Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Mountain Lion

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving. We sure did. Everybody was around and we ate a lot of good food and enjoyed each other's company. I've included my brother-in-law, Kelly, in a lot of my hunting stories. Kelly has been a very good friend, and I'm thrilled that my sister married such a great guy. Anyway, Kelly's parents were in town from Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Kelly's Dad, Pat, usually real quiet and reserved, came by to visit us at the store. He was as happy and chatty as I've ever seen him. Pat recently bought a Flying Eagle longbow which he really loves. Pat was looking forward to building his own arrows this winter, and really wanted to try splicing his own feathers. It was exciting to see a 71 year old man's man so excited about traditional archery.

Friday afternoon I got a call from Mark Turner, owner of Rocky Mountain Big Game Adventures - Turner Guide Service. Mark told me that he found a fresh lion kill, and it looked like a nice Tom. I went mountain lion hunting with Mark 3 times last year. We never treed a cat, but those were some of the most brutal days I have ever spent in the woods. Mark told me to be ready in the morning.

Of course my wife had to work the next morning, since we have two young boys at home I called my Mom to see if I could drop the off boys bright and early the next morning. With that taken care of I prepared my gear, and my mind, for the next morning.

4:30am rolled around quick. I got the boys loaded in the car and pulled into my parents driveway...but my Mom's car was gone. Weird, but whatever.

I brought the boys up into my parent's dark bedroom and saw Dad sitting up watching TV. "Where's Mom?" I asked. My Dad said in a low voice, "Set the boys down buddy, I need to tell you something." What in the world is going on?

My Dad told me that Pat had a massive heart attack and died early that morning. My Mom was bringing Kelly, his twin brother, and their older brother to the airport.

"He's dead?" I asked.


I must have asked five more times. I just saw Pat. He was happy as a lark. Pat was the most indestructible man I knew. At 71 he could outwork any man of any age. Pat built his house himself, he worked in hard physical labor his whole life, and still was for that matter. He didn't feel pain, didn't complain, loved his wife, and served the Lord with all of his heart. Pat produced some fine, hard working kids too. His son's have served in the military in some elite levels, earned Division I All-American status as a wrestler, and he had three boys compete in DI college wrestling in the Big Ten. To put it mildly, he raised the toughest set of boys I've ever met, and he was tougher than them all. Throughout the 12 years that I knew Pat, his sons went on and on that they still couldn't keep up with the old man. There's no way he's dead.

What is Kelly going through? Their mom? All of Pat's kids?

I didn't want to go lion hunting anymore. After asking a few questions and standing still in quiet disbelief I set the boys in bed with their Poppa and started to walk out of the room. I almost turned the car around when I was just a few houses away, but I went hunting.

I got to Mark's at 6:30am. My car thermometer said -3 degrees. Mark was waiting for me and ready to go. Mark's friendliness and good nature cheered me up, and as we drove to the lion's kill I almost forgot for a second what my brother-in-law and his family were going through.

We got to the kill. We looked around for the freshest set of tracks. There were too many and they all looked the same to my untrained eye. "We'll let the dogs figure it out", Mark said, and he turned them loose. We started following the dogs straight up the mountain.

When we got up the mountain we heard the dogs...and they were down at the bottom. We sat on the side of the mountain just watching the dogs for the next five minutes. It was a treat to watch those dogs work. Back and forth they worked the mountain side over. One dog started making fairly small circles. The other dogs were soon with him. Then a bunch of snow fell from one of the trees they were circling.

There's the lion!

From where we were.
A little closer...
A little closer yet...

We set off down the mountain with a whole new kind of excitement. In no time we were underneath the lion.

I have seen one mountain lion in my life. I was elk hunting with a buddy from Wisconsin, I told my buddy not to move a muscle because a mountain lion was walking right towards us. Of course he whipped around and the lion trotted off. It was a small lion, no big deal, a neat experience but nothing more.

The lion in the tree now...this, I wasn't prepared for. I always thought that lion hunting would be a bit of a let down. The dogs tree the cat, you walk up, shoot the cat, go home. That is NOT the case.

