Sunday, November 18, 2012

Elk Hunting

I am once again back in the woods quite literally in pursuit of a Cow Elk. I have been swamped with work in my shop which in my view is a positive experience, yet leaves me at times wishing I was chasing waterfowl a bit more often. Have not even dawned my chest high waders yet this year. As for my elk hunt, well lets just say I have way more experience and practice chasing elk than I do actually shooting elk. This time around the weather has been better. I began this hunt a few days ago with anywhere from zero to 4 or 5" of old wet snow that has gone through several freeze thaw cycles leaving it crunchy loud and then slushy as temps warm throughout each day. Now the rain has returned. Tracking is challenging as the tracks get washed out quickly and unless you happen to be right on'em it's a put in your time and hope you have a bit of luck on your side. I hope we actually get enough rain to melt most of the snow so that it will be a bit quieter while walking.

I did have an opportunity a few days ago but I rushed my shot and flat out missed. I was on several fresh tracks when the temps were a bit colder and it always happens so fast. I stalked on fresh tracks for maybe 10 minutes and before I knew it I saw a flash of brown through the woods. Instantly my adrenaline kicked in. I told myself to stay calm as I held my position so I could figure out where they were. The air was pungent with the smell of elk. I began to creep towards them and then I saw  a lone cow and another cow/calf pair. I dropped to one knee and took aim making sure this indeed was a cow and as I squeezed the trigger I must have raised my head and shot over her. The woods were fairly thick and dark with lots of Bitterbrush and blow downs. The shot startled them, in total a shy half dozen so elk and no bulls that I ever saw. They ran about 20 yards and then stopped looking for the danger and I looked through my bins to see if I hit the cow and I never saw any blood or sign there was an injured cow.  With that being said I was not able to keep a visual on the cow I shot at during their movement. So another shot was unethical until I knew for sure that I had a clean miss or an injured cow to start tracking. Albeit I had a much better second shot opportunity as they searched for me and it still pains me that I missed, but yet it was the right choice to not take another shot. Tis better to be sure than to have a wounded animal and or possibly a second animal shot and killed. That would have been an even bigger knot in my belly than the one I already had. I was losing daylight and I circled numerous times to be sure there was no blood or some blood. I went back the next morning as well and followed their tracks out of the areas and across the highway to the East and a bunch crossed the river to the West. Confirmation of a clean miss and hopefully a lesson learned. Though sometimes you don't have the luxery of a second shot, especially hunting in the pole thickets east of the Cascades.

This is what they call elk hunting and it is not for the faint of heart. Typically, easy is seldom if ever part of the equation while persistence and patience are your best friends. With that being said time for me to get geared up for the afternoon/evening hunt and try to find them again. With any luck I will be back with a story of the one that didn't get away. Not necessarily today, but by season's end.

Women's Hunting Journal         Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, September 24, 2012

News and Updates

Hello to those of you who are still checking in to see if I am actually still a blogger. The answer is emphatically yes, although I admit to being consumed with other requirements of day to day life, hence my absence. In a nutshell here is what has been keeping me away from writing and connecting with my audience and the blogs I enjoy.

After being without a home for 8 months I finally found my new older home in late April and got moved in. Then I built a shop (28 x 36) with a friend in June and then I got my shop set up and continued to run my business all the while working from another shop. Needless to say I am a very happy woodworker now to be at home and working from my own shop. Have installed 3 new exterior doors on the house and continued to keep an eye on Jet. If you follow this blog you know what an awesome friend she was and an exceptional Pheasant hunter and retriever she was, I still miss her dearly.

I have 2 more major projects before Winter really sets in and those are building my wood shed and getting my fencing done. The slab for the shed (10 x 16) has been completed since late July although extenuating circumstances as in forest fires have prevented my friend from Idaho returning to help me. Well that is about to change come tomorrow when he'll arrive and we start building on Tuesday.
My excavator who happens to be my hunting partner is on a forest fire in Washington state and was going to help with hammering rock, etc for my fencing. Not sure how that project will unfold quite yet but I am sure we'll find a way to make it happen. Larry from Idaho only has so many days because as we all know hunting season is ON in many states or about to begin. That includes yours truly and my deer hunt that starts Sept. 29  this coming Saturday.

Now for the really big news... drum roll please...
I want to introduce you all to my new addition who has little button brown eyes, 4 cute wiggly feet with pads as soft as silk and a face to melt your heart. The one and only DUCE. She comes from a wonderful kennel out in Sister's OR. Kinnaman Retrievers. Here is a link to her parents: Sire  & Dam  I brought Duce home September 14th when she hit 7 weeks of age. She is a real pistol and a confident pup. I have begun school with her albeit basics and a step at a time. Truly baby steps. Her estimated adult weight is approx. 45 - 50 Lbs. which will be much easier to lift than Jet who was 75 - 80 Lbs.  I think Duce may very well be that 1 in a lifetime dog. She is Labrador # 4 for me and I do seem to alternate between Black and Yellow, no color bias here. Anyhow I look forward to sharing our progress in the basics and eventually into the field come next Fall and for many years there after.

