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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Alas, the Hunts Are Over!

Camps are over and done with at Long Ridge Deer Camp as of last Sunday. Always a sad and lonely moment for me, as the last hunters pack their gear and drive away in the dark of a Sunday evening. We have had a farewell drink, but as the last hunter there, I wander around camp, marveling at it's sudden unclutteredness, pour another glass of wine and step out onto the porch to watch the fireplace sputter to a still coolness. The stars are bright, and it is cold. I can hear owls in the distance, and imagine huge bucks strolling along the very trails we hunted hours before. I am high with the waning hunt, and absolutely sick over it's ending. But as I place my glass in the sink, and gather my goods and the pups, I take a final look around the dark deep camp - I relive the stories, the laughter, the told and re-told adventures of life, and work, and play, and hunting by good friends. Just momentarily I look upward, and remind myself as Richard Nelson said " I would rather live as a rock on a hillside, than having lived this life without knowing the (hunter) animal inside me".
Below you see camp as it is today - quiet, forlorn, the two cords of wood long burned in the merry fireplace. No pickups, no hunters, cooking till next year!

It is December 9th as I write this, and it is cold, nasty cold out, a chilling 4 degrees F with a decent wind. Rifle and muzzle loader season is over now, and bow season goes for another six days. I will be out there as soon as the weather breaks. I know there are archers out there that hunt in full heater suits with bow in this weather, but I am not one of them. With the end of rifle season, I have been hunting close to 80 days, and my lips are badly chapped, the skin on my hands resembles that of a 100 year old, and I am kinda beat. Three camps we had, with nine of the 17 hunters affiliated with camp actually hunting here.  (to be sure, most dropped by for a day, or an evenings drink by the fire) These were, excepting two of us, rifle hunters only. I took a deer early with the bow, and several hunters scored with bows on other land, or with muzzle loaders. In all, seven of us took twelve deer, one being taken in Montana, along with a 6x6 Elk!. Still another of our group shot a marvelous bull elk in Colorado with bow at 30 yards! That is a nice shot at 9000 feet!. Two cops from the group took a road trip to West Virginia where they scored four more Whitetails. So in every respect it was a beautiful deer season, with Elk, Whitetail, and other wild meats on line for next years game dinners. With that said, it was a wholly differerent season this year. Deer were as hard to spot and find as any year in my memory, and that held for most of New Hampshire. We hunters saw 22 deer during the three camps, about half as many as usual. No one took one here after muzzle loading season, although some hunters passed up lesser deer. I have an eight point minimum requirement here at LRDC after doe season ends, and we saw not a single deer that met these requirements. They were nocturnal all summer, and remained so during the fall. Not a single daytime picture of a large buck did I get on three game cameras. I did jump a giant basket rack just at shooting light the last camp, but did not try a shot. So no trophies this year, but great hunts, and a lot of fun!

Below you see the G5 Montec broadhead and five inches of arrow that the processessor found in my doe. As I surmised in an earlier post, the arrow went through the top of her right lung, center of her left and sunk deep into her left shoulder, breaking it. I will reconstitute the broadhead for another hunt! We did have some of her round steaks at deer camp, and it was some of the most tender venison we ever had, literally we cut this meat with forks!

Here you see a young buck rubbing a Christmas tree 150 yards from camp. ( a.m.), and he didn't seem worried, perhaps he knows the eight point rule!

Below you see a young buck on the far Ridge Stand. As he was stiff legging it across the plot I was in my stand watching him. I could have shot him, and the large doe he was with a bunch of times. It was still doe season, so I let them go hoping they would migrate to a stand lower down for hunters that hadn't scored yet. Instead, they hung out til dark, skunking us all. The doe was right underneath me, upset, pawing, but refusing to leave...

This crafty red fox certainly appears to have scored a rabbit or something, and his condition tells me that he scores on a regular basis! He is in the right place because we regularly get rabbit pictures on this camera.

