Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SYC Deer Hunt Highlights

The Special Youth Challenge Ministries annual deer hunt was held this past weekend in Northwest Iowa. I was able to participate in this year's hunt as a hunting guide for one of the youth hunters. It was an AWESOME weekend and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it!

I flew out of Dallas on Friday morning bound for Omaha, then made the 2 1/2 hour drive to Webb, Iowa. When I arrived Friday afternoon, several of the youth hunters had already shown up and were taking some target practice with the specialized equipment they would be using during the hunt. Each of the hunters was equipped with a shotgun that was outfitted with a scope, camera, view screen, and push-button trigger mechanisms.

The banquet was held on Friday evening. After a delicious smoked pork meal, all of the hunters were introduced and brought on stage, and a Christian speaker from the Mathews Archery company (who was also a ventriloquist) gave his personal testimony and preached the Gospel.

Saturday morning the hunt began, and I was hunting with fellow guide Mike Hanson and youth hunter Cory Gates from Michigan.

We ended up not seeing any deer Saturday morning, and Saturday evening was very slow as well with only two does coming in really late, just past legal shooting hours. Sunday morning proved to be a little better as we had four does come in to the food plot we were hunting. I helped Cory get the gun lined up to make a shot, and we hit one of the does.

After waiting for about 45 minutes we began the tracking job. We followed a good blood trail for about 75 or 80 yards and then we bumped the deer - it ran off ahead of us and up a ridge. It appeared to be moving pretty slow, so we decided to back out for a few hours to let the deer expire. We went and had lunch then came back with some other guides to help us look for it. Five of us spent the better part of the afternoon looking for the deer and we only found about three more drops of blood. Unfortunately we never found the deer. I hate that we weren't able to locate it, but sometimes that happens.

There were a total of 20 youth hunters participating in the event and 11 deer were harvested. Here are a few pictures I took of some of the hunters with their deer they brought in.

Overall, the weekend was a wonderful experience. I was amazed at the outpouring of love, time, money, land, and other various resources that all of the volunteers contributed to make the event such a success. It is my understanding that several people prayed to receive Christ as their personal Savior through this event, and that is what it is all about. It was an incredible event to be a part of and I look forward to participating in future SYC events!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SYC Ministries Deer Hunt

An exciting event is happening this weekend in Northwest Iowa! The SYC Ministries annual youth deer hunt will be taking place beginning Friday evening, September 25. The event will include a banquet on Friday night, a speaker that will be delivering an important message, and of course a weekend full of hunting. I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to participate in this year’s event as a hunting guide for one of the youth hunters and I couldn’t be more excited! This will be my first SYC event.

SYC, or Special Youth Challenge Ministries is a non-profit, volunteer ministry that exists for the purpose of reaching people for Jesus Christ. The ministry provides hunting opportunities for physically-challenged youth between the ages of 13 – 19 and empowers them to overcome some of the obstacles they may face in the outdoors involved with shooting and hunting. SYC Iowa usually holds several events throughout the year including a deer hunt, turkey hunt, and fundraiser. To find out more about this ministry, visit their website at http://www.syciowa.com/.

Stay tuned for an update from this weekend's hunt!

Monday, September 21, 2009

First Day of Fall Pheasant Wreath

Tomorrow will be the official first day of Fall, so I thought I would do something to celebrate. My friend Keelie, who has a very neat blog of her own, is having an online wreath party to welcome the first day of Fall and has invited everyone to submit their own Fall wreath creations at her site. While I more than likely will be the only male to submit a wreath, I thought I would give it a try (what the heck) and make the wreath (with the help of my daughter) as a surprise for my wife. Besides, I have been saving up some really neat looking pheasant pelts for a project such as this.

So here it is, my "First Day of Fall Pheasant Wreath".

First, I had to make a trip to the local craft store, wander around through a bunch of flowers, and look for some stuff that reminded me of the Midwest, Harvest, and Fall. So I stuffed a few things in the shopping cart like I had a clue what I was doing, paid for the items, and brought them home. When I got home, I found my pheasant tails and pelts in the freezer and got them out as well. I laid everything out on my workbench and here is what I had to work with.

The next step was to find an assistant, so I enlisted the help of my oldest daughter, Katy.

