Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Icing on the Cake

After leaving the north MO property Friday afternoon I made it back to KC in time to hunt the archery only property in north KC. I wasn't anticipating a whole lot of action with high winds and temps pushing 70, but a cold front was going to hit over night and I wanted to have my decoy in there and ready for the morning sit. Right before dark a little 8 point worked in from the east and checked out "Ralphy", he decided it would be best not to scrap with a buck of Ralphy's stature.

Saturday morning I settled back in the Quarry set and "Ralphy" was rocking it about 13yards over my right shoulder. It had cooled down considerably from the night before, but there was still a pretty good south wind cracking. Right after legal shooting light a young 8 point came in and skirted "Ralphy" to the north. The buck was very curious, but just wouldn't commit to coming in and checking things out completely. About an hour later a nice 6 point worked in from the west and gave "Ralphy" as serious once over, he worked inside 25yrds before going on his way. Just after 8am I picked up movement coming out of a draw to the southwest of the set. I didn't need the binos to tell it was a decent buck. I flipped the can call a couple times, but the wind was covering the noise up, so I pulled out the VECtor grunt call. I let out two loud grunts and the buck briefly stopped and looked before continuing to walk away. I let out three more loud and aggressive grunts and in mid stride the buck made a 180 degree turn and started coming right to the tree.

At about 30 yards you could tell the buck finally noticed "Ralphy" and his entire attitude changed instantly. He pinned his ears back, puffed up all his fur, and started the sideways...I'm about to kick your ass gait towards the decoy. The buck actually cut upwind of "Ralphy" and literally walked directly under my set and around the tree. He was totally focused on the decoy at this point, so I swung around the tree and came to full draw without him even knowing I was there. The buck postured all the way in and when he was about 3yards from "Ralphy" I touched off the arrow. Instantly blood poured out of both sides of the buck and he bounded about 20yards past the stand. He had no idea what just happened and he turned to look back at "Ralphy" one last was the last thing he saw because he tipped over right there, with Ralphy giving him the stink-eye!

I was pretty rattled after the shot...I kept my cool the entire time he worked in, but after I smoked him the adrenaline took over. I literally couldn't stop my legs from shaking, so I just sat down and relaxed for about a half hour and took in the experience. It's my first archery buck during the MO firearms season and it was icing on the cake for our week! I'm sold on decoying deer, what a blast!!

Getting Down to Business...Minny-MO Style

Scott made his way down to Missouri for our annual week for hunting the north MO property during the firearms season. I managed to get one last archery hunt in Friday evening before the firearms opener and had my first encounter using "Ralphy" the decoy. The buck that came into the decoy was a three year old six point that would have got an arrow if he had brow tines.

Saturday morning came early and the weather conditions were far from ideal with temps in the upper 40s and expected to hit 65 by mid-day and strong southwest winds; little did we know this was going to be a common theme for the week! We saw a few deer moving around in the morning but held off on cutting does right out of the gates. Saturday evening Scott headed into a new set I hung this spring that hadn't been sat in all year and I slid into the Illinois set. Right before 5pm I spotted a shooter buck cutting up a draw to the northeast, but he was about 200yrds out and going away. Shortly after he disappeared I heard Scott crack off the first round of the week and promptly received a "doe meat" text from him. He had two does and a mini come into the south meadow pond and after waiting on antlers for several minutes he put a mature nanny down in her tracks.

Sunday morning was a repeat of Saturday with a few deer spotted but nothing to write home about and the weather was even warmer and the wind was still cracking out of the southwest. After the morning sit we slid into the east side of the main sanctuary area and hung the "Graveyard" set. Sunday evening Scott headed down to the Highrise stand and took up post in the Bedroom set. Around 4:30pm a blue F-150 came rolling up the road and parked about 80yrds in front of my. Shortly after the engine shut off I saw a rifle barrel slide out the driver side window. I immediately got down and went to confront the trespasser. It was an elderly neighbor that knew he wasn't supposed to be hunting there and I kindly asked him to get off the farm. I was pretty PO'd when I climbed back into the stand, but I quickly forgot about it when I heard Scott's .06 bark at 5:15pm...and another nanny was put to sleep.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty slow movement wise. We were seeing deer just nothing big and very little rut activity was taking place during daylight hours. We did meet up with several of the boys from Missouri for dinner and drinks, which is always a good time! We had been waiting for Wednesday all week because there was a cold front forecasted to move through and we were hoping it would get the deer up and moving and we weren't disappointed.