It took four brutal days to get to this point. I probably fell down 500 hundred times to get here. I bet I slid 2 miles on my butt. I damaged two bows, bruised my muscles, cut my face, froze my fingers, burned my lungs, lost an expensive wool jacket, and all around beat myself up. Now I'm finally there, a treed mountain lion is sitting in front of me.

Mark and his nephew Tony got the dogs chained up while I got in the best position I could find to shoot.

I took out my first arrow. The shot angle wasn't ideal, but I was 100% certain I could sneak my arrow right where it needed to be. I got to full draw and loosed the first shot. Right over his back. Geeez...what is wrong with me? I haven't had this kind of rush in years and years. Not what I was expecting.

I get the second arrow out and come to full draw. This time the shot is right where I was looking. The cat jumps around the other side of the tree. I shoot again through thick cover. That arrow missed its mark, I don't know where it went after it blew through the branches.. Now the cat is coming down the tree, I pull another arrow out and hit him again, right in the shoulder. That's two good arrows in him. He hits the ground running.

I look at Mark fully confident that I have two good arrows in the cat. Mark smiles and shakes my hand. I cannot contain myself and confess what a rush that was, I feel like such a rookie bowhunter admitting it. Mark is smiling and tells me good shooting.

Mark and I take one dog and follow the trail. The blood trail is pretty weak and we're about 200 yards from the tree. It didn't take long before Mark turns around and tells me that this is not a fatally hit cat. I was already thinking the same thing. Mark turns his dog loose and tells Tony to turn the rest loose as well. They did not want to do this. If the dogs catch a wounded cat on the ground it will not turn out well for the dogs.

Mark and I follow the tracks as fast as we can through the deep snow. My thighs are absolutely burning, I haven't been in the hills for a few months. It didn't take long before we heard all sorts of yelps, growls, barking, and total chaos going on ahead of us. "Get up there, Tommy!" Mark tells me. I'm starting to feel like a real idiot now, who knows what is going on up there, what dogs are getting hurt, all due to my poor shooting. But how? I thought my first hit was perfect, let alone the last one.

Mark and I finally reach the dogs, they have the cat treed again. He's not that high and I walk right underneath him. He's showing me his giant teeth. His intimidation tactic works.

I thought the first time was a rush, it was nothing compared to being this close. I have two arrows left in my quiver. I take my time as I aim with the first one. Bam! Perfect shot. I rip my last arrow out of my quiver. Again! Perfect shot. I take a step back knowing full well that the cat is going to fall at any moment.

Mark is digging in his pack. I see what is going on. The dogs are not chained up. The lion has two arrows in him with sharp broadheads on one end. Even if that big cat doesn't have strength to keep himself in the tree, when he falls he's going to get his licks in on the dogs. Hell, there might be a dead dog on the mountain for all I know, it sure sounded like it.

Mark hands me a pistol. Damn it. I don't want to shoot this cat with a pistol. I know he's dead. If we wait another minute he's going to fall out of that tree. I ask Mark if he thinks that the dogs are going to get injured. He does. Mark tells me that it is my choice, that I do not have to shoot the lion with the pistol.

I'm thinking about what is going on.Mark is awesome, his dogs are absolutely incredible. He is doing me a huge favor on this hunt. I look up at the lion, his armpits are both full of blood. Blood is running down one of the arrows and dripping on the dogs just ten feet below.

What would I feel like if this lion falls out of the tree and severely injures one or more of the dogs? Am I going to risk Mark's dogs for, for what? Why would I do that? Why would I risk the dog's safety?

I feel so selfish for even hesitating.

I raise the pistol and put the sights on his shoulder. Boom. The lion lets out a low growl and bails out of the tree. The dogs are in hot pursuit. Mark and I throw our packs on and slide on our butts just a short ways down the hill. The cat is dead.

Holy cow! That was wild!

We look the dogs over. Pretty much each dog hand a cut on his face somewhere, but they were all there and  they were all fine. One dog had a split in his ear, another a cut over his eye. They will all heal up in no time.

