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Lifestyle

Beyond the Meat

Tainted

venison

Photo by Emerson Vieira

Would you eat meat that has been grazed over by a scavenger such as a coyote or fox? I was faced with this question when I decided to take a doe that was quartering towards me this past winter and my experience can possibly help answer this question. After all, I ate that deer and I’m still alive. 

Deer Camp

beyond the meat

Photo by Ryan Graybill

I was the only person in deer camp when my Chevy crunched the frozen leaves beneath its tires. I had left work early and the plan was to get into the woods as soon as I could and hopefully, if fate would allow, have a deer hanging when the hunting party arrived. I quickly pulled on my camouflage long sleeve and lingered a minute while debating whether or not I needed heavier pants. The temperature was dropping and a small amount of snow had fallen hours before. I decided against the pants and started my journey to a large ground blind my dad had built. As soon as I reached the blind, opened the door and looked inside, I realized I had made the right call regarding pants. There was a little heater sitting in the blind with a full tank, this was going to be a comfortable hunt. The blind I had chosen sat high above a food plot with quite a few old growth hardwoods reaching up in front of it and scattering down to the clover plot.

These trees allowed excellent coverage but did add a challenge, most of the trees at some point or another cut off a shooting lane to the plot. A few hours later dusk approached I noticed movement about two hundred yards in front of me down in a small tall-grass swamp by the end of the plot. A few does were beginning to make their way out of the thick grass and onto the neatly grown plot. This was exactly the scenario I had hoped for; I wanted to see a group of does so I could pick out a mature animal. In my opinion, it is much easier to tell which doe may have a little more meat on her bones when they are all lined up side by side. After I watched the deer graze and play on the food plot for about fifteen minutes, I had made my decision. There was a dark colored doe hanging in the back of the group and when she maneuvered in and out of the small herd I could see she was in fact larger than most of the other game. This was to be our target once a proper shot revealed itself. 

The Shot

Looking for a proper ethical shot is something any hunter should and will do. I have had my fair share of improper shots and I have lost deer because of that. My mind, having been tainted by these past experiences, pushed me to wait a little longer than I should have while this doe approached. She worked her way up the hillside that led to the blind; this hillside was littered with acorns, a food source she was interested in over the clover on the plot. The movement of the doe up the hill also put her at a tough angle. She was basically facing me with a small amount of her front shoulder visibly shown, there was not a broadside shot available. I lifted my rifle and placed the cross hairs on her front shoulder. At this angle I began to calculate where the bullet would enter and exit, this angle seemed appropriate to provide a kill shot. A crack from the end of my barrel scattered the herd and I saw the doe ran into a thicket. Believing my calculations to be correct I walked to the last known location of the doe. When I approached the does last known location, I found a small amount of blood. My shot seemed to be true; this should be an easy track. 

At that moment my phone lit up, a member of my hunting party had arrived and offered to help me track. I left the blood trail where it lay and went to acquire some help. After a short exchange of pleasantries we arrived back at the last speck of blood and started to trail the doe. A long walk through thick pine and sapling forest had us tracking on our hands and knees for over an hour. Although we had only gone a small distance, the thick nature of the foliage created a misconception of distance, we believed we were further than we had gone. After approximately one hundred and fifty yards of tracking my partner raised his hand, he thought he heard something move. Trusting his ears and believing there was a good chance this doe was still alive, my mind immediately went back to that tough shot. My calculations must have been incorrect, my shot placement was not as true as I had intended. My heart dropped into my stomach.

Sometimes it’s Good not to Push the Envelope…

beyond the meat

Photo by Djim Loic

We decided to pull out of the track and give the woods a few hours to settle. The general thought for a waiting period on tracking a wounded deer seems to be 12-24 hrs. depending on who you talk to. Even then a hunter could walk up on a wounded deer and push it off the property never to be seen again. I constructed a plan to go back out after twelve hours and resume the track. Sometimes the best laid plans will go awry; unfortunately a broken alarm clock would not allow me to break my slumber that night. I awoke the next morning around 5:15 A.M in a panic, the first thought on my mind was, “can I find this doe?” Another member of our hunting party had arrived in the night and suggested I sit the morning hunt and then resume the track. I dressed that morning with a pit in my stomach and couldn’t see myself shooting another deer without being able to add finality to last night’s hunt. With most of the party hunting another piece of property, I made that mornings sit very short. I hopped down out of the blind I had taken the shot from the night before and immediately hit the blood trail. In the daylight tracking the dark blood was a lot easier. A short jaunt through a cedar swamped lead me to a mosaic of red colored leaves and snow, approximately forty yards from our stopping point the night before was where the doe had expired.

It’s impossible to know if a continued tracking party would have found this deer or pushed this deer off of our property. I’ll probably never know the answer to that question but none of that mattered as I had found my quarry and work needed to be done. When I walked up to the doe I noticed some scavengers had located her before me. A small hole was eaten in the rear, as most meat eating animals often do but the deer was generally intact. I called the hunting party and they all agreed to stop their pursuit and help me drag this large doe out of the swamp. Once we had pulled the game from the woods I had to ask myself. Would there be enough meat on the eaten hind quarter to keep? After I had the doe skinned I could clearly see the damage done by some scavenging predators. From this anatomical point of view I was able to construct a plan to salvage most of the meat. The damage had not gone as wide as I thought. 

Is Meat Good for You?

beyond the meat

Photo by Grant Meyer

A few questions weighed on my mind while I quartered the deer and cut up the hunks of meat that were free of bite marks. If an animal did eat on this deer what are the implications of eating this meat? After all, the deer was likely dead when it was scavenged and the chances of some form of bacteria being transferred throughout the entire animal are low. Not to mention most hitchhikers would be killed off in the cooking process. No blood flow likely meant there wasn’t a way for any form of bacteria or infection to spread to other parts of the animal. This leaves us with the hind quarter that was tainted. How far away from those bite marks do I need to be to assure I won’t catch rabies or some other communicable disease? I decided on two inches of cut around all bite mark affected areas. This left a good amount of muscle between any possibly contaminated meat and meat that would be clean.

The only evidence I can offer as to if this was safe or not is the fact that I am writing this article today. I ate every part of that deer and did not fall sick once. A hunter could experience a wide array of pin balling opinions on the subject from many blog sites but I will say this. If the majority of the animal is intact and you can leave two inches of good intact muscle between your meat and the bitten portions, I would be hard pressed to waste that meat. I won’t be the one to tell you what to do with your kill but I will be the one to tell you I did eat a “tainted” deer and lived. I’ll probably do it again if I’m unlucky enough to find a deer on the second day of a track.

 

Note: The temperature dropped to 23 degrees Fahrenheit that night so I knew the meat would not be spoiled from failing to clean the deer that night. Temperature is very important when determining if meat will be safe to eat, not only from the scavenged portions but the entire animal itself. It’s important to use your best judgment here.