Wednesday's morning temps where in the mid-30s with a steady north wind. I didn't even need to ask Scott which set he was hunting, because The Beach set had been sitting all week; waiting for a north wind. I decided to slip into the new Graveyard set and see what was shaking. Just before 7am I spotted three deer about 150yrds north of me and headed my way. I watched them through the binos as they continued their approach, but there was no bone to be seen just a couple of slickheads and a button. They ended up coming all the way down the fence line and when the lead doe crested the ridge top I was on she was inside 15yrds and directly downwind. I was hoping she'd just slip by but when I watched her stop and take in a deep inhale the safety was clicked off. She looked right up at me and stomped twice...I didn't wait for the third one. A perfect neck shot put her straight down, but now the second doe was locked on to me. She was stomping and swinging her head trying to figure me out and I wasn't about the let her blow out of there, so she got a case of lead poisoning also.

Scott took this picture while walking into the Graveyard to help me get the nannies sorted out

Doe #1

Doe #2

I had several more deer work through the area including a shooter buck, but he'd broke both his brow tines off so he got a free pass..lucky SOB!!! Around 8:30am I heard Scott fire off three shots in quick fashion, which isn't normal for him. Before I could get a text fired off to him to see what was going on I received "9 point down...I"m happy as hell" from him. His buck worked into from the west and was trotting through the Beach and wouldn't stop. Scott's first shot hit him a touch low, his second shot spine busted him, and the third put him down for the count. It was Scott's second biggest buck in MO and well deserved after all the hours we'd been putting in on stand.

Just after 9am I received another text from Scott saying "little doe coming". I heard the report of his .06 shortly after that and knew he'd put her down. I was pretty taken back when his next text came in and all it said was "MONSTER". Right after he shot the doe another one popped out across the farm road. He hit his can call a couple times and a giant 150" class freak came running down a side hill and right into Scott's lap. It was the biggest buck he's had an encounter with and he just had to sit and watch, since he'd filled his buck tag about thirty minutes earlier.

This is the buck Scott had in front of him...

That evening Scott headed over to the northwest pond to do some scouting for me and I hunted the North Ladder set hoping the freak from earlier was still around. Beside the four point I had cruise through around 1:30pm the only thing we saw was a spectacular MO sunset!

View from the North Ladder Set

Sunset on the Northwest Pond

Thursday morning was pretty slow deer wise, so we butchered up all the deer we had hanging and got them on ice. We saw a few deer that evening, but I was still looking for a mature shooter.

Scott was heading back to Minnesota Friday morning and I headed back to the farm looking for bucky. I sat in The Beach set and had a lot of action early on. Four does milled around the set for about twenty minutes before heading into the bedroom. A couple small bucks wandered by throughout the morning, but still no shooters.

The forecast was calling for temperatures in the upper 60s by noon and sustained 30mph winds out of the south...well I can tell you the winds hit around 10am and the temps followed soon after. With the lack of daylight movement we'd been seeing I cashed in my chips and headed back to KC around 1pm. I couldn't get the giant out of my head that I had an encounter with the Wednesday before opener and I was going to give that property another crack.

All in all it was another awesome week of hunting and hanging out with Scott. We put a lot of meat in the freezer and Scott killed another dandy MO buck. I'm already looking forward to next year...FOR SURE!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two Timer!

Heading into the second weekend of MO's firearms season I was up in the air on where to hunt. While talking to my cousin who owns about 1000 acres in southwest MO, he basically said the farm was empty for the upcoming weekend except for one other hunter. That pretty much made up my mind on where I'd be hunting.

I arrived at the farm around 5:15am and briefly talked with Jim about which stands I could hunt. He gave me the green light to hunt Blind 1, which is usually off limits because of the blinds owner. Right off the bat I had deer moving through the area as a doe and mini were headed right at the blind. The action remained steady all morning as smaller bucks chased does and minis all around the timber. Around 8:30am a spotted a big shooter to the north but couldn't manage to get a shot off.

After grabbing a quick lunch I headed back into Blind 1 hoping that the evening action would be as good as the morning's. With the warm temp and high winds I decided to take a little nap, so I'd be ready for the late evening action. I woke up around 2:50pm and immediately spotted a doe to the east of me. I watched her for about five minutes and no other deer showed I so figured it would be a good opportunity to fill another antlerless tag. I settled in and let the .06 do it's thing and she dropped in her tracks. I got down so I could get her gutted and pulled into the shade and while looking for a creek crossing I spotted a big set of antlers. It was a big mid-130s nine point that had been shot by an archery hunter during the 2010 season and obviously not recovered. I saw eleven more does that night, but no bone in pursuit of them.
Sunday morning could not have been more of a drastic change from Saturday. It was 24 degrees out with winds out of the northeast and a light drizzle. I headed back into Blind 1 again because of all the doe sightings. I had deer moving through all morning again but still no real shooters. Around 8:15am I spotted two does way up north and right behind them was a giant 150-160" eleven pointer. I heard a shot about fifteen minutes later to the northeast and just hope the poachers across the fence didn't kill him.

