Thursday, November 19, 2009

Connecticut archery season,opening day.

I have to admit that I have negelected this blog for some time. I have been very busy with work and the hunting season. So far it doesn't look good for filling up the freezer. Dad and I hunted Connecticut and Massachusetts for archery.

Opening day which was September 15th found me in a treestand overlooking a cornfield after I got out of work. I was surprised to find that we had company. Two other hunters have been given permission to hunt this property. For many years Dad and I were the only ones. The landowner is gracious enough to allow us to hunt. We have exclusive access to one peice of land but the cornfield is shared, now. Anyways I headed to my ladder stand at the corner of the property line. It seems that deer from the neighboring property will cross over to eat in the corn. I had placed a couple of trail cameras and they indicate that the deer will move from that area at dusk or so. I was excited and ready to hunt.

I arrived at my perch and climbed upwards. I had waited a while until some movement caught me by surprise. I was anticipating some action close to dusk as indicated by the trail cameras but at 5:43 PM three deer passed by me. A large doe and a yearling along with what I believed to be a dry doe trailing. They went past me as I sat there not moving a muscle. I made a judgement call that if they come back I will take the dry doe. Sure enough they came back.

All of the deer were moving a little quicker than I anticipated but I have used this trick of blowing a kiss to stop a deer. Well it seems to work better on bucks. I blew a kiss as the dry doe passed. Instead of freezing in her tracks she jumped back and away. Instintively I aimed a tad higher and loosed an arrow. The arrow hit a bit high. At that point she took off into the still standing corn.

I waited for a good half hour and then called my Dad on the FRS. He came over and we began to search. What irks me is that I never found the arrow. I assumed it was a pass through shot but maybe that wasn't the case. I had followed the blood trail. What concerned me was that there was very little blood. I was feeling uneasy at this point. Dad and I continued to search the corn field and the surrounding woods until it became dark. I felt sick to my stomach. I lost her. I hate losing an animal. We walked out and saw the two other hunters standing by their vehicles. They have stands below me and in the area where the deer seemed to have gone.

The next day we went searching again but to no avail. No deer or further sign. My Dad is a very shrewd man. He has a great deal of wisdom and is somewhat suspicious of other people. He told me that there was the possibility of the other two hunters finding my deer and tagging it for themselves. He said he felt suspicious that they were hanging around well after we had left for the night .

The next time we hunted my Dad looked into the back of one of their trucks. He noticed there was evidence of blood. I have mixed feelings. Did they honestly get a deer or did they find mine? If they found mine why did they not do the honorable thing step up?

Anyways. I have made a resolution. I have been practicing more with the bow and making sure that I have been taking lower shots. Shooting high on a deer's chest does not guarantee a kill.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Back from Maine...

am back albeit a tad tired. For us it is almost an eight hour drive north from Rhode Island to the Forks Maine. We left the home at 5:30 AM and headed north. Most of these kids are from an inner city or suburban environment in a compact state. They have never been on a road trip of such a length and it was a real shock in many ways to them. In RI you can access all manner of amenities within ten minutes. Well, that isn't the case with the state of Maine. The concept of size became very cogent to them. The old adage from kids," Are we there yet ?" was asked in many forms. Again it was a learning experience. The next learning experience was a stop for one half hour at the Cabelas store in Scarborough Maine. Again many of these kids were surprised to see such a place existed. All of the Cabelas have a theme of various mounted animals in the center of the store. I did pick up a few things and made sure nothing left the store that wasn't paid for. We then headed north on Rte 201 towards The Forks Maine. This trip is on a secondary road with a lot of twists, turns and hills. Again the scene is very different from what the kids have grown up with. Another point are the small towns we entered into. I have more to tell but right now I have to run off to work. We're having visitors today and the place needs to look it's best.
On the first evening there was what is called a family meeting after supper. All of the homes gathered in the main room and people introduced themselves and some bonding games were conducted. After the meeting it was past dusk but I told some of the kids that if they wanted I would take them out on the road and see if we could find some moose crossing somewhere. Again most of these kids have had very little experience outside the concrete jungle. They have a lot of assumptions about the country and wilder areas. They are worried about bears or other wild animals attacking and eating them. They are accustomed to having people around them in many ways. Being in a setting where you do not have any people or habitation is somewhat disconcerting for them. One kid from the NYC area commented that he needed people around him. He could never live in a town of 30 people. We then got back into the van and drove back to the lodge. As we headed south down Rte 201 I spotted a cow and a calf cross the road. Immediately I started honking the horn and flashing the lights. Both animals panicked and as if by cue they slid on their hindquarters as they tried to get out of the road. Their hooves slipped on the newly refinished asphalt . The cow left some brown streaks from her mud laden hooves on the black top. I had feared that they harmed themselves for a minute but each one ran off from the road on opposite sides. We drove south and turned around. I shut the lights off and waited. Soon we saw the calf cross the road to join the mother. I had turned the lights on and started to drive north again . I honked on the horn a few more times to chase them off the sides of the road. Many logging trucks come barreling down from the North Woods and I don’t want to see them get hit. With the windows rolled down we could hear them trot through the woods with no trouble at all.
Most of these kids have never seen any sort of wildlife in their lives. This was quite an experiences for them to witness. They could not believe how large these animals are.
The kids went on the rafting trip the next morning. I will be honest. I don't care for white water that much. I drove for eight hours north and had to chaperon them while at the lodge until the evening. I have some motives behind my reasons. By doing this a day off will be accrued and I get the opportunity to take a break from the kids. The kids went down the Kennebec River with their guides and had a good time. I took off for a while and visited the sleepy town of Jackman Maine for a while. I confess that I have a penchant for this town for some reason. I believe it has to do with the stories that my father told regarding deer hunting when he was younger. In his day and age the Jackman area was the place to go. In many way it still is but the hunter success rate is low. On average the state of Maine has a 10 to 12 percent success rate. Where I hunt in Connecticut, the success rate for private land during the gun season runs around 30 percent. So I have almost a three times greater chance of getting my deer by hunting within a few miles of my home vs driving eight hours and hunting the great north woods. But there is a certain charm in regards to hunting the Great North Woods. It is an actual get away from everything.
I'll give you a cogent example of the area that emphasizes the get away aspect of it all. Many people in our society are used to having a connection at all times with other people via some sort of electronic device. I guess I am a short nosed cave bear from the last Ice Age. I don't have a cell phone plan. I have a trac phone that is now inactive and I have yet to reactivate it. I don't have an MP3 player or IPOD. I don't have a Black Berry although I like them in a pie and partaking in the Polish tradition of a shot of black berry brandy before quaffing a nice brew. The only Blue Tooth I have is after eating some blue berries. Well, I guess that explains a lot in my life.

We have a policy at the house where students are not allowed to have cell phones, IPODs or other devices. One main reason is that they can call someone up and set up a jail break of sorts. The other is that you can create a spark and ignite something like a half smoked cigarette butt. We make one exception for IPOD's and MP3 players. This is a long trip and we allow them to have them so the trip is more bearable for them. Also, when you go that far in Maine you generally pick up one radio station. I told the kids," I want you all to watch and listen to this." I turned the radio on and pressed the seek button. The radio self tuned through the whole spectrum several times and locked on one radio station. A hard rock station. They were all surprised. Two of the counselors stated that they had no cell phone reception. This was the case for at least seventy five miles of where we were. This was a real culture shock for people who live in a compact area.
All of the students had a great time. They had a unique and enriching experience that can demonstrate alternatives to getting high.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Experiences in a yurt.

I have always been fascinated by this unique form of portable dwelling developed by nomadic peoples living on the steppes of Mongolia. The yurt , or more properly called a ger, is similar to the American Indian tipi found in the Great Plains of North America. I have contemplated ownership of a yurt after reading many positive articles on the structure. How it is efficient, wind resistant, relatively low cost compared to a more permanent structure and lets be honest. There is a sort of "cool " factor involved with a yurt.

