Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Iowa Trip - 2008

Spent the first part of the week of Thanksgiving on our annual pheasant hunting trip to northwest Iowa. Our friends, Denny and Kathy Somers, once again blessed us with their hospitality. My dad, Denny and I were trying to remember how many years we have made this trip and we concluded that the first trip was in 1993. This year not only my dad and I went, but my wife, my mom, and my two girls made the 13 hour trek, all in one vehicle I might add.

We arrived at Denny and Kathy's, which is just west of Webb, Iowa, at about 8:30 on Saturday morning, after driving all night long when I got off work Friday. It had started to snow on us about 100 miles south of Webb, and when we arrived there was about an inch of snow on the ground. Katy really had fun playing in the snow.

We hunted most of the day Saturday with Denny and his son Nate. Neither me nor my dad got a bird on Saturday. I had an easy shot at a rooster that flushed right in front of me, but I wasn't able to connect. Denny shot a bird or two that day.
Both my dad and I are decent wingshooters, and have quite a bit of experience shooting doves. Pheasants are much bigger than doves, and one would think they would be easier to hit than a dove, but it isn't as easy as it might look. Usually with doves, you are allowed multiple shot opportunities, sometimes multiple boxes of shells. If you start off shooting bad, there are usually plenty more opportunities which allow you to make corrections and figure out what you are doing wrong. With pheasants, the shot opportunities are fewer, and there is less room for error. Also with doves, you usually see them coming from a long way off and you are more prepared for the type of shot you are going to have to take. With pheasants, you can't always be sure where the bird is going to flush. Even hunting behind dogs, the bird might flush from an area you aren't expecting. He might get up in front of you and fly straight away, or he might get up behind you and veer off to one direction or the other. To make it even more complicated, you also have to make a quick decision on whether it is a hen or a rooster. It is very challenging, but lots of fun.

On Sunday, we went to church with Denny and Kathy and then hunted that afternoon. Once again, my dad and I missed on our shot opportunities, but Denny was able to connect. He shot this bird that afternoon, and it has to be the prettiest one we have seen since we have been hunting pheasants. Denny has hunted pheasants all his life and has never had one mounted, but this one was so pretty and much bigger than the average rooster, and the dogs didn't chew it up, so he decided to get it mounted. The picture doesn't do it justice.
On Monday, my dad and I had two incidents where we were shooting at the same bird, and we couldn't tell who actually hit the bird. One of them we lost and the dogs never even found it. The other one we found, so we decided to split that one (I guess we have a competition going to see who shoots the most).

On Tuesday morning, right before we headed out to pheasant hunt, Denny got a call from his friend Mark Gustafson, who had been bowhunting that morning on some of Denny's property. He reported that he had just shot a buck that was at least a 10-point, so we headed over to help him load it up and to see how big it was. It turned out to be an 11-point that had lots of character. His right antler was a perfect half of a typical 10-point, but the left antler had an extra beam and a small drop tine. These deer in Iowa are much bigger bodywise than what we see on the property we hunt here in Texas. They estimated that this one field dressed at about 220 pounds.
After we helped Mark load up the deer and snap a few pictures we were off to the field for our last day of pheasant hunting. I was able to redeem myself for the poor shooting on the previous days and connected on two birds on Tuesday.
This was the first hunting trip for my new German Shorthair Pointer pup, Little Sioux (named after the river that runs through Denny's property), that Steph and I drove to Iowa earlier this summer to get. My friends Ralph Warkentin and Mike Hanson, who are both from Iowa, were excited to see the pup. They each have two dogs and all four are from the same bloodlines. Ralph's male dog, Jack, is the sire of my pup. I wasn't sure how she would do since I had been gone to Houston for the month prior to our trip and didn't have the time to work with her as much as I wanted. She is only 8 months old, and she did a good job at working close and not ranging out too far. She never did make a point, but she got birdy a couple times and got excited when a bird would flush. I need to get her on some quail in the next month or so, after it gets cold enough that the rattlesnakes will not be out for sure.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saturday Evening Hunt

I hunted Saturday evening out of the tree stand I put up along the tree line south of my winch up feeder, where I found a couple fresh rubs. As I walked in at about 3:00 I spooked 4 antlerless deer at the feeder. The feeder is probably about 100 yards from the stand and I can barely see it from that stand location. About 4:45 that evening a 4-point showed up at the feeder and hung around for about 30 minutes, then he made his way back off to the west headed towards the south side of the big lake. As soon as he disappeared I noticed that another deer had showed up at the feeder. This one was a 5-point. He hung around for about 20 minutes or so and then eased off to the northwest into the brush. As soon as he got out of sight, I hit my rattling antlers together for 20 or 30 seconds and I noticed he was headed my way. He made a bee-line for me and walked right under my stand about 5 yards from the tree that the stand is in. He headed southwest into the thick cover and I lost sight of him. About 5 minutes later, I saw a deer that looked like a buck moving north between me and the lake. I hit the antlers together again and he trotted striaght to me. It turned out to be the same 5-point. This time he walked by my stand at about 15 yards headed to the southeast. He was definitely interested in the rattling - I just wish he would have been bigger.

