Friday, December 19, 2014

New Rules

Been out a couple times between deer season and Jan1 full winter opener.  This former trout fishing dead period was fully addressed by MN DNR and stakeholders such that one can now fish three of our SE MN state parks year-round (C&R only though).  I applaud the process and the decisions that came of it.  At the heart of the benefit is provision of another reason to walk streams in November and December.  I've heard reports of a lot of anglers out and about thus far on weekends.  In this case I was fortunate to have some time during the week, thus ran into no one with any manner of fishing gear; just a couple people out walking dogs and taking photos along the main trails.  Once the trails were behind me, no more persons.  One marked failure was that I did not pay special attention to likely locations for redds (except for where I put my feet, which is a habit for winter trout fishing: pay attention to where your boots meet the riffles).  I believe this is because I was pretty excited to be out, and most of the fish were stacked up in the slow/deep tails of pools (so didn't look at riffles much).  Will take some more focus regarding this matter in next outing.
Suppose I started around 10:30 AM and walked out around 3:30 PM.  It was cold and windy.  At one point my left hand was pretty numb; prompted me to walk up into the floodplain, set my gear down and warm up under some good cover.  Maybe 10 minutes and full bloodflow restored.  I'd note here that the past few years I've found a good compromise between gloves and not-gloves: those mufflers used by NFL QBs and hunters alike.  I wear one in winter.  Barely notice it (i.e. not that encumbering) except when I need it.  A person can often high-stick with one hand, keeping other warm.  Walking streamside both hands can be warm while rod tucked under arm.  Nice piece of gear; basic approach.  Probably $15 anywhere you look.
Streamers first (any streamer; I've made a point of not tying [what - are you out of flies I ask myself and the answer is always no you are not out flies you have so many hooks with materials tied just pick one and make it work like a bug or a minnow would work through the water]; rather trying to put what I have to use; clean out those boxes; becoming more and more apparent though that I need some drab typical sized streamers) - just casting up and across trying to move fish out of slower water.  Letting streamer sink to bottom and then retrieve.  This produced some good fish; no really big ones.  Had an urge to nymph, so did that for a while.  Then back and forth: nymph, streamer, etc.  Saw a couple great white-mouth takes on the streamer follows.  I think approx 12-15 fish, of which four were RBT.  No big fish but no dinks.  In a good show of irony every fish was perfect for the frying pan and yet every fish swam away without any sort of concavity in or around its skull.

Easy walking.

Stocker RBT.

BNT vortex.

Big blue/white clouser.

Thanks again for the new regs; good deal all around.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Old Bike Wheel

Last couple deer I had put on top of the Subaru and just thrown a rope over the rafter; hoisted as high as I could and nailed the rope; then drive car out from under.  Blood running down side window, etc.  Subaru is gone.  Prompted me to get fancy as depicted below.

Parts: old bike wheel taken after big kids wrecked little bike, hooks from a bungee, old chains from former canoe hanger system, rope, two lag bolts for cleat in work bench. 

Only assistance needed is son hooking knotted tag-end in the cleat.

Nothing is nailed or screwed into the woodwork; all put away after use.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Deer Hunting 2014

