Mooslette and the Turkey

My #1 Granddaughter, Mooslette, is turning 4 this week. She came over to the house for an indoor campout over the weekend. I put her tent up in the family room, built a fire in the fireplace, and found some good night noises on Youtube.

For activities, we took a trip out to Southern Ohio Dog and Game to watch the deer. That plan got a little blown up. We had stopped at Frisch’s on the way, and Mooselette had some leftover onion rings. I got the smart idea to take them along. We had a loaf of bread as well. A button buck seemed to take the first onion ring with relish. However, a young doe came over and nibbled on one of the onion rings, with quite the opposite reaction. All of a sudden, she spits out the ring, lets out this surprised bleat and ran off. The entire herd did the same and for the rest of the time we were there, watched us warily from inside the treeline.

Sunday morning, we got up well before first light, and rode out to the nearby county park. I had heard a rumor of turkey taking up residence there. We took along a good selection of calls. Sure enough, we got a response on the Shamanic MK I shortly after arrival. Mooselette and I followed the trails and finally ended up on the far side of the Mill Creek, sitting on a massive fallen Sycamore tree, calling to this gobbler. He was still in his roost when we got there. about 80 yards out.

Mooselette and I tried a few calls on him. He would honor most of them, but his response was rather lackadasical. After a half hour, he flew down and walked off towards the adjoining fenced preserve throwing gobbles back over his shoulder. We retired to the nearby Waffle House for a chocolate chip waffle. On the way back to the house, I drove to one of the access gates on the other side of the preserve. The gobbler was still out there, still honoring our calls, but moving more and more into the inaccessible part of the preserve.


Requiem for the Honey Hole

For the past ten years, I have spent a good deal of time out at The Honey Hole. The Honey Hole has been my goto spot for both Turkey Hunting as well as my pre-season recording sessions that end up in my podcasts. It has been a fantastic spot to hunt– probably about 20 gobblers have been shot by the Shamanic Dream Team. However, The Honey Hole is over. It came to an end sometime in the fall. We must have had a bad windstorm and the old tree fell over. I was heartsick when I saw the old trunk had fallen.

It was back in 2005, if I remember correctly, when I first discovered the Honey Hole. I had been down in Pity Creek, chasing gobblers, and decided to come out the long way over Heartbreak Ridge. When I got to the top, I heard some gobbling and stopped off for a rest at a blind I had been putting together a few sticks at a time in the fence line that runs down the middle of the property. After an hour, nothing had showed up, and I did a little poking around before I headed in. The fence line ran along the old Browningville/Powersville Road, which had fallen into disuse in the early 1900’s. The families along the road were all related and they kept it open for many years so that they could all get to church in one wagon, but that was probably a hundred years ago. All that remained a few sunken patches of road in the woods and a line of old red and white oaks that had lined the road. To either side of the treeline were narrow pastures, and depending on the weather, time of the season and such turkeys could be found roosting in the nearby woods or feeding out in the pastures.

What made the Honey Hole special was the fact that there was a little bit of this and a little bit of that and an old fence met up with the old road and the south end of one pasture met up with the north end of another pasture. In the midst of all this were the tall oaks and just before a break in one of the fences there was one special old oak, a wee bit wider than the others and a wee bit closer to one side of the pasture and very very dead. That morning back in 2005, I started eyeing that old dead tree and started thinking about how it might make a good set-up, especially with the dead logs and dead limbs around it. Within a half-hour or so, I had things just right. A few logs blocked the turkeys’ view coming from one direction, a large log became an ideal spot to place a yute hunter. I moved a few rocks around to give me a raised place for my calls. There was even a dense cedar tree that overhung the big log, so a couple of us could crawl up underneath and wait out a shower

The Honey Hole started to shine in 2006, and it was not long before we were taking 2 or more gobblers from there every year. Pretty soon, I knew that if you could not hear turkeys at the Honey Hole, it was probably not going to be a good day anywhere else. Within a couple of seasons, I was camping out there every morning. The action was that good. Oh sure, I had other places to go, and some days I would deliberately try and stay away. However, the lure of the Honey Hole went deep, and it got to be that it just was not turkey season if I did not put my back to that old rotten trunk.

About 5 years ago, I noticed big limbs had fallen off the trunk, and I even started shying away from it when the wind was really blowing, not wanting one to come down on my head, but within a couple of years they were all gone and the only thing was the one big trunk. I was there for the Opener last season, and I spent my last minute of hunting there as well in May.