And, if you check my last post or two, you will see that I said I had posted a picture of a spring fawn attempting sneak a drink from Mom in the fall. Well I posted the wrong one, so here it is!

Below is a picture of the one antlered buck I posted earlier in the summer. Well a LRDC hunter got him about two hours later, and 3/4 of a mile away, on this same date. You see him here, just before his demise scraping and sniffing a spruce just 100 yards from deer camp porch. He was taken at 40 yards with a patched round ball while he was with three does. He was a tiny guy, dressing out at 113 lbs!

The last picture here is of a bobcat coming from the same direction as the fox was going with the rabbit in his mouth. Apparently this is a honeyspot for predators!..It should be, as the last buck we took from this stand was in 1998!
In any case, now we can take a (very short) rest and then start hauling wod, planning improvements, checking out equipment for next year. I am hoping to book a bear hunt soon, and will keep you posted on that!. In the meantime all you hunters, I hope you had great hunts, whether you got deer or not, and that the coming new year happens as it should! Merry Christmas! Jack

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fruitful Hunt at Long Ridge Deer Camp

I know, I know,  I NEVER blog twice in a month, but Saturday, I went out and took a stand at the Far Stand. This is a stand 50 yards into the woods above the far field, as we call it. I took the stand around 3:30, and saw nothing but chippies and red squirrels for the longest time. Then about 5:45 I heard the distinct sound of a deer coming down the hill off the ridge. Stayed right behind me, for the longest time. Apparently she was getting a light whiff of me because it took her circling and sneaking, at least a half hour to get past and below me where I could see her. When I did, I saw one of the biggest does I have ever laid eyes on. No babes, all alone, and huge. I decided to take her for the pot, and then I would be able to concentrate on using my second bow tag on a decent buck...Eventually she appeared in the clearing below me, warily scoping out the field, and constantly waving her nose high in the air as they do, when on edge. She was about ten yards below me, and started down the trail when I drew, put the pin on her shoulder and touched off an Easton aluminum topped with a G5 broadhead. I heard the thwack! I saw the feathers in her, and she dug in and headed down the trail. I listened carefully and heard her running through the woods for a good 100-150 yards. This scared me. Since going to the Eastons, and 125 grain G5 Montecs, I have not had a deer run more than 35 yards before piling up. Also, this combinatin has always produced a through and through shot. And that's on quite a few deer. On this trail, I did not find my arrow!  So this one, I was worried I might not find...It would be dark in twenty -five minutes, and in this part of the country, you do NOT leave a deer out over night if you expect to save any of it for yourself. The coyotes take a day or two
 to find these kills, but the bears, hey, an hour later they are on them. So, I hung my gear and headed out. No blood, not a drop could I see, though I knew it was a good and fatal hit. I had to follow the digging tracks of her hind feet, for about 150 yards though heavy forest before I found her piled up in some hemlocks. She was a big one, and in order to get her dressed out I had to drag her about 100 feet to a small opening. I knew, the minute I grabbed her, that she was big. Turned out she weighed about 182 on the hoof, and final weight at registration was 141. So, once dressed out, I hightailed it for the farm to grab an ATV and a deer sled, to bundle her up and get her back to the game pole. You
can see the front of my ATV has the towels and I have used to clean my hands and the sled cover tied on for safekeeping during the haul.  Also I find the Streamlight handy to mount on my head while dressing out deer in the dark.

Once back at camp I hitched up a hose (all are shut down now because of freezing nights) and prepared to hang and wash her off. Her she is, hanging up outside the camp kitchen.

