Friday, November 26, 2010

A Man for All Seasons

Occasionally, I will read a particularly inspiring piece of literature I enjoy sharing with others. This latest poetic piece was presented to me in a recent e-mail discussion with Jerry Johnson at Jerry enjoys all out-of-door activities and his poetry draws upon his vivid memories and experiences in the serene areas of rural New England. He additionally shares my passion for reading and the writings of Maine author Bill Geagan. The following poem was written for his father, who had a passion for the outdoors and loved hunting and fishing. For me, the poem stirred fond recollections of time spent with my own father and the memories we have shared in the wood and on the waters. Please enjoy Jerry’s inspirational work!

A Man for All Seasons
for C. Russell Johnson
Here's to the man, where do we start …
to show all he did,
to measure his heart …
So let us begin and the best that we can
tell a little about this man among men.

Remember the past, the trips to the Cape,
swimming the ocean and mackerel fresh-baked,
and journeys to Tamworth,
up there on Great Hill,
fishing the Bearcamp
and Swift River’s chill.

Our travels were many, he always made time
to take us all fishing and bring tackle and line.
To pass down his wisdom,
the way did he show
to venture afield with shotgun and bow.

His love for the theater, his gift for the script,
directing his actors
or playing his bit,
gave us laughter and meaningful tears,
When the curtain was drawn,
thunderous cheers!

In business, a leader, its managing pulse,
he led by example and ran a smooth house.
He solved all the problems
and kept them in shock
how he bonded his workers and toiled ’round the clock.

His gift with a saw,
hammer and plane,
formed pieces of craft
from his hands deep in pain –
at the homes of his sons, his work was precise
and the legacy he left came without price.

His farm in Vermont, for all friends to share,
was furnished with love, many felt his care –
at that beautiful farmstead,
bucolic and serene,
in the green mountain hillsides,
reflecting his dream.

And he loved all creatures
and natural things,
he appreciated nature
and the splendor she brings.

He knew how to put it all down with his pen,
reflecting his views and those of real men.
He grasped when it was timely
to cut through the crap,
to weed out the fiction
and lay down the fact.
He was there when you needed him,
he would answer your call –
no problem was too big,
nor was it too small.

So, here's to the man, the leader of the clan,
I want you to know that I am your fan,
For all you have taught me,
for all you have done,
just want you to know
I'm glad I'm your son.

Jerry Johnson

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another Mystery Animal

As an experiment, I placed a game camera at one of my trap sites. This particular set-up is a dirt hole set meant to target the rich and healthy local population of coyotes. I was curious to see if other critters were visiting the location and/or how many near misses were encountered over the course of the trapping season running from Oct. 17 to Dec. 31. Note this “mystery animal” barely escaping the jaws of a leg hold trap a few inches to the left of were he approached the baited hole. Bring on the guesses . . . bobcat, fisher, coyote, fox?

Dirt Hole Set During the Day Light

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Opening Day Buck and The Lessons Learned (Part 3)

Sunday morning and I was up a full hour before my alarm, filled with new found optimism. Packing my waders, I jumped on the 4-wheeler and headed to last blood. Arriving well before the fist rays of light, I settled down under a young pine tree and quietly waited for the crows to appear. It was my hope that the sharp eyes of the crows and turkey vultures would point me to my deer. This trick had worked for me once before and I hoped it would work again. After waiting for almost an hour, the calling crows showed no set pattern and I donned the waders and headed into the alder bog. The bog was even worse than I had anticipated and visibility in the swamp grass and 10 foot tall alder saplings proved a significant challenge.

Struggling chest deep at times through the sucking mud, smelling of rotten eggs, I searched inch by inch through the bog until I was satisfied that it did not contain my deer. Frustrated by the situation, I struggled back to the shore and leaned back against a rock for a few minutes to reason out other options. I decided as a last ditch effort I would make a large swing around the perimeter of the site to determine if perhaps I would get lucky and stumble upon a hoof print in the mud or heavy indentations in the leaves. While I did find several tracks none contained blood. The heavy rains that had continued all through the night had wash away all traces.

Finally, at around 12:00 PM Sunday I returned to the house, disappointed but much wiser for the situation. Ultimately, despite how good a shot I would like to “believe” I had made, the reality had proven otherwise. Perhaps it was a small unseen branch, an adrenaline charged hand shake, a rapid pull of the trigger finger, a scope improperly set, a slip of a foot, a shot placed to low on the forward shoulder . . . the list goes on for reasons why deer are wounded each year.

The conclusion of this tale, occurred when I stopped by my neighbors on Sunday afternoon, a week from the original search, I was shocked to hear his tale of a small spike horn that had been found. A friend of a friend had been hunting approximately three miles and 180 degrees opposite the known direction the deer had last been moving and had stumbled upon the bloated carcass. Doing a little CSI investigative autopsy, he could see where a bullet had entered and clipped one lung. This certainly goes to show you the power a deer possesses even when critically wounded. Without a perfect shot that either hits the heart, both lungs or spinal column a deer is a powerful creature capable of dramatic physical feats to save its life. When hunting during the remainder of the season, please keep in mind my tale and make sure that your shots are true to save an animals possible suffering and to aid in a quick harvest. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Opening Day Buck and The Lessons Learned (Part 2)

Thinking I may have completely missed, I waited almost an hour before checking the impact site. At about this same time, Dad who had been hunting nearby joined me. Together we slowly approached where I had shot the deer. The impact site had blood splatter 6 feet high on the beech tree behind the animal, indicating a complete pass through. The splatter quickly transformed into a heavy trail of vibrant crimson filled with bubbly froth. Another 100 feet and blood stained oak leaves showed where the animal had fallen. All initial sign had the components of a good shot and promise of a quick recovery. A clean miss or no shot is much more attractive than a poorly placed shot and a wounded animal. At approximately 200 yards from the shot site, I noted the blood had already started to clot and long strings of blood lay on the ground, another 10 feet and nothing, not a drop.