Mary and I were in need of a break and wanted to get away from things for a short period of time. I don't have the time off like I used to. One of the things that I sorely miss from public education is the summer vacations. You needed that time off to recharge your batteries, so to speak. Now I don't have that option. Ok. I know that sounds a tad bitter and it is but such is life.

Mary doesn't like camping all that much. She made the statement," I tolerate it" is the best way to describe it. The biggest issue of all is the cleanliness of the bathrooms. Many places we have stayed at do not clean the bathrooms and showers very well. Well, I don't want to get too off topic so here is what we can say about the yurt.

I'll not belabor any details but in a nutshell I discovered a number of downsides to the yurt. In the summer the shelter can get very hot and stuffy unless you open up all of the windows. This model had three windows and that brings up another problem. The flaps that cover the windows are on the outside. So in order to get fresh air you need to go outside and roll up the clear plastic and the green fabric and secure it with the velcro tabs. Now the problem is that people passing by can look in. In addition, if it rains you need to go outside to close the windows. The White Mountains recieved about two to four inches of rain on Thursday night thus necessitating the closure of one window. The sound of the rain pounding on the roof was very loud and did have the effect of lulling one to a state of sonambulism. Mary noted that at the roof and wall juncture there were a couple of gaps that insects could make their way in. I did get bit by no see um midges a couple of times but no amount of screening would stop them. The roof is supported on a spoke pattern of what appear to be 2x3's and the walls are supported by a lattice work. The roof is held on by a cable that cinches around the top of the wall similar to a hatband. It is there where a gap or two could lead to some problems.The yurt is very bright. The roof has a skylight. Traditionally this was an opening in which the smoke from a cooking fire would waft upward like a giant chimney. I have seen images of yurts with woodstoves so that is one way to heat a yurt when it is cold outside. The skylight on this model had a clear plexiglass dome. The owners put an opaque tarp over the top of it. I suspect that is necessary in order to keep it from overheating in the summer. Again, we found it to be very hot when we first arrived. I thought that this shelter would be comfortable in mid to late September or early October. One thing that Mary noticed was that the skylight needed cleaning. It was full of dead bugs. In a nutshell the yurt is a step in between a tent and a cabin. For ten dollars more I think you would be better off with a cabin.

I am somewhat of a dreamer. I have thought of owning a small campground in Maine or New Hampshire as a retirement business of sorts. In addition to some sites for tents and RV's it would be nice to have a couple of yurts. I am not sure if this daydream will ever come to fruition but I do believe one needs to have more experience in order to make such a decision. We had stayed in a yurt for two nights and both concluded that there are a lot of downsides to the structure. So if this dream ever comes true, I don't believe we will have any yurts available.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Herkimer Diamonds.

One of the things that intrigues me besides hunting and the outdoors are minerals. I have a set of gold pans that I have used much to my dismay in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. About the only time I had ever obtained anything was a small rice grained sized sapphire in Idaho on one of my summer trips.
A while back I was watching a show on the Travel Channel hosted by Kirsten Gumm. This young lady travels all over in search of minerals and other collectable earth deposits. She had one show on a type of crystal found in upstate New York. Just north of Rte 90 is the sleepy town of Herkimer. This location is famous for it's quartz crystals called Herkimer diamonds.
I decided that Mary and I needed a vacation to that area and planned a simple camping trip. I made arraingements to stay at a KOA in that town which has the diamond mine. I know that Mary isn't too thrilled with tent camping so I opted for renting what are called Kamping Kabins. Basically this is a small log cabin without any amenities. You take everything you need to camp except the tent. I figured that this compromise would be the best of both worlds, not to mention cheaper than staying at a motel.

We drove to the site on that same day and set up our cabin. It was very clean and cozy. The way the system works is that you pay a day use fee to Herkimer Diamond mine and rent the tools. You have to buy the chisle as it gets a lot of wear and tear. What I learned is that this place is a working mine. The owners commercially mine it for the large crystals and then people are allowed to glean through the rest. I will be honest, it is a lot of hard work. You are trying to crack off peices of dolomite with a hammer and chisle. This takes a lot out of you and you will be somewhat dirty. I'd wear old work clothes when doing this. Quite a number of people went along with some school groups.

To make a long story short we obtained a small amount that is probably worth around eighty dollars. Again, you're not going to strike it rich as much as collect something to make some jewelry with or have a souvenier.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Late Winter hunt.

It had been a long day at work. The stresses of working with teenagers in recovery can be very exacerbating to say the least. They can test you in many ways. I have learned that you need to take a low key approach and you must have a sense of resiliency when dealing with many of the verbal comments made. It is the nature of the beast, so to speak. One of the things that I have learned is that you need to have an outlet for that tension. For me, hunting has always been that safety valve that allows me to unwind and not just become an observer in nature but a participant.

After work I went to my truck and got my bow. It was a cold day in January. In fact the temperature was around 4 degrees F and a touch of a breeze to bring the windchill below zero. I wasn't too serious about taking a deer in January. Rhode Island has a late archery season which extends to the end of the month. It is tough because the deer have been pursued by archers, then muzzleloader hunters and finally the shotgun hunters. After that in January the season picks up again with archery. I know very few deer are taken since many hunters are exhausted and not willing to sit in a stand when it is near zero or less. That can be a real test of intestinal fortitude.

Oddly I just wanted to walk and maybe take the chance of seeing a deer. I walked down the path wearing my green wool pants, an insulated camouflage shirt and my coyote fur trappers hat. That hat is incredibly warm. To be honest it is uncomfortable unless you are in near zero degree weather. I walked through some overgrown meadow and followed some tracks. The blanket of snow revealed the signatures of everything that was living in the woodlands.

I walked slowly and steadily as I followed a set of tracks into a small white pine grove. There I found an old bench. Someone must have set it up for hunting. Since no one was around I sat and rested. I contemplated life and what I do for a living. I was tired and actually closed my eyes for a few minutes to get some needed rest and relaxation. As I sat there I looked forward. I can't believe my eyes. It was a deer. Soon I saw three does walking towards me. I remained motionless and they seemed very ambivalent to my presence. How ironic. I hunted hard that year and was rewarded but I never thought I would have the opportunity again so late in the year.

I sat and watched. It was around 4:00 PM. They milled all around me. I could not get a clear shot since I did not anticipate deer coming by but in a way I didn't want to shoot. I had two freezers filled with meat and I knew at this time of year those does were carrying young. If one of them were a buck I would have attempted the shot. At that time their antlers would have dropped off. I know that the Rhode Island fish and game department is wise in allowing the season this late for population control but for some strange reason I didn't want to shoot. The deer came as close as ten yards. I sat motionless wearing my big coyote fur hat. I surmise that it broke up my outline and they weren't sure what I was. Soon one deer looked at me with great scrutiny. She would bob her head and weave it all around like does will. Soon the other two were alerted and then there was the sound of air. When deer are alarmed they "blow". A sudden rush of air signals that there is danger and you need to vacate.

Soon all of them took off and I figured it was time to head home to a hot meal. I walked back in the January cold with a warm feeling.

The meat cicle

Ok. The title of this is going to sound really strange to the non hunting public. I had learned of this technique of baiting predators from a hunting forum. Here in Massachusetts we can bait for predators and hunt at night provided that we don't use a light source. To me that is silly as a light would aid in target identification but the powers that be fear people would illegally shoot deer. Personally speaking, I don't think so. Those people will do it anyways.
The way to use a meatcicle is to take a five gallon food grade pail and spray the inside with PAM or other non stick cooking spray. Put in meat scraps about one third of the way up and then fill it with water. Let it sit overnight to freeze and then bring it to your stand location. It is pretty simple to use.
I have set up a Trail camera to record what manner of wildlife would come to my meatcicle at one location I hunt in. So far the only animals that have approached it were red and gray fox. crows and a fisher.
Next winter I plan to set up a couple more meatcicles in the hopes of attracting a coyote. We'll see how well it works.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A first for me..

