Friday, October 31, 2008

On the Road Again

Well, today's the day. I'm heading out in a few hours, if I can get packed. Ran into some hiccups yesterday so there may be a slight delay, but I'll be on the road at some point today.

I'm incredibly indebted to Sid and Sheri for their generosity and hospitality in allowing me to stay at the lodge this summer. Their friendship and support has meant the wold to me, and of course, the fishing and hunting and watching Sid work in the woods are incredible experiences in themselves. I can't wait to get back next summer.

Of course, no good ever seems to come without a little bad. A little too much worrying about mom this summer, but fortunately she's doing well now.

Lost someone I loved from my life, but as much as it hurt, they say "it's better to have loved and lost." Focusing on that adage, it kept me in Idaho for a couple extra months to gain an appreciation for hunting that I didn't have before. It also left the door open for me to pursue a new adventure, a chance to live a dream to the fullest, and I'm going to do my best to take full advantage.

So overall, it's been a wonderful experience. I'm leaving a more relaxed (most of the time) person, and with the continued excitement that I found that had previously been absent from my life when I started this blog.

Thanks to those who continue to read. I'll update from the road as I can, and continue with my new adventures from Islamorada in 10 days or so.

Be well, all.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Smart Aminals

The elk and deer have evaded us the past couple of days, but not for lack of trying.

I did have a staring contest this evening with a cow moose at about 20 yards. I decided after a while, however, that I'd let her win. Pretty sure she thought I was cute, though. She couldn't take her eyes off me. After a while, she stumbled away, but I didn't get very good pictures, as I didn't properly accomodate for the low light.

Oh well. Was a pretty neat experience. I know Little Ricky got a kick out of it as well. Here's a photo of Rick taking one last look at a ridge before we lost our light for the evening.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good Scenery

Long hike this morning. Seemed fortunate to be moving a lot though, since it was 14 degrees when we started the hunt. Was probably a balmy 35 when we finished, which at that point almost seemed tropical.

Saw a bunch of nice bucks that were all out of range, and Sid saw a nice Bull Elk through is binoculars that had been not very far from where Little Ricky and I sat yesterday evening, with almost an eerie silence surrounding us. It was too quiet. Not even the birds wanted to talk to us.

Oh well, such is hunting. Rick came close to a shot at the end, as we continued pursuing elk, but it wasn't meant to be today. When I was in a position where it wasn't a big deal if I were making some noise, I snapped these couple of photos as I was heading down the mountain.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Picture I Thought Was Interesting

Shot after a brief rain shower, just before sunset, and a little hole in the clouds opened. Shot off the front deck of the lodge.

Breezy Days

Wind had blown out the past couple of morning hunts. When it's windy, the animals tend to stay bedded down since they just don't like being up in the wind, and wind creates a lot of noise, which makes it harder to hear their predators from a distance. Also, if the wind is swirling, it also makes it more difficult to determine which direction unusual smells are coming from that also allow them to determine if predators are approaching.

Rick did get out hunting for a bit last night, though, and got right into the thick of deer not much more than a stones throw from the lodge. All of the bigger bucks seemed to have a knack for keeping enough of themselves hidden that there wasn't a great opportunity for Rick to shoot. It's expected to be very windy again for the rest of today, but tomorrow is forecasted to be as clear and calm as could be, so we're rooting for a big day tomorrow.

As a follow up to yesterday, I know Craig was very appreciative of all of Little Ricky's efforts on his behalf, but it appears that this guy might be a little more efficient.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Craig's Ground Breaking

While were having a cocktail and talking at the lodge this afternoon, we filled Little Ricky in on some of the trials and tribulations Craig had been