Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chocolate Is A Girl's Best Friend.

"Wow some day I want to do that!"

"Really dear? Are you going to hunt it too?"

"No but you can in the fall. But I get to come and handle the dog myself."

When you're married to a professional dog trainer, watching a Retriever Trial and like to hunt, that discussion has the potential to be virtually orgasmic.

Let me back up and set the scene. It's the spring of 2010 and I've just finished my turkey hunting course at the Toronto Sportsman's Show. Alissa trains service dogs for a living and they have a booth set up over where all the dogs are hanging out. What we're doing when she utters these word is watching the Golden Whistle Retriever Trials. It was part of several days of various dog competitions and I can tell you I was glad she said it during the trial and not while we were watching those nutty agility people or the long jump into the pool. Not that I mind the nutty agility dog stuff I just don't want a dog who would rather pole bend around my decoys instead of a straight line retrieve.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I'm sitting looking at a puppy add. Two hours of puppy testing on  9 puppies and a selection was made, JJ came home..

Does he look motivated or what? I can see the feathers sticking out of his mouth already.

You'll notice how he's preparing himself for the rigors of the duck marsh in the frigid conditions of late December. I'm sure I'll be able to find some cammo blankies for him somewhere...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

May we never forget what they did for us!

In Flanders Fields Poem

By:  Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae


In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I’m doing this for WHAT reason??

    If I had to choose one single word to describe this year's deer season so far it would be maddening. Truthfully I could come up with some more colourfull words to describe it but I'm afraid of melting the screen. I had high hopes for it. Got some new Ninja deer hunting stuff over the spring and summer, read some books, pestered some experienced hunters with countless questions and practiced, practiced, practiced.

    Opening day started with the usual heady anticipation we all feel. I hung suspended from my tree saddle waiting patiently for my spot to produce results. It was a nice little funnel that divided a hay field from a corn field. I could see deer on the far side of the hay field all morning but it wasn't until the evening that I finally saw something come of my efforts. In the last moments of the shootable light I had deer everywhere around me. Sadly I couldn't reach my range finder and made my best estimate based on an earlier reading I had taken of some weeds. This was the beginning of what has truly been an educational year. The first lesson was that things look different without light. I didn't just miss. I MISSED!!!! I suppose that I could have claimed some trophy earth worms but they horrible eating and even harder to mount on the wall.

    That spot, predictably, didn't produce again but I could still see the deer moving in and out of the hay field farther along. After a particularly quiet morning hunt I slipped over to where I saw them entering and exiting the forest and chose a likely tree. A quick pruning with a hand saw to try and make some shooting lanes and I was set to move in the next morning.

    I planned to be in the tree at least 2 hours before legal shooting I figured that left me time to put some steps in, get settled and allow the bush to settle down from my movements. I hoped that it would be early enough that the deer would still be in the corn and allow me to slip across the hay field without being noticed. I'm sure I was un-noticed by some deer somewhere but the three that bolted as walked past them along the forest edge certainly knew I was there. II was very frustrated and convinced I had ruined my chances but I soldiered on. Fifteen minutes before first light my perseverance was rewarded with a buck wandering around under my stand. He strolled out into the field and wandered back in as the clock clicked into the land of legal.

    Naturally he didn't make it easy. He wandered deeper into the forest and looked like he was wandering off. I gave a little grunt and a gentle rattle on my rattle bag. I was trying to sound like two young bucks fiddling with each other before the rut as opposed to a full blown battle. I don't know if I accomplished the sound I was looking for but the buck turned and started to circle back towards me. I slowly swung around the tree a bit to improve my position in relation to this new approach he was using. He came in fits and starts and just as I was certain he was going to step out from behind the tree I came to full draw.

    Clearly this day wasn't going to work at all like I had envisioned. He only stuck his nose out from behind the tree and all the important bits I needed for the shot were still protected. Let me tell you that even with a 4 pound bow and the let off on a 60 pound draw it gets a little uncomfortable very very quickly. I didn't dare move now though. He would see it and was only 15 yards away. As my arm started to shake like the San Francisco Earth quake I started to panic a little. Trophyline to the rescue. I dropped my arm slightly and used the straps of the tree saddle to brace my right wrist. It wasn't a perfect solution but it sure helped. A few moments later he stepped from behind the tree and I raised my fully drawn bow for the shot.

    I didn't actually see it. I certainly heard it. The disheartening sound of carbon on tree branch. I'm still not sure which one I hit. I couldn't see it in the murky light of early morning. It didn't take a lot of imagination on my part to realize that this shot wasn't going to be anything like last year's shot. There would be no 70 yard dash to collapse dead a few moments later. My heart fell into my shoes as the buck departed deeper into the bush. Out came the blackberry and my game of digital poker became the thing I tried to distract myself with while I waited.

The long and the short of this story is that I never saw the buck again. 4 hours later and two farms away I couldn't find any more trail to follow. I was upset on many levels. Upset that I was two farms away. Upset that it wasn't within yards of where we started with the result a nice quick end. Upset at the waste of it all. In the end I was forced to give up my search without success. I can tell you that the area around that tree looks almost like it's been hit by agent orange. My sage and experienced friends commiserated with me and tried to reassure me by mentioning that, while unfortunate, sometimes happens to the best of them.

    Not completely daunted I was back in that tree a week later. This story is much shorter. The deer busted me 2 hours early as per the last time. This time a young buck walked the edge of the field and presented me with a lovely broadside shot at 15 yards. Maybe it was the last shot, maybe bad luck. I was a little high and a little forward. I heard the smack of steel on bone as the broadhead hit his shoulder blade. I could see my shaft on the ground where he used to be standing. I could see the fact that it was on my side of him and not the other side. I could see the lack of a broadhead attached. I think it was an understatement to say that I was an unhappy boy. I might not know a lot about physics but I know that energy can only be spent once. If it's being spent breaking steel then it isn't being spent going through bone to be where it needs to be.

    So that's essentially the sum total of my deer season to date. Disheartening to say the least. I have friends who keep encouraging me. I must have sounded like I was going to give up. I considered it briefly. Instead I climbed up onto the roof of a large truck in my driveway and practiced some more. Shotgun season started and forced me to take a break. I chased some geese and ducks a bit and decompressed. I reflected on why I chose the path I did and contemplated the depth and breadth of the responsibility I took on when I committed to being the one responsible for killing his own meat. It was a sad experience but in the end…I'll be in the tree come Friday.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Today’s Goose Hunting Episode Is Brought To You By The Letter F…For Failure

For a week now I've been watching hundreds of Canada Geese pile into the corn fields across the road from my house. Hundreds and hundreds of yummy looking geese. Off to the post office I headed to pick up my migratory game bird license because I decided I needed a bit of a change. It was time to chase some geese.

I had to overcome some problems. The first one was what to use to shoot them. What do you do when your old shotgun can't shoot steel and other non-toxic shot is brutally expensive or non-existent? You make Flu Flu's of course.


I was somewhat prepared for this. I had a supply of feathers in my garage aka Ward's man cave and junk room. It was all set. I spent the afternoon making flu flu's. I made three. I figured if things worked out optimally that would be two flu flu's more than I needed. Needless to say I went into this with a reasonable expectation of my chances of success.

I had it all figured out. Write my 3.5 hour exam starting at noon, race home and head for the field to intercept the waves of geese just dying to land in reach of my brilliantly laid out decoys and my super fantastic calling skills. Oddly it didn't work out quite like that. I woke in the morning and watched the early birds heading in, only to hear the sounds of someone shooting at MY geese.

