Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Search Of Big Bucks

© By Othmar Vohringer

Here is the long overdue report of my recent hunting trip into the wilderness of beautiful British Columbia.

This year was a very special hunt with a new rifle that I named after my wife who gave me the Weatherby Vanguard .270 as a gift. After shooting that rifle at the range for two weeks to establish a rifle/load combination that performs best I was eager to try to kill my first mule deer and the first deer with a rifle in British Columbia.

As you can tell, this hunt was a very special event in many ways. Did it end with a big buck tagged? Read on and find out.

On Friday November 9th, at 5:00 am my wife and I left home to drive to her cousin’s, who also happens to be my hunting partner.

At 6:00 am we arrived at his house and loaded all the gear into one truck and at about 6:30 I kissed my wife goodbye and off we went heading north to our hunting destination. The weatherman promised sunshine but it was not to be, we drove away from home in a light rain that turned heavier the closer we got to our final destination. Only for a brief spell the rain stopped exactly at the moment when we turned off the highway and onto the logging road that would bring us deep into the wilderness. Once we were on the logging road my hopes shot sky high when I saw six deer browsing right next to the road.

We arrived at the base camp around 11:00 am and one hour later we had unloaded all the equipment and packed it into the wall tent that would be our home for the next few days. At noon we were ready to start hunting; Ernie and I checked our radios, wished each other luck, and then headed off in opposite directions. My plan was to first check out a few cut blocks where I had seen deer on a previous scouting trip.

On my way to the first cut block I saw three does and then one buck that was safe because in this area only bucks with four points or better can be killed. I had seen the size of bucks this area produces and therefore I was determined to hold out for a very special deer. Nothing less than a true monster would do.

Just before dark I returned to the camp having seen many deer and other wildlife giving me hopes for the first full day of hunting on Saturday. In fact I was convinced that I would tag out the next day, I was that pumped. Surprisingly, I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow and woke up the next day at 5:00 am to the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

Ernie was already awake and had the old camp stove fired up. Ernie is a real pal to have around in a hunting camp and I couldn’t have a better hunting partner.
Outside of the tent was a dark frosty landscape that made me want to crawl back in bed but then I remembered the many deer I had seen yesterday. We quickly downed two cups of coffee and like the previous day went our separate ways into the wild.

Long before the sun came up I was sitting more or less comfortably behind a deadfall tree overlooking a huge 3-year-old clear-cut overgrown with young trees and plants - the perfect place for deer to fill their stomachs all night long on nutritious food. If a big buck was here there was no way he could make it back into the timber at daybreak without me not seeing him. This was a prime location. I just had to sit here and be patient – but by 9:00 am I had used up all my patience and still had not seen any deer or any other critter come to think of it. Time to move on into the timber for a spot and stalk hunt, perhaps I could surprise a buck in his bed.

The rest of the morning and afternoon I hiked about fifteen miles in very rugged country where it either goes steeply up or down over boulders or fallen trees. By evening I still had seen no deer but could feel every muscle in my legs even some I never knew I had. On the way back to camp looking forward to a hot meal I came up with the only plausible conclusion for the lack of deer sightings: the drastic cold snap over night must have moved the deer to lower elevations. Should it be that cold again in the morning Ernie and I would drive with the truck to lower elevations and try our luck there.

We awoke the next morning to even colder temperatures. We had a quick coffee and then drove down to the lowland. The terrain was still rugged and hilly but not as steep and it was a lot warmer. Once again after wishing each other good hunting luck our ways parted. Ernie headed straight for a cut block where he had seen a huge mule deer buck the previous year while I headed for a long ravine that stretched for about a mile along woodlots and open areas. The perfect travel way for big bucks searching for does in heat. The moment I arrived at the ravine I knew I had hit a hot spot. There were several trails merging into a well used one leading down to the bottom of the ravine. As luck would have it nearby was the perfect setup in the form of a huge boulder. Sitting behind it I could watch several trails at once. It didn’t take long before I saw movement in the young pine growth straight ahead of me. Cautiously, a doe came down the trail heading straight for the ravine. I got ready with the rifle in case a buck followed her, but no such luck, she was alone.