I am an avid turkey hunter. I started hunting the big birds when I was old enough to obtain a license. My first hunting experience was in the state of Vermont when I was thirteen years old. In all honesty, we were clueless. We had no idea how to hunt the big birds. We made many errors and after a short time became aware of how to hunt turkey. There is a methodology behind hunting wild turkey. It is almost a symphony of events when you do it the right way. Roosting the bird the night before. Entering it's realm in the wee hours of the morning to get into position. Listening for the gobbler fly down and begin his day. Making those first calls to entice the bird. The patient waiting game for the bird to come within range . In a strange way it is almost like dry fly fishing.

Over the years Dad and I have taken some nice birds but all with a shotgun. Here in Massachusetts you are allowed to use a shotgun or archery tackle. One day I'd like to take a bird with a handgun in a state where it is legal but that will have to wait. Today was a first. It was the first bird taken with the bow and arrow.

One of the facts of life in the northeast is the loss of hunting habitat and encroachment of humanity in many of the wild places I had grown up in. It is not an easy thing to deal with at times. You see a wonderful old farm becomes a development. You recall the hours of bliss that was attained in what is now someones back yard. One way to deal with this change is to adapt as much as possible. One thing that has happened is the increased opportunity for the use of archery in many places that do not allow the discharge of a firearm. One such place is where I had hunted with my Dad. A close friend of mine has a farmette for a lack of a better term and has graciously allowed me to set up a blind in his small field to bow hunt for the big birds. The turkey would come off of a roost and then start to forage in his field. I set up my blind in the middle along the edge of the field. I set out two decoys and was ready.

Opening day came early. One of the exacerbating things about turkey hunting is that you need to get up very early for hunting in the spring. In some ways deer hunting is easier. I am blessed with the opportunity to hunt after work each day if I choose. I can get a bit of sleep during deer season but not during the spring turkey. There is no afternoon hunting where I am so I suffer in that one area.

This year's opening day would be worth whatever perceived suffering I was about to undergo. I heard gobbling at the break of dawn. Not much after five in the morning did I hear the first sounds of spring. I was ready. I figured that calling should be very low key. That technique worked beautifully well. Shortly a flock of hens were all around me. I noticed one thing with the blind. The turkeys seem to be oblivious to the fact that there is someone in there. I had the hens walk by a few feet away from me. One thing to bear in mind is to make sure you wear all black when hunting from a blind. You want to blend in the shadow of the blind itself. It works well.

It was at approximately 6:40 AM when to my left a gobbler appeared. He was a nice bird in full strut as he was trying to impress the ladies. He strutted out to my twenty yard marker and I drew back my Bowtech Guardian. I placed the sight pin on his wing area and loosed an ST Axis arrow tipped with a 100 grain magnum Slick Trick broadhead. I heard the distinctive sound of the arrow hitting the bird. He flew up a bit but soon fell to earth. He tried to move but was unable to do so.

What happened next was really odd. All of the hens that have now moved to the center of the field came to see him. The lead hen stretched out her neck and had the look of concern. She led the other hens to the downed gobbler. She pecked at him once but it didn't appear to be a hard peck. It was almost as if she was checking him out. Shortly two other gobblers appeared and they approached the downed bird. Bear in mind this is all happening in the time span of all of fifteen minutes or so. They gobble in unison and soon leave. I contact my father on the FRS radio and he arrives. The birds leave which is what I wanted them to do. I didn't want the birds to see me get out of the blind.

I went over to get my bird. It was a magnificent bird taken with the bow. The bird dressed out at 18 lbs and has a 9 inch thick beard. He had 5/8th inch spurs. This will go on the wall in some what shape or form. A fine trophy in my eyes .

Sunday, April 12, 2009

First Handgun Black bear

I am by no means an expert bear hunter. So far I have only taken three black bear over bait with a handgun in the state of Maine. I remember the first time I went black bear hunting in the Pine Tree State. A friend of the family had been going to the Grand Lake Stream area of Maine to hunt with Master Guide Dave Tobey. One year Paul had invited me to go on a hunt during the first week. He knew that I would really enjoy that type of hunt and it would be a great opportunity to get a nice black bear.

I drove north to Grand Lake Stream and found Dave's home. Dave is a very quiet and sociable person. He is very good at what he does and we soon began to discuss what to do and what not to do. My main hunting gun would be the Thompson Center Contender with the Super 16 45-70 barrel attached to the frame. So far this barrel has become my favorite. I have taken deer and wild boar with this barrel with the possibility of taking a nice black bear with it. As a rule I hand load all of my ammunition but for this hunt I had used Federal factory ammunition. A 300 grain hollow point load that shot well out of my gun.
I learned a great deal about black bears while hunting that first year. Black bears have poor eyesight. This is more than compensated by their nose and hearing. They have padded feet thus they can shuffle through the woods rather silently. To go with the scent issue I made sure that my hunting clothes were as scent free as possible. I washed daily before the afternoon hunt in scent free soap and used scent killer spray. I did not use any bug repellent but covered my face with a thin layer of Vaseline. One of the dreaded creatures of the North woods is a gnat called the no see um. This minuscule virago is able to penetrate head nets and will leave a burning welt on your skin the size of a dime. Just thinking about them made me scratch my head. Another thing I learned is that when I went to the bait site I asked the guides assistant to walk me to the stand. You see the bear has learned that the baiter's scent means food. If I stepped in the same footsteps as the assistant then that would minimize the contact with the bait area . One of Dave's assistants is a member of the Passamaquoddy Nation in eastern Maine. As a rule, Curt did not speak much. He tended to keep his own counsel and I was told he didn't like too many people. For some reason, we hit it off.
The first night was spent on a bait site next to the tribal lands. It was quintessential Down east Maine woodlands. A bit of a mixed hardwoods but mostly softwoods consisting of spruce, hemlock and balsam. As I sat still as a statue I spotted something. Sure enough, it was a black bear. I didn't know what to make of it but the bear stood broadside to me about twenty yards away. I could have made an easy shot with the Contender but for some reason I didn't want to take the first thing I saw. Soon the bear ambled off without a clue that I was perched above him.After a while the sun began to set in the western sky. At dusk I saw two shapes. One large, the other rather small. It was a sow and her cub. I knew that in Maine it would be legal to take the bear but I don't want to leave an orphan. That cub would not survive and the next day I would find out more about bears and their behavior. That night I was excited about telling all the other hunters in camp of what I had witnessed. Dave agreed that the bear would show up again so I hunted the next day at the same site.
I was escorted by Curt to the site and climbed into the stand. As I sat there I contemplated many things. I think all hunters become very introspective. One of the joys of hunting is the solitude that one can obtain. I have commented that at times I feel closer to God in a tree stand or mountain top than in a Church. I know that may sound sacrilegious but I am sure others have had the same feeling. I am surrounded by the wonders of Creation.
Towards the afternoon I spotted the mother bear and her cub. They came out earlier. The cub would bobble through the woodlands following and staying close to her side. The little guy was a sight to behold. Then all of a sudden, the mother made a sound."Whoof." The little cub ran up a tree next to me. He was at eye level about ten feet away. At that instant the mother took off in a beeline. She moved so fast that there was a cloud of leaves and other forest detritus behind her as she took off. Then she ambled back. Soon she repeated that behavior again. She took off after something. I was looking around and still saw the little cub in the tree next to me. He seemed somewhat concerned and had a look of fear and confusion in his little black eyes. I peered off to the southeast and saw another bear. It was the bear I saw yesterday at about 4:00PM . It was a male bear of about two hundred pounds or so. One fact of bear biology and behavior is that male bears can be cannibalistic. They will kill and eat a cub so they can mate with the female again. I know it is harsh but that is the way nature works at times. I feel blessed in having witnessed such a show in nature. Many people go through their lives without seeing the workings of nature . Many get their natural experiences from a visit to the zoo or a nature program on television. That cannot compare to the real thing.
The next night was rather uneventful. It became hot and humid for that time of year. I was in another stand. I told Dave that I don't want to hunt in that spot. I can't tell the difference between the male and female and I will not shoot a bear with a cub. Self defense would be the exception. I think that impressed Dave and he put me on another stand that was close to the New Brunswick border.
That Thursday evening I went out with Curt and he dropped me off at this level site. The woodlands were very thick and near a stream shadowed by tall spruce and hemlock. I was facing west towards a bait in a small clearing. I climbed the wooden stand and sat still. I don't know how long it was but after a while I spotted a black bear. It was alone and there was nothing with it. I learned that a female with a cub will usually stick very close together. The little fur balls will be within twenty feet of their mother. This bear was alone and after several minutes had moved towards the bait. I raised the TC Contender and centered the cross hairs of the Burris 2x on the shoulder area. I slowly squeezed the trigger. It is hard to believe but time slows down when you take the shot. I could see the bear through the cross hairs as the shot went off . She dropped in her tracks. The Federal 300 grain hollow point did the job. I learned it was a dry female a few years old. She did not have a cub with her and there was evidence she was not nursing. I felt elated at my first bear. I attached my tag and then put a sprig of balsam in her mouth. I remember as a child listening to my father's friend who had hunted in Germany. He talked of the traditions that were ingrained in the hunting culture of that nation. One such was the last bite. A branch is placed in the mouth of a game animal taken and one would then sit and contemplate the life of that animal. It has always been a time for prayer. Whenever I had taken an animal I would say a short prayer of thanks. I waited until night fall and soon spotted the headlights of the Toyota pick up truck that Curt drove. He congratulated me on my first bear and we spoke of hunting and the traditions associated with it. He said that following his people's tradition he would burn some sweet grass or a smudge. I believe that there is a connection between hunters that transcends most other bonds.
At camp we skinned out the bear. We had weighed it at the check station and it went at 140 lbs. That is the average Maine black bear as far as weight is concerned. I was very happy and elated at the first bear. When I arrived home I made arrangements to have the head mounted. As I sit here there is a reminder of that first bear hunt in Maine in the den. This would not be my last trip to Maine for bear. The following year I would take my largest bear of my life , but that is another story.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dreams of Alaska

