Friday, February 26, 2010

Trail Camera Reveals the Antlers are Dropping

I've had one of my homemade trail cameras out in an area that I am going to refer to as my "Official Camera Test Site" for the last week and I thought I would drop in today and swap out the memory card. It had taken over 100 pictures and the batteries were still going strong. I had lots of good deer pics, and only one picture was of a buck that still had his headgear. These pictures are all from my basic 3.2 megapixel model.

The Only Buck Still "Carrying"

The Curious One

"Whoa! What's That?"

A Really Beautiful Deer

Curiosity Killed the Cat

"I'm Perplexed"

A Buck That Has Dropped His Antlers (with a nice background)

A Couple Bucks Without Their Headgear

A Really Good Picture Showing a Buck That Just Recently Dropped His Antlers

A Close Up With Better Detail (Isn't that amazing!?!?)

Another Buck Without His Antlers (For some reason this one looks like he is really old to me.)

I thought these were some really cool pictures. I'd love for you to leave me a comment and let me know which one you like the best.

If you are interested in purchasing one of my homemade trail cameras feel free to send me an email or leave me your email address in the comment box so that I can get back in touch with you on a price quote. They would make a great gift for that special hunter in your life!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some Impressive Sheds!

Earlier this week, my friend Justin Berndt made an amazing find! While walking through the woods he happened to stumble across a matching set of antlers that were lying on the ground within four feet of each other. But these weren't your standard, run-of-the-mill antlers. These were BIG!
Justin asked me to put a tape measure to the massive set of antlers to see just how big they were. Since they were not on a skull it was difficult to determine what the inside spread measurement would be, but I conservatively estimated the spread at 17 4/8". After all the measurements were calculated I unofficially scored the antlers at 162 6/8" gross! It is pretty rare to find one antler of this caliber, and to find a matching set is like finding a hidden treasure!

Saturday morning Justin and I decided to go out and do a little shed hunting. Even though I think we were still a little early to find many of this year's sheds, we still managed to find eight that looked like they were from last year.

Justin found five antlers (three of which were non-typical) and I found these three (one of which was non-typical). As you can tell, there must be some freaky genetics among this deer herd.
I had a lot of fun this morning just being able to get outside and explore at my own pace. The weather was great, and it turned out to be a really great day in the woods!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Coyotes in the Snow

A couple of the guys at work checked a trail camera today and it had taken some really neat pictures of some coyotes. We got about 9" of snow in our area last Thursday, and it seems to me that snow makes just about any picture prettier - even a picture of a coyote!

I have done quite a bit of predator hunting in my time, and let me tell ya, there is nothing quite like the rush you get when you call in a coyote and he is trotting in straight toward you at about 30 yards with no intentions of stopping! Knowing that they are in hunt-mode and looking for you adds an interesting twist to it. Calling coyotes is lots of fun, and I have found that this time of year is the best time to hunt them. I use a jackrabbit-in-distress call and have had up to four of them come in at once.

Coyotes are very abundant in our area. I hear them howling almost every time I deer hunt, and I see them pretty regularly as well. What is the coyote population like in your area?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

January Trail Camera Pictures

The following pictures were all taken by my homemade trail cameras during January. I didn't get any pictures of big bucks this time, but these shots were my favorite ones from the batch.

I've got plans to build a couple more of these cameras over the next few months. Stay tuned for more shots from the field.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Teen from Loving turns terrible year into Stock Show victory

This story doesn't have anything to do with hunting, but I thought I would share it anyway. Loving, Texas, which is the town this girl is from, is just a few miles from where I do most of my hunting. I participated in stock shows when I was in high school, and I understand how much time and effort (and money) goes into raising these animals. I can't imagine having to deal with the life-threatening health issues she has endured at the same time.

Make sure you scroll down and pause the music at the bottom before you play the video.

The link to the full story is here.

And by the way, her steer sold this morning for an all-time Fort Worth Stock Show record of $210,000! Congratulations to Rikki!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Post-Season Trophies

I got an email today from my good friend Marc Gustafson in Iowa with some pictures that I have to share. Marc has already been out looking for shed antlers, and judging from the looks of things, he is doing pretty well!

Here is what Marc had to say in the email:
"It has been tough-going shed hunting as I believe most of the antlers were shed between snow storms, and a good portion of them are buried under the snow. I have found most of them in the deer beds and a few in the standing corn. We had snow again last night, as it just keeps coming, which makes it hard to find the ones dropped not long ago. The matched set up close in the pictures measured around 135 inches and will be a dandy if he makes it through the winter."

