Monthly Archives: December 2010

LATE GOOSE, DAY 2

There’s a measure of insanity, I suppose, in the psychology of the late season goose hunter. The first couple days of ridiculous wind and nose-numbing temps are warmed with the honks, circling and set wings of naïve birds. By day 3, the masses have been shot at enough that they now fly twice as high and scrutinize each decoy spread as thoroughly as Gert Boyle does a Columbia jacket.

Hopeful

But the chance of knocking down a few more, even when the going gets down-right silly, is simply too much to resist. And so we press on into the corn and winter wheat.

Still hopeful

It’s a disease called just 5 more minutes. You may have heard of it. Every hunter and fisherman worth their salt wrestles with it. You are absolutely certain that the next bite, the big buck, or the willing flock of geese are moments away. Just 5 more minutes turns into a half-hour, a couple hours, an royally angry spouse…

As for my dad and I (Cam stating “I’d like to go, but I’m warm right now”), the birds didn’t start flying in any numbers till close to noon…a full 4 hours after we first placed our decoys. When they did, the neighboring field was where they looked, circled and left. Small consolation that the birds didn’t like the spread that the six hunters had over there either. Of course, having exhausted almost two hours of just 5 more minutes, as we were packing up, seven or eight groups passed low overhead and we watched a decent flock gave in to better judgment and careened into the corn stubble of that adjacent field. Bang, bang, bang…

They'll be here any minute

Well, Day 2 saw no birds in the truck and will probably be my last time out this year. Which is OK. Even the most die-hard outdoorsman needs a break.

Besides, I hear the Lake Ontario tribs are still open, and full of steelhead.

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, In the woods

LATE GOOSE, DAY 1

After two months of watching thousands, nay, tens-of-thousands fly care-free over the Upstate countryside–the season for freezing in snow-covered fields amongst a decent set of decoys for Canada geese has opened again.

Getting ready for action

Half the set and a layout blind

The northwest wind had some serious teeth and flurries. And when the birds got up off Canandaigua Lake late morning, they all got up. Flock after flock fought their way into the wind, looking for any decent field to land. Some fifty in number, some in two’s and five’s. Unfortunately, the next field north proved to be where they all wanted set their wings and park. Fortunately, we managed to gabble and honk sexy enough to get some looking our way. We ended the morning with four…one looked about the size of a Buick dropping in. It was a beautiful thing.

The tailgate shot

Grip and toothless grin

Cam and Papa

Cam lasted for almost 2 1/2 hours in close to single-digit temps and then feasted on PB&J, saltines and a banana in dad’s truck for a spell. He’s a tougher nut than I was at his age by-golly.

Day 2, tomorrow.

 

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, In the woods

AS THE YEAR ROLLS ON TO A CLOSE

I’m slow to type this morning. Sitting at my desk in the front room, looking out the window at passing traffic on Main Street. Sun. A strong cup of coffee. Bootprints in the snow where the kids wait for the bus by the maple out front.

My daughter stops in. Whatcha doing dad?
Writing, Bird. Working on a blog post.
Oh.

She reads the first two lines, since that’s all I’d written at that point. Gives me a quick hug and heads back to join her brothers in a Wii tennis battle.

I suddenly saw the not-so-distant future. At 9, she’s just about at the point where she could sit and read the blog, if she was so inclined. Crazy…my kids being old enough to read their Old-Man’s ramblings. I know they’re the reason this blog exists, but they’re all-too-quickly becoming part of my audience in addition to being my stories’ central characters. I can just hear them: I remember that! or I can’t believe you posted that video. or How come all you have are pictures of small fish?

There are moments as a parent when the gravity of being a parent makes you say damn. When you start to feel like you’re a bit further down the adulthood-road than you want to admit. When you realize that life is too short to not take a chance on following your passion because that’s what you want your kids to do. This was one of those moments. But it’s also been one of those years.

My aim was to compose a tremendous, poetic retrospective of 2010. But the small, quiet realization (reminder, really) that my kids are quickly growing up changed my aim to something much simpler. Looking out the window this morning–Christmas music from the other room, the occasional ping and clang from the pipes and radiators upstairs, the smell of the Douglass fir with its lights and ornaments–my thoughts drift through a sort of mental inventory of this past year. Fishing trips and full hunting seasons. Settling into a new house. Kids and sports (and more sports). Much more time spent with family. The start of this blog and the very cool folks I’ve met through it.

In the end, I just want to keep in mind how blessed a dude I am. To appreciate it each day. Here’s to a tremendous 2011. Merry Christmas everyone…and Happy New Year.

