Friday, September 30, 2011

Fun Friday!

Hunting tip of the Week:

When shooting upward or downward, aim low. I don't quite understand how it works, but when aiming at a steep angle, either up or down, you will tend to shoot high. This is especially important to compensate for when bow hunting.

Hunting Video of the Week:

Current favorite song:

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review - Iisakki Järvenpää Oy Hunting Knife

Quality hand made knifes are not only hard to find, they are expensive. After a lot of looking I found and purchased a hand made knife from Iisakki Järvenpää Oy, a knife maker in Finland. Before I get into the knife review let me tell you what little I could find about this knife maker. Little information on this knife and knife maker is in English.

Iisakki Järvenpää Oy has been making knifes since 1879. They are known for making some of the best knifes in Finland. Most Americans don't realize that a lot of quality knives come out of Finland. Most are purchased in the UK, but one style in particular is very popular in the US; the Rapala Fillet Knife. You probably have one of these in your tackle box. It was designed and originally made in Finland. All of the knifes made by Iisakki Järvenpää Oy are "hand made", although I would wager they are made on an assembly line and not one at a time by a craftsman.

The knife I chose is a Puukko. To quote Wikipedia, "In the Nordic countries, the puukko is an "everyday" knife that is used for everything from hunting, fishing, and garden work to opening boxes in the warehouse." Sadly, it is illegal to carry them in socialist Finland, so they are loosing popularity. The design is simple, strong, and effective.

I chose this knife for a number of reasons. Its 3 7/8" blade is small enough for detail work, but large enough to give it some reach. It is light, weighing only a few ounces. The sheath is ornate, full grain leather, has a drop belt loop, and does not have a snap strap. Most importantly, the blade is carbon steel. It is amazing how hard it is to find a good carbon steel blade. I purchased it from World Knives for $37.95. It is easily worth twice that.

A word of caution, don't purchase a knife from World Knives until you read my review of their services. I plan on having that ready on Saturday.


The blade on this knife is its biggest draw. It is fairly thin at only about 1/8". This helps it cut through meat effortlessly. The point is needle sharp. I like the blood groove, although I'm not sure how practical it is. The etching is beautifully done. The etching states the manufacturer and the town it was made in. Most importantly, it is sharp. Sharper than a razor, no exaggeration. The edge has a secondary bevel that helps maintain a sharp edge and makes it easier to sharpen. Secondary bevels are controversial among knife experts, but I like them.

The sheath is its next big plus. It is made of tough leather with a simple design stamped onto the front. It has not been dyed or oiled and the manufacturer recommends not oiling it.  I absolutely love that is has a drop belt loop. This means that the knife will move out of the way when you sit or lie down. It is very comfortable to carry. The fact that the only restraining device is the pressure of the sheath around the knife handle makes the knife very easy to remove and replace. 

The Iisakki Järvenpää Oy Hunting Knife feels good in my hand. It is well balanced. The handle is fat enough to get a good grip, but small enough to feel good in my small hand. Being an American, I would prefer more of a guard, but not having one is part of the design of the knife. 

It is not without some drawbacks, however. Being that it is less than $40, you would expect some corners to be cut. Thankfully, they did not cut corners in the quality of the steel or in the solid construction. They did cut corners in the finishing. You can see some milling marks on the back of the blade and around the guard. The handle looks to have been dipped in polyurethane and has a very noticeable drip at the base of the handle. I had to sand this off. There are several places that could use some buffing and sanding to be perfect. 

To sum up, I love this knife. I will be using it in the field this year as my main knife. It is hand made quality at a machine made price. I like that it is both unique and functional.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Back From a Funeral With A Few Lessons Learned

I got back late last night from the funeral of my wife's grandfather. I am exhausted and overwhelmed with work that needs to be done at work and home, but am working to get back into the swing of things with my blogging. I wanted to share with everyone  a few things I learned while away.

1. I love the south and never want to go farther north than Virginia (unless it is for a bear hunt). The funeral was in New Jersey. The press of people, the sense of urgency, and what I perceived to be rudeness was defeating. I know many wonderful people from the north, but I'm not sure how they deal with it!

2. The North has quite a different view of the Civil War than the South. Not trying to be political, but just a funny observation. The Civil war monuments I took note of in New Jersey were dedicated to those who fought in the "rebellion". The monuments down here are dedicated to those who fought "defending their land". To the north it is the "War of the Southern Rebellion" to the south it it the "War of the Northern Aggression." Makes sense that the two sides would see things differently, but I had never actually noticed it on memorials.

Crappy cellphone picture, but you can see they call it the "War of the Rebellion"
3. There are a lot of misconceptions and plain myths believed by hunters. Several of the family are hunters, so I was able to enjoy some good conversation while I was there.  I was amazed at how many untruths are believed by hunters. Take magnum shotgun shells for example:

My brother-in-law was complaining about how bad his shotgun kicked with 12ga 3 1/2" magnums when loaded with buckshot for deer. I tried to explain to him that 3" magnums didn't kick as bad and were almost as effective. 3 1/2" magnum loads, when loaded with 00 buck, only have 3 more pellets and have the same muzzle velocity. "No", he said, "You need them to get the extra range".