 

To follow more of Grant’s work you can find him on IG at Carnivor3_hunter

You can follow more of what we have going on at Cervicide at Deer Slayer TV and on IG at CERVICIDE

Public Land Swamp Hunting Journey

(Day 1)

public land swamp hunting

Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton

I pulled into the Wildlife Management Area with so much excitement and anxiousness I thought I was going to explode! I thought to myself, “Where is everyone?” All the FloGrowns said public land in Florida is always a circus, but I literally saw only one vehicle at the entrance of the management area. I got into the woods late too. This was a good sign! Less pressure on the animals while I learn the land definitely couldn’t hurt.

I gradually drove the old dirt road as slow as my truck would go. Not only was I trying to be respectful just in case there were other sportsmen in the woods, but every image in front of my face had me in awe. I didn’t want to miss a thing. 

I had never been to this piece of land before. The few quota hunts I received during the lottery I scouted pretty hard but they are not until November. This Wildlife Management Area doesn’t require a quota so pretty much it is as close to public hunting land as you can get in The Sunshine State. There are not many of these areas. Most require the lottery quota permit. 

I heard the non quota areas are hunted out. It is said that the still hunters hit it hard first and then the dog hunters put the icing on the cake. The wild game that does survive the first month and a half will retreat into hiding and a lot of them will become nocturnal. At least this is what they say, but as my truck comes to a halt I am optimistic.

Hopping out of my F150 I take it all in for a moment then start throwing my gear on as quick as I can. In my mind I keep thinking a million people are going to pull up at any moment and we all are going to race into the woods. Not sure why this thought kept entering my mind especially since I make it a point to not hunt weekends. 

I figured the weekdays would not have many other hunters utilizing the land but didn’t expect to be the only one. Well besides the one vehicle five or so miles back towards the entrance. I felt so lucky and knew I had to take advantage of this moment. I grabbed my bow and started the trek into the swamp. 

GO DEEP, COVER YOUR SKIN AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK…

florida swamp hunting

Photo by Justin Edwards

I was given a lot of advice from people who have hunted Florida most of their lives. The three main statements told to me were as followed:

  1. Go deep! Get as far away from the road as you can. 
  2. Be sure to cover your skin. The insects will eat you alive. Have a Thermacell or wash your clothes in Permethrin. They also sell insect repellent clothing.
  3. Scout and do your homework. Know the map of the area and be sure to read each rule for any WMA you hunt. They all have their own set of rules, requirements, and regulations.

 

I did not scout the area prior but I did make sure to read all rules and regulations. Also I made sure my phone was fully charged so I could use my OnX Hunt app. 

The app really makes hunting a new spot super easy and convenient. There is an off the grid setting that allows you to save a map of the area for when you lose service. So even when I lost all bars walking away from the truck, I was able to save spots of interest on my phone such as food sources and bedding areas. This is very important in patterning the animal/s you’re trying to harvest. 

About a hundred yards in I spotted a game trail. I always go with my gut instinct and my gut was definitely telling me this was my trail. It was beaten down pretty well and was littered with hog and deer tracks. Definitely worth a save on the app. 

I slowly crept through the soft leaves. My head was on a swivel and my eyes were focused. I continued to see sign and food. This was definitely looking good. I took my time as to not alert any other animals to my trespassing of their home. 

STICKING TO MY GUNS

swamp hunting

Photo by Justin Edwards

I came upon another game trail crossing into the one I was traveling. I figured this would be a good spot to post up for a bit. I checked the wind and picked out a good tree thirty yards from where the trails crossed. I then proceeded to quickly set up my run and gun stand.

After my stand was all set up and my gear was placed where I could easily access it with little movement I then sat back and started my wait. Literally minutes after resting my head against the tree I saw movement in the palmettos.

The doe slowly walked out onto the trail from a thick patch of overgrowth. She literally came out of nowhere. I was definitely not expecting that. She stopped and started looking around nervously.

I immediately thought I was busted. She must have caught a whiff of my scent. I tried my best to keep from sweating by moving slow but it must not have been good enough. She knew something was up, but then just as quickly as she appeared she relaxed and started walking along the trail. 

I put the rangefinder on her and she was about twenty one yards away with no clue I was there. She gingerly walked by me as I contemplated taking her. She was now at thirty yards. This is my chance and time is quickly running out. I need to make a decision now. 

I pulled the bow back and put the Tru-Glow behind her shoulder. This is the perfect shot! Just let go and that freezer will be full again within a few hours. My first Florida deer was right there. All I have to do is gently squeeze that Tru-Fire trigger. Decide now!!

I slowly dropped the bow to my side, wiped my brow, and sat down. Today is not her day. As much as I want to harvest my first Florida whitetail, she is not what I set out for and I refuse to settle on impulse.

 

I told myself while preparing for the season that I really wanted to target boar or a buck larger than a spike. It may seem ambitious for land hunted so hard but this is what I wanted and the goal I set coming into the season. I know they are out there. I’ve seen the sign. I just have to be in the right place at the right time. 

She continued to walk away, as I watched the thick area she originally came out of hoping a buck would be hot on her trail. I had a feeling he wasn’t so I relaxed back into my stand and continued the waiting game. 

As dusk fell upon the swamp I sat there thinking of my decision to let her walk. I feel it was the right one. Sure a hunter may end up harvesting her the next day but that’s not my concern. I am glad for them not spiteful. It’s not a race or competition to see who kills what first. I set my goals at the beginning of the season and I intend to meet those or at least try my hardest to. 

As darkness engulfed my surroundings I slowly climbed back to the ground. I loaded all my gear onto my back and headed to the truck. So many thoughts running through my head about this season. My body knew the way out as my mind went else where.I feel I have prepared as much as one person can do for their first season in a new state.

I followed the advice from my Cervicide Regional Director Kyle Sheffer, studied maps for hours, spoke to the locals, saved key areas onto my OnX Hunt app, and put boots on the ground for first hand knowledge. All I can do from here is to level up on my experience. This was only day one in a new place. There will definitely be a day two, three, four, and so on. You can count on that!

CONTINUING THE JOURNEY

I’ll continue to share this journey for my first public land wild boar and Florida whitetail buck. Once I am successful you can definitely expect a blog and video. I hope this helps or motivates other hunters/huntresses to pursue public lands they may have been neglecting in their home state. 

I have lived in Florida for five years and never once really considered hunting it until I joined Cervicide. I mainly hunted Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania so Florida was definitely an afterthought. I’m not sure if I did that because of my confidence in the states I grew up in or if I was just flat out scared of failure. 

Being in Cervicide definitely gave me that extra boost of confidence I needed to not only explore my backyard but also to document it as to share with others. So if you haven’t hit a spot because of whatever reason, maybe now is the time. If you’re like me and want to break that safe zone mold around you, then jump in with both feet. Yea you could fail, but what if you don’t? Think of that.

