So there I am. A 140 lb. Delaware doe cleaned and in the cooler. A beauty of an 80 yard shot on a running deer to my credit. ( I don't care who you are-that was a nice shot!) And the day is only half over.
My buddy Michael is explaining his plan for my evening hunt. He has a hunt for me that sounds foolproof. It involves a ground blind (actually a pup-tent, colored camoflage, that has zip-open windows to shoot through) that is under a giant copper-beech tree. Every evening deer leaving a dense "bottom" travel past the copper-beech on their way to the estate's feed plot.
I'm amped. The day has warmed up and being as I'll be hidden in the tent I decide I won't need my camo jacket. I put on my hat and Michael opines that I won't need that either. "Fine,' I think. I toss the hat onto the truck seat and head across the field to my deer blind. The little tent hasn't been used in a good while and was placed where it is now back in September.
I grab the tent and give it a bit of a shake to get it back to level and of a more symetric shape. Satisfied, I unzip the entry door from the top down, duck my head to enter and ... freeze....
No. Not a snake. Spiders. Lots of spiders. Black wolf spiders. Ever look close at a wolf spider? They have what looks to be really really big teeth. And they're fast. And hairy. I've never liked spiders. Six are presently swinging menacingly from their spider threads in the opening of the tent.....SH##!
It's either into the tent or don't hunt. I'm going to need real therapy. SH##! I sweep the six spiders away with my gun barrel, swallow, cling to a 'how bad can it be?' attitude, and enter the tent. SH##! How bad can it BE?! Try Halloween on steroids bad!
On hundred. One hundred fifty wolf spiders cling to every seam and crevice of the inside of that little pup tent and me in the center.
The good news about wolf spiders is that, even if they do wander around constantly, they don't seem to want to span the distance from tent wall to snivelling arachnaphobe....SH##!
The largest of them drops from the ceiling on his spider thread and comes to an abrupt halt three inches from my right eye. He swings laconically up to the moment my flailing hand finally bats him out the window.
I really, really want my hat......
What I learn that evening in the tent is that, if you stay very, very still, the spiders will let you live.
Michael swears to this day that he had no inkling as to the horrifics in that little tent. He says it with conviction and sincerity. With equal conviction and sincerity, I answer that I believe him.
That doesn't stop me from hanging my outer shirt on his pile of hunting clothes in the barn that evening.
Turns out he is right about the deer though. I bag another doe that is even bigger that the one from this morning. Dead on the spot at 82 yards. The other 6 does with her are panicky for about five minutes and then resume feeding on the field's grass! They feed within 20 feet of my hide for the next 1 and 1/2 hours until they wander off on their own. I can easily shoot any of the six, but opt not to as I cannot see the deer I shot at. I do not know if tracking is to be involved, and unless it's a big buck, no way I want to create two scenarios at the same time. Besides, 300 pounds of Delaware doe is plenty for one day.
By the way, my Thompson-center-front-stuffer is now a perfect 5 for 5 on shots fired at game. Woohoo!
Taking a break from de-boning 2 large Delaware does. (Nearly 300 pounds, combined weight for the 2). I love my Thompson-Center black powder rifle.
Both shots are at the eighty yard range and both shots result in the deer crumpling on the spot. No tracking. No dragging. Drive the gator up, load up and head 'em up back to the barn.
The first deer finds herself in the open, near sunrise, and isn't happy about being out so late. I've seen her approaching across the hayfields thought a cool pre-sun fog and, due to body size, assume it to be an immature buck.
I first see her at 400 yds. as she crests the hill in front of me. The nearest cover for her is the wood lot fifty yards behind me. Suddenly she sprints to within 150 yards straight out from me and stops. She performs a quick security check before continuing. Hazy light grows stronger by the second. The doe proceeds at a nervous walk through an area I can not see due to limbs of the tree I'm sitting in obstructing my view.
The deer is at 90 yards and is crossing in front of me when I see it again.
"Whoa." I think to myself. "There's no spikes or horns. Shooter!!"
The safety's off as I find the deer in my scope. Only a twenty yard window before more limbs will interfere. Cross hairs. Front shoulder. She's walking fast. Swing the gun apace as she speeds up. Index finger squeezing. Head swirls in a 'between worlds' moment. That instant separating intent and the explosive roar as one hundred grains of Pyrodex are sparked due to the gun's hammer meeting the percussion cap.
Can't see. Can't see. Can't see through the smoke cloud that spews from the maw of my front-stuffer. A moment unlike any other.