After sitting behind the boulder for two hours with no more deer movement it was time to move on. I headed to a semi open area overgrown with young aspen and poplar trees. Mule deer like such places where they browse in the leaf litter. It was back to the slow spot and stalk tactic that has proven successful many times when I hunt with bow and arrow. The idea is to walk a few steps at a time then from the cover of a tree or bush carefully observe the surrounding landscape with binoculars before moving on another two to three steps. It was not long before I saw two does and a spike buck having a breakfast snack under the aspens. I watched the deer for several minutes until they moved off and I felt safe to move on without spooking them. About an hour into the spot and stalk I caught some movement trough the binoculars behind a large deadfall tree. Looking closer and adjusting the focus several times on the binos there was no doubt in my mind that there was a big buck bedded down behind that tree trunk. How big the buck was I could not tell because I had just seen the antler tips slightly moving back and forth as he inhaled and exhaled air.

A careful stalk brought me to the other side of the tree trunk and for the first time I could see the whole deer, what a beautiful buck and he was legal too. That was not the biggest buck I had seen in that area but a good look at his head gear told me that he was, or at least was close to being a B & C deer. There was only one small but vital problem; I had no clear shot at him. This was obviously a very smart buck. Not only did he camouflage himself very well by choosing this deadfall tree but he also obviously took advantage of the fact that his breeding area was overgrown with many small bushes that made it impossible to get a bullet to him without hitting a few branches on the way.

All I could do was sit there and wait for the buck to get up and walk and hopefully give me a clear shot. After two hours of waiting the buck obviously felt very comfortable in his bed and had no inclination whatsoever to move. My posterior on the other hand began to complain from sitting for so long on a less than comfortable stone and my legs started to cramp up because I had not dared to move them for fear the buck would detect me. This was hopeless, I could sit here for another two hours or longer and it was getting late. Perhaps if I sat any longer my legs would refuse to move at all. Thoughts rushed back and forth in my head. One voice said, “Shoot him- the bullet will blow right through these branches.” Another voice, the wise one, said. “Don’t shoot, there is no such thing as a bullet that can blow through brush and still hit the target.”

The wise voice won in the end and I conceded defeat, this time the buck had won the game. Slowly I eased my way back from where I came and headed back to the truck where Ernie was waiting for me. On the way back to the camp we exchanged the days events. Ernie told me that he spotted a spike chasing a doe around in a clearing. As he watched the spike in amusement he saw from the corner of his eyes a massive buck watching Ernie from about 200 yards away. Ernie turned around raising his rifle to his shoulder but did not feel comfortable taking a frontal shot at the deer, so he waited, hoping the deer would turn broadside. Instead, the buck suddenly whirled around and in mule deer fashion bounced away waving to Ernie with the white flag. Ernie didn’t feel comfortable about a Texas heart shot either and so the buck was safe from a ride in the back of our truck.

All in all this was a very good day. We had seen plenty of deer in the lower elevations and each of us had had a big buck in our rifle sights. We decided that we would return to this area the next day. We both were pumped up and talked long into the night, laid out plans and developed strategies for the next day. During supper that night, our other hunting partner that had come along to hunt grouse, (lets just call him ‘Al’) sat in front of a large plate filled with vegetables and a very tasty smelling grilled bird that he hat shot that afternoon. Coincidently, this is the same guy that reminded Ernie and me every morning, like a broken record, “If you kill a deer bring me the heart and liver. I like deer heart and liver.” Yet there he sat, stuffing his face with grouse, never offered us a morsel of it. With the camp food being what it was I wouldn’t have said ‘no’ to the offer of a wing. Only God and my wife know how much I love to eat meat, I would walk miles to find a good steak if I had too. This was just not right.
The next morning I was ready with a very good answer when Al reminded us again that we should bring back the heart and liver if we killed a deer. I replied as politely as I could manage that early in the morning: “My wife likes heart and liver too and I promised her to bring it home.” That was not true- in fact my wife does not like liver at all. But after last night where he stuffed a whole grouse inside his gut without offering us a bite of it, I wanted to let him know that I was not about to give him anything from my deer. I fear that he somehow did not get the hint.

The weather had changed drastically from yesterday’s dry cold. It rained and it was to rain all day long. There was little hope of seeing any deer movement as mule deer tend to hole up during rain or heavy snowfall and sit the weather out. Still you can’t kill something if you’re sitting in camp and making a long face. So off we went again.
As feared the day passed without any deer sightings despite hiking for another good 15 miles. In the afternoon it started raining very hard and we were sure that the deer would seek shelter in the deepest thickets to sit the rain out. In the late evening it got worse as the winds picked up and one hour later we were faced with a severe windstorm. We heard all around us noise like gunshots but it was trees that were breaking in the wind. Quite a frightening experience to see large trees snap like matchsticks all around you. The storm lasted all night and at times our camp shook so badly that we thought it was going to collapse. I am sure that if we had set up the camp in the open rather than in the middle of young and dense pine growth the whole thing would not have survived this onslaught of natures worst.

