Angus’ Doe

Opening weekend of 2003 was one of those times when it seemed nothing could go wrong. Angus’s hunt began with still hunting up on Gobbler’s Knob and working down into Pity Creek. On the way down, we nearly got a doe that had come to drink at the stream. We found a huge scrape at the bottom of the hill. After banging around Tinkerbell Wood for a while, we headed back to the house, changed clothes and took off for the Jagende Hutte. We arrived about 3PM and settled in for the wait. At sunset, I told Angus, “This is it. Watch out.”

Looking back at the farmhouse at sunset, I was suddenly taken by the enormity of the changes in our life these past two years. Our lives now center around the farm. For me, the center of my world is theThoughtful Spot, overlooking the Hundred Acre Wood. We’ve taken a wreck of a house unoccupied for 20 years and turned it into a vibrant household. There it all was looking back at us in the sunset, a whole new life.

“Dad!!! It’s a deer!”

You know, KYHillchick keeps saying that Angus must be genetically just mine—he has inherited very little from her. Physically, he’s my clone. Temperment and tastes are identical. Well folks, I’m here to tell you that at least one gene slipped in. There we were back in ’97 on a moose watching adventure in Canada. Two days out from the nearest bit of civilization, two hours canoeing from our camp and KYHillChick spied a pair of moose watering some 600 yards away.

” It’s a moose!” echoed out over the still waters of that dawn. The moose were gone in a flash. Some things never change.

Well, some things change. In this case, the little buck stayed around a little bit, eyeing us, as he nibbled around. Soon another doe came in, then another, then I heard noises coming from the back of the blind, and I knew we were surrounded. After bagging one monster on Saturday, the last thing I needed in life was another dead deer. I couldn’t shoot a buck. It would have to be a doe, and I made sure that it was going to be nothing less than a perfect shot.

“No, son,” I said. “That one is in the tall grass. The shot will deflect.”

“No. We can’t shoot the buck. I don’t have the right tag left.”

“No. That one’s too small. That one’s too . . .”

“Dad!” he yelled again.” Look!”

“There was another nice buck coming by. As my eyes followed him, a doe turned and stared at us. The buck trotted off. The doe kept watching.

“Any second,” I whispered, she’ll turn and run.

“Shoot her!”

“No, she’s giving me only a brisket shot. I don’t want to shoot her in the brisket.”

With that, the deer turned and presented a perfect broadside, put her one leg slightly forward and dropped her head into the grass and began to graze. I was without excuse.

“Okay. Here goes.”

The blast sent deer flying everywhere. The doe was struck in the heart and fell dead. Several other does fled. A chocolate colored buck with a nice rack suddenly appeared and leaped back and forth around the dead doe before fleeing.

“Wow!” I said. “That must have been his girlfriend.”

We waited a while before calling KYHillchick for a pickup with the truck. I wanted the deer to all get away before the vehicle came in. That way they might be a bit less spooked and we might still get some action from the blind over the next few weeks. Before it was total darkness we radioed in. Angie came out, and we locked up the blind and went to retrieve the doe. The buck had stayed in the brush less than thirty yards away from the carcass. He snorted and thundered off when the truck pulled up.

The moon was still nearly full as we pulled out onto the highway, driving to Brooksville to drop off the deer, I turned to Angus and said. “You know, that’s kind of your deer.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah,” I said. ” I sure didn’t need another one this weekend, but we just couldn’t pass that one up. It seems like you’re not only a good hunting buddy, but you’re a lucky one too. We were just meant to have that doe.”

“I’m pretty handy to have around.” Said the strange confident voice beside me. I knew then my son had grown.

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The Savage Spoke and the Monarch of the Forest Fell

The Savage Spoke

The Savage Spoke

. . . or something like that. It sounds kind of goofy when you put it that way. Saturday morning started out colder than most, and definitely quieter. There was the constant drone of ATV’s and an occasional truck gate slamming, but this year it was much further off. A lot of the landowners had been cracking down on slobs, so it was just us and the families out for opening morning.

I took a slightly different way to the stand, across a fallow field. Although it was only about fifty yards away, the road would have taken me through the dense cover of the cedars, and this way I was walking almost directly downwind to the stand. That left the cedars to the deer, and most mornings I had bounced one or two does on my way in.

Halfway across the field, I realized I was starting to crack a sweat, so I stopped and took off my hat and dumped some heat to the wind. There was no big rush; it was over an hour early. I dropped my duffel, doused the flashlight and knelt. Instant solitude. If someone had been watching, they would have been sure some overly precious refugee of the New Age was performing his makeshift hunting ritual. As it was, I looked up and saw I was facing Orion. Yeah, I probably am a refugee of the New Age, but I don’t wear crystals, and I generally leave my antlered headdress at home. It still is good to see that friendly tableau. The Dog, the Hunter, the Bull. Some things never change. About that time I felt the first bit of chill, and I knew it was time to keep going.