 

To see more of what Justin has going on follow him on IG at Outdoor_Enthusiast90 and to see what’s going on at Cervicide checkout our IG at Cervicide and on YT at Deer Slayer TV

2019 Spring Turkey Camp

This adventure started back in February when staffers met up to help run the Cervicide booth at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg. I had first met Tony there and while chatting he had kicked around the idea of holding a turkey event at his family’s camp. It was not long before the event was officially up on the page – I immediately signed up. Fast forward to May, the event was upon us and a few guys I had not met were engaged in the event’s group chat, including Kyle Waldron. What started as a great opportunity to meet up and get to know fellow staffers ended as a truly life changing experience.

Wheels Up! 5/9/19

I arrived to camp Thursday evening with my dog Zorro after running around near home after work; looking for odds and ends, Federal TSS loads and other loads to try, and buying a replacement license due to my inability to remember whether it made it aboard (I found out later, I had packed it). After a 4 and a half hour trip, I pulled into a foggy drive where I found Tony’s truck sporting a pro staff decal, I knew I was in the right place.

Tony had been out glassing the farm field, putting a group of birds to bed in the fog and rain, giving us an idea on where to start the day. I had started unpacking my Griswold mobile containing one of everything I might need (often two) as Tony’s dad Mike pulled in, I introduced myself and chatted for a minute before Tony strolled back in on the road from the woods. We sat down and discussed some of the plans for Friday morning as we waited for Kyle to make his way back from a piece of state land he had been listening on.

The plan was for Kyle and I to set up in a blind overlooking the hilltop field, which we did that night in the dark and pouring rain. Tony and his dad were to set up down in the holler after a bird that they had been hunting for the first two weeks of the season. I came into the event with a primary goal of helping call and film a bird for Kyle since he had not had the experience yet. It was an exciting night filled with beer, rain and wet gear, amazing ham and potato soup (courtesy of Mike), and no sleep.

Beers Down! 5/10/19

It rounded midnight and we were still storytelling, drinking beers and bullshitting just as all good hunt camps should! I realized I was way too excited to sleep and had enough beer to make it tough to wake at 4:30am – all nighter! We carried on and had a really good time bonding, I knew I was comfortable and could feel safe while hunting there. Turkey hunting is one of the most dangerous due to the camo, the kickass turkey loads, and the fact that most of us are making turkey sounds – so feeling safe to hunt was great. The time flew by and soon it was time to fire up the coffee pot and gear to go. Kyle and I hit the road to execute the morning plan while the rain came down. I threw my strutter and hen decoy out and we got set up in the blind. 

Tony and Mike had heard a few birds before 8 and couldn’t connect with them, while Kyle and I watched 5 hens work the hill top back and forth in the rain for the better part of the morning. I laughed as my strutter decoy eventually lost his tail in all the wind and rain. Looking back, I wonder if any birds had seen him and stayed out of the field as a result, hard tellin not knowin.

The lack of sleep and excess of beer was starting to take its toll around 9 and after the birds had all filtered out of sight Tony made his way up to us.  With the threat of rain still real and silence from any lingering toms, we all picked up the set and jumped in the car to regroup at camp. 

With a slug of water and a new plan we all jumped in the truck to find some birds hung up on the game lands. We located a gobbler and attempted to call him around after realizing he had split from his hen. No luck there, but Kyle and I watched a porcupine as we struggled to remain on guard for the rogue bird. As noon passed, camp called us back for a nap and a sandwich – what a combo. 

Post-snooze, Tony and I looked to fly fish, as Kyle learned of a burst pipe and flooded bathroom which called him back home – life is kind of crazy sometimes. We wished him luck as he set off and around 4pm Tony and I went to try a small stretch of water that ended up being fishable after all the rain. Fishing for an hour with a few chases from small fish but no solid strikes ending at the camp where his previous event was located. We hiked up to listen for birds at the field edge and then worked the road back to the truck. Tony shared some of the history of the camp as we walked, and out of nowhere we jumped a hen, which flew down the road ahead of us. Zorro had joined the fishing trip and saw the bird blow down the road, he was all wound up.

With a slow day in all aspects (I blame the rain) we headed back to camp for the BBQ venison I had going in the crock and a hearty meat and potato dish Tony had planned for dinner. We were surprised on the ride back by a call from Jimmy McKinney letting us know he and his buddy Toren had made the trip up to camp. What a surprise! We rolled up and were greeted by them as they had been sitting outside waiting for us. We talked and caught up over food and waited for Josh McKinney who happened to also be in town. It was a good afternoon! We set up a plan and waited to hear if Kyle was coming back – the plan was if he made it back, him and I would hunt some public, if not I would set up with Josh. That evening Tony and I scouted the public spot we had visited earlier in the afternoon and got on some birds but didn’t hear any before dark. When we got back to camp, the news from Kyle was bleak, but there were birds talking around the farm. It was me and Josh then! We all continued to chat and enjoy camp on into the morning again and I finally felt the sandman knockin’.

Birds Talkin’! 5/11/19

Up at 4:30am, this would be the last day to hunt. Josh and I discussed a plan and since he had been hunting pretty hard in Ohio with success, he insisted I take a shot if given the opportunity. On the walk in we planned to set up based on potential roost locations of the tom and two fighting hens he had observed the night before from the “Tajmahal.” We picked a tough spot where Tony had already set a blind – facing uphill with about 40 yards of visibility. We were confident to not blow birds off the roost, but knew we had to call them over the hill. Josh set up his Avian x jake and hen at 15 yards and the morning started with multiple gobbles in what seemed like 4 or 5 different directions. Josh was adamant on getting a bird to respond and lock on to his calling. We took turns calling, early and relatively sparing, but never really quite got the result we wanted; that for sure gobble directed right at us. 

Things got quieter on into the 7 o’clock hour and by 8am there were pretty much no gobbles we could hear – we wouldn’t hear another the rest of the morning. I got out to pee around 8:30am and as I finished, I turned to look over the blind and thought I saw something. It disappeared, but I continued to watch the spot, it appeared again. I could barely see the top of a fan working the well road 60 yards out. Whispering to Josh and jumping back in the blind, we tried some light calling. He gave no response and we were unsure where the bird ever ended up. Right around that time Tony and Mike were making a move to the opposite side of the property where we had set my blind up in the rain on night one. Upon arrival, it was apparent to them that Amish had moved in and set up 10 yards from the blind – they left. According to Tony, the birds stayed talking on the far side, but Josh and I stayed ghosted by the birds. It is likely the interaction on the far side spooked the bird I saw before it could decide to walk in. Unknowingly, I crawled up the hill to where I could see at the chance that bird was still just out of sight. After coming up empty, we took a walk around 9am to scan field from the hilltop where a goofy looking set of decoys were displayed. 

With nothing visible, we had planned to spend the rest of the morning working down toward where we had heard some birds early. We hoofed down through the woods making light calls every hundred yards as we worked down past the blind. We ended up setting up in some brush off a pretty heavily beat path, across from a finger of pines. With the hen decoy and camera set, I made one short calling sequence using my voice. It was not 10 minutes after, Josh whispered, “bird at 60 yards.” I turned in disbelief and responded “what?” to which he repeated, “bird at 60 yards, get ready.” I was set up a bit lower and didn’t have the vantage point, so I covered my face and clicked on the Tactacam as I raised the gun. Josh said “30 yards,”and at that point I was confused because I couldn’t see the bird and excited because there was no way he wasn’t gonna show. As the bird moved out from behind a tuft of grass, I put the bead on him, whispered “ready?!” and right as Josh responded, I squeezed and the bird dropped. It was sweet victory on a bird that never made a peep.