After I checked the trail camera I confirmed that I have the camera and stand along a well-used trail. Unfortunately, after the camera had been up for several days it got knocked off the tree by a cow. So, I only had a few days worth of pictures, but there was quite a bit of deer activity. For some reason, my camera is not displaying the correct time - the date appears to be correct, but the time is off. I made sure to set it correctly the last time I checked it. I don't know, maybe the camera is getting old or is just acting up a little bit. Here are a few of the pics.

This was a quick trip out to the lease so I talked Steph and the girls into going out with me. They dropped me off and went to Graham and did a little shopping, then came and picked me up after dark. Before we headed home we had to stop by and eat at Cotton's. It was just the right thing to do.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Old Sabine Bottom Wildlife Management Area Drawn Hunt - November 8-10, 2008

Earlier this year I applied for several different public hunts offered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I was fortunate enough to get selected for one of the hunts, which took place at the Old Sabine Bottom Wildlife Management Area near Lindale, Texas this past weekend. This particular WMA is approximately 5,700 acres of bottomland hardwood habitat that is home to good populations of squirrels, waterfowl, deer, turkey, and especially wild hogs. I have always been a little leery about hunting on public land, but this hunt was very well organized and structured in a manner that provided safe hunting conditions.

I was scheduled to arrive at the Hunter Check Station for the pre-hunt orientation at 10:00 AM on Saturday. When I arrived, I was directed to sign in and make my selection for the compartment that I wished to hunt. TPWD had aerial photo maps showing the area broken down into about 23 compartments ranging in size, but none less than 100 acres. I selected Compartment #8 as my primary choice, based on several factors. I knew this compartment would not receive any other traffic other than myself due to its location in relation to the river and the associated access trails. Also, it was one of the larger compartments and I wanted to distance myself from any nearby hunters. And finally, I had a conversation with another hunter who hunts that area regularly and he mentioned that a good buck was taken out of that compartment last year and he would have chosen it, if it weren't for the fact that he had his 7 year old daughter with him, and he didn't want her to have to make the long walk to that compartment.

About 11:30 they released us to hunt, so I headed straight for my compartment. I parked at the designated parking area and spent about 15 or 20 minutes getting all of my gear ready. One thing I forgot to throw in my backpack was a bottle of water - I guess I was so excited to hunt that I forgot all about it. Well, after hiking in over a mile with a 30-pound climbing stand on my back, a 15-pound backpack, and a gun I was really needing a drink. So I did some quick scouting and picked out a good tree about 30 yards from a fresh rub. I sat in the stand for about a half hour just to rest and then I headed back to the truck for some water and to mark my trail to find my way back out after dark. I ended up not seeing anything that first day other than a doe and a hog, both of which I spooked on my first trip in. I was thankful that I had remembered to take my Garmin GPS with me and had saved a few locations. It helped me get back to the truck that first night because my trail marking apparently was not up to par.

I decided to leave my stand at the base of the tree so as not to have to haul it in and out each day. I hunted that same spot on Sunday morning and still had not seen anything by about 9:30. So I got down and did a little more scouting. The wildlife biologist had mentioned a slough in my compartment that would be a good place to set up. I finally found the slough, as well as a couple fresh rubs, so I moved my stand to this location, which proved to be a good choice. Sunday evening, shortly after 5:00, I saw a 9-point walk by my stand at about 15 yards, but I didn't feel comfortable that he would meet the antler restrictions, so I had to pass on him. He was a very neat looking buck, with an extra main beam on his left antler (very similar to the one my cousin has pictures of from my last post), but he only looked like a 2 1/2 year old. His outside antler spread was about even with the ears, and the goal of the antler restrictions is to allow bucks like this to mature, so I made the decision to let him walk. A few minutes later I saw two hogs, but decided not to shoot because I didn't want to scare off any deer in the area (and I didn't feel like dragging a hog a mile and a half). Earlier that evening I had a coyote chase a cottontail on a dead sprint right under my stand. I thought that was pretty neat to see - he was about 8 feet behind this rabbit and they were running as fast as they both could. He didn't catch up with it and I saw him stop and turn around. Then he walked right back under my stand going the other way.