The first thing to do was to attach the pheasant pelts to the top part of the wreath. The pelts I am using are from birds that I personally harvested in Iowa. Warning: Before the pelts go on a wreath or display of any kind there is some minor taxidermy work required to prevent the pelts from going bad and possibly stinking or attracting bugs. These pelts have previously been tanned or cured by myself, but you can buy a pre-tanned pelt if you wish to attempt something like this. Here we are hot-gluing the pelts to the wreath. I really like the greenish-turquoise colors these birds have just above their tail.

Next, I stuffed in some fall-colored fake leaves that I found at the craft store. These were originally a long garland, but I cut it up into about 15 smaller pieces.

Then I put in a few grass-like, grain-looking stems on the bottom left hand side of the wreath.

So here is what it looked like at this point. Looking pretty good, I think!

Next, I wanted to put an entire pheasant tail over in the bottom left-hand corner of the wreath. This tail had been thouroughly cleaned and cured (just like the pelt) and I had previously hot-glued the base of the quills to keep the tail partially fanned open. I then hot-glued the tail to the desired location on the wreath.

Then came more leaves and grassy stems for filler, and I finished it off with three pine cones. Here is the finished product.

Katy presented it to my wife and she loved it! We had told her we were making her a surprise, and she was definitely surprised to see a wreath! Here are a few more pictures of the finished wreath.

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Making Final Preparations

Saturday, I made a trip to the hunting lease to put the finishing touches on my stand sites. Archery season starts October 3rd, and I primarily wanted to make sure all of my treestands were to my liking before opening day. So I double-checked that they were all safely secured to their respective tree and that the ratchet straps holding them up were still in good condition. I also installed a hook to hang my backpack and a bowhanger at each site. Finally, I sat in each stand and looked to see what limbs needed to be trimmed to provide better shot opportunities, and removed them accordingly.

Of course I also checked my game cameras and replaced batteries and memory cards. Here are a few recent pics.

This could possibly be the largest boar I have ever gotten a picture of! Check out those cutters!

Here is a decent 9-point buck that has done a real good job evading my cameras all summer. This is only my second picture of him this year.

I thought this next series of pictures was pretty funny. Looks like there was a standoff between the feral hogs and this cow as to who was going to get to eat the acorn-flavored salt block in front of the camera.

This was one of my favorites from the homemade game camera.

Last year I missed all of archery season because I was helping out with Hurricane Ike recovery efforts in the Houston/Galveston area. Hopefully this hurricane season will continue to be a quiet one and I can be in a treestand on opening morning.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lake Ray Roberts Ducks Unlimited Banquet

The Lake Ray Roberts Ducks Unlimited Chapter held their 1st Annual Banquet on Thursday evening, September 17, at the Redfearn Gym in Aubrey, Texas. Not only was it the inaugural banquet held by this newly formed DU chapter, but it was also the first DU banquet I have ever attended. The event featured live music, a catered meal by Dickey’s Bar-B-Q, door prizes, silent auction, live auction, and lots of raffle items.

As the world’s leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation, Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. According to the DU website, as of January 1, 2009 over 12.6 million acres of habitat had been conserved in North America. DU works with private landowners as well as other public agencies to accomplish their mission of conservation through various management practices such as grassland restoration, forest replanting, and watershed restoration. The organization acquires land and easements to protect habitat as well as offering financial incentives to private landowners to manage their property for waterfowl.

While waterfowl may be the primary focus, these land management practices and restoration efforts play an important role in the survival of other wildlife species, as well as benefit the human population. Wetlands are a vital ecological feature that naturally filter water, provide flood protection, and prevent soil erosion. Wetlands also provide hunting and fishing opportunities for sportsmen across the country, which has a substantial effect on the economy.