Acrid acidic tasting smoke obscures all in front of me. Five. Ten. Fifteen seconds, smoke and fog swirl. Then movement within the cloud. The last throes of consciousness passes. Stillness.
We sit in our stands another 45 minutes, but nothing else stirs. By 8:45 we've had breakfast, gutted the big doe and have her hanging from the gimbrel. We cannot help but notice that as she hangs with her nose touching the barn's floor her rear feet are two feet over our heads. Does don't get that big where I come from!
The other doe I got that evening. Now that's another story.
Dates are filling up for waterfowling. Get with your buddies and give me a call.
Just back from my annual muzzle loading deer hunt with my buddy Michael in Delaware. Essentially a three day visit to deer heaven.
A day and a half into the trip and neither of us has shot anything. (Michael and friends only hunt with bows and arrows.) In conversation with Michael's son I mention that in a best case scenario I'd leave to go home with 3 deer in my coolers. I'm kind of the designated hunter for our house and several of our friends here on the beach. Not to make too long a story of it: I got my wish.
What was I thinking? It takes forever to properly de-bone, clean, age and package 3 whole deer. Cleaning and de-boning takes a good chunk of 2 days, then tend the ice in the coolers for another 5 days. Another good rinse and then break out the vacuum sealer. Not to sound like I'm getting a commission or anything, but if you don't have a vacuum sealer, you need one. At the very least go in on one with a friend. If you think they're good for freezing venison, wait till you try the bad boy on fish fillets. Enough said.
Who am I kidding? In this house we love venison. Last night we had our first taste of the season in the form of chicken-fried backstrap and tenderloin. (Couldn't choose so we had a little of both) from the little button buck I brought home.
Oh. You caught that. Who, in deer heaven would shoot a button buck?.... Okay. The woman who owns the land really wants relief for her azaleas in the form of a drastic thinning of the estates' deer herd. Michael really wants a bunch of does thinned to make the horn hunting better and Michael's son Josh, just shot a doe that I saw tumble out of sight thirty yards from me.
I am pretty sure Josh's deer is done for, but just to be sure I keep my eyes on the little stream she'll have to cross if she were to try to escape. Ten minutes later, satisfied the deer hasn't escaped, I prepare to climb down from my tree stand and see what was what. Remove and store my safety harness, sling my muzzle loader over my head and onto my back and am drooped over the tree stand's seat, one foot on a climbing peg and the other foot waving around in the air trying to locate the next peg. By now it's just about dark-thirty. I glance back to where I last saw Josh's deer and freeze. There's a deer. It's nervous. I can't tell if it's looking at me or down the field toward Josh. No doubt, however, the deer is edging toward the trees. Josh's deer must have come to.
Despite that I am draped over the stand's seat and have one foot on a climbing peg and the other dangling in empty air, I manage to un-sling my weapon- and realize my only possible shot will have to be taken left handed. I remember analyzing whether the recoil from the shot will knock me out of the tree. I figure I'm wedged in there pretty good. The deer is less than a foot from the trees....WHOOM.
Flame and billowing smoke. Minutes later the air finally clears. The field is empty.
I resling my front-stuffer and climb down. Cut through the trees to the field's edge and look to my right There's a deer down 30 yards down field. I walk to it. A nice doe. Probably 120 pounds. Bigger than I thought.
Josh walks up. "What'd you shoot?,"he asks. I point to the deer and cock an eyebrow in response. "No, that's my deer." We find my deer 10 minutes later. Forty yards into the woods despite a perfectly place left handed heart shot. Yup. Mine turns out to be a little button buck. His horns not even emergent from the hair on his head yet. Two trips and so far two little bucks. Somehow I don't seem to quite grasp proper herd management.
Oh well. Michael doesn't seem to mind, circumstances and all. I'm scheduled to head back there for the gun season in November which is right in the middle of the fall rut. Supposedly big bucks behind every tree stump.
Michael is calling that night's hunt "The massacre in the Oaks," being we were hunting an acorn littered stand of white oak trees. Michael's marksmanship added two more does. A good night for the azaleas. A great night for the freezer.
2003-2004 SEASON SYNOPSIS
Despite some rough spots, 03/04 was a very smoothly run and successful gunning season.`
At least one or a few of our guides had ample fowl for good shoots all season, so most everyone seemed generally pleased with our service. I know we will be seeing a lot of return business from the year's first time users of OBW guide service.
November was generally slow but we got enough shooting most days to keep people entertained. On a few of the most hideously blue-bird days, sound-side rock fishing bailed us out as the fishing was quite good. Those who remained flexible did quite well. November will be best remembered for what wasn't shot, however.