The trip down the mountain was pretty easy. Mark, the cat, and I slid the whole way.

After I got the cat checked in and brought him home I got to inspect what happened with my arrows. My first two good shots, or so I thought, were both high. One in the shoulder blade and one in the spine. The shots from the second tree were both fatal. One entered the right armpit and exited behind the left front leg. The other entered the left armpit but did not exit.
My arrows would have killed that cat in a short amount of time. How they didn't sooner is a shock to me, especially after seeing the damage. I don't care, I feel good about the decision I made with what I saw at the time.

Black Canyon 55# 2-piece longbow. Arrow entrance and exit holes are visible.

Mark Turner is the real deal. He was simply fantastic. I enjoyed his company and his professionalism immensely. I have never entertained the thought of using a guide for any kind of hunting. But after spending some time with Mark, seeing him work, hearing him talk, and learning about him as a hunter and a man, I am blown away. Mark is incredible.

Here is Mark Turner's information. If anybody reading this would like to spend some time with a truly first class guide, Mark Turner is your man. Mark knows his stuff, he has guided hunters to two Colorado State Records including a mountain lion, and also a shiras moose.

I texted a few pictures to my closest friends on my way down the mountain, but I didn't send one to Kelly. I didn't know how to act or what to say. My best friend lost his Dad that very day, and here I am hunting. Kelly got word anyway and sent me a text saying he still wanted to see a picture of the cat. I sent him one. Kelly told me some nice things about his Dad. He told me how lucky he was to have spent 31 years of his life with a man like that. Kelly is right, he is lucky. Pat Flaherty was what a father and husband should be, he was a good and Godly man.

Pat Flaherty: Oct 20, 1942 - Dec 07, 2013.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chad's 2013 Mule Deer

My cousin Chad is a killer. Not only is he a good hunter, but he is a good enough shot to prove it. After killing a beautiful bull elk in Colorado, Chad devoted his time to hunting for a nice mule deer in his home state of Nebraska. Here's Chad's story in his own words...

2013 Muley

This year Blake and I decided that instead of targeting whitetails, we would spend October hunting hard for a big mule deer. On our first morning hunt of 2013 we checked in on an old haunt that has never failed to produce a handful of mule deer. 

As the sun rose we began to see deer, one in particular had a much larger body than the others. It was dark enough that the size of his rack was not obvious, so we got out the spotting scope to get a better look. My heart began to race as the scope focused on his rack. Blake had a quick look and said it was probably the biggest deer he had ever seen in Nebraska. 

We moved in on the deer and got ourselves set up. Long story short, the buck crossed 50 yards ahead of me and went directly towards Blake. Minutes later I watched the buck trot away, shortly after that I see Blake dig his arrow out of a dirt bank. His bowstring caught his sleeve and his shot fell short. 

That night I watched the buck lay in a pocket until dark with deer on all sides. The next morning we were back and saw the deer cross another wheat field. There was no pattern to this deer’s movement. We decided to make a move, hoping to catch him coming off the wheat field. When we got to where he should have been he was nowhere to be found.

After that morning it was three weeks of hard hunting with no more sightings of the buck. Blake and I were obsessed with finding the deer. Between the two of us we spent no less than 25 days looking for him. We had found every other buck in the section but not him. There were regularly several different trucks slowly driving the outskirts of the property, I was sure the deer had been poached.  

My son helping me look for the big buck.

As luck would have it I had a work appointment cancel on the coming Friday, so I went out Thursday night after work to hopefully find the deer. I didn't see the buck we were after but I did see 20 other mule deer. I also found the deer’s water source, a pond we had assumed was dry. I noticed a perfect way to get into the area without being detected. Friday morning was a south wind so I made my way to the pond from the north and set up on a hill above.

As the sun began to rise I saw a white patch in a thicket, close to a mile south. I was watching deer in several other areas but I had a feeling about the white patch, so I kept panning the spotting scope back to the spot. The sun finally rose high enough to hit the thicket and, much to my pleasure, I see it is the buck we have been after. 