Magnum shotgun shells do not give you more range!  They give you more pellets, making them more effective within their limited range. Some magnum shells actually have less muzzle velocity than their 2 3/4" counterparts.  

Another common misconception is that animals cannot see a red light beam. Don't even try arguing this one! Hunters will think you are crazy! Red lights are more effective when night hunting because animals eyes are less sensitive to it and the red filter casts a subdued light instead of a harsh one.  It is a myth that animals only see in black and white, they see a limited range of color much like a color blind person. There is debate among the scientific community about what colors they actually see, but it is generally accepted that most animals cannot see the color red well. Does this mean that everything that is red disappears?  No, of course not. It just appears as a different color, most likely green or blue. So while an animal may not see a red light well, they can see it.

4. Networking is the best way to find property to hunt on. I was invited to hunt on some private land in western Virginia. I didn't ask to hunt on it, it was offered to me after a couple hours of chatting about hunting. This made the difficult weekend well worth it for me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Survival Bracelet use #2 - Nail Holder

My wife's grandfather passed away yesterday, so I am going to be out of town for a couple days. We are packing up right now, but before I leave I want to show you all another use for the survival bracelet. If you want to make your own survival bracelet I have written a tutorial that can be found here.

To day I had to drive some nails while standing at the top of a tall ladder. The angle was awkward and I didn't want to keep the nails in my pocket and I hate holding them in my mouth, so I stuck them in my survival bracelet. It worked like a charm.

I can't really think of a way to make this applicable to hunting, but thought it was a neat idea. I'm going to continue posting whenever I find a new use for my survival bracelet. We will see how many uses there are!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fun Friday!

Here is the Friday hunting tip, hunting video, and my current favorite song!

Hunting Tip
Keep a spray bottle filled with peroxide in your truck. If you are blood trailing an animal and you see a spot that may or may not be blood, spray it with the peroxide. If it is blood it will foam up and you will know you are on the right track!

Hunting Video
I'm sure most of you have seen this, but if you haven't you are in for a treat! Be prepared to laugh! (Or at least smile!)

Current Favorite Song
Keep in mind, I don't listen to country music.

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why Do Compound Bow Hunters Hate Crossbows?

I got this month's Virginia Game & Fish today. I was excited to see that they dedicated an entire section this month to crossbows. It contains tons of great information for both the beginner and the seasoned x-bow user. I especially appreciated the article "Triggering Safety" by Daniel James Hendricks. It contains a plethora of safety tips and answered a few questions I had, such as "Do I cock the bow in the stand or on the ground and then pull up the cocked bow?" (It's the second one.)

What they do not address is how much some bow hunters absolutely hate crossbow users. Here are some direct quotes from a few popular archery forums:

"I dont think that crossbows should be used by any other then those not physically able to draw a compound bow."

"I hate crossbows from the pit of my soul."

"The X-bow is the devils tool......"

"its pretty much cheating and take away all the excitement in the hunt"

"I dont hate them, I just hate how people think they should be in the same season as a vertical bow."

You get the point.

Speaking of points....

To those who hate the crossbow:


Crossbows are not a superior weapon to the modern compound. They are not more powerful, nor do they have a longer range. They do have the advantage of having a much smaller learning curve. It takes less practice to master them, but it does take practice. This ease of use comes at the price of being louder and much slower to reload. Both can be amazingly accurate. Side by side, and in my opinion, a compound bow is a better hunting weapon. So, x-bow users do not have an advantage over compound bow users.

Is it because you are afraid that there will be more hunters in the woods during "your" bow season? While I could not find any hard data, there probably are more people participating in bow season now that crossbows are legal. How is that a bad thing? Our sport is slowly dieing, fewer and fewer people hunt each year. The more ways we can get people involved the better. To not want to share "your" bow season is simply selfish.

One of my favorite things

Do you feel that it is unfair that you spend hundreds of hours practicing, only to have someone like me shoot as well as you after only a few practice sessions? That would suck, but it is not the crossbows fault that you chose the harder-to-master weapon. I choose to use a crossbow for two reasons. 1) I don't have the time to master the compound bow. I wish I did! Which leads to: 2) I don't want to wound a deer. Choosing a x-bow is the most responsible thing to do if you are not an expert with the compound.

Come on! We are all in this game together. We have plenty of people attacking our sport. Why do we have to squabble over something as petty as the form of our bow?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Camp Recipe - Chili Cheese Fries

Here is a quick, easy, high calorie meal that is perfect for a deer camp. Chili Cheese Fries! 


1 bag Frozen French Fries (it is OK if they are thawed out)
1 can Chili
1 Jar Cheese Wiz
1 chopped Onion - optional
chopped Hot Peppers - optional

Put everything into a large pan and cover with aluminum foil. Heat over fire or camp stove until hot.