Ok I admit this wasn't the best thought out plan I've had. I read up quickly and on how to set decoys in fields for geese and where to put your layout blind. I didn't have a corn coloured layout blind. I had a forest flavoured sit out blind. I stuffed some corn stalks in it but the gale force winds seemed to rip them out almost as fast. The standard J pattern field decoy placement seemed to be a problem with my 4 sad old floating decoys I managed to scrounge up.


Even when I got into the blind and looked out it didn't look any better. Not much I could do about it now though. It's what I had and come what may I was hunting.



I knocked one of my fabulously made flu flu's, that may or may not actually fly straight enough to kill something, into my bow and discovered my first unexpected problem. The feathers were too long to accommodate my drop away rest cocked the way it was supposed to be. I was going to have to allow it to cock as I drew the bow.


I sat back with great anticipation and waited for the mayhem to start.

The first flight of geese appeared as if from nowhere. I grabbed my goose flute and went to put my limited practice to work. It's Halloween season. In keeping with the season my first call was expertly designed to sound like a zombie goose coming back, begrudgingly, from the dead. It was intentional. Honest! You believe me right? OK it was at this moment I was glad there was no one there to hear me. I was glad from the moment I arrived in the field actually. The entire adventure would have had seasoned goose guys smirking behind their hands.

Needless to say they didn't land. Actually that isn't true. They landed soon after they flew over my head. I spent the next 30 or so minutes watching hundreds of geese land. They landed beside me, in front of me and behind me. Hundreds of them but all well out of range. In the last 5 or so minutes I decided to try and sneak across the open corn field to try and shoot one. I was desperate. Did pretty good though. Got almost 100 yards from one bunch. Now I know why they don't spot and stalk geese in corn fields. They wisely use shotguns and lots of decoys. Oh well! Live and learn.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Devilish Deer Season

Apparently I've annoyed the dark forces that protect deer.


See his antlers? I'm sure it's the demon deer pumpkin.

I was going to shoot him. "She Who Must Be obeyed" said I shouldn't waste time. I'd only miss anyway.

Then she mumbled something about upset children and how I'd suffer some strange affliction called celibacy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

T3 Or Not T3

I imagine every bow hunter does it from time to time. As the season approaches you start to wonder if the broad head you are using is being all that it can be. This being my second season hunting deer, I certainly had more questions than answers. Last year I shot some old 100 grain Thunderheads but I really like the idea of a mechanical head flying like a field point. To me it makes sense because it would reduce shooting errors down to just the things I do and not flight characteristics. With that in mind I started researching the net.

    I had heard both the pro's and cons of some of the mechanical heavyweights in the industry. My trip to the local pro shop had me receiving a strong recommendation to purchase one of those heavyweights. You know the one. I won't name it but it's the angry one. I had heard enough mixed concerns about it that it made me somewhat leery. The head that caught my eye was the one I had heard nothing about because it was so new. I really liked the concept behind G5's offering in the form of the T3. The pro shop could give me no information as they had just received their first shipment and had no shooters using it yet. So I volunteered to report back to them what my experiences with the heads were. I'm now going to share my impressions with you. This is all from the field. I have done no side by side shooting on the range. Everything I'm about to relay to you happened as I was hunting.

    Before I go on I think I should set some parameters. Every time I read a discussion about performance invariably someone blames the bow, or the weight of the arrow. To give you some perspective so you can form you opinions of what I'm about to write I'll post my equipment stats.

Bow - 2010 Hoyt Alpha Max 32

Draw Weight - 60 pounds

Speed -     I haven't chrono'd it but according to the calculations my copy of software for archers I should be shooting somewhere in the neighbourhood of 289 fps.
Arrow – Carbon Express Maxima Hunter 350
Arrow length – 29 inches
Approximate arrow weight with 100 grain head (according to Software) 390 grains
Quiver – An old Quiki Quiver set up for fixed broad heads.

The concept behind the T3 is delightfully simple. There is a small knob on the sides of the leading corner of the blades. You can't see it in the above picture because it slides into a channel along the length of the head. When you slide the blade fully forward to close it requires a slight downward and forward pressure to cause those knobs to slip into a small grove inside the channel. The spider clip at the back simply provides upward pressure on the two small ridges above it causing the friction required to hold the blade in place. When the head contact an object it can penetrate the small shelf simply slides off those clips and the blade slides down the channel to open. Simple right?

G5 sends each set of T3's with extra clips which is good because they seem to be a one use situation. The instructions mention that after time they could wear out but my experience was that they would bend open when shot and never be the same again. This required them to be replaced. They send practice blades that don't depend on the clips because they don't open. When I installed the practice blades and took some test shots the head performed as advertised. It shot beautifully and truly was as accurate as my field tips.

The first problem I noticed was with my quiver. I had two problems. The first one was that placing the tip in the hole caused the blade to deploy in the quiver because the hole was fixed blade sized and not a small impression designed simply to hold the tip. That required a little tape to correct although I will admit it was not the most effective solution to the problem. The more significant problem I had was when the broad heads would shift from center in the quiver.

The issue wasn't one of sound, although that could be a possibility, it was the lateral pressure of the blade contacting the side of the quiver. For me this is a big deal. Any pressure placed sideways on the blades caused the spider clip to compress. The second these two small pieces of metal flattened out they lost the ability to keep the broad head closed. Certainly not what you want as things happen in the bush and your equipment should be able to take a little knocking around before failure.

One of the things everyone worries about is blood trail. I hit a deer with the T3 on my 4th day out. The blades deployed as advertised as it passed through the deer.

The blood trail started about 40 yards from the hit and was fairly substantial. Sadly I had switched trees in the dark and missed a small branch. The small branch didn't miss my arrow however and it deflected the shot badly. Many hours later and a mile away my attempts to pick up the trail ended and the deer was lost. That, however, is the topic of another story. Prior to that a significant amount of the trail looked like this.

A week later I was back in the bush on the edge of a field when a young buck came along and presented me with a 15 yard shot. This is where our tail of the T3 takes a turn for the worse. There's no worse sound, I'm now convinced, than the crack you hear of broad head on bone. I caught him in the shoulder blade. The T3 was an abysmal failure. Not only did it fail to penetrate the shoulder but it shattered at the top of the threads. The arrow simply bounced away and landed in the grass. The deer disappeared down the length of the field never to be seen again and without leaving a single drop of blood to follow. Needless to say the anxiety I felt from the shot prior to this was multiplied significantly as I watched another wounding. Just to clarify the head failed structurally without any outside interference. He didn't brush it against any trees. He was standing in an open field and the arrow came to rest within a few feet of where he was standing. The last I saw of him he was limping slightly as he slipped into the trees.

Much to my great sadness I have been forced to decide the T3 experiment is a failure. The problem with keeping them from deploying was annoying but the shoulder issue was the final straw. I haven't completely given up on mechanicals but I have to admit that last night I took the last two T3's off my shafts and switched to a different one. At the risk of looking like a sheep in the giant flock of bow hunters I put the angry one on. Hopefully my experience with it will be better.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ward!! Where did you go??

Blog: Hey where are you? I feel ignored and neglected.

Me: I'm thinking of you. Isn't that enough?

Blog: No. I need love. I need a sense of appreciation. I need to feel like I matter to you.

Me: Baby you know I love you. I just been busy.

Blog: Don't give me that busy crap. You always put other things before me. Why can't I be the most important thing in your life?

Me: Baby you know I love you. You ARE important. Don't talk like that...

So what happened. Well for those who have been following along with the events of my crazy busy year and may have missed this part. After I got married in turkey season, ( *whispers*careful of what you say to that. "She who must be obeyed" is watching,) I decided I wanted an MBA. So I'm in the middle of tuning up my 3 year degree into something my alma matter likes for their MBA program. So now I study, write exams, hunt a bit and spend time with the wife and kids.