I watched in amazement as a 2 point whitetail dogged a mule deer doe all around the big muley buck. I looked at another group of deer, and when I panned back the whitetail was on a hard run, the big muley buck was now standing with the doe. The deer began to move north, in my direction, and then went out of sight. Before they disappeared I noticed two small whitetail bucks moving just ahead of the big muley. 

I hustled to the bottom of the canyon and stealthily worked my way towards them. I slowed down as I got near the area I had last seen the deer. Good thing too, I got lucky to spot those two whitetail bucks before they saw me. They were on the same cow path as me. If they spotted my they would surely blow back up the canyon and spook all of the other deer. The next cow path over was about a foot deep so I rolled over into it, and laid down flat. Both bucks passed by me at 4 yards. 

Here is a video I captured of these two little bucks that almost ruined the entire hunt.

Once they left I continued up the canyon. I noticed 3 does head up into a pocket to the west, but no bucks followed them, so I kept going. I was one ridge away from the last place I saw the buck when I caught movement above and behind me. A 2 point muley had me pegged. To make it worse the big buck was feeding in the field just beyond the 2 point. After a long stare down the 2 point went back to feeding, but the other deer had moved off. 

A view from the spotting scope the morning I killed the big buck.

I circled back around the hill and followed the draw in the same direction I had seen those two does go earlier. I had to crawl the last 75 yards as I could see the backs of several feeding deer just 20-30 yards beyond the fence. I was in a good spot in a deep cow path, along the fence and out of sight. The deer were now on the neighbors property. I figured that I would have to come back that afternoon in hopes that the deer would come back onto the property I had permission to hunt. 

The big buck I was after was feeding just 20 yards away and I had a clear shot. As I watched the big buck I prayed, please Lord let that buck jump the fence.  Even though I was very tempted, I made the decision not to shoot across the fence. The second I made that decision the buck turned and headed straight towards the fence line. I could not believe it. 

As he got to the fence, 25 yards away, he stopped and looked directly at me. I thought the gig was up. After a long stare down the deer jumped the fence, but when he stopped I was waiting at full draw. He was 30 yards away and up a steep hill. I watched my arrow disappear over the grass between us. Then I heard a thud. The buck bolted over the hill and out of sight. I ran to the top of the hill to see where he went, but it didn't matter, the buck was already laying at the bottom of the canyon. I felt blessed to have had such an amazing opportunity and to have made a good shot.  

My Magnus Stinger did a good job on this big bodied mule deer.

The second bow I ever built was a gift for my cousin Tommy. Tommy is starting to get a little weak, so he sent me the bow to have a set of lighter limbs made. Since I had the bow I decided that I might as well kill a few deer with it. I built it, after all.

Growing up as kids, Tommy and I would always make one arrow for the other. That arrow became first in the quiver. I shot my first mule deer with an arrow that Tommy made me. We have always enjoyed doing little things like that, so shooting this deer with Tommy's bow made this deer just a little more special.

Chargin' Bull recurve, 64@28, 60". 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2013 Deer Season

We had a pretty slow deer season. Although I did see more big bucks than I ever have in one season, none came close enough for a shot in the daylight (more in a second). 

Tom and Dan started off their season in Wisconsin. They got there for the first week of November - prime time! Unfortunately it was the slowest hunting action either of them have ever experienced. Especially in this area of Wisconsin, where we usually see a lot of quality bucks, and tons of does and small bucks. This year they hardly saw anything. 

Dan did shoot this small doe on the last day of their trip.

In the area of Colorado that we hunt the rut is usually kickin' a week or so later than Wisconsin. So that works out perfect for us. Danny and I hunted for 3.5 days, we each had an either sex tag and a doe tag. I wish we had more time to hunt!