I have only found three shed antlers in my life, so after seeing these pictures I wanted to pick Marc's brain and get his thoughts on shed hunting and see if he had some tips and techniques to use when looking for shed antlers.

Marc says his favorite spots to look for sheds is first the bedding areas, then trails leading to and from feeding areas, and then the feeding areas themselves. He says the harsh winter in Iowa this year has really caused the deer to congregate around food plots, and he hopes to find quite a few sheds around those feeding areas once some warmer weather arrives to melt some of the snow.

I also asked Marc how many antlers he will generally find in a year, and what was the biggest matched pair he has ever found. He said the matched set in the picture is the largest pair he has found to date and that he averages about 45 antlers a year. But this year he hopes to find 50 or 60 with the deer spending so much time around the food plots. He estimates that over 200 deer are wintering on one particular property he hunts, which makes shed hunting pretty good when there are that many deer congregated in an area that encompasses a couple hundred acres.

Maybe that is why I have so much trouble finding them! It sure makes it difficult when you are searching a 600-acre piece of property that might hold 50 or 60 deer, of which probably only about 15 are bucks. Also, the deer here in Texas usually don't start dropping their antlers until mid-March, after the vegetation begins to green up and grow over what antlers might be on the ground making them less visible. But regardless, I still plan to get out there and look. After all, you can't find any while sitting on the couch!

Thanks for the pictures and the information, Marc. That shed hunting sure looks like a lot of fun! I wish I could spend a weekend up there with you looking for them. Congratulations on finding all those trophies - looks like you have enough to make one heck of a chandelier!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Duck Jerky - A Culinary Experiment

I'll be honest. I'm not a big fan of duck meat. I like it as stew meat when it is cut up into small, bite-size portions, but cooking the entire duck or even the breast as a whole doesn't have much appeal to me. (I'm not saying it is bad, I'm just saying it isn't my favorite.)

I kept thinking of different ways I could cook the duck meat from my last hunt so that it might be a little tastier and not quite as gamey. One of my coworkers suggested that I make jerky out of it. I've never made jerky before, and that sounded pretty good to me, so I decided to give it a try.

The duck meat I was using had been cut off the breast into filets before it was placed in the freezer. So the first thing I did was thaw the meat out and I sliced it longways into thin strips. (Like you would butterfly a steak, except thinner.) I tried to cut the strips as thin as I could by hand, and I would guess they were about an 1/8" thick.

Next I mixed up a marinade. I searched on the internet and found a few different recipes, and all of them had the same basic ingredients. Here is what I used:
- soy sauce
- worcestershire sauce
- tabasco sauce
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- black pepper
- crushed red pepper
- mesquite flavored seasoning
- meat tenderizer
- brown sugar

I placed all of the meat in a ziplock bag and poured in the marinade. I made sure all the meat was completely covered and then I sealed the bag. I then placed it in the regrigerator to allow the meat to marinate for about 24 hours.

After reading up on the different ways to make jerky, I decided I would start mine off in the smoker for an hour or two, and then allow it to finish drying in the oven. So, the next evening I got a fire going in the fire box with some mesquite wood.

I placed the thin strips of marinated duck meat on the top rack in the smoker and then closed the lid.

My smoker has a thermometer built into it, and I tried to keep the temperature between 150 and 175. This was by far the most challenging part of the process because keeping the fire burning steadily at the same intensity is almost impossible to do. I did a pretty good job keeping the temperature in the range I wanted it, but occasionally it would creep up into the 175 - 200 range. I stayed with it and checked the fire often for about two hours.

Toward the end of that two hours it was about time for me to help get my daughters to sleep, so I wasn't able to tend the fire quite like I should have, and I noticed the meat was starting to look like it was about done. I taste-tested it and it seemed like it was about ready, so I decided not to use the oven and I left it on the smoker for about another half hour.

The end product didn't quite turn out as I had hoped, but for my first try it will do. The flavor was actually really good, but a few of the pieces got a little bit crispy. It was also just a tad spicier than what I would prefer, but it is still edible. Some of my friends at work asked to try some of it, and a couple of them even asked for another piece. (I don't know if they really liked it, if they were really hungry, or if they were just being polite.)

Some lessons learned from this first batch:
- Make the strips just a little bit thicker to keep them from getting crispy.
- Use less tabasco sauce.
- Keep the temperature at a more constant level.

In my opinion, this is a really good alternative for cooking duck meat. There was no gamey taste at all, and it really was pretty tasty. It would make a great snack to take in your backpack when you go out into the woods to hunt or for a day of fishing. I will definitely have to make some more!