There is another big oak just 10 yards down the way. In some ways it might be better. I can probably drag a log over and set it up in a similar way I had the log set up for the kids. However, I tried sitting there the other day and. . . well, it just was not the same. For one thing, I cannot see the stretch of road to the north. That had been a particular feature of the Honey Hole. Gobblers would hear me out on Virginia Ridge and then make the long walk around, coming up to the old road and then all the way around. Several times I could get them all lined up in my sights as they strutted down the road, and I new just the right cedar tree that, when they passed I could let loose with my load and be sure of knocking them dead.

For another, the cover at the edge of the pasture is not as high. There is a sort of shrub next to the Honey Hole that grows just high enough to block the gobblers view. On a sunny day the leaves reflect a lot of light and the difference between the bright green shrub and the deep shade made it so the gobblers could not see me raise my shotgun. At the new spot, the shrubs are not there, and you sit up a tad higher and a bit more exposed. I suppose I could transplant some of that shrub, but it is a slow grower. It might take 5 years to propagate to the point where it was useful.


I’ve been over a week late trying to get this out.  I’ve had a bad cold, and it settled in my chest. Maybe it was the cough medicine fogging my head, but  I just could not figure out a good way to finish this off. It is an odd piece.  How does a guy say goodbye to a dead tree?

Maybe this will do:

Podcast –The shaman at The Honey Hole

Hint: What I’d do is right click on the link and open it up in a new tab while you watch the slide show.

I was coughing my head off this morning, and I was reminded of the Turkey Opener back in 2011.  I’d left work on Friday with a bit of a sore throat and by Saturday morning, after rain and wind all night, I was beginning to feel something strange in my chest. It turns out both SuperCore and I had come down with pneumonia and we cleared out mid-week, but for this one Saturday morning, everything went well.

So there I was, my back to the tree at Honey Hole, sometimes doubled over with coughing, and it was just one of those fantastic mornings where the gobblers’ switches are all in the “ON” position.  They were honoring my coughs as much as they were my calls.  I had 3 jakes come in and then the biggest gobbler I have ever taken– 24.5 lbs. In the podcast, you can hear, just before the shot, I nearly muffed it all, because I was too weak at that point to control the gun and I  had to prop it on the old wire fence still attached to the Honey Hole tree to support the shot.  I remember taking that shot, and expected that gobbler to run, because the gun barrel was shaking so bad, but I had forgotten the barrel hitting the fence made it into the podcast.


Squirrels Unlimited

There is a great website for squirrel hunters that I just found.

Squirrels Unlimited

They have a great forum with a bunch of good information. Y’all need to check it out. I just joined up.



The Shamanic MK I

I’m not saying it’s a work of art, but I pulled it off. Allow me to introduce you to the Shamanic MK I

It is a poplar over cherry with walnut ends and a cherry bottom. The goal was just to make something that vaguely sounds turkey-like. What I got was a deep raspy call with a lots of volume. Frankly, I’m leaving puddles, I’m so happy with it– not because of the tone, but that I got any tone at all. This was my first project of this level since 8th Grade Shop, and I came up out of the basement with all my fingers.

This project is a milestone in a very long journey. As you may remember, I was starting to make calls clear back in 2006, and by 2008, I was contemplating doing a box call. Then I got the call from Brian Warner of Heirloom, and the next thing I knew, I was pro-staffing for a call company. There was no sense messing with box calls on my own at that point.

Then a lot of stuff happened.

Years later, I found myself in a different house. I started setting up a workshop, and in the back of my head was this idea of producing box calls. Over the past two years, I have been assembling the bits and pieces. I was in no big rush.

Bench saw: I had a big old cast iron behemoth already. It had been sitting idle for almost a decade in the garage going largely unused.  If I had to do it over again, I would buy one that allowed the rip fence to be on either side of the blade.  Mine is a 3 HP monster, and really what’s required here is precision over power.
Drill press: Nothing fancy. I had a 10-inch Craftsman. You want one that will adjust down to low. RPM . 600 RPM works well with a Forster Bit for excavating out the middle of a solid box.
Combination Sander: I went into Harbor Freight to get the little 4″ table model on sale, and they were out. The manager offered the big floor-standing 6 inch for the same price. I grabbed it and left before her medication wore off.

6 in. x 9 in. Combination Belt and Disc Sander

Band Saw: Again, a Harbor Freight sales flyer led me astray.