I do not feel like I have a good grasp on how the deer move on the properties we were hunting. It is mostly sandy and filled with tamaracks. There are deer tracks scattered everywhere, with a few obvious trails. I have not observed any rhyme or reason to why the deer move where they do, and they always seemed to be 50 yards away no matter if I was set up on the best looking trail. After two years of hunting this area I already cannot wait for next season. There are several bruisers, and their chances of making it to next year are pretty good since the hunting pressure is pretty light.

Dan didn't wast any time filling his doe tag, he shot this nice big doe on the first evening of our hunt.

On the last evening of our hunt Dan went to a stand that was his last choice, but the best choice for the wind that we had to deal with. It turned out to be a good choice. In the middle of a yawn Dan thought he heard a grunt. He didn't totally trust his ears because he was yawning, but he grabbed his bow anyway and got ready, just in case. Not a minute later this buck came trotting down the trail. Dan was in position and waiting when the deer offered him a 17 yard shot.

My luck wasn't quite as good. I never had a shot present itself, though I was the one who saw the most of the big bucks on our hunt. 

One evening I was set up on the edge of a thick bunch of tamaracks. The light faded and I got ready to get out of my stand. I lowered my bow, and since I needed my pull cord for the stand I planned on hunting in the morning, I dropped it to the ground. No sooner did I do that than a nice buck walked out of the tamaracks and marched straight towards my decoy. He stood nose to nose with my decoy, snort wheezing and pawing at the ground for no less than 5 minutes. It was quite the display!

Since I had no way of getting my bow I grabbed my flashlight from my pocket. I was cussing myself and pouting as I turned my light onto the buck. The cussing and pouting got worse when I saw the deer. It was a buck we have a ton of pictures of, the biggest one we know of in the area. Ten yards away, broadside, and completely pre-occupied with my decoy. Why didn't he show up a few minutes earlier!?!?!? 

My set up.
Here are a couple of pictures we got of this deer from earlier in the season.

It was still an enjoyable year, and I passed on several smaller bucks that should turn out to be real trophies in the future. Hopefully I'll have a chance to make it out again before it gets too cold!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Del's 2013 Bull

Del is one of the elk killinest dudes I know. He has killed elk in just about every way, except by utilizing patience. Del usually runs along side the elk until the elk gets tired, and then shoots them. No, but seriously, he's got a pair of legs on him, and he uses those legs!

The first time Del and I hunted together we found ourselves in the middle of elk mecca. Elk and Del were running all over the place. He passed up a small bull or two that day. I was laughing at the utter madness unfolding in front of my eyes. Del then told me what his plan was over the next two days. I smiled and said "Have fun!". He knows no physical limits. In a four day hunt Del survives on a couple of tortillas and less water than a camel. He is just one of those kinds of guys.

Del has let up on his trophy hunting ways over the past few years. It used to be that the small bulls were not worth his time. He usually lets them walk because he doesn't like ending his season so soon. This year, with a wedding to attend in Italy, he wasn't going to pass up anything. A wedding in September is NOT COOL for an elk hunter, regardless of whether or not it is in Italy.

So I asked Del to write me a story this year. Here it is, in his words:

The Short Season: By Del Jolly

2013 proved to be a very interesting Elk season for me and many of my Elk hunting friends. I think Tommy's earlier assessment hit the nail on the head...the opener had some of the best bugling I've ever heard.

This year I was very focused on the elk season. Three years ago, Tommy, Danny and I shot daily for months leading up to the season, it was no surprise that each of us were successful that year. I am a true believer that elk season starts well before August. But life gets very busy at times. Still, I believe in starting my preparation months before the season to increase my chances of being successful.

Last year I got so busy with “life” that elk season wasn't a priority. It was the first year in my life that I didn't even shoot at an elk. I believe that it had a lot to do with the fact that I didn't train and I didn't shoot, all I did to prepare was basically schedule my hunt. I vowed that this year would be different. I shot as much as I did three years ago (the year that the Clums and I all killed elk). I worked out, and dreamed of elk both day and night. I was very excited, but more importantly, prepared for the opener.