On Monday morning we awoke to freezing temperatures but decided, with little hope, to use the morning and try one more time to tag a buck. Our plan was to leave for home at around 10 am so this gave us five hours to hunt. I decided to spot and stalk a large wooded draw where I had seen lots of deer sign on a previous scouting trip. As I had feared there was a lot of sign but no deer to be seen. Here is what I believe had happened: during the storm all the deer vacated the area as the storm approached to seek shelter in the lowland.

On my way back to camp I spooked a moose cow right in front of me; she jumped up and crashed through the woods almost giving me a heart attack. That was the only wildlife encounter that morning. Back at the camp I packed all my gear up and loaded it into the truck. The very moment we were getting ready to leave we saw big black clouds moving in fast. In the two minutes it took us to jump in the truck and drive off it started to snow and about five minutes later we found ourselves driving through a blizzard. By the time we reached the highway and civilization it dumped half a foot of snow on the landscape. Four hours later I fell into my wife’s arms tired but happy to be home safe from a long trip.

Conclusion:
Like in previous years I enjoyed this trip even if I did not tag a big buck as planned. It’s good to spend time with friends and be out in nature, it helps me to clear my mind from the everyday life and hectic schedules. I am a whitetail deer hunter at heart and each time I go out in pursuit of mule deer it’s a learning process about this animal which, while similar to the whitetail, has some very different in behaviors.

The hunting season is still open until December 10th and if the weather calms down I might return to our hunting area for a weekend and try my luck to shoot a big buck again. In the meantime I keep watching the weather forecast.

Pictures From The Trip:
















Failing to provide a picture of a hunter holding a set of antlers in his hands. I proudly present you with an image of my new Weatherby Vanguard .270 Win. loaded with Federal Power Shock 130grain. The rifle rests on homemade cross-sticks, a very inexpensive item that will give you almost bench rest accuracy in the field.
















Here I recreated the position in which I observed the buck for a solid two hours in the hope that he would move and give me a clear shot at his vitals. In the background you notice the low growing bushes were the buck was hiding out behind a deadfall tree trunk.



























This is the deer trail I wrote about in the report above leading to the bottom of a huge and very steep ravine. Looks like a deer highway.
















This is the area around our main camp and should give you a fair idea what it looks like. Very rugged country but very beautiful and home to a large variety of wildlife such as mule deer, moose, black bears, cougars, coyotes and a variety of upland birds.


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Monday, November 19, 2007

Gun Safety Innovations Renames Premiere Product

© By Othmar Vohringer

Today Kristine, Marketing Director of Gun Safety Innovations LLC, emailed me the following press release.

Regular visitors to this blog may have read that I mentioned several times a new and very neat product called Gunslinger (read my review of the product here). The Gunslinger has been renamed to GunTriever. The reasons for this are outlined in the following press release. Although the name has changed the product is still the same and using it will not only safe you priced rifle from damage should it fall from your treestand, it also could safe you or others from serious injury or even death.

Gun Safety Innovations, LLC announced today that the name of their primary product has changed. The product, formerly known as the Gunslinger is now called the GunTriever.

“There are a lot of hunting products on the market with some form of Gunslinger in their names,” said Kristine Shreve, Director of Marketing for Gun Safety Innovations. “We wanted a name for our product that was as unique as the product itself. GunTriever fit the bill.”

Gun Safety Innovations will be updating the company web site and blog to reflect the new name. The company will also be creating and selling logowear and other products that will use the new GunTriever name and logo. GSI expects to have those products available on their website, www.git-r-slung.com, in time for Christmas.

Located in beautiful Northern Michigan, Gun Safety Innovations, LLC. designs and manufacturers safety products for hunters. Our products are developed and field tested by hunters to ensure that every hunt is a safe hunt. At Gun Safety Innovations, our goal is to help every hunter “Hunt Smart” and “Think Safety”.


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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Gone Hunting

This is a short notice to let my readers know that as from tomorrow I will not be writing on this blog. I am going on a weeklong wilderness hunt where there are no cell phone reception and Internet. We are miles away from any civilization there will be just nature, wildlife and us.