Thanks for the kind words regarding Jet and here's to a bright new beginning with Duce. Nobody ever said loving a dog and having to say goodbye was easy. It surely isn't but I won't trade it for all the love they give while being with us.

Be safe out there while hunting and we'll keep you updated with more frequency now that I'm finally getting settled in and projects completed.

Women's Hunting Journal       Integrity For The Hunt

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jet, March 12, 2000 - August 20, 2012

Firstly let me apologize for a rather lenghty absence and again for the sad news of my best friend passing.

 I have been providing doggie hospice for Jet since about Mar. of this year. After no major issues other than slowing down and losing a bit of weight I noticed she was starting to become uncomfortable when lying down. She was also having issues with food and showing dis-interest in eating. That is quite contrary to Labs. So one day last week I was petting her and checking her out when she was no longer able keep her discomfort hidden. I knew the time was drawing nearer to making the most difficult decision a dog lover has to make on her behalf. It was at that time that I knew what I had to do. First I went in the house and had a good cry and wished that I didn't know what I knew. In my heart I knew the time had come and to do anything less was not fair to her. The decision was made and I did my best to not let her see my heartbreak. The appointment was made and we had inside a day to say what we needed to say to one another. Stoic, yet so gentle and graceful was she to the very end. The trust she had in me I will never forget and is only one of the many gifts she shared with me.

We drove thousands of miles and covered hundreds of miles on foot chasing birds. She was a great traveller and other than her occasional snoring, a wonderful house mate. Her bedside manners were superb as she knew when to give me a look, a wet nose or sit a little bit closer. I am not sure who kept an eye on whom more, maybe we just kept an eye on each other. I think that was the case. No matter when I gazed at her she was already looking at me, as long as she was awake. She was not a pushy dog when it came to doors, quite the contrary. She waited for you to open them so she could walk through unobstructed. Her table manners were exceptional for her breed. Food was to be savoured, not inhaled. She was a slow eater and when she was full she walked away from her bowl, often times leaving just a few bites. A clean plate was not her goal, rather a satisfied belly and a soft bed suited her fine. She was quite o.k. not being the center of attention but appreciated being included in outings and adventures. She was happy being with me and I was happy being with her.

She was certainly not automatic when it came to hunting and retrieving. She taught me a lot about seeing the world from her 18" high perspective. Our first years together I was both hunter and retriever.  Then after I had a duck in my game bag and knew we'd come back the same way, I'd dump it out of my vest so she could find it on our return. I did my very best to get her excited and let her know she was doing great when she found the bird. All about building confidence and I was the best cheerleader and supporter that I knew how to be. It wasn't til she discovered Pheasants that I learned, that was her "GO" button.
50th. B-day diver hunt

So it seems that ducks didn't excite her to much and that was true for the majority of days. There were exceptions throughout the years but nothing got her reved up like those big stinky Ring Necked Pheasants. That sweet pungent scent was her drug of choice. I was glad to learn this and then decided that was my job, to get her as many Pheasants as I possibly could in order to make up for the not so fun waterfowl she retrieved with much less enthusiasm. Almost like having to eat your peas if you want that desert. I was also able to watch her scent track Wilson's Snipe and those were equal to the Pheasants for her fun meter.

Limit of Snipe 50th. B-day
There were numerous memorable days, moments and milestones. One of those that I will always treasure will be the day of my 50th birthday. That was an exceptional day afield for me, let alone her. We both peaked at the same time, same day and it was tremendous. I was having a good day shooting with few misses and she was solid with each retrieve.

We hunted divers in the morning pass shooting on the Klamath River in S.W. Or and got our limit of 5 ducks. Nice Goldeneyes, Scaup and a Bufflehead. We took a break for processing birds, brunch and a short rest. Switched out guns and my shells for some  2 3/4"  #8 shot for Snipe. Nice to be out of my chest highs and in my wellies. Off we went, back into the shallow flooded fields and she seemed to know what species we were after. As if to say "alright I got you you darn ducks, now it's my turn"! Right she was and the sun was just heading towards the mtns. on a bluebird day. Comfortable December weather and as we entered the flooded fields she got more excited with each step. Jumping around like a puppy and was barely able to keep her bearings about her. As we got 100 yds. into the field and she heard the action of my gun close she was all business. Nose down in full Kirby (vaccuum) mode. the slogging of 4 paws and 2 boots through wet marsh grass was abruptly interrupted by SCAMP, SCAMP as the first Snipe flushed with its vocal warning. Her head swung to make visual contact as I swung my gun to make a successful shot. We both connected and that was the first of our limit of 8 Snipe. One of those Snipe I had mounted and that is a fine reflection of her and her soft mouth. That was one of those days that I visit often in my mind. We were both dialed in for our individual roles, a team.