On Monday morning I got a glimpse of a doe (at least I think it was a doe) off in the brush for just a short moment. I also saw another young buck, a 4-point, about 100 yards away. The hunt came to an end at Noon on Monday without me even firing a shot. But I had a really good time and will put in for this hunt again. There were a total of 5 or 6 does and 3 bucks harvested by other hunters that weekend. The bucks were a respectable 8-point with a 15-inch spread, a questionable 8-point with a 13-inch spread, and an illegal buck with an 11-inch spread. I forgot to take my camera with me but I was able to take a few pictures with my phone. Here's one of me in the stand. The 9-point came from the direction I am looking.

While I was there, I stayed at the Days Inn in Lindale, which has possibly been seen on the television program "COPS" (I was well-armed to say the least) and needs to be seen on one of those interior decorating shows on HGTV. I'm no expert on this, but a navy blue and pink rose print comforter doesn't look that great with pastel lime green walls. However, I was able to get some rest and catch a football game in the evenings.

Friday, November 7, 2008

First Deer Hunt of the Year

This past weekend was opening weekend of gun season and there was quite a bit of deer activity at the lease. I wasn't able to go out until Monday afternoon, but some of the other guys reported that the deer were moving.

Chris was able to harvest two deer with his Thompson Pro Hunter muzzleloader on Saturday morning, one being a mature doe and the other, which he thought was a doe, turned out to be a nubbin buck upon closer inspection. So, Chris used his buck tag, and we hunt in a one buck county, which unfortunately means he won't be able to harvest another buck on the lease this year.

Lee saw the most activity of all on opening day - 3 bucks and 7 does. The bucks were a 9-point, an 8-point, and a 5-point, but none were big enough to be considered "shooters". Lee was able to get this picture of the 9-point.

My Dad only hunted on opening morning and had a 4-point walk by.

As I was driving across the front pasture Monday afternoon I saw a small 8-point chasing a doe on the east side of the hay field, headed in the direction of our free-choice feeder. About 5 minutes later, as I got closer to Tater Hill I saw the same two deer. The buck was chasing her across the ridge near my box blind.

I was finally able to get in one of my treestands at about 4:00 Monday afternoon. Shortly after 5:00 I had a 1 1/2 year old buck walk by at about 7 to 10 yards. He had an unbranched antler on his left side and a forked antler on his right. About 10 minutes later I heard something else walking in. I glanced back behind me to my right and saw that it was a very big boar hog at about 25 yards. He continued walking by on my right side as I grabbed my bow. I drew my bow and grunted at him with my mouth to get him to stop, which he did in a clearing about 30 yards away. I put the 30 yard pin on him and loosed the arrow. I made a bad shot and could tell that I had hit him too high and forward in the shoulder. I waited about 15 minutes and then got down to look for a blood trail. I couldn't find a drop of blood anywhere. I finally found what was left of my arrow about 30 yards from where the hog was standing when I shot. He had broken off about a 1/3 of the arrow as he ran by a tree. The remaining 2/3 of the arrow was half covered in blood, telling me that the arrow got about 16 inches of penetration. I called my uncle, Rusty, and he came to help me look for the blood trail and the animal. We never found a drop of blood or the hog anywhere. I think I hit him high enough that I missed all of his vitals and the shot was possibly not fatal. I suspect the hog weighed in the 250 pound range.

On Tuesday morning I saw three young bucks. Two of them were 1 1/2 year olds that looked like little 4-points (one of them was possibly the 3-point from the evening before). The other deer was a larger-bodied 4-point without brow tines, that I think may be a 2 1/2 year old.

Tuesday evening I didn't see anything, but Rusty saw a small 6-point hunting out of Shane's blind.

Wednesday morning I had a 1 1/2 year old 6-point walk by at about 15 yards.

I was able to check my camera and download the pictures. I found two fresh rubs along the tree line near my winch-up feeder, so I moved one of my lock on stands to that location. I also created a mock scrape and placed my camera there to see which buck is making the rubs. Here are some pictures from my trail camera. I can't tell if this is the same deer that Lee got the picture of above or not.


Here are some pictures of a unique buck from Shane's camera. This deer appears to have an extra main-beam on his left side.

I'm home babysitting the girls today and I'm gearing up for my hunt in East Texas that starts tomorrow.