs one in my size and one a size larger but neither fit, both too tight, so I am using my old pair again.) Of course I have other things to get ready. I need to fill up the cars with gas tonight. I do not want the smell of gasoline on my hands for at least a few days before the hunt. We are probably taking two cars this year because Brendan only has a day and a half to actually hunt. If we don't get lucky and bag a deer on the first two days, then I will stay a few more days to try to get one. If we are in luck right away, then I will leave when he does on Sunday, or who knows - maybe I will go bear hunting.

You get the idea, don't you? If you are going hunting then you should be just about ready to shove off at least a few to several days before the season opens. That way there is no last minute searching for things, no last minute fumbling with things, no mistakes because you were in a hurry, no aggravation because you left two or three hours later than you should have, no accident or ticket because you were driving 25 mph over the speed limit to make up time, and there will more likely be a pleasant trip to your hunting area and some fun days out in the fields or woods.

All the best,
Glenn B

And Now For Some Man Cave Dietary News...

...I just had a wonderful breakfast I have been up since 5:08 AM to let the dogs out but only got a chance to eat now - just afternoon. There is not all that much in the fridge ready to be cooked, even the bacon is in the freezer. Normally I might make some eggs and toast, coffee and a glass of OJ. I have eaten way too many eggs over the past week so I decided to make something else, something healthy. Today the only regular thing I had for breakfast was the OJ. The rest of it consisted of about 8 slices of good Genoa salami, two slices of lacy Swiss cheese, two pieces of whole grain bread and enough butter to grill it in when put together to make a sandwich. (in other words enough butter to clog an elephant's arteries in one day).

All I can say is man was that ever so delicious. Not quite as delicious as the leg of lamb, broiled potatoes smothered in olive oil, garlic and salt, and steamed carrots I had for dinner last night but pretty delicious anyway.

This afternoon, I have to get some vacuuming done, then visit my mom, then go grocery shopping. Life without a wife - for 3 weeks - not so tough and I like my own cooking and will continue to like it as long as it does not kill me.

All the best,