In 12 plus years there are many, many stories and I was blessed to be able to share many of  "our" adventures with all of you. I miss my Jet and will treasure the years we shared. She was a gentle soul who didn't ask for much, a very easy keeper who taught me volumes about patience, compassion and being kind. As the quote says
"I hope I can be the person my dog thinks I am" . It was a pleasure and honor to have been your mom, never prouder. Cheers to you Jet!

Women's Hunting Journal    Integrity For The Hunt

I want to thank Daphne Hougard for the bottom photo. Pretty much says it all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Icebreaker Socks

Here is another worthy purchase for your trip afield or everyday use. If you haven't caught on yet that I am a sock snob or better said connoisseur of fine socks than the cat is out of the bag. This is my unbiased, unsolicited review of Icebreaker Socks.

I have been wearing Icebreaker's Hike + Mid Crew and Hike + Lite Crew socks for a good month now. These socks are different right off the bat. First, I noticed how they are anatomically designed for your feet with an obvious heel pocket. Not your standard "tube" sock design of one style fits all.  These socks are mid calf height and comfortable right from the start. This is how Icebreaker describes them. First the Hike + Mid Crew: 

"With strategic cushioning around the Achilles and underfoot, the exceptionally comfortable  Hike Mid Crew is ideal for long distance hikes in colder conditions. Superb temperature control and high breathability, which prevents clamminess". 

These socks are for rated for cold to very cold temps and I agree as long as you are moving. Personally I like a little thicker, heavier weight sock for very cold temps. The quality of Icebreaker's Merino Wool is unparalleled and has zero itch factor. The socks performed and fit well, and I would certainly not hesitate to add more to my collection. Fiber content 65% merino wool, 32 % nylon, 3% elastane. Cost $ 20.00

Their lighter weight cousin Hike + Lite Crew is well suited for a Spring Goose hunt or early Fall deer hunt. Same great construction and attention to detail. Just a lighter weight and suited for year round hiking. Both socks fit well, didn't  bunch up or migrate while wearing them, nor did my feet get clammy or damp. Also they did not smell after a days use. Fiber content 77% merino wool, 19% nylon, 4% elastine. Cost $ 19.00

I also tested the Icebreaker Multi Sport Cushion Micro sock. As a road cyclist a good pair of socks are critical as there are only 3 points of contact on a bike. Hot spots, numb feet or ill fitting socks can ruin an otherwise wonderful ride. These socks I absolutely loved and will certainly add more to my collection. Just the right weight for summer cycling and with the 55% merino wool my feet were happy from start to finish. Great fit, great cut and no seams on toes to irritate. The same is true regarding toe seams for all their socks. Specially designed LIN toe seams to reduce bulk and prevent blisters. Fiber content 55% merino wool, 43% nylon, 2% elastine. Cost $ 17.00

All in all I give Icebreaker Socks a big thumbs up and found them well built, easy to wash and wear, no pilling and no stink. That's a lot of plus's in my book as well as Icebreaker's 30 day money back guarantee if you are not happy with them for any reason.

 If you've been following Women's Hunting Journal for awhile then you know I have been a big fan of Icebreaker clothing and especially the Women's 260 Tech Top. I am wearing one now, honestly! Still can't give it enough rave reviews, love it.  To read my review click on the highlighted link. One last tidbit about Icebreaker products that is truly unique is their "baacode" which is on all packaging. This allows the customer to go online and input the code to see specifically where the wool came from. As in which sheep in New Zealand are sporting the wool of your new favorite pair of socks, tech top, coat or any other Icebreaker product. Talk about eco friendly renewable resources. Baacode rules!
Thanks Icebreaker for making quality products and your great customer service, 1st rate!

Women's Hunting Journal  Integrity For The Hunt

Disclaimer: I  am not employed nor sponsored by Icebreaker. The opinion expressed  here is mine only and there have been no financial gains made regarding this review. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

White Fronted Goose Hunt

WOW, have I got some great stories to share with you all. I had a wonderful 8 days of hunting Specs on their migration North to their breeding grounds. This particular hunt takes place in 3 Oregon counties and can only be done on private property. This is in an effort to reduce the impact of crop damage, by reducing the overall numbers of geese. Snow Geese are also legal to hunt for this special season. The daily limits were 4 White Fronted Geese (aka Specs) and 6 Snow Geese and the possession limit is double the daily limit. ODFW regulations here.

On my first trip to Klamath for the opener of this season on Feb. 18th. I never fired a shot or even had a shot in 3 days time. There were some around but just not very many and the landscape was still quite wintry and frozen. So I returned home and waited for the geese to arrive and also got some work done in the shop. I headed back to Klamath on Friday the 3rd of March and was hopeful that more geese were en route northward. When I turned the corner and got to see the Klamath River I was not disappointed. There were large rafts of resting Specs lazily enjoying a warm afternoon on the river. My adrenaline spiked for a moment as my mind began plotting my first evenings hunt.