We struggled in the film department; between the Tactacam not working and the tripod not being set high enough to get over the grass the shot never really made it in frame. We were pretty open and I am glad we didn’t try to make any sudden adjustments outside of me pulling up my mask and hitting the switch on the Tactacam. The aftermath of the shot was very much a blur of adrenaline and celebration. We both approached the bird, Josh behind me with the camera, ready to catch all the good stuff to come. We could see Tony down talking with his dad and neighbor, Jay. 

It wasn’t long before we see him RUNNING up the hill (beast mode) to see what the commotion was about. We had finally strung one up within two hours of hunting time left at camp. It felt good, I was in shock the rest of the morning, still in disbelief that we had pulled it off. We picked up the gear after a quick post shot interview and we strolled down the hill back to the truck. Loaded down, we made our rounds to pick up the rest of the gear and blinds and rolled toward the greeting party back at camp. Jimmy and Toren were hanging out on the porch as we pulled up, they both hopped down with the cameras in hand – it was awesome to share the story and get post success film and photography around camp. It was a truly memorable and fun experience.

After lunch, the McKinney Bros and Toren all headed out to accommodate prior obligations. We had discussed the idea of taxidermy and I thought about it a bit throughout the morning. Tony was able to get a quote from his go-to guy Cliff at Cessna’s Taxidermy; since it was such an awesome story, a Cervicide event bird, and my first PA bird, I decided to go for it.  We rolled a little after noon to drop the bird off. The shop was tucked back in the woods along a creek. Stepping into the shop, you could see Cliff had done some amazing work. On display and ready for pick-up were hundreds of pieces, as well as piles of antlers; elk and waterfowl, coyote, fish, and anything else you could imagine, including a MASSIVE Unicorn buck that was getting some finishing touches. We stayed and talked for about an hour, I gave Cliff an idea of what I was looking for with the mount, and then rolled back to camp.

Tony had planned to get some plot work done before we hit the water to fish, so we got started as soon as we got back. He asked if I could run a tractor and with a quick control reminder I was off and running to skid out some fallen ash for firewood. I got back and just like every good camp story should have – a truck stuck that needed pulling out. We pulled it out, strapped the makeshift “hooptie” sprayer to the tailgate and filled’er up with weed killer. As he sprayed, I relaxed and played with the dogs between fill ups, the plot is gonna look great! When the work was done we grabbed some food, gear and the dog and headed streamside.

We fished for a few hours at a spot Tony’s friend had tipped us to, some wild trout water on the west branch of the Susquehanna River. It was high and off color with tall muddy banks, making it not only a challenge to fish, but also to access. We fished from about 6pm to dark with few strikes here and there and a small one year old brown in the net. It was starting to cool off as the sun set, birds started to gobble in the distance, and we were both thinking about heading back to the car. We climbed out onto the bank and discussed our tactics as I looked down at a hole that we had been standing over. Tony was gonna head upstream and I wanted to throw at the hole before following. As he started up the bank, I climbed down in the mud and unhooked my streamer from the keeper. Peeling line off the spool, I prepped for a drift right through the heart of the hole. With line on the water I made a pitch for a tight line, dead drift presentation.

The fly made the bottom pretty fast and I pulled up some slack to get a better look at the line and fly presentation as it slid down into the hole. The line stopped hard, but I missed it and let it continue, then it stopped again and stayed as I raised the rod. I called out to Tony as I laid the rod into the fish, I knew it was a good one.  I fought the fish for a few minutes before it started to wear, it then made a bulrush on me where I was able to snipe it with the net. In all the excitement, I nearly lost my legs and totally lost my voice. 

My heart races as I write, because it was such an amazing moment and really one of my biggest achievements as a fly fisherman. Fooling these big wild trout is hardly ever a walk in the park. It all came after dropping off [probably] the biggest turkey I have ever killed at the taxidermist, which was no easy feat on its own. The day was a major treat; all that, on top of getting to spend time with Cervicide guys around camp – which is always a good time on its own!

Mother’s Day 5/12/19

No hunting on Sunday is probably the worst regulation ever, but honestly my pumps were not primed to run on 3 hours of sleep again. We got to bed after discussing the day and continuing to chat about life and gear and hunting. I slept in til” about 7am and after spending some time cleaning up the place and picking some of the sweet smelling lilac for the Mothers in our lives, we were on the road until the next time.

Finding words to show my gratitude is tough because the emotions brought on by that day, that weekend, are so strong and euphoric. I was so high on life. First of the gratitude I feel is for Tony and his Family. Without their blessing, camp would not have been open; with it being Mother’s Day weekend, I especially appreciate Melissa letting him off the hook for a few days (not to discount Tony’s charming conviction). Second would be Cervicide! If Cervicide had never come into my life I would never have met all these awesome folks and camp would never have happened. This is the second spring I have been a member and both seasons have been so awesome. Thanks for all the fun times and great memories, I can only imagine what next season is going to be like! 

Making the Perfect Wild Game Kielbasa

Whether you are a beginner or a pro, getting into processing your own wild game meat or have been doing it your whole life, this guide to making kielbasa will have all your friends and family thinking you bought it from a professional meat processing shop! When thinking of how I wanted to convey this information, I decided that the best way to take you on this journey would be to pretend I have never done this in my life and had the minimal equipment to get it done. Now, I have been doing this for quite some time and have all kinds of meat processing equipment these days, but in this step by step guide I will be only using the absolute minimum required items to take a deer leg and turn it into a delicious ring of wild game kielbasa. I will also add some side notes for the folks with more equipment or the ones looking to purchase some new stuff to be able to complete this in bigger bulk or with more efficiency.