I do have blog entries to make. I've been out several times and each is a tale to tell. I've put what I learned in the last 12 months to good use and although I still have struggles I'm definitely making progress.

In addition to some interesting hunting stories I'm going to try my hand at a product review. I decided to try a mechanical broad head this year. I chose G5's T3 and since the pro shop couldn't help much due to it's newness I have been giving them regular reports on my experience with it. I'm now going to try and share that experience with you guys.

So stay tuned. I might not get much up right away but as soon as I get a chance I'll probably start posting like a fiend.

I hope you are all having a great season.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Summer of Change

This has been a summer of change. Our general vacation plans are usually pretty simple. Take the family to the cottage for a week in July, pack the children off to summer camp and have a second and less restrained week with just Alissa and I in August. Sadly this year the second week didn't happen. The cottage was a busy place with friends, family and others filling the place on the weeks we could get available. I took the opportunity, however, to start lobbying for a back country camping trip. I have to admit I may have been a little aggressive in my idea of what type of first camping experience would suit my wife. In the end the idea of bad weather, an event she may not enjoy and the possibility of playing patty cake with overly friendly bears swayed the vote in her favour.

In the end, however, it has worked out fine. My neophyte wife and neophyte children were ok with the idea of camping in one of the local conservation area parks. The labour day weekend was the chosen dates as we began to plan the family farewell to summer adventure. Needless to say the kids were over the moon with excitement. Alissa had weather trepidation but soldiered on as we accumulated the things we would need. I kept reminding her we would be only 15 minutes from home so we didn't need to plan for every eventuality. Having said that it was great to see her think about all the things that can go wrong on a camping trip. It's a mindset that will serve us well when I finally win the back country vote.

The fateful day arrived and we loaded the truck to head for the campsite. It was a mind numbing array of "stuff" we had. I wasn't sure what we would do with everything or how we would ever survive if this was the pile that would have to be backpacked in. It certainly isn't the most minimalist of camping approaches I've used. I've roughed it on a level that only someone who has carried a rifle for his country can truly appreciate. I don't ever remember my kit containing a combination marshmallow/smore/hot dog roaster. Of course my kit back then didn't include a ten and a six year old either.

We arrived at the conservation area and began to set up camp. The weather was cool and nice. My neophyte camper bride made your typical rookie error of setting up a couple of tarps over our tent and one of the picnic tables. I grudgingly helped and grumbled at having to go through the hassle. That lasted right up until the good Lord rewarded her frivolous extra effort with….rain! Good thing my wife wasn't an old pro like me or we would have been wet and then I really would have grumbled. Stupid weather. So for the next three days our home away from home was our brand new 7 man tent. 

Breakfast was a rugged but satisfying affair. I got the fire going nicely and then Ainsley, our 10 year old, cooked us a delicious meal of scrambled eggs. She thought it was the greatest thing.

The weather was never very co-operative. It pretty much rained lightly all weekend. It didn't seem to slow anyone down. The other campground kids careened up and down the road with their bicycles. We fished a little and took a long walk on one of their groomed trails. It had this fabulous boardwalk through the marshy part of the lake.

The weekend came to an end and with it the last of the summer vacation. The next day the kids were headed back to school and a week later I was scheduled to return to University in an attempt to try and get myself an MBA. Alissa was getting ready for a shift in her job. She was being transferred from training hearing ear dogs to their new autism program. I never realized a service dog could be useful for autism but apparently they are. So everything is changing. At least we are keeping with Heraclitus's axiom. "The only thing constant is change."

Monday, August 30, 2010

The count down is on.

I'm doomed! I'm sure of it. After some intensive reading of John Eberhart's book, Precision Bowhunting, there is no possible way I'm going to bag a giant P & Y buck this year. Ok maybe I'm being over dramatic but I certainly wish I had bought this book last year instead of this year. I have enjoyed the book so far. It gives a great month by month process to plan and prepare for the conquest of the biggest bad boy you can find.

    It's not a total loss. For starters I have a tree saddle which is what the Eberhart's hunt in exclusively. I should be able to more effectively and less intrusively adapt as I go through the season. I've pulled the camera out of the bush and won't go back again until hunting season. I'm not thrilled with the preparation I've made but I've decided that doing it now is the wrong end of the year. Some of last year's mid season scouting will be very useful this year and it's in a section of bush with little understory and very tall canopies.

So why did I pull the camera? Ok I'll admit it wasn't completely because of the book. I think I've found what I want on this particular farm and I have 3 more farms and only one camera. If it hadn't been a bazillion degrees out today I probably would have set it up again for a week or so in a "plan B" site for opening day if the wind isn't in my favour. I got some fabulous pictures at this site, however, so I'm feeling pretty pumped. One month to go until opening day and hopefully these guys will make an appearance.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Smile you’re on candid game cam

The summer has been one of mixed blessings. We didn't get to the cottage very often and the one family trip we made was done at a time when the water was so warm we couldn't find many fish above the 40 foot mark. After a week of touring the usual hotspots we only had a couple of VERY small pike to show for it. Lures, minnows and a fish finder were no match for the ultimate victor in the week long family fishing derby. On the last night of our stay it was my ten year old daughter who found some edible sized bass at the end of our dock with nothing more than a worm. Isn't that always the way? I have to admit I have a certain frustration. Last year I was out fished by my wife. This year I was out fished by my ten year old. I suspect next year my six year old will probably out fish me but she might still be young enough that I can force her to catch sunfish. The way things have been going it will likely result in some big Musky swooping in on her Barbie pole and giving her the victory.

    I started making the rounds to my landowners as I look forward to the fall deer season. It wasn't a very difficult thing to do. There were only two of them. Sadly the one farm decided to close to hunters. It was a nice spot. On the plus side I managed to open 4 new farms so I guess it was a good trade. Two of the farms are owned by the same farmer and represent a small portion of his holdings. Hopefully, with time, I can develop that relationship and expand the number of farms he lets me hunt. I still have a few more ideas for hunting sites I want to pursue before the season arrives. Time is getting tight, however, as I head back to university to pursue an MBA in the next few weeks. I've been warned by "she who must be obeyed" that the next 2 years have to be school first and hunt second. School first will be a unique notion for me but I think I can manage. It's probably a good thing I'm hunting as it'll be about the only real contribution I'm going to be making to the family finances for a bit. Thank goodness I have an accommodating and supportive wife.

    So the scouting has begun in earnest. It hasn't been an easy adventure. The weather has been a balmy six BILLION degrees and I haven't been able to move far from home without an air conditioning unit. A couple of attempts and it became clear to me that I needed a better way to carry water. This, naturally, gave me the health and safety excuse to go to Bass Pro. You should try that excuse. It goes like this:

"I agree honey. I've spent far more than I need to already on my hunting gear. This is different. The doctors and everyone say you have to drink plenty of water or it can kill you. So this hydration bladder isn't really hunting gear. Think of it more as a medical appliance. A necessity of life since a lack of water is deadly."

If you buy any bits and bobs while you are out buying your necessary medical appliance I recommend you keep them small enough and cheap enough to be able to hide in the bottom of the bag and have a plausible excuse if she finds it. I also recommend you don't write a blog like this as she watches over your shoulder.

"Sweetness all I bought with the bladder was the windy uppy gear strap thingie…honest."

    I've added a new tool to my scouting arsenal. One of my trips to Bass Pro this summer involved the purchase of my very first scouting camera. After some humming and hawing I decided to take a financially conservative approach and went with the Wild Game Innovations IR 4.