I got Jet and I unloaded and put away our gear in the cabin, then got ready for an abbreviated evening hunt. I placed myself next to the river dike that I drove in along but in the pasture side. This way they'd land in the pasture when I made a good shot as they passed overhead. The pasture has been grazed down by cattle and subsequently is showing the first signs of green up. Geese find it hard to pass up on fresh tender grasses. I hunkered down in the ditch amongst the remaining ice, snow and mud and made like a statue. I felt like I was finally home, right where I needed to be. I could hear the Specs vocalizing whistles, buzzes and general chatter.  Their voices are incredible, somewhat like that of a ventriloquist. At times they sound so close and yet they're so far away you can barely see them.

It didn't take long til they decided to get up off the river and head my direction. My adrenaline rose again and I was ready. They passed over off to my left side and I  sat up and got my first double. Right on, yes this is what it's supposed to be like. In all I suspect close to 75 birds flew over and I was hearing more up river while I was waiting. This is a good start I thought to myself. Headed back to the cabin and processed the 2 Specs and was quite pleased with my early success. Sure glad to have gotten that case of Federal Black Cloud 3" #2's before I left home, made all the difference for my little 20 ga. Beretta O/U, love those shells!

You might be asking yourself why leave? Well the deal with these geese is that they'll spend 80% of their time resting in the river because they know that's the only safe place for them during daylight hours. So in the early mornings and last hour or so before days end, is the only time to catch them going from the fields to the river or visa-versa.

It's a short window of opportunity and this hunt is all about being mobile for me. If I see them crossing over the river dike some 200 yards away I've got to get myself there fast. Our property is not ideal for them this early in Spring, need more warm days for the alfalfa to get going. So I don't set out my 2 dozen Spec decoys nor do I have the number of decoys it would take to bring in large flocks of a hundred or more birds. Seldom can you pull in singles and doubles when they see and hear several hundred of their fine feathered friends calling to them within eye shot of your decoys. With big flock numbers you need just about equally big decoy numbers. I have decoyed with limited success over the past few years for this particular hunt, but with increased hunting pressure the birds become educated that much quicker and shy away from smaller sets.

While I was processing my first pair of Specs I was also trying to figure out where I'd go for the morning hunt. I glassed the river all along our property line to see where the geese were. I decided to go to the S.E portion of our property and hunker on the field side of the river dike. With still quite a bit of snow I was post holing every step of the way. It was loud crusty granular old snow with ice along the edges of the flooded fields too. It was impossible to be quiet about my approach in the darkness of early morning.

I got settled in and was listening to the Specs vocalizing in the river as daybreak began. Their serenade of rising and falling crescendos had my adrenaline mirroring them. Oh my goodness, seems they can sit and chatter for what seems an endless amount of time before finally committing to take off. I realize it's not just getting up at 4 am that tires me but also having my adrenaline rise and fall that contributes as well.

Through the chatter I heard a motor and thought perhaps a rancher on a quad or 4 wheeler across the river. I was thinking maybe this will get the birds moving. It got closer and closer than nothing, silence and all was quiet again. Umm, I thought and after a couple minutes of pondering and hearing the geese move directly down river and never cross the dike. I decided to get up and try to get a visual on this persons where abouts. Holy cow I said as I saw this fellow with his dog sitting on the river dike about 30 yards away from me. He was in one of those canopy 4 wheel drive huntin' the country, buggy thing a ma jigs you see on the hunting shows. His Chocolate Lab saw me and began to growl at which got the gentleman's attention. He turned to look behind him and saw me in full camo from head to toe including face camo. He apologized and we were polite to each other as he went on his way. I shook my head and realized my morning hunt was over. He sat there in his buggy, facing the river in the absolute extreme wide open, over grazed dike just hoping I guess for a random Spec or Snow Goose to fly within range. Trust me, it wasn't going to happen! I'm still shaking my head in disbelief. This is a photo of him leaving, priceless.

This was just the beginning and more stories to come including the best sneak I have ever had with a gun in hand.