The next morning I walked the pups up to where I had dressed her out, and most of her offal was gone. As a big thank you, a bear had left a large pile of his poop right on the scene (mostly apples, thank you!) Don't worry, he returned the next day and finished off all the fat, and her rumen and contents included!!
After checking out that scene I walked to the Far Stand and picked up her tracks in daylight. I had not seen a drop of blood the evening before, but if you look at the maple leaves that cover our land, you'll see the difficulty we have in following blood trails this early in the season. It is literally impossible to spot blood on yellow leaves specked with their own red spots!. Our land right now is knee deep in these leaf colors. Even those 'blood lights' sold by everyone do not help in these conditions. I have one and all they do is highlight the red pigments on the leaves. How do you follow a blood trail, in dim light, with the forest floor covered with leaves like you see here? In any case, in bright light, I was able to find a few blood spatters, and also found my arrow about twenty feet from where  I had hit her. It was missing the broadhead and about four inches of arrow, which I have not recovered. I suspect it is lodged in her left shoulder, and have told the butcher that so he can try to recover it. I hung her for four days before taking her to be cut up. I prefer to hang deer for a week for premium tenderness, but it became kind of warm here the last few day so I took her in early. The rule of thumb for best tasting venison is hang the deer for one week at forty degrees, less if warmer, longer if colder. Of course if you have a cooler for game set at 40 degrees, that would be perfect!. What we do, is hang them and wrap in cheesecloth if it gets warm. Hang it as long as you can. Trust me on that.

Below, you can see Khalie, my dear Sheltie Collie buddy, who will NOT let me drive away without her! Especially to register a deer!
Below you see me at the registration station next to the scale. My scale at home (a Cabelas model) said 135 lbs. but the agent insisted his scale was correct at 141, so we went with that! If I had joined the pool, I'd be a winner! )-:

Below you see a late season picture of a young deer nursing Mom! They are fully weaned by now and will survive just fine without Mom, but sneak in for an occasional drink every chance she is not paying attention. She will kick the babes off, but they are sneaky. Funny, just like our sheep lambs!

I include the picture below because I'd like some opinions on what this is! Wide open mouth? Antlers? Bear? Who knows? We have had cameras jammed up by bears and deer antlers, so take your guess! In the meantime, tomorrow begins muzzle loader season, so I will be out there with a hunter or two to see what we can come up with! I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

October Bowhunts at Long Ridge

It is a wonderful time of year at Long Ridge! The dry summer, and humid weeks we suffered are long passed, and nights now are generally below freezing. Days at 50/60 are pleasant, and as you walk across the field edges you get that 'fall smell'. The foliage is mostly gone by but below are a few images from the last few days. In the sunlight, it is bright, and cheery up on this ridge!

I have been out with bow six times since my last post, and have seen nine deer. Nothing exceptional, but I did take a shot at a large four pointer. Young perhaps, but very large of body. It was an exceptionally cold evening and I had a puffy camouflage jacket on, which caught my string. I missed by a mile, and he jumped straight up into the air, and then continued grazing at 45 yards away. I have been bow hunting for several generations and know better! Shame on me for being careless... this is he, below on camera at another location. This is just before he attacked my camera, attached to an apple tree. He didn't hurt the camera, but flipped it upside down, so the next picture of the coyote you see the titles on top, and upside down! He is a spunky one! In all I have had nine deer close enough to shoot, but have passed them all up except for a miss you will see below. In any case, mostly does, which are great for eating and management purposes, but do not begin to attract me until a bit later in the season...

Here are a couple of turkeys sayig hello at the same camera on the apple tree!

Below, though not very clear is the only creature I saw on one of my afternoon stands. He entertained me (it doesn't take much in the woods) for hours...
Below is the scene from my twenty foot tall ladder stand at the Far Ridge.  The farthest edge of the green is about forty yards, by design. The light rock spot is 18 yards, and I gauge off these two marks when shooting deer. This has been a very lucrative stand over the years.
The grapes as shown here, are all over our property...All the conservation rags and biologists say they are great for wildlife, but I must say, I have never seen any bird or mammal eat them. They end up all dead and shriveled in the dead of winter and then just fall off. As wild as they are however, they do make wonderful grape jelly, which is what we use them for.
This is the fall scene at LRDC. All the wood is in, the foliage is bright, and the call of the woods literally screams at you.