Central-Machinery 60500 9" Bench Top Band Saw

Harbor Freight 1/3 HP 9 in. Benchtop Band Saw

What I can say is that the trick I found was to watch Harbor Freight sales flyers and snatch up the pieces as needed.  Turkey calls are not all that demanding, and over the course of the year you can catch all this stuff on deep markdown.

So far so good. That was over the summer.  Deer Season intervened. You know that story.  It was now after Thanksgiving.  The deer were all nestled all snug in the freezer. I went  to Shipley’s and purchased a bunch of blanks and such as well as a kit that promised all the fixings for 4 box calls.

On my last trip out to Campground this year, I snagged a cedar log that had been laying near the base of the ladder since 2008. I was just curious as to what was inside. My first project in the new workshop was cutting this log down with the idea that if there was usable wood, it would mean a limitless supply of Eastern Red Cedar was in my grasp. It took the better part of a whole weekend, but I got four 2″X2″X24″ blanks as well as several other odd slabs that could be worked into paddles.

Now that I had tools and stock, it was time to actually make a box, but I really did not have an idea what I wanted to build. The general view was that a beginning call maker would make half a dozen calls that were complete failures before getting a sound out of one. I did a bunch of research. I found a couple good tutorials online– one for a solid box and another for a glue-up.

I figured it would be easier to do the glue-up box first, since I had pre-made fixings at hand. That left the dimensions and material to decide. There are hints out there for what make a good box call. The truth is the really good call makers do not cough up their secrets completely. There is a lot left to be determined through personal trial and error.

My goal was not to make a museum piece. I wanted to get to the fastest, easiest call to make that would produce a sound. It took a while to find out what that was. Inlays, checkering, and all that are  purely aesthetic. Gone. Routed grooves on the outside faces of the soundboard do have a practical purpose. They can raise the pitch, but they are not necessary. Material choice is important, but common stuff like walnut, cherry, poplar and cedar make a great call. When a block of the exotic stuff is $12, it is good to start off using the $2-3 stuff. It was time to go to the empirical evidence for the rest of the info.

My box call inventory goes back to a Quaker Boy Grand Old Master that Dick Kirby put in my hand back in the early 80’s. Back then, I was just a schlump out looking for a turkey call and a box of ammo. I had not yet been turkey hunting.  It took 30 years for me to figure out I had been talking to The Man Himself.

I grabbed a turkey roasting pan from the pantry and started filling it with calls. I went to the kitchen table and started in with a ruler and caliper determined to figure out what dimensions were ideal. I quickly discovered something: they were all basically the same call. All but one was within 1/4 ” of 7.75″ long and all had about 1/4″ difference in the top radius going from the end to the middle. One had perpendicular sides, but all had nearly the same opening, regardless of the angle. Solid, glue-up, cheap, expensive, one-off customs, and production models– it was all the same call! Was that just me or what? Who came up with that design originally? These are all questions that will have to be researched later. I came away from the kitchen table with fair idea of what the first call would be. I did not know enough to be innovative. The goal here was to make something that worked.

The shamanic MK I would start out as a 7 7/8″ call with a cherry base and cherry lid, walnut ends and poplar sides. The choice of woods was completely prosaic. They had come with the kit from Shipley’s. They were common and cheap choices. If I boogered something, it was not going to be an expensive failure. The length was on the top end of what I had measured, but I figured that would give me some slack if I screwed up with the sander.

Here are the instructions I used:

Shipley’s Box Call Instructions

and while we are on the subject, here are really good instructions for a solid box that I have yet to attempt:

How I make a Box Call –Awesome DIY

Cut out all the frills, and you have what I am going to try soon. For now, I just wanted to do a standard glue-up box.

Overall, construction was remarkably easy. Having the large sander turned out to be a godsend. The material is soft enough that you can cut well off the line and then sand your way to perfection. I sanded all surfaces that would end up getting finished down to 220 grit with a sheet of sandpaper on a table before assembly. The fitting of the end blocks took time, but having a tight fit was important.

I used Gorilla Wood Glue, because that was what was at hand. Titebond II is another good choice. and made sure everything was clamped solidly, and then wiped all the glue that I could off with a wet towel. You want to be careful as wood glue cannot be stained, and it plugs up the pores of the wood. You also want a solid connection that holds the sound boards tightly. A sloppy bond with voids will kill the sound.

My one “ooops” was with the paddle. I cut the thing just a hair too short. I put it aside. I’ll make my next call only 7.5 inches long and it will do just fine. I just grabbed another paddle and left it the full 12 inches long, figuring I would cut it off to just the right length before final assembly.

