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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hunting Seasons at Long Ridge Camp

The pictures are taken by a gamecam at one of our honey spots, located up on a far ridge about a mile from camp. It is possible to take turkey, deer and bear from this area, from the same stands. The stand in this spot is a twenty footer, just to the left and behind the camera. The picture of a cub (there are two cubs and a Mom,) was taken and seconds later the camera with attacked by Mom. She didn't totally destroy it, but it was out of service for a few days.

Here in New Hampshire, we have, compared the rest of the country, few deer per square mile..The Eastern more suburban part of the state has about 19 to 30 per square mile. In our county in the West it is estimated that there are 8 to 12 per square mile. That comports with my experience in our woods. This means that many hunters never do see a deer. You do it right, or you'll likely spend a lot more on beef throughout the year. Our season for deer lasts about 90 days, and starts on September 15th with an archery season going through December 15th. You may take one either sex deer with bow, but if you buy an extra tag for 16 dollars you may take a second. With 90 days to bowhunt, I cannot imagine not getting a couple, but there are hunters that don't. October 31st sees muzzle loader season open for nine days. The first three are either sex, then buck only until November 10th.
November 11th opens regular firearms season with three either sex days, and then buck only until Dec 6th. Back to bow til the 15th of December. So, at best, you may harvest three deer per season. Two with bow, and one with either rifle or muzzle loader. A lot of us tag out with bow and muzzleoader. I haven't shot a deer with my 30-06 for 5 years.
In addition, while you are bow hunting you may take a turkey, and a bear. Our bear season varies throughout the state, but ours is from September 1st through September 21st. We cannot hunt with hounds in our unit, but we may bait. Bear may be taken by bow or firearm, including larger pistol calibers.
If this isn't enough, we may hunt moose by lottery. It is seldom that you get a tag more than once every few years, but it's great to put in for one. I've gone twice and I'll post those hunts another time.
Our deer are decently sized, as Northern animals generally are. Our does dress out around 130 lbs average, and our bucks about 170. The biggest buck I ever got weighed 310 lbs on the hoof and dressed out at 240. A big dude, I couldn't get him into my F-150 without help. As far as antlers go, we can't touch the scorecards of Kansas, and Illinoise, Texas or the other Southern States. We have 8-18 pointers, but their mass does not lend to many Pope and Young or other record books. Mostly big bodied to survive our winters.
So, how do we handle our seasons relative to camp? I used to hold a three day camp for muzzleloader, then two firearms camps. Couldn't get enough interest in muzzle loading, so I switched to three rifle camps. As I have developed the property for deer, I am moving closer to quality deer management standards. This year I am going to hold two rifle camps only. Another big change is that I will not allow our camp members to hunt on the property other than camp weekends. I may make an exception for the bow hunters, but I find that hunters tag out in between camps, and then there is less interest. In additon, in between camp hunting puts the deer on high alert come weekends. This may bring howls from some camp members, but they'll get used to it...also I am contemplating restricting the taking of immature bucks. Not sure on this one though. I do encourage the taking of mature does.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Guns in Camp

I love this time of March. It is sunny today, and as I took my Lab for a walk into the far fields it was 10 degrees. That allows us to walk on top of the crust without snowshoes until at least 1 PM, when the snows begin to soften. There are bare spots all over the Southern slopes now, but still about twenty inches of hardpack in our woods and North facing fields. It's gonna go fast now, because though it may be way below zero in the morning, it can reach 50 degrees by 2 PM. . Nice walking in the woods, no sticks, branches or blowdown to walk over. They are still covered. Sidney puts his head flat against the snow, and his front legs strait out behind. He pushes himself along like an otter, with his hind legs. He loves the coolness of the snow, and except for the occasional yelp when he engages a tree trunk, it is funny to watch.
So, about Camp and guns...You've seen our pups, you've been told about our hunters, what about the guns we use to hunt deer? This is a question I often fielded when writing a column for an outdoor publication. Well, like the diverse hunters we have, they show up with diverse weapons and calibers. Never minding the occasional visitors, here are the calibers used by the seventeen regulars:

30-06 eight hunters, mine a Winchester model 70 Featherweight, the rest are Remington 700, Savages, a Wetherby, and a Remington 7400

308 four hunters, A Remington 700, two Ruger compacts, a 14 pound Remington Sniper rifle ( I know, I know!)

30-30 one hunter, Winchester Model 94

7mm08 one hunter, Remington 700 I believe

270 one hunter, Winchester model 70

32 Win Splc one hunter, his Grandfather's lever action..

12 Gauge one hunter, a Remington 870 pump

There you have it. We have a camp rule that no loaded rifles are allowed inside camp. Loaded pistols/revolvers are. Since some of these folks are cops, police calibers predominate - 357 Sig, 9MM, 10mm in Glocks, Kahr, Kel-Tec, Dan Wesson etc.

