Wednesday, November 25, 2015

2015 Deer Hunt 4: Lost One the Hard Way

She came into the swamp under my stand, about 35 yards out, right after dawn.  Another 75 degree, breezy November day meant that the bigger bucks and does would stay put in their beds, maybe all day. Rut be damned.   A small deer, probably one and a half years old, she was munching on acorns, and then on clover.    She refused to move.

In past years, I would have never taken the shot.  I wouldn't have had the confidence.  But this year, I practiced this shot, or close to it.  A 30 yard elevated shot.   I waited 30 minutes for her to either go away or move closer.  She did neither.  I considered shooing her off entirely, but then reconsidered that my lease on the property is contingent upon deer removal.  The landowner wants the deer herd reduced - that is his property management goal.  A small, skinny doe fits the bill.

I aimed and I breathed.  I aimed to put the arrow 35 yards down range, and 10 feet downhill from the bottom of my 20 foot tall tree stand.   I aimed to put it in the top of the right lung, to exit the lower left lung. She was a skinny animal, but I was confident.  I released the arrow and it flew beautifully downrange.   But in the breeze, it veered left by about six inches and struck the left lung, exited the left front armpit area, and sticking in the ground.   The doe disappeared into the swamp as I anxiously waited to track her, wondering how much work lay ahead of me.

An hour later, I came down from the stand, walking through the swamp and the adjacent highway right of way, expecting a dead doe.  I didn't find one.   I came back the next day to look again.  No dice.  Now horrified that the animal was limping around, mortally wounded, I didn't know what to do.  Three days later, I returned, hoping to put down a mauled animal in pain, but instead found a dead doe in the swamp.  She had fallen in the water just a few steps from where she was shot, in heavy briars (and a six foot deep hole of water) and likely died within two minutes, if not 30 seconds.

As frustrated as I was about losing the deer (and the meat), I was slightly relieved that the animal only suffered briefly, and that I was doing good work for the landowner's management goals.   I also feel slightly relieved about my shooting.  Had it been a larger deer, the shot would have been even more deadly, and a 220lb deer crashing into the water likely makes more sound than a 90lb doe falling into the water.

I'm still growing as a bowhunter, and I suppose this is one of the rites of passage.  I'm glad it ended as it did, instead of with a wounded animal walking around with an arrow hanging out of it.   But this does mark the second missed shot in two seasons.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Hunting Out West Experiment

A wee bit different from our usual environment
My brothers and I are going to hunt birds in the Nebraska Sandhills.  None of us have ever hunted in the west.  The three of us have never hunted together more than two days in a row.  In other words, what could go wrong?  We're all cautious, as east coast hunters who are used to battling traffic, deep, sucking mud, and briar thickets, but not used to 3 mile walks across cold, blowing sand.

We have the invitation and the guidance of a ranch owner and his dog, which should get us pretty far along.  But it's also hunting long, cold, dry days in an unfamiliar environment.  Here's my attempt to document what I think I need for the trip.  Only time will tell if the gear was the right call.     It won't be primitive hunting, as we have heated accommodations and in fact one heated duck blind out of three blinds on the ranch.  Pheasant and turkey hunts will be long walks through sage and cactus in bitter, windy cold, however.   We are not targeting large game.


  • Beretta Outlander 12ga w/Patternmaster Choke
  • Browning Gold Hunter 20ga w/Briley Waterfowl Choke
  • Bear Apprentice 2 Compound Bow @ 52lb (for turkey)
  • (Brothers)  Remington Sportsman 58 with full choke
  • (Brothers)  Mossberg 935 Autoloader with Solid gold choke


  • Hevi-Shot Non-Tox Pheasant Loads (#5)
  • Hevi-Shot Turkey Loads
  • Hevi-Metal Waterfowl Loads (#3, #4)
  • Gold Tip 3555 Arrow Shafts 
  • Carbon Express 3555 Arrow Shafts
  • Steel Force Sabertooth Broadheads


  • CLP 
  • Frog Lube
  • Multi-tool (TBD)
  • Knife (TBD)
  • Standard shotgun cleaning kit
  • Tru-Ball arrow release


  • LaCrosse Aerohead knee boots
  • Georgia Mud Dog leather/rubber pull-ons

Outer gear:

  • Columbia waterfowl shell
  • Bass Pro wool facemask
  • Camo buff
  • Browning blaze orange wool cap
  • Mountain khakis
  • Oakley tactical gloves
  • Smartwool glove liners
  • Wool glove-mitts


  • Under Armour and EMS components

Base layer:

  • Smartwool light and medium hiking socks
  • Smartwool medium base layer pants
  • Icebreaker light base layer pants
  • Under Armour cold base layer with hood


  • Canon SX710
  • Canon SX600
  • Backup batteries
  • SanDisk Ultra / SanDisk Extreme 32gb cards
  • tripod
  • GoPro 4 (not mine)

Let the experiment begin!  We touch down in the west just four days after rifle season ends for deer and antelope.