If the constellations above had been looking out for me, they certainly did not do a good job. I muffed it in the dark and missed the corner of the field by about 65 yards. I ended up about 50 yards from my stand going the wrong way, and probably walking over a couple prime trails. A lone deer busted me and took off without snorting. My season was rapidly beginning to swirl. A rotting ladder stand on a cedar finally showed in my light, and put me back on track.

Campground Stand

Campground Stand

Campground is a tube steel ladder stand down the way from the oak grove where we camp in the summer. It overlooks several white oaks all squatty with age. My attention was drawn to this site by the profusion of rotting wood nailed to the sides of the trees. As best I can tell, at least two generations of hunters had spent their seasons here. It is prone to a lot of midday movement, and most deer don’t show up until at least two hours past sunrise. I had mistakenly hunted the area the first year as an afternoon stand and seen nothing. The biggest asset to Campground is that it overlooks the lee side of a saddle that interconnects two large creek systems. My site allows me to look to the bottom of the saddle on one side and out into the field on another. It made a good rifle stand and after sweetening the spot with a salt lick it has become a passable early season bow stand.

After early Youth and Muzzleloader seasons back to back, the deer fled a lot of the surrounding land. It is always heartening to listen out among the surrounding ridges and hear ATV’s burping along on their single-minded and determined goal of chasing deer onto my land. I loaded up, slipped the rifle sling over the peg, slipped into my bibs and coat, zipped up tight and sat back. I had been treated to a lot of good times at Campground. A few weeks earlier, a perfect ten-pointer had followed in a herd of does. He stayed out at sixty yards crosswind to the stand. After the does had walked through, I gave him a single snort-wheeze. He responded by staring, stamping and grunting for several minutes before walking over and menacing a small oak sapling.

We’d met up a week later at The Dump. He’d come up after sunset, and I had misjudged his distance in the gloom. My arrow had sailed under his legs, and I had been treated to a real show as he challenged the arrow, and then a neighboring stump before finally huffing off into the dark.

It was shortly after first light, but you would not have known it where I was. Out of the blackness came a distant scritch. . .scritch scritch. . . of hooves on fallen oak leaves. Shortly thereafter a shot rang out on a neighboring ridge as someone decided to get an early start on the season. Silence, then the steps continued, over the top of the saddle and down the gully. Crunch. A large branch had broken. The gentle hooves quickened their pace. Crunch. . .thunk. . . and then the darkness erupted. A drunken hunter had come up the front side of the saddle, and was fumbling around in the darkness. The deer were fleeing in front of him. I was so mad I could just spit. Staggering, moaning. At one point I thought I heard cursing as the git fought his way through the cedars towards me. The first thing I saw was a couple of white tails flitting down the gully below me in the moonlight. It was still too dark to shoot. I put my back to the tree and hoped the dim-bulb didn’t decide to open up on one of them with me in the way. I wasn’t sure if he passed out or finally found a stump to sit on and let the cold sober him up. It finally got quiet again.

About fifteen minutes later, the light had come up. I turned around and looked for the orange hat passed out down the hill. That’s when I heard the first real grunt. I’ve heard tell of guys who try to put their stand up on the towers beneath high-tension wires. I’ve seen squirrels make contact on transformers. That grunt had about the same effect. As my own lightbulb lit, I realized that I hadn’t been hearing a drunk at all. It had been bucks fighting at the top of the saddle. The looser had been one of the white flags I’d seen bounding down the hill. The winner was now camped out in the cedars behind my stand.

I found my hands clutching a rifle in a death grip. How it got off the peg I am not quite sure. I was shaking with buck fever for which I had thought myself immune. I was frozen.

“Settle down.” I said out loud, and in hearing it, I relaxed. The buck must have heard me too, for he started slowly moving my way. I cupped my hand to my mouth and threw one short contact grunt towards the largest of the oaks, downhill from me. Although you cannot see it, there is a well-traveled trail that comes out of the cedars and runs from one of the great white oaks and runs downhill to the other. It is exactly 42 yards from my stand to the closest approach to that trail. With a bit of grunting as he went, the winner of the match emerged from the curtain of cedars. He plodded past the first oak and then turned downhill towards the second.

My Savage 99 came up on the far side of the tree and leveled on the deer. The largest rack I had ever seen through that scope appeared beyond the crosshairs. When he made his closest approach he was broadside.

“Aaaach!”

He froze. My right eye was blinded in the muzzle flash through the scope, but my left could follow him as he leapt once and then turned towards the bottom of the gully. I heard three bounds, a crash of brush, and then silence. It was 0650 on opening day. Twenty years of work had come to fruition, and a great buck had finally fallen to my hand.

I found him collapsed under a dead cedar next to the gully. He’d taken it through the lungs and heart; taking ribs on both sides. I did not want to disturb the area any further, so I decided to drag him up without gutting. The buck and I spent the better part of two hours tied to each other. As the morning wore on, a dozen deer took turns crossing the saddle. They would stop, snort a salute and thunder off. It was as though the whole neighborhood was coming to pay its respects. We’d get a few feet and then I’d stop to rest on a stump or a rock, and I told him stories.

