Blog Entries from the WeHuntSC.com blogging crew
Buck Yum Trophy Feed and Supplement Mixture
On an afternoon in late September, I pulled my truck into a nondescript warehouse in Waxhaw, NC. Waiting for me inside was my childhood friend Robert Burns, co-owner of Buck Yum. I hadn't seen Robert in at least a half-dozen years. The last time I saw him was over in our old neighborhood in Charlotte, which he was using as a base of operations for selling tree stands. Robert and I spent an hour or so catching up on the events of the past few years, telling each other about our families and reminiscing about some of the old times we had spent together hunting while we were growing up. I left his warehouse with a couple of hundred pounds of Buck Yum in the back of my truck.
The first time I used this new feed, I scattered a fifty pound bag around a small food plot on my lease, taking note of the extremely strong scent of peanuts that was present in the feed. After pouring it out, I quickly got in a box blind for the evening hunt. Before long, an extremely strong storm system passed through the area, and my food plot was soon a mass of mud and muck, and no deer appeared. The feed washed away in the rain, and I was extremely disappointed as I headed home - not in the product itself, but in the fact that I'd wasted fifty pounds of it.
The following weekend, I went back down to my club and used two more bags to fill up a pair of feeders that I had in different spots on the property. I chose to wait a week before hunting those stands. When I returned the following week, I was amazed at how different the ground around my feeder looked. Before Buck Yum, there had been some obvious signs of animals feeding, but the difference now was quite distinct. The ground around the feeder had been swept clean of pine needles, as you can see in the picture below. A week after that, there were green shoots coming up where some of the smaller elements of the feed had taken root and had sprouted, adding yet another reason for deer to come to the feeder.
My trail cameras showed a variety of deer coming to both feeders, and I knew that Buck Yum was a hit. Last week, I went to a stand that has not had a bit of Buck Yum near it all year, and I poured ten pounds out on the ground seventy yards from the feeder. Literally twenty minutes after I poured it out and got in my stand, a doe appeared and went directly to the feed. She started eating it, and within another five minutes she was dead on the ground, victim of my 7mm magnum. My experience with Buck Yum has been extremely positive, and I'll be replenishing my supply at the first opportunity. Congratulations to Robert Burns and Brad Hoover on an excellent product.
Garmin Montana 650 GPS
Over the last decade, I've owned a steady stream of Garmin GPS units. My first experience with Garmin's products was an iQueue 3600 Palm Pilot GPS unit, which did an extremely good job providing directions on the road, but it did not have any off-road maps available and was thus useless in the deer woods. I replaced it with a Garmin Colorado, which I liked quite well. The screen was extremely readable in broad daylight, and it was very accurate when it came to marking waypoints.
The unit's software was somewhat lacking, and when the Oregon product line came out, Garmin did not provide any firmware updates for the Colorado for quite some time. I liked my Colorado, but wanted some of the features of the Oregon, so I sold the Colorado on eBay and upgraded to an Oregon 400T. This was another great unit, and was well supported by the Garmin team. The main issue with it was that the screen was much harder to read in daylight.
When Garmin announced the Montana lineup, I sold my Oregon and ordered a Montana from the REI store up in Charlotte. It took a couple of months to arrive, but when it did, I had found the GPS that I was looking for. The unit has an extremely solid feel, and the large touch screen is easily visible in the daylight.
This GPS is not, however, for everybody. It's quite bulky when compared to some of the other units on the market. I like the bulkiness of it myself; it's very rugged and fits well in my hand. It's got a built-in camera, but I would only use that when I don't have my normal camera with me. The pictures that it takes are fine, but I'm more interested in the GPS itself rather than the camera. Another downside is that there have been at least six firmware updates in the last three months. That's quite a lot, and it indicates that there are several bugs in the software. However, it also shows that Garmin is serious about supporting the unit, and is actively developing fixes. Most of the issues that have been fixed involve Geocaching, which I don't do, and I personally have not experienced any problems with the unit.
Having said all of that, I'm extremely happy with this GPS, and hope to get many years of service out of it. I carry it in my backpack every time I go hunting, and have used it to mark all of my stands and all of the roads on my lease. I'm using Energizer Lithium batteries, and I am on my second set after 4 months of average usage. The unit also functions well for on-road navigation provided that you purchase the appropriate City Navigator maps. If you buy the auto-mount base, you'll also get voice directions with the unit.