Friday, November 20, 2015

When a Simple Tool Will Do

Old Faithful
May God forgive me -  I am guilty of the love of gear.  I was into my thirties before I could even pretend to have good gear, and almost 40 before the term "backup gear" came into my lexicon. The lack of either (good gear or backup gear) made a smarting wound at times - like the time I "fixed" a wobbly spinning reel with a machine screw (15 cents) instead of the factory pin ($18.00), resulting in a sheared machine screw and the catastrophic failure - explosion, really -  of the reel while trying to haul a sting ray to the boat.  Or the time I "fixed" my KMart frame pack by hand-sewing a gash in the bottom of it, only to have the bottom of the pack tear entirely off during a weekend hike on the Appalachian Trail.  Luckily, only my entire water supply was sent bouncing back down the trail, and ultimately, down a cliff.  Good times, good times.

So now at age 41, I - like so many other outdoorsfolk - have basked in the gloriousness that is gear worship.  Let's call it what it is.  I'm not proud of it, but I am proud to have worked hard enough to own stuff that doesn't break down all the time or cause me to have open sores on my body.  Good boots, good knives, and good underwear are among my most praised deities, it would seem.     One interesting gear item has really escaped my worship, though - backpacks.

New and improved version, 13 years later
We hear a lot about the $650 billion outdoor industry; honestly we don't hear enough about it.  But I'm pretty convinced that $350 billion of that industry is in the sale and marketing of GoPro backpacks.   And there are some awesome ones!   But in 2002, about 4 years after my Kmart Pack flamed out hysterically, my mother in law asked me if I'd like a new pack for Christmas.  I pointed her to what passes for a technical pack at LL Bean (her vendor of choice), and on Christmas, I had what I thought was a passable backpack.  It's the ancestor of what's now the LL Bean AT 55 Pack (owners give it 2.7 out of 5.0 stars), which sells for $159.00.  I think mine was cheaper; then again, it was 13 years ago.

I still use this pack several times a year, and recently I somehow was tempted to replace it.  I made an inspection of the pack, only to find that there is nothing wrong with it.  Then I thought of where it's been with me:  Barbados, Costa Rica, Florida, Mexico, Oregon, camping trips in at least 8 states, and road trips to at least 15 other states.  I used it for a recent overnighter in Pennsylvania, and it will be my carry-on bag for an upcoming hunting trip to Nebraska.  And then again for a two week trip to South Florida.   Is this the best bag for all of these uses? Probably not.  But it's been a good piece of gear that refuses to give out.   And it's interesting to think that this might be the last pack of this type I might ever own.  Good on you, LL Bean.

Why choose an expensive tool when a simple tool will do?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Why This Sportsman Turned Off NFL Football

Sunday fishing - not really worried about NFL scores.
I represent what was once the key demographic group of the National Football League - a beer drinking 41-year old straight white man who lives within 15 miles of an NFL stadium and within 3 hours of the home stadiums of five other NFL teams.   But every year I seem to watch less, not more pro football.    I doubt that the world's second most popular sports league will miss me - nearly 40% of the earth's adults say they are NFL fans.  But I thought it might be worth noting.  What's changed for me?

First, my life has changed.  I work in what amounts to be a COO position of a small company that grew every year during the recession.  Which is to say that I work a lot.   Around the time I started working in corporate (nonprofit) leadership, we had a son, around whom my world rises and sets.   Many families have kids who spend hours staring at digital screens or the television, and that reality has its pluses and minuses.  But we have grown an active boy who wants to engage us, to play outside, and to be engaged with his friends in active play (outside if possible).   That means when I have free time on Sunday, my son doesn't want to watch football.  At first I resisted, then I recorded games to watch later (after bedtime), and now I don't even bother.

Second, my sensitivities have changed.  Not in the politically correct way, mind you, but in the "Why the hell has the NFL been lying about brain injuries for 20 years?" kind of way.  The "thanks for showing us what you think about young men and their dedication to the sport" kind of way.    I am an "accountability" kind of guy, and the NFL's actions on things like player brain injuries, and other minor issues like employees assaulting women on camera, doesn't seem particularly in line with my values.

Third, fantasy football is possibly the most lame thing in all of 21st century life.  I mean, seriously.  Gambling on the theoretical independent play of players who you electronically "place" on teams together?   "OMG I traded Manning this week!"  I mean...seriously.  You sound like 11 year olds trading baseball cards (arguably more productive).   You know what would be even *more* fun? Going outside to play actual football!  And to the question, "But what would we talk about at work on monday?"  I don't could talk about work.  As a former boss once said during our staff meeting, "What exact billing code are you guys using for the work hours you spend on fantasy football?"

There are other, less important factors, such as the idea that a non-profit director (Roger Goodell) can make $44 million as a base salary.  For anything other than football, I would never support a non-profit with such a pay scale.  So I don't think football deserves a pass.  Notable: under scrutiny on the topic, the NFL voluntarily surrendered their tax-exempt status six months ago.  Way to go, guys.  

So I think I'll keep going outside on Sundays, and spending Mondays at the office talking about something else.  I know the NFL doesn't miss me, and as time goes on, the feeling is mutual.

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