Monday, December 27, 2010

Lee Flannery's Hog Hunt

My good friend and hunting buddy Lee recently had an excellent couple of hunts from a new blind he just constructed on our hunting lease. Here is Lee's story as told by him.

I took my son and one of his friends to the deer lease in hopes of seeing something exciting that would help them gain the same interest and love of the outdoors as I have come to enjoy through the years and pass along the gift of experiencing first hand in nature, God's wondrous creations. I had spent the last weekend with a good Christian friend of mine who took the time to drive all the way from East Texas with his trailer so we could load a box blind I had built in anticipation of locating it an area where I had seen a great deal of wildlife activity. I thought this would be an ideal spot to keep my son interested with all of the different things we could see. My friend and I arrived a little after 10PM and spent the next 4.5 hours constructing the blind by lantern light and enjoying the fellowship of one anothers company. He had even taken the time to buy us a couple of comfortable office chairs to sit in once the blind was complete. One was equipped with the ability to raise to extreme heights which was perfect for my son to be able to see everything without any additional effort. Good friends are truly a gift from God! We hunted a little from the blind that next morning and evening and the wildlife activity proved to once again be good in the area. We saw plenty of deer and ducks, a bobcat, and had some close encounters with wild hogs but we didn't kill a thing. Fast forward to last Wednesday before Christmas and my son and I, along with his friend, arrived around 4PM and we quickly unloaded our things and hurried out to the field. We were anticipating a full moon tonight and thought we may see deer moving just before sunset. The wind was out of the NE and there was a nice creek running north and south on the property bisecting a wheatfield so we decided to walk due west to the creek and cross the dry bed there hoping not to disturb anything that may be bedded down along the cover lining the banks. We made it across and then headed NW to the blind before we heard a bunch of wild hogs running south through the brush along the east creek bank.. They had evidently spotted us as we walked through the open field and we quickly made our way back to the spot where we had crossed as they came running by. I took a shot at a little one with one of the four bullets I had loaded in the gun and missed. The boys were super excited and said it was already worth the trip even though we hadn't yet made it to the blind. We made our way to the box blind and jumped a bunch of ducks off the pond where our hunting spot was located. The blind was perched atop the dam overlooking the wheatfield out a couple of the windows and the pond and some mesquite trees out the other two. We crawled in and got the windows opened up and the boys settled in. Each had their own designated areas to watch and we spent the next 15 minutes or so chasing down every rock, bush, cactus and tree that appeared to be an animal of some kind to them. Eventually, my son's friend lit up with a little more excitement pointing back in the direction of the creek and I turned to see a different group of about 20 or so wild hogs coming out of the creek walking directly toward us. We took a few pictures and then got ready to shoot something. The boys covered their ears and I placed the crosshairs squarely behind the shoulder of one of the larger sows and slowly squeezed the trigger. She crumbled and pig 1 was down. I shifted another round into the chamber and followed another one as she ran across the wheat field. I squeezed off another round knocking her down as well. Pig 2 was on the ground. I then turned my attention to the others running frantically for cover and fired my final shot missing the last target. I've come to enjoy wild hog meat as much as deer over the years and was excited about the pork we had taken. These pigs cause a significant amount of damage to crops and pasture in the area, but we had rarely seen any during our previous hunting excursions. As the excitement died down, we noticed that pig 1 had disappeared sometime after our attention was diverted from her and pig 2 was up and walking off with some difficulty. She walked out from behind a small brush pile in the wheat field and then staggered backward falling out of view. I began searching through my pack for my extra shells to reload and much to my amazement, they were nowhere to be found. I had left them back at the bunkhouse in our rush to make it into the field and we still had animals running all around us trying to regroup. After about five minutes of watching them, we noticed pig 2 get up and casually walk away as if nothing had ever happened. It was a sick feeling to watch what I knew to be a wounded animal walk away and not be able to dispatch it immediately and end any suffering. I have rarely had occasion to fire more than one shot at an animal and have prided myself in quick kills. This was not something I wanted to repeat again. It is always a good idea to let animals have some time to expire before you start tracking them so we decided there was nothing else we could do but use the remaining light left to walk back and get more bullets and a spotlight to try and find our kills. After making the trip, we picked up where we had seen the 2nd pig fall behind the brush pile. She had left a good sign and began trailing in the dark by flashlight. When the coyotes began howling, the boys felt a little less like hunters and more like the hunted. I could feel them walking closer than ever at that point and the urge to turn on their lights at the slightest sounds was unavoidable. We followed the trail until we had to give up for the night as tiredness and possibly some fear had overcome them. We would pick back up again in the morning. We woke up at 5:30AM and headed back to the blind. After settling in, we waited for the sun to come up and were able to watch a number of ducks come in to the pond. They kept pouring in on us until there were a good 35 or more swimming around and feeding right in front of us. We had widgeon, gadwall, ringnecks, teal and a pied-billed grebe on the water and they provided a great deal of visual stimulation over the next couple of hours. We finally decided to call it a morning in the stand and get back to tracking as my son had a dental appointment and we needed to try and get back by 2PM. We began scouring the area for any sign of a trail on pig 1 but couldn't locate anything. I began walking trails looking for any sign I could possibly find wondering all along if maybe my sights were off. I happened across her by chance about 60 yards in the grass and mesquites. Again the boys excitement escalated and they could barely contain themselves. We took some photos and then headed back to the bunkhouse for the truck. On the way back, we walked the dry creekbed and found the skeletal remains of a young buck. We came up out of the bank and immediately saw a large boar moving along the edge of the trees. He spotted us as I lay down my things and ran into the creek again. I eased over that way slowly and could hear popping back in the brush. I thought he might be just inside waiting to charge but finally figured out it was another large group of them eating pecans along the creek bank. I sighted my crosshairs on one of them and fired, dropping her instantly. Pigs ran everywhere! The boys got out their pocketknives in case anything came their way. Another one ran out into the open and I quickly laid it to rest as well. We returned with the truck and loaded up our exciting hunting experiences then rushed quickly to the processor to have them butchered and return home for the dental appointment. Not quite as much anticipation there. Overall, we had a great time and I know we made some memories in the process.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Making Strides...A Video Message from my Friend Zach Olson