Usually I pack in with the llamas, but this year I didn't want to be held back by anything, I would go where the elk took me. I planned on hunting with Kelly on opening day. Our only plan was to hunt the first morning together and then see what the situation looked like. We would either stick together if that seemed right, or go our separate ways and see each other at the truck in five days. However, as bad luck for Kelly would have it, he got ill the day we were to leave. It was unfortunate for him, but didn't weigh too heavy on me when I left 5 minutes after the call.

When I got to the trailhead I had to wait for a rain storm to pass before I could start. I’m sure that is a reoccurring theme for many of us Coloradans this year. Once the storm broke I was late, but on my way nonetheless. About a mile into my journey the elk started bugling, completely ruining my "plans" on where I was to camp that night. I was bushwhacking and decided to sleep right where I was rather than risk spooking any elk. Bugles popped off throughout the valley as I set up my tent and crawled in for the night. I've always thought of these kinds of nights as Christmas Eve for adults.

I woke to a bugling bull, though he was fairly far away. I instantly packed my stuff and ran up the mountain. Each time I’d think I was closing in on the bull he would bugle further away, and as we all do, I continued to go after him. He dragged me all the way up some pretty rough country and into another drainage where we frequently see elk. He was going down the other drainage and getting further away by the minute. I decided to leave him be and see if I could strike up anything else.

This year I brought a Montana Decoy. I wanted to try something new for me...setting up and calling as opposed to running down the elk. So at the top of the drainage I set up the decoy and began cow calling. Immediately a cow answered, followed shortly by another bull. I caught sight of a small bull running through an open valley about 500 yards away. I could tell he was a young bull by his eagerness to come see me. I set up about 15 yards in front of my decoy on a steep slope then called and waited. Very soon I saw a cow coming up the hill about 60 yards away. A small 5X5 was right behind her. I always like when cows lead because it gives me an opportunity to see what the bull might do.

At one point I had a fairly straight down shot at the bull, but it appeared that the cow was going to bring him to a better shooting lane, so I waited. The bull was following the cow as she passed through my shooting lane. I knew right where I was going to draw, and was already preparing my mind because this bull was certainly going to run waaaay down hill before he died. But as his luck would have it, just before I drew, the bull stopped, got that nervous look in his eye and started backing up. In the corner of my eye I saw the decoy swaying back and forth in the breeze. The bull looked right at me and bolted.

The next morning I woke to three bulls bugling back and forth. One was within a hundred yards of my tent, so I decided to leave the tent and go after the bull. This elk had a great bugle and I could see he had cows. As I tried to slip under him the wind changed and the entire herd busted out. It was disappointing to go from tons of action to none with one quick breeze.

This is the area I had the best action. There are big drainages to the left and right of the picture. You can see how easy it would be to have a straight down shot with how cliffy this area is.

Before I packed my tent and headed for further pastures I through a bugle down a drainage. I immediately got a response. I decided to quickly run back to my tent and pack my gear before chasing this elk. When I got back and called again I got no response. Usually I cover tons of ground until I slop into something, but this day I decided to implement a more technical approach. I sat, for the very first time in my nine year elk hunting career, and cow called and waited. I'd wait 5 minutes, cow call again, and wait longer.

When I had just about exhausted my patience (10 minutes later), I heard a pop behind me. I was sitting on my but with my heavy day pack. I could see elk legs coming my way. It took about all I had to get to my knees quietly with that heavy pack. It was fairly dense where I was. The elk was coming from my left, so I turned my head to the right and gave three soft mews. I wanted to create just a little bit more excitement since I knew that I wouldn't be able to call again (I was using an open reed cow call that required me to move my hand).

The small bull bit. He was below me and moving from left to right. I looked ahead of his path and there was only one small shooting lane. I knew that I needed to stop the bull there or it wouldn't happen. I came to full draw as the bull was walking through the lane. I mewed with my voice and the bull stopped right where I needed. him to. I let the arrow fly. It seemed to zip right through the elk. He turned and bolted down the hill. I called to stop him, it was too dense to see him so I listened intently. A few minutes later I heard a crash. And then it sounded like he got up and ran further.

