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Sunday, March 28, 2010

April Fools at Long Ridge Deer Camp

It is just about April 1st here at Long ridge and we are finally able to see the end of Old Man Winter. For as mild as a winter we did have compared to the usual, it did seem to drag out. Any month beats March here in Northern New England. March has a span of historic temperatures from 70 degrees to -20 F. Day before yesterday it was 15 degrees! Nasty and unpredictable. But during the good days we do get out and start projects. Below you are looking down from the Tall Stand onto the start of a new food plot. I cleaned up a lot of logging debri in the fall and burned a huge pile this winter. Now the final cleanup and then around  mid summer I will lime, rake, and prepare the ground for a fall planting of No-Plow or Secret Spot. You won't believe how green this will look. This is primarily a bow stand though the hunters do take deer here with muzzle loaders too. It is not a popular stand because it is within a hundred yards of camp, and 200 yards from the house so the feeling is that people talking and yapping dogs will keep any deer from coming in. Quite the contrary, there is heavy cover here between the farm and the stand and the deer pour in here like water.

Another view above from the tall stand, just to the right of the ATV. This also gives a view of the far field

Typical for April 1, most of our snow is gone. The trails which I ran today are mostly clear (except for ice crushed trees) , with occasional runs of snow. Below you can see the last snow in our fields. Once that is gone the frost will leave the ground and we are off and running to a full spring. Tonight starts a nasty long rain storm and that will likely wipe out what you see of the white stuff .

Above:  Once I got to the Far Ridge, I was amazed to see that the opening there was almost completely covered with snow. It is in the open, and unshaded, so I thought I would find it clear. Walking across it I found a foot of snow in places, so I guess it is the elevation that makes the difference. This is just a tad less than a mile from camp...
And last, above you see a project I started several years ago and am finally bringing to fruition. A wild apple orchard - there are a dozen or more trees in here. When we bought the place this area was dark and dank, shaded by huge pines and maples, and poplar. The apple trees were tall and stringy and dying, some already beyond saving. But with a bit of sunlight we let in, and ongoing pruning and logging, the trees are full of blossoms in the spring and drop a ton of apples each fall. The deer gorge on these apples, and turn the soil into a bog!. Today I was in there to prune the apple trees and to remove downed trees from the winter ice storms. I'll post a later spring picture of this area when it is green and beautiful. Next month, more food plot prep, game camera placement, and organizing hangers and ladder stands for the coming fall!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mid-March at Long Ridge

Several weeks ago I took a picture of this beautiful Red Fox from our kitchen window. He is about 50 yards behind the house just beyond the garden hunting mice in a pasture. We watch him (or her) all winter pounce on big fat voles down through feet of snow. Even with hard crusts they jam their snouts down through it and manage to catch them. I could see the shine on this one's coat, and fox are in season, but hey, they whelp out this month, so I won't. I do worry for the one lone free ranging chicken we have left though. ( It's the hawks that really do them!)

This is what we call the Overlook. It is on the opposite end of the property from the Far Ridge, faces East, and would be an extraordinary view if I logged off in front of it. We ATV, hike, or snowmobile up there and have fires, and lunch sometimes. During deer season I strap a seat on a maple just over the edge and it makes a great stand looking out over a nice open hardwood draw..

Today, as usual I walked the dogs up one of our main snowmobile trails. If this weather keeps up, it will be too muddy in a few weeks. You can see where this year around brook has finally busted out through two feet of snow. This snow trail won't be back this spring unless we get a late March blizzard, (don't bet that we won't!) and actually even in April and early May we have been wacked. But the sledding season is OVER. Now it is hiking alone, until mud season is over.

On this mornings walk we passed under the Mid Stand whick looks out over the Far Field. It is a good stand, and I have taken great deer from it. It's drawback is that it is quite exposed and you cannot even twitch in this stand or you will be had. You can see that the floor of the stand is quite crooked and I will fix that this summer. It's like that because I put this up last July, all alone. I was twenty feet up, trying to hang this 35 pound base with one hand while I drilled holes for lag bolts to wrench it tight to the tree. It was about 80 degrees and very humid, and when I assessed the job I had done I was too beat to fix it then. Never got around to it, and stood on it like this when I arrowed a deer in October. We'll get it changed...

These two purebred Shelties are the dogs you do NOT want to take for walks in the woods if you want to see anything. They bark, herd my poor old Lab, race around like the nutcakes they are, and I am sure can be heard for miles. In fact I know they can, because often in the fall when I am way out on stand I can hear their barking as far as the Far Ridge. But they are smart, neat dogs, both rescues from smokey, small urban apartments. They can hardly believe they live on a farm now, with real sheep and fields to run on. The physically abused one (Blue Merle on the right) has almost forgotten her pain. They are happy!

