Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Can’t Kill a Deer with the Wrong Ammunition...

I should know… I tried.

It was this past Saturday, opening day of regular season in the southern zone. I woke up bright and early from my turbulent slumber (I tossed and turned all night, dreaming of my chance to shoot a trophy buck, or a doe, or Bambi… people like me can’t be picky), and I headed out to my special tree stand! This tree stand has brought good fortune to all who have sat in it, with one exception… me.

Cell phone pictures from my tree stand:

It was about 56 degrees outside, which is really warm for November, but it was raining all morning. I tried to text my hunting partner, Ashleigh, to see if she had any luck in her stand when I realized that if I kept texting, the rain would probably ruin my phone. I was going to have to hunt the old-fashioned way… without a cell phone.

I waited all morning and about ten minutes before I decided to head back home, I looked up and saw a doe walking 75 yards away in the field. As I mentioned before, I was not in the position to be picky, and with a doe tag to fill I went for it!

I zeroed in on the doe with my scope, turned the safety off, and BANG! I was so confident in my shot; I didn’t shake while I was shooting and I didn’t feel myself jerk the gun so I assumed I had hit it. In my excitement I forgot about the whole concept of re-loading and shooting again, so I just watched while the doe took off, stopped to look around for a second, and then disappeared into the woods.

Now I’m no expert (clearly) but I’ve seen enough hunting shows to know how deer react when they’ve been hit. This deer did the complete opposite. All of my confidence in my kill disappeared.

During the process of tracking the doe I realized that I should have paid better attention to where the doe was standing when I shot, and I also realized that you shouldn’t drive a four-wheeler through tall weeds in unknown territory because you might drive straight into a beaver dam in a little swamp. Oops.

After concluding that I missed, my husband and I decided to sight my gun in again to make sure I did it right the first time. I shot a couple of times… missed. My husband shot... missed. The marks from the bullets were no where to be found on the targets. Something was seriously wrong with my gun. After a half an hour of shooting at huge pieces of cardboard and completely missing my husband figured it out.

I was shooting .270 bullets out of my .30-06 rifle.

If you’re like me and completely clueless, let me break it down for you. Bullets for a .270 are smaller than bullets for a .30-06. So I was shooting bullets that were too small, causing them to vibrate and spin through the barrel of my gun, which in turn shot the bullets out in every direction but straight. The mystery is this: how did I get my hands on .270 ammunition when nobody at my house owns a .270 rifle? Some things will never be explained.

On the bright side of things, it wasn’t my fault that I missed!!

After that disaster of a morning I was confident that with the correct ammunition, I would have a much better chance at hitting a deer!

20 minutes after getting back into my tree stand for the afternoon I saw three doe cross in front of me. I know that I could have taken my pick but I had the rest of the night so I waited for something better to come along. When the doe had just about exited the field I saw another deer coming from my right. It looked like another doe. I found it in my scope and just about fell out of the tree stand… it had a rack!

It was a buck!

It looked like a spike horn which was good enough for me! This time I wasn’t going to mess around. I lined it up in my scope, made some awful pitiful noise that sounded nothing like a deer, but more like a person grunting because they ate too much at the Ponderosa buffet, and I shot! The buck ran across the field, stopped, changed direction and ran four steps back towards me, and dropped!!!

Little Buck Down!!!

I can’t even put into words the excitement I felt at that moment! After searching through the weeds I found my buck! I had hit him right in the kill zone. He turned out to be a small four point. I couldn’t believe it; I killed a buck on opening day! I was in all my glory… until my husband showed up and reminded me that I had to be the one to gut the deer. 45 minutes of arguing and protesting later, I finished gutting it. I am now an official deer hunter!

This is how I found him! Check out my awesome shot!

Posing on the four-wheeler with my buck and my Remington .30-06!

My sister's boyfriend (the bad fisherman from a previous post) with his first kill, a bigger 4 point.

Next year, these are the bucks I'm going to kill:

Mike Lavenia shot this 15 point buck in Redfield. Photo courtesy of Lake Ontario Outdoors.