True to their claims it was very easy to set up. I left it at the 30 seconds per picture so once I had the date and time set all I had to do was turn it on for the default settings. I wish it had more light emitters for the night shots but it's only a $100 dollar camera so I guess I have to be satisfied. I tracked down some steel cable and a pad lock so no one would walk off with it and headed for the bush.

    I was pretty excited to see all the deer walking past the stand where I shot my deer last year. I selected the site because they had a trail beaten from the neighbors' field to the corn past where I had been sitting. I left the camera on the tree for almost 2 weeks as I agonizingly waited. The best shot I got was this one.


    Sadly if I hunt him I'll have to write a letter to my family just before I shoot him. Oh wait. That's what they call suicide. Maybe if I strap antlers on top of my head my wife won't notice it doesn't taste the same as last year. The only other picture on the camera was this one.


So if you can see anything edible in that shot let me know because I certainly don't. Needless to say I was quite sad and immediately moved the camera. I checked it seven days later and got a much better result.


I can see why people have more than one camera. I now have 6 farms with multiple sites I would like to have camera's on. I haven't quite figured out how to make the necessary medical device argument work yet. When I do….

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What I REALLY did this turkey season

I think that it's only fair of me to mention to you die-hards that this was planned before I decided to try Turkey hunting. A week into Turkey season, with only 3 days under my belt, I paused for a wedding and honeymoon. I know what you'll say. "Ward don't you own a calendar. Couldn't you have picked a month where nothing interfered. While I admit that we had originally tried to do that, in the end I had to pick an earlier day. It's all good though. Let's face it. This is the woman who swoons to a turkey call. May 8 dawned and off to the church we went. I was dressed in my penguin suit and had enough sense to leave the turkey call at home. I can only imagine what sort of trouble I could have got myself into with that device in my pocket….

Minister: Do you Ward take Alissa to me your bride?

Me: Cluck cluck purr

Alissa: I think I'm going to be mounting your head on the wall.

Two days later we were on the beach in Bahamas.

And in true tropical honeymoon fashion it wasn't long until we were relaxing with a cool beverage. Seems to be a common theme.

This blog isn't a food and drink blog so enough of that. This trip gave me a great opportunity to re-acquaint myself with another of my favourite outdoor pursuits. I was first certified as a SCUBA diver in 1986 and never fail make sure I get some dive time in whenever the opportunity presents itself. My honeymoon was the perfect opportunity.


Fortunately for me Sandals provided a professional photographer on almost every dive so there were some great pictures to choose from. It's hard to incorporate all the good things you see underwater but I did manage to get some great shots of some of the better moment. The wind was blowing fairly firmly all week and the first day was one of the worst. We couldn't go out into open water so the dive guides picked a shallow area that was between 10 and 20 feet deep. It probably would have been very disappointing except for one redeeming moment. This fellow showed up.

Turtles seem to be quite curious and will linger as long as you don't mess with them too much. HE watched us and we watched him. It was great.

The reefs in Bahamas has an invasive species. They tell me it's Lionfish. They seem to do very well because every time we got into the water we found a lot of them.

We found them tucked into little caves. We found them on the top of the reef. We found them in the shallows. We found them in the deeper waters. They were everywhere and magnificent.

The one day we saw sharks there was no cameraman. We jumped in the water and about 70 feet below us we could see a 6 foot grey shape cruising around. By the time I got to his depth he had moved off out of sight. We investigated a large wreck there and found a couple of large stingrays and had 3 smaller sharks show up and check us out. It was quite exciting. We saw some eels and barracuda and a big grouper peeking out from some coral.

One of the smallest but coolest things I found was a little snail hanging on a piece of corral. He wasn't very big. Only an inch or two long.

So that sums up a good chunk of my turkey season. A very good trade I think.

Talkin’ Turkey

The alarm sounded far too early on the third day of turkey season. The alarm always sounds too early during hunting season. Don't get me wrong I like watching sunrises but I remain firmly convinced that it would be far more civilized if the sun and wildlife waited until a respectable hour like 9 or 10 o'clock. Noon would be a little unreasonable but 10 would be brilliant. That means you could get up at 7 and still have plenty of time to get into the bush. I was exhausted. It probably didn't help that I had barely slept considering that today was going to be my second lifetime attempt to get a turkey and for the first time ever I had hired a guide to help make it happen.
Ken Cull got the nod. I've mentioned him before and I looked forward to hunting with him. He had suggested I leave my bow at home for this one and graciously offered me the use of his shotgun. Since I didn't have a shotgun ready for turkey this offer was greatly appreciated. I made one last check of my equipment against the list he had sent me and headed for our pre-arranged meeting place. I have to say that I was particularly excited about the fact that scent was not on the list of worries for turkey hunting.

Ken was the picture of a turkey hunter. He had the cool Primos turkey vest. His pockets bulged with the tools of the trade. Mouth calls, box calls, pot calls, assorted strikers. He had them all. His vest bulged with turkey decoys and he even had the little "don't look at me I'm a tree stump" turkey hunting stool. I, on the other hand, had a camera. Granted I was in my very best camouflage. You can tell it's my best because it's the only pair I own. Ken quietly started to give me instructions as to what to expect and how we were going to go about doing things this morning. I, quite naturally, tried to pretend I was as cool as a cucumber when really I felt about as calm as a squirrel drinking Red Bull.

With a couple of last minute instructions we were finally ready and we set off across a corn stubble field in the dark. It wasn't very long before we came to some trees in a fencerow on the edge of a larger bush. Ken had spotted turkeys headed for roosting trees in the corner of this bush. He set me up against a tree and showed me the best way to sit with my shotgun. He hunkered down behind my left shoulder and we waited for the sun.

I grew up watching Warner Brothers cartoons. In the cartoons you always knew when morning was breaking because a rooster would greet the arrival of the sun with a boisterous cock-a-doodle-do. Turkey hunting is similar. As the sun started to seep softly over the horizon the first turkey greeted it. Like a well rehearsed opera the first gobble rang out to be answered by the song of the chorus echoing his melody. Ken did exactly the opposite of what I had done my first day. He did absolutely nothing. After many minutes of me wondering why we weren't calling turkeys over to us he finally did the exact opposite of what I had done my first day. Again! He gave a small series of clucks.

For anyone not familiar with the subtle nuances of calling turkeys there's a reason Ken has eaten wild turkey and I have not. Calling turkeys is a love story. It's a tale similar to that of innocent teenaged boys meeting seasoned professional harlots. Done well you can imagine the discussion going something like this:

Gobbler: HEY! BABBYYYYYYY! I'm here and I'm ready and able. Bring me all your women. Don't worry about them being the best. Just a pulse will do. Come on hurry up.

Hen (yawning and speaking softly):What's all the ruckus so early in the morning. A girl's gotta have her beauty sleep.

Gobbler: Come on…Comeoncomeon come on! Unlock the door and let me in. I got plans.

Hen: Settle down now son. It's early and I'm tired.

Gobbler: No! No! Now. I'm up and I'm ready. Unlock the door. Let's get to it.

Hen: oh alright here we go. I'll get up and let you in. Wait a second. You didn't tell me you brought friends.

Gobbler: Oh don't mind them. Here I'll get rid of them.

Hen: No baby don't you be wandering of too far to be playing big man on campus. You get over here and focus your attention on me. Sheesh you guys have ADD some days. What's a girl to do?

In the perfect world the result of that discussion would have put one of those gobblers in gun range. Sadly the turkeys stepped into the field and then quickly decided their fortunes favoured the east and off they went in the wrong direction. Ken coaxed, seduced and wheedled but to no avail. After about an hour and a half he realized we were in the wrong spot that morning and quickly decided it was time for a game plan change.