Puzzled, I continued to walk in the general direction I expected the deer to walk (down hill and toward water). After several hundred yards, I returned to the bright orange flagging that marked last blood. As Dad retraced my steps, I decided to climb the ridge on the slim chance that the wounded animal had run uphill. On the top, I was surprised to find a small blood drop. Now notably worried, that the deer wasn't as injured as I originally thought, I collected the old man and we decided to sit for another hour before tracking any further. My exact statement to Dad was "the next time we find blood I want there to be a dead deer beside it".

The extra hour was nerve wracking but with plenty of day light and rain not predicted until late evening it was the smart choice. As we restarted our search my watch read 12:30 PM a full 3 hours after the initial shot. Indentations in the leaf litter now indicated the deer was moving down hill toward an extensive alder bog. Several sets of deer tracks and lack of blood had us on our hands and knees examining every track to see if it contained even a minuscule amount of blood. Every pinkie nail sized drop of blood provided us with new found hope.

Five additional hours of searching using an extensive grid system, yielded no trace of the wounded deer, like the forest had come alive and swallowed it whole. Our exploration of the bog yielded it could not be navigated without chest waders, an option that would require a 2 hour round trip.

At dark (6:00 PM), the old man and I finally returned home exhausted after covering miles of mixed terrain and not having eaten or drank anything since 5:00 AM.

The story continues Monday November 22nd . . .  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Opening Day Buck and The Lessons Learned (Part 1)

Physically and mentally exhausted from over two days and 12 hours of searching, Sunday afternoon at approximately 12:00 pm, I came to the painful conclusion that I was not going to find my deer. Heavy rains on Saturday evening, faded blood trail and a thickly overgrown alder bog were all impediments that gnawed at my quickly dwindling options.

An animal wounded, in agony and slowly dying or being eaten alive by coyotes is a thought that weighs heavy on a hunters soul. My family and friends tried to console me with tales of deer that were shot and survived but it does little for my mindset. Instead, I replay the event over and over in my mind, like the annoying skipping of a CD player, trying to determine what went wrong.

I had been hunting a favorite spot that over the years had produced many deer. The highly elevated stand made shot placement an easy task and most ranges were 50-100 yards, very capably ranges for the 180-grain hurling .30-06 Springfield. Unfortunately, on this particularly morning an uncooperative ungulate decided to play by a different set of rules. At 9:30 AM my growling stomach had planning my departure from the tree stand and by 9:35 AM I had my climber on the ground and was busily picking up my last bottle of doe scent when I heard a loud crunching coming up through the woods. At 9:37 AM I realized that the crunching was not a hunter, as I had originally expected, but instead a spike horn. Surprised at the sight, after all of the noise my bargain basement climber makes, I slowly raised my rifle and waited until the small buck cleared the underbrush. Settling my sight on the forward shoulder, I squeezed the trigger until . . . a very loud KABOOM echoed forth from my Browning semiautomatic. Shocked I watched what appeared to be a very healthy deer bounce through the hardwoods and disappear into the woods.

The story continues Thursday November 18th . . . 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Favorite Hunting Memories

Looking through hundreds of photos the other night, reminiscing about past hunting season’s, I came across this old photo of a productive hunt spent with my Dad and brother. That certainly was an exciting day, filled with events that ultimately lead to memories the three of us will laugh about and cherish for a lifetime.

While you are out hunting with family and friends, try and remember this quote from Italian Climber Walter Bonatti – “Mountains are the means, the man is the end. The goal is not to reach the top of mountains, but to improve the man.” What I am trying to say is “Hunting is the means, the man is the end. The goal is not to harvest a game animal, but to improve the man.” Enjoy the reminder of your season, be safe and always wear your florescent orange!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blog Temporarily Closed Due to Hunting Season

I am kidding of course, it is just that lately I have been spending practically every available moment in the woods. My desperate attempt to maximize the relatively short hunting season we have here in Maine. While I have many tales to tell from this already sorted 2010 deer season, I have yet to get a chance to convert anything into story format. As I struggle to find a moment to compose my latest quality blog entry, please take a few moments to check out these past articles. Enjoy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Deer Season Arrives!

In celebration of the start of the 2010 Deer Season, I wanted to direct you to a couple stories I have written over the years that deal with the hazards, trials and tribulations that tend to occur when hearty sportsmen take to the woods on cold November mornings in pursuit of the noble and cunning whitetailed deer. Of all the hunting stories I have posted on the blog, few have spawned the sheer volume of e-mails and comments that were generated by these four posts.
As you return to the hunt this weekend, make sure to dress warm, be absolutely sure of your target, shoot straight and depending on your wanton desires, enjoy the company of family and friends at deer camp or the quite solace and peace of the vast Maine wilderness. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

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