“I hope this isn’t going to be a ‘Old Man and the Sea’ thing.” I said to the glazed eyes. “That’s all I need is a pack of coyotes to fight over you. Oh well, where was I? Oh yeah, so now there’s me and the dog and I’m waiving this Coleman lantern and yelling for the guys to stop, and then I get this funny feeling that – hey wait a minute, maybe these guys actually ARE trying to shoot at me and . . you ever have that feeling?”

I gutted him out on the front porch. It took forever to get the deer back into the truck for the trip to the processor. I’ve got a crew cab with a short bed and he just would not fit once he stiffened up. We stopped at the grocery and also rolled over to Roosters to show the guys there. When we got to Lennoxburg, they dragged him out and put him on a hook. It had been a slow day-—only 25 or so had come in. Normally there would be five times as many, stacked like cordwood, but everyone was saying how the full moon and cold weather had kept the deer bedded down.

Lennoxburg 2003

Lennoxburg 2003

Up until then it had just been a personal thing. I knew I had not bagged the biggest deer ever, but he was the biggest I’d ever had in my sights. He wasn’t going to be a state record, but he had undoubtedly been the biggest up on the Saddle that morning. Somebody came up puffing on a cigarette and started talking to the guy that was caping mine out.

“Slow day, huh? Any big ones?”

“Big ones?” said the guy with the knife. “We just got this one.” With that, he lifted the hide and showed the local my deer.

“Yep.” said the guy. “That sure is big.”

The shaman and his Monarch, 2003

The shaman and his Monarch, 2003

 

The Monarch, 2003

 

Update April, 2004

The “Monarch of the Forest” is back from the Taxidermist. The Taxidermist did an excellent job except for a minor flaw in positioning one eye. When viewed from the right angle the deer looks drunk. Oh well, I guess that’s sort of fitting, considering the story behind him.

 

The Monarch, back from the Taxidermist

Read:  Remembering the Monarch

 

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Coyote, 2002

Coyote 2002

Look what came out at sunrise on Sunday of Week 2 of rifle season.  He hopped around a bit and then sat with his back to me at 180 yards.

30-06 Winchester 670

165 Gr Hornady SPBT on top of a hefty load of H4895

coyoteb2002.JPG (236279 bytes)DSC00094.JPG (181110 bytes)


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Ode to a 30-30 Pt 3 — Like A Dog Returneth

13699: Ode to a 30-30

11/12/02-10:41 AM Posted by: shaman from Shooters.com

ODE TO A 30-30

PART III

by Shaman

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool to his folly.

Or at least that is how it felt. There I was, up in the stand at Heartbreak Ridge. The 30-30 was on the peg, loaded with 150 Gr Hornady. I had Dr. John’s autobiography open. I wasn’t particularly worried about hunting at that point. I just needed to cool down.

I’d had the perfect spot picked out for opening day-a barn overlooking a scrape at the edge of a field at the top of Cheezy Hollow. I’d patterned the buck and does and watched them come out into the field and graze at sunrise and sunset. The night before, the buck had come out at sunset, stalked regally around the pasture and then gone down the hill to check his scrape.

My wife had watched him with binoculars. At 150-200 yards from the barn, the shot would be too long for a bow or muzzleloader, but I had an excellent chance with my 30-06. We’d toasted the buck from our back yard with full assurance he’d be on the pole by noon.

I’d been secretly piling boards and such across the old barn’s entrance since early in bow season. I did it slowly, so as to not arouse the deer and telegraph my plan. On the days I did not hunt, I sat in the backyard and watched the deer browsing in the pasture with the cows, unaware of my preparations.

Now it was opening day. A two-fisted front was due through. I had the morning to hunt, and then it was likely that there would be bad storms by late afternoon. As sunrise drew nearer, the wind came up. It was howling now, and banging the old sheet metal as the old barn creaked. I was looking down at my watch, marking the time of the first shot I’d heard, when I was hit from behind and then from the side.

A sudden violent gust had caught the makeshift blind. It had been there that way for over a month, but one gust had made it all come undone. Wham! Thud. THWAP!, as an airborne piece of sheet tin, picked up and hit me square, and knocked me off my seat. I picked myself and the stool from the dirt and sat back down. In that instant I realized I was now sitting out in the open with boards and sheet tin scattered about me. It was also less than a minute after sunrise. I heard a noise in the distance, and couldn’t tell if it was deer snorting or laughing. About 20 minutes later, does started peeking from the low cedars at the edge of the field. They’d stick their heads out for a moment, look my way, and duck back into the bushes. From my new vantage in the shadows, all I could do was look through my binoculars and fume.

At 8:30, I came back in and sat on the front porch. My wife listened to my sad story, made me some pancakes and left me to my misery. I stashed the ’06 and brought out the Marlin 336 in 30-30. I just had to get out of there and unwind. It was Opening Day, and I’d had my chances of a nice buck blown–quite literally. The 30-30 was lighter, and less of a burden. I did not need a burden. Heartbreak Ridge had been a phenomenal stand the year before, but the deer had left the top of the ridge during the drought and stayed down in the bottoms along the Licking River most of the Summer. The oak mast had failed.