I hope that by my return I will be able to report hunting success. One thing is for sure, however this hunt may turn out, I will have some stories to write about and pictures to show of a pristine natural setting.

In the meantime you can the long promised styory of how I became a bowhunter below this post. I hope you like it.

Becoming a Bowhunter

© By Othmar Vohringer

Spellbound the young boy sat in his father’s “hunter den” which was decorated with the memories of past hunting successes, and listening to the hunting adventures of a well traveled family friend he called uncle Heinz. The uncle told stories of hunters that pursue wild game on foot in the vast forests of North America and the savannas of Africa with nothing more than bow and arrows.

Fascinated by the magical stories his eyes gazed upon pictures of African tribesmen with crude longbows made from wood that was capable of taking down a big elephant or even a lion. Other pictures the uncle handed to the boy showed hunters in North America sitting and smiling next to a majestic whitetail deer or elk and proudly displaying their longbows with which they had shot the animal. From that moment on the boy had but one dream: to travel to these far off countries and hunt like the men in the stories and pictures of uncle Heinz.

Fast forward from 1959 to 1989.

On a rainy February day in 1989 the airplane touched down at O’Hare airport in Chicago. A driver of my new employer was waiting to drive me to my new home and workplace about seventy miles north of Chicago. It was in the middle of the night and there was not much to see on the way there but that didn’t matter too much to me since I was very tired from the long flight and several times almost fell asleep.

Within the next few days I got acquainted with my new surroundings, saw my very first whitetail deer in the back yard and had an unfortunate encounter with a very smelly animal they called “skunk”.
Over the next few weeks I got to know the rest of the staff and one of them in particular got me curious.
Tim regularly left after work with what looked like a gun case and I assumed he was going to a shooting range. After wondering about it for some time I finally decided to ask him “What are you carrying in this case?”
“A bow” came his reply.
A bow? Did he say a bow? Instantly I had flashbacks to my childhood memories of listening to the stories Uncle Heinz told me about the bow hunters. Needless to say my interest was at its peak when I asked Tim: “What are you doing with the bow? Do you go hunting with it?” Tim answered back: “Not yet but soon. Hunting season is opening in two weeks and so I head to the archery range to get in shooting shape”. All of a sudden my childhood dream of bow hunting suddenly and totally unexpectedly seemed to be within reach.

Not a week later I was the very proud owner of a compound bow that I purchased in a well-known chain store. A dozen arrows and a few other must-have-items to get started and soon I was on my way to becoming a bow hunter.

At this particular time my employer had sent me on an 8 month trip that would take me through America and parts of Canada and it was at this point that my trials and tribulations of becoming a bow hunter began. A complete novice to archery I was just barely able to understand the fundamentals of holding and shooting a bow but eventually I was able to get the arrows to hit somewhere on the portable target. Getting the arrows to group tightly, however, was proving to be a little more difficult.

I was getting pretty frustrated about this and so, while in a small town in Texas I visited an archery store telling the clerk about my dilemma. What do you know? He had the solution for my problem. “What you need” he said, “is better arrows.” That made sense to me and the next day I was the proud owner of a dozen brand new arrows but an hour later my hopes were crushed by a grouping of arrows that was so open that a deer would have to be the size on an elephant to make sure I could hit the vitals.

In yet another archery store in a town in Kansas it would be the same story; again I walked out with a new gadget to ad to my bow that promised to improve my shooting. Alas, the results were the same: wide open groups. This went on for eight months; my bow started to resemble one of those contraptions that you would see in a Rambo movie. The bow was brimming and heavy with add ons, gadgets and gizmos that were designed to make me become a better archer. By now the bow also had considerable weight and got very noisy to shoot but my shooting had not improved one bit.
I was ready to give up and stick with rifles - something I knew plenty about since I grew up with them. I was even ready to admit that the European hunters were right when they said “bows are children’s toys and not for hunting”.

But then how did the men in the stories of uncle Heinz do it? Had they a special talent that I somehow lacked? In any case I was sick and tired of trying to get a hang of archery and spending my hard earned cash on gadgets that didn’t work. I decided that as soon as I got off the road I would visit the archery shop in town and ask them to sell my bow for me. That’s it - I was done with it.