That's it! It will be gooey, messy, full of fat, and one of the most wonderful things you have ever eaten after a long hunt!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Place For FMJ Bullets In The Hunters Arsenal

I've always been told that Fully Metal Jacket bullets were for target shooting only. Fully Metal Jacket bullets do not expand. They typically penetrate well, but do not expand, leaving a small wound channel. The fear with FMJ bullets is that they can easily zip through your target without hitting any vitals, causing a lost animal and a slow death.

Hunters have a number of bullet choices. The most popular choices are hollow point and soft point. These leave large wound channels and create large exit wounds. There are hundreds of different bullets, each have their own set of benefits and drawbacks.

V-Max Bullets
On opening day of squirrel season I shot two squirrels with Remington .22 Magnum V-Max bullets. These bullets have a polymer tip for increased accuracy. The description of these bullets on the manufacturers website says that they have "explosive expansion". No kidding. They are great bullets, but a poor choice for anything you may want to eat.  I was quite shocked at the damage the bullets did. One squirrel had an exit wound the size of a half dollar with its lungs hanging out. Needless to say, I had to find a different bullet for squirrel hunting.

My first thought was to use plain old hollow points, but after shooting a few boards I felt that they also expanded too quickly for such a small animal. So, I decided to try FMJ. I have killed multiple small animals with my air rife. The entry and exit holes are not large when I use it, but the squirrels and rabbits die just as quickly. I feel (know) that a 40 grain FMJ bullet out of a .22 Magnum has more killing power than a 14 grain pellet out of an air rifle.

My first hurdle was finding them. Not all manufacturers make these and all of the online retailers that I frequent were sold out of the one or two varieties they carry. I finally got lucky and found two boxes of Winchester FMJ .22 Magnum rounds at my local Bass Pro Shops. I bought both boxes.

I was a little concerned that they would not be as accurate as the V-Tips. In the past V-Tips were all I fed my rifle. I had heard that Remington V-Tips were the best of the best when it comes to .22 Magnum, so I really had no idea how good or bad "regular" ammo would shoot in my gun. I had nothing to be worried about. The FMJ gave me sub-inch groups at 50 yards. The point of impact was considerably different though, so I'm glad I tried them at the range first.

I have been able to kill one squirrel with these FMJ bullets. I can say without reservation that they are not only more than capable for squirrel hunting, they do not waste meat. I shot the squirrel in the exact same spot as my first squirrel. The exit wound was no bigger than a .22 bullet. Absolutely no wasted meat and the squirrel died instantly.

I am in the middle of tanning the hide. This is the exit wound.
I wouldn't use this bullet on anything bigger than a cat, but for small, edible animals they are perfect and have earned a place in my ammo stash!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Spending Time Outdoors With A Toddler

Authors note: I originaly wrote this post for Taking A Walk On The Wild Side

About a year ago, before my second daughter was born, my wife and I decided to take our one year old daughter, Lila, on a hike. There was a Wildlife Management Area that I had been wanting to scout so we decided to go there. Before our daughter was born we were big Geocachers and hikers. Unfortunately, we had done little of either after she was born. We were excited about the opportunity.

We arrived at the WMA, strapped Lila into a backpack carrier, and began a pleasant hike. The first two miles of the hike was on a dirt road that bordered a soybean field. As we approached the middle of the field I saw two round black ears pop up out of the soybeans about 60 yards away. I instantly got excited and took a couple steps closer, trying to see it better. The ears were unmistakable; it was a beautiful black bear!

As the bear stuck its head out of the soybeans to check us out, my wife started to go into hysterics. She told me we had better get out of here. That was a BEAR and it was going to eat us. The bear was showing no signs of aggression, in fact it was slowly walking away from us. It was neither alarmed nor upset. I told my wife to stay put. She instead did one of the worst things you can do around a bear. She ran away, stopping about 100 yards behind me and my daughter.

I stayed put until the bear turned its back on us and began slowly moving away. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I'm talking National Geographic picture perfect! After the bear was gone I continued down the road calling my wife back. She refused, so we turned around and headed home.

My wife and I were talking about this the other day. She says that the hike back to the car was the low point of our marriage. She was out-of-control mad at me. How could I bring our baby to someplace this dangerous? Lila could sense the mood and was uncomfortable in the backpack so I let her out to walk. She headed directly to a patch of poison ivy, which also contained a snake. It was hot and she was thirsty, but there was no comfortable place for a bottle. It was a disaster. What could have been one of our best outdoor memories had turned into the absolute worst.

With a little foresight it could have been easily avoided. We have since had many nice outdoor adventures. Here are some things I have learned when enjoying the outdoors with a toddler:

1. Keep your outings short.

The hike I described above was way too long. We were planning on a five mile hike. Craziness!

A toddler does not have an attention span. They also do not have the physical capability to hike, boat, or even sit all day. Every family is different, but I find that it is best to keep outings to less than an hour and hikes to less than half a mile. My two year old can enjoy a half mile hike, but much more than that and she gets whiney. A simple, but enjoyable short outing is much better than an exciting outing with a fussy toddler.

2. Educate everyone on how to deal with wildlife and other dangers.

Before I started the "bear hike" I should have informed my wife that we may encounter bear or other wildlife and instructed her on how to deal with potential encounters. While my curiosity in the bear may not have been prudent, her running away put us in real danger.