No acorns meant no deer. I’d hunted Heartbreak several times that year already, but to no avail. That was fine for right now. I just didn’t want to be inside on Opening Day. I also didn’t want to be out stalking around. I just wanted to go somewhere and sit. Heartbreak Ridge was the perfect place to go and not be disturbed.

If I wasn’t going to seriously hunt. I might as well read. Reading in the woods has always been one of my favorite activities, so I sat and read. Mac Rebeneck ( AKA Dr. John, the Night Tripper) had an autobiography that was both engrossing and repulsive–just what I needed. An hour went by. When the wind rose and rolled the stand, I’d look up and behold the beauty of the Fall and the raw power of the rising autumn wind. When the gust faded, I’d go back to the book and dive deeper into the jungle of the New Orleans music scene in the Fifties. Occasionally, I’d blow a few doe bleats or a couple of grunts. Like the 30-30 beside me, it was more of a show that I was hunting than anything else. It was now 11.

After the third time I blew a series of bleats, I’d settled back down into the book. Mac was recounting a time he saw Little Richard put a bag of money at some dude’s feet and beg for romance. A fight had ensued, leaving men shot, stabbed, staggering into the alley-

Meee. Meee. Meee.

Wha? I turned around and saw a doe leaving the cover of some cedars. She seemed a bit lost in the wind. Meeeee. Meee! Meee.

I put the book down and reached for the Marlin. Hammer back, crosshairs on her chest.

BLAM! I had the impression that hair flew from a spot just above and behind the attachment point of her foreleg. It was a perfect shot. The doe looked around, jumped back and hid for a moment behind a cedar. As I shifted to jack in another round, the Mac Rebeneck autobiography slipped out from under me and fell to the ground. That got her peeking out and stamping her foot.

BLAM! On the second shot, she bolted towards my stand, closing within 20 feet of the tree before veering off and slowing to a slow walk. As she began to turn, I saw a finger-sized stream of blood pumping from her side. I grunted once. She stopped.

Lil Angus and the doe, 2002

Lil Angus and the doe, 2002

BLAM! I watched her wander off slowly. Unfazed by my fusilade, or Mac Rebeneck falling from on high, she appeared to be out on a stroll through the fall woods. Twenty yards down the trail. She stopped and fell over like a plastic lawn ornament in the wind. When I got to her, I was amazed to find that I’d shot through basically the same hole on at least two of the shots. There was an elongated gash, where I’d smashed through her ribs. One round had taken out a lobe of lung.

Another had taken out the diaphragm. Another had taken off the top of her heart. All three had exited through a gaping hole in the bottom of her chest. She’d died relatively unaware. In the space of about 30 yards were three sure signs of a hit, and a good blood trail, but from watching that doe, you would have thought I’d been shooting blanks.

the shaman, the doe and the 30-30

the shaman, the doe and the 30-30

I pulled some spent brass and Mac Rebeneck from the multi-flora bush beneath the stand and started up the hill, dragging the carcass. Opening Day was over; it was time to hunker down and wait out the storms. I had meat for the winter, and somewhere along the trail, the sting of the fiasco at sunrise had faded. The Marlin had drawn its first blood, and I could walk into Roosters with my head held high. Rolling around my mind now was the gravel of Dr John’s voice:

“Yeah, here in the Jungle,

You be ready to die.

Some monkey like me,

Gonna shave yo’ ass dry!”

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Ode to a 30-30 Pt 2 — The Trip to Target World

11136: Ode to a 30-30

06/03/02-1:22 PM Posted by: shaman from Shooters.com

Ode to a 30-30

Part II

The Trip to Target World

After the call to Bob, I had pretty much given up on buying a new deer rifle. Oh sure, I still hit Gunbroker.com, and I still read a lot. If a mint-condition Savage 99 came up for auction, you could bet I followed it. If I read a review of one of the short magnums at the barbershop, you can bet I was digging through my reloading data, looking for comparisons.

Still, Bob’s words carried me throughout the Winter and well into Spring. I went to two Gun-and-Nut shows, and saw nothing of any great interest. My only break with routine was one brief Saturday afternoon, experimenting with 70 grain loads in my .223’s (maybe a deer cartridge) that ended with a lot of keyholeing and no-where near the results I’d expected. By April, I’d settled back into my 30-06 rut. It was now just a matter of picking a powder and a bullet.

I was in Bass-Pro Shops looking for some Federal #5’s when I think the bug started to hit me again. Suddenly there was a Browning BLR in my hands, then a perky little Remington in one of those goofy new calibers. I heard myself saying, “Anything in Two-Fifty-Seven Roberts? Whatch y’all have in a seven?

Can you get it in walnut?”

