Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heatah Huntin

So what are two grown men and two hyper labs to do when their duck boat is down for extensive repairs . . . well, heatah huntin of course. For those uneducated in exactly what heatah huntin entails I thought it would be helpful to organize a post to provide a little background. I am fairly certain that most of you southern gents may be familiar with this method of hunting but are more liable to call it AC hunting. In its most basic form a hunter uses a 4x4 vehicle to navigate far into the backcountry (pounding the snot out of his truck's shock absorption system in the process) in the hopes of having a suicidal ruffed grouse or rabbit sit in the road long enough for the trucks driver to shoot it. A perfectly expedited dispatch is usually followed by the release of the dog who retrieves and then returns it to the truck without the driver having to move more than a couple feet. Though sounding utterly simple in the execution, it never fails that 9.9 times out of 10 the grouse or rabbit wins.

On this particular outing the temperatures were in the lower teens and the winds blowing at a sustained 10-15 mph with sizable gusts reaching 25 mph. As the trees were tossed back in forth in the frosty gale I knew that our chances of seeing a bird would be minimal, bordering on impossible and within spitting distance of I hardly think so. Not to be easily discouraged however of we went into the wilds. After many hours of driving we were wondering if we would see anything, until we rounded a bend and out of the corner of my eye a fast shape darted through a low tangle of spruce trees. I instructed my brother to drive up the road a little further and I jumped out of the truck and quickly loaded three shells. Trudging through the tangle of raspberry bushes and burdocks, I made it to where I had seen the quickly moving form and noted a pair of rabbit tracks escaping into the deep woods. As the wind howled around my baseball hat and the blood drained out of my hands I decided that mister rabbit was in no danger this day and I hiked back to the warmth of the pick-up.

As the day wore on and the guns failed to go BOOM we became more and more in need of a good adrenaline fix. Minutes before the mandated quitting time, imagine my incredible surprise and good fortune when cruising down one stretch of road this former rock jock and mountaineer came upon a wood yard filled with over half a million dollars worth of climbing toys! Note in the picture it says DANGER, KEEP BACK 300 FEET . . . yes I am crazy. Ok, I am aware that if any loggers or woodsmen are reading this I know I am going to catch some heat . . . but you have to admit its at least a little bit funny!?!?

Well the day finished with us not shooting any small game animals BUT we did see a nice spike horn that IF we had been carrying a rifle could have been shot and tagged by my brother . . . oh well the bird hunters always see the deer and the deer hunters always see the birds. Perhaps that deer hunter we saw 2 minutes down the road and told of the sighting ended up shooting that nice spike . . . if he ever was able to get his swearing under control . . . man did that guy look cold as he stalked deer through the snow drifts on that abandoned road . . . maybe he should try heatah huntin?!?!?

Monday, November 24, 2008


As my brother hit the throttle on the 40 HP 4 stroke Honda I could tell immediately that something was wrong. The boat began having a series of shimmies, shakes and convulsions reminiscent of an epileptic attack. Moments before in a slight mistake of judgment we had gently “tapped” a granite ledge hiding ominously a few feet under the water. As we pursued a crippled eider deeper and deeper into the bay, I contemplated the possibility of a Coast Guard rescue. Returning to the mooring buoy, we inspected the motor and found that several of the propeller blades were mangled and the entire fin on the lower unit has been sacrificed to Davy Jones’s locker. We managed to finish the morning hunt shooting a total of five eiders and then limp slowly back to the landing under half power.

A side trip on the way home to the local Honda dealership indicated that our wrestling match with King Neptune had not only caused the apparent visual damage to the prop and lower unit but had also stripped the internal bearings and partially bent the shaft; total estimated costs $1,000.00 green backs. Never one to be discouraged, my brother simply made a few calls to his insurance company and due to his forethought in setting a very low deductible he came out of the whole mess barely financially scathed.