I remember the year I obtained my first full time teaching position. I was working with a husband and wife who taught at the same school I was in. Annie and Norman had some relatives in the state of Alaska. Annie had a brother who moved to Soldotna Alaska some time ago and there was a family reunion of sorts in the works. One of Annie's relatives, her Uncle Avigo, was very old and stated that he could not make the long flight to the Great Land. As I was behind my desk correcting papers on the roots of the War of Northern Aggression Annie approached me. She basically stated that I could take the place of her uncle and spend two and a half weeks in the Great Land for ...err... $250...flight included. How could anyone with a scrap of sanity pass that up? I immediately said yes and started to make some phone calls. I was about to live a dream come true.

Shooting the ROA...

This revolver holds a special place in my heart. I bought it a couple of years ago when I was teaching at a special education collaborative in central Massachusetts. I have read a great deal about the Ruger Old Army and wanted to own one . So on the way home I stopped at a gun shop in the area and spotted this behind the counter. It is a bicententennial model with the roll mark Made in the 200th year of Liberty across the top of the barrel. In addition, I bought some conical bullets and a small container of percussion caps. I did not shoot it for a while. The main reason was because I spent a great deal of time job hunting. There was a change in administration and many people who had been with the school did not have their teaching contracts renewed. Needless to say I was in the boat with those who would be looking for new venues of employment. That year was tough in plain English. Not to belabor the point but I was looking for a teaching position for several months. About the only good thing that came of it was that I had the whole fall off to hunt but that was about it. One of the things that was difficult was the mental anguish one feels when you are unemployed. You begin to feel as if you are useless and that the path you had undertaken in life was the wrong one. Well, that whole situation is worth a post of it's own.

It would be a few months before I actually got any range time with the Ruger Old Army. Here in Massachusetts it is difficult to obtain real black powder. There are only a couple of dealers that I know that sell black powder. Most sporting goods retailers sell substitute propellants such as Pyrodex and H777.

One of the things that I noticed right off was that this gun was built for shooting round balls. The front sight is low in profile and when I shot conical bullets they all appeared to hit six to seven inches high at twenty five yards. I knew that there would have to be some changes. Bear in mind that the rear sight was all the way down and could not be adjusted further. I bought some replacement blades but the bad thing is that no matter how hard I tried to put them in right there is a slight cant to the front sight. This will have to be remedied by a gunsmith.

At the range I shot some Buffalo Bore 190 grain conical bullets with a maximum charge of H777. The gun has some recoil and for a lack of a better term feels like a .357 or hot .38 . I did get some wonderful groups off the bench and adjusted the sights. My best group was less than two inches. A real feat. I figured that now it would be set and time for off hand practice.

One of the things that I have noticed with this gun is that you can shoot two to three cylinders before you have to clean the gun up a bit. After that you will get some misfires. They are quite discerning.

My next step is to create a field shooting kit for this gun. I want to buy or make a small leather pouch to contain some basic tools and enough components to reload three cylinders while out in the bush, so to speak. I'll let you know what I discover.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Cow Trick

This was an exciting time in my life. I had a summer full of travel over Alaska as well as much of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain West. Now the culmination of that first summer across the big river would be a guided hunt for pronghorn antelope in the state of New Mexico. This would be the first hunt "out West " for me. To make it more distinguished was the fact that I would be hunting with a single shot handgun. Most people who hunt this magnificent animal use a flat shooting rifle with a variable scope . This would be a challenging hunt not only for me but for the guide. I was a member of HHI and had read about pronghorn antelope hunting in many of the western states. I had made it a point to research and make some phone calls to fellow members as to who would they use for a guide. I came across a story about a guided hunt with Joe Jakab and his outfitting service,Point Blank Hunts. My guide, who is also a first class taxidermist, was Karl Brosig .

I had arrived the day before the August private land season for antelope was to open in New Mexico. We were scheduled to hunt in the northeastern portion of the Enchanted State near the town of Raton. I had driven down a long dirt road to the ranch once owned by a man named Crews Wells. The family had owned the ranch for generations but unfortunately lost it due to inheritance tax. I could understand how he felt as one of my student's family went through the same situation. They were land rich but money poor but the Infernal Revenue Service didn't see it that way. Anyways, I have a bad tendency to go off on a tangent like that with such things.

I met Karl and Nolan Henry the camp cook. Nolan was an interesting character. He was a retired USMC drill Sergeant who worked as the camp cook. He was a wonderful fellow to chat with and always had a good word about things in life. I helped them out set up the large army tents for the camp and then helped Nolan with his cook set. I believed that assistance helped out when I had some "technical difficulties" while trying to get within range of my pronghorn.