The only thing that shook me from my trance was the salesman coming back with a box of Remington #5’s and the price-tag of $19.95.

“Jeez, I’m gonna shoot those turkeys, not date them!”

“These are the new extra hard shot, Sir.” He replied, “It will really tighten up your pattern.”

After explaining that my pattern was tight enough already, he finally did bring forth some Federals. I thanked the men at the gun counter and left.

They smiled and waived back like the hometown whore.

Turkey hunting keeps a man’s mind filled well enough, but it wasn’t much more than the day after season, I was beginning to think of deer, deer season, deer loads and. . . and . . . deer rifles!

I convinced myself it wasn’t out of the way to go home a different way one day and check out a gun store in Hamilton. There wasn’t anything of real interest, but I knew that wasn’t the end of it. I started seriously watching about 5 calibers on Gunbroker again. For a change, I actually bought this year’s copy of Guns Illustrated—not the 2-year-old version you find for $1.99 at the used book stores.

What finally did me in was the sales flyer from Target World. “Overstocked on all long guns. Come help us out. Major reductions.” They made it sound like a charity auction. I couldn’t resist. Besides, I’d held off this long, I knew I could make it through the summer without buying another rifle. This was just looking.

“Hi, what can I do for you?”

“Got the flyer. What have you got?”

“What are you looking for?”

“Lever, possibly. . . or possibly a Ruger Deerfield, or maybe-”

“How’s this?”

It was a 336AS Marlin. It was 30-30. It had a Simmons 3X9 scope. It had just enough scuffing on the stock to knock the price down, but nothing I couldn’t get rid of. It looked at me in the cold florescence of the gun store lighting like a girl I’d known in high school. I casually looked at the price tag, then shouldered it. The stock was a bit short, but it came right up on the irons. There was no checkering, and the smoothness of the grip and forearm gave it a sense of familiarity and warmth. It was a high see-through mounting, so the scope was a bit of a stretch, but my left eye settled right in. I mounted it again, and it was like we’d grown up together. Yes, this was the girl I’d met at the party, the one I’d felt I’d always known. I was reeling now, in the scent of light oil and just a hint of powder, my mind began to fog.

“I’ve got to think about this.” I said, and dashed off to the reloading isle to ponder my fate. Yes, indeed it was a handsome rifle, certainly the perfect vision of the lever deer gun. It’s funny, you know. I’ve hunted Kentucky now for 15 years. 30-30 has been the caliber most fellows choose, but they dream of a 30-06. When a man actually goes out and gets an Ought-Six he speaks of it as a watershed in his life. Ought-Six has a mystique of power, and a myth of knocking deer off their feet. In the schoolyard of the mind, Ought-Six is the varsity cheerleader and Thutty-Thutty is just the girl you know from study hall. For me, the mythology had run backwards—I’d fallen into hunting in Kentucky with a 30-06 already in hand. For me, the .30-30 WCF was the light stalker, filling my head with visions of effortless bounding over the ridges. It was the late season companion that shouldered easily no matter how many layers I wore. It spelled freedom.

A fellow came up to the counter and admired the lever. His back was to me, and I didn’t recognize him as the owner.

“Yes, sireee.” Said the man. “This is the finest one I’ve seen in here.”

Jealousy leaped from the pit of my being. I suddenly needed to be near that rifle again, and protect it from another suitor. I returned to the counter quickly. I struggled to regain my grip, by asking to try another.

The salesman brought down a Model 94 Winchester. Nothing special. He then brought out the Deerfield—too much like my Mini 14 to get worked up over. My eyes kept drifting back to the Marlin 30-30. There had to be a way out.

“How firm are you on the three hundred dollars?” I asked cooly.

“Sir, that’s the regular price. The sales price is on the red sticker.”

Trapped.

“Goodness, ” I said. “What a surprise my wife will have.”

“Oh, you don’t have to tell her.” Said one bystander.

“You can do like my buddy.” Said another, “Tell her you’re holding it for a friend, who’s going away for a while.”

All in all, I got five suggestions on how to deal with wives and rifles.

“Naw.” I said. “She got used to this just before the 2000 election. It’s just I hadn’t planned on getting a new one.

Fifteen minutes later, I was in the car with the Marlin riding in the passenger seat. The sun glinted off the receiver and it seemed like it had always been there.

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Ode to a 30-30 PT I — The Dream

Ode to a 30-30 PT 1

11046: Ode to a 30-30
Originallly Posted — 05/16/02-12:48 PM Posted by: shaman from Shooters.com

Ode to a 30-30

Part 1

The Dream

By Shaman

We all handle stress differently, and everyone has their favorite methods of stress reduction. Since giving up climbing without a rope a few years ago, I’ve found shooting a box or two of ammo at the range to be one of my favorites. Even better is buying a new rifle. I’d been working up to this one for several months—the problem was I couldn’t make up my mind. I called my RA ( Rifles Anonymous) sponsor about a month ago and it went something like this:

“Bob, help me.”

“What’s up, Bill?”