In our “after the incident” conversations we lamented in the fact that we were as lucky as we were. A hole could have been torn in the boat, impact could have knocked someone overboard, the engine could have been inoperable or a dozen other issues could have occurred. Sometimes you have to be thankful for not having to enter into “what could have happened” and grateful for “what did happen”!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Duck Camp 2008 - Day 1

Sitting close to the point of exhaustion, I slowly sip on a MGD and contemplate the first day of 2008 Duck Camp.

Like many days it began innocently enough when I awoke at 3:30 AM to a drab starless morning. Digging myself out from under the thick covers and stumbling over to the coffee pot, I give my brother a lackadaisical high five for his forethought in having the coffee already brewing. As is standard family operating procedure, the rapidly filling pot contains a near lethal dose of his potent blend of liquid heart paddles. As I choke back the thick black mud I force my mind into gear and begin struggling through the routine of extensive before hunt preparations.

The ritual of duck hunting has many strange and bizarre initiations but none more interesting than a dog tired waterfowler attempting to make his way into the field without forgetting some crucial element. Over the years, I can tell you multiple stories of men (myself certainly no exception) crying like little school girls because they forgot firearms, shells, wet weather gear, Redman chaw or other crucial items. Years of waterfowl hunting eventually hones these rookies into hard core “duckers”, men who through skill, luck or possibly a combination of both know how to operate with very little sleep and understand the complexities of packing crucial items the night before.

This time things work out in my favor and two hours into the hunt I near a limit of common eiders and hold in my hand one of only two duck bands I have ever managed to harvest. In a strange twist of fate, the only other band I have taken was harvested during 2007 Duck Camp!

Hours into duck camp 2008 and it is already turning out to be complete success. A smile stretches across my face as we land the boat and begin the drive back to my brothers house for a supper of fresh caught lobsters and deer tenderloins.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Duck Camp 2008 - Day 2

Todays Duck Camp update unexpectedly isn't about ducks! Instead I had to write a few brief words about my amazing family pet and part time retriever Onyx. Today marked her very first retrieval of a Ruffed Grouse. After our morning hunts Onyx and I had been trying to get some additional exercise by walking the logging roads in pursuit of this fine game bird. Despite Onyx's best efforts to flush birds (including Grouse and Woodcock) I just wasn't able to be quick enough or accurate enough to take a good wing shot. As luck would have it on the drive home (what we around here call "heatah huntin") a grouse ran across the road and stood there about 10 yards into the woods looking at us. Well never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I jumped out of the truck and gave him a lethal dose of #8s from my Franchi 612. Onyx was then released and via her nose searched, found and returned the bird. Man, talk about your proud Papa! Congrats Onyx you the Dog!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Duck Camp 2008 - Day 3

Please note that I am printing these updates to Duck Camp 2008 in reverse order. Over the next week (Nov. 19th - Day 2 and Nov. 21th - Day 1) I will finish the write-ups on the final two days of this exciting/excruciating three days of hunting. Picture above is the view out of the front window at duck camp.

Gigantic rumbles of thunder sounded in the distance signaling that duck camp 2008 was not to pass quietly into history. The approaching torrential rains sounded like the rumble of a taxiing C130 and hit our small cabin with such force that small rivulets of rain began crawling through the shingles and creating murky puddles. Bolts of lightning soon arrived and began dancing around Duckman’s 20 foot Lund. Bobbing on the angry Atlantic Ocean the craft was swung violently back and forth on a lobster boat mooring. As the boat’s whining automatic bilge pump struggled against the rising storm Duckman frantically paced in front of the cabins small windows peering with wild eyes out into the building hurricane.

Pondering our situation, we wondered if we might be spending another night resting peacefully in the small cabin nestled comfortably on a small island off the Maine coast. I silently hoped that duck camp would be extended and extra day.