Around 9am I caught some more movement to the north and spotted a decent buck working his way through the thick stuff. I was starting to panic because there is a big tree top down that obscures a lot of my field of vision and shooting windows and the buck was headed right towards it. The buck was broadside at about 180yards and my only shot was to stand on my tip toes and try and free hand a shot...I can assure you shot #1 didn't connect and I felt my heart sink. The buck briefly disappeared but he popped back out about 35yards farther away. I let shot #2 rip from my tip toes again and thought I may have hit him, so immediately got down and headed up there. As I approached the area he was standing when I shot I saw the buck and doe staring right at me just before they bolted. I took off running to the north and caught them crossing an opening on the property line. I cut shot #3 loose and nothing again...shot #4 same results, NOTHING!!! I realized I only had one bullet left so I settled in and let shot #5 go.....and down he went! I was pretty wound up after all the commotion and elated that I put a decent buck down. This was by far the best hunt I've had on the farm the the biggest buck I've taken off it. It was a great close to my 2011 season....I'm out of contract days!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

MO Firearms 2011 Season Kickoff

Leading up to the Missouri 2011 firearms opener I was pretty excited to get to hunt with Pete and Scott up at the Macon property. That was up until the weekend prior when I get the call from Pete saying that the landowner had family coming in from Texas to hunt and he was concerned about the number of hunters for the first weekend. After scratching my head to figure out where to go I decided to let Pete and Scott hunt Macon and I would head over to the Marshall farm I have permission for; which turned out to be a mess in it's own right. The landowner decided to bulldoze several tree lines the week before and the pushed deer onto the neighboring farms, but regardless I was going to roll the dice and see what happens.

Opening morning dawned and I was settled in a ladder stand on the northwest corner of the property. I was sitting there in the morning darkness and just before legal shooting time I see movement to the northwest of my set. My excitement quickly disappeared when I realized it was the neighbor and he decided to set up less than a 100 yards from me on his side of the fence. At this point I was pretty dang upset but there is nothing I could do. Looks like when I rolled the dice I ended up rolling snake eyes because I got skunked and didn't see a deer. And after the neighbor decided to yell out and say "the deer hunting sucks this morning" I had enough and I left to grab lunch and figure out where to hunt for the remainder of the weekend.

After getting back to my friend's farm, I told him the issue he graciously gave me the green light to hunt his farm which I was thankful for. After lunch I was back up in a tree for the afternoon sit. Normally I would be excited to hunt, but with the high winds and warm temps I knew any deer movement would be later in the afternoon. As I was sitting there around 4:15pm I looked over my shoulder and I was surprised to see two deer standing there. One at 12 yards and the other at 35 yards. After glassing for a few minutes I could tell the closer deer was a button buck and the other one I thought for sure was a doe, so I decided to fill an antlerless tag. I settled the .06 and watched the little guy drop in his tracks. That was the only action I had for the rest of the sit, but I was elated I had a deer down!

Sunday morning I found myself back in the same set as the evening before. As the morning progressed I ended up having fourteen turkeys roosted close by and that gave me a good show for about an hour, but that was my excitement for the morning and no deer were spotted.

As the high winds and warm temps set in for the day I decided to cut out and head home to see the family. I will be back at it next weekend with hopefully get a crack at some bone. Good luck to Pete and Scott!! Hopefully they can lay the smack down on a MO giant or two. I know at the very least the slickheads are in trouble.

Monday, November 7, 2011

2011 MN Firearms Opener

The MN Rifle Opener kicked off with clear skies, winds from east/southeast at 10-15 mph, and temps in the mid 30's. I started the season perched in my normal stand location and was all settled in about 20 minutes before shooting time. I was a little concerned what the weekend might bring because the wind was suppose to increase throughout the day and blow 25-35mph by afternoon.

The morning started very slowly in my neck of the woods. The squirrels even decided to sleep in. Finally around 8:20am I spotted a figure moving through some thick brush to my south. I studied the movement for a minute as it headed towards a small opening. That is when I saw a solid rack and a huge tank of a body. The deer was moving from east to west which was going to put him into some thick brush and not allow any type of shot. I grabbed “the can” and gave the buck one bleat. He stopped in his tracks and whipped his head in my direction. After a brief minute the buck put his head down again and I gave him a another bleat. The second call was to much for him to resist, he was hooked and started walking directly at me on a bee-line.