Women's Hunting Journal          Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy 12 th. Birthday Jet

My best friend and hunting partner Jet reaches another special day.  I remember very well the day I first picked her out of the litter at 3 and a half weeks young. She was the round one as all Lab pups are at that age but she also loved to be in the middle of the puppy pile. Not on the bottom or outside edge and heaven forbid off in the corner, oh no she knew exactly where she was going to be. Thankfully she has trained me well too. I have come to appreciate her idiosyncrasies and her looks of "you've got to be joking, right". She has retrieved her fare share of birds over the years and though she is for the most part retired now, I still share my stories and birds with her and try to get her a pheasant or snipe each Fall. She has taught me the most of all my Labs when it comes to training. Most of what she taught me is the importance of setting her up for success and seeing the world from her perspective, quite literally. She is even more vertically challenged than myself and I have come to appreciate her perspective. These days she is mostly content with a comfortable bed, a couple nice walks with lots of good things to sniff and pee on and lest we not forget her 2 squares a day, and any extra is fine too.  I cherish each day we have together cause I know what lies ahead and it just tears me up inside. So til then we will enjoy each others company, our own little quirks and lots of belly rubs. I am very thankful for my Jet and her loyalty, companionship and teachings about what really matters.
Happy Happy Birthday Jet!

Much love, your mom

Women's Hunting Journal         Integrity For The Hunt 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spec Hunt Update

This is just a quick nutshell report of my Spring Goose hunt. So far the geese have had it their way. With recent snows and cold temps at night, the possibility of pulling off an early morning sneak is essentially squashed due to loud crunchy snow giving away my every move. The property I have access to is not what the Specs are looking for either. For the most they are interested in fresh green shoots of alfalfa or any type of grasses or leftover oats and grain from last Fall's harvest. Our property is not grazed by cattle and has wonderful cover for typical hunting seasons but not favorable for this hunt. There is much more hunting pressure now than in past years and thus making for very wise quarry. The geese are sky high out of range by the time they cross over river dikes, irrigation canals and are able to drop right down like that of a parachuter hitting their mark safely smack dab in the middle of a 60 acre field. There numbers aren't this high for lack of smarts that's for sure. I've managed to get 3 thus far but that is well below from what I had hoped. I hope that with the coming fore casted rain that this will improve my odds and at least melt the snow and open up some ground for the birds. Sometimes I wish had a wetsuit and snorkel to gain access to these wise geese. Or maybe even spend the night in the ditch and wait for their arrival pre-dawn just so I'd be in position. Ultimately every day is a hypotethis on which way they'll come into the field or even which field they'll use. Or perhaps they'll just sit all day in the Klamath River (which can not be hunted) and go feed after shooting hours.

There is a wonderful abundance of waterfowl arriving and migrating Northward. I have been absolutely covered up with Canada Geese and all types of ducks, but none of them are legal, and they know it. I will be persistent and hope that some lesser educated specs come my way before the season ends on this Saturday. none the less I am savouring every hour laying out there in the field listening to Sandhill Cranes, whistling wings and a plethora of vocals. What a time to be afield, I absolutely love it!  Yep, they got it wired better than I do and they don't call it a wild goose chase for nothing!

I'll be out of blog range til Sunday but please leave a comment if you like and I'll get them published just as soon as I get my waders off !

Women's Hunting Journal      Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hunting Knives

This is a topic I have yet to write about although I am a big fan and admirer of well made knives. I also feel that much like firearms there's no such thing as having to many. The only thing hampering my affection for acquiring more is my checkbook. Be that as it may there is no harm in looking and drooling.
Ever since I was "old enough" so to speak, I have carried a small pocket knife. I have fond memories of my dad's slender Old Timer pocket knife and how warm it felt in my hands as a young girl. It's weight was dense, heavy for its small size and I liked that feeling.  My dad kept it razor sharp and I recall him enjoying the time he spent honing it. Pausing every so many strokes to test it on his arm to see if was shaving hair yet. Once he achieved that edge he was done and no need to remove anymore steel, just fold the blade closed and slide it in his pants pocket and put the stone away. I was intrigued by the process and little did I know to what degree that interest would carry over into my professional life.

I have had many pocket and hunting knives throughout the years, some were gifts from my dad and some I bought myself. I've always appreciated a well made tool which is just what knives are. It took me awhile to find a suitable all purpose hunting knife that could multi-task. I have a Kershaw Black Horse 2 that I use for both waterfowl and big game duties. It a well proportioned knife with a secure locking back and not a liner lock. I am not a fan of liner locks just don't trust them, especially when I need to put some elbow grease into the job.  It's stainless steel blade is 3 3/4" L. and closed it is 4 7/8" L. The co-polymer handle with it's finger grip contours is wonderful when your hands are wet or bloody as it doesn't slip in your hand. It is sharp right out of the box and is easily re-sharpened. It comes with  a nylon sheath and I am able to keep my EZE-Lap Pocket Sharpener in the sheath with it. They both live together either in my Quail Flats Gunning Box or my Kifaru Daystalker Pack, depending on the season. It also has a strong enough back that if I needed to hammer on it, it can no doubt stand up to the blow and deliver. It can also tolerate a bit of twisting or prying with the blade tip like when I'm dismembering deer and elk legs at their knees. I don't always find the sweet spot first time and sometimes a little twisting or tweaking is required. I have had this knife for close to 15 years and it hasn't let me down yet. It's a solid and versatile well built American Made knife that I can confidently recommend.