Unfortunately, like many late season storms this one departed as quickly as it had arrived and within a few hours the sun was attempting to peak out from behind the threatening skies. With our bellies crammed full of eggs, bacon and several pounds of moose breakfast sausage we began the complex task of packing up camp while Duckman launched the row boat and oared out to check on possible damage. I am happy to report that Duckman’s new boat is a champion and it shrugged off the gnarly unforeseen storm easier than Duckman’s wife fighting off his advances on date night.

As we motored back to the boat landing Duckman navigated our course through lobster buoys, rock weed and hidden ledges with expert precision. Decades of navigation through these waters having left their mark on him as a master seaman. As the motor droned on in the distant reaches of my mind, I silently reflected on the previous 2 days of duck camp 2008.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2008 Deer Season Update . . . II

Apparently the MONSTER whitetails are falling from the sky in the north eastern part of the state. A few days ago, I noted that I had an incoming phone call from my Mom. Knowing the timing, I was fairly certain that I knew what the phone call would be concerning. In the ensuing conversation I gathered that a 7 pointer had been harvested by her husband during the evening hunt. It was a classic tale of deer sticks head out into field. Coast looks clear. Deer heads across field and hunter is waiting. Deer was hit with 7mm-08 and ran about 100 yards before collapsing. She was currently driving up to meet him and like a good "Maine" woman planning on helping him haul the deer out.

Well folks, I have to tell you that was the last story I expected to hear from Ma this deer season so when my phone rang yesterday during that magical evening hour I was more than a little bit confused. In the frantic conversation that spewed forth from the receiver Ma relayed that she had shot her first deer! I attempted to gather information from her but all I was able to get was big deer, lots of points, big deer, shot in ass, big deer, ran about a 100 yards, big deer, getting help.

As I hung up the receiver I was thrilled at the prospect that Ma had finally managed to shot her first deer and I laughed silently to myself at what an amateur, first timer hunter would think of as a "big" deer. Over the next few hours more phone calls were received from family and the legend began to grow. I began to realize that perhaps Ma had shot a deer that had "monster" potential. Several hours later as I was reviewing my e-mail I noted several photos that showcased Ma first deer and I immediately began to seethe in jealously. Most Maine hunters spent a lifetime chasing a trophy MONSTER whitetail such as the one Ma shot for her first deer! As the dust settled I was provided with these final statistics: the deer weighed in at 199 Lbs, had 10 points and is currently on its was to the taxidermist!

In all seriousness . . . congrats Ma you make your sons proud . . . you da woman!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

2008 Deer Season Update . . .

Before getting to deep in this post, I have to explain something to you and it is the fact that I consider any deer a trophy. Deer hunting in Maine is difficult to say the least and many hunters will undoubtedly go an entire season or more without even seeing a deer much less getting a chance at a shot opportunity. This combined with the fact that we are coming off one of the worst winter snow falls on recent record and any hunter filling his tag this season is an anomaly.

It was a fast deer season for me this year with completion coming on the third day of the season but it is still one that I certainly will cherish years from now. This momentous season was marked by the harvesting of deer number 10 over a course of 8 consecutive years. So far this sportsman has managed to through luck and skill (mostly luck) to keep the freezer fully stocked with venison for close to a decade.

The Story - with the light dying I could hear a deer making its way slowly up the edge of the swamp. With the southerly wind, I could fell my chances diminishing as I was in precisely the wrong position. I thought about the night before and the through washing I had given my hunting clothes in no scent soap and how I had made sure to pack them in a garbage bag filled with pine boughs. It must have given me a slight advantage because the doe crossed my shooting lane at about 100 yards. I braced my shooting arm against the tree where my climbing stand was situated and let out a fawn bleat to stop the walking doe. The deer didn't stop so I let out another MUCH louder bleat . . . still the doe didn't stop. Finally as the deer reached the outer edge of the shooting lane I took a walking shot with my 30-06 Browning BAR loaded with a deadly load of 180 grain Remingtons and the deer dropped instantly.

