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)