Thursday, November 30, 2017

Roughen it For an 8 Point

Roughen It For an 8 Point
11/26 thru 11/28/2017

 Not having a conversion van anymore I decided to rough it out for buck season out of my pickup. I bought one of those truck tents that fit over top of the truck bed. I bought the one without a floor. I figured in this way I would have plenty of air flow when I use my small propane heater to keep it warm inside. With an air mattress, heavy sleeping bag, a couple of blankets on top I was warm enough during the night in 27 degree weather. Of course I only lit the heater while I was awake but that was mostly because I had to get up a couple of times to relieve myself. 

 I set up camp along East Hickory Creek. Jeff stopped by Sunday and helped me out arranging stuff and after that we headed up over the hill to scout around. We marked out a trail with orange ribbons and both of us picked good spots to make a stand for the first day of buck. 

 Monday morning I woke up to that 27 degrees the weatherman called for. I Changed clothes in my sleeping quarters and went outside to make breakfast and a hot cup of coffee. Jeff was staying at his camp 25 minutes away and pulled into my camp about 5:40am. We started our journey to our hunting spots about 6:00am through the morning darkness with flashlights. I over shot my expected spot, I was suppose to find, a little higher on the mountainside than I intended. When I decided to pick a tree to rest beside I put on a sleeveless sweatshirt and bundled up in the morning chill. At first daylight I looked down the slope and seen the orange tape I had put around the tree the day before. It was about 100 yards away so I was at least in the general area and felt a little better about my choice.
 It was quiet in the morning with maybe a slight breeze now and then that rattled the beech leaves still on the saplings. Now and than I would hear a vehicle in the distance along the roadway in front of camp. Besides that I kept my eyes open looking for any sign of movement and my ears tuned to any crisp crunching on the dried leaf forest floor.
 About 10:30am the only thing I seen was a black squirrel foraging for food. I slowly moved down to my intended place to sit and sat there till 11:30am, still without seeing a thing. It was time to go find a deer.
 I spent the next few hours roaming the mountain side. I saw 2 young doe up on top of the mountain running and caught a glimpse of a deer moving at a good pace through the forest but couldn’t tell what it was. It had its nose to the ground and from about 100 or so yards away it passed by so quickly I didn’t have a chance to scope it out.
 I met up with Jeff around 2:30pm. He hadn’t seen hide nor hair of a deer yet. We decided to drop down to the flats about 4:00 and see if the deer were hanging lower. When we scouted Sunday there were a lot of sign of turkey scratching and maybe the deer would drop down to feed also because they sure weren’t running the ridges around us. I slowly made my way along the ridge towards where I sat in the morning which was a good piece off.   Being I didn’t see any deer there all morning I decided if I found a good spot to stand it out till 4, I’d sit there for awhile. I came to a tall pine that split two shallow ravines that ran up the mountainside. It was if the land came out to a peninsula between the ravines. From there I was able to see down hill a good piece besides to my left. To my right, facing down hill, there was a bunch of beech saplings so visibility wasn’t very far but I should hear anything sneaking thru.
 I sat against the tree with my 300 Savage cradled on my lap. I had taken the sweatshirt off while I was walking so I didn’t have the warmth it gave me in the morning. The evening air was still cold. The breeze had picket up considerably and brought with it that wind chill factor that made it feel a few degrees colder. I had my scarf wrapped up to my ear lobes and my collar up on my zipped up parka. 

  I heard the crunching of deer trotting down below before I got an eyeball on the deer. A doe crossed below me about 130 yards or so and than continued up hill to my left staying about the same distance. I easily was able to see it was a young doe but lifted the rifle anyway to be on the ready. I got a glimpse of another young deer following and when it stopped I quickly got it in my scope. It too was a baldy. When it turned its head to look behind it down hill I got a silly smirk on my face. I just had a feeling it wasn’t a person they were trotting away from. Holding the rifle up I took my eyes from the scope and looked down hill. There he was following the doe with his muzzle down to the ground and looking up now and then searching for the fleeing does. Its rack looked as white as the ivory tusks of a bull elephant in the forest background. There was no doubt the buck was legal. That second doe gave his position away!!
  Quickly my thoughts were on the situation at hand. I figured the buck would follow the doe up hill at the same distance and give me a broadside shot at some time. It may be a moving shot in between the trees but I felt good that I would get a shot off so I wasn’t too anxious to make a bad hurried unpredictable shot at the moment. Directly below me the buck turned towards me, about 130 yards or so. I grinned a little and knew this would be the time. I had the crosshairs on his nose with no interference from any branches whatsoever. As soon as he turned his head to his right, my crosshairs were on the base of his outstretched neck and, I pulled the trigger. The 300 Savage boomed breaking the peacefulness of the forest.
 Somewhere in heaven I imagined my Grandfather hearing that familiar sound of the 300. I suppose my father in heaven could almost taste that delicious venison shoulder roast he loved so much.
 The buck stumbled backwards in an instant. It turned away and I watched it stumble between the trees, trying to keep its balance, trying to escape his unfortunate circumstances. In about 30 yards I saw him fall for the last time. His white belly hair was easily seen from my point of view.
 I stood and clipped my hot seat and water bottle to my belt. I fastened my fanny pack around my waste and checked to see if I had chambered another round in the rifle. Sure enough there was a live round in the chamber. It’s like instinct any more. As soon as I shoot I work the lever action for another round without even thinking about it. After making sure the safe was on I slung the rifle sling over my shoulder and headed for my kill.
 Upon arriving to the buck I glanced at my watch and it was 3:15pm. The body of the deer looked pretty heavy for a mountain buck and I worried about the drag back to camp. He sported a nice symmetrical bone color rack with 8 points to its total. I leaned my rifle against a tree and put my orange parka over the barrel for all to see. It was time to go to work and gut the deer.
 Though the drag was mostly down hill I came to the conclusion I was out of shape. I also realized my body has caught up to my age though my brain hasn’t accepted how old I am. Once I got to the road I was pretty whipped with sweat running down my spine. I was only about 40 yard from camp but since Jeff had a deer hauler hitched to the back of his truck I decided to just wait till he came down from the mountain.
 After Jeff and I hung the buck from a tree branch we enjoyed a celebration beer. He took off to his camp soon after.