The next farm we went to was a little tougher to get into. It would have been better if I had rubber boots but I managed to keep my feet fairly dry. We set up in a sand field that was pretending to be a cornfield. The farmer hadn't been able to get through the water to tend it so it was an unharvested weedy thing. This worked well for our purposes. You could see where the turkeys had created small hollows in the sandy ground as they bathed themselves in dust. 

Ken quickly popped up a blind and tossed in two nice folding chairs. I can tell you that for the future this will be my chosen method over trying to look like a tree stump. It was quite decadent by comparison.

It wasn't very long before a turkey popped quietly out of the bottom of the field we were sitting in. The turkey seemed to be determined to keep heading west as Ken started to try and seduce him. Half way across the field he finally stopped and came to half strut. We had his attention at last. More to the point Ken had his attention. I was simply trying to not screw up.

Slowly he made his way towards us and there were a few times when I thought he had changed his mind. Each time he would drift back towards his original path Ken would sweet talk him back. At about 60 or 70 yards he slipped back into the bush. When we saw him again he had friends as more turkeys slipped from cover. A hen and several other gobblers joined the party as Ken continued with his seduction. They approached the area we had the decoy set up and the dominant Tom joined the fray and identified himself by both his size and the fact that he was clearly the boss of the bunch. I put the bead of the shotgun on his head and squeezed the trigger.

It's at this point I have to admit that Ken may have said wait. I know he whispered something but I couldn't hear him. I don't claim to be the most brilliant judge of distance but I was pretty sure I had it right. When the smoke cleared I could see the tail feathers of the bird sticking straight in the air. The bird gave a kick and lay dead still. There were high fives all around and I was doing my best to remain mister cool. One should never get too silly in an enclosed space when you have a shotgun in hand. Ken kicked the blind off of us and with a grin we approached my prize. I've never seen miraculous divine intervention before. I've read about it. People coming back to life. That sort of thing. What I saw that day though must have been divine intervention. The only other explanation I can think of is that they breed turkeys on planet Krypton and sent them to earth with Superman. As I approached my dinner it stood up and bolted for the bushes. I was so stunned that by the time I remembered to shoot it a second time it was pretty much off the ground flying through the trees.

I was speechless. It's ok though. Ken had enough to say for both of us. He was gloriously upset and stunned at what had just happened. I tried to keep my disappointment under wraps because I didn't want Ken to think I blamed him. He did a great job. Clearly I hadn't made a good enough shot. How a thing can survive getting shot in the head is beyond me though. It annoyed me to no end to think the bird could be out there somewhere with a doomed future. I don't like the uncertainty of a bad shot. Maybe it will be ok. A clean miss is so much more certain. So the rest of the morning was spent on the hunt for a dead bird. Ken and I eventually parted company and I went back and searched for another hour in the hopes that if I just looked a little longer and a little farther I would find it. It amounted to nothing, however, and I'm certain the bird spent the rest of the day being annoyed with the idea that one of the lesser toms got his girlfriend.

I would certainly recommend the guide experience for a new turkey hunter. I learned a lot. The next morning I was out with my own setup. I made some changes to what I was doing in keeping with what I had learned from Ken the day before. When the gobbling started the next morning I let them wait and then only started giving some soft clucks now and then. It took a while but I was rewarded with a gaggle of jakes practically bumping into my decoy at 20 yards. Sadly they didn't present me with a shot. They stayed so tightly grouped that I couldn't hit one without hitting at least two. That didn't change until they had moved back out of bow range. I wasn't happy with the outcome but I was content to see I was making progress. There's still hope I won't be eating tag soup this spring.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I haven't completely vanished

Well folks I have to apologize for the lack of stories lately. I do have some more turkey stories and now some that fit into the "other outdoor tales" category. In my defense I've not only been traveling extensively with work but I got married, did a honeymoon and am studying for the GMAT. Hang tight and I'll try and get one or two done this week before I leave for Chicago.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Turkey Love

If turkeys flew fighter planes I think Monday morning would have sounded something like this.

“Roost control to Gobbler one you have clearance to start engines and taxi to runway 32 west.”

“Roger Roost Control. Gobbler One is ready on 32 west. Engines run up and ready for launch.”

“Roger Gobbler One. We have two contacts bearing 280 degrees.”

“Roger Roost Control. Freeing guns and going in.”

“Roost Control this is Gobbler One. I have a SAM lock on me. Contacts are hostile. Breaking off.”

And that pretty well sums up opening day for me.

I was pretty excited when the alarm went off at 4 am. My first ever turkey hunt was about to begin. I donned my camo grabbed the bow and headed for the bush. I had a plan to hunt about the only bit of turkey sign I saw on my friends farm. I walked to the edge of the corn field and found a bit of dryness for my blind and set it up. It was the best situation because it was a narrow strip of grass with swamp water on one side and field mud on the other. Made a rather limited number of seating options. The swamp was huge and I was hopeful the turkeys would cross it today.

Gobbling started early which made me happy. I heard several birds gobbling away. It wasn’t long after dawn that I heard something splashing through the swamp. I didn’t have the back flaps of the blind open so I could only see through a couple of tiny openings. I could see a coyote slowly sneaking through the water heading towards the downwind side of my decoys. I think I had him fooled. Clearly not as smart as the turkey’s turned out to be. I didn’t mind the idea of starting my day with a coyote but as soon as he got downwind from me he disappeared back into the bush at a much faster clip than he came out.

I did manage to see some birds. I had two come in through the gap in the fence from the neighbor’s field. They took one look at my decoys and disappeared. I later realized that one of the hen decoys had become bent. I’m guessing they don’t look like that in real life.

Maybe the decoy set up wasn’t brilliant. I got the new issue of Ontario Out of Doors and it had a great bunch of articles on setting up decoys. Sadly I got it 2 days after these sad pictures were taken. Not great timing on their part I thought but what can you do?
That pretty much summed up my day. I hunted in the evening but it was so uneventful that there is no point even describing it. Heard nothing, saw nothing, did nothing sums it up completely. On a positive note I did manage to cross this rather large swamp and get into the bush.

The bush was only slightly less swampy in many areas but what I found a lot of were deer trails that looked like this.

I’ve already started to pick out some good trees to use my tree saddle in. I might not have had a great turkey hunt but come fall I will definitely be a deer ninja. Until then I guess I’m going to keep lying to turkeys until one of them falls for it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Turkey Season gets close

Turkey season is imminent and my excitement is building. The bow is tuned as good as I can get it. I'm practicing on a turkey silhouette out to 40 yards. I'm having scouting issue though. The first issue is that I've lost some turkey ground. It makes me sad as the one farm I've seen turkeys on. The farm I have left for the turkey season is rumoured to be crawling with turkeys but I have yet to see sign of them. There's an almost un-passable swampy part between the fields and the bush that may dry up in time but I'm uncertain. On a positive note it's showing significant deer sign that looks good for this coming deer season.

So I'm still scrambling for a spot on opening day but if it doesn't work out brilliantly I think I'm ok. I met one of the Vortex Pro shooters in my area and he offered a guided turkey hunt. Ken Cull is his name and he's got a reputation for being very good at introducing new hunters to the sport. I have to be honest. The bow will not be making the journey on that day. After a bit of a discussion I decided that using one of his shotguns would be wise so that I can focus more on all the other components of the hunt. Also I don't want to miss the bird considering his guarantee is a legal bird within 40 yards but no discount if I then miss it. The stuff I do on my own will be with the bow. Missing for free is ok .

