Sunday, October 25, 2009

Still No Tags Filled

After some family activities Saturday morning, I was able to make it out to the lease that afternoon in time to get in an evening hunt. I climbed up into the stand where I have been getting pictures of the nice 10-point lately at about 3:45 yesterday afternoon. I sat there until dark and didn't see anything.

My game camera had a few pictures of some younger bucks cruising the area earlier in the week, but apparently I had left some weak batteries in the camera because it had lost power after only a couple days. So I didn't have any pictures from Tuesday through Saturday.

This morning I got in the stand well before sunrise and enjoyed a beautiful starlit sky. It was a bit breezy, but shortly after daybreak the wind died down somewhat making it a little easier to hear the sounds of the woods. About 9:00 I had two does move in along the edge of the heavy cover off to my southwest. They got within about 30 yards of me as they browsed around eating acorns, but they never stepped out from behind the thick brush to offer a shot. I was able to watch them for about 15 minutes before they finally made their way down the west side of the ridge I was hunting.

So, as archery season quickly nears a close giving way to the regular gun season, I still haven't filled a tag. Hopefully my fortune will change as the rut begins to kick in. I would love for nothing more than to have an increased taxidermy bill!

Here are a couple of the young bucks I had on the camera this time:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

To Shoot or Not To Shoot - That is the Question

When managing a local deer herd, one of the most important aspects is age. A healthy deer herd should have a mixture of younger-aged animals, middle-aged animals, and older-aged animals. Managing for age is one of the primary goals of the antler restrictions that have been implemented by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in various counties over the last several years. By defining a legal buck as one whose inside antler spread is 13 inches or greater, the department hopes to produce a deer herd with a steady number of mature animals.

One of the challenges associated with a restriction of this sort is enforcement. Texas does not require that harvested deer be checked-in at a check station, and many hunters process their own game, which means that the animal would never be brought in to a commercial meat processor allowing a Game Warden to easily notice an illegal buck. It will be up to the many hunters across the Lone Star State affected by this restriction to make an ethical decision - Do I shoot or not?

With the possibility of a hefty fine or a guilty conscience looming, I want to make certain that any buck that presents me with a shot is legal. One proactive measure a hunter can take is to analyze trail camera photos. Utilizing trail cameras to familiarize yourself with the bucks on the property you hunt is a good management practice that will not only aid in your management efforts but might also keep you from making a costly mistake. A fun thing I like to do is to name each of the bucks I have pictures of to help myself and my fellow hunting buddies to be on the same page when we discuss the deer we see in the field.

This year I have created a slideshow that contains all of the bucks I have captured on trail cameras over the last few weeks. As you can see, several of these bucks are borderline on meeting the antler restrictions. Everyone sees things differently, and while I personally wouldn't shoot a buck that I knew was borderline, I could easily make a spur-of-the-moment mistake. Or one of my hunting buddies might have different standards than I do. While these names might be a little silly, it will be beneficial for my hunting partners and I to review these pictures and familiarize ourselves to help avoid a regrettable pull of the trigger.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Long Day in the Stand

With a big buck showing up on one of my trail cameras at 2:30 in the afternoon a little over a week ago, I decided that Saturday I would try to sit in my stand all day long to better my chances at getting a shot. And I would have sat there all day, but I forgot to grab my lunch out of the truck when I headed to my stand in the morning.

The day started off pretty good with three does moving across a clearing off to the south of my stand at about 8:00 AM. I had planned on taking a doe if given the opportunity, but they never got within bow range. About thirty minutes later I stood up in my treestand to stretch a little, and as I did, I noticed a doe standing straight out in front of me in some thick cover. She noticed me before I noticed her and she immediately took off.

I got down out of the stand and walked back to the truck for my lunch and some water at about 11:00. I sat there in the truck for a few minutes and listened to a little bit of the Red River Rivalry Texas/OU game on the radio (Hook 'Em Horns!). Then I got back in the stand for the rest of the afternoon. I ended up sitting in that stand for a total of 10 1/2 hours yesterday, and those early morning does turned out to be the only deer I would see. It made for a really long day, and my body felt it this morning, but it was still fun.

Here are some of this week's game camera pictures:
This is the fourth different buck I have gotten a picture of on this camera in the two weeks I have had it in this spot.

This deer is the reason I sat there for so long with such anticipation yesterday.

This is my best game camera picture ever! Getting a big buck to pose like that with a gorgeous sunset in the background is a pretty rare occurrence.