The top radius of the box was a big concern to me going in. The principal of a box call is that the radius of the paddle and the top radius of the sound boards create a minimal point of contact. I had tried to really burrow in on dynamics were at work. What I found out was if there was about a 1/4″ difference between the middle and the top and bottom, there would be a good chance of success. The radius shape did not have to be symmetrical front to back, but the two sides should be fairly close in shape. I therefore made a template out of scrap oak and sanded down close to the scribe line. The ends and such were not quite even when they went into the clamps, I figured the sander would sort those things out when the glue dried. I was right.

I got everything glued up and clamped and then went upstairs for an early lunch and an afternoon gorging on football. I would have let the glue set until next weekend, but Green Bay was getting pummeled and as a Bengals fan I could not bear to watch Carson Palmer delivering the beating. Besides, any day the Steelers and the Browns lose is a good day, right? Perhaps it was a portent. I went back down and finished the job.

Within an hour, I had everything shaped and sanded, and the paddle drilled and screwed down. It was now time for tuning. I had gone over the working surface of the padde with 100 grit, and did the same as a quick once-over on the top radii. I tried to yelp. Miraculously, I got a sound. I messed with the screw and found that I had found the sweet spot purely by accident. I did some cursory sanding with 100 grit on the inside edges of the top radii. When they say it does not take much sanding to change the tone of a box, they are right.  I returned the screw it to its original setting and chalked it up. It clucked, yelped and purred. In fact I’ve never seen an easier box for purring. Overall, it was a deep, raspy tone.  I may try and take off a wee bit more off the back portion of the radii in order to enhance the rollover.  Right now, I’m chicken.

Although it was by no means the best call I had ever picked up, The MK I was well within reason, and certainly something I would consider carrying to the field.


Deer Camp 2015 — The Final Ritual

I mentioned to Angus last week as we were on our way out to Campground that it seemed like everything at Deer Camp had become a ritual. Even the most mundane things, when repeated for a decade and a half take on a ceremonial quality. Last weekend was the yearly last trip to camp to close up. We were on our way to the stand at Campground to take down the last of the treestand skirts. Last year, Angus had not attended this rite, but he could see my point.

Lily, the Beagle, always does, and always has to scour the area fully since a trip out like this always has something to do with a dead deer. She is a bathed-in-the-blood devotee. Even dogs have their rituals. Last year she managed to scare up a monster buck watching me as I clipped the camo skirt from the shooting rail. I could not help look over to the tree where he stood. I suspect, I will glance at  that tree every year from now on.

Back Home

This morning was yet another ritual of camp. All the deer rifles are taken to the shamanic reloading cave and kept sequestered for two weeks. No silly, I do not dance around them with my rattle. I am just giving them a good cleaning. However, you do see my point– it all becomes ritual. As the years pile on you cannot help but look back.  About the time your brain hits a face that you will see no more–a campfire that shown brightly once, but whose sticks burned out and were now gone, you are confronted with the enormity of it all.  In that moment, you have the vision of the sublime. It is in that moment even a shaman has to grab at something solid and hold on.

I had segregated all the deer rifles to the left of the rack as I had unpacked them. Before going on the rack, I ran a boresnake down each of the bores loaded with Ed’s Red. I make this stuff up a quart at a time, and it seems to do a good job of loosening all the fouling. I make one run down the bore right after season and then let it sit for a couple of weeks before final cleaning.

All the bolts were out of the rifles. I clean those with Ed’s as well. I should clarify that Ed is C.E. “Ed” Harris and his home brew bore cleaner recipe has been on the web for years. The key point of Ed’s Red, is the fact that both firearms and automobile transmissions used to be lubricated with sperm oil.  When automatic transmissions came on the market, the poor whales caught the bum end of the deal.  ATF is therefore, the modern replacement for sperm oil, and it does make a wonderful  lubricant for firearms.  Here is the recipe:

Home Brew Cleaners

What I especially like about Ed’s Red is that after the initial run-through, I can let it sit in the bore for a couple of weeks, loosening stuff up. Even after the final cleaning, Ed’s Red continues to work. When I bring the rifles out the next summer, I run a clean boresnake down and it pulls even more gunk out. I do not treat the bores during season, just the outside surfaces.

The actions and the outside metal surfaces of all the rifles get treated with the Ed’s 50/50 concoction. It’s just K1 and ATF, but it works great as a gun oil. My final treatment is a once-over everything that could rust with Eezox.