  After I got a fire going to warm up I changed into dry clothes for the evening. For dinner I cooked up some venison butterfly steaks and ate by the fire. For dessert I sipped on bourbon and another beer. 

   I fed wood to keep the fire hot and burning brightly. I sat in solitude thinking about the days events. Listened to an owl hoot at the three quarter moon high above the pines that surround me. The creek water flowed and tumbled nearby and on occasion a gentle wind whispered through the pines. It was a long day so I didn’t stay up very late. The 300 Savage came through again this year, one shot one kill.
 Tuesday morning I took my time breaking camp in the morning coldness. By 10am I had the buck in the bed of the truck and everything packed ready to go. I poured water from my 5 gallon jug over the fire pit and looked around to make sure I didn’t leave anything.
 Just before taking off I took out an Alec Bradley Sanctum and carefully nipped off a portion of the cap. I made sure the foot of the cigar was evenly lit and climbed in the driver seat for the drive home. The aroma filled the inside of the cab as gray smoke got whisked away through the partially open window.
 When I got to route 666 I turned left and headed toward Whig Hill taking the more scenic view way home!
Another successful buck season in the books.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Project Healing Waters Steelhead Slam 2017

2017 Steelhead Slam
Project Healing Waters
Nov. 4th, 2017

Project Healing Waters; Guiding Veterans for steelhead
Gathering Sight; Folly’s End Campground, Girard PA.
Waters fished; Elk Creek, Tributary of Lake Erie
Hosted by; Skip Hughes PHW Regional Coordinator with Co-hosts Debi Hughes.

 The morning was dark but was full of conversation and excitement. Here, some of the Veterans picking flies for the steelhead fishing.  Many of the flies were donated by the facebook group Fly Tiers Anonymous.

  Once daylight came Veterans and volunteering guides gathered together in groups and headed out to their steelhead fishing destination. Three private landowners opened their private waters on Elk Creek for the Veterans the day of the event.
  The water conditions were just about perfect. The rain the previous days raised the water level and there was no doubt fresh fish moved upstream.
 Among the participating veterans were three veterans from Oklahoma who drove to Erie Pennsylvania to participate in our Project Healing Water steelhead event. There were about 30 Veterans in all which a bunch of us experienced fishermen volunteered to guide these Vets to help them catch steelhead in the Erie Tributaries. One of those Oklahoma Veterans was assigned to me. It took quite a few hookups throughout the day and lost fish before he finally got one to the net. It felt good when he came up to me after dinner and thanked me and for teaching him a few pointers of fly fishing and fishing for steelhead. Really genuine!

Duane with his first steelhead.

 Here are some other pictures that were taken of Veterans, their guides and the fishing experience.

 We left no Veteran that wanted to wet a line behind!

 Afterward dinner was served at 2:00pm
 Thereafter awards were given and all Veterans received many donated gifts. New friendships were made and camaraderie was shared by all!

Skip Hughes Regional Coordinator and master of ceremony.

Donated by one of our master fly tiers. Tom Herr

 Randy receiving Volunteer of the Year from Skip Hughes.

 A special thanks to Jim, owner of Folly’s End Campground, for letting us have the event headquarters on the premises.
 Thanks to the private land owners for giving these Veterans an opportunity to fish for steelhead without interference from crowds of other fishermen.
 Thanks to those who donated gifts and food dishes.
 Special thanks for the volunteers who took time out of their day to guide these Veterans for an experience of a lifetime.
 Thanks to all the Veterans for serving our country!!
 And last but not least, thanks to Skip Hughes and his helpers who took the time and commitment to put this all together to make the Steelhead Slam 2017 a big success.