When it comes to flashlights, I'm something of an enthusiast. For the last ten years, I've carried a Surefire 9P light in my Jeep, and whenever I've gone hunting I've stuck it in my backpack for easy access. A week or two ago, I went to get my oil changed. As always, I took the Surefire from the little slot that it fit perfectly in on my Jeep's shifter area and stuck it in the center console. When I went to get it out later that night, it was gone, likely stolen by an employee of the oil change place. After calling the York County sherriff's office to ask them how to proceed, they said to go back over and talk to the oil change place along with a police officer. I did this, and we failed to recover my light. Fortunately, the owner of the place was more than willing to pay me for it, so I left with a check to cover the cost of the 9P along with the LED replacement head that I had installed.
When I went to order a new one, I found that the 9P was no longer in production. I decided to shop around. I've got a Fenix headband light which is incredibly powerful and flexible, so I decided to give them a try on their handheld lights. I ended up ordering three lights... an E-20 for my wife, an E-21 for my Jeep, and a TA-20 for my backpack.
I 've been using the lights ever since, and thought I'd share my findings. The E-21 has a max output of 150 lumens. While not as bright as my old 9P, it uses standard AA batteries and fits pretty well in the same slot that my Surefire did. It's a good enough replacement, and does the job that I need it to do. Turning the head of the light slighty will select beween the bright and dim settings. I've got a stanard set of Duracells in the light right now, but the instructions do suggest using a high quality set of rechargable batteries. I'll be giving that a try in the near future.
The TA-20 light has a really solid feel to it, and at 220 lumens is 10% brighter than my old Surefire, even when I had the high-output head attached. It's got 4 times the life at full power than the Surefire did. The light uses CR-123 batteries and has an easy-to-use selector ring to adjust the output from four lumens up to the full 220 lumen mode. The low level mode is great for use in the dark in a deer blind. It gives you just enough light to see without being bright enough to alert the deer of your presence. This light is definitely going to be a keeper.
For those of us who love to read, there are a few good books that help shape our lives. When I come across a book that I truly love, I am not one to read it once and set it aside. I like the familiarity of a book that I've come back to time and time again over the years. It doesn't matter to me that I know how the book ends, because it's not the destination that matters... it's the journey itself that gives me joy.
There is no book that I've read from cover to cover more than Robert Ruark's classic The Old Man and the Boy. If you're a sportsman and a reader and have not read this book, then you really need to drop everything and go get a copy. The choices that Ruark made in his life were often tragic, and he died far too early, but the glimpses of his early life that he gives us in this book (and, to a lesser degree, in The Old Man's Boy Grows Older) are nothing short of magic. No outdoor writer before or since has come close to giving us the gift that Ruark gave us when he wrote this book. I make sure to read the original book once a year, and I read Grows Older once every two or three years.
I also hold his book Horn of the Hunter in high esteem, since it deals with African safari, which is another passion of mine. In this book, Ruark gives us the details of his first safari in brutal honesty, from the highs to the lows. Though not nearly as good as his Old Man books, Horn gives us a glimpse of the man that Ruark became, and his love for Africa shows through in every page.
When it comes to more modern books, Joe Hutto's Illumination in the Flatwoods provides an absolutely facinating look at the wild turkey. In this book, Hutto comes into possession of a clutch of turkey eggs, which he incubates and hatches, and then joins their "family", walking with them in the woods and even roosting with them on occasion. A must-read for turkey hunters.
For Christian men, I have to recommend the books of John Eldredge; particularly Wild at Heart. Eldredge and his books have literally changed my life, showing me how to live with an understanding of what Christianity really means and what it is to live in what he calls the "larger story." In 2008 I attended Eldredge's "Wild at Heart Boot Camp" in the mountains of Colorado, and although I was sick for most of the weekend, I went away from the conference with a different outlook on my spirituality.
I was pumped to see the second season come in and for good reason. The last few weeks have been pretty awesome for me and my gang. We?ve been hunting lakes, swamps, ponds, and beaver holes. We?ve seen ducks in every spot we?ve been to. I want to tell you about a few hunts we?ve had over the past few weeks.