Last evening, I watched several does graze below me for an hour before they meandered off for acorns. I could have shot them a hundred times. But it is still early, and I have not lost my patience yet. Things are still calm in the woods. No LRDC hunters showed for the archery hunt weekend, so the deer here are still quite unaware. As I climbed down from my stand I just had to take this picture of a fall moon just coming up. It was particulary striking, because there was a flock of Canadas way, way high up, not low enough to see, but I could hear them winging south. Neat!

Above we have a (probably the same one that did my camera) frisky four pointer sparring with an eight pointer. Luckily the eight pointer does not seem to take this little guy seriously! Looks like just good fun. Then below this, you see the eight pointer I am aiming for. I have no daylight pictures of him, and he may never show in aiming light. But I can hope, and plan, and adjust tactics to try to make it happen. After all that is what it is all about. And if, at the end of the season he wins? Bonus! A ten pointer to stalk next year!

Here is another picture of this handsome brute! He'll weigh in dressed at about 175/180 is my guess.

So that is it for the last few weeks people! I did get an email form an unknown reader who asked me to post more often. That would be nice, but honestly, I cannot. This blog is about hunting, deer camp, and the methods and equipment and management practices we use. I simply cannot fill and post blogs with plug ins from other sites, trivia etc. Can't do it. I am
going to continue to post as often as I have new info, pictures, hunting experiences and time. I am not one to sit down to the computer every day, so I miss a lot of posts from folks I follow. Those of you who post daily, just amaze me!. In any case, all that we post here, is real time, our experience, our equipment, our hunts, and remember, the whole idea behind this blog was to encourage others to start a deer camp. Even your living room is a great place to start! To the reader in Ohio, go back to my first several blogs to see how easy it is to get one started! You'll never regret it, and your worries about leased land will end!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2010 Deer Season Finally Rolls in to Long Ridge Deer Camp

Well people, the hunting season is upon us! The Long Ridge 3-D deer archery target finally folded for good, and has been taken to the landfill. I am all done practicing, but do draw my bow four or five times before I head out.  It is not really cool enough yet, so I have only been out two times. Once (and the first) time on the East Stand. I have both bears and a nine pointer you see below, showing up there, so I lugged both bow and 12 gauge shotgun to that stand in hopes of bagging a bear or buck. No luck, I saw nothing that day. That was the 21st of september, the last day of bear season in this unit.

I have multiple pictures of this dude from many angles. He is a taker, as his rack is wider than his ears. Whether he gives up his absolutely nocturnal habits will have to be seen. All the bucks remained completely nocturnal all summer, which is highly unusual here. I think it is because of the extreme heat and lack of rain this entire summer. Now that it is cooling to the forty and fifty degree range, I am hoping they will range out a bit more.
Today, I took my loaded ATV up toward the Far Ridge Stand, and parked about a hundred yards away on the trail. I rigged up my safety harness, unloaded bow and gear, and headed up to the stand. It was quite warm, but I had showered with scent free shampoo, sprayed all my light cotton camouflage with scent killer, and was comfortable. The leaves are coming down heavily now, about two weeks early because of the lack of rain, and it was noisy going in. But once twenty feet up in the oak, I was dry and comfortable. The first thing I do is hang all my gear, then rig my safety harness to the tree. Then, and not until then, I pull up my bow. I pull out the seat, and nock an arrow, then hang my bow to my right side. Now I can sit down, arrange everything the way I want it, and break out my range finder. Now, I have hunted this stand for some five years, so I basically know the ranges to most markers but it is always good to redo, and review ranges when bow hunting. There is a stump to my left I range at 16 yard.  Use the twenty yard pin quite low on the deer. There is a rock at 18.5 yards. Use the twenty yard pin dead on. There is a bald spot in the grass at 29 yards. Use the 30 yard pin low on the deer. That's the gist. I always prefer to shoot  a bit low anyway, as my experience has taught me that if the sound of your shot alerts the deer, they will crouch to bound away, and that is why so many archers shoot over the backs of their deer. These days, any quality bow is so quiet, that it is generally not an issue. But it is my habit. Last year, I shot a large doe at twenty yards using the twenty yard pin. She was moving, so I was leading, and in doing so, forgot that I was twenty five feet above her. I took a good aim, released, and took out her spine, when I was aiming behind her shoulder. This is because I forgot how high I was in the air. (I do not use rangefinders with ARC, and won't unless I go on a sheep hunt!)
In any case, once I have reviewed ranges, puttered around for five minutes with equipment, it is time to wait. In this case I waited for an hour, seeing and hearing nothing but squirrels and chipmunks scavenging the many acorns I could hear dropping all around me. As I said, with all the crispy dry leaves, it was LOUD out there! About 5:30 I heard deer coming in...first a momless babe, obviously born this spring, but having lost 99% of her spots. She was alone, and edgy. I'd give good money to know how her mom died. She popped acorns, and grazed toward me for about twenty minutes before she alerted to sounds I could not hear, and beat it out of there fast. She should have saved her breath, it was only a large shiny doe with spring twins. Couldn't tell their sexes, but both were good sized and shiny, and playful. They grazed all around  me, while I pulled my bow from it's hanger. Our doe season for archery is closed until October 1st this year, but you never know when a silly young buck might burst upon the scene! Anyway, these five deer kept me entertained for an hour or so, as the younger ones raced around and played, and the does grazed and kept careful watch..It was an instructive hour, because I noted that the deer, while grazing initally, actually meandered to now we know where the deer will be - up on the high ridges, where the mast is.