What I learned over Deer Season

First off, I learned anew that 30-06 is a really great no-muss, no-fuss deer round. Both SuperCore and I used 165 grainers. Angus used 150’s. Deer go down. They stay down. This is not saying anything against all my other deer rounds or deer rifles, but it just so happened we had Ought-Sixes out this year whenever the right deer showed up.

The Whelenizer came out only a few times. My experiment with the 35 Whelen converted to a cast lead vehicle was not a failure. I just did not have the right opportunities. The problem was the absolute dearth of acorns on my ridges and the Whelenizer, much like my Savage 99 in 308 WIN is set up to be more of a treestand-oriented rig. The deer were all out in the fields this year.

Which brings me to another lesson. I need to learn greater patience with my deer load experiments. I have acquired several new rifles and new loads over the past few years. I only have a few weeks a year to try them out. This year, the only thing I could really confirm was that my new 30-06 Ruger Hawkeye and its Bushnell Scope does a terrific job. I already knew that, but that shot on the doe in the last minute of legal shooting was confirmation that paying 3 times more for a good scope can be a good idea. The rest of the projects I will have to put on hold for a year. It is not a bad thing to show up at deer camp with arm loads of new project to try. You just have to be ready for the disappointments.

I had wanted to take a second deer with the 25-06 Mauser. That will have to wait. It would have been fine for all the sits I had out in the pastures, but there was a lot of inclement weather, and I just did not want the nice walnut stock and old-school bluing out in the elements. I knew the stainless Hawkeye was a better choice for the elements. I only had it out a half-dozen times, and the one opportunity I had was a nice buck that peeked out of the cedars for a brief moment, but was gone before I could get the scope on him.

I wanted to do some still hunting with the Marlin 1894 in 357 Mag. It, like the Whelenizer, is now shooting powder coated, gas checked, hard-cast lead bullets. The problem was again, the lack of acorns and therefore the lack of deer in places where a slow stalk would have made sense.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

I got to thinking all the other things, not firearm related that had gone on during deer season and the few things worth preserving for posterity.

Things that worked:

Image result for mtm ammo wallet

MTM Ammo wallets — I bought another one this year. They keep 9 rounds of 30-06 in a weatherproof wallet. I use strips of electrical tape to mark them so they don’t get confused.

In the rain, I take the tape off and put it over the end of the barrel. I keep mine in a vest pocket. I used to store rounds on the butt of the rifle, but I always ended up the season a round or two shy.

Dorcy LED Flashlights

I have been carrying a Dorcy for a number of years. The latest ones came from Amazon over the summer. Cheap, bright, handy. I could not ask for anything better. I got through season on one change of AA batteries. What a beam! I stuck one lit in my vest pocket as I was climbing the ladder at my tree stands, and the resulting light was enough to see clearly all the way up. The beam picks up blood really well at night. It also highlights incipient rust. I carried one down with me as I was working on the deer rifles and turned off the lights and checked each rifle before putting them up for the year.

Buck Knives

I have carried a Buck 110 Folding hunter since the Reagan Administration. In all those years, I have found only two deficiencies. First off, a folding knife is harder to clean.  I have always run mine through the dishwasher at the end of season, but sometimes it takes two trips.  The other shortcoming only happens when you are in a hurry. That clipped point can be just a hair too long and too pointy, and I have poked myself a bunch of times up inside the chest cavity. As a general purpose blade it cannot be beat. However, at the meat pole in the moonlight, something special is required.

I ordered the Buck 113 back over the summer.  It is the same steel as the 110, and all the same materials as the 110, but in a fixed blade. Both have the 420HC steel.  The blade shape really did make opening up a deer easier and safer.  The 110 stays in my pack. The 113 stays at the meat pole.  I put both away this year without touching up  the edge. I could still shave with them.

Bushnell Banner, Trophy and Elite scopes.

That Dusk to Dawn thing really does work. I do not want to belabor the point, but  I have now bought a half-dozen of these in the past year or so.  The latest was a 1.5-4X40 to go on the Whelenizer.  I honestly cannot see a whole lot of difference between the three grades under normal circumstances.  Where the Elite becomes worth its price is in the rain, so I sprang for it for the all-weather Hawkeye.  All three grades perform very well in low-light.

Baking Soda

I cannot think of an instance this season where the deer were ever concerned with my presence. Aware? Yes. A 300 lb guy in an orange clown suit is always going to draw some attention. Did I get busted? Yes, on the way in and on the way out in the dark, but that Dorcy flashlight is intense, and I was not making any effort to conceal my trek. While I was actually hunting? No. Not once did I get even half a snort out of the deer.