“It happening again. . . only worse. I woke up in a cold sweat this morning. I was in the gun shop again, only I couldn’t make up my mind.”

“What was it this time?”

“It was .257 Roberts or 7MM –08. . . Yes, that’s it: a bolt gun in .243, or maybe a lever in 35 Remington or maybe a Savage 99 in .308. . .”

“Bill, you’ve in that forum again, haven’t you?”

” (long silence) . . .yes.”

“Okay. Settle down. Let’s go through our affirmations.”

“All right. I am an addict. I buy rifles, not because I need them, but because I want them. I am powerless to stop my obcession, but with help from a higher power. . .” The litany continued for a few minutes.

“Feel better?”

“No.”

“Okay, let’s try this. What do you have in the safe right now?”

“Five 30-06’s , Two 223’s. Fourteen-”

“Okay, stop right there. Ask yourself this: for all those rifles you’re thinking of right now, what do they do that the 30-06 doesn’t.”

“Err. . . um. . . less recoil?”

“But I thought you said that last batch of ammo you made up had almost no recoil.”

“yes. (pause)Um, Less drop?”

“All right then. You see, you really don’t need another rifle. I dare you to give me anything you’re going to shoot at within a five-hundred mile range of Cincinnati, Ohio that you can’t do in with either a 30-06 or a .223. ”

“Moose?”

“When are you going after a swamp cow?”

“Um. . .I dunno. I registered for the Kentucky Elk Lottery-”

“. . .And then you can put some 200 grainers in the ’06 and do just fine.”

“I know, but the dreams seem so real.”

“Look, RA doesn’t ask for much. It doesn’t even require you to believe in a higher power beyond Charlton Heston. It does ask, however, that you refrain from filling gun safes with rifles that you can’t remember purchasing and for which you have no ammunition.

“Thanks Bob. ”

There was a long silence.

“35 Remington? You say?”

“Yeah, I was just reading the other day. . .”

“Great cartridge, but it’s getting harder to find ammo and brass these days.”

“Or a 44 Mag lever.”

“I can see that. You take a Super Blackhawk with you, and you can match ammunition. So what kind of prices are you seeing?”

“I bid on a Marlin on Gunbroker’ last night, but fell asleep just before the auction was over.”

“Hmmm. I don’t have my system up. What kind of. . . Hey wait a minute!

You’ve got me thinking about another lever!

“Would repeating your affirmations help? Bob. Bob?

“Sorry, I was just seeing if I had room in this one cabinet. You know. If I pull out this one piece of wood, I think I can jam one or two in and still get the door closed.”

“Bob! Bob! Come back! ”

(next issue – the trip to Target World)

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11049: Ode to a 30-30

05/17/02-11:54 AM Posted by: BEAR from Shooters.com

Great…….are you tapping my phone???

BEAR

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Turkey Camp, 2002

Log of the Hole 19 April, 2002 1300 EDT

Weather: 82F Rain predicted.

Gobbler 2002

Gobbler 2002

Five days of Spring gobbler hunting will make any man humble. Tack on my load of 20 years of self-inflicted bad luck and Friday morning saw a man stripped of all delusions crawl out of bed and catch my reflection in the kitchen window.

The forecast promised rain by 11. The kids were coming for the weekend. It had to be this morning, or probably another week, or quite possibly another season. I checked the doppler radar out of Cincinnati, and there was rain one county over.

I have learned many lessons in 20 years of turkey hunting. The first one of these is that scouting is foremost. In past years, it had been the aspect I tended to the least-not out of ignorance. Ben Rogers Lee once said that a Turkey Hunter needs an understanding wife and a good boss. For most of my life, I’d had neither and stealing a few days each season from work and home did not lend itself to thorough pre-season scouting.

This week had been different. Now, I was the boss at work. I had acquired anew wife that loved the outdoors. We now had a farm just an hour outside Cincinnati with several flocks, and I had a week of vacation left over from last year that I was devoting to turkey hunting. There is truly no price tag a man can put on a front porch where you can get up at first light, grab a cup of coffee and go out and sit and owl, and have 5 gobblers answer.

That’s precisely what I’d done, starting in late February. All through shed season, my wife and the family had helped me comb the woods. I knew where they roosted, fed, dusted, and watered. At the end of a morning hunting, now I could come back and hear big gobblers on my property and the neighbors’ sounding off on the nearby ridges until the heat of the afternoon.

So what had gone wrong? Why hadn’t I gotten a gobbler? The neighbors said my turkey’s were “call -shy” – wouldn’t come to a call. They blamed it on being over-hunted. I’d fixed that for the most part with 100 No Trespassing signs, and quiet talks with the neighbors. Still, most of the week, I’d seen gobblers show interest and then move off in another direction.