It's unlike fishing in that one generally can't "go get" the quarry.  Assemble all observations and information; knowledge of the landscape; data gained via various means.  Then set up to allow early and quiet entry and ascent of a tree.  Be quiet and watch carefully.  I appreciate this very much.  There is a good plus/minus discussion to it.  Deer may not come within your sphere of vision.  However, everything can change in the course of one second: from failure to memorable success and maybe even legend with the appearance of one creature.  So this has the potential to frustrate (e.g. 23 hours in a stand seeing no mammals that are not squirrels) but also provides the reason to keep on.  I listened to a guy tell a story once that was approximately this: The other day I was five seconds from the biggest deer of my life.  I was leaning against a fence post kind of hidden for maybe half an hour watching a trail.  I decided to call it quits and go home.  As I stepped forward my view increased such that I could see a little further beyond a rise and there I saw the buck that I'd been tracking and watching.  But he saw me too, because I moved.  If I'd waited another few seconds he would have walked right to me.  He proceeded to run away.  Never saw him again.
Overall I know very little about deer hunting.  A person can't study every facet of outdoor adventure with intensity; there is only so much energy and time afforded.  I met with failure for many years, trying to hunt public lands at ground level.  Quite a few years with no shots fired.  I believe that southeast MN is approximately 97% private ownership.  Lately I've been fortunate be part of a very small group that plans a private land hunt.  I've learned a lot and enjoyed the study.  Also, the act of leveling a firearm at a large mammal and firing it, while often reduced in discussion to a word or two (and sometimes spoken with incredulity at the barbarism [do try to avoid those crowds though]), is no small thing.  Lasting impacts; lessons; thoughts.  We did shoot a lot as kids - rabbits, armadillos, squirrels, grouse.  But the handful of times I've fired guns at large animals are imprinted.
The quick summary is that according to the deer I saw last year, I moved my stand about fifty yards to afford better view lines.  I was very pleased with the oak tree and what it offered up.  I could see the main ravine (up which last year's shot buck had walked) but I also gained firing range to the tributary ravine (several deer had turned off short of me last year, and walked up this way).  I could still see up to the ridge top too, which is a true highway and showed a number of emphatic rubs on pretty big trees.  So I sat this stand for twelve hours on day one and eleven hours on day two of the first firearms season in SE MN.  No deer observed at all.  Despite intense wanting of a deer and careful looking, be sure.  Our party broke up Sunday night, due to the storm that did cover all in ice.  I was able to return Tuesday night, and head out again Wednesday; world now covered in snow.  This alone was fascinating: all the deer sign further amplified and evident to even hacks like me.  It was cold too: 13 F when I climbed into the stand at 6:12 AM.  After 3.5 hours I got down because (1) I wanted to walk around, (2) I'd reached 26.5 hours in one stand without seeing a deer.  I struggled with the one more second clause but in the end figured I'd better change up.  The third man of our three-man party was not present on this day, so I started toward his stand.  He had seen two truly giant bucks on opening weekend (neither of which were shot).  En route on the ridge top I saw a number of trails in the snow coming from the other sidehill, over the top, and then down past his stand.  I disallowed overanalysis and just figured that'd be a good reason to get up in that tree.  After ~25-30 minutes I both saw and heard a deer coming down through the conifers (a plantation up near the top) toward me.  Same as last year, I immediately got the gun up.  Not the same as last year (when I thought for a long time that the buck I was watching was illegal), I started to shake a bit because my thoughts went to giant buck (given that a couple had been sighted here).  After maybe 30 seconds I could see it was not a giant and I got my normal breathing back, give or take a bit.  I strained to look closely due to the antler point restrictions and in the course of doing so I confirmed that one antler was missing.  But the other clearly had four points.  Interesting to note that even while one can look, count, repeat, etc. one still must draw a line at which you simply trust your senses.  Your senses can betray you; this is understood.  But I literally had to say just count the tines and then stop counting the tines and accept the count.  Then I decided I would shoot this deer.  It was not broadside but more or less facing me at maybe 25-30 yards.  If I'd required movement at this time, it would have made me and run.  But gun was already up.  Basically only my eyes were moving.  He wouldn't turn much so when he did at all, quartering away, I pulled up a mental diagram of the angles one must consider to get a projectile into the vitals cavity.  It required a shot through the front leg or maybe just behind it.  Pulled the trigger and the deer bucked up in shock, ran horribly awkwardly maybe 40 yards and piled up in the head of a ravine.  That was it; from zero to success in the course of a few seconds, but I suppose a few seconds buttressed on the hours leading up to them.  I'd say it was a challenging, fun, interesting, beautiful hunt; also further forged some bonds with people.  Filled our family stock with good meat.  I'm very thankful for the guidance that friends and family offer up; especially for the welcome I get to hunt this remarkable land.
View from second stand, looking downslope.  Many oaks.

Looking upslope toward the pines.  The deer was shot at the center of the photo.

It's impactful to see the black hole these slugs can punch.  After he crashed into the ravine head, I took out a clock and watched his one visible leg (sticking up at odd angle) for twelve minutes.  It did not twitch.  I got down at that point and walked over to this image.   

It was a long route to get the deer out of the woods, but it was downhill.  Plus I was very happy so no logistics or difficulty really mattered much at that point.

I came back on the last day of firearm season A and went out with the landowner, trying to fill third of three tags.  Walking out I took some alternate routes along the ridge top.  It is well known that many deer take refuge in the cedars along the steep slope (top of which seen here).  Too rugged for people to manage it.  The trails in and out are obvious, as is the "highway tunnel" through the sumac, which I am walking here.

Where one river meets the Big River.

Good country.