For the last year I have been blessed to get to know a young man named Zach Olson, who I have had the privilege of guiding for (along with my friends and fellow guides Greg Somers and Josh Nelson) at both the SYC Turkey Hunt and Deer Hunt. If you have followed my blog you will recognize Zach because you have probably seen his picture on here before. Zach was seriously injured in an automobile accident several years ago that left him in a coma for 6 months. He has been pretty much confined to a wheelchair since the accident but has been making excellent progress with his mobility.

Earlier this evening I received an email from Zach's mother that was such a blessing and inspiration to me that I wanted to share it with everyone. Zach was wishing me a Merry Christmas and had something he wanted to show me. This video was attached...

Praise God for this remarkable milestone in Zach's recovery and for this blessing for he and his family at Christmas time! What a mighty God we serve!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Different Technique Using a Game Camera

The main reason I use game cameras is to capture pictures of deer. But lately I've wanted to try a different setup with one of my cameras. I wanted to try to get some pictures of ducks on a pond. So a couple weeks ago I positioned a camera at the water's edge at my favorite duck hunting spot to see what kind of pictures I could get. I got a memory card full of duck pictures (383 to be exact). I was pleased with the images, but I didn't take into account the direction of the sun and the lighting wasn't the best for quality pictures. Next time I will position the camera where the sun will be behind the camera to better capture the colors of the birds' plumage. Anyway, here are some of my favorites from this batch of pictures.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Big Bucks in Camera Test Site

In my last post I showed you some of the best pictures I got from my new camera on it's first trial run in Iowa. Well, in the last couple weeks I've had this camera running on some property I have access to that is a little closer to home. This camera was set on "trail mode" which snaps as many pictures as it can as long as it is sensing motion. With this particular camera they are usually about 4 to 8 seconds apart for night time pictures. Check out this sequence of seven pictures of a really good buck working a scrape captured in the span of 1 minute and 10 seconds...

That was the biggest deer on the camera this time, but it wasn't the only nice buck this camera captured. These deer weren't camera shy either...

I can't wait to build another one of these cameras! You can never have too many!!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My New Favorite Trail Camera

In late September I put the finishing touches on another homemade trail camera and I've had it out for several months for some field testing. This camera utilizes a 7.2 megapixel Sony camera that produces very crisp, clear images. The entire unit is very compact in size (approx. 6" x 4") and is customized with 3D camouflage. Here is the external view of the camera.