My day in day out pocket knife that sometimes doubles for skinning and cutting loose the attachments along the inside of the spine of a deer or elk to get the gut sack loose is a Gerber E-Z Out Skeleton folder. It too has a locking back and is easy to open and close. It's blade is 3 1/2" L. and an overall L. of just under 8". It is a slender knife and even though it's lightweight, it's still a workhorse than can take some abuse. It re sharpens easily and not like some Gerber's I've had in the past that seemed quite difficult to put a good edge back on. For everyday use this knife works well for me. It has a clip that I use to secure it inside the lower leg pocket on my Carhartts. The only flaw I've found with this knife is the clip indent wallows out in the handle where the clip is indexed. I have used JB Weld to resolve the problem and not allow the clip to swivel laterally and eventually spin freely. 

These are 2 of my favorite knives and including the EZE-Lap diamond pocket sharpener all 3 items can be purchased for less than $100. and all, are proudly made in the U.S.A.. Outdoor Edge has some new knives out for big game hunting that I'd like to try at some juncture, specifically the SwingBlade. If any of you have used this let me know what you think of it and if it lives up to the hype.

There are many custom artisan  knife makers out there producing incredible works of art. One of my favorites are Chris Reeve Knives and they're worth a look. In particular the Sebenza with it's sleek lines and titanium handle it is absolutely beautiful and feels wonderful in your hand. I personally don't own one yet but a friend of mine does. Hopefully someday I too will be the proud owner of a Sebenza.

 I know this barely scratches the surface of hunting knives so I'll leave it at that for now. What are your "go-to" knives and what makes them that for you? 

Women's Hunting Journal  Integrity For The Hunt 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Waterfowl I.D.

Well another season of chasing feathers has for the most part come and gone. You might ask yourself what am I to do now with all my free time? One way to continue jaunts to the wetlands is to hone your waterfowl I.D. skills. Not only will you be able to smell the marsh and plan future hunts but you'll also gain knowledge about your feathered quarry.

I'll admit it, I am a sucker for bird watching of any kind although one of my favorites is visiting a Wildlife Refuge where waterfowl are busy with courtship rituals and staking out nesting territory. We are already in the midst of waterfowl bond pairings for nesting and this is a great time to hone your I.D. skills and knowledge. Not only that but with the birds being preoccupied with one another, it allows us often to get within closer proximity so as to see the details of their plumage. With courtship comes the dazzling colors that are typically not present during Fall hunting seasons. The electric baby blue of the Ruddy Ducks bill or the dazzling eye popping cinnamon of the Cinnamon Teal with his striking red eye. The drake Mallards green head, the drake N.Shoveler, drake Widgeon and the list goes on and on.

In the waterfowl world the males are the more colorful while the females are better camouflaged for nesting purposes, this does not hold true for all bird species. For instance the Wilson's Phalorope does a complete role reversal with the female being the more colorful and competing for males with courtship displays. The males are a drab color as they are in charge of nesting duties including incubating the eggs and rearing the chicks. They are a wonderful bird to watch as they often will spin in circles in the water to stir up food. Keep an eye out for them this Spring. There are a total of 3 types of Phalorope all worth noting.

Another one of my favorites is the American Bittern and boy does this bird know about blending in to their surroundings, more so in the Fall than Spring. They are not large in stature but have a very distinct and recognizable vocal. Several times when I've seen them they have been in tules quite aware of my presence and doing their best to blend in to their surroundings. They do so by raising their bill towards the sky, staying motionless and rotating their eyes forward much like that of a chamealeon. They do an amazing job of becoming a tule with their streaked throat, breast and belly. Their very cool and one I keep an eye out for when birding. On a few occasions I've even seen them at Lowlands in S.W. OR during waterfowl season.

So if you've got the marsh blues go out and enjoy them by honing your waterfowl  I.D. skills. Be sure to take your binoculars (camera too) and a good bird identification book with you and or a friend who is knowledgeable. Here's a couple good books to get you started; Sibley Guides, National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of N.A.. Pack a lunch and make a day of it, trust me it will keep you invigorated, satiate your marsh fix and hone your skills. Where ever you are there is a marsh or Nat'l Wildlife Refuge not to far away. Do some research online and perhaps go to a place you've never been and I like to stop in at Refuge Headquarters to get some local insights from one of their employees. They know where to go and what to keep an eye out for. Plus if there are any unusual birds in the area you may be in for a once in a lifetime sighting. Have fun!

 Women's Hunting Journal     Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, February 3, 2012

Goose Hunting & 360*

Out of nowhere my ears alert me to the incoming honks and grunts of a flock of Canada geese. These are the Giant Canada Geese, the biggest and weighing up to 20 lbs. with a wing span of 7 feet. My eyes widen like those of a 4 year old on Christmas morning watching them land in a large field just a short distance away.