I did not wash my poly fleece underwear mid-week like I tried last year. It took them three days to dry in the sub-freezing weather. What I did this year instead was just dust them down with Baking Soda after 1 wearing and then left them in a garbage bag for at least a day before attempting to wear them again. I had enough for 5 changes. I did the same for the cotton uninsulated bibs, but I only brought three of them and rotated them each day. The clown suit and the rest of the kit got a dusting each night before being sealed in a tub.  Last year’s challenge was the cold. This year’s challenge was rain.  Drying and dusting with Baking Soda seems to be the best method for both eventualities.

Neat’s Foot Oil

I had some leather rifle slings that had never had any sort of treatment. Over last winter, I found a bottle of Neat’s Foot Oil in my Dad’s stuff that had probably not been touched since the Kennedy Administration. The stuff was still good, so I treated all my leather slings with it. When I did it, I had some slings that had gone pretty dry.  I was wondering how many more seasons they would last. The Neat’s Foot oil did miracles and put a really nice oiled finish on the leather. I used up most of Dad’s stash, so I ordered another bottle off Amazon.

The trick here is time. It takes a while for the oil to penetrate through the leather.  I applied this stuff mid-winter and  let the slings hang until after turkey season. My guess is the leather will not need retreating in my lifetime.



Deer Camp 2015 — Ineff is Ineff

0630 ET

Although it is still dark, it in a little while it will be light enough to hunt. I still have a tag. The end of season is over ten hours away. Why am I back in town? Why are the rifles already back on the rack? Why has the shaman stopped hunting?

Look, guys, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but if you spend your life driven by the great ineffables of Life, eventually one of them is going to say “Ineff is Ineff’ing Ineff,” and leave you in the rain watching a 60 lb button buck munch ryegrass. That is not to say that was the whole story either. The real story goes back to about 0930 on the Opener, two weeks ago.

The bucks were definitely up and moving on the Opener. Angus got his buck. Supercore got his monster. I got a sawed off pair of bucks, a cervid version of Spike and Chester circling my stand, completely aware of my presence, and completely unafraid. Spike kept batting Chester away, but Chester kept coming, and all the while there they were eyeing that thing in the tree in the orange clown suit that was staring at them. It would have just been fun to watch, but I could not help feeling that the larger of the two, a robust young 6 pointer was breaking the hunter’s version of the 4th wall, as if he was begging for me to shoot the pestering 4-pointer. I saw them a couple of times this season, and it was always the same act– the little guy bugging the bigger guy until the big one lowered his head and charged.

I have to say I was proud when Angus called and said his buck was down, and that he was going to get the S-10 to haul him out. As the patriarch of the clan and camp, it felt good to have another son able to pull his own deer out by himself. The disappointment came a half hour later when the block and tackle jammed up and he had to call back for me for an assist. It was not his fault. The rope was too small for the new sheaves. However, from that point on my season seemed to be blighted. It was a minor problem. Da Hirschwagen performed perfectly from there on out. In fact, we set new camp records, getting the deer to the processor on Thursday of Opening Week and on this last Friday night, as both deer were dropped off at the processor in Lenoxburg before the 8 PM closing with fairly wide margins.

I thought I would have redemption on that afternoon. I sighted well over 15 deer on the way out to the blind, but they were surrounding the blind, and there were just too many eyes to get any closer, and no bucks in the lot. In retrospect, more than half of those 15 were refugees from the neighboring farms. They filtered back out over the next couple of days, and I was left with a recurring cast of about 8 regulars that I had been seeing since June. In one case, the fat doe had become the skinny doe with two fawns over the course of a couple days in the TrailCam. They appeared last on Friday night, and the two fawns had become two robust button bucks over the intervening months.

Before I go on, I want to stop and relate something I saw in my binoculars midway through Opening Week. That triad, the doe and two buttons had come out to graze in the pocket of the pasture closest to my stand at Campground. Just around sundown, an older doe came out from the opposite side of the pasture, and the triad shot their heads up and ran over to this more mature doe. The two buttons quickly went back to eating, but the young doe approached the older and licked the her muzzle with great intensity and then moved back in a motion that resembled the beginning of suckling. The older doe’s body was then thrown sideways as the younger threw herself in what must have been a gesture of greeting. I can only imagine this to be a grateful reunion. Perhaps the group had become separated during the early parts of the Opener. The younger doe certainly seemed to be welcoming the older one back. They stayed inseparable throughout the week.