My bow tip is pointing to the exact spot the elk was standing when I shot him. I had a very narrow gap between those two trees, but with all the shooting and preparation I did this year I was 100% confident in my ability to make the shot.

I waited for an hour. When I started to track him I found good blood right away. My arrow was about ten yards from where I had shot him. I followed the blood trail for about 100 yards and reached a point where I could see no more. I stood there trying to figure out what to do. Should I wait longer or continue to sneak along the faint trail? As I stood there contemplating my next move I looked to the right and saw the bull piled up.

The majority of the blood trail looked like this. Lots of blood on both sides of the trail.

This is exactly what I saw when I was trying to figure out my next move. Did you see the bull right away?

It was very exciting to finally bring it all together. Even though it was only the second morning, it had seemed like I had been elk hunting for months. This was the first time I killed an elk when I wasn't camping with anybody. That meant I’d be packing it out by myself. It took me two days and three trips.

I used a Spirit Longbow, 48@28. My draw length is 31". I used Carbon Express Heritage arrows with a 175gr VPA Terminator broadhead. My arrow passed completely through the bull, and he left a 100 yard long, heavy bloodtrail. 

The Clum's taught me how to butcher my own meat, so I spent an evening with my wife and kids butchering the elk ourselves. 

It was tough to be content in town since my season ended so early and I trained so long. I went back up a couple weeks later with a cow tag in my pocket just to sit under a tarp in brutal rain for three days. But sitting under a tarp in the Rocky Mountains with a punched bull tag isn't that bad.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

2013 Ontario Moose Hunt

The Silver Fox (Dad) had to show us how it was done in Ontario this year. Good thing he spent a lot of time practicing his 50+ yard shots at the range this year. It really paid off...more later.

Running this archery store with my Dad and brother is really fantastic. The people that I get to interact with everyday, the conversations I get to have, the non-stop hunting stories. I don't have a complaint in life. I really have it too good. The only bummer is that the three of us do not get to hunt together very often. In the past ten years we have taken only a small handful of trips, all together. Somebody usually needs to man the fort. 

This year was different. We have some excellent people helping us in the store right now, so we grabbed our wives, girlfriends, kids, bows and arrows and fishing poles and headed to Ontario. Some families take cruise vacations, we go on hunting/fishing trips.

We headed back to Wine Lake to hunt with Herb Pugmire. His operation is set up perfect for families. It is a first class camp that is completely affordable for average folks with some planning. Two years ago my brother killed a great moose here at Wine Lake, I wrote a story about it here. Following are some pictures of our trip, some of the fish we caught, the wildlife we saw, and a moose hunting story.

My son, John, telling me about moose hunting.

Bald eagles are plentiful in Ontario. This guy sat with his catch as we cruised by.

I caught this little frog as Danny and I were working our way into a calling position. We sat for twenty minutes, calling intermittently. As I was taking pictures of this little frog a bull moose starting tearing up the forest right behind us. I forgot about that frog real quick, and though that bull was within 50 yards I never did see him through the thick woods. I'm not sure how a bull moose vanishes in the forest without being seen or heard. Apparently he wanted to let us know he was there, but that was it.

My Mom loves the outdoors, she had a great time and hammered the fish.

John isn't quite old enough to reel in the fish by himself, but he sure loves being there.

Dad with a 25" walleye.

The past two times I have been to Wine Lake I have had a goal of catching a 40" pike. I got close in the past, but this year I finally got one. He was 40" on the nose, not 1/8" over. Mission accomplished!

The sunrises and sunsets on the lake were truly something to behold.

Alright, let's get to the good stuff! The moose hunting this year was a bit slower than past years. I would assume that it had something to do with the fact that the lows were in the upper 50's and the moon was full right in the middle of our hunt. We also experienced super high winds, which made hearing anything all the tougher. We changed our tactics to accommodate the conditions. Instead of sitting in once place and doing a lot of calling we moved a lot more and tried to spot something.

The forest is all but impenetrable. Walking around is really not an option. Our strategy was to locate a moose from the boat, either with our eyes or our ears, and then get on the shore and try to call the moose to us. 