Rob Godfrey of Hannibal with his 10 point buck

Monday, November 10, 2008

Outdoor Adventures with Jess & Ash

I decided that I’m going to be on a hunting television show someday, regardless of the fact that I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to accomplish this. I also decided that my friend Ashleigh will be my co-star, since she is the only girl I know who also likes to hunt and fish, and when we’re together hilarity ensues.

Since I don’t have my own show (yet) I decided to feature Ashleigh on some of my blog posts. I’m going to call these posts “Outdoor Adventures with Jess & Ash”.

We had our first outdoor adventure together last night: bow hunting on my property. I was the hunter and Ashleigh was the one-woman video camera crew. Might I add that in order to be the camerawoman you should put charged batteries in your video camera, a fact Ashleigh overlooked. So unfortunately, the only thing we had taped was my introduction to our imaginary hunting show. (Don’t worry - we learned our lesson so on our next hunt we will have video footage to post on here!)

It was the perfect night for a hunt, it was warm and there was no wind (I’m not sure if those are perfect conditions for actually seeing deer, but it was perfect for me so I didn’t get cold!). We set up my brand new pop-up ground blind in the corner of a field and unpacked the equipment: Bow, check; release, check; arrows, check; doe urine, oops I forgot that; binoculars, double oops; and a grunt call or doe bleat; triple oops. So aside for forgetting half of my hunting equipment, I was ready!

I am surprisingly very quiet when I hunt (perhaps because there is no one to talk to) and that hasn’t gotten me too far this season, so Ashleigh and I tried a different approach – we talked the whole time.

We sat in the blind for over and hour, chatting away, and seeing absolutely nothing. It was getting colder out so I put my bow down, put my gloves back on and made myself more comfortable. All of a sudden three heads bounded out of the forest to our left. As the three doe leaped through the field in front of us I excitedly threw my gloves off and picked up my bow just to have the arrow fall off. Then of course we couldn’t stop giggling which is never good while trying to remain incognito.

After regaining our composure, we silently watched the doe play in the field. They were never close enough for me to shoot. I can only accurately shoot up to 30-40 yards. Not to mention the weeds were so high I could barely see them, something I didn’t take into account when I set the blind up. We sadly watched the doe disappear to our right and then waited, hoping a buck might be following behind them.


Still Nothing.

Finally it was just about dark and we had given up. Ashleigh made some comment along the lines of “well the last three deer showed up when we weren’t paying attention, so we’ll probably see some more when we start packing up”.

I bet you can’t guess what happened.

I followed Ashleigh out of the blind making all sorts of noise when I practically ran into her; she was frozen and staring up the hill in front of us. There, about 70 yards away on the horizon line stood two more grazing doe. I crept back into the blind and grabbed my bow. When I walked out I saw the doe head into the woods. I figured I would be able to get a shot into the clearing in the woods if I walked further up the hill. On our way up I saw movement. The two doe had come back out of the woods and were standing right in front of us… only 50 yards away!! We stopped dead in our tracks, standing face to face with the deer assuming they would jump away any second.

They walked CLOSER to us!

Ashleigh and I stood frozen for a good five minutes just waiting to see what the deer would do. When they put their heads down we took a couple more steps then stopped as they looked up. This went on for another five minutes. These deer were either really brave or well aware of my shooting accuracy.

All I needed was to close up 10 more yards to shoot. We got a little closer and finally they spooked and ran into the woods. Our hunt was over, it was now dark out, but my heart was still racing. Finally all Ashleigh and I could do was laugh. It was the most interesting hunt we’ve ever been on. That is the kind of thing that makes hunting completely worth it, even if I don’t ever kill one thing (although that would give me something to brag about).

The fun didn’t stop there.

We had to fold up the pop-up ground blind. This proved to be slightly more difficult than popping it up. After ten minutes of Ashleigh reading me the directions while I attacked the blind from all angles, we gave up. Ashleigh walked the blind to the car and then we drove home… while we held the blind on top of the car’s roof with our hands. And so ends the first post of Outdoor Adventures with Jess & Ash.