That night I slept soundly as the other hunters arrived in camp. The next day I was off to the other side of the ranch . The ranch was approximately 44,000 acres in size. To someone who lived in Massachusetts for one person to own such a piece of land was hard to comprehend . I was dropped off at one spot overlooking a large arroyo and a flat area. As I sat there I had some difficulty comprehending how to hunt these animals. The guide told me that the antelope would be traveling in front of me. Well, there was one that was more than traveling. It was running. These creatures don't exactly move too slow. This thing was clipping right along. They seem to have a natural gait when running. Their bodies remain at an even level while the legs gyrate into locomotion. Other game that I have seen seem to arch their backs when running. This animal seemed to naturally run. I realized that this was going to be tougher than I had imagined, especially with a single shot 30-06 handgun.To a life long New Englander the biggest shock was the openness of the terrain. I have shot deer at ten yards in my hunting career yet here I was in terrain that looked like this

The gun that I took with me out West is a semi custom made single shot called the Competitor. The Competitor uses a rotating breech like a howitzer cannon. You turn the large knob end clockwise to open the breech and drop the shell in . A turn counterclockwise closes and cocks the firearm. This handgun was very accurate. At the NRA's Whittington Center I shot a 2" group at 200 yards off a bench rest. Needless to say the gun would do the job. The bad thing was that the gun was less than reliable. I had a number of misfires. It seemed that I was getting light primer strikes and this would happen a number of times as I was taking aim at some wonderful antelope. I suspect that the striker lost a certain amount of energy as it made that U turn through the breech block.

After that first morning I got a tad antsy and decided to move around. I was on the edge of this large arroyo that was crescent shaped. It partially encircled this flat pan. On the other side were a group of antelope browsing the flat desert plain. I was amazed at their sense of vision. They spotted me from what I gathered to be one mile away. I could visualize this plain area as one square mile as I reside on a lake with a body of water approximately the same size. This was not going to be easy. I thought to myself that if I get down into the arroyo I may be able to sneak up within a certain range of them. Well, I got down and walked a ways. After a bit in the 100 degree sun I ran out of water. I had taken some with me but apparently not enough. I noticed I felt a tad light headed and figured I had better rest. After sitting for a while I spotted Karl's truck. He picked me up and we headed off with the rest of his hunter's for some lunch. He queried me as to how well I did. I told him what happened. I wondered if he questioned my wisdom in using a single shot handgun.

We then went out for the afternoon. I sat on the other end of the flat plain I was on after telling him what I had seen. I hate to say it but my only cover was a fence post. Again this openness was bugging me. Believe it or not I hunt behinds people's homes with a bow and arrow and they are unaware of it. There vegetation can conceal many things. Here there was no concealment to speak of. I knew that these animals had excellent eyesight and can discern movement very well. How would I be able to get within range of one of these animals? I did learn some things. I noticed that antelope run in small herds and that the males tend to be loners. The small herd would be led by a dominant doe. I watched one small herd run across the open flat I was in and stop . The lead female ran up to the fence and then ran a small circle around the herd. Then the whole herd seemed to follow her through this one opening.

That night we ate well. We exchanged stories and pleasantries. It seemed that my New England accent was a point of amusement for some. We retired for the evening. I sort of enjoyed sleeping in the large canvas tent on the arid plain of New Mexico. The next day came quickly.

We all awoke to a wonderful breakfast made by Nolan and then plans were made. I would be with a couple of people and a friend of his as a guide. We took off in his Suburban and then did some spot and stalk. To make a long story short I had some 'technical difficulties'. Remember how I stated that this single shot pistol had a cannon like breech. Well I got some misfires on antelope. I was upset and getting angry at the failure of the thing to fire on many occasions. I am not sure why but I blew some shots. I remember a nice stalk on a trophy antelope and then nothing. The gun malfunctioned again. I was ready to smash it.

That day I took some good natured ribbing and then we headed back to camp. That evening we experienced a large thunderstorm. In fact lightning struck nearby and killed two cattle about two hundred yards from the camp.

The next day we went off. I cleaned my gun and we were ready. This was the final day of the hunt and we planned to use the " cow trick". One of the great weaknesses of antelope is the gift of their acute vision. I surmise that there is a cost to such powerful vision. It must be with depth perception. You can take a plywood cut out of a cow and use it as a movable blind. Karl and I took the cut out and we were able to stalk within forty yards of this one large antelope. It was rough because we did a lot of knee crawling. One of the things I learned was that the ground is rocky, hard and does have some cactus. I did kneel on one nice big cactus that did not tickle.

Anyways. We did very well sneaking up on this animal as it grazed. I then used my ALICE pack stuffed with a sleeping bag as a rest. I put the cross hairs on the animal and took the shot. The 165 grain hand loaded Barnes X bullet took out the antelope. I was elated at the news as Karl watched it drop through the binoculars.We then retrieved my prize and headed to town where it would be processed.

That hunt took place many years ago but I can still close my eyes and see it happening now. Many times I wished I could relive that moment of stalking such a magnificent animal on the open terrain of the Great American West. Maybe I will be able to repeat that experience again. Time will tell.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Black powder handgun hunting.

Many years ago I was bitten by the handgun hunting bug. I became infatuated with hunting with this type of specialized equipment and hunted as much as I could with it, where legal. When I heard that Thompson Center was coming out with a special single shot muzzle loading handgun designed for hunting I was ecstatic. TC came out with their Scout carbine and handgun in the late 1980's with the intent to satisfy a niche market. These firearms were traditionally styled exposed hammer muzzle loaders but utilized an inline ignition. I bought a 54 caliber Scout and mounted a 2x Burris scope on the gun. I liked the feel of the gun and envisioned going on some special hunts with it but never got around to it. For one thing, the gun was not all that accurate for me. I tried all kinds of loads and to make it short, the gun did not shoot well. In addition the gun was a pain to disassemble and clean properly. At that time the only alternative powder was Pyrodex and you needed to clean it almost as soon as regular black powder. After a lot of frustration at the range and the pain cleaning the gun I sold it.

After a number of years I became aware of another specialty muzzleloading handgun being made. Gordon Kahnke of Redwood Falls Minnesota makes a unique muzzleloading rifle and pistol. The Model 82 handgun is similar to the Contender handgun in that you can change barrels to different calibers and lengths. Although their website will state a limited number of barrels, in reality Gordon will make a barrel of any length you want. I bought the muzzleloading handgun , a stainless 50 caliber with a 14" barrel, with the intention of hunting whitetailed deer and other game in northern New England.