I had made a mock scrape in this spot the day I put the camera here. I don't know if that made a difference or not, but he is definitely marking his territory.

I'm not sure when the next time will be for me to have an opportunity to get back out and hunt again. The weekends are pretty full for the next few weekends, so I may have to sneak a quick trip in for a half day hunt. Stay tuned as the quest continues.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Slow Start to Archery Season

This archery season has started out pretty slow for me so far. Last weekend I hunted on Sunday and didn't see anything from either of my stands. But, I jumped five deer while walking back to the truck.

I had moved one of my game cameras to a new spot weekend before last, and when I checked it on Sunday it had pictures of three different bucks that I haven't previously gotten pictures of this year. The biggest one in these pictures is definitely the biggest buck I have ever captured on a game camera, and this is the quality of deer we have been holding out for over the last several years. Hopefully one of us will get a shot at him this season!

I also got some neat pictures of these grey foxes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Opening Day of Archery Season

Saturday found my dad and I in our treestands at the hunting lease. The day started out with beautiful, clear weather for the morning hunt, but rain and clouds moved in during the middle part of the afternoon. While my dad didn't see anything from his stand Saturday morning, I saw three young bucks (a small 8-point, a 4-point, and a deer that looked like it might have been a spike), but none of the deer were within bow range.

Saturday evening my dad had some other obligations to attend to and I sat in a different stand that I just put up a few weeks ago. I ended up seeing five deer that evening (3 does and 2 yearlings), but once again nothing was in bow range to provide a shot opportunity.

I checked my trail cameras and had a few good pictures. These first two are from my second homemade game camera that I just put out at a feeder a couple weeks ago.

These next pictures are from the first homemade game camera.

These last pictures are from the Cuddeback.

I've had game cameras running for several years and these are the first pictures I have ever gotten of bucks fighting.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

2009 Archery Season

Saturday, October 3rd, marks the beginning of the archery deer season here in Texas. If all goes as planned, I will be sitting in a treestand for the better part of the day this Saturday. Although my scouting cameras haven't captured any pictures of bucks that I would consider a shooter yet this year, I'm still optimistic about this season.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department implemented several changes to the deer hunting regulations this year. One of the big changes was the new rule that legalizes crossbows during the archery-only season. In the past, crossbows were only allowed during the regular gun season or they could be used by persons with an upper-limb disability during the archery season. Another change was the increased bag limit for a number of counties throughout the state. The county I hunt in has previously had a bag limit of 3 deer (1 buck and 2 antlerless). The new bag limit is 5 deer (2 bucks and 3 antlerless). Along with the increased bag limit, the department has also implemented antler restrictions for this county which defines a legal buck as one that has: 1)at least one unbranched antler, or 2)an inside spread of 13 inches or greater. Only one buck with an inside antler spread of 13 inches or greater may be taken. In addition to these changes, a special late season for antlerless and spike deer has been added for January 4-17, 2010.

Whether I get a deer or not this year, I will still enjoy being outdoors and taking in God's creation. I look forward to the crisp mornings and hearing the woods come alive with the sounds of birds chirping and leaves rustling. The success of the hunt isn't always determined by harvesting something. But, some of the guys at work have been wondering when I'm gonna bring in some more deer sticks! Hopefully I can at least get a doe to put some meat in the freezer.

Over the last several weeks I've been customizing some arrows to get ready for the opening of archery season. I've been using the Cabela's Carbon Hunter arrows for several years now, mainly because they are fairly cheap compared to other carbon arrows. Out of the box the arrows look like this:

I take a razor blade and strip all of the fletchings and dried glue off the arrow, and then I clean it with a solvent to remove any remaining glue residue.

Then I put one of these self-adhesive arrow wraps on.

Then I decide what color vanes and nock I want for the arrow. I use this fletching jig to attach the vanes.

This is what the whole box of arrows looked like when I finished. You might be wondering what difference it makes to have those fancy colored fletchings compared to the plain ones that come on the arrows. Well, the main benefit is that the bright-colored wrap makes the arrow a whole lot easier to see as it is flying through the air, and it is much easier to find after the shot. It just kinda adds a custom flair to it. Looks like I'll be hunting in style this season!

I tipped a few of these arrows with some 2-blade Rage expandable broadheads. I've never used these broadheads before so I thought I would give them a try and see how they work out. As you can see, the blades deploy from the rear upon impact, creating a two-inch wide cutting surface.

The weather forecast is calling for some slightly cooler weather for the next few days and I can't wait for Saturday morning!