The acorn crop was a bust this year. All of my stands in the oak groves were groaning failures. All the action was out in the fields, and you could tell these deer were hungry and eating as much of the poorer stuff as they could. I was buoyed by the number of deer I saw, and I kept figuring it was only a matter of time before a nice shootable buck ventured out among them. I had seen this scenario play out several times before season. In one instance three big racks had come within 150 yards of the house to chow down. Another time two were out in the field with their heads down at Skunk Hollow. However, two of these bucks were now on our meatpole.

There were three new hunting venues this year. Fountain Square, the new treestand just 150 yards from the house produced a nice doe on Friday evening. With all the bugs worked out, Angus was able to make the retrieval with the S-10, and we got the deer to the processor with 30 minutes to spare despite running it out of gas in the field in the rain. That 120-pound-ish doe meant a lot. He nailed it at 180 yards with a perfect boileroom hit with his Winchester 670 in 30-06. That beats my longest shot by a wide margin. That was also the first sitting on that stand. I think it has a bright future. Angus said he took the shot, because he did not want to hunt in the approaching 3-day rain. It started to drizzle as we drove out of the field.

Close by Fountain Square, we set up a make-shift venue for SuperCore at The Hand. He had several shooting opportunities there. One doe came up within 15 yards with SuperCore sitting out in the open in a folding chair. Angus and I put out a pop-up blind so he could hunt from it in the upcoming rain, but never had a chance to use it. It is now drying out in the attic.

Of course, the big producer this year was S-10, overlooking Dead Skunk Hollow. SuperCore got his two on the Opener from there. I had a couple of sits out there during the first week. SuperCore finished his season yesterday taking a third doe from that vantage.

Which brings back the question of why I am still not out there, this morning, in 41 F and occasional light rain. It comes down to a lot of things, some of which you cannot fully appreciate until you are the patriarch of your own camp. For starters, there is the issue of the deer that you are harvesting. I know “harvest” is a bad word to some of you, and I agree. I won’t “harvest” an individual deer. However, once you pull back and start looking at it in the aggregate, it does make sense. In this case, we started off with probably over the 15 deer we normally can sustain on our 200 acres. We can take as many as we want in Zone 1, but taking more than a third or so of what nature has allotted is probably not a good idea. Our count for the season stands at 2 bucks, three doe, and a button buck. If another buck had shown up in my sights, I would have taken him, but I did not think that was going to happen. I did not want to take buttons. I did not want to take the dominant does. That is why I am here at home this morning.

There is the question of freezer space. I have two freezers and I can take 5 deer comfortably. However, I am trying to move in the next year and the more venison I have to move, the harder it is going to be to free up one freezer at a time. If The Big One had shown up yesterday morning, that would not have been a problem. However, Angus’ buck had a pretty awesome yield. The grind alone filled more than a 5 gallon bucket. We have enough venison for the winter.

There was only so much of Lil Buttons I could take. My guess is that Mom either died or threw him out when he was weened. He was not particularly needy. In fact he seemed quite self-sufficient. It was just his curiosity and his naivety that started to grate on me. He took to bedding beside the blind at Midway, probably because the walls afforded him a windbreak. On a few occasions, he was the only deer I saw. I had been sizing him up for the meatpole when I saw the buttons. He was joined on the last weekend by a doe with a slight bullet track on her back. It was just a graze, and it matched SuperCore’s description of a miss on a doe during the first week. I had not seen her before. Both she and Lil Buttons had a nasty habit of coming up to graze on the blind side of the blind. I could hear them chanking and chawing through the wall. They could have cared less about me. That just made it all the more insufferable.

SuperCore and Angus had already returned to the processor with SuperCore’s doe. Angus had driven out to pick me up at Midway to save me the walk back in the rain. Angus was not going back out SuperCore was done for the year. We sat mostly quietly listening to the rain, since we had run through most of the good stories we had heard since Turkey Camp closed, and we were beginning to repeat ourselves. There were three nice steaks waiting, but it was looking like another pour down around supper time, so they might have to be broiled instead of grilled. You could tell these guys would have gladly spent the next 24 hours playing Gin Rummy, waiting for me to run out of dry clothes. That was not going to happen. Neither was the The Big One going to bump Lil Buttons out of his nest beside Midway and stick his head in the blind. It was time for the patriarch of deer camp to act.

“I was thinking of the possibility of hauling out of here early,” I said. The vote was unanimous. They had returned from the processor at 1000. The vote occurred before Noon. I popped the cork on the water at 1222, and a half hour later we were able to lock the door and leave. SuperCore treated us to dead fried chicken and a 3-Way at the Marathon and were back home with the freezer loaded before 4.