The Kahnke M82 is one of the most accurate handguns I have ever owned and shot. It rivals the TC Contender in many ways regarding accuracy. The first time I hunted with the M82 was at a hunting preserve in Maine. I wanted to do some hunting at the end of the deer season but I really didn't want to drive down to Florida for wild boar. I did some net searches and discovered a preserve in northern Maine. Scott Beede is the owner and operator of Hillside Guide Service. In addition to being a guide for native Maine game he also owns a fenced in hunting preserve with several exotics residing in it. I know some people have mixed views on hunting in a preserve. My intention was to try out this handgun and to take home some meat. I knew it would not be as challenging as say stalking feral hogs in a Florida pasture but it wasn't like shooting fish in a barrel. I discovered that the wild boar at Scott's place hide in the hemlock swamps. As a rule they don't like to come out unless pressured by his dog.
I arrived late in the day and met Scott, his daughters and another young man who assisted him. I retired for the evening and slept soundly. The next day I arose to a rather chilly December morning. The temperature was in the single digits and I was glad I had prepared for the weather. I donned my Polar fleece outfit , boots and got my Kahnke M82 loaded and ready. I loaded up a 250 grain TC sabot with a 90 grain charge of H777. Later I chronographed this load at 1350 fps. So in effect I was shooting a 44 magnum.
We crossed the road to the enclosure. The area is a hemlock swamp interspersed with hardwoods and thickets for the game to live in. I was escorted to a box blind overlooking a feed station. I sat there for a couple of hours when I spotted Scott motioning me to come forth. His dog had pushed a wild boar through the area but it was in the hemlocks. He wanted me to have a crack at it.
I followed him through the snow and black growth . We stopped and soon I saw the familiar shape of the boar trotting through the woods. I took careful aim and followed as best as I could. The shot went off and the boar was hit but a bit far back. We had to chase the animal and then finish it off with my Ruger SRH in 454 Casull. My boar was down. The hunt lasted the morning but it was a fun hunt and I had some meat for the freezer. At that time Scott had a special price for the holidays. He had a discount for red deer hinds( those are the females) and I decided to add one to my freezer. I will not lie to you. That portion of the hunt wasn't a challenge at all. I spotted the hind in a pasture and she stood broadside at thirty yards. One shot to the heart and she ambled off for twenty yards and dropped dead. I can't add to that description because it was pretty much matter of fact. I look at it as a pure meat shot. Nothing more. Would I hunt red deer again? Most likely not. Wild boar. Well yes. The was some "hunt" to that hunt.
All in all I had a fun trip and may go again , but for wild boar alone. The other game, to me at least, didn't do much. It sort of sat there.
One of the neat things about the Kahnke is that Gordon can make a smoothbore 20 guage barrel so you can use bird shot. About a century ago Harrington and Richardson made a smoothbored single shot handgun in 410 bore and 28 gauge. It was called the Handi Gun and a number of people hunted small game with them. I know someone who legally owns this type of short barreled shotgun and has hunted with it. I like the concept but the fact remains that it is a class 2 weapon and needs the proper documentation and tax paid to the Treasury. There is a way around the concept, so to speak. Muzzleloaders are exempt, barring state laws, from the federal regulations on barrel length. So in effect you can own a legal handi gun. I called Gordon and asked him if he could make up a 16 " barrel with open sights. He agreed and after relatively short time, I received a package in the mail.
I did some patterning with the gun and centered the 1 ounce load of lead shot with a sixty grain charge of H777. I was ready for the Club's Annual Pheasant Hunt. Each October our sporting club hosts a pheasant hunt on the grounds. Birds are purchased and released on various portions of the property for members to hunt. I was walking with two other members down the old rifle range when we flushed a bird. It flew straight up. At that moment I was able to align the fiber optic sights and pull the trigger. A cloud of white smoke obscured the image of the bird but it was hit and fell in the thick brush. We did some searching and found the bird.
This unique handgun offers the handgun hunter a new opportunity to take on a greater challenge or to hunt the special muzzleloader seasons where allowed. Hopefully I will be able to experience more memories with this special gun.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Secret weapon..

I was sitting on a small folding seat behind a friend's home early one November morning. It was chilly and the wind was in my face. I had hunted this small"honey hole" for a number of years and had taken deer with the bow and arrow. This spot is basically an archery only situation due to the proximity of a number of homes. No one really knows that I hunt in this spot except a couple of homeowners who welcome the reprieve of having their gardens ravaged.

I walked in the dark after donning my Ranch Safari ghillie suit to the spot. I carefully negotiated the woodlands and found my seat. The spot had me against the base of a large white pine overlooking some transitional woods bordering a large swamp. I had sat still with bow in hand overlooking a cut shooting lane and a trail that crossed in front of me. I knew deer would negotiate this trail but I did not know when. My Dad hunted off the ground in a spot nearby with his crossbow and witnessed a large buck walk by. I don't know why Dad did not shoot but I suspect that he let it go. This is my spot, so to speak and he would allow me to have the first crack at any deer. That is his nature. He is a very heart- filled and giving man.

I sat in the predawn darkness and felt the breeze from the west into my face. Soon I spotted something. It was about 6:20 AM when I saw a deer. It was a nice buck walking towards me. What was odd was his manner. He had his nose to the ground and walking down the path very methodically. His tail was wagging back and fourth like a dog. I suspected that he was on the trail of a doe in heat. I guess that is the downfall of all males on this earth. The weakness for the opposite sex. The buck went behind a tree at which I seized my opportunity to raise my bow and draw back. I was in full draw of my old Jennings Buckmaster with a carbon arrow and a Magnus broadhead recently sharpened.

The buck walked and was in the opening that I cleared. At that point I blew a kiss. The buck stopped . It was enough of a moment in time for me to place the sight pin on the deer's chest and release the arrow. The arrow sliced through the air and I saw sparks. It was the broadhead hitting some stones behind the deer.

The deer jumped a little but that instinct in a buck to mate is very powerful. He dropped his nose back to the ground and followed the trail. Again, his tail wagging back and fourth like a dog. He came to a log and tried to step over it. He stumbled and that was the signal that my arrow hit the vitals. The buck got up and again assumed the tail wagging gait.

He went over a small knoll and then I heard some thrashing. I was excited and praying that it was a clean kill. I called Dad on the FRS radio and told him what happened. I picked him up at his stand site and then we went to look. We found the blood trail where the deer stumbled and soon spotted the buck lying on the forest floor. He went about forty yards altogether. A nice clean kill and one that I said a prayer of thanks.

This deer was something special. It was the first deer I killed with the bow on the ground. As a rule I deer hunt exclusively from treestands . That includes rifle, shotgun , muzzleloader and handgun in some places. I believe the reason I did well was two fold. One was that the buck was in the rut and was completely preoccupied. The other was what I call my secret weapon.

About three years ago my fiance Mary and I went across country to the Dakotas for a short vacation. On the way back we stopped at Cabela's in Hamburg Pennsylvania and perused through this huge store. They had a sale on Rancho Safari ghillie suits and bought the hat, jacket, face mask and pants. I have read a great deal about these but this would be my first one.

In addition to deer hunting with the bow I also use it for hunting wild turkey. As you can see, it works well. The suit helps out with my run and gun style of turkey hunting. Generally I do a lot of scouting and try to locate various places where birds have been seen or known to have roosted. I like the fact that this suit acts as your own personal blind.

That turkey too fell for the greatest weakness of all males. I shot him on the last day of our season on some public land in Massachusetts. In a nutshell I basically walked up on him and we were both surprised. I walked around this abandoned barn and across this clearing. As I came up a small rise I looked up and spotted the gobbler in full strut facing to the side of me but totally oblivious to this blob walking quietly within thirty yards or so of him. There was a hen that was near him and that blurred his sense of caution. The hen spotted me and soon he looked in my direction. I raised my shotgun and placed the red dot on his head. My mind calculated that if the dot covers the head he is well within range. I cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger. The 12 gauge 3 1/2 inch magnum load of no 5 shot careened across the opening and anchored him securely.

I went to retrieve my prize . Again a prayer of thanks and the obligatory attachment of the turkey tag completed the process. I walked down the steep hill to where my Dad was waiting at my truck. He was tired and didn't want to climb up this steep hill. I am glad I walked up the hill. Soon he spotted me crossing the pasture and was surprised to see me with the gobbler. He was even more surprised when I told him how I walked up on the bird. Again, I think the secret weapon had something to do with it.

I have learned some tricks to using the suit. What I like to do is take the suit and keep it rolled up in a waterproof canoe bag. I keep a cleanly washed sock with hemlock tips in it as a scent mask. When I get to my stand site I will don the suit over a set of sweatpants and shirt if it is somewhat cool or a polar fleece outfit if it is cold. We can get some bitterly cold weather during our archery season in Massachusetts and find this system works the best. Another thing I do with the suit is I treat it with tick killer. Sawyer products makes a liquid treatment that lasts six weeks. Since I hunt Connecticut archery, which opens September 15Th, I will take the suit and prepare it a day or two before that opener. I keep the suit in the bag except when hunting and then when I am finished I take it off and put it in the bag . At home I will take the suit and allow it to hang up overnight after I spray it down with scent killing spray. I find this method works well .

