Blog Entries from the WeHuntSC.com blogging crew
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.
In the midst of football and all the food plot work, I was able to go hunting some this past weekend. The first two times I went, I sat over the remote food plot hoping to catch something coming through, but nothing stopped by. Though, on my second trip in I did have one blow at me just as I was getting situated in the stand. I was not happy to spook a deer and give away my location, but at least it was a good sign that deer are in the area. I?ll have to be quieter the next time I go in there.
As you know, it has still been really hot and humid out there which equals sweat which equals mosquitos. All I can say is ?Thank God for Thermacell?. I sat out in the heat 3 times this past weekend and didn?t get one single mosquito bite! Thermacell is definitely a must-have product. If you?re reading this and have never used a Thermacell, then you?re missing out.
What can I say?Derek has inspired me, so this year I?m carrying a video camera with me which gives me something else I?m trying to learn how to do! Hopefully I can get some good shots of deer without spooking them by knocking the camera over or clicking any buttons. Already I?ve learned that you have to have your ducks in a row to carry everything you need for your hunt + the camera & tripod out to the stand in one trip. It?s just one more thing to carry, but when you do get deer on camera it?s really worth it to be able to share the videos with everyone because people always ask ?Did you see anything? and instead of trying to explain the setting to them, I just show them the video now!
The first two hunts I went on this past weekend were in the morning and I went out to the remote food plot. On my last hunt of the weekend I chose a different scenery and went out to a freshly cut corn field. My hunt over the corn field was an afternoon hunt. The corn field is so big that sometimes you can see deer and not be able to shoot them due to their distance. I hoped to get a deer, but more so, I just hoped to get some footage. You know how it is when you try something new?you?re all gung-ho about it, so I was fired up about getting any kind of footage.
I got to the stand and found a small wasp nest and a ton of ants waiting on me. After fending all that off the best I could, I got situated and ready. I sat for a long time and was texting my friends seeing what was going on with them. The sun slowly started to set and as it did the light was just slapping me in the face. I had to squint and sit awkwardly for a while just to keep the sunlight from blinding me. After the sun went behind a cloud and got a little bit lower, I was able to sit normally and see clearly again. It was ?that time??you know the time when you expect deer to walk right as the sun starts to set.
I was scanning the field and way off, I mean way off, I saw a flicker. Instant pulse-rate increase. It was a deer and it was about 350 yards out. I zoomed in with the camera and could barely see it due to the remaining corn stalks, crests of the hills, and distance. I was excited to see some activity, but disappointed that it was so far off that I couldn?t get any decent film or shoot. The deer browsed the field a little then returned to the woods. Shortly after that, I noticed something brown moving through the field to my left. When I looked up I saw a whole group of deer walking out about 200 yards from me. I tried to zoom in and out in the video to demonstrate how far out they were. The group had about 5 ? 6 deer in it and I went to grab my camera and position it to video the deer then CLANK?some kind of metal piece on the tripod dropped off and hit the bottom of the stand. I just knew that I had blown it, but luckily the deer didn?t hear anything. I had to re-gather and get the camera in position. In a few seconds, I got the camera up and zoomed in to see the deer. At this point my gun was still across my lap. The deer were so far out that any touch of the camera made the camera bounce and become difficult to see. It looked to be a group of does and so I filmed them for a little while. I was debating on trying to pull a shot off at that distance, but decided to film them for a little while first.
After filming them for a little bit, I finally decided to shoot. I thought about it and I had my doe tags and everything so why not give it a whirl. I put my gun up and was looking through the scope. The whole time I was trying to pick out which one had the biggest body. The last thing I wanted to do was shoot a young buck or a small doe. At that distance, it was challenging to figure out which one had the largest body. Also, I knew I would have to aim a little high if I was going to have a chance because the deer were way out and the bullet would drop at that distance. Side note: I?m shooting a 243.
These deer were walking and browsing and, to my surprise, some of them started lying down in the middle of the field. I had never seen this before and was kind of amused by it. I thought maybe the first deer was lying down to scratch her back or something, but then another laid down too. I didn?t know if they all planned on lying down, but I figured I better not waste any more time. I went back into the scope and picked out the lead deer because it had the biggest body. I aimed high and pulled the trigger. I saw the fire come out the end of the gun and then the remaining deer scattered. You can see them jump up in the video. I chambered another shell and watched the others run from the field. I sat there for a little bit, calmed down, and then went walking to see if I could find any blood. I really didn?t expect that I could hit a deer from that far out.
I walked over to where I shot and didn?t see anything and then I walked a little further and saw a doe lying on the ground. I couldn?t believe I hit the deer at that distance. It turned out that my shot was high indeed as I hit the doe in the neck. We weighed the doe at the processor and it weighed exactly 100 lbs, but dragging it all the way across that field I could have sworn that it was heavier.
The video turned out to be darker than it was in reality of the setting. I guess the lens of the camera couldn?t pull in all ambient light, but nonetheless, you can see in the video that the light source began to lessen as I filmed the deer. If you watch towards the end, you can see the deer lying down and then you can hear the shot (at the 10:40 mark of the video) and see them jump up and scatter. The deer I shot was actually out of the frame of the video.
In the end it was good to get a doe and get on the board. Last year I missed a doe broad-sided at about 30 yards out and this year I got one a little over 200 yards out with the same gun? it?s better to be lucky than good any day!