Since this was my first DU event, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I kind of expected that there might be some type of speaker at the event that would give details on what DU projects were currently underway in our area, or possibly an informative presentation about a waterfowl-related topic. I'm sure the DU representatives on hand would have more than happily answered any questions, but I thought it would have been interesting to see pictures or a video of some of the conservation work going on. But, overall I was very impressed with the banquet and all of the merchandise which was either auctioned off or given away in drawings. There were lots of items up for grabs including several shotguns, hunting and fishing trips, wildlife art, dog training supplies, decoys, and even a chocolate lab puppy. While I didn’t walk away a big winner (I really wanted to win the package that included the Benelli shotgun, guided duck hunt, and free taxidermy mount) I had a great time and met some new people, including local DU Chairman, Luke Thorkildsen. Luke seems like a great guy, and it was evident that he put lots of hard work and effort into making the event a success. Although I’m not sure what the total dollar amount was, lots of money was raised at the event. All of the proceeds will be used by Ducks Unlimited to help conserve North America’s wetlands and enhance waterfowl habitat.

If you have never been to a DU banquet, visit the Ducks Unlimited website today, to find a local event in your area.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hunting Season is Offcially Here!

Dove season is in full swing here in North Texas. September 1st marked the opening of another season, and just like always, I have been waiting with much anticipation. Where I grew up, that day is almost like its own holiday. In fact, I think it should be. As far back as I can recall, September 1st has always been the opening day of dove season - and a day where "important" things like work and school get put on the back burner. I can remember skipping first period in junior high and high school for the opening morning of dove season. Expensive college classes were remorselessly disregarded on September 1st during my college days. And early on in my career, precious vacation days were saved for such a time as this.

But this year, for only the second time in almost twenty-five years of dove hunting, I wasn't able to get into the field on opening day. Several factors contributed to this implausible atrocity, but the primary reason was the fact that my wife and one of my daughters were home sick with the flu.

No need to fret though, by the weekend everyone was feeling better and I had an extra day off from work. The best things come to those who wait.

On Saturday morning, myself and four of my hunting comrades took to the field and bagged a total of 60 birds. That was a limit for myself, a limit for my dad, and a limit for my cousin. The other two fellows were just a few birds shy of a limit as well. It was a good hunt!
(From L-R: my friend Lee, my dad, Lee's son Sean, my cousin Shane, me, and my Uncle Rusty)

After cleaning the birds and doing some work around the bunkhouse, my cousin and I began preparing what some would consider an exquisite delicacy. What you see here is a plateful of boneless dove breasts, which have been carefully handcrafted into what would become quite delectable morsels. Each side of the dove's breast has been removed from the bone creating two just-larger-than-bite-size pieces of meat. A toothpick is used sort of like a shish-k-bob in this scenario. One of the pieces of meat is placed on the toothpick, followed by a slice or two of pickled jalapeno peppers, followed by another piece of breast meat, and then the entire creation is wrapped with about a half a slice of bacon (using the sharp ends of the toothpick to hold it on).

I fired up the grill and got it good and hot, then put the doves on to cook.

I cooked 'em 'til the bacon was good 'n crispy and there wasn't any pink or red left in the dove meat. The bacon serves to keep the meat moist and adds flavor while the pepper gives it a little kick. Cooking them this way takes away any gamey taste there might be in the meat. I wish I had a picture to show what they looked like after being cooked, but they looked so good we didn't mess around with foolishness such as picture-taking. They all got eaten rather quickly!

We had decent hunting for the rest of the weekend and we cleaned a total of more than 110 birds between five of us. Not bad. That is almost two limits each for everybody!

We also spent some time getting ready for the upcoming deer season. We got the feeders running and hung a couple stands. Bow season starts in less than a month.

Here are a few pictures from my game camera.

This first one is a good example of how far the flash extends on a nightime shot.

This one shows how far away the motion sensor is effective. That deer is at least 60 feet away.

This is a neat picture of a bobcat. I just wish he had been walking the opposite direction.

This one is pretty cool even though it is a little fuzzy.

And here is a picture of the young 8-point buck that was in velvet in my last set of pictures. He lost the velvet sometime last week. I have been looking at some of my game camera pictures from last year and I am pretty sure I recognize this deer in several of them. He was a really small 7-point last year as a 1 1/2 year old. I hope this deer becomes the poster boy for the new antler restrictions in place in our county and that the hunters on the neighboring properties abide by the new regulations. Maybe he will just hang out in this area for two or three more years.

One more thing to look forward to - homemade game camera number two was also put in service this weekend!

Until next time - "So long, everybody!"