On one day during the first hour of shooting time we had 40-50 flocks of pintail come around Pintail Point. By noon we had another 20 flocks through of sitting in our decoys. Some of the flock contained as many as 70-80 birds!
We ended the day skunked.
Honestly, for most of November I felt like an Audubon Feller bird watching pintails and blacks. Hopefully the pintail numbers will keep increasing and the bone-heads who make the decisions will cut us some slack on pintail restrictions. Keep in mind last year's population totals showed a 43% increase in eastern pintails and over-all pintails outnumbered widgeon by 100,000 Birds!
When the season came back in on Dec. 13 the addition of the black duck to daily limits was definitely appreciated. Gunning in my neck of the woods was slow. Currituck, however, had received an enviable influx of green winged teal and mallards. Also, Justin had teamed up with his buddy (and new guide), Jonathon. The two of them just wore out the sea ducks on the outer edge of the "Cat shoal" in Oregon Inlet. Sea-ducking continued at a blistering pace all the way through till the end of the season. (On January 24, long time client Peter D. hunted with Jonathon and shot 24 by 2:30 pm including the scoter "grand slam" of all 3 scoters: American black, surf and elusive white winged scoters.)
By Jan 5, the air temp was still 78 degrees. This was no aberration either as winter had simply refused to push fall aside and deliver any cold weather. Meanwhile the ocean rock fishing went off at an historically unheard of pace. One evening, after gunning all day, then picking up my decoys after sunset, I returned to the dock and found the spectacle of 70 (!) or more boats milling around the boat basin waiting to be loaded on to trailers. There was literally a 1 1/2 hour wait to get your boat out of the water. This area has never seen rock fishing this good and the world knows it. If you're a local and you don't have a freezer full of stripers, shame on you.
Finally, on Jan 6 we awoke to an icy blast that literally lasted until the end of the season. A one day swing of 36 degrees. From that day onward we all shot birds. Pintail, in particular, were everywhere and trophy hunting the drakes was the order of the day. At one point I (my parties) shot 26 straight drake pintail without harvesting a hen.
The trophy of the year went to Currituck where one of our gunners harvested a double banded black duck. One was a federal band and the other was a $100.00 reward band!
Bonus of the year goes to OBW guide service in picking up 2 new young guns in Jonathon at Oregon Inlet and Matt in Currituck. Great guys with great blinds.
The conservation award would have to go to my streak of 26 drake pintail in a row without taking a hen.
Pleasant surprise of the year was Jonathon's fabulous diver blind. It wasn't all scoters. He shot plenty of bufflehead and scaup also.
Disappointment of the year was neither the widgeon or the redheads showing up in any great numbers. The widgeon were finally tracked down to the southern tip of the DelMarva penninsula where they were sitting in huge rafts with equally huge rafts of brant.
Pleasant surprise #2 goes to my getting Gabby through another season as compatriot and retriever despite having to replace the ACL in her knee this summer.
Most fun to watch hunt award goes to my good friend Bud, who Jonathon and Justin dubbed as 'the sniper.' We were all gunning my marsh for a few days and the boys became aware that when Bud's gun barks, birds fall. I don't believe there's a more gentlemanly and respectful pursuer of waterfowl on the planet.
Happiest bystanders to this season would have to be the taxidermists who get to mount all the bull pintails that were harvested this year. (Did I mention the string of 26 straight drake pintails without a hen my guys got this year?)
Best product utilized this year for the first time would have to be the tar paper on my blinds. Half the brush looks twice as good and the wind break was a godsend.
Best product on the waterfowling market would continue to be the "El Maurillo" pintail, teal and widgeon call. Child's play to use and deadly effective. If you don't have one you're missing out.
Best shot size (steel) for a guide is the Kent 3 1/2 in #1s. (Refer back to the part on Bud)
Best new product that I can't afford and won't pay for would have to be the new 'heavy shot." The guys who are biting the bullet (so to speak) and forking out the bucks are crushing ducks. (Yo manufacturers! I'm not saying I wouldn't use your product. Why not mail me a few cases or so. It'd be good advertising.)
Finally, the best product all time has to go the the "Ronning Electric footwear dryers" that I inherited from my Dad in 1985. I don't know how long he had them, probably another 5-10 years. Plug 'em in in the evening, slip 'em in your boot and by 4 AM your boots are warm and dry. Other than a good retriever and an understanding wife, there can't be anything more important in this life than dry boots in the morning. Especially in this age of Neoprene.
Well, gotta go. We have a decoy show in Washington, NC this weekend and I have stands to make. Thanks,
Duckin' and Goosin',
Outer Banks Water Fowl.
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