Ashleigh dragging the ground blind to the car. I would have taken a photo of us with the blind on top of the car, but since I was driving, that would have been bad.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pheasant Hunting at Deer Creek Shooting Preserve

Last week I had the awesome privilege to go Pheasant hunting on the Deer Creek Shooting Preserve with fellow blogger Spider Rybaak (to read his post from the hunt, click here). We were guided by Deer Creek Owner, Stan Oullette. The Deer Creek Shooting Preserve is located on Route 3 just outside of Port Ontario in Pulaski. Deer Creek also has hunts for chucker partridge, quail, turkey and deer. For more information on Deer Creek call Stan at 315-298-3730.

The only hunting I’ve done that has involved birds of flight is waterfowl hunting, and my record is about 1 out of 891,238 birds. If you count the birds I’ve hit with my car then that jumps the ratio up to about 5 out of 891,238 birds. When Spider invited me to go pheasant hunting I was excited but lacking optimism. I just figured it was another chance to fail at something and have not only one blog written about it, but TWO!

The questions I asked before the hunt were, “Do I need to wear full camo, what kind of choke do I need on my shotgun, and do I need to bring my license?” The answers were, “Full camo is not necessary, use a modified choke, and no, licenses are not needed on private hunting preserves.” Another interesting fact about private hunting preserves is that younger hunters are allowed. Deer Creek allows youth hunts for ages 10 and up.

The day of the hunt I was extremely nervous, not just because of the number of missed shots I was anticipating, but because of the chance I might end up shooting Spider or Stan, or with my luck, both. (*Note: Spider and Stan are both alive and well. I did not shoot either of them or myself so you can read the rest of this post without being worried).

I had no idea what to expect as the hunt began. Stan’s amazing bird dog, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon named Belle, was already off on her way to find a pheasant. She had a bell on her collar and as soon as the bell stopped we knew she was on point. I figured we would walk around for a good half hour before Belle found her prey, but I was wrong. Within five minutes, only about 100 yards away from the Deer Creek Motel, she was on point. I had no idea which way the bird would fly up, and in which direction it would take off. I am used to watching waterfowl that are already in the sky flying in a straight line. Without a second thought a bird swooped up right in front of my eyes and flew out straight in front of me. I hesitated and then let off my first shot and hit the bird! It all happened so fast but when I put the gun down I heard Spider’s enthusiastic hoots and hollers and I knew that I had killed my first pheasant… on my FIRST TRY! Perhaps the curse was finally broken!

Belle sped off to hunt down the pheasant, wounded or not, she was going to find it. She did, and behold - the first kill of a pheasant hunting novice.

I’ll admit, taking down the first pheasant might have gone to my head a little. I was knocked back off my high horse when I missed the next one, and then the next one, and then the next one… I hit one more pheasant total but I didn’t kill it. That’s where Stan came in. He’s got a great shot and if anyone he guides misses or injures the bird, he shoots him down so the bird doesn’t suffer.

The element of surprise was my biggest downfall. Every time a pheasant shot out of the brush I jumped a mile then I had to regain my composure before shooting. Even when I saw Belle on point, and told myself over and over, “get ready, the bird is going to fly out any second” I still jumped like a ten-year-old watching a bad Freddy Krueger movie.

After two hours in the field we called it a day. Everyone had things to do and I don’t know how much more missing I could have taken. In total we killed five pheasants. (I should use the word “we” lightly since Stan did most of the work). Stan was generous and cleaned the pheasants for me. I heard that pheasants are delicious which means I have to learn how to cook them, and if you think I’m bad at hunting, you should taste my cooking.

Stan, guiding me through his preserve.

Belle, carrying back a hit pheasant

Stan and Me, holding up a couple of pheasants during our hunt

Spider, Stan and Belle taking a break on the gorgeous Deer Creek property

Showing off all five pheasants, pretending I killed them all :)

A successful hunt!