Equipment

  1. Meat Grinder with sausage stuffer attachments (I have a 1 HP Cabelas Carnivore, a ½ HP will do just fine as well)
  2. Smoker (I have a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker) *Side Note – Depending on your geographic location, temperature, and time of year, you may want to consider what kind of smoker to utilize. I have found that gas powered and larger sized smokers will take much longer (if at all) to get to the temperature required in cold conditions. I switched to a Bluetooth electric smoker and it was life changing when smoking in the winter. Also, if you don’t want the smokey taste, this can also be done right in your oven, making the only needed equipment the meat grinder!
  3. A food scale
  4. 2 or 3 large metal bowls

Ingredients

  1. Meat
    • 80% Wild game meat – fat and silver skin completely cut off to the best of your abilities and cubed for grinding (if using bear or wild hog meat, utilize it’s fat at a 95% to 5% ratio)
    • 20% Pork Butt – fat left on and cubed for grinding (not needed for wild hog or bear)
  2. Block of cheddar cheese cut into cubes meat processing, processing meat, wild game kielbasa
    *Side Note – High Temp cheese can be used here, but in my experience it is not needed. The regular cheddar cheese doesn’t typically get hot enough to melt, and when stuffed in the casing in the meat it will stay in its cubed form even if it melts a little while smoking.
  3. Jalapeños diced
  4. Onions diced
  5. Minced garlic
  6. Canning salt
  7. Black pepper
  8. Paprika
  9. Ground Cumin
  10. Instant non-fat dry milk
  11. Woodchips (Many different flavors out there, but I typically use hickory or whiskey for this)
  12. Hog casings
    *Side Note – I usually call my local butcher and ask if they would sell me casings. Usually they will, and I buy in bulk and what I don’t use I put into a Ziploc bag, fill it with salt and water, and freeze it for next time. You can also go to a Cabelas or other sportsman store and buy the fake stuff, but it’s just not the same.
  13. Optional: Prague Powder or Pink Salt as it’s sometimes referred to.
    *Side Note – I say optional because it’s hard to find and usually has to be ordered, and in my opinion it’s not really needed. The pink salt is basically only used as a preservative and if packaged properly in my experience, the meat can be saved for well over a year in the freezer without it (if it even lasts that long).

Time For The Work To Begin!

The first step in the process is to, of course, kill an animal (we will use a whitetail deer in this example, but most any red meat animal or wild hog will work with this recipe). Ponder on the amount of kielbasa you want to make (typically 1 lb per ring) and add a few extra pounds for sharing with your friends, family, neighbors, or the landowner that let you take the deer on his/her land. When thinking of where I want this meat to come from on the animal, anywhere that you would typically use for burger will do. Front and back legs, rib meat, etc. are good choices.

Trim all the fat and silver skin off your deer meat, cube it, and grind it. Then take your pork butt and cube and grind that up as well. *Side Note – Due to the fat contents of the pork butt, it may be stringy and cause your grinder to clog up. To alleviate this, first grind the pork butt cubes through larger holes and then grind it again through smaller holes. Once completed, combine and mix the two meats together in a large metal pot or bowl (this is where an electric mixer would come in handy if you don’t want an upper body workout). Once complete, set it in the freezer (or outside if it’s cold) to chill. *Side Note – You always want your meat as cold as possible (but not frozen) when sending it through the grinder. Your grinder will get hot the longer it’s used and can even slightly cook the meat. I also wrap ice packs around the motor to keep it from getting hot. I will let the meat chill in the freezer or outside until it gets to the point where my fingers will instantly get cold when I push them into the meat.

While your meat is chilling, it is time to prepare the rest of the ingredients. Take your casings (thaw if frozen) and put them in a tub of salt water. Let them soak until you are ready to use them (especially if they are dried in a package). Also, take your woodchips that you plan on using (hickory in this case) and soak them in a bowl of water as well. If you plan on using the oven, no need to worry about woodchips and what kinds of flavors they produce. I have found that hickory or whiskey woodchips pair nicely with this particular recipe. Next, take the jalapeños, onion, and cheddar cheese and dice them up while cutting your cheese into little cubes.

Add It All Together!

Now it’s time to add all the ingredients together and mix them up (again, the electric mixer is very nice for this part). Now, if you have smaller equipment and less space, I would recommend putting this together in 5 pound increments. If you are doing this by hand, it will be much easier to ensure all the ingredients get mixed together evenly, rather than doing it in bulk. The first thing I do is add 5 lbs of the chilled mixed meat into a bowl.

Here’s the thing, I’ve never been too big into measuring exact amounts during this phase, it’s always been more of a “yeah looks good” kind of thing. So the best I can say in regards to measurements are as follows:

Per 5 lbs of meat add

  • 1 cup of of the cubed cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup jalapeños
  • ½ cup onion
  • 2 tbsp canning salt *Side Note: if using pink salt, add 1 tbsp of that and 1 tbsp of canning salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup instant milk

Once added, mix together very well and repeat in 5 pound increments until you are finished. Once complete, let the meat chill again.

Test Subjects

Hold on now, before stuffing time, we need to test our product to make sure it’s actually good before going through the most annoying part of the process! Take a chunk of the mixture and make 1 or 2 patties. Put them in a pan and fry them up. Have a taste and add anything that you think would make it better (if necessary).

*Side Note – Usually I will take an additional 5 lbs or so of the mixture and just wrap and package that meat up in 1 pound packages to make patties just like this for breakfast or to even mix in with eggs! The best way to wrap meat like this is to tightly wrap it in saran wrap and then again in freezer paper.

 

Stuff It!

Now that we know we have an awesome delicious product, we can now stuff our meat into the casing! If you are using the meat grinder, make sure that you attach the proper items to the machine. Using the stuffer setup with a grinder takes longer and can be more annoying, but it can be done! Once you get through this and want to do it more often, I highly recommend getting a sausage stuffer for this part of the job. It will be much easier and faster, but like I said, we want to accomplish this with as little equipment as possible, so the grinder will do just fine! With the grinder usually comes plastic stuffers. With the plastic stuffers, it is sometimes difficult to shove the casing onto them because it will stick. To combat this, I will usually spray some pam on the plastic stuffer to make the casing slide easier onto it. Take one strand of casing and slide it all the way onto the stuffer and then tie a knot to the end.

Now it’s time to add your meat to the top bin and begin stuffing! Turn your grinder on and have at it. I typically stuff the casing to about 2 feet in length (give or take) which usually equates to about a pound. Once you get to the desired length, cut off the casing ensuring you have 2 inches or so of extra length to tie another knot to the back end.

*Side Note – I usually tie the knot with extra length left over to tie the two ends together for hanging. You can also use rope to hang it, but I’ve found this works just as well with out the extra step of tying the string onto the ring of kielbasa. Also, if you are using an oven or are not hanging them to smoke, it really doesn’t matter.Repeat this process until you either run out of mix or run out of casing! If you run out of casing first, you can wrap the extra meat like earlier.

 

Smoking Time!

Now we are already for the smoker (or oven). You can even package and freeze as is if you’d like at this point and grill it whenever you please. Since I smoke it, I can pull it out of the freezer at any time, let it thaw, and just eat away. But anyways, turn the smoker on and set it to 175° F. If using an oven, set it to the lowest setting and leave the door cracked open just a tad. Once the smoker reaches temperature, add the soaked woodchips and let them go to town for about a half hour. Once smoke starts coming out of the top end and you can smell it, it’s time to add the kielbasa rings. Smoke them for as long as it takes to get them to the appropriate temperature (USDA Temperatures can be looked up online). *Side Note – If using bear, wild hog, or any kind of predator meat it is extremely important that the temperature exceeds the recommended temperature to kill off trichinosis.

Throughout this process (8-12 hours) it may be necessary to add more woodchips so be sure to have more soaking just in case. Once the meat reaches the appropriate temperature, remove the rings from the smoker and hang them in a room temperature/cool dry place for about an hour. By doing this, you will create that “shriveled” look as the juices suck into the meat from the outer edges of the casing.