Teach your toddler from a very early age about animals. Bring them to the zoo, have them pet the animals, and teach them about animals they need to avoid. Every time I see a snake on TV or in the zoo I say to my daughters "When you see a snake outside you leave it alone and go tell Daddy." Now when we see a snake my daughter says "leave alone!" She also knows to stay away from water, and believe it or not, she listens!

A few weeks ago we went hiking in the smoky mountains. It was a wonderful experience. We were letting Lila run a little ahead, she likes to "run fast", and we would call for her to stop when she got out too far. She was doing a great job of obeying. As she was running a giant tom turkey stepped out in front of her. She could have tackled it! Without my prompting she did exactly what she was supposed to do, she stopped and slowly walked back to me. Telling me that she saw a "daadoo", her word for turkey (it’s the closest she can come to a gobble). She is only two and a half, but I trust her, within reason, with wildlife.

3. Look for family friendly hikes.

Most national, state, and local parks have family friendly trails. These are often short, easy, and have plenty of resting places. Some are easy enough to use a stroller on.

You may be thinking that’s not real hiking! You're right, it’s not. When you spend time outdoors with your toddler your focus should be spending time with your toddler! Deal with the boring hikes now and in ten years you will be hiking up a mountain with your family. Try to drag a toddler up a mountain and they will learn to hate the outdoors. And by all means, don't take your toddler scouting!

4. Bring plenty of snacks and drinks.

Toddlers are fuel burning machines. A hungry toddler is an unhappy toddler. Bring plenty of extra drinks. The very last thing you want to do is have an empty sippy cup half way through your hike. It can actually be dangerous. Toddlers can't tell you when they are feeling dehydrated. In an effort to keep up with Mommy and Daddy they can really over heat and overdo it.

5.  Know when to go home.

Leave before things go south. A short happy memory is better than a long memory with an unhappy ending. Every family is different. Only you know the point when it is time the pack up and go home.

I am doing everything in my power to teach my children about the outdoors. They are learning gun safety. When I am successful hunting I show them my kill (sparing them any gruesome ones). We talk about animals often, read books about the outdoors, and watch outdoor TV shows. My daughters love my outdoor magazines and they "read" them more than I do. I am looking forward to when we can go on long hikes, catch some fish, or stalk squirrels together, but until then I am content with tamer, toddler friendly activities.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Survival Bracelet Use #1 - Game Carrier

You may know that I have recently discovered the survival bracelet. I even learned how to make my own. A survival bracelet is a bracelet that is made of about 8 feet of paracord. It can be easily unwound and used to make a number of things, often things you would never expect.

Last Tuesday I went squirrel hunting. Tuesday afternoons are the only time I can get away to hunt without taking time off work and finding babysitters. I killed a squirrel, but forgot my game carriers back at the truck. I make my own game carriers. They attach to my belt and can each hold four small animals. I prefer these to a vest and bag. They keep both me and my kill cool. Anyway, I didn't want to walk back to my truck just to drop off one squirrel, so I made a game carrier out of my survival bracelet.

Here is how I did it:

First, unravel about two inches of the bracelet.

Then, tie a simple knot at the end of each strand.

Next, tie a slip knot.

Now, all you need to do is slip the loop around the neck of your kill....

Pretend my daughter's toy is something dead

and attach it to your belt.

It took only two or three minuets in the field and worked perfectly!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fun Friday!

Instead of my normal post I am just going to post a quick hunting tip, cool hunting video, and my current favorite song.  Just something to help you enjoy your Friday!

Quick hunting tip:

If possible, keep the sun to your back. Game won't be able to see you as well, you will be able to see better, and you won't have to worry about a glare from your glasses or gun barrel.

Fun Video:

The scariest sight ever seen on a moose hunt:

Current favorite song:
Please note, unlike most hunters out there, I do not listen to Country Music!

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review - MotionX-GPS iPhone App

As you all know by now I love my iPhone. However, I have had trouble finding the perfect GPS App. I have tried the Cabela's Recon Hunt the last few times I've been out. It has great functionality, but is confusing and frustrating to use in the field and it drains the iPhone's battery. Seriously, I get less than four hours of use with it on!

I've looked at a few others that either had limited features or were expensive. A few days ago I found the MotionX-GPS App. It is designed for hikers, bikers, boaters, geocachers, and the like, but meets the needs of hunters very well. The price point is reasonable at $2.99.

Before we get started with this review I want to make clear that no one paid me to do this review. I purchased the App with my own money and get no commission for Apps purchased from links from this site. I have no connections with the company that made MotionX-GPS. There, all done!

The Tracks are mostly reliable

MotionX-GPS has all of the features of any map for your iPhone.  It shows your position, allows you to record tracks, and save waypoints. These things have all been done before and are quite boring. Adding waypoints is easy . It gives you the option to pause and resume tracks, which is nice. The tracks are relatively accurate. When the GPS looses signal it tends to bounce the track line around a little. At one point it said I hiked through a lake.