This cow was out feeding at 2pm. 

This bull and cow fed in place for a long time. We positioned ourselves on shore a couple hundred yards away and worked towards them as quietly as we could. We made it to within shooting range but a shot never presented itself. Calling to this bull proved ineffective.

Herb built a small platform near a moose crossing shown in the picture above. Bulls pass through this crossing every couple of days as they are on the prowl. You can see why, it's a perfect funnel for traveling bulls. Herb insisted that we split up our time and keep a guy on this stand. It's really not much of a stand, the platform only sits about 10 feet off the ground, barely above eye level with these long legged moose.

On Dad's second sit a young bull moose showed some interest in his calling. Dad called only loud enough so that the bull could hear him. And only often enough to keep the bull's interest. Bull moose can take their time coming to a cow call. At one point the little bull lost interest and starting walking away. Dad turned around and called facing away from the moose, to try and sound further away. The small bull turned on a dime, and finally committed to checking out this cow he was hearing.

The moose was coming strong, grunting with every step. When he was twenty yards away the moose had two options, walk around a willow bush and offer my Dad a 20 yard shot, or come straight to him. As luck had it, the bull walked straight to him. 

When the bull was a measly five steps away, and practically eye level, my Dad slowly drew back his bow. As the moose walked by his tree, not even three yards away, Dad let go of the string. He could have jumped on the moose's back just as easily. Dad thought that the shot placement was perfect, and was 100% confident that the moose would be no further than 100 yards away. What he didn't know at the time was that his arrow glanced off of the moose's rib, angled down and back, and only caught one lung and part of the liver. 

Danny and I were hunting in another location, and Dad was a couple mile boat ride from camp with no boat. So when Danny and I came to pick him up, several hours later, we were surprised to see him sitting on the shore reading a book. We figured that he was just enjoying his vacation and glanced at each other with that look that said, "Come on Dad, stay on the freakin' stand!". 

As we pulled the boat up I saw that grin that people make when they are trying to hide a smile (crudely referred to as a $#!& eater). I got pretty excited, knowing what that face meant.

What was supposed to be a real short blood trail got a little longer than we were comfortable with. We backed out and went fishing for a few hours before continuing the search, just to play it safe. We grabbed Herb to help retrieve the bull. 

Herb has been there, done that. He had a strong hunch on where the bull may have gone, and sure enough, he drove the boat right to it. The bull went to water to lay down, and died there right next to the shore. We drove right past him at least three times and never even thought of looking for him there. The four of us dragged him on shore, snapped a few pictures, and then got to work.

Dad killed this moose with a Hummingbird recurve - 53@28, 62" He used a Carbon Express Heritage arrow and 200gr VPA Terminator broadhead.

This Randall knife was a conditional gift to my Dad from a good customer. The condition: it had to be used.

Since the moose died right in the water and we could drive the boat to him I went back to camp to get the girls and the kids. I knew my son, John, would really love to see the moose. Plus, the girls wanted to see how we cut up this giant animal.

I love this picture, my wife and Danny's girlfriend grimaced a few times. Personally, I would gut fifteen moose over changing one dirty diaper. My wife on the other hand, she'll take the diaper.

My Dad, my boy, and me (below). When it comes to important things in life hunting is pretty far down on the list. There are a lot of areas in life that are more important than trying to kill animals. However, there are not many things that bond fathers and sons like spending time in the woods together. What other activities make young men excited to spend time with their dads, from the time they are a kid, through being a teenager, and then as adults? Long car rides to hunting destinations provide many hours of one-on-one conversations. Sitting on a mountain, or in a boat, or even on a cabin porch, while witnessing The Creation first hand, implants memories and discussions quite deep. And if nothing else, hunting provides an excellent excuse to be with one another. My Dad used hunting with my brother and me to create strong bonds, good memories, and provide the opportunity for meaningful and important conversations. I plan on doing the same thing with my sons. This is hunting memory #1 with my son. Many, many more to follow.