After the rings have rested, they are ready to either eat or package up! I like to package the majority of my meat by using saran wrap and freezer paper. However, in rings like this, it may be best to use a vacuum sealer to ensure that no air is present within the packaging. Either way, your meat should last in the
freezer much longer than it will likely last once you begin eating it and sharing it with others!

 

 

 

Hunting the Green Monster

How It Starts

There I was, opening day of Rifle season, sitting in a breakfast joint with my wife when I get a call from my best friend.

“ Dude! We just doubled up on four point Muleys! Can you come help us pack out, we are five miles from the truck.”  Instead of being excited for my two friends, I was instantly overcome by jealousy, the Green Monster.

You see, a few years back I decided to leave rifle hunting behind and pick up a bow and arrow. Early archery season had already come and gone without success for me, and I was upset that it wasn’t me out there. How could they go out there in one morning and double up, when I put in a full month of hard hunting without a notched tag. To add insult to injury, they wanted my help packing out! I wanted to do anything but go help. Them shooting two deer in the area I hunted so hard was a double lung to my pride. I felt deflated as a hunter. Like I was a failure.

The Problem

I believe that all hunters at one time of another find themselves feeling jealous of other hunter’s success. This day and age we are constantly subject to people’s success. Our social media feeds are swarmed with big deer, big bull, and any other trophy you can think of.  We see a far higher percentage of success than we do failure. This makes us start to feel that we are doing something wrong, or that we are missing something. What is it that I don’t know? How can everyone else harvest such monsters, but we haven’t notched a tag in two years?  We start to hope that it is our equipment, it must be my camos fault or maybe my scent control, so we spend money on gear we don’t need thinking it’s going to help us be more successful. What if you shoot a deer that isn’t big enough? So you pass on opportunity because you are worried about what everyone on Facebook is going to think of your “sub par” deer, even though five years ago, you would have considered it a trophy in your own books.  These are all natural feelings. So how do we overcome it?

The Solution

You have to ask yourself, “Why do I hunt?” As hunters we like to say it’s not all about the kill.It is about the experience, the family, the friendship, and the memories. It is the appreciation for this big wild world we live in and the opportunity to be a part of it. When I look back at my best hunting memories, it has never been pulling the trigger. It is always the packout, or the much needed beer after getting back to camp, or mutual misery of sleeping in a tent in sub-zero temps. I started bow hunting for the experience, and oh boy have I gotten it. I didn’t do it to increase my harvest rate or shoot bigger deer, I did it for the challenge and the sport. Whether I harvest a deer or not is never going to change the fact that I love hunting, and that is the answer to jealousy.

So, I drove the hour home, grabbed my pack, put on my boots and orange vest, then drove another hour to the trailhead and hiked in to help my best friends pack out their deer. And

I can tell you this, it was miserable, they shot the deer in a hole, and it was 5 miles out, all uphill. But, it was the highlight of this season, and a memory I will never forget. I hope they do the same thing next year.

A Spring to Remember

As the harsh winter months toil on, I sit by my fireplace and reminisce of hunts of yesteryear. All the days spent scouting and preparing for that coming season.  All those days spent a field where the only thing I managed to kill was time. All those days are made worth it when that day finally comes, the day that makes it all worth it. One such hunt always sticks out in my mind as the most memorable I’d ever been part of, my very first successful harvest of a spring gobbler.

The Story Begins…

It was the spring of 2017 after a winter that lasted well into March.  We turkey hunters were anxious for the land to start thawing out and for those old toms to start up their bird love orchestra. I had secured permission to hunt a friend’s farm not far from where I had been archery hunting every year. The interesting thing about this property was that my friends were actually have trouble with several wild gobblers coming onto their property and bullying their domestic farm turkeys. For a turkey hunter, this is a very good problem to have. Although it presents an interesting challenge; how do I tell the difference between the wild birds and the domestic farm birds?  The farm birds regularly wandered into the fields that I would later be hunting so I knew I would need to be absolutely sure of my target before pulling that trigger.

Opening day came and went with no sight or sound of birds anywhere in the fields and woods I was hunting. Did that old tom bullying the farm turkeys get shot? Did he get hit by a car? Or did he just get wise? All these questions raced through my head as I gear up for the second Saturday of the season.  I had decided to bring along my brother and friend Cody to add a couple more bird brains in the blind. We walked about 400 yards out through a cut corn field and set up on a finger of woods jutting out into the bottom of the field.  It looked to be the perfect spot to ambush an unsuspected turkey.

Just after daybreak we scratched that old slate call a couple times and then we heard the old tom let out his first gobble of the morning.  It thundered through the hollow and our hearts started jumping out of our chests. I called again and again he bellowed back at me. Then my brother whispers to me “I think I see him”. I turn to his side of the blind and see a turkey, but I notice the bottom portion of his breast feathers had been pulled out, and then I realized that was one of the farm turkeys.  I clucked a few more times, then we heard another gobble from down in the hollow behind us. We then realized what was going on, we actually had a wild gobbler and a farm gobbler both coming right at our calling and decoys. I turned to my brother and said “keep your eyes on the farm boy and I’ll stay focused on the old tom”. Every time we would scratch that call both birds would let out a thunderous gobble. There was no doubt in my mind that wild old tom was coming right for us.

Unbelief

When the wild tom seemed to be just about 100 yards from us, he just shut up.  We didn’t hear a peep out of that bird for a solid 15 minutes (although it felt like 3 hours).  Discouraged and thinking we’d been beaten, I exited the blind (like a fool) to shoo the farm turkey away from our set up, fearing he’d pushed the wild bird off. I finally convinced the farm bird to leave our hollow and start making his way back to the farm.  As I turned to head back to the blind, I look up and realize that I see  the red of a gobblers head sticking up just over the crest of the hill between us.  In a moment of disbelief, I turned and looked back at the farm bird and then back at the one in front of me, and I realized I had made a big mistake.  The wild bird had simply shut up and began working around us to come into the field on the other side of the hollow. I had two choices, I could either lay low and hope that old bird didn’t spot me, or make a charge over the crest of the hill like a scene out of braveheart.  Well, this crazy turkey hunter chose the ladder.  As I charged up over the hill, that old tom had no idea what was coming for him. As I crested the hill the bird turned to move back toward the woods and I knew I wouldn’t have much time for a shot.  I pulled up the old 12 gauge and let the lightning fly. The next thing I knew, my first gobbler was on the ground.

It was an unorthodox hunt to say the least. I don’t know many guys that have charged a turkey like a character from a Mel Gibson movie, and actually came out of it with a bird. After it was all said and done and it was time for pictures, my brother Kyle, Cody, and I couldn’t help but sit there and laugh at the chain of events that led to getting that bird on the ground. It’s a hunt that will live on in my memory forever.  It doesn’t matter if your hunt plays out like a hunting show or like a cartoon show, what matters is the experience you had along the way. I appreciate the opportunity to harvest that bird, and getting to do it with my brother and best friend made it all the better.