So now I'll be scouting and working and praying I still have the day off on the 26th. My eldest daughter is home from school today so I think our plans will be to finish up in the office and head out to the turkey woods. She's so much fun to watch. Every flicker of movement. Every squeak of sound must be thoroughly investigated. She's convinced it must be a turkey. I think we'll leave the pack of supplies home. I don't have the energy to carry it like I did in the cold of rabbit season.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'm Straight

So today I’m going to try and raise my nerd level a little. Pictures say a thousand words so hopefully I can make this work and be speechless. Just in case, however, I’ll do some babbling so I don’t inadvertently leave lots of unexplained blanks on this blog if the pictures don’t show up.
It was a little bit of a long shot but Alissa was headed for Winnipeg last week and Winnipeg has a Cabela’s. Like the good woman she is she trundled off looking to see if they have an EZE-Center laser for tuning bows. They aren’t available anywhere in Canada that I can find but Cabela’s in the US carries them so we thought we’d take a chance. She did a fabulous job in spite of the fact that Cabela’s in Canada doesn’t have them. She smiled sweetly at the Cabela’s staff member and he sent her off to a store called Heights Archery Range and Proshop. He didn’t carry them either but happened to have a used one in the back that he sold her for a sweet price. So now I have a laser tuning tool.
Now that I’m starting to fiddle with my own set up I decided that I needed a place to do it. Off to the “man cave” I went.

As you can see The man cave has a problem. It’s a full of crap cave. It has fabulous potential. It’s heated and large. My father ran a motorcycle shop here for years and this was the repair area. So I’ve embarked on a clean up and organization campaign but it will take a while. I managed to get enough sorted out that I can get at the work benches. It won’t be considered a success until the boat trailer/storage bench is out and safely living elsewhere.
The next task I needed was to get a bow vice. The best priced ones I could find were all at least $100. I have lots of tools and gadgets and was hoping to come up with something useful and inexpensive when I tripped over the perfect thing at Canadian Tire.

It’s a small woodworking vice with a rotating head that I have clamped to the bow and a piece of wood that’s clamped in a big metal vice I already had mounted. It worked pretty good. I stuck a string level on it and got it level in both directions and immediately discovered that my arrows weren’t square to the string. I use a QAD Ultra-rest so making some minor adjustments was pretty easy.
I took the site off and strapped the new EZE Center device into the site mounting holes. It was very easy to do with the mounted bolts.

I should probably apologies up front for the quality of the pictures. I used my Blackberry Curve and it’s not exactly the best choice for expert quality shots of this type.
The next step was to line the laser light up to the string in the centre.

I checked the centre by the rest and it looked not to bad but when I turned the head farther I could see it was far from centered.

As you can see it was out quite a bit. I was a little disappointed in myself as I had spent a fair amount of time using a micrometer trying to get everything set up just right. I was feeling pretty cocky until the laser showed me how far out I was.
Out came the tools and another little adjustment of the QAD Ultra-rest and the picture was much better. As you can see the light is in the center where it is supposed to be.

Tomorrow my new shafts come all set to go and hopefully I’ll be dazzled. It’s just as likely I’m not good enough to see a difference. I feel more confident though. I STILL don’t know what to do about scent control and my underwear.

*Note* Got the shafts. Shot the Shafts. Love the Shafts and changes. I have to admit I definitely noticed a difference. I’m completely impressed. Turkey’s beware.

My thanks to Marian at and Kari at for their help trying to make me more computer literate.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Your first is always special.

My knife cut through the tender meat. I raised the fork to my mouth and closed my eyes as the meat melted succulently across my taste buds. It was fabulous. Cooked to a turn, but not by me, it could rival the finest steaks I've eaten anywhere. There was only one significant difference. It wasn't steak. It was venison. It was the first venison I had ever brought home but it took some doing to get. Down to the wire. The last few days of my first season. I had all but given up.

The alarm rang on the third to last day of the deer season. It was 5:00 in the morning and I quietly slipped from between the sheets. I can't say that I was feeling particularly spritely. I had repeated this groggy ritual many, many times since October first without any success. I checked the weather report for the day and my shoulders slumped a little as I realize the wind had not held its end of the bargain. My nice new Christmas pop up blind was not going to get its maiden voyage into the bush. My only option was a tree stand that had been recently placed near what looked like a deer highway but had yet to produce anything but some turkeys clucking in the field next to me. My mood didn't improve when I realized that the best I was going to see in temperature was -13 degrees Celsius.

I can't say that the bitter cold inspired me to hunt like a pro. I, for the first time, only gave a passing thought to my underwear. I filled a thermos with hot cider. Tasty and apple scented. I went through the motions as always but I must admit I no longer believed. I planned for an entire day in the tree stand and wasn't looking forward to how much I was about to suffer. This was bound to be worse than the day it rained from dawn to dusk. I was certainly doing a hunters penance this season. With a sigh I loaded the truck and headed for the farm I was going to hunt that day.

Things really weren't going very well for me. A couple of times I considered turning around and heading home. As the sun rose and shooting time started I was still at the truck changing into my rather chilly hunt clothes. For the first time this season I didn't wait until I was cold before taking measures to try and correct it. I started the morning with hot packs everywhere I could. Thank goodness for the wonders of modern science and chemical reactions.

My boots crunched sharply in the snow as I set off back the farmers lane. You can always tell how cold it is by the sound of the snow. If you can hear it crunch loudly with every step then expect to suffer. That's a sure sign that it's miserably cold. On a positive note I spotted footprints on the path that gave me some hope. I hadn't seen so much as a single footprint the past few times I had been out here. I followed their route down the tractor path until I reached the point I had to turn left to head for my tree stand. The footprints didn't follow along. I was disappointed to see them carry straight on towards the bush on the other side of the hay field I was in. I walked along a small stream and was sad to see that the new snow didn't provide a single sign of deer. When I arrived at my tree stand things didn't look much more positive. There may have been some deer prints mixed in with the rabbit prints but there wasn't anything newer than 24 hours old.

I silently cursed the fates and started to mentally prepare myself for a long, bitterly cold sit waiting for the twilight to approach. I climbed into my stand and proceeded to organize my equipment. Once everything was hung and organized I began to play with my new laser rangefinder toy. I zapped everything. If it was larger than a grain of sand I tried to get a reading on it. It was great. No more guess work for me. After A few minutes I put the rangefinder away and pulled out my blackberry to check my facebook. As you can see I was not rating my odds very high. A quick check and a whining status update later I decided I should actually act like I thought I had a chance at accomplishing something. I settled into my chair, picked up my bow and placed it across my lap. A few minutes later I heard it. The quiet crunch of squirrels crossing the snow. It only took me a few seconds to realize that there was no way squirrels could make noise in the snow. As quietly as the conditions provided two young does came around the corner of the scrubby bushes I had followed. They were faithfully and foolishly following my footprints.

Even though the experience had been described to me more than once the sound of my own heartbeat screaming in my ears was a surprise. I had trouble believing they couldn't hear the hammering pump trying to smash its way through my ribs. Holding my breath didn't help. When I remembered to breath again I think the sound might have been enough to cause them to start a little. It was probably lucky that the ice in the stream behind me was booming and cracking enough that the small sound was quickly lost.

A few moments later the first doe moved out from behind the last of the trees and brush and put her head down to sniff a small tuft of grass. A moment later I realized that, in my youthful zeal of new toy-it is, I had ranged that spot at 20 yards only a few minutes earlier. I carefully came to full draw. Paused a second to mentally confirm my anchor and site picture. With a gentle squeeze on the release 30 inches of carbon and steel hurtled away from my Hoyt Alphamax. I watched it ricochet off the icy ground and smiled as I realized it was on the opposite side of the deer in front of me.