Adding a waypoint is easy 
You can choose from an assortment of maps including terrain maps, satellite and aerial photos from both Bing and Google, and NOAA marine maps. Unfortunately, there is not a Topo map feature that I can find. It does allow you to download the map to your phone, allowing it to be used where there is no cell coverage. It even allows you to choose how detailed a map you want to download. This is super nice.

Notice the nice big buttons
It has two main menus, a "Search" and a "Menu". These menus overlap, each containing many the same items. I would have rather had just one big menu personally. The menus are easy to navigate and have nice big buttons. I'm not going to go through every feature, there are lots, but I will touch on the ones that concern hunters.

If you look closely you will notice lots of features I did not mention.
From the "Menu" menu you can start or load a track, set a waypoint, view the compass, sent your position to a friend, and set up "Live Updates" (more on this later). The "Search" menu mostly contains features that are neat, but are not useful for hunters. You have access to almost everything on the "Menu" menu plus the ability to look at and navigate to recent waypoints.

Why a compass when you have GPS?
Try navigating in a thick swamp where you can only see
ten feet each direction and you will see why!
MotionX-GPS does have some really nice features I have never seen on a GPS device. One is the ability to locate your position by triangulation from cell phone towers. Why is this nice? Sometimes due to storm, or heavy tree coverage it is impossible to get a GPS signal. This is basically a safety net. you wouldn't want to use it outside of an emergency, but in a pinch it could save you. It also has the ability to email your location to your loved ones every 5, 15, 30, or 60 minutes. This "Live Update" is an amazing safety feature. It will continue to broadcast your location even if you incapacitated for some reason. It will also Tweet or post on Facebook your position at predetermined time intervals, if you are into that sort of thing.

Lots of options to stay connected.
My favorite thing about MotionX-GPS is not its slick interface, or many settings and options, it is how efficiently it uses the iPhone's battery. I use about 10% of the iPhones battery an hour with this App. This is a vast improvement. I have no idea how they do it, but it works!

As of right now, this is the best GPS App I have found. It is easy to use, reliable, efficient,  and incorporates some wonderful safety features. It turns the iPhone into a GPS capable of handling some serious hunting and scouting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hunting The Hunter

I would like to publicly thank Darren from Taking a Walk on the Wild Side  for this wonderful post. He has a lot of good information to share!

I shivered as the frigid wind hit me in the face, but I couldn’t help but smile just the same.  I had been waiting for this moment for what seemed like an eternity.  I quickly sat down with the wind crossing me, three tree trunks at my back and a small bush in front of me.  It was go time.

I hit the play button on my digital predator caller remote and a wounded cottontail cry burst from a bush about forty yards in front of me.  Its shriek filled the air and echoed off the hills and trees around me.  Almost immediately, the jays and crows got excited and began moving closer to the caller.  I thought to myself how in the past their interest had been a good sign of upcoming success.

The minutes ticked by as I felt the urge to hurriedly look in all directions to see if a predator was coming in looking for an easy meal.  As much as I wanted to, I knew that could spell disaster to my hunt.  Their senses were keen and any hint of danger would send them heading for the hills, even more educated than they already were.  The seconds seemed like hours until I saw a hawk fly over the trees surveying the scene. Good, that’s another good sign, I thought.

Just then, I heard leaves rustle to my left.  Was it something coming my way or just the wind?  I didn’t want to look so I listened more carefully.   I heard it again and this time it sounded more like footsteps than the wind.  I had been so careful about my setup, I didn’t think there was any way it was a predator.  The wind was all wrong, they should be coming in from my right in order to stay downwind of the call.  Not knowing what to expect, I slowly turned my head to the left to find the largest coyote I have ever seen, only eight steps away, staring right at me.

For those of you who have done much predator hunting, my story probably seems all too familiar.  With this type of hunting, anything and everything can go wrong.  Predators survive by being the smartest creatures in the woods and even when starving still have enough patience to not make fatal mistakes.  In spite of this, they can be successfully hunted if you have the energy and patience.  Along the way, I have made every mistake in the books and here are some tips so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

1.       Have real expectations – my calling results in seeing a predator only about one time out of every four attempts, getting a shot is even less frequent.  If you feel that you have to have a kill each time out, you will probably be disappointed.

2.       Play the wind – every predator that I know of uses the wind to help assess the situation; usually they will approach the call from downwind.  The worst situation you can have is to have the predator approach from behind you, only to find you before they find the caller (I can’t tell you how often I made this mistake early in my hunting career).

3.       Know your weapon, and be proficient with it – predator hunting often offers you the least amount of time to prepare your shot; you must understand your weapon’s range and be quick with getting on target and taking the shot.  Predators tend to not stay still for long, you have to be prepared.