I’d tried no-call ambushes at the funnels-sometimes with decoys and
sometimes not. What’s a turkey funnel? That’s a subtle question. Turkeys, unlike deer, don’t stay on a trail. They just have tendencies to this way or that towards favorite afternoon loafs, and so on. Still, if you track them enough during the pre-season, you’ll find places that they frequently pass by. I had a few such places picked out, and they’d all produced good setups. It just hadn’t produced a gobbler. One was a stand of cedar I’d found on the aerial that overlooked a great funnel. The cedars looked like an out-stretched human hand from the air, so The Hand had been named. The
Hand was in the middle of a pasture along a narrowing in the ridgetop. On either side of this narrowing, creeks formed, leading away. Both creeks had ample supplies of acorns and their steep hillsides were natural highways.

When undisturbed, the flocks like to move amongst the open folds of the pasture, between the roost and their afternoon haunt in a protected fallow field. Once they got into that field, they were basically unhuntable-a wide open flat space with no cover. I’d tried a blind, but they were way too smart. In coming years, I’ll build a permanent blind, and plant the field in clover and beans.

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Another was a meeting of two fencelines. One afternoon, I’d caught sight of the flock marching towards the fence and taken my position amongst the tall weeds next to a post on the intersecting fence. The turkeys came to the fence line, turned and followed it, coming to the corner where I lay in ambush. A gobbler and two jakes were bringing up the rear of several hens. I let my back hug the fencepost and thought nice wooden thoughts. The hens rounded the corner and one came within a couple of yards of me before deciding I wasn’t worth the risk. The gobbler had been only five yards from the corner and my crosshairs before the hen sounded the alarm.

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Wednesday afternoon saw a big gob out in the farthest pasture chasing hens. (Note:  This big gobbler ended up as my arch nemesis, Mister Natural) I watched in the spotting scope for a few minutes before heading out in an end-around maneuver that had me sneaking along on my belly through in an old sunken road about an hour later. The hens and gobbler had retired to an old
barn at one side of the pasture to dust. As I got closer, I could see
clouds of dust coming from the barn. I had them cornered. It was right out of an old WWII B-movie-sneaking along the hedgerow, performing a one-man assault on the old barn. I got within fifty yards by edging along the side of the road, and finally belly-crawling the last sixty yards. The gobbler never showed himself at the door, it was too dusty to see in, and eventually the whole flock walked out the back and back down into the cool of the woods without ever presenting a shot.

I’d hunted the classic morning fly-down setups as well. Four mornings had produced four disappointments. One morning, I’d just been on the wrong side of the roost. Another morning I’d been busted by a hen before the final dance had begun. What had finally pulled me away from those flocks and out of that creek bottom was setting up early with high expectations, only to learn that the flock was gone, and I’d been left to enjoy the sunrise alone.

Wednesday afternoon had viscous storms head in late. I’d gone out in the truck and let the thunder shock the gobblers for me. Having located three good roosts, before beating it back in the downpour, I was confident going out Thursday. I got within fifty yards of a gobbler roosting in a creek bottom. I had five seconds of a perfect view of him as he flew down. He then started up the far side of the creek to meet up with hens already milling about. I never saw him again.

That lead me to Friday. I’d followed after the gobbler and found a good blind on top of the ridge, probably left by a neighbor during the youth hunt. I’d resolved to be back at that blind at first light, and intercept the good-sized gobbler I’d seen. It would be raining hard within an hour or two. This was it.

Imagine my feelings as I came to the blind and felt the rush of air as six turkeys blew out of the trees. Not only had the flock moved up to the top of the hill overnight, but they’d roosted directly above the blind. Oh well. I put out my decoys, and just sat down in the blind and waited until the light got good. Perhaps, by making assembly calls, I could get the flock back in. Sunrise came and a couple of hens did too. The gobbler, sadly enough, was far too spooked. The last I heard of him, he was a good 300 yards away, across a large creek and heading away quickly.

As I sat in that blind, pondering the great imponderables of life, and
wondering if I should chuck the shotgun and take up birdwatching for a
hobby, I heard a blast of turkey testosterone coming from the ridgetop I’d followed on the way in. It was a big meaty gobble filled with frustration and loneliness. It spoke of a lifetime of unfulfilled promise and broken love. Over and over the voice of turkey angst echoed across the cedars like an old Frank Sinatra record. The ballad was simple: “Darling, I know your
man has left you. Let me entertain you.” It took him an hour to come in, walking 10 yards and then stopping to gobble.

For my part, I just kept up with the clucks, and lost calls, and threw in a few yelps. At no time did I try to call to the gobbler, rather I was calling low and cool. Sometimes I used a thin single reed Britney Speers before swapping back to the ultra-raspy Sally Kellerman. At about eighty yards, the gobbler began having second thoughts. He couldn’t believe his good luck and began to question what was happening. I hit him with a single horny Eva Garnder cackle and spiced it up by throwing it down the hill behind me so I’d sound like I was heading away. That’s all it took. He walked in and was heading right for me before seeing my decoys twenty yards behind and to my side in a small depression. He veered and stuck his head
out to gobble.