A few seconds later it was all over in the middle of the hay field. I had knocked another arrow but without a call the confused second doe finally listened to her anxiety and decided not to come back to my corner. She wasn't sure at first and I have wondered if a couple of bleats couldn't have won her over. I suppose that would have been greedy. As the adrenalin induced tremors coursed through my body I reached for my blackberry to brag to Alissa, who is my biggest fan, and for my laser range finder. It was new, the deer in the field was bigger than a grain of sand and I am, after all, a boy with a toy. Ninety yards was the verdict.

The rest was a little anti-climactic. Fifteen minutes later I climbed out of my tree stand. It was a sum total of 45 minutes from beginning to end. Not bad in 13 below weather. I walked out to inspect my prize. Not the biggest doe to ever to be taken. It was mine though. My first one ever. I quickly field dressed her, drove my truck into the field next to her in a quite decadent fashion and tossed her into the back. A little after an hour from the time I headed into the bush I was headed home. Next year I think I need to do this before it gets so cold. I wonder if I can get them all to come quickly and maybe drop in the back of the truck to save even more effort.


I, sadly, can't make pictures post so I'm begging for help. I'm reading all the help files I can but seem to be stumped. I write my blogs in MS Word 2007 and push the publish button and it works great. For some reason I can't seem to figure out how to make the pictures go with them. I know someone will have the answer for me. Feel free to send me step by step instructions. It's best to pretend I'm not so bright. In the meantime I'll write a new blog that doesn't need pictures.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hey are you purring at my wife?

I find myself with a whole new sense of purpose this spring. Well maybe new isn't the proper word but certainly I've confirmed my springtime purpose. No longer will I simply be purring and clucking at my wife around the kitchen. As of a week ago Friday I officially became a licensed turkey hunter in Ontario. I passed my turkey hunting course.

The course I took was set up by the Ontario Federation of Angler and Hunters. It was a good course to take because it was only 3 hours. I probably could have written the test in 3minutes but sadly the Ontario government still likes the dollars they get from the program. I'm not sure of the courses current relevance but it definitely made sense 20 years ago.

For those who may not be aware the turkey population was extirpated from Ontario in the late 1800's. The Ontario Government, OFAH and others, decided to get together and reintroduce turkeys to Ontario about 25 years ago. The dollars from the turkey hunting course were earmarked to support those efforts. It was a brilliant success. Over the first five years of the program a total of 274 turkeys were released into Ontario. That small kernel of hope has grown into a province wide flock of 40,000+. Apparently we only had to trade some moose. Not a bad deal I think.

With the completion of my turkey course I embarked on a weekend of fun at the Toronto Sportsmen's Show. It was a pretty sweet set up with the Turkey course. All at the same place and my admission was included. I didn't get to see a lot on the first day. Alissa was there working with her dogs. She trains service dogs for a living and they had a booth and were doing a demonstration. I got a brief round of look see and then off to intercept the kids coming home from school.

The next morning we had arranged to attend the morning session of The Ontario Federation of Angler and Hunter's conference to see Dr Randall Eaton speak. Dr Eaton wrote "From Boys to Men of Heart: Hunting as a Rite of Passage". He is a behavioral scientist and the premise of his discussion was what kind of adults we create if we introduce our children to hunting. Granted, he spoke mainly about young boys but he did explain why. I would highly recommend you see him speak if you get the chance. He had lots of interesting things to say. Things like pointing out that Nelson Mandela and Jimmie Carter grew up to be Nobel Prize winners and they both hunt avidly. I also like the part when he discussed hunting as a sport. He asked the room to indicate who had come within shooting range of their prize and declined to harvest it. More than half of the room put up their hand. His next question was quite telling I thought. He asked "have you ever seen a basketball player not take the shot?" Of course we haven't. He asked if it really made sense to call something a sport when you don't take the shot? I tend to agree with him. It isn't a sport. It's life. A part of being a living organism that must feed on others to survive.

We spent two more days at the Sportsmen Show. The first day it was just the adults and the last day we took the kids. I won't do a blow by blow but there were some positive things that happened on both days. The first one being the dogs. There were a lot of dogs doing a lot of things. Our favourite was watching the Purina Gold Whistle Retriever Trials. Mid way through the Saturday competition Allissa leaned over and said quietly into my ear. "I'd really like to do this. And you can hunt the dog in the fall." Is that sweet or what? A trial quality trained hunting dog done by a dog training professional. The only thing that could make it better is if she gives it a full range of service dog training and it can get the beer from the fridge as well. Maybe carry all the decoys to the boat and if I'm really lucky teach it to drive to the marsh so I can sleep. Can service dogs do that?

I only had one problem at the Sportsmen's Show. It was at the Gobblestalker booth with the owner Kevin Bartley. He is way to good on the turkey calls and could out purr me. It was hard to keep Alissa at my side after I've conditioned her to respond to purrs and clucks on my turkey call. I'd get her back and Kevin would purr again and I'd be struggling to hold on. Oh the pressure. To stand there and watch your wife melt to the purr of another man's turkey call is hard on the ego. I will not be beaten though. It simply inspired me to practice more so that I can defend my hen.

In truth the guys at the Gobblestalker booth were fantastic. Kevin makes custom made turkey calls and they are pretty good. I bought one and even with my little experience I could tell I had something exceptional. They name them all and they're all colour co-ordinated. I can tell you that I like the green one I got. Not sure what it's called but it's definitely green. So for now it's simply known as "the green one".

The first couple of days some great guys shared the gobblestalker booth. They were there promoting the Trophyline Tree Saddle. I don't know if you folks have looked at these but they make my nice new ninja tree stand look pretty non-ninja.

I looked seriously at these last year but they were too much money for something you can't really test. That's changed at the Sportsmen's Show. Rick Bullman, a neighbour of mine, had built a fake tree and you could climb up and try the treesaddle in a life like test. They even had a bow you could handle in the saddle. The thing was great and the price was brilliant. I own one now and am super pleased with how I felt hanging from it and how NINJA I'm going to be now. Rick was fantastic. After swapping stories of all the similar names we knew in the community he joked with Alissa and did a great job discussing the saddle frankly. He had some great ideas they've developed on their own for tactics and gadgets. I received a model that differed slightly from the one that I tested. Rick has loaned me his personal harness and after I'm done experimenting with them both we'll see what works better. He even said that if I wasn't pleased with the one design change I questioned he'd give me his personal one but I think that's going beyond the call of duty and I wouldn't feel right about taking him up on it. The thought was nice.

Another great guy I met at the booth was Steve Fowler. Steve is an outfitter from Wolfe Island area here in Ontario. (look it up it looks pretty incredible). He told me more about my bow in 5 minutes than I've managed to learn since I started to shop for one. It was great and I warned him he was going to end up in this blog as punishment for his help. Right now he's helping me select shafts. His emails in the last few days have been absolutely indispensible. He even suggested a source for new strings and what to modify in the cables when I change them so I can fix cam lean that can occur over time. I would put up his website but he doesn't seem to have one. If you want to go have a hunt with him let me know and I can hook you up. His card says he goes by Island Wolfe Whitetails, He's been at it since 1998 and "On private leased land in Bow Only Zone 69A. Meals, Accommodations and stands included. No Trophy Fee's and Non-Resident Buck tags available over the counter without lottery". I'm hoping if he reads this he'll build a website so I can simply post a link in the future.