One hunt, that really sticks out in my mind, is the morning my buddy, Cole Lowery, put the smack down on a few geese. It was a COLD morning. The water was frozen, but we were determined to hunt either way. We headed out to a little pond- this pond holds a lot of ducks to be such a small pond. Justin Gainey, Cole, and I decided to break a section of the ice and throw out the decoys. We worked and worked to break up the ice but it would freeze back up as soon as we would get back to the bank. Getting ready for the ducks to fly in, we took a break to talk about how cold it was and how we really had no sense to be out in such cold weather. The birds started chirping and then the ducks started flying in. We busted a few wood ducks. We were pretty pumped about it. The ducks were scattered around us, so Justin and I decided to start picking them up. We laid our guns down and took off into the water to get them. While Justin and I were out in the water gathering the ducks, Cole stood on the bank and guided us in the right direction. I glanced across the field, and all I could see were geese coming right toward us. I was too far from my gun to take off to get it and so was Justin. I started yelling at Cole to get ready because the geese were coming in. All I could do was stand there and watch. Man, that made me sick. They came in pretty as could be, all but landing on the end of Cole?s gun barrel because they were so close. Cole started firing and geese started falling. After the first shot, two geese fell to the ice. Then, he shot two more times and two more geese fell. He reloaded, shot again, and another one dropped. He had reached his limit. We were all so excited. We jumped up and down like we were kids again. All three of us were pumped up about our great morning. Not to mention, it is Cole?s first year of duck hunting and he was very excited. We had so much fun that morning. I can still play it back in my mind like it was yesterday. That was definitely a morning to remember.
The next hunt that sticks out is another morning to remember. It was the cold morning of December 18th. The boys got together and headed down the long, muddy, bumpy road that leads us to the honey hole. We got our gear together and headed on into the beaver hole. We got set up, and it was just a matter of time until we would be seeing some ducks. In no time, the ducks started diving in and we started shooting as fast as we could shoot. At one time, I couldn?t keep my gun loaded. I dry fired more than I fired successfully. It is a rush that I can?t put into words. We shot close to ten minutes straight. I was keeping up with the number of ducks we hit. I yelled out to the boys that we could only kill two more ducks before we reached our limit. The last shots were fired and reaching the limits was taken care of. We had reached six limits of wood ducks. All we could do was sit back and admire them as they flew. We had EIGHTEEN wood ducks and THIRTEEN of them were drakes. We were hyped about our great hunt, but also glad we had reached our limits because between the six of us, we probably didn?t have a full box of shells left. Ducks were laying everywhere. It was such a great hunt and the first time of the season that we all reached our limit. I had to go out of town that morning for a Christmas gathering so I left the cleaning to the other guys. I?m sure they had a few choice names for me that morning.
Another impressive memory is when some friends of mine gave me a call one evening to ask if I wanted to go to Lake Wateree to hunt. Of course, I was ready to be in on the lake action, so I gathered up my lake gear that night. I arrived at their house at 4:00 AM. By 4:15, we, with our gear, were packed into the Trailblazer like a pack of sardines. We finally arrived at the boat landing and started loading all of the gear into the boat. The excitement in the air felt like Christmas morning. The boat's throttle is bad about freezing up when it is that cold. Thankfully, we were prepared for it. We had two clothes hangers ready to rig up to get us to the hole. We were determined to make the best of it and shoot some ducks. We took off across the lake with P-Nut driving the boat... with the clothes hangers. (It was worth the trip just to see this!) We arrived to the lucky log, got the decoys out, and hid away the boat. We were ready to hunt. I had my usual "break time". The set up looked good and the sun was rising quickly. We could see ducks flying above and all around us. We decided to take out a few of those ducks. We killed a few drake woodies. We sat back and were waiting on the mallards to fly in. All of a sudden, P-Nut yelled to Doug to "Call 'em in, man!" P-Nut had spotted three malley birds in the distance. Doug started calling, and the ducks started turning toward us. At first, they came in a little out of shooting range but Doug wasn't going to let them get away. He called them back in. This time they were within shooting range. Everybody sat as still as the tree we were perched on, and it was paying off. When the ducks came into land in the decoy spread, we rose up and fired. All I could see was three ducks hit the water. My heart was pounding. We had dropped all three ducks. We started yelling, dancing, and hooting across the lake. We didn't care if we saw another duck because we accomplished what we came to do. We gathered the ducks and the decoys, and began taking pictures immediately. We started our journey back across the lake so we could get our feet warmed up. We had a good time that morning. I think Doug's head may have grown a little that day, but he called them in so two thumbs up to him!
The last few mornings have been depressing in comparison to the start of the season. I can count on both hands the amount of ducks I have seen. Hopefully, whatever element has changed will go back to normal soon, and we can have a few more good hunts this season. This also proves that it?s not about duck killing. It?s about the hunt. Not every hunt will be as successful, but the time shared during the hunt makes the good hunts even better.