There a few good hard lessons I’ve learned in 20 years of turkey hunting. There’s scouting. There’s putting a little dish soap on my glasses so they don’t fog over just before the gobbler comes into view. I learned that one from a turkey guide a while back after a disappointing incident with 5 toms on an exceptionally cold morning. There’s the one about not putting your crackers in the same pocket with your mouth calls. There’s the one about not leaving your license on your dresser before taking off on a three hour trip. I’ll leave that for another story.

There’s one I never fully grasped until Friday morning and here it is:
there is no replacement for diligence. Even the blindest squirrel eventually gets a nut. 20 years of arguable ineptness, the worst luck, the fatigue of schlepping over the hills of Kentucky for a week, and the stupidity of forgetting to soap your glasses before leaving eventually yield to relentless effort. I didn’t want to blow his head off entirely, so I aimed at the focus of the curve of his head and neck. The blast of #4 Federals flipped him. He caught about a dozen pellets in the head and neck. I was up and ran over to him, jacking another one in as I went. As I stood with my boot on his neck I knew 20 years had come to a climax.

The neighbors came by and marveled, and took my picture. I borrowed a
bathroom scale and weighed him. He scored 79: 21 pounds, inch and an eighth spurs and two beards, 10 and 8 inches. Within a couple hours, he was in the freezer and I was drinking coffee alone on the front porch. It was then, I noticed a voice missing from the far ridge-one big gobbler that was no longer mocking me from his afternoon haunt on the knob at the back corner of the neigbor’s land. For once, my front porch was silent. I cleaned up, fixed lunch, ran a patch down the barrel and checked my e-mail.

Gobber 2002 up close

Gobber 2002 up close

It wasn’t long however, before a new voice came. It was a bit higher and threadier, but by mid-afternoon, the woods had adjusted to the loss and a new gobbler had moved in. It is now a full week since I took that gobbler. The flocks along Pity Creek still play the hunters for saps in the gray dawn and then retire to my barns to loaf and dust. Over by the Hand, Big Tom and the crew slip silently from one field to the next across the saddle, and the flock I blew out of the roost last week is back in residence and waiting to begin teaching my son next weekend the lessons of humility.

It’s long past noon, and time for me to take my post out on the porch,
scowling at the truckloads of men in camo who drive the roads with maps, and binos, and crow calls hanging from their necks. Some can’t read the No Trespassing signs and need help.

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Spike the Wonder Buck

2001 was my first year shooting reloads.  I’ve got a new farm, a new stand, I’ve got my new loads too.  I’d worked all the way from January to September getting it just right.  Prior to finding the farm, I’d been thinking about a combination deer/boar trip out to the Texas Hill Country, and settled on 165 Grain Hornady SP’s over IMR 4895 loaded into Remington 30-06 brass left from my first boar hunt in 1984.  This load was equally accurate in my Winchester Mod 70 and my Remmie 742.

Thirty minutes into the Opener,  a nice deer I had come to name Spike, the Wonder Buck came up the trail.  I took the Winchester Mod 70 and got it set on his boiler room and . . . “Click.”  Spike walked off.   Spike wasn’t a spike.  He was just a little 6 pointer that had been bugging me all through bow season. I named him Spike, because he was feisty and tenacious with the ladies– been chasing them since October.

Spike had gotten wise to me early in October and started showing up at my stand at the most inopportune  times.  He had an uncanny sense that allowed him to pick the one direction off the stand that I could not get a bow.  He had an annoying sense of timing– showing up just as I was getting up for my mid-morning stretch.  He also could slip in on my blind side and start eating acorns under my tree so that I would not notice him until it was too late.

Spike got wise to me, and I decided that a change of stand was in order.  I knew which way he was coming, so on the last weekend before season I put my climber on a new tree 80 yards further back on the trail.

There he had been, at 30 yards dead-on in the crosshairs, and I’d had a primer fail on me. Drat.  At the time, I blamed the rifle, but I cycled the next round when I got back to the house and got a satisfying bang.  I tried the round that had Spike’s name written on it, and it was a dud.  I tried another round and got another bang.

In 10 years I haven’t had another dud.  It was just one bad primer out of hundreds. In fact, I went out on Sunday morning and bagged a nice fat doe with one out of the same batch out of my Remington 742.

Spike?  He got a one -week reprieve.

Mooseboy and SpikeMooseboy and Spike

The next Saturday, I was back in my buddy stand with Mooseboy.  We got to witness  an awesome once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower that was still visible as the sun was rising.  About a half hour later, a herd of doe came tromping through with  Spike taking up the rear!

“It’s a buck!”  hissed Mooseboy.

“I’m taking him.” I said.  I brought the Remington 742 up.  Spike made the mistake of following the doe a little to closely, down the hill.  I caught him in the brisket at 10 yards.  Spike’s rack was the the first to go up on the wall.  I dumped the powder out of that one bum round and it sits on my bench now as the reference I use for calibrating my ’06 die. We looked for the ejected brass, but it went into a sticker bush.

In the end I could not complain .  I got my first buck at the farm with my first batch of reloads and had my son get to see it all being done.

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