4.       Expect the unexpected – crazy things happen when predator hunting, that is just one of the things that make it interesting.  A buddy bought a brand new remote caller; one with the moving raccoon tail attached.  He set it up in an open field totally convinced the coyotes would come running.  Maybe they did, but they didn’t beat the red-tailed hawk that swooped down out of a nearby tree, grabbed the caller and flew away with it.  I wish I could have seen my buddy’s face!  Once, while in a tree stand at the end of a deer hunt, I pulled out a cottontail distress mouth call and began mimicking a wounded rabbit.  Almost immediately, the weeds began moving as a predator made its way closer to my tree.  Near the base of the tree, the weeds quit moving and I began wondering what had happened.  I decided to lean over to look down to see if I could figure out what was going on.  Imagine my surprise when I came eyeball to eyeball with a very large raccoon climbing the tree in search of dinner.

5.       Have fun regardless of the outcome – don’t measure your success by your kill ratio.  Enjoy knowing that you are in nature taking on the toughest adversaries there are.  Let the experience mean success for you.

There I sat, trying to slow the adrenaline down as the coyote tried to figure out if I was friend or foe.  I froze, avoiding even the smallest movement.  I even held my breath for as long as I could to avoid tipping him off.  As the caller continued to scream the cottontail death song, he eventually got distracted and gave up on me.  Hunger pangs must have overrode caution as he quickly moved toward the caller.  Each time he would move behind a tree or bush, I would turn and raise the rifle more toward my shoulder.    Another bush obstructed his body so I waited what seemed like an hour for him to move.  Finally, he was in the open, broadside to me.  I settled the scope on the target and tried to gently squeeze the trigger.  The bark of the rifle was deafening but I somehow felt no recoil.  I squinted through the scope trying to find the coyote, and finally saw his lifeless body at the base of the bush.  In spite of being caught totally off-guard and unprepared, he was mine.

That day, I had hunted the hunter and won.  Amazingly, I no longer felt the bite of the wind as I walked toward the bush to claim my reward.

Darren Johnson is a married father of three living in Indiana, USA and he works in a white-collar capacity for a Fortune 200 company.  Darren spends as much time as possible in nature activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, photography, archery, food plot and habitat development, and other conservation and species reintroduction projects.  He firmly believes that an active relationship with nature is one of the best actions you can take to reduce stress in your life while improving your overall health and happiness.

Darren has had a strong connection with nature since he was a toddler.  Family folklore has it that while on a family fishing trip when he was two, he wandered away from the family and when they found him was standing in the middle of the creek petting a young whitetail deer who was just as curious about Darren as Darren was of him.  The family watched in amazement as the buck seemed content in letting Darren hang out with him.  From that moment on, he has been hooked on all things nature. 
He is also heavily involved in youth activities such as 4H, youth shooting sports, church youth group and nature-based activities.  Additionally, he is involved in Native American causes. 

In Darren's spare time, he enjoys writing a nature based-blog entitled Taking a Walk on the Wild Side.  It can be found at  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Is Why They Call Me Unlucky - Part 2

Part 1

After the rain slowed down I decided to head back to the truck. From there I would decide whether to go home, or try another spot. I had seen no movement. I believe the squirrels were smarter than I was and were staying high and dry in their homes.

I arrived as my truck soaked. I hate having wet feet and mine were soggy. I was keeping a good attitude, enjoying the wildlife I had seen, but was not sure how much more I could stand to enjoy! I checked the radar on my iPhone and could see that there would be no more storms for a few hours, so I stripped off my rain gear and drove to another location.

"Yes, I am smarter than you."
The second place I chose to hunt was a little higher and had no standing water. There were mosquitoes, but not nearly as many. The sun came out and with it came the squirrels. After a short hike I could hear several barking in the distance. I zoned in on the closest and began stalking it.

The nice thing about rain is that it is much easier to stalk when the woods are wet. I can sneak though with barely a sound. Unfortunately, critters don't make as much sound either. I primarily hunt squirrels by listening for them. I usually don't actually see them until they are well within range. With the woods being wet I was limited to hunting by site only. I would see a squirrel and then instantly loose it in the brush. I would have no way of knowing where it went because I could not hear it. This was both frustrating and a fun new challenge.

Eventually I had a clear shot. I shouldered my rifle, looked through the scope, and saw..... nothing. My scope was completely fogged up. With the sunshine came a tremendous increase in humidity. I quickly untucked my shirt and wiped the scope lens with my shirt tail. Unfortunately, my shirt was so wet from rain and perspiration it did little good. By the time I could see through my scope the squirrel was long gone.

The squirrels were thick in this area, I had movement everywhere. It was so thick and the little buggers were so active I couldn't get a clean shot off. Eventually a squirrel cooperated and sat still. I settled my cross-hairs just behind its eye, squeezed at trigger, and..... click. A dud! Duds are always a real possibility when using a rimfire, but I had never had a .22 magnum dud. They are usually a little more reliably than Long Rifles.

It was at this point that I decided to find another area, this one was just to thick. I am going to visit it again with a shotgun. I had an hour and a half of light left, so a headed to another area I wanted to check out. It was much more open, with a fast running stream running through it. Here I had several more shot opportunities, but was not able to take any. The humidity was unbelievable. I was having trouble seeing the tops of the trees due to the mist. I could not see through my scope because my breath was fogging the lenses of my glasses when I brought the stock to my cheek. It was ridiculousness.