The suit does have some limitations. The strips of cotton that are attached to the mesh sometimes get dislodged and you can shed some of the suit if you walk through some brushy areas. Since I hunt in stands or pre-scouted locations I generally am able to avoid some of that as an issue but I would not want to wear it going through anything thorny.

Soon, our turkey season will be starting. I have been preparing and getting my permission slips lined up. Hopefully this spring I'll be able to take the secret weapon out and score.

Spring Break

" You got him Hoss. Hit'em again." " Keep firin!" Those were the words of my guide Mike when I shot my first trophy wild boar in the state of Florida. The memories of this hunt go back to February of 1986. I was on a long camping trip with my family throughout the state of Florida and wanted to do some wild boar hunting. I had read much about hunting these animals but never had the experience of going out for them. Now would be the opportunity to do something that most of my fellow New England hunters have not accomplished.

At one time I belonged to a group called Handgun Hunters International. The organization published a newspaper every two months with stories by fellow members who have hunted various game animals around the US and overseas. There were many stories that titillated my hunting appetite and a number of them focused on hunting feral hogs. I had read some stories about hunting these animals in Florida and contacted one of the members. I wanted some good information regarding who I should use as a guide. One of the facts of life regarding Florida is that the best hunting is on private land and unless you own the land or are related to a landowner, you have to pay to hunt. It seems that all of the farms, ranches and orchards lease their properties to clubs, individuals or outfitters. That is a fact of life. What I liked about the articles in HHI's The Sixgunner was that the members were very candid about their hunts. If a guide or outfitter was doing a poor job you would read about it. So after a short phone call to Florida I arraigned to go on a hunt with Mike Acreman of Dixie Wildlife Safaris in Lake Wales Florida.

As a young man I sort of fell in love with that part of Florida. Lets play a game. We'll do some visualization. Close your eyes. When you think of Florida, what are some of the images that come to mind? For some it will be white sandy beaches. For others it will be one of the Disney theme parks. For some it will be bikinis. Sorry. I had to throw that in. For me, my image is taken from a scene of the Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Palmettos. Long leaf pines. Hammocks with Osceola turkeys going about their daily business. To me that is the real Florida and not something that resembles a strip mall.

We arrived at the entrance to the ranch and drove down to the lodge. I met Mike and he was a very amicable person. My mother and father took off to a campground on the other side of the lake that the ranch bordered. Then I unloaded my gear and we headed out in a swamp buggy. This ride was a unique treat. In south Florida a popular means of transportation on these big ranches is with a swamp buggy. I learned that they are made from an old pick up or jeep and generally have no brakes. You use engine compression to slow down. They don't go fast but they tend to plow through most anything. I had taken a 44 magnum revolver for the hunt. I bought a blued Ruger Super Blackhawk with a 7 1/2"barrel with black rubber Pachmayer grips. I had practiced with it incessantly and was a pretty good shot. I began handloading my own ammunition at the age of 15 thus I used some loads of my own creation on this hunt. I had loaded up some Speer 240 grain jacketed soft points over a maximum charge of 2400 powder. I had good groups and I felt confident of taking game with it.

We went through some palmettos when Mike exclaimed," John. There is an armadillo there."I spotted the strange creature and had never seen one in real life. I took careful aim and let the hammer drop. The 240 grain soft point anchored the animal very quickly. From what I learned they are somewhat of a pest in south Florida digging up yards and gardens. Sort of like a woodchuck in many ways.

I retrieved my prize and then we headed back to the camp. After a meal that would scare most heart doctors we retired for the evening and the went to bed. I arose early and had another lumberjack style of breakfast with Mike. We soon headed out to the woodlands. We drove in the swamp buggy throughout the citrus orchards, pastures and woods. I was mesmerized by the natural beauty of Florida . Clear sandy streams. The palmettos and the great variety of bird life. To me this beat anything Mr.Disney could offer any day of the week. We saw deer and a wide variety of exotic game. The ranch is a working cattle and citrus ranch along with offering hunts for exotic game animals. The deer, feral hogs and turkey are very much wild. They would not sit there and let them look at you.

We then began a slow hunt through the palmettos. Soon we spotted two small wild boar. These boar are good for eating. When a wild boar gets above 100 to 150 lbs or so they mature and can become very tough. These meat hogs as they are known make fine table fare. There were two lined up and I we belly crawled within pistol range. I had cocked the hammer of my Ruger and had a clear sight picture on the chest of one black boar. I dropped the hammer and the shot went off. The boar fell in it's tracks.

I was elated at my first big game animal taken with a handgun. In the past I had taken small game such as raccoon,squirrel and opossum but never a large game animal. It was a happy feeling that is hard to put in print. I guess you have to be there , so to speak, to understand.

I was planning to take another boar when we met the ranch manager. He informed us that there was a huge wild boar that someone wounded and needed to be put down. He knew I had a large revolver that would end the suffering of this animal. This trophy sized boar had been difficult to find after being hit . One of the ranch hands spotted the animal in a small clearing and let the manager know about it. We then took off and crept as close as we could to the animal. I can see it in my mind now. The boar had been sleeping. His head facing to the left of me slightly turned with his chest exposed for a clear shot. I had cocked the hammer and had placed the sights on the vitals. I squeezed the trigger and soon the handload was on it's way to do the job.

" Youo got him Hoss.Hit'em again!" It was at that first shot that I realized when a boar gets to that size they aren't pushovers. I hit him in the shoulder and he got up , stood and then looked at me. I was flabbergasted at the scene. "Keep firing!" . I cocked the hammer and fired again. Then again. Yet again. I was amazed at the punishment this animal took to drop in it's tracks.

The boar expired and it's suffering was ended. What lay before me was a true record book wild boar and memories that still last clearly to this day.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NH Handgun moose

" John. I have a big surprise for you when you get back from your trip." I asked what it was over my cell phone. I had been away for a week or so with Mary, my soon to be fiance, in the state of Maine on a weeklong camping trip. We had toured a good portion of the state and were headed back home. I found out what the surprise was when I met my parents. In the mail was a New Hampshire moose permit.

I could not believe my eyes. I had been applying for moose permits in the states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire for quite some time. I never thought I would get lucky and they would pick my name for the hunt. I had been selected to take one moose in zone B1. This area is located in the region called the Great North Woods in Coos County New Hampshire. This is what you can call quintessential New Hampshire. Many of the small towns such as Columbia Falls, Stewartstown and Colebrook fall into images conjured up by the words of Robert Frost.

At the news of that event I began in earnest to prepare. Not only would I hunt moose but I would use a handgun. I have been enamored with handgun hunting since I was eighteen years old. I had been blessed with the opportunity to take many types of game with a handgun and this would be a crowning achievment in my eyes. Getting picked in the moose lottery is tough and many people have applied for years with no success. I was fortunate to be chosen.

I knew what gun I would be using. I have had a love affair with the Contender and my favorite barrel is a Super 16 chambered in the venerable 45-70 Gov't. This was one of the first Super 16 barrels made by Thompson Center in the mid to late eighties. I remember buying it at Kittery Trading Post on a day trip with some friends. The barrel is tapered and unported. I mounted a Redfield 2-6 x variable scope. I figured that I could use low power for any close shots and crank it up if the game was at the end of the effective range of the round. In the past I had JD Jones of SSK Industries mount a TSOB scope base and had them clean up the chamber. This barrel shoots very well and had up to that point taken deer, wild boar and black bear. Now moose would be added to the list of game .