I picked out an opening in the timber the buck was working his way towards. I settled the cross hairs of the scope in the opening and waited. Seconds later the big fella stepped into the opening at a quartering to angle about 40 yards from my stand. I settled on the center of his shoulder bone and let the .06 bark. The big fella immediately face planted, but somehow managed to pull himself together enough to get back on his feet and make a death run towards my food plot. I watched as buck labored towards the plot opening, he was coughing up blood every step of the way. Once the buck got into the food plot I let him hold one more round for good measure. The second shot stopped him cold in his tracks. The buck stood up on his back legs, coughed up what looked like a gallon worth of blood and dropped to the ground stone dead. This was easily the biggest deer I had ever killed up in Northern MN.

The rest of the weekend was uneventful for me and the rest of the party after 10 AM on Saturday. Brian had killed a big doe, Wayne shot “ANOTHER” fork buck and his son Kevin killed a very nice 8 point buck all by 10 AM. Then the wind picked up and the deer movement completely shutdown.

On my way home Sunday afternoon I did scratch out a grouse and a pheasant on my way out of the woods. Pete got to enjoy the pheasant shoot live via phone for some added enjoyment. Nice little cherry on top of my weekend. Next weekend is Missouri's rifle opener. Pete and I will be getting after it for 9 days in Macon County!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ducking Rockies Style

This past weekend I was able to sneak away for two days of duck hunting in N.E. Colorado near Hillrose. The weather conditions were lining up for a perfect hunt on Saturday. As I was packing the rig for the hunt at 3:30am, I was surprised to see a 250lbs black bear in my neighbors yard. It was either a great sign or extremely ominous. Picture is tough to see, but trust me, it was there (to the left of light).

I had two of my students from our hunting club along and we arrived at the DOW state land at 5:45am. The temperature was 29 degrees with a SE wind, not ideal for our location. I got us signed into to our Youth Mentor pond, got our gear together and we started the fifteen minute hike back to our pond. After arriving at the pond I had Jaron and Eddie get some cover together while I set out our spread of 40 floaters and 2 Mojos. After we had the decoys set and the sun started to rise, hundreds of mallards filled the air around us.

As usual the boys were set up in the preferred shooting holes. I went over the rules for the hunt and got the boys settled in. Immediately at shooting time we had birds working the spread. The first flock settled into the wind and I called the shot. Jaron and Eddie each took three shots and one drake dropped, as the birds tried to execute their exit I was able to drop a drake gaddy. This pattern repeated itself with regularity as the morning went on. The next bird to meet it's maker was a bluewing teal that ran the gauntlet of three other ponds before banking right in front of Jaron, and with two shots he had his first ever duck in the bag. The wind eventually shifted to the East we were forced to adjust the spread and our blind locations.

Because of the land being closed for deer season the weekend before there were ducks constantly working our pond, which made the hunt perfect for the boys who had never been on a duck hunt before. They were throwing a lot of steel into the sky and birds continued to pile up. By 8:30am we had 2 drake mallards, 2 hen mallards, 1 bwt, 1 gady, and 1 shoveler. I was telling the the boys that the late morning flight should be pretty good based on the early action we'd had. I had no idea how right I would be....

Right around 9:30am flocks of 15-30 ducks started to enter the property and began working the spread. The first flock to settle over the decoys left with three fewer ducks in the group, 1 drake, 1 wigeon, and 1 hen pintail down. Unfortunately Yogi was freezing cold at this point, so I was left to do the dirty work all with a sizable hole in the my waders. Each time I made it back to the blind I'd immediately get on the RNT because more birds were already working. By 10:15am we had 14 birds down, which included 1 hen lost to the tall grass on the other side of the pond. Before we even knew what happened there were three hundred or so birds, in five different flocks circling the decoys. They all wanted into our hole so I decided to let the boys enjoy the show and we held off on shooting for a bit. As singles and doubles began splashing down into our spread I finally called the shot, as the boy's trigger fingers were getting antsy. I dropped two drakes and each of the boys dropped their last birds of the day; a drake and hen.

In total we ended with 7 drake mallies, 6 hens (1 lost), 1 bwt, 1 shoveler, 1 gadwall, 1 wigeon, and 1 pintail. It was one of my best days in CO and surely a day the boys will not forget for a very long time!

Sunday I had to hunt solo on the pond north of Saturday's actions after two guys slept through their alarms and missed the wake up call. I had a completely different situation on my hands. I set up thirty floaters and two mojos. Since I was by myself I set up in the middle of the pond and set up my ambush site in some waist high grass, and it proved to be a great decision. There was not much of a early morning flight to speak of. I scratched out a drake, a shoveler, and a bwt by 7:40am. At that point any kind of flight shut down and the sky was void of ducks.For the remainder of the day only two more ducks flew into my decoys but neither of them left. I ended the day with five birds on seven shots. It was a great first weekend for me and I will be back the second weekend of November to get after them again.