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Monday, January 23, 2012

State of the Long Ridge Deer Camp Address, 2012

In short, we are in a state of disarray! Like the country! I mean, people, today it was -2 below zero, and after farm chores I walked to camp and it was a walloping 8 degrees in there! Way too chilly to organize or clean anything up. Below is my bunk, not much changed from the last day of deer season. Unwashed carbon clothes hanging around, and that sort of thing. After a range day a week or so ago I forced myself to clean all the fired weapons, but since that time, camp had been abandoned! The propane tanks are full, and have to remain so through next season, as I cannot afford to fill them on a regular basis...kinda like the national situation, ya know?

I am coyote hunting on a regular basis, but generally return so frozen that I simply heave my gear onto the table and head out to get warm..hey, it'll all get organized this spring! Hey, the debt will be paid some century hence, right? I just know our grand children will step up!

Below is my deer hunting gear from the ATV and my packs from deer season...basically thrown here and abandoned until temps reach the know, like when the unemployment rate reaches 5 % again...

I am cognizant (and broke) enough to have gone out and pulled my cameras finally. The batteries don't last too long in this weather, and below you'll see the last of the winter pictures.
The two below are me breaching food plot cams while on several coyote hunts I guess...

There was a heavy crust on the snow, so this day I was spinning around on the food plots to break it up for my hungry darlings.

A very large Fisher made this track across the Far Field. He's not unemployed, but he IS hungry!
Ready for next season, the bulletin board becomes clear. The first pictures on it will be either coyotes, or May turkeys that hunters get.
So, that's our status. Maybe five inches of snow on the ground when we should have 30, snowshoes and snowmobiles both in limbo, deer camp wood half done, deer happy and healthy with unusually warm and snowless winter, and more good coyote hunts planned. Things could be worse! Today, for a break, we took a short roadtrip to the marina on the West river for a glass of wine. We boat there from the Connecticut in summer, and as I looked out the window, I don't believe I have ever seen a bleaker, colder looking winter landscape. The colors are absolutely neutral, and the rivers both, are frozen solid in place. It looks and feels like Alaska! I love it so!

So, with glass raised, it is important to remember that already it stays light until 5 PM, that soon the sun will actually show above the Pine tops to our South, and that spring WILL bust out all over. A good sign is that the maple sugar guys are all over our orchards, trying to get ready for tapping. Once that happens, you know spring is right around the corner! So, that is Long Ridge Deer Camp's state of the union. What is yours!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dead of Winter at Long Ridge Deer Camp

 Today was a bit chilly - minus 10 degrees here at 7:30 this morning. After barn chores I wondered what I would do outside today other than chain sawing up some logs I had dragged out of a new pasture. The wind was a steady 15 mph right out of the north, so I wasn't sure I wanted to, after a camp hunter and a pal came by the house to purchase a gun, I noticed that the temp had  jumped up to 8 degrees. T-shirt weather! Down to camp I went, struggled into my snow camo pull-over, heavy wool cap, and HD gloves, strapped on the M-4 Colt, and we were off, this time to the western log landing. Two deer had wandered around the landing (we have about 4 inches of snow, about 24 inches less than usual) and a fox track that was dogged by a large coyote track. The fox was staying on top of the crust, and the coyote breaking through, so my money is on the fox. I followed the deer tracks up the perimeter trail and found  this below acorn feeding scrape. 
I continued across to the Far Ridge Trail stopping every several hundred yards to wail on my dying rabbit call. Nothing. When  got to the Far Ridge Stand the wind was blowing quite hard, and since there were no tracks there I headed to the SE bowl. Just above where I sat on stand in November I looked down about twenty feet and saw what looked like a deer bed.

I slid down to check it out and found it was a coyote bed. Strange, because the snow was melted under it, and I know that gray fox can sleep all day on the snow, and no melting occurs. So I checked the clear tracks coming into it, and it was a coyote for sure. On a whim, because the exiting tracks looked so fresh, I pulled a glove and felt the bed. Sure enough, it was still warm. That means, this guy heard me coming and skedaddled long before I could see him. The hard crust did make for very loud walking.

Below are his fast moving exit tracks...right through thick and effective cover. I was approaching from up above on the ridge.
I stayed there for a half hour and called, but no creatures showed, so I decided to backtrack the coyote out of his bed to see if I could find a kill. I stayed on him for about a half mile, and then we got into such thick evergreens and blow downs that I gave him up, and headed toward our southern perimeter trails. Once there, and at the East Stand I picked up a pair of coyote tracks following my foot prints from the other day toward camp. They stayed on the trail the whole way, and signed heavily at the overlook.