 

Walking with the Warlord

There’s a song by Rhett Akins I really love called “Granddaddy’s Gun.” It’s the ballad of a young man recalling the story of the shotgun his grandfather gifted him on his thirteenth birthday, and the deep meaning the gun holds for him. He reminisces about tales from yesteryear, and shares the hope he has to one day pass it on to his son. To him, no amount of money in the world could buy the memories and tradition that his granddaddy’s gun holds. If we’re lucky enough, I’m sure many of us can point to a certain gun or bow that can unlock the past and show us the treasures they possess for us, even though they may appear worthless to the untrained eye. This is the story of the gun that holds that prestige to me; my father’s rifle, the one he calls “The Warlord.”

Our story begins thirty-five years ago, when my father was just fifteen years old. Many early mornings in the milking parlor and long, hot days on the construction site had finally earned him enough money to buy a brand-new Ruger model 77 rifle, chambered in .300 Winchester mag. The sharp recoil landed hard against his small but wiry frame, but he was determined to conquer this rifle and that’s exactly what he did. His passion for this gun and shooting it well quickly turned into an obsession, which manifested itself in the proficiency and notoriety amongst my dad and the newly minted Warlord would soon gain.

Whitetails would be the first to feel the wrath of the Warlord. As a young man my father would roam the mountains and hills of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia in search of these beautiful deer each autumn, and felled many with quick and deadly precision. One such instance was in the crisp opening morning air early in the 1980s. After an unsuccessful hunt, my father and his companions had gathered around the truck to recount the morning’s misfortune. Suddenly, upon a distant ridge a ten point buck came bounding out of the wood line and began racing across the field. Dad smoothly leveled his rifle across the hood of that old Chevy Cheyenne, settled the crosshairs on the buck’s line of travel, and fired. To the amazement of the onlookers, the buck folded mid stride and crashed to the earth in a tumbling heap some four hundred yards away.

Eventually wanderlust overtook my dad and he, with the Warlord safely in tow, made the journey west to the Rockies and the vast wilderness of central Idaho. Deer and elk were to be his principle quarry, and he would get his first opportunity within days of arrival on the deer of a lifetime. Upon his trusty horse Blue he glassed as dawn broke over the valley below. The spruce and fir trees that lined the landscape created a seemingly endless ocean of green. As he glassed diligently, the familiar gleam of antler and tawny hide rose from the tide and into view. This buck was tall and heavy with split brow tines, exactly what he had traveled west for. As Dad settled behind the scope and prepared for the shot, the buck did an about face and began his ascent up a distant hill. As the buck quickly began to fade over the roll of hill, a shot rent the air and the Warlord claimed its next victim. Three hundred yards away, the split brow eleven point lay dead, having crumpled and succumbed to a perfectly executed “Texas heart shot”. As he held the magnificent antlers of his Idaho trophy, my father wore an unerasable smile, one that signified the fulfillment of a childhood dream, catalyzed by his beloved rifle.

A few years and a bull elk later (a story for another day because I surely can’t divulge everything), dad found himself back in Idaho, this time as a guide. One fateful morning he was accompanied by my grandfather, his client for the week. Pap had been intrigued by dad’s success and stories of the wilderness and the giants that it contained, and decided he wanted a piece of it. After making it to a good spot above the tree line to stop and glass, things took a turn. During the glassing a rock gave way beneath him, sending my father careening down the mountainside, finally coming to rest beneath a log. The log slowly began to crush him and the pain was excruciating. Pap rushed to his aid but was unable to free his son and panic had start to set in. However, in stroke of fate the Warlord had drifted to my father’s side during the fall and it proved to be an excellent lever. Dad let out a sigh as he pushed with all his power to relieve himself of the weight that held him captive, eventually freeing himself while the log disappeared over the edge of the mountain into the valley below. Just this once, the Warlord went from reaper to savior.

With the legend cemented and my mother waiting in the east, the Warlord returned home for the final time. My father continued to dazzle back home in the east, with many deer and a bear or two feeling the wrath of his rifle. One buck in particular fell victim to the Warlord’s kiss of death, even though his vitals were obstructed by the oak board of a split rail fence. This season, I will be carrying the Warlord with me into the woods. My father beamed with pride when I came to him with this proposition, saying only, “Treat her well, and she’ll take care of you just like she took care of me.” This season, I will feel every nick and scratch in the wood of the stock and feel the history come alive beneath my hands. This season, I will hopefully gaze into the scope and draw the crosshairs on the shoulder of a big whitetail buck, just as Dad did all those times. This season, I’ll be walking with the Warlord.                     

Hard Work + Patience = Success

There is something about duck hunting that makes everyone smile and shake their head frustrated at the same time.  I love how you can take a guy out once and have him hooked for life.  One good trip is all it takes.  Y’all know what I’m talking about. The ability to shoot more than once on a hunting trip. The building of the blind, and silent sit and wait. (Okay if you go with buddies it may not be silent).

What about the not so fun duck
hunting trips? The ones where you drive for hours, break ice to setup decoys, fill your waders filling in the blind, and get skunked. I know what y’all are thinking. “No thanks.” Something about waterfowl can be so intriguing, yet so aggravating. I know from experience the feeling of disappointment when you put in the time and no dice, nor ducks. However, today I want to talk about how hard work plus patience equals success.

Hard Work

A friend and I went on a duck hunting trip after scouting a spot in northern New Mexico (yes, we have water) and knowing there were going to be some ducks in this spot we planned to hunt there. We left his house at 0230 and arrived at our spot along the Rio Grande and started putting in the hard work. It was cold, but not frigid and the water on the river was running fast. The bottom of the river was covered in rocks and we couldn’t punch our motion decoy stick through, so we got wet by removing a foot and a half of rocks only to find more rocks.  We eventually realized how foolish and futile our attempt was and decided to wedge our motion decoy stick in the rocks. Hoping and asking mother nature not to knock it over.

We set out our decoys for a NW wind. When we went to scout we saw some Mallards, Wigeon, and Wood Ducks. We set out our floating decoys, jerk cords, and setup some floating Canadian Geese just in case. (You never know.) We wanted to go out into the river to make sure any ducks flying down or up stream could see our spread clearly. We brushed up the bind with natural cover around, and hunkered down to wait for shooting light.

About 10 minutes to sunrise we hear a pack of coyotes howling and heading to their den for the day. We play the rookie mistake of calling out with a cottontail distress call. To our dumbfounded senses we hear ducks get up off the water and fly away. BUSTED!! By a dumb out of place call.  What were we thinking? We came to shoot ducks and literally scared them off as they were swimming into our spread from upstream. Rookie mistake. After having a moment of shame, and reminding ourselves the day is young, we quiet down and get ready to hunt.

Patience

The morning goes by slowly. We shoot some singles, and debate whether or not to stay. I say let’s stay for another hour and if nothing comes flying by we will pack up and leave. My buddy agrees. This was the best decision we made that day.