I practiced incessantly with the gun. I sighted in off the bench at 100 yards but then conducted all of my practice with a Storey Point mono pod. I would shoot twenty rounds in what I called field shooting positions. I'd stand outside the shooting house and using the monopod take a shot at the target. I would shoot five shots and then switch the barrel to a Super 16 in 22 lr. I'd shoot twenty rounds or so and then switch the barrel back for five rounds of the 45-70 . Now as you can tell from my image I am a bit stout but the unported 45-70 in a single shot handgun will test the mettle of anyone. I find five shots is my limit for any extended shooting. After that I need to rest my hand and wrist for a while. The 22 lr helped out quite a bit in my shooting practice.

During that summer I made a number of camping trips with Mary throughout the region to find some good moose hunting grounds. We would see moose and take some pictures but Dad and I talked and we chose to hire a guide. I know some will state that it was foolish but you need to remember that we don't live in the area and there are some places that may not be accessable to us. Then there is the care of the game issue. A moose is a very large animal and you need someone to help bring it out of the woods.

This has happened to me in the past but of all times I had an equipment malfunction. The Redfield scope that served me so well, died. This was three days before the hunt. Talk about having a coronary. I quickly switched scopes to a Burris 4x and sighted in. I was ready.

Dad and I drove north from Massachusetts to the Granite State and across the White Mountains. For some reason the ride up seemed to take an inordinate amount of time. We arrived at the guide's camp and unloaded our gear. The plan was for us to be dropped off at a prescouted area and wait for a moose to show up. This was my first time hunting moose . My father hunted moose before I was born in Newfoundland. In fact while hunting my mother shot one large cow on that trip. What was special about that trip was that she dropped the moose with one shot behind the ear at a good three hundred yards away. Open sigts at that. The guide they had was so flabergasted that he got drunk and was out of commission for a few days.

Back to New Hampshire. That first opening day offered a shot at a huge bull. We were sitting on the edge of a large clear cut when we spotted a small moose cross in front of us and climbed up this mountain like you would negotiate a set of stairs. After about a half hour a huge bull crossed. I wanted to take him but he was too far out. I had tried to crawl into range and I might have been able to take him but chose not to. I didn't want to take a chancey shot. My Dad was with me as a subpermittee and was pushing his 30-06 rifle to me. I declined. I worked too hard to shoot one with the rifle. I wanted to take a bull with the handgun. Soon the big bull was gone.

After that we didn't see anything except one cow moose. In fact while sitting on that hillside we watched a cow and calf go up to my pick up truck and poke their heads into the bed of the truck. I wished I had been able to take a picture of that . We did spot a large bull but we could not figure out how to get within range. We worried that this was the only spot that we could hunt moose. If we burn it here we may go empty handed.

The next day we went out in the morning . It was somewhat foggy and there was a drizzle. The guide had spotted three moose. One cow, a calf and a large fork horn for a lack of a better term. We had walked up the logging road and then stalked to about 100 yards of an opening in the older clear cut.

Off to the north was the bull. The guide let out some throat vocalizations and he stopped. At that point my eyeglasses were fogged over and I had to wipe a lens to see the game. The moose was broadside to me when I rested the cross hairs on it's chest. I squeezed the trigger and the hammer fell. I felt the gun move but could not discerne the recoil. When hunting that seems to be the case. You don't feel the kick, so to speak. The moose turned and ran up the hill. He stopped and then I shot again. The bullet struck the heart area. Soon the mighty bull was begining to stumble. After two or three steps, he fell forward and expired.

I had a sense of elation and accomplishment. One factor that was missing was my father. He was at the bottom of the hill . I had wished he was at my side but he knew I connected with the shots. The moose was hit at 125 yards with two shots to the lungs. The guide was somewhat surprised. He never knew someone could shoot a handgun so well. He found the two bullet holes. They were a measured 1 1/2" apart from each other.

After the ATV was used to drag the bull down we went to the check station in Pittsburg for the metal tag. I was happy and proud of this event. Some people may laugh at a moose and think of it being a buffoon but the truth is, when they are hunted they are anything but the Bullwinkle of animation fame. They become very wary and can use those huge legs to transport themselves out of an area very quickly.

After that moose I got lucky again. My mother obtained a permit for moose and I was the subpermittee. I again shot another handgun moose in 2005 but that is another story and there are some things that are difficult for me to talk about. Some things went wrong on that hunt and created some issues that now have been resolved.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dad and the Grouse..

I have been blessed in my life with a great father. He has provided well for the family and has instilled a great passion for the outdoors. He is well liked by many people who have met him and enjoys the outdoors as much as he can.

This story is somewhat funny but has a bit of a sad ending. We have permission to hunt deer with the rifle on some private land in Connecticut. As a rule, this honey hole fills up our freezer each season and we have some wonderful hunts together.This spot is a crossroads for deer and other wildlife. One time I had a bobcat walk under my treestand and it appeared to want to climb up into the tree, but I will save that for another posting.

Dad and I parked in the farmer's yard and walked down through the pasture to the edge of the woodlot. The woodlot is a large patch of mountain laurel with oak interspersed through the area. Deer naturally funnel down from the hills into this refuge. While we were going to our stand we noticed something. Dad has trouble hearing due to working with sheet metal all his life. The incessant hammering in the days when no one wore any sort of auditory protection took a toll on his ability to hear. I've been lucky in this regard as my career may involve some yelling from time to time but that is about it. So I have a pretty good sense of hearing.

I heard something walking through the leaves. It was early but I could not discern what it was. I knew it wasn't a deer but something else. Soon I spotted the source of the noise. It was a ruffed grouse. This grouse was not what you could call a normal grouse. This grouse would follow my father to his stand and basically harass him for the whole length of his hunt. The little grouse would follow my Dad to his ladder stand and back. But that is not the end of it. This bird would then walk around the base of his stand and for a lack of a better term, make purring sounds. It was very chicken like and rather interesting to see. After a short period of time,Mr. Grouse would then hop from branch to branch and sit near Dad's head. The grouse would basically purr in his ear to no end. It was rather comical but I think it got on his nerves after a while. For some reason the grouse did not allow me to get as close as Dad. A few times Mr. Grouse would land on Dad's shoulder or head. It really startled him and Dad worried about Mr. Grouse poking him in the eye. I know this story sounds almost unbelievable but see for yourself.

Here is Mr. Grouse walking back with Dad from a morning's hunt. I would laugh quite a bit watching the little grouse escorting Dad out of the patch making little grouse noises. Each time we went out he would tell me basically the same story. Mr. Grouse would follow him in to the stand and he'd have about fifteen minutes of peace. Then Mr. Grouse would fly up and sit on hsi arm , shoulder or head like a parrot. Mr. Grouse would come close to me but he never got within three feet of me. I took a number of photos and to prove how close he got here is one of the grouse on a branch next to Dad's head.

That season was very good to us. I was able to fill my firearm deer tags and add much needed venison to our freezers. Unfortunately Dad had some difficulty. It seemed that nothing went by Dad's stands with the exception of Mr. Grouse.

Sadly, Mr. Grouse did not make it past Christmas of that year. Each Holiday season we approach the farmer who graciously lets us hunt on his land and we offer gifts to the family. Usually a bottle of cheer for him and a homemade gift for his wife. We told them about Mr. Grouse. He said that he knew of the bird because his grandchildren saw it. They would watch the bird follow them and his grandson would actually hold it like it was a pet of some kind. Unfortunately, the family dog finished off Mr. Grouse.

In a strange way I was a little heartbroken. I grew fond of the bird and that is ironic since I have hunted these birds for many years but I have never seen one in that acted this way. I suppose that with this bird's behavior, survival was very limited at best. It did not seem to have a sense of danger that most ruffed grouse have. It seemed to be a flaw of some type that was eventually it's downfall. Still, I did feel sorry for Mr. Grouse.

Since then I have not seen any more grouse nor have I had experiences like that. Maybe one day I will have another experience such as we had with Mr. Grouse. As I sit here, I'll raise a glass to Mr.Grouse. You will be missed.