We have had our discussions on the relative merits of various calibers. All the above will take deer cleanly at reasonable ranges if the shooter does his or her job. Why the preponderance of 30-06? Well, at the very least, most of these hunters take other game with these rifles, including moose, bear, coyote, and hogs. History is clear. There is no better all around North American game cartridge. Period. Don’t argue. Research, read, talk to the best, talk to guides in every state that guide for every type of game there is. People argue all the time about various calibers, and their relative effectiveness. But no one ever makes fun of a 30-06. Especially if you can afford only one rifle. So there you have it from Long Ridge. What do you folks hunt with?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dogs and Deer Camp

There is no question that if everyone showing up at Deer Camp unloads a dog or two, it would become uncontrollable in no time. But as host of a deer camp, I have always brought a pup or two along. Sidney, our Black lab, loves camp and can't wait to greet all the hunters, congratulate them on their cooking skills, and poison test every meal for us. Plenty of the hunters have dogs or hunt over dogs and love to see the black flash around camp. Sidney generally sleeps next to my cot, but if it is exceptionally cool in camp, he'll sneak up into one of those fat easy chairs we warm for him every evening. If he cannot get one of those, he'll pop up onto the foot of my cot and sleep there. No, I don't mind. When we hunt during the day, he'll randomly choose someone's sleeping bag or bunk, and snuggle into their tangle. He knows not to follow any of the guys out into the woods or fields, and is smart enough to hang at camp as long as some laggard is always there (they are).
Sid is a good pup, but I do not hunt him. He was abandoned on our road late at night, and the next morning we took him in. He was about a year and a half, way underweight, and a bare raw scar around his neck from a rope. He was pretty nasty but eventually I caught and fed him. I turned him over to the humane society thinking that was the end of that. Not so! A week later I called to find out about him and they told me they were euthanizing him. Incorrigible, and a mean biter I was told. Untrainable. Riiighhhhhhhhhhhht...I've owned and trained Chesepeake Bay Retreivers, and labs, and this guy didn't look too bad to me. Hold him I said, I'll be right down, and he became ours. Within a month or two, it was clear he could never be hunted, but also as clear that he was as friendly and loving a dog as they come. So he just kind of lives rent free, and we love him for who he is. And part of who he is, is being at deer camp very year. He is whitefaced and old now, and the dreaded time is coming. Oh my, fellow hunters, is there any worse time? I can barely stand the memories of the loss of past pups. Here are the 1989 Oct entries in my hunting log at the time. They are of Callie, a Chesepeake born in California. Because I got her at two years I never trained her to water marking and hunting, but used her for upland only, and she was a sweet. In the summer of 1989 she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Here we are in October, 1989, my Hunting log at the time -

"13 Oct 80 - Bird dog (her nickname) is sick - weeks to angry tumor"

"17 Oct - Callie on pills but she is fading - wants to be close & be loved - such spirit- we're going on our last bird hunt this weekend.."

"21 Oct - Callie and I, my Birddog - we went on our last bird hunt, up behind Merricon. She loved it, one grouse she handed me, and did so well, and, when done I had to back the F-150 against a bank so she could get in. ... she was too embarrassed and proud to be lifted."

"Saturday I took callie for her last swim. Three throws of her dummy and she was beat, and done, but jubilant."

"Fri, 27 Oct 80 - Callie died at home - I was only gone an hour. Such class, she went this way to spare us. There'll never be a better or classier Chessie.
We buried her up back with her toys, a bone for chewing, a dummy, a snack, and grass seed for her tummy. She was buried cosy, wrapped in her beloved blankets from the Jeep"

Let me ask you, hunters. Do we ever weep for the loss of anyone or thing as we do for a beloved pup? I don't think so. What do you think?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Inside Camp, and Such

There are 17 hunters on our deer camp list but we cannot accommodate them all at once. This is a good thing because seldom do more than 8 or 9 show up intending to stay over for the whole weekend. There are 7 bunk beds, very comfortable, and some set up cots if we need them. Because I have all my hunting equipment, guns, and gunsmithing stuff at camp, I have a semi-separate room with a cot in it. Because it is near home and I visit it nearly every day, winter access and security is not an issue here. It is walking distance for me.

It is heated by propane, a wall heater donated by a hunter when he renovated his home. The stove is propane, and I got that from my Mom's summer camp after she passed away. The fridge was donated by an upgrading cop, an inveterate hunter. The walls are covered with trophies and of course each has a story. There is a huge 4X10 foot table for eating that seats about ten. After dinner some of the hunters retire to the overstuffed chairs to converse and sip their favorite drink, others sit around the big table. The rest stand around the huge roaring fire that I light
Friday noon, in a huge stone fireplace right out front. This fire burns day and night until the weekend is over. The three weekend camps burn about two cords of wood that I gather over the summer.

When hunters start to arrive on Friday, they grab any bunk handy and stow their gear. Most gear up and get ready to hunt right away, hoping to tag and hang a deer early in the weekend. Others arrive and spend hours unpacking, organizing, parking ATV's, feeding the fire, or just letting the previous 11 months go.

There is a log book on the table. Any time a hunter heads out they are required by protocol to fill in blanks about where they will be, which stand, when they'll be back etc. Also there is a tab to fill in for any deer seen. This way we keep a talley from year to year on where the best spots are. I'll post a sample..

We organize meals before hand, deciding who will bring what. Mostly we eat wild game, mule deer, elk, moose, bear, whitetail, goose breast are fairly common. Three of ther rugular hunters are gourmet cooks, that is to say, they have taken courses from excellent restaurants and local chefs on how to cook, and make sauces. I grew up in Boston, and quite often was dined in first water 4/5 star restaurants. But I can tell you, some of the meals we have had rival the best 100 dollar a plate meals I have ever had. Word gets out. We've had the President of the New Hampshire Senate stop by for an evening, and once, the Attorney General of NH. Hunters neither, but good taste in wine and vittles they did have...

Not much for cards and games in this camp...we see each other seldom enough, that it takes several evenings of chat just to catch up on careers, family and personal stuff. It's all so cool.

Lunch and breakfast, on your own.
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