You could see the humidity in the air

My hunt did end on a positive note. As I was heading back, just as the light was fading. I snuck up to within 20 yards of a bedded doe and what looked like her almost grown fawn. Had they been in season I could have taken them many times over. It was a little bit of a validation to know that my stalking skills have improved. It also raises a question: Why were these deer not alerted by my smell? I had on stinky bug spray and I had been sweating all afternoon. I could smell me. If you read all of the bow hunting magazines you would think that these deer would have been spooked as soon as I got out of my truck. Food for thought.....

Monday, September 12, 2011

This Is Why They Call Me Unlucky - Part 1

This week I went squirrel hunting. I only had one afternoon free to go hunting. So, after I got off work I drove the hour and a half to Chickahominy WMA. Unlike opening day, which had beautiful weather, this day was rainy.

It has been raining a lot around here. We have even been experiencing some minor flooding. I don't mind hunting in the rain, I always see more wildlife on rainy days, and I came prepared with my Frogg Toggs. However, I did not come prepared for all of the standing water. The woods that are normally perfectly dry had turned into a swamp. The main trail was a lake. Instead of my leather hunting boots, I should have worn my knee high waterproof snake boots. I also did not come prepared for all of the mosquitoes.

I did not see a single mosquito the last time I had been here, less than a week ago. They were out in force this time! I applied DEET, but between the rain and the sheer amount of skeeters out there, I was eaten alive. I counted over 50 bites the next morning. So needless to say, this hunt had the environment going against it.

Wildlife is abundant on rainy days

When I arrived at the parking area I fired up my GPS unit. It always takes a few minutes to get satellite reception. One of my goals of this hunt was to find some ponds I had been told about that may contain wood ducks. I planned on marking them in my GPS for later use. After I gathered all of my gear, including my rain gear, I checked the GPS unit. Still no reception. I kept the thing on for my entire hunt and it never once got satellite reception! Either the clouds were too thick or my batteries were weak. Because I had planned on using my hand held GPS I had not fully charged my IPhone. So, using the IPhone for its GPS was out. This stroke of bad luck not only meant I was not going to be looking for wood ducks, I was also not going to be wandering too far off the main path. The last thing I wanted was to get lost in in the rain!

Turkeys were everywhere!

I hiked about a mile into the woods before it began raining hard. I could tell by the radar on my IPhone that the storm would pass quickly, so I decided to hole up under the low hanging branches of a dogwood tree. My Frogg Toggs were doing a good job of keeping the rain off of me, but they were not keeping me dry. It was so humid I was sweating like a pig under them. I honestly don't know if I would have been more wet if I had just never put them on. As I sat there under the dogwood the mosquitoes were swarming around my face. I actually breathed one in. I should have brought my Thermocell.

I did see quite a lot of wildlife. A baby snapping turtle was swimming in what once was the trail, but was now a pond. I saw the first huntable buck of the year, a four pointer. The turkeys were almost as thick as the mosquitoes. At one point I saw a group of over 20. I was pleased to watch a beaver working away. I also saw something I had never seen before. A rat snake climbing straight up a pine tree. It was amazing, almost magical. How did it keep from falling off? This experience almost made my miserable conditions seem worth it. Of course, I did not bring my nice camera because I knew it would be a wet day. So no nice pictures, only snapshots.

The magic climbing snake

No squirrels though....yet. In my next post I will tell you about the exciting part of this hunt. You may be amazed by my complete lack of luck (and skill)!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two IPhone Accessories Every Outdoorsman Needs

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I love my IPhone. It has tremendous capabilities for the outdoorsman. The GPS is on par with $500 stand alone units. If you have cell coverage it is the perfect communication device. My family feels much safer when I have it. The first thing I do when I arrive at a stand is text my Dad my GPS location in case something bad happens. The camera is decent and it can even double as a flashlight in a pinch.

The IPhone does have two glaring flaws, however. It is delicate and the battery life stinks. Thankfully I have found two inexpensive accessories to compensate for these inadequacies.

Pelican 1060 Micro Case

The Pelican 1060 is a watertight box that the IPhone fits perfectly in. Before I bought this case I would leave my IPhone in the truck when I went anywhere wet or rocky. The phone would cost me $700 to replace and is not even a little waterproof or shockproof. Now I put my IPhone in this case, attach the carabiner to my belt, and don't give it another thought.

While I was on my fishing trip in the Smokey Mountains I slipped on a rock and fell directly on the case - hard. I fell onto a large domed rock and it hurt! The case barely got a scratch and the IPhone didn't even notice. The manufacturer says this is not for swimming or diving, but I know if you throw it in a stream it will float and not take on even a little water. It retails for $29.99, but you can find it for about $20.

Duracell Powerhouse USB Charger

If you use the GPS constantly on the IPhone your battery will only last a few hours. It is truly pitiful. I tried to use the IPhone as my sole GPS when I went squirrel hunting last week. That experiment was flirting with disaster. I could actually watch the battery meter shrinking.  Thankfully, I have found a portable way to charge it.