The other day I found these moose tracks wandering all over Long Ridge parking lot. He wandered in from the South, sniffed around my equipment, and wandered off down the lane toward our sheep on pasture. I have not caught this one on camera yet...but it is a large one.

 Here is a young five or six pointer. There are a half dozen of these younger guys hitting the cameras, but we won't take anything less than an eight pointer. This is the second year I have instituted this rule as an experiment to see if we increase the size and regularity of seeing large mature bucks.
 Below is another six pointer, and as I said above, all the cameras are getting ones like this.
 This youngster below is an odd ball. It appears he got tangled up somewhere while still in velvet, and lost one antler and severely deformed the other. I do not believe this is the result of bad genetics and definitely not the result of a fight. We'll give him another chance for next year.
So, while I have not recorded many mature bucks, I am hopeful that they will begin to appear. The coming week is cooling, so I will be out there. October 9 and 10, Long Ridge Deer Camp will host a two day non-stayover archery hunt for members. I'll keep you posted and hope you all are finding the deep excitement, and solace found as deep season approaches! Good luck, and let me know how you do! Jack

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Annual Summer projects Ending

Hello fellow hunters, summer is wrapping up! I know, I KNOW! August just got here, and it is HOT! But never the less summer is coming to a close as far as hunting prep goes! Remember there are astrological seasons, and meteorological seasons. But  here in New England, we consider summer to be June, July and August, fall to be September, October and November, and winter to be December, January and February, leaving spring as March, April and May. So as we enter the month of August we have a myriad of chores to get done in order to be ready for Whitetail season. Since bow season starts September 15th, we need to be ready and fit. Below you see a view of my deer target 40 yards away. (No, I do not shoot over the pup's backs!) And below this picture you can see a 3 and 3/4 inch group shot from forty yards. I am not satisfied until I can consistently make 2 inch groups at twenty yards, 3 inches at thirty, and 4 inch groups at forty. Not once or twice, but consistently. If I find this is not happening for me, I visit my local archery shop and they always set me straight. It may be my technique, or equipment, but he can usually spot it right away. In any case, the standard I have listed is my own, and I have no idea how I arrived at it years ago, only that I will not go out until I have achieved it consistently. Thankfully, I am there for this upcoming season...