About 25 minutes later we see off in the distance some Canadian Geese flying high but, dropping in altitude. I flag them and they descend even more. As they approach my buddy works them with his best honk, cluck and moan sequence. The geese circle overhead and we allow them to work so we don’t sky-bust (another topic soon) and scare them away. We allow them to work, but then I see our motion decoy moving still. I reach for the remote to shut it off. The geese flare because they see me move. I am so mad at myself at this point. I know the motion decoys make geese wary, but I busted myself by another rookie mistake.

I start lifting up prayers to the Almighty and ask Him for a favor. To my surprise we hear geese mimicking my buddy’s honk, cluck, moan sequence. My buddy gets back on his call and works them into the decoys again! This time the motion decoy is off, and we are ready to kill some geese. The geese worked so beautifully I regret not setting up my camera. The lead goose puts its’ feet down and we now have 12 geese landing into our decoys up-river. I call out, “Kill ‘em” and we shoot one each because both of our guns failed to eject the shells. We are on the river so we hurry to get out of the blind and retrieve the birds. (Still training my gundog). My buddy takes his gun with him like a smart hunter. To our delight, one of the geese circles back and my buddy shoots him down. We had 3 geese.

Success!

All this is to say how hard works pays in the end. Yes, you may have some difficulties hunting and may even get skunked. My opinion is the Almighty favors those who work for it. You get out what you put in. We started discouraged, wet, cold, and tired, but we worked hard and were patient. In the end we were rewarded with some ducks and 3 geese.

That Bow Season Feeling (in Upstate New York)

Non-stop action

Early bow season 2018 – a true season to remember. The bow swinging in the breeze and the deer on the move. With new spots scouted out and some old ‘tried-true’; successful harvests have found me over the course of the whole early bow season.

Meat in the Freezer

The first came from a stand I had never been in. I had asked permission last spring to hunt gobblers with no success, but I knew it would be a nice spot to check up on deer later in the
year. With work being busy, I got up the courage to ask the owner if I could bowhunt the
property knowing there was another person set to gun hunt it.

Permission granted, I made a quick set after work and like clockwork the deer started filtering
into the corner I had chosen. A big doe and two little ones came first at 50 yards, then some 300
yards out. As I watched and contemplated a shot, biding my time, another nice doe made an
appearance at 25 yards. The bow drawn and tactacam rolling, I sent the carnivore and jak knife
clean through. It was the second week in October and the weather was cool, just about how you
would dream it.

More!

I spent the next couple weeks hunting when I could, mostly afternoons, as I did not take any full days off to hunt in the week. Seeing deer pretty much every day; I was loving every minute of just being in the woods.
I made weekends about spending time on a small postage stamp of WNY land I hunt with a good friend and my girlfriend. We had a tough first weekend – with lots of deer coming in to only taunt our intentions of putting carbon airborne.

With a few weeks rest, the weather cooler yet we met back up and managed to nearly each harvest an antlerless deer. I was able to bring a mature doe in on a string to a mock Evercalm scrape and my buddy met success in his ‘five finger’ stand just riding the breeze. It was a proud weekend as I recorded his first bow kill on camera. The emotion and spirits were real; the kind that truly make for life-long memories.

Success – Hunting the Rut

The hunt is always on for me, pretty much year round I’m thinking, prepping, and dreaming of
November days just like these. A brisk 30 degrees, barely frozen, the is air wafting fresh, wet
snow. I picked up some tarsal scent from buck camp the weekend before. I set up in a stand I
had not hunted since opening week. I stamped that stranger buck scent in a few strategic locations, making it the first thing any wandering buck would wind. It worked flawlessly, so much so, that the deer were all over within 40 yards.
Now into full blown rut, it is the second week in November. No amount of self filming could have prepared me for the onslaught of activity. Camera set, the deer started and didn’t stop coming. When that 200 pound 8 stepped on the scene it was like magic. With 15 seconds to manage time, I opted to forego trying for the camera and steady the bow. He spotted me almost as soon as he stepped in, blew right by at 10 yards and made that classic stop at 25 to make sure his eyes weren’t deceived. I had branches but quickly drew and looked for an opening. It came fast,
between the hardwood canopy and overgrown saplings, he made one last glance and caught the green streak of the Nock Out contender 6 ribs back. The air escaped his side in a hiss, he disappeared down the hill – crash.

Celebrating, but still unsure; I waited to check my arrow, shining green, in a stained blanket of white. It looked great… but feeling just off about the shot, I gave it time, and after 4 hours I made the trip back out. I geared up my novice blood tracker pup and my friend and we set off. The blood was visible in the snow, then washed and pink from rain. The dog accepted my guidance as we followed.

 

 

Heavy prints and wet displaced snow told a story. Then sideways slipping hooves and eventually a landing strip, there he was.

 

Fall Decisions

Fall Decisions in the Midwest

Fall is a magical time throughout the Midwest. The warm summer days have slowly faded to cool crisp mornings. The colors are emerging and leaves are starting to fall. Bucks have shed their velvet and deer movement is picking up. I have always looked forward to this time of year. However, I find it challenging due the numerous activities available. And when I say challenging, the challenge is trying to make a decision on what to invest my time in.

I spend the summer months chasing the elusive muskellunge, which really isn’t very elusive here in Wisconsin. No matter how great the fishing is over the summer months, it’s always a better bite come fall. Typically I would fish for muskies through the month of September, occasionally sitting in a tree trying to get a doe in the freezer. The bucks around my property (a mere 4 acres) don’t move much until mid to late October. This year, instead of fishing through September, I had to put in the time to check baits every few days. I drew a bear tag for this year, which really adds to my indecisions on what to do on a daily basis. The bear activity came to a halt when the acorns dropped, but the deer movement increased with the cooler temps. The archery season for deer opened September 15th this year, so I’ve been ready with my bow in case that Pope & Young buck steps out. Even when I’m sitting over bear bait, a larger part of me is hoping some deer will walk through just to get some action.

On top of all of these decisions, small game season is open too! I just spent a week in Colorado chasing elk for my dad’s archery tag, and we saw dozens of grouse! It made my itch to grab a shotgun and hit the woods back home even harder to ignore. I know I can’t waste time on small game right now, not when there’s bigger fish to fry. A bear tag only comes around every few years, and it’s a big commitment. My wife could attest to that. I’m lucky enough to have a wife that will stay home with our son while I chase my dream, even when we both know I probably won’t see a bear each night I go out. That’s why fall is a magical time. You just never know. You never know what you will see. You never know what opportunities you are missing if you stay in for a night.

It’s easy to choose the day’s outing if you know you will be successful. Success is defined differently to each person, however. I could hit the river three times in a week and come away with three or more muskies, and call that a success. I could come away each of those times with no fish, and still call it a successful outing. The hardest part is deciding to hunt or fish for something that may not yield success by a harvest. The success is in the hunt itself; the preparation, the terrain, the weather, the calming sensation of Mother Nature. My indecisions of the fall season will never change, and neither will my success rate.

Trevor Wittwer
Fall Creek, WI

 

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