Considering how many degrees of departure are available for geese, it is no wonder that we seldom outsmart them. The odds are stacked in their favor and double that in mild conditions when they're not pressured by weather, predators or food. I'm talking about pulling off a successful stalk hunt; sneaking close to geese that are feeding in a large wide open field with a 360* view. It's one thing to be able to get in close while hiding behind an elevated dike and then wait while maintaining your concealment and excitement. The anticipation is often what busts us. Usually I'll be able to hear them talking and stretching their wings and just have to take that last fatal peek, to make sure they're where I think they are. In doing so there's a pair of wise old sentry eyes pasted to the rustling sounds I made while trying to be ever so stealthy. By the time I see them they've been watching me, head and neck stretched up high and then honking alerts the others that it’s time to fly. At the first loud alarm honk, you become painfully aware you just blew any chance you had of them flying anywhere remotely in range. You're toast, pate', done for, game over and you can't believe you did it again.

 I've experienced this on more than one occasion and I know there will be more jaw dropping days of getting skunked, with my so called savvy experience and knowledge of 35 plus years hunting geese. None of that matters when ultimately you are making an educated guess, a hypothesis on the direction they will depart. I was able to even the score by one, a few weeks ago down in the Klamath Basin of S.W. Oregon.

The conditions were warm and mild with very little breeze, just a hint of wind from the S.W. rolling over the banks of the Klamath River. Ice still covered the broader reaches of the river where there was less current. I was watching a flock of 15 or so large Canada Geese land in a 40 acre field of stubble with a strip of Triticale grain to their N.E., I pondered the various scenarios and odds for a successful sneak. Also trying to guess in which direction they'd take off. I was observing them from the comfort of the cabin on the hill overlooking the landscape. My adrenaline began as I visualized a successful sneak, wait I haven't even gotten properly dressed and I'm already celebrating. Whoa, slow down and let's get back to reality.

 Considering it was New Year’s Eve the geese were well educated to slow moving vehicles, bad decoys, bad calling and the like. I knew I had to be absolutely concealed and quiet from the very beginning. So I opted to take the long way around. I didn't let them see or hear me from the hill. Fortunately my truck was on the opposite side of the cabin from where they were feeding. I drove a short distance down the back side of the hill and then parked, quietly shutting the truck door and beginning my long approach. In all it was close to a 2 mile walk give or take, but when you're sneaking, it doesn't seem so far or matter. I headed S.S.W. to the river cutting across 2 fields, 2 deep ditches and getting to the river dike then turning back to the N. on my final approach to the dike that separates them from me. The fields were muddy, wet and sloppy so I wore my Cabela's waders and dressed light underneath to minimize sweating and then chilling while I waited for the geese to get air born. It was early afternoon and the clouds were building in and a S. wind was picking up. Finally a storm is rolling in. I managed to make my way to where I wanted to be. I thought the geese would either fly S.W.N. or E. Face it, no matter how much I tried to convince myself that I knew what direction they would take off in, ultimately I had no clue or scientific knowledge to base my decision on. The landscape offered me a few options of concealment that would allow me to be in range if they happened to fly near me. That was my scientific data, place hunter and gun in closest proximity of airborne waterfowl, always.

So it was and I just hunkered in and made myself comfortable for a spell, not knowing just how long that meant. I ate a good stout brunch after my morning hunt and  enjoyed several cups of strong coffee. That last cup may pose a problem in the not so distant future, if you get my drift. And as those of you know it's typical of geese, or big game to give you a shot opportunity when you are least prepared, as in relieving yourself. Just an FYI for those of you who haven't had this experience yet, believe  me it will happen.

 As I was relaxing, lying on my side in the mud and weeds my mind began to wander as it does when I'm in the field waiting for something to make its move. Off in the distance I hear dogs across the river barking, and the rumble of the train some 10 plus miles to the East of me headed for who knows where? Swoosh, I get passed over by an unsuspecting Northern Harrier as he/she hunts for rodents. The distant vocals of Ravens, Magpies and Kingfishers fill my background with familiar sounds like that of an old friend, comforting me and offering a sort of companionship. My focus drifts to the vegetation at the edge of my hunting caps bill. Watching small spiders climb the tall stalks of dead grass while simultaneously snuggling down into my high coat collar so none get to close. I can hear several voles gnashing root stalk just inches away from me. Occasionally I catch a glimpse of a vole crossing open ground going from one tunnel to another. The dike tops are riddled with vole trails and holes. They're vulnerable to hawks and small mammals when they dash above ground, and they know it too.  I ponder what their existence must be like and the myriad of tunnels they travel. My attention shifts to my shotgun barrel, the vent rib, the small brass bead at the barrels end and I trace it back to the fore-end, the silver floral engraving along the sides of the action. Feeling how my hand fits the wooden pistol grip with its fine checkering. Reflecting on all the miles I have travelled carrying this gun in my hands. We are old friends and have had some spectacular days afield together. It feels comfortable in my grip and if I could find another just like it I'd buy it in a heartbeat! This gun is close to 35 years old and has some dings and dents to show for the miles we’ve travelled. It has saved my butt on more than one occasion. Be it getting stuck in the muck or avoiding a face plant in a ditch with 2 feet of water or the time I almost broke my leg by stepping in a hole. Then there are the times it got used as a paddle when I broke mine or the time I used it to break ice so I could reach a downed Canvasback. The stories go on and I take comfort in its toughness and dependability.