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KNIVES, SLEDS & CUSTOM BOWS

In establishing a gear review section on here, I became immediately aware of the fact that actually having new gear to review is sort of a necessary component. Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a some very cool items come my way recently, which I will be writing about in the next few weeks. Here’s a brief preview:

The first two opportunities came through Rebecca and Joe over at the Outdoor Blogger Network via their well-built (and growing) gear review program.

This just in...

The first is the SOG Aura Hunting knife, which I just received in the mail today. There’s a couple weeks of archery and muzzleloader season left and I’ve got a couple tags left to fill. With any luck (and a W/SW wind) I’ll be putting this impressive knife through it’s paces.

Getting the dekes off my back

The second is the Jet Sled from Shappell. The snow is flying and late goose season opens Christmas weekend. In the absence of an ATV and trailer, I’ve humped enough decoy bags into the field to appreciate the benefit of a quality hunting sled. And it’s in camo, no less. Win, win.

Nothing but wood goodness

And finally, I’ll be spending some time at the archery range with a selection of BlackWidow custom recurves, and possibly a longbow. Thanks to my friend Grant Taylor, who is very well-liked by the folks at BW, we get to practice some instinctive shooting with these gorgeous, wood-works of art.

Looking forward to some quality time with some quality gear. Stay tuned.

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WHEN THE SNOW FLIES

My last-minute run to the woods to fill my tag with a big buck was not thought out particularly well. I dressed warm, threw my pack, blaze-orange hoodie, hunting vest and shotgun into the idling truck. The tank read half. The windshield was frost-free. In spite of a couple good snow storms in the last week, the roads were generally clear and the three-speed straight-six did its best against a ridiculous W/NW gale.

Now, of trucks and deer hunting, there are a couple well-known rules that should be noted once the snow flies:
1. Make sure you’ve got weight in the bed of your truck. As long as I can remember my dad having a truck this has been a seasonal ritual. Putting sandbags in the back. It’s the one thing that separates you from all the yahoos whose trucks are buried in drifts, ditches or the rear-end of some unsuspecting Prius. Unless that one thing is beer, in which case sandbags won’t make them a dang bit of difference.
2. When a front is moving in and the wind and snow go horizontal, it’s best to grab a beer and watch the game. For all intents and purposes, that’s what the deer are doing.

Of course when it comes to rules, well-known doesn’t mean always-followed. Take my present situation for example.

My lack of forethought pertaining to rule #1 struck me as I pulled a u-turn to park the truck on the side of the road where we walk into our woods from: I’ve got zero weight in the bed of the truck. I pulled onto the shoulder, getting as close as possible to its edge without sliding over, in order to allow enough room for the fly-wing of the County’s plow truck to leave my mirror attached.

If I get stuck, I told myself, standing in the squall, I’ll cross that bridge when I’m done hunting– effectively dismissing rule #2 as well. This is how the male hunting-mind works. It’s a complex and inexplicable animal.

I suited up, locked the truck and started the 1/4-mile hike across a wide-open field to the woods.

Once in the woods, I spotted a half-dozen new rubs, but no fresh tracks. I was confident that this would be my afternoon. I settled into the stand, hung my gun on its hook and lit my pipe. The wind blew snow in whirls and clouds through the hardwoods around me. I was warm enough from the hike in to leave my gloves in my pocket for a while. Life was good.

Twenty minutes passed. No longer warm from the hike in, I put my pipe away and fished my gloves from my pocket. To my right, a big doe walked out from behind a thicket of trees, picking her way toward me. A doe was not on the docket for today’s hunt, but I grabbed my gun from its hook in case my buck was sniffing around.

She stood facing my direction at 40 yards. If I moved, she’d bust me and the jig would be up. I sat like a rock. Every direction she looked or turned her ears toward, I followed with my eyes. Five minutes later, she lied down right where she was standing. No buck. Just a bed comfortable enough to ride out the storm, complete with a view of a blaze orange testament to what happens when you don’t follow the rules. Shit.

So there I sat. Wind and snow. Dropping temps. More wind and snow. Nose running like a track-star. After two hours, she continued to lie there chewing her cud, body almost snowed-over. Snowed-over as well, and right about the time I started talking to the squirrels in neighboring trees, I decided I needed to stand up. Success. Daylight gave out twenty minutes later and she busted me climbing down out of the tree. I could sort of feel my fingers and toes again as I traipsed out of the woods to the field, a fading gray and drifting tundra.

In the end, the truck didn’t get stuck. That’s not to say I didn’t come uncomfortably close, mind you. I pulled slowly from the shoulder to the road. Fishtails dictated that 35 mph was all the truck would allow. Slow and steady. Which was fine by me. I had nothing to prove that I suppose hadn’t already. Besides, the game wasn’t starting for another hour and twenty minutes…and the beer wasn’t going anywhere either.

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