KYHillChick just came in to remind me that the ballcock in the master bathroom is not working. I’ll now go and eat breakfast and get to the hardware store before getting this posted.


A Doe in the Scope

We are heading home today from deer camp, marking the end of week #1. It is time to go home, do some wash, eat a big turkey dinner, and watch some football before heading down after dinner on Thursday.

No, I have not gotten the big buck.  Nor have I seen him.  However, I am pleased that SuperCore and Angus got theirs.  I picked up Angus’ from the processor in Lennoxburg  on Friday– lots of meat.  SuperCore had to borrow a cooler off me to get all of his home.  I won’t say I was jinxed this year, but I always seemed to  be in the wrong blind at the wrong time. That is okay for the most part, and I still have next weekend, and I still have a vivid memory of being up a tree on the last morning, getting a head start on winterizing the stands and seeing The Big One eyeing me from behind a tree in easy chip-shot range.

I will not be eating tag soup this year either.  Friday night, I had a bit of a victory. I had been hunting at Midway on and off all week. I had seen plenty of deer– 10-12 doe in one instance.  However, they were mostly small or had fawns in tow.  As the week wore on, the big herds dispersed back to the neighboring properties.  Friday AM, only one doe showed up.  I had the crosshairs on her, when she popped her head into bright sunlight and I saw the buttons.  That in and of itself was a victory.  I would have been quite distraught if I had burned a button buck.  I was quite pleased, because it really vindicated all the money I had spent on the Bushnell Elite 3-9X40 for the Hawkeye.  I had made that mistake before with a button buck about 10 seasons ago with a cheap scope. I don’t mean to sound like I am in the bag to Bushnell, but I have purchased a bunch of Bushnell scopes in recent years and this is another reason to be glad I did.

The story did not stop there.  Lil Buttons down the western edge of the field and then cut over to the opposite side where I was.  He came close to sticking his head in the blind.  I managed to snap a picture of him.  I heard him disappear off to the east side of the blind.  It was about time to go in.  I knew KYHillChick might be busy later in the day, so I decided to call from the blind to let her know I’d survived.  We talked for a bit. I got caught up on the doings at home and finalized plans for Angus’ return to camp later that day.

When I was done, I closed up the blind, kicked the duffel bag out the door and backed out.  Who should be bedded just to the side of the door but Lil Buttons.  He’d gotten a perfect view of my my backside as I came out the door before deciding to vacate the premises. I’m just glad I he did not decide to kick me or worse.

Friday night, Angus and SuperCore were due in before 7. I was back out at Midway.  I had given up on looking out the north side of the blind.  The wind was strong enough that if I had both windows open, it was just going to raise havoc.  I had not seen anything out in the field below Honey Hole anyway all season.  All the action had been to the south.

I spent all of Friday afternoon in the blind.  I had Admiral Lockwood’s  WWII  submarine memoir “Sink ’em All” for company.  Ripping stuff if you like submarines and a sub-$2 Nook Book from The sun set a little after 1720 hours.The last minute of legal hunting was 1750.  At 1742 I sited multiple targets coming out into the Garden of Stone.  At exactly 1750, in the last minute of legal hunting, I found the large form of a doe in the scope and pulled the trigger.  The muzzle blast from the Hawkeye blinded me for a bit. However, walking off the 150 yards out, my eyesight readjusted and I found a white patch in the dark, a large 150 lb doe with both lungs gone and the top of her heart missing.  Oh, and as I backed out of the blind to go find the doe, what should I see but half a dozen  bouncing white tails from the northern field.  So much for the idea that there were no deer feeding in that field.  The all ran into the woods just behind Angus’ blind at Lazy Boy.

Angus and SuperCore were close when I called. They brought out the Hirschwagen and we got her loaded. I had her cleaned out by 1930 and I called Lenoxburg Country Store for an assurance that they would not close early. We pulled up in front at exactly 2000, not exactly with a broom on our mast, but a nice bit of venison nonetheless.

The front room at deer camp is currently filled with garbage bags, one for hunting duds, one for the poly underwear we wash separately.  Another for socks and another for street clothes.  I have yet to salt down all the stuff that will remain with baking soda.  Over the week that will kill any stink.   We have a bunch of venison to load in the coolers, and then I’ll pop the cork on the water and blow tanks and be gone.  I still have well over half of Lockwood’s book to read when I get back next weekend.