Update on the Winchester model 70's - I did spend an afternoon last Monday on the PD range, and shot both rifles.
The wooden stocked Featherweight I shot with Federal Premium 125 grain (remember I want this as a varmint gun) PowerShocks. With it's seven pound factory trigger pull the best I could do was 1 1/4 groups.
I hadn't touched this stock gun until now, and that is as good as it shoots with any load. I decided that this gun needs trigger work first, so when I got back to Deer Camp, I adjusted it down to 3 pounds. We'll shoot it again with the same loads, and see what a difference if any that makes. Remember I am sticking with the same load in an attempt to wring best accuracy. When the gun has achieved that, THEN we'll seach/load up the best round for the rifle.

The Macmillan stocked Winlite also is completely stock, though if you recall I took the stock off and removed a bubble that was in contact with the side of the barrel, sanded it down, and refit the action at 45 inch pounds. With a stock trigger weight of just under 5 pounds I started off with Federal Premium 180 grain Barnes Triple Shock X. I was amazed! Just the small bubble removed from the stock gave me an immediate 1 inch group with this factory load. I was able to reproduce this group several times. I then took both rifles home and as above, adjusted the trigger down to three pounds. Can't wait to hit the range again. I have had that rifle for twenty years, and never, with any load, has it shot better than an inch and a quarter!. I'll keep you posted.

Last item, this week Fish and Game bulletined that everyone should take in their bird feeders, because the bears are out in force and marauding them. They haven't hit us yet, but got a house in the neighborhood about three miles away. Usually we have til about April 1st before they break out of hibernation, so that illustrates what an easy and short winter we've had... Jack

Monday, March 8, 2010

Above is Long Ridge Deer Camp as you read this. But don't get the wrong idea! Today it will get to nearly forty degrees, and we will lose a lot of this snow. The sheep were sheared yesterday, and we are counting on low temperatures of 28 degrees. T-shirt weather!
Today at Deer Camp it was forty degrees in the sun at 1 PM! Imagine that...I spent the afternoon snowmobiling and packing trails before I put the sleds back inside our trailer. Typically in the winter, I load snow into a bay in the machinery barn, pack it with the tractor, and this is where the winter machines you see above will park. Fire them up, and go. But by this time of the year if we get a warm spell like this week, the snow starts to melt and they'd be sitting on dirt if not moved. In the morning now, we can walk the dogs on the trails through the fields and woods, and not break through. They are hard as cement in the morning. But by 1 PM, they start to get soft and hard to walk on. The picture you see above is a trip we took up to the Far Ridge, about a mile from Deer Camp. Lots of snow up there, but even in the near field this evening there was 21 inches of snow waiting to melt. Seems strange since this was a low snowfall winter...we never even went on a real snowmobile trip because of the scarcity of snow on the trails.

Since this blog is primarily about deer hunting, I will say that the winter has been particularly kind to the Whitetails. They are used to surviving way more snow and cold than they were exposed to this winter and they are looking pretty good. The coldest temperature at the house over winter was 7 degrees below zero, way warmer than most winters. If we don't get one of those typical late March blizzards that dump another twenty inches, the deer will be fine.
Deer Camp is still packed in with snow so not much in the way of projects going on, but I have assembled another twenty foot ladder stand, and a hanger for placement next summer.

Still working on the Winchesters to see what they can improve to for group, and today I used a trigger pull gauge I borrowed from the PD armory to measure trigger pull. The wood stocked Featherweight you saw in the previous blog pulled about 7 pounds! No wonder it won't group better than 1 3/4! The Winlite 70 pulled at 4 3/4 pounds. Funny, because I couldn't feel much difference between them, Not terrible, but I will get the needed wrenches and adjust both to about three pounds..
Above is my snowmobile in front of Deer Camp. This is a short lived sight this time of year, though in New Hampshire, ANY time in March you can get 20 inches of snow and -5 degrees. The deer don't like that, and neither do we!

This is looking out of Deer Camp doorway, and the snowbank you see is what had slid off the roof. Today I rode my Ribicon out on the snowmobile trails, and when I strayed off, I bogged helplessly down. Bottomed out, but within walking distance of the machinery barm. Jumped on a second one and hauled mine out. I measured the snowpack there and it was nineteen iches. It's going fast though!
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