In order to try to extend battery life in the field, I added extra batteries to this particular camera. The first time out in the field it captured 265 images over the span of 34 days before the batteries died. Over 90% of the images were at night, which requires the camera to flash and use substantially more battery power. I also had the camera on a one-minute delay setting instead of rapid-fire mode. Had it been on rapid-fire it probably would have taken more pictures, but not lasted as many days.
I also used a high-performance wide angle fresnel lens for the motion sensor, which is the black, rounded object on the front of the camera. The case of the camera contains a pipe-thru system which allows a locking cable to be run through the camera and around a tree to help prevent theft. Here is an internal view of the camera.

So far I have been really pleased with the performance of this camera, and I plan to build some more just like it. What I like the most is the ability to view the images in the field on the camera's LCD screen. It is a 2.5" screen so the screen is similar in size to a Blackberry phone. The camera is also still fully-functional as a point-and-shoot camera, so it can be removed from the case and be used just like any normal camera. Here is a sampling of pictures from its first trial run in the field. The camera was located on my friend's property in Iowa, along a well-used trail from the timber to a food plot.

See why I like this camera so much?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The "Deer Sticks" Deer

For the last two hunting seasons I have been taking my deer to Muenster Meat Co. (formerly Walterscheid Meat Co.) in Muenster, TX. I have been extremely satisfied with their quality, turn-around time, cleanliness, and most importantly their deer sticks. Some people call them snack sticks, buck sticks, or smoked sticks, but regardless of what you call them they are my favorite thing to have made when I harvest a deer. They are slender, tasty snack sticks that are similar to a Slim-Jim, but without all the grease. They contain only venison and a mixture of spices, as no other type of meat, such as pork fat, is mixed in. So as far as I am concerned they are also lean and healthy for you.

Over the last two years I have brought samples in for my co-workers to try, and last year one guy liked the sticks so much that he bought several pounds from me. Well the deer stick craze in my office caught on like wildfire, and before this deer season started a group of my co-workers approached me with a deal I couldn't resist. They had pooled their money (enough to pay for processing a whole deer and pay for my gas money) and wanted me to harvest a deer that would be made entirely into deer sticks so they could each have a supply of their own. I eagerly accepted the offer.

This past Saturday I went to my hunting lease with one goal in mind: to harvest a doe so that my office mates could enjoy these delectable smoked venison snacks. And I was successful.

After not seeing a deer all day long, my fortune changed right at sunset. A group of six or seven does made their way from the edge of a mesquite savanna into a field of winter wheat. I was positioned along a fenceline that crossed through the wheat field and was seated on the ground, along with my friend Justin who was serving as an extra set of eyes. As the does made their way into the wheat, my friend noticed a nice buck who was hanging back just inside the edge of the mesquites. We got a good look at him through the binoculars as he closed to within 75 yards of our position. His antlers were outside the ears and he was a solid-looking 8-point, but he had broken off his left G3 tine. After watching him for about 5 minutes, I decided he wasn't quite what I was looking for in terms of size for a buck, so I opted to revert back to my original gameplan of taking a doe.

By this time there were about 9 does in the field so I picked out one of the largest ones that was offering a nice, broadside shot. I put my sights on the 5th one from the right, centered the crosshairs of my scope right behind her shoulder, and squeezed off a round from my Remington .30-06. She dropped dead in her tracks. A quick, clean kill.

Justin and I took a few minutes to celebrate in the moment and collect ourselves from the adrenaline rush that always accompanies the moment of truth on a hunt, then we proceeded to the deer which we paced off at 130 yards. We called my dad to bring the truck over so we could load her up, and after a few pictures and a quick field-dressing we had completed what I had set out to do. Now everyone at the office can hopefully have some deer sticks by Christmas! It's awesome when a plan comes together!

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Hunting for Big Boy" - The Story of Randy Clark's 2010 Buck

The following account was written by my friend Jordan's dad, Randy, who harvested a very nice whitetail buck earlier this season. This is his story, as told by him:

Hunting for “Big Boy”

I have been hunting whitetail deer in Texas for 36 years and every season is a new adventure. The sport has changed dramatically since 1974; the equipment/technology, the techniques, the regulations and yes, even my attitude about almost every aspect of it. The last few years have been no exception.

I was not at all too happy about the 2009 deer season's antler restrictions on our small deer lease. After 13 years of hunting this lease, and thousands of digital pictures later, I knew my odds of harvesting a nice deer were just reduced to a mere minimal percentage. My son Jordan told me that it was an investment in the future. It still did not set well.

Last year, 2009, the game camera caught a deer that I can’t say was in any way a result of the new game management regulation, since the antler restrictions had not even gone through its first season, but none the less he was a very nice deer. We named him “Big Boy”.