I always say that after the shot the hardest work remains and in this case that is so truthful it hurt. I was hunting a remote part of the property and I knew from previous years that I had at lest an hour and a half drag ahead of me. I settled into the work I had created for myself and managed to contact a neighbor with an ATV to bail me out for the final ½ hour of the drag. I arrived at the house exhausted and starving and hit a new low by eating fried chicken in the whirlpool tub . . . thus taking care of two issues at once (an aching back and rumbling tummy!).

I had planned to let the deer hang a few days but noted early the next morning that flies were buzzing and the November sun especially bright. I took the deer in to tag and at the same time ran it over to the butchers. Thus far the property has managed to produce my 125 lb. doe and the included photographed 8 point buck (missing it's left side horns) shot by my neighbor. (His story is another post all to itself!) With most of the season ahead of us I am curious to see if my old man can manage at least one more whitetail . . . time will tell.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Paintball blues . . .

I have to admit that as I sit here at work today I am suffering. My head feels swollen and every muscle in my body is aching. IN addition I have marble size welts erratically covering me from head to toe. No, I haven't contracted some horrible disease and no I don't have lyme carrying ticks nibbling on my epidermis what I have friends is a BAD case of the after effects of a full day of PAINTBALL.

The day certainly started innocently enough with a call from a neighbor who was inquiring if I in fact had ever played paintball. Well it had been YEARS but since I had all the gear I thought I would give it a try. He said to meet him at his house around 9:30 and there would be a "few" friends of his that would be joining us. Well upon arriving I found his door yard PACKED with vehicles and 20 or more fanatics gathering in his garage.

Now folks, I like to shoot a person with a paintball just as much as the next person but let me tell you these boys were VERY serious. Each person had ALL of the gear and the latest in equipment. I felt severely as a disadvantage with my stock 98 Tippman. Well, I went through the introductions and organized my limited gear and was soon put on a team with 10 other guys . . . we were the "white" team and arm bands made of duct tape identified us as such.

We were chosen first to hide and the other were chosen to search us out. We were playing on a "woods" course and it was rough to say the least. Fallen down logs, branches, boulders, etc. I was glad to have a face mask because it saved me from being blinded several times.

The first game went something like this. I laid down in a ditch waited about 5 minutes and a guy shot me in the back . . . done. I walked back to the garage where I sipped off a keg until the rest of my team was eliminated.

Second game it was my teams turn to search and hopefully destroy . . . I shot a guy and then his buddy shot me. I narrowly missed being hit in a delicate area by a paintball traveling at something around 200 feet per second. There is currently a welt on my inner thigh the size of a golf ball. Both of us walked back to the house and I was fed a shot of some liquor that burned my throat.

Third game I pulled out the secret weapon . . . my ghillie suit that I had been hiding this whole time under my jacket. As I laid in the leaves, I piled others up on top of the suit and all but disappeared from view behind a small rock. I sat there motionless until two guys walked in front of me then I shot them both before they even realized I was there. As another ran in for support he must have thought I was behind a tree because he started frantically shooting in that direction . . . I waited until he walked right up to about 10 yards and I shot him as well. Man, was it possible I was finally getting the hang of this? I could hear a team member calling for assistance and I got up and shot one more guy who was circling my teammate . . . unbeknownst to me that ended the game! I had personally shot almost 1/2 the opposing team!

Fourth game . . . no joke I shot one of my own guys and then walked into an ambush of three guys. They (apparently unhappy I had eliminated them in the earlier game) proceeded to shoot at me until I lay on the ground curled up in a ball crying like a little girl.

Well at this point, I wish I had ended a game early and had left with some level of self respect and a great memory from game three BUT all in all it was a great time! I got invited back and in two weeks I will be playing again. Guess in the meantime I need to figure out the finer points of guerilla tactics or download a marine corps manual! Well until next time Semper Phi?!?!?!! LOL!
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