Monday, December 29, 2008

After Christmas Hunting Trip

This Christmas season has been very memorable. I am in the middle of about a two-week vacation from work (it sure is nice to have enough leave built up to have to use it to keep from losing it). I have been able to enjoy spending time with my family, go hunting, tinker with some projects around the house, but most importantly - celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My family came over on Christmas Eve and we spent Christmas Day with Steph's family. After all of the Christmas get-togethers were through, Daddy and I drove out to the lease for some late-season archery hunting.

We enjoyed very pleasant temperatures as we sat in our treestands on Friday morning. I saw four deer (3 doe and a 3-point buck), three of which walked within bow range. Daddy also saw a few deer and attempted a shot at a doe that was about 30 yards away. Unfortunately, a treelimb was in the flightpath of the arrow and redirected it away from the intended target.

After the morning hunt, we checked the status of the protein feeder/food plot area in the middle of our deer sanctuary. There were a few signs of deer around, but they still haven't started hitting the protein yet. The oats/clover mixture that we planted earlier in the fall has been grazed down quite a bit. Shane moved his trail camera to the protein feeder so hopefully we will get some deer pictures. This is a picture I took last month showing the feeder area (which we have fenced off to keep the cows out) and the oats that were beginning to come up.
Since the last few times sitting in my easternmost stand have provided shot opportunities, I decided to put my Dad in this stand on Friday evening. Once again, deer walked within bow range of this stand, but Daddy decided to pass on the shot because it was just a very small yearling doe.

I decided to hunt out of my stand behind the lake that hasn't been hunted in over a month. I didn't see any deer activity that evening, but about 4:30 a large male bobcat walked down the ridge behind me and into a clearing about 25 - 30 yards to my right. Just as I was about to draw my bow I noticed he was turning in my direction. He continued on a trail that passes almost directly under my stand. As he approached he walked behind a thicket allowing me to draw my bow undetected. When he stepped out from behind the thicket, five yards from the base of the tree I was in, I made a grunt noise to stop him and loosed the arrow. It was a perfect shot and the cat never knew what hit him. He managed to make it 15 yards before expiring.
I weighed the cat on the game hanger we have at the bunkhouse and he weighed right at 30 pounds, which is quite a bit larger than the average bobcat. I found a publication on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department website that said the average weight of an adult bobcat is 12 - 20 pounds, with the occasional older cat reaching up to 36 pounds. The largest one ever recorded in Texas weighed a little over 37 pounds.
I plan to have a lifesize mount of the bobcat made for my trophy room. I'm thinking maybe it would look good to have him mounted in a leaping position where he is swatting at a quail.
Saturday morning there was a threat of thunderstorms so my Dad and I decided to wait the storms out. So we didn't get in our stands until about 8:30 that morning. I didn't see any deer so I took the opportunity to try to take a few pictures. I think this is a Black-capped Chickadee (poecile atricapillus).

Saturday evening I saw one doe. A large grass fire had started about a mile from where we hunt earlier in the day at someone's deer camp. The wind was really strong and the fire got out of control in a hurry and ended up burning a house to the ground. Here are a couple pictures I snapped of the fire.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Two Deer, One Morning

As of Friday evening, I thought my deer season was quickly becoming a total bust. Archery season came and went while I was in Houston, my first couple of trips to the lease had proved to be unsuccessful, and due to some unfortunate circumstances my Missouri trip had to be cancelled. I woke up on Saturday morning with the intent of taking a doe if I was presented with a shot.

There was a slight wind from the south as I headed to get in my stand early Saturday morning, not exactly the best scenario for the stand location I was going to hunt. I climbed up in the stand, got situated and watched as the stars faded into the light of day. About 10 minutes after 7:00 I heard deer movement to my right. I could tell there were multiple deer heading in my direction, but I couldn't tell exactly how many. I went ahead and reached for my bow so as not to make any more movement than possible if the deer did proceed to walk within bow range.