Shortly after coming home to Illinois I visited Midwest Cimmarron Archery fully intending to end my bow hunting dreams. But things turned out quite differently and I am glad it did. I am a great believer in fate. It just so happened that Joe entered the store at the same time I did. Was that really just a coincidence?

Will, the owner of Midwest Cimmarron Archery, after listening patiently to my sad story of disgust with archery simply replied: “I will take your bow but I would like you to talk with Joe before you make up your mind and in the meantime I will have a good look at your bow.” Not one to turn down a reasonable suggestion without giving it some consideration I agreed.

I followed Joe to his truck were he took a traditional longbow from the trunk. Then he proceeded to show off what he could do with it. My jaw hit the ground in sheer amazement as I watched arrow after arrow hit the bull’s eye squarely in the middle. Then Joe proceeded to operate a manual clay launcher and again I watched in astonishment as each clay disc was blown to pieces in midair. What really surprised me about Joe was that his bow was nothing more than a bent wooden stick with a string attached. How did he do that without fiber optic sights, stabilizer, peep sight and all the other gadgets that I was told you needed to become a proficient archer?

I ended up having a long talk with Joe and it came quickly to light that he not only loved archery and bow hunting, he lived it every minute of his life.

In our conversation it started to hit me that, for reasons I can’t even explain, I had foolishly come to believe despite the fact that I should have known better that gadgets really could make me a better archer. I had abandoned common sense and had fallen for the salesman’s pitch. Of course Joe was right with the advice he gave me that in becoming good at something required dedication and a need to keep things simple. How could I have forgot this important lesson that has served me so well all my life?

Joe and I went back into the store after the shooting demonstration where Will was waiting for us. Will gave my bow a good expert look and found that my el-cheapo super-store bow had a bent riser which explained why I could not get it to shoot right no matter how hard I had tried. In short, it was a piece of garbage. Will offered to set up a brand new bow and a dozen arrows for me for which I would not have to pay. “Take it home and try it out and if you’re not happy with it bring it back, no questions asked. If you like it you pay for it and it’s yours to keep.” What an offer that was and what great customer service.

At home I took the new bow to my backyard range and after the first arrow hit the target right in the middle my confidence climbed high and when the second arrow stuck less than an inch next to the first I was ecstatic. That evening I was hooked on archery and bow hunting and the next day I went back to Midwest Cimmarron Archery and wrote a cheque out.

Thanks to Joe and Will I am a dedicated bow hunter today and in honor of Joe in particular, for the time he generously took to show me what archery was truly all about, who shockingly and sadly passed away only a few days after our one and only meeting, I named that new bow “Joe”.
I still own that bow, a Jennings Buckmaster, and I still use it every hunting season in the woods and fields in the pursuit of deer and other critters.

By today’s standards “Joe” is an old bow but it is still the perfect hunting bow. It has a simple three pin sight in combination with a peep sight and the only additional gadgets you will find on that bow is a detachable Kwikee Kwiver. Another product that I found helpful in making the bow quieter is a set ofLimb-Savers mounted on each bow limb and string silencers. That’s all there is to it; plain and simple. I also still use aluminum arrows that are a bit on the heavy side tipped with cut-on-impact Magnus 125 grain 4 blade broadheads.

My advice to people who are taking up archery or bow hunting for the first time would be to keep it simple so that you can shoot more and worry less.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Anti-Hunting Message in the School

One expects to find homework and text books in a child’s book bag or backpack. But shoved in with the essay questions and times tables tests, parents must keep an eye out for anti-hunting propaganda.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest anti-hunting group, distributes KIND News to at least 35,000 classrooms each month. The November edition encourages readers, which total more than a million children in grades K-6, to become activists and promote federal legislation that will ban polar bear hunting.

“Through this classroom publication and other resources, animal rightists are trying to convince our children to take up the sword for the anti-hunting movement,” said Bud Pidgeon, USSA president. “It’s entry-level activism. The HSUS directs children to talk about animal rights issues being voted on locally and nationally, contact lawmakers to affect change, and ‘live peacefully’ with and not ‘disturb’ wildlife.”

The HSUS has cleverly disguised its anti-hunting agenda and slipped it into classrooms. The little newspapers appear benign, but the content is far from it.
“Teachers, parents and adults must keep track of the animal rights propaganda that is making its way into our schools as ‘humane education,’” said Pidgeon. “If your child brings home a newsletter or worksheet provided by an anti-hunting group, contact your child’s teacher and principal.”

Source: U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance

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