(Before the season was over we had names for every 8 point and above on our game cameras.) Big Boy was a nice main frame 8 point with good mass, a small bump for a 5th point on his left side between the G3 and the tip and he also had a ¾” kicker on the left side G2. Wow, we were all in awe. He was technically a 10 point.

The 2009 season went by and the three of us, my son-in-law Brad, his father David and I never saw him. We all wondered if he would return in 2010 or if someone else would take him from the gene pool. In 1974 I would have possibly been left to a life time of not knowing the answer to this riddle, but in 2010, the answer was revealed in August when I got the first digital pictures from the game camera. There he was, unmistakably, “Big Boy”, looking every bit as good as the year before.

In the spirit of the new regulations, and equipped with the knowledge that it was “an investment in the future”, I purposed in my heart to not settle for anything less than “Big Boy” this season. Opening day came and so did “Tall Boy”, a nice 8 point, his brother “Tall Boy 2”, with a swept back G2 on the left side, a 6 point with no eye guards, a yearling buck and a few doe. Yep, I let them walk. Tall Boy would have been harvested in the previous years, and my season over, but not this year. “Big Boy” never showed up. Ironically he was at my feeder at 2:00am opening morning. I love those game cameras.

Opening weekend and the second Saturday of the season did not bring a glimpse of “Big Boy”. Had someone else seen him, shot him? This lease can be very frustrating. You can go an entire weekend and not see a single deer, turkey or hog and then the next time you go you may see all of the above and a Bobcat to boot. You just never know.

For years it has been a tradition for me, and other family members, to go to the deer lease on Thanksgiving morning and hunt until 10:00am. We have been doing this for 14 of 15 years on this lease. This year was no exception. It has always been my dream to shoot the big one and show up at the family Thanksgiving dinner with a trophy deer in the back of my truck. It didn’t happen this year either.

I had a real struggle at 4:00am Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, as whether or not to get up and make the hour and a half trip to the lease. My motto: “if you’re not in the stand you will not see the deer”, so I got up to go and maximize my time in the woods. I get made fun of by some for staying in my stand all day long. Yep, I will get in my stand at 6:00am and get out at 6:10pm. I am equipped with all the necessary items to make it happen. My deer stand, often referred to by my sons and son-in-law as the “Hilton” makes it easy.

OK, so I got up, made the trip, entered my stand at 6:00am and fired up my heater. I reached under the curtains (camouflage netting), unlatched the windows and got things ready. While driving to the lease my truck thermometer showed it to be a balmy 24 degrees outside, but I am “toasty” warm in my stand and excited about my prospects. Would this be the day? I waited for the sun to rise while laying on my bench/bed and thought to myself, I hope I at least see something today.

At 10:00am I had not seen anything. My son Jordan, who is at his deer lease sitting on a ladder stand, texting me about freezing his rear off and shaking too bad to be quiet, was having the same results. I was warm and relaxed and decided to rest my eyes. An hour later I woke up in disbelief that I had slept that long. I scolded myself for my transgression and began to try and clear my vision. It took me the better part of 10 minutes to clear my eyes and get to where I could focus. I ate my lunch while scanning the timber line and by 11:35 was back to my serious mode of hunting intently.

You always know that in a matter of seconds things can go from serene to chaotic when you are hunting. I was thinking about the fact that my left and back side windows were still closed to restrict the cold air flow and how stupid that could prove out to be. I was thinking that on this lease it really didn’t matter anyway and especially today. Remember, I had not seen nothing, nada, zilch.

It is now high noon and from the left side of the north/front window I saw movement and immediately recognized from over a hundred yards away that Big Boy was on the scene. He had his head down and was in a quick trot, moving south down the tree line from my right to left. My immediate thought: “Why had I left that west window closed?” I quickly moved to open my back/south window in case he moved far enough towards the south that I could have a shot, but didn’t dare touch that west window and risk spooking him. Looking back on it he was not paying a bit of attention to me, he was looking for female companionship, so to speak, and probably would not have noticed.

He moved quickly down the tree line far enough for me to barely see him from the back window, but did not stop until I hit my grunt. I got on him but this was not a viable shot. He was tailing away and only offered the back of his neck, head and a rear end shot. I wisely did not take the shot.

He started going southwesterly into the woods away from me. I stuck my grunt out the north window, opposite the direction that I was seeing him, and grunted 3 times real hard. I saw his silhouette stop through the trees and got my gun ready again. Sure enough, he turned around and headed back out of the woods and towards the north from whence he came. Was this my lucky day? (I have no way of knowing if he heard those 3 grunts, but who really cares anyway, right.)