The next job we have is to put our fields and food plots in shape for fall. This means liming, fertilizing if necessary and seeding. When we first started to set up LRDC as a paradise, we did it all by hand. I can well remember humping fifty pound bags of lime into the woods on my shoulder, hand raking, and no equipment. Gradually we cut trails, aquired ATV's, a tractor, and implements. We still do a load of handwork, but nothing like back in the 90's! Below you can see the limespreader I use, a piece made in Pennsylvania, and the ruggedest, most versatile limespreader I could find. This will spread any lime you put in it, including dripping wet lime. Below that, check out the massive axel inside that churns out the lime. It holds 1000 pounds per load, and I have hauled this baby way into the woods and ridges, over the toughest ground you can imagine. The lime pile is a leftover from liming our sheep pastures three years ago. I have twenty tons delivered bulk, and that way it is cheap. Have them dump it on a tarp! I still have about four tons left for next year.
Above you see a plot I tilled over, limed, retilled, and it is ready to be seeded. Below this you are looking at our tiller. It is a six foot First Choice, and if you have bushel basket and basketball sized rocks the way we do here, this is the only way to go. This piece of equipment has hacked acres of rocky New England soil for years. No breakages, faultless so far. My wife can hear me tilling from over a mile away, when I am in rocky areas. The next picture is of a plot that I lime first, then till, to mix in the lime before I reseed by August 1st.

Of course one of the 'chores' we hunters all have during the summer months is to rifle practice,. Now I don't mean just to 'sight in'. That is something you do the week of your hunt. I mean to practice regularly. I suppose if all you do while hunting is sit in a stand, with a handy rest and a rangefinder, then 'sighting in' will do. But if on occasion you decide to still hunt through the woods and want to be able to swing up and on a jumped buck with good chances of success, then regular practice is required. To sight in, I use the targets below which I make myself. They are 2 inch dots made with a magic marker, three to a sheet. I shoot these to sight in a rifle or new scope, to practice fundamentals, and to test the accuracy potential of a new gun or load. Once I have done that, and selected my load, my practice consists of standing off hand, shooting at a 14 inch by 14 inch metal plate at 100 yards. If you can make hits consistently like that, you are going to be successful in the field. I hunt exclusively with a 30-06, so there is some recoil there. The following pictures show a good spotting scope necessary for sighting in, and a ruler for measuring groups, and a recording book for different loads, factory or re-loaded.
I fully admit it, I am a sissy. Maybe it is my SWAT operator background, but I ALWAYS wear elbow pads when sighting in a rifle at a shooting bench. They do not care what caliber you are shooting - they cushion and protect, and prevent flinching. In other words, if you shoot your rifle with elbow pads on, you WILL be more accurate. Doesn't mean you need to wear them in the woods - that is silly. But when it is time to sight in, concentrate on that, not pain. Next to them you see a Past Recoil pad. (remember I admitted to being a sissy?) Use one, and get good with that rifle. When the time comes to actually use it, you will not be thinking about recoil, only about calling your shot. Well worth the money. Yes, Sally, even if you shoot the demure 7mm-08...

Below is my Winlite Winchester 70 in 30-06. It weighs just a tad over 6 pounds so kicks a bit. I have a Kick-EZZ pad on it, but otherwise it is stock, and I get sub 1 inch groups from it with regularity. The scope on it is a Redfield 3-9 for sighting in a load, but for hunting I use a Redfield Widefield 1 3/4 x 5. But it's accuracy isn't what I love best about this rifle. It has the slickest bolt (cool) and a good trigger (nice) and is very lightweight (still feels good at the end of a long day) and will shoot a 3/4 inch group with factory ammo. But what I love best, is it's inherent forgiveness. That is to say, when you pull this rifle up, and plant the crosshairs on game, it barks and the game drops. I have pulled so many shots that I was sure were bad, but when the smoke clears (figuratively) the game is always there. I marvel at that. Moving or not, it gets them. It's not a fancy 'claw extractor' model, just an early 90's model push feed, with a McMillan stock. Other than African Water Buffalo , or Elephant, I would be confident with this rifle on any game on earth. If you feel that way about your hunting arm, no matter what it is, you are a blessed hunter! In any case, summer is going to end in three weeks or so, and we need to be ready! Have fun, and let me know what you think!
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