And that they did. The first one, a doe, approached on a trail that leads out of the woodline and skirted within ten yards of my stand. I could see out of the corner of my eye that a second doe was about 15 yards behind her, still in the thicker woods. The first deer continued crossing in front of me from right to left and I drew my bow as she walked behind a small mesquite tree. As soon as she stepped out from behind that tree I loosed my carbon arrow. The arrow flew true and the 100-grain Thunderhead broadhead connected at 14 yards. The doe ran about 60 yards before expiring in the clearing. There would be no need to track this one. The other deer apparently wasn't spooked by the havoc that was wreaked by the flight of the arrow. She continued in my direction but veered away without stepping into a clearing within bow range. A third doe appeared behind her, following her same path. I watched these two deer feed about 80 yards away for the next hour and forty-five minutes. Several times they appeared to be heading back in my direction, but changed course while milling around in the open area in front of my stand.

Finally, at about five minutes until 9:00, the larger of the two deer made her way back toward my stand. When she got within 25 yards I drew my bow and made a risky decision to take a shot at this deer as she was quartering to me. The shot was slightly errant to the left. Not a big deal if it were a broadside shot or a quartering away shot, but the angle the deer was standing resulted in the shot placement being way too far back. I saw the deer run off, and I was somewhat concerned about recovering this one.

I got down out of the stand about 15 minutes later and was able to locate both arrows. I walked back to the truck and met up with Shane, who snapped these awesome pictures. He took the pictures of me with the first deer, we took care of the field dressing duties, and then began looking for the second deer. Fortunately, we found her about two hours after I shot her, and she had only gone about 100 yards.
After taking pictures of the second deer, Shane took some of me with both deer.
The fact that both of these deer were directly downwind of me and never even knew I was there is evidence of the odor-eliminating abilities of the Scent-Lok clothing I was wearing.

The weather was progressively getting cooler throughout the day, and I knew there wouldn't be any chance of the meat spoiling, so I let the deer hang overnight at the bunkhouse.

Saturday evening I hunted out of that same stand and didn't see anything but an opossum.

Sunday morning we woke up to frigid temperatures. It was 15 degrees when I got in my stand just before daylight. A familiar situation unfolded Sunday morning as two more does walked in on the same trail at about 7:30. Both of them walked past my stand within bow range, but I had filled both of my doe tags the previous day.

I quit hunting at about 8:15 because I needed to allow myself time to get the deer to the processor in Muenster, which was a little over an hour away. I dropped both deer off and placed an order for ten pounds of deer sticks and ten pounds of summer sausage. I'm gonna need some more freezer space!

Two deer in one morning with the bow. I'd say that was a hunt to remember.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend Deer Hunt

On Thanksgiving Day, after we had our Thanksgiving festivities with my family at my sister's house, my dad and I drove out to the deer lease to spend a couple days bowhunting. My uncle Rusty and my cousin Shane were there, as well as my friend Lee and his son Sean. We got there late Thursday evening and stopped by and got the memory card out of my trail camera on the way to the bunkhouse. I wanted to see what kind of activity there was around this particular stand location to see if it would be a good spot to hunt the next morning. When I got to the camera, it was once again laying on the ground - the result of some curious livestock. Fortunately it had taken about four days worth of pictures before it got knocked off the tree and the pictures revealed some decent deer movement.

With all of the doe activity during the day, I was hopeful that I would be offered a shot at a doe to get some meat for the freezer. On Friday morning I saw three doe right at first light, but they never got within 70 yards. Friday evening I didn't see anything.

Saturday morning I watched a spike buck feed for about half an hour then I looked to my left and saw a doe behind some trees at about 25 yards. I reached for my bow to take the shot, but then I saw that she had a very small fawn with her trailing along at her feet. This fawn must have been born very late in the summer because it was still very small - probably still nursing. I couldn't bring myself to shoot her with that little fawn still with her. I put my bow back on the bow holder and just watched them walk away.

On Saturday evening I once again almost had a shot at a doe. Four of them came by my stand, this time to my right in the heavy cover. They never presented a shot. By the time they were in a clearing they weren't in bow range anymore. So I still haven't gotten a deer yet this year.

Shane was able to take a picture of a really nice 8-point from his stand on Saturday morning. If this deer makes it through the season, he will be a dandy next year!

Last weekend, while I was in Iowa, Shane made a perfect 60-yard shot to harvest his first deer, a really nice doe.

This weekend, Rusty followed suit and brought down his first deer, also a nice mature doe.

Good job fellas, congratulations to you both.

That brings the total number of deer harvested on our hunting grounds this year to four, all antlerless. I think we can probably still harvest three or four more doe this year to get the buck/doe ratio closer to where it needs to be.

I really like my new stand location and it seems very promising. I hope to take a doe with my bow before the season ends.