When he emerged from the woods he went about 15 yards and stopped partially behind some brush, approximately 65 yards from my stand. His head, neck and right shoulder were behind brush. The only shot was going to be high in the back and further aft than I would have liked, but I knew it was a good, clear shot. I squeezed off a round from my 243, and “Big Boy” disappeared. I did not see him run off and I did not see him fall. He simply disappeared.

I mentally marked the spot where he was last standing, waited a minute or two and exited the stand, hopeful to find him lying behind the brush. (This year I had changed from 80 grain PSP ammunition to a ballistic tip bullet, due to having a doe run off last year without leaving a blood trail to follow. I found her but felt lucky to have done so.) As I approached the brush I saw that my 95 grain Hornady Superformance ammunition had reached its intended mark and “Big Boy” lay there silent. I praised the Lord for such a magnificent creature and for His allowing me this good fortune.

“Big Boy” is a mature buck, probably 6 ½ years old, has good mass all the way to the tips and a uniqueness that makes him a trophy in my books. Yes, I am having him mounted; semi-sneak to the right to show off his left side uniqueness. He will go in a room beside the main frame 10 point I harvested in 1974, the only other deer I have had mounted.

You remember the technology comment at the beginning of this rather lengthy story? Well, after praising God, and I am serious about that, I whipped out my phone, took a picture, inserted it into a text message that read, “and just like that, Big Boy is off the market”. I sent it to my sons, son-in-law and eventually others. I am proud and can’t wait to see what the game camera’s reveal next season. Stay tuned.

Randy Clark
Sherman, Texas

Great story, Randy! Congratulations on an awesome buck! The fact that you passed on all those younger bucks will pay off next year! Oh, and I love those game cameras too!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Iowa Hunt Recap

In mid-November I spent nine consecutive days on an archery whitetail hunt in Iowa, and it brought about some much needed time in the field. I spent an average of about seven hours in the stand each day and saw lots of deer. I saw a total of four "shooter" bucks on the trip, but never sealed the deal and harvested one.

Before the hunt began, I had been able to view some trail camera pictures from one of my homemade game cameras that was positioned on a deer trail on this property for the last two months. The camera revealed some really, really nice bucks that roam this property, and I decided to be really picky for the first few days of the hunt and hold out for a true trophy. I passed on this really good 10-point the very first evening I was in the stand with the hopes of seeing a bigger one...

On the last 4 days of the hunt I did see a bigger one. I spotted a big, wide 8-point way out across the corn field one evening with a couple does. It was very windy that evening and he was too far away to hear my attempt to get his attention with the grunt call. After getting a good look at him with the binoculars I easily determined this to be one of the big bucks from the trail camera. It was this one, which we simply referred to as "Wide 8".

The next morning I had another encounter with this buck in the food plot. The fog and mist was really thick and I only got a quick glimpse of him as he skirted the edge of the food plot and disappeared into the woods. But the next morning was my closest encounter. I had decided to hunt the bottom of a ravine to get out of the wind, and I was hunting from the ground next to a big oak tree. I hit the rattling antlers together and saw a buck heading my way about 80 yards straight in front of me. As he walked toward me I got my bow ready and stood motionless as he approached. Once I got a good look at him I realized it was this same big, wide 8-point that I had seen the previous two days. He closed the distance to approximately 30 yards and then stopped while looking directly at me. We both stood like statues for what seemed like forever but was actually only a couple minutes. I couldn't draw my bow until he turned one way or the other. When he finally made a movement to his right I drew the bow, but he caught my movement out of the corner of his eye and bound away. He stopped at about 50 yards momentarily but he was behind some brush. He then slowly walked off into the woods. The very next morning I tried this same spot, but instead of hunting from the ground I was in my climbing stand. I rattled in three different bucks that morning. The first two were just small ones, but the third one was the "Wide 8" again. This time he approached from behind me about halfway up the ridge. I heard him coming and as I grabbed my bow and moved into position I could tell he caught my scent, as more than likely it was drifting up the ridge right to him. He paused for a moment, looked around, and then turned around and walked away. Close, but no cigar.

I was able to harvest a young doe while I was there, and I have to say this is the best venison I have ever tasted. Much better than the deer meat we get here in Texas.

Here is me with my doe...

The hunt was really challenging and lots of fun. I was able to visit with friends I don't get to see that often and was blessed by their hospitality. I had a wonderful time and hope to be able to go back next season!