Honk, wing flaps pushing air and a few more grunts and short calls. I am present again and shuffle my body to get comfortable and re-positioned in case the geese are close to lift off. I want to sneak a peek but I resist and just about that time I hear the unmistakable swooshes of air from the big birds wings propelling them upward into the sky. I shuffle once more hearing them talk and it sounds like they're coming my way. Again I resist exposing myself just yet, my pulse quickens and I feel the warm flush of adrenaline. Another 10 seconds and I can see them coming into view through the vegetation just off to my right side. The first bunch are about 10 strong and I stretch my torso upward into a kneeling position and shoulder my gun taking aim on the closest and as I squeeze off my first shot my coat collar interferes with my shot. I lower my gun grabbing my collar and stuffing it downward without thinking about it and get ready for a second shot. Irritated with myself for making that mistake I block it out of my mind and get ready for the second wave, the last chance for success and these are closer than the first. Not enough time to put in another shell so I have one chance left. I take aim and swing through leading on the closest one to me about 35 yards away. I squeeze the trigger, and continue my follow through, it's a solid hit I just knew it, yet the big goose doesn't even budge or pucker an inch. I lower my gun and exclaimed "you've got to be kidding me!" Totally and absolutely dumbfounded by the lack of response I got from a solid hit I hold on for the faintest of possibilities. My eyes are glued to the goose and it slowly starts to drift away from the others and at the same time locks its wings and is on a death glide. I only hope it lands in the field and doesn't make it to the river. I watch as it continues to drop lower and closer to the ground eventually landing. I am running as fast as I can in chest high waders through 6" of mud and uneven stubble. After about 100 yards I was out of wind and kept up a fast walk while never taking my eyes off where I had marked the goose’s landing.  Eventually I get to within range and am ready to shoot if he tries to take off. He never did, he was stone cold dead at my arrival with wings outstretched to either side, and head down in the muck. I was thrilled, relieved and impressed at the size of this Canada goose. He was huge and a part of me was thankful to have just the one to carry back to the truck. He almost made it to the river another 30 yards and I might be telling a different story.

I picked him up by his neck and felt his warmth and how heavy he is. I suspect a good 15 lbs. maybe more. After a moment or two of admiring him and realizing I'd just pulled it off, I gently swung him over my left shoulder and began the walk back to my truck. I feel the sweat trickling down my back and my face from beneath my cap. I unzip my coat and base layer to dissipate some excess heat. Soon I am sweating from head to toe and smiling every step of the way. Feeling my left hamstring from my run and hoping it's just a temporary strain. There's nothing like lying on the cold ground for extended periods of time in a less than comfortable position on wet vegetation and feeling your core temp drop, slowly pulling the heat away from your extremities. Then in a flash having to bolt upright and start sprinting. Your running feels more like your legs are encased in concrete, lacking fluidity and warmth. This is entirely muscle memory and desire driving you. Your breathing becomes heavy and labored soon realizing you have to slow the pace down. You've waited patiently and the last thing you'll let happen now is for that goose to get away because you were to cold, stiff or slow to reach it in time. You dig deep because you owe it to that bird and you’re not going to let some old coyote have an easy meal on your watch if you can help it.

Going over in my mind what just transpired and how the story will unfold as I share it with my friends. It all moves so fast in my mind yet it took several hours for it to unfold in real time. There are so many pieces to a hunt I savor each moment like it’s the last one. I do my best to absorb all the little nuances of being out there hunkered in against a wet muddy cold dike in the dead of winter. How the mud smells and the odor of wet grasses blown over by driving winds, rain and snow, the tiny insects that live in the dank vegetation and the rodents who thrive underneath the surface.  I wonder what they think if anything, when they feel us walking on the dirt over their tunnels. Perhaps it’s not worth the time for them to give it a thought. I cherish my time in the field and realize that I'm  just a visitor and though I am most comfortable out there I know well I cannot truly call it home. Not like that of the wild creatures that give me reason to return and match wits with. I am not equipped to call it home and so the quest of hunter and the hunted will continue far beyond my years. Enjoying the successes as well as the disappointments for they are all parts of what we call hunting and the 360* of possibilities.

Women's Hunting Journal  Integrity For The Hunt
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