So that about sums up last week. I joined QDMA and am looking forward to reading what they send me. I'm not sure how into the management I can get as I hunt other people's land and lots of Crown Land. I don't think the government would like me modifying their properties. It's still good things to know if I ever buy another farm. So now it's just a waiting game until turkey season starts April 26 and practice my purr. Next year Kevin….Next year.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What’s New

I have a stick with a string on it. It's a useful tool for launching sharpened sticks at something you want to poke holes in. It sounds pretty easy but that's a slight oversimplification. The truth about my stick and string is that it's a modern engineering marvel. It consists of carefully designed and machined risers. It has two little pulley wheels at each end that they like to call cams. It's got high tech laminated limbs all designed to launch my pointy stick with a velocity and consistency not possible 20 years ago. All this in a lightweight four pound package.

I have to admit my pointy sticks are also a long way from feathers and sharpened wood. Engineered from carbon they are designed to withstand the rigours of being hurled at high velocities and then smashing into objects of varying solidity. The feathers are gone in favour of coloured plastic and if I'm after something flesh and bone I can trade the simple points in for razor sharp blades of doom.

There is some truth in my first statement. It's in my attitude. I have never put a lot of thought into my shooting beyond basic form and hit the target. The shop where I got my bow simply handed me some arrows. The discussion didn't get much past cost. I was told that I could buy a better quality arrow but that these would serve me fine. In truth they did. I practiced until my groupings were pretty close. It might not be Olympic calibre but certainly good enough to double lung any deer I was going to come across. I practiced regularly at 20 yards and a little at some farther yardages. It did the trick as can be illustrated by the venison in my freezer.

My attitude started to changed a few weeks ago as two things happened. The first thing that happened was that I started to consider the idea of shooting in some 3D tournaments this year. The other, and more important, was learned during a day at a proper outdoor range with some greater distances. I knocked my first arrow, drew to my anchor point and let fly. I knocked a second arrow and as this one travelled downrange I noticed one curious thing. It didn't fly even remotely straight. I wasn't even sure how I managed to get them into the same general grouping but they did. Not brilliant but certainly good enough to double lung something. The problem is that I'm not satisfied with just good enough. I want to hit that little x in the middle of the target that I aim at. Every single time.

So the questions began. I don't have all the answers yet but I think I'm on the correct path. I spotted a cool little gadget that uses a laser to centre your string and arrow. It's supposed to eliminate the need for long and complex paper tuning processes. The reviews I've read say that you can do a better job in only a few minutes with this gadget. So far I can't find a source here in Canada and I'm not ready to surrender and call Cabella's. The Toronto Sportsmen's Show starts this week so I'm hopeful that I'll find one there. I really want to check it out.

The next cool thing I found was software. In my case I bought Pinwheel's "Software For Archers". It was all HunterDave's fault from the bulletin board on Ontario Out of Doors website. He is way more technosavvy than I am and he suggested to look into some of these software packages that are available. I grabbed a copy of "Software for Archers" and almost immediately I was overloaded with information and my head exploded. There it was. Splattered all over my computer screen as I tried to cram all of it back into some sort of intelligible mass. Like a newborn child trying to process the world around him I finally had to stop and recollect my thoughts. It was great.

I think the idea of getting software was a good one. My head didn't explode because it was complicated. The problem was that I had never thought about any of this stuff and suddenly I had to think about it all. It's forced me to start thinking about my set up beyond point and shoot. How much does that peep weigh? What do I do with the Fuse String Shox? Is it a weight that slows the string down or does it really speed it up like Hoyt claims? Is it in the correct spot? What about those shafts? Maybe the fletching should be changed. So many questions.

The first thing it told me was that the arrows I was shooting weren't even close. Couldn't see it so much at twenty yards but beyond thirty it really showed up. The moment I pushed the spine tab the program showed me the shafts were far to flexible for what I was shooting. I started to tinker. I could pull up any shaft available and see what I would have to change to make it optimum. Some of the heavily advertised shafts wouldn't shoot properly until I either changed the weight on the front of the shaft or change the fletching. I'm still fiddling with it and look forward to doing some browsing at the Sportsmen's Show. It should be interesting comparing what's available to what the system says will work well.

It has some other cool features I'm fiddling with. One is for making site tapes but I think that's for single pin target sites. I haven't bothered with that. It has some excellent shot simulation features too. Want to know what to hold for when you're 15 feet up with a deer 32 yards from the tree? Want to look at the ballistics of your arrow foot by foot? How about where to hold on 3D targets for varying distances and cross winds? All of this is there. There's a system that you can learn that uses parts of your bow to gage distance. That's there too. All in all I think I would recommend something like this to anyone who ventures out with stick and string. Just keep a rag close in case your head explodes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I admit that I have visions of myself clinging to a tree like some diabolical movie predator. Never in the same tree. Constantly on the move like a Ninja. It didn't take me very long to realize two things. The first was that I wasn't going to be able to disassemble the platforms I had helped build and move them around. The second was that sitting on the ground next to a tree makes me more of a mushroom than a ninja. Clearly something had to be done.

I knew I needed something portable to change from mushroom to Ninja. I looked at the trophyline tree saddle. It seemed to be totally Ninja. I looked around for one but decided that, since I couldn't seem to find them in Canada yet, a more traditional treestand was in order. I realize this isn't quite as Ninja as the treesaddle might be but sometimes you need to be the grasshopper in training before you walk down the rice paper. That my friends, is where my last bit of certainty ends. It's a bit of a mind numbing process trying to wade through all the options and pick something that is both useful and cost effective. Maybe part of my problem is that I detest paying for something twice and would rather pay more once than less twice. That being said this seems to be a sport where mistakes can be a touch expensive and there are lots of conflicting opinions about everything.

I spent some time wandering around the internet. Oddly, GOOGLE had nothing useful under the title "how to be a Ninja deer hunter". I spent several days marooned at a horse sale in Lexington Kentucky and wandered around the only real hunting store I could find. That would be Dick's. I found 2 or 3 other "hunting" stores but to tell the truth they had more guns and stuff for me to hunt other people than they did to hunt deer. I had a lot of fun wandering around Dick's. I managed to find a safety harness I liked that was well priced and not available in Canada. There was not a lot of treestand love for me though.

I knew a few things that I wanted for sure. Having spent the last few weeks sitting on our homemade stools of hemorrhoid death I wanted something comfortable. While the ancient martial arts practiced by Ninja's may have included the ability to endure tremendous pain and discomfort I decided that it was a skill best left to Shoa Lin monks. Comfort was going to be the working principle of Ninja deer hunters. This dilemma seemed to be best solved by the sling bottom seats with arm rests. In the end it was at a Basspro in Pennsylvania that I found something I liked. They didn't have it but the one in Toronto did. So off to Toronto I went for what I hoped would be my final shopping trip to treestand land. I spent some time with the staff and tried to consider all the variables. I bought a treestand and step combination that was being promoted by Tiffany and Lee Lakosky. I have to admit I didn't buy it because they said to. That fact was just a coincidence. I liked the features and the fact that it came with some little extra's. Not high end stuff but enough to get me through the rest of the season without having to buy limb saws etc.

It was a hard decision to make when you can't test drive them first. Since I don't really have many friends that bowhunt deer I couldn't even go test drive theirs. So I made my best guess. I almost didn't buy it though. I got hung up on the weight of it and the thought of it being strapped to my back. If I recall it would be 55 pounds with the steps strapped to it. That's not a small amount of weight. Especially when you have to add your bow and assorted other things. In the end it was those darn marketing pictures and my male ego that did me in. Have you ever seen the pictures of pretty little Tiffany carrying hers like it weighs nothing? So now….. I AM NINJA (in training)