The Duracell Powerhouse USB Charger is a rechargeable battery pack that will recharge an Iphone once. This effectively gives you twice the run time. You could feasibly use the GPS on your IPhone all day with this. It is light and easy to use. The Duracell Powerhouse retails for $60, but you would be foolish to pay that much for it. It can be easily found for about $20.

No one paid me to write about these products. I paid for them myself and actually use them. I do get a small commission if you buy them through the links on this page.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What is the Sunday Hunting Ban Really About?.. Part I

Kirk Mantay is a wetland ecologist who spends his free time  hunting and fishing in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.  Since 2007, he has run River Mud, a blog focusing on Chesapeake Bay outdoor sports and conservation. I would like to publicly thank him for his great advice, support, and this blog post.

Most of us would laugh at a Sunday ban on fishing. 
So why do nearly a dozen states, primarily in the Northeast, ban Sunday hunting?

What is the Sunday Hunting Ban Really About?..
 Part I

Sunday hunting.  To some, it conjures up memories of days afield with kids who have a once-a-week reprieve from school and sports.  To others, it is yet another signal that America is moving away from “blue laws” that encourage us to spend time at church and at home on Sunday.  Funny thing is, there’s no geographical relationship between Sunday hunting and church involvement, as some of the most spiritually conservative states (Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi) allow Sunday hunting, and some of the states least dominated by churchgoers, like New Jersey and Maine, still have Sunday hunting bans in place.  Personally, I believe that God is a little more put off by human activities like genocide, murder, pedophilia (especially when protected by churches), and global drug and arms trafficking, than he is by a parent taking their child out in the woods on Sunday to stalk a rabbit.    So now you know where I stand.

From a logical standpoint, the Sunday hunting ban no longer holds much merit because other activities involving willful animal harvest – including commercial and recreational fishing, crabbing, lobstering, clamming, and shrimping…to say nothing of commercial slaughtering ….are permitted on Sunday in every state, and indeed, opponents of Sunday hunting participate in these activities.  To say that hunting is different simply because it involves a lead bullet instead of a steel bolt (cattle and hogs), steel hook (fishing), or neckbreaking (chickens) is pretty silly.  But we’re talking people, not logic, so let’s move on.

History of the Sunday hunting ban
The Sunday hunting ban is literally older than this country.  Massachussetts led the way in 1635.   Granted, in that era, they also “led the way” in the then-unpopular field of witch killing, so I don’t know how much we can speak to the wisdom of other regulations passed at that time!  No new Sunday hunting ban has been passed since 1909 (Oklahoma, repealed in 1989).  In fact, as of 2011, only 11 states have any substantial restriction on Sunday hunting at all.

“Away, Witch! I heareth that thou hast shot a squirrel on Sunday!
For which ye shall perish by fire, post haste!”

Why does it matter?
Honestly, in the 31 states that have no Sunday hunting ban, and the additional 12 that have some sort of Sunday hunting provisions in at least some part of the state, it hasn’t mattered.  Game populations have not collapsed. Churches have not gone unattended, or been forced into foreclosure.  Conflicts with non-hunters have not escalated in any way. 

Those agencies, groups, and hunters most in favor of Sunday hunting point to endless, exhaustive studies that show the potential for increased out-of-state license and stamp sales, travel bookings, and increased hunter recruitment.  They are nervous about the aging of “the average hunter,” and unlike most of the public, they know that hunters and anglers pay for conservation, both through licenses and taxes, and through memberships and donations to conservation organizations.  Poor hunter recruitment is bad news, and these folks want to pull out all the stops – one of which may be Sunday hunting.  But the studies of existing Sunday hunting programs don’t show a remarkable increase in recruitment or revenue as a direct, simple result of Sunday hunting.  Again – we’re talking people, not logic.

The folks most opposed to Sunday hunting choose to focus on the potential negatives.  For animal rights activists, any expansion in hunting rights is a defeat. For those who hunt deer with dogs, Sunday is a day that other hunters could be chasing deer without dogs – a disadvantage to their own hunting, specifically.  Some professional hunting guides oppose Sunday hunting because it could lead to a reduction in the total length of the hunting season (number of hunting days), which is bad business.   For the public, 90% of whom do not hunt, it’s a confusing issue that might conjure up more fear of firearms injuries……if the general public spent much time outdoors at all.   Truly a sad state of affairs.

I know the proponents of expanded Sunday hunting love to talk about all the great things that “could” happen, but the realistic bottom line is that none of the negative impacts and few of the positive impacts have been realized.  In the next two posts on this topic, we’ll discuss how the pro and anti-Sunday groups figure into the debate, and where it’s likely to lead in states like Pennsylvania and Virginia – both of whose state wildlife agencies endorsed Sunday hunting for the first time in 2011, but where the Sunday hunting ban still stands anyway.  

In the process, I will probably piss everyone off, but hopefully will leave you with some thoughts about the real reasons behind the Sunday hunting debate, and where it’s likely to head in the next several years.

Taking turkeys to the slaughterhouse on Sunday = just fine.
Hunting turkeys on Sunday = $350 fine

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