Right here, 

and here...they are busy as they enter the breeding season...
I then followed them the last several hundred yards back to camp...about 100 yards before I got there several deer had crossed the trail headed in the general direction of the East Ridge Stand. It looked like the two coyotes hauled off after them, but nearer camp, I picked up another coyote track that had been within 100 feet of the parking lot. So, no luck today, not sure what the coyotes finally got to eat, got half frozen (it had fallen to 6 degrees when I got back to camp, but I had a wonderful time trudging around the forest reading sign. Tonight it is supposed to drop to 30 below zero, so I probably won't be out there tomorrow! Or, maybe I will! What have you been up to these winter months?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Long Ridge Deer Camp - Early January Activities

Today I spent three hours coyote hunting and failed to call one in. I suspect that my call was extremely short ranged because there is so much snow on the trees that sound is completely muffled. It was nice to get out there anyway, and I always love a hunt, no matter what transpires. I set up at various places on the lower perimeter trails but crossed nary a deer or coyote track. 

How far will sound travel through these woods?
I set up right next to this bear cave, which is empty this winter. The last bears to use it were two cubs and a mom in 2010. 
It took me some time to decide what gun to take today. I finally settled on my Colt M-4 because it has a red dot sight (one minute dot). It was snowing so hard when I headed out that I figured my scopes would fog and get snow covered. I have a red dot on one of my 11-87 barrels too, but that shotgun is heavy, and I preferred to carry the light Colt, with the single point sling. I was dressed heavy for this storm, and the single point sling is perfect for that. You can sling it right dead center and walk fine without striking your knees, or sling it to the side. It's also handy while setting up calls. This carbine is extremely accurate. I carried this issued carbine on countless patrols and many SWAT missions, and it is perfectly capable of consistent head shots at 100 yards (yes, coyote heads). 
Because we have had so little snow so far, I am way ahead with pasture clearing, field edging, and here you see almost half of next fall's camp wood already gathered and stacked. I don't generally get around to this until mid summer! Another several weeks of little snow, and I'll get the rest hauled down this month.
Below are the last camera pictures taken around the first of the month. Plenty of deer and a nice gray fox. I went out and changed camera cards yesterday, but the batteries in both cameras had died, so zip for pictures. 

Nothing exciting, but always nice to see the critters! One hunter joining me next week for a coyote hunt, and then some several more coming to camp on the 29th for another. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Would You Buy These products Ever Again?

Having hunted many many years, and been a police officer all my life, I have strong opinions about which companies and their products I really like, and those that I will never buy again. Not all of these are hunting products, but most are. I try to be objective about a product that performs poorly. Any reputable company has probably made a lemon. But, if so, how was their service/warranty/return policy? If it is good, I tend to forgive. If they are not helpful, I remember - and NEVER purchase anything by them again. An example is Goodyear tires. The first new truck I ever bought  had Goodyears on it. At the first oil change I found that all four tires had massive splits on the inside sidewalls. I took them to a Goodyear store and they wanted all kinds of money to replace them. I think there were three thousand miles on them. I didn't HAVE any money, and drove away knowing I would never buy another tire, no matter how good, from Goodyear. And in 43 years, I haven't! Another standout is Rocky Boots. Save your money. As a patrol sergeant in the eighties I bought a fairly expensive pair of patrol boots from them, ones I could barely afford. The first week I wore them, the heel came unglued. I sent them back and they re-glued them. A week later, same thing happened. I called them, and the service rep told me that there was nothing more they could do, that I would have to purchase a new pair. I did, and you can be sure they were not Rockies, and never will be. Here is how I feel about some other products...below you see a handsome upland vest hanging from the caribou antler.
This vest is an Abercrombie & Fitch, N.Y. vest made when they were a true outfitter. This one was purchased by my father in the early forties, worn hard by him for years, then by me, and it is still completely  serviceable. I use it every fall. I wish they were still in the outfitting business, I would buy all my goods there. My parents even had custom model 21 Winchesters fitted to them there. When Abercrombie stopped catering to the outdoors and hunting folks, my parents moved on to another burgeoning outfitter,...

Yup, Eddie Bauer Outfitters, out in Washington or Oregon in those late fifties and 60's. They sold all manner of hunting/fishing goods and supplies, and were a top quality outfitter. To my folks chagrin, they, like Abercrombie found more to be made by selling fashionable women's clothing and polka dotted undies, and franchised all over. No more outfitting, which spawned folks like Cabela's and Red Head. Now, I LIKE Cabela's and buy all manner of stuff from them, but they are no Abercrombie & Fitch. You have to watch what you buy. They have good, to junk. Below are copies of the current Eddie Bauer catalogs. A far cry from years ago.

Below you see a DeSantis double magazine holder, brand new. I purchased this for my 10 mm magazines used in my Dan Wesson PM-7. The very first time I unsnapped the snaps at the bottom, both rivets at the top broke and popped out. 
I called DeSantis, explained the problem, and they stated that if I sent the holder back (at my expense), they would replace the rivets. But only if I would give them a credit card number so they could charge me for return postage. I did this because the thing was fairly expensive to begin with and useless to me the way it was.
below, you can see that they charged me $8.49 to send my repaired mag holder back to me. Note the date on the receipt. So, for about 15.00 bucks, I got a brand new mag holder repaired that I had gotten zero use out of. No more DeSantis Gunhide products for me, ever.
Below, a few flagship company names that you hardly ever hear anything bad about. Why? Their first concern is not cost, but quality! Honda, John Deere, Polaris...all solid companies.

This is my third model 70 Winchester. I sure didn't buy it because of problems or lack of accuracy with the other two!
My Summit tree climber. My first Summit, and head and shoulders above the first one (different brand) I had when weight, quality, and innovation are concerned. It is good enough, that I am sure I'll never have to buy another.  
Below is a low end Nikon range finder, and a low end  pair of compact 10x25 binocs. I am happy with both. Though I buy Leupold scopes and love their clarity and quality, I could not stand the new Leupold rangefinder I bought. It was ridiculously complicated, took minutes to get squared away, and had a mind of it's own. I handed it to a couple of techie hunters in camp and challenged them (with directions) to figure out how to change settings and set up for bow or firearm. They gave it legion effort, and eventually tossed it into a chair stating 'try a Nikon'. I did. I am happy.
The Cuddeback camera below is an old model, my newer ones are still out in the woods. Even so, this camera has given years of flawless pictures, great battery life, and simple to operate. One time I lost the programing on this camera, and a call to Cuddeback had me re-programmed in two minutes. I started out with Stealthcams, and in the end I couldn't give them away. Hardly ever got any pictures with them.
These cheap RAYOVAC batteries claim to last as long as energizers. And you know what? They actually last longer, and are recommended by Cuddeback for camera use...
Before going to the G5 fixed solid 125 grain Montecs, I had used three other brands. I am more than satified with their performance on deer, much more so than the other brands. Now, if they do not start making these 125's in carbon steel, I will change over to the NAP Hellrazor. I want the carbon steel because you can get it so much sharper than stainless...
Easton aluminum arrows. They are strong, they are inexpensive (compared to carbon) and they work. I am not a proponent of blistering speeds, have no need of the terribly expensive carbon arrows out there, and at 60 pounds, these with the Montecs simply bring them down without drama.
GoldDot ammunition from Speer - This box is in .357 Sig. and they have a great field (police) performance
history. I never had to shoot a person since we started carrying them early this century, but they have taken many deer and other creatures cleanly and humanely. They are always with me off duty and carrying under LEOSA.  
This is a Hunters Specialties Turkey Hen Squealer call. It came with a disc to demonstrate how to use it. I could call nothing in with it, which may be my fault. But I used it twice, and then it did not work, and would not produce any sound at all. The thing is too cheap to send back, if that is even possible. But I'll buy no more of their calls.
I have used several brands of Scent Killer, and this stuff you see below works. My empirical experience with this stuff has me amazed. I do not hunt deer or bear without it...
This Primos can call is the third I have owned. No more. I try not to judge a call by whether or not animals come to it - it could always be poor technique. But these calls are flip over calls, not much you can do to improve them. I have never had a deer come to the can calls. The worst thing though is that I find they are good for one season and then crap out and don't work. Why should I have to buy a new one every year? I also own an electric Primos deer call. Doesn't seem to call any in, and the doe bleat worked for a hunt or two and then died. All done with Primos.
Buying a new cleaning rod? The J Dewey on the top froze up and will not rotate with the rifling in the bore. I bought a Tipton carbon rod, and it is perfect. I have cleaned hundreds of guns with it.
What have been your experiences with poor performing products in the field? With great performing products? What are your favorites? Would love to hear!
Have a great 2012!
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