Happy upcoming spring you people! It has been a long, long winter for the nation, and it hasn't stopped yet for most of us! Until today we had over thirty inches of snow on the ground and we've had that and more all winter. So, that only means that I did very little hunting here at Long Ridge, and the few times I went out coyote hunting I did not get one. Below is deer camp a few days ago. We have no place left to pile snow and if I did not have a bucket loader, we'd have been doomed this winter. So in a way in spite of my love for winter and snow, I am glad to see it begin to seriously melt today.
It has been a terrible few months for the local deer herds. Below zero, and +30 inches of snow for most of the winter spells a high mortality rate if things go as usual. The ones we see look to be in good health, but that is illusion usually. Some look well, but are severely stressed, and their fat reserves are low, and their bone marrow gone. The coyotes will be killing them by the dozens, especially now that they are whelping out their pups. Below there are some tracks coming out of the deep snow to our trails, and below that, a watering hole they use all winter. There are two separate groups of deer visiting the small pasture up behind the house. The land slopes steeply up out there, facing South and there is a thin patch of open ground by the stone wall. Yesterday a group of seven came through and while they were feeding we noted a large doe with a severe wound on her upper withers, a gash about eight inches long and quite deep into the flesh. It was open about 3-4 inches wide. To our astonishment, when she turned around to go back, we noted an almost exact duplicate wound on her right side, same place. Clearly she was attacked by something with a large mouth, or long claws but escaped. Though the wounds were deep and long and red, they were no longer bleeding, and she was moving and browsing OK. Bear? Coyote? What do you think?
Yesterday I went out on snowshows with dogs and trimmed up six wild apple trees scattered around our fields. I left all the branches right there on the ground and today I found they had been heavily browsed by two deer over night. They came down from the Far Ridge so not part of the groups behind our house.
After last months post about my coyote hunt, I did get a comment from someone categorically stating 'You can't kill dogs with # 6's'...referring I suppose to my mention of using my shotgun. Well, I know this follower to be wrong, but it did give me an idea for a fun project - find out what the best patterning load, with decent penetration I can find using 40 and 50 yard coyote targets. I have embarked on that project as you can see below. Once I find the best load for my shotgun with extra full choke, I will run that load through several different chokes, and pass on the best combination I can find. There are places in this country where it is illegal to hunt with a rifle, but there are coyotes virtually everywhere. So for those of you who chose or must use a shotgun, I will post my result in the future. Below you see a target shot offhand at 40 and at 50 yards with no. 2's (steel) Note, even with a 2 3/4 inch shell, there are 37 hits! I counted only good body hits.
Below is a full size Delta Coyote target that I shot at the same distances with a BBB magnum 3 inch shell. & vital hits at 50 yards, and 14 at 40...pretty decent...
I have actually taken more coyotes with my truck gun, a Ruger Mini 14 Ranch with a 4x Leupold on it. Not a tack driver but 3 inch groups regularly. What I do NOT have to worry about, is it banging around my truck. It is as rugged and reliable as any gun I ever shot, and the flash hider keeps the wet floor and salt from reaching the muzzle. It has been indestructible for 29 years!
I did get away last week for a day's foray into Massachusetts where I spent hours at the New England Sportsman's Show at the Big E in Springfield Massachusetts. I have posted a ton of neat pictures below, but I will state this caviat...this show was a huge disappointment. The pictures you see are of outfitters - there had to be a hundred of them, and I love that part of the show. Every conceivable critter and geographic location on Earth is represented, and it's all so neat. But for the rest of the show, a bust. Not a single ATV manufacturer bothered to show. Only Savage, and Smith&Wesson (Thompson Center Arms) had their firearms displayed. Incidentally because I actually picked up a TC Venture Predator, I am going to purchase one. But that's a different post...There were some bass boats on display, and the typical tables of cheap Chinese manufactured goods, a good mounted white tail racks display, and a caged live grizzly bear that amused no one except ignorant adults and kids who know no better. In all, I enjoyed talking and visiting with the outfitters from all over the world. Other than that, not worth your time. I would have learned more by taking an hours walk in the woods.
This is the first time in twenty years I have attended an outdoors show such as this. The last I believe was in Chicago, and my memories of it were much better. In short, I won't be going again, and if you want to see everything I saw, and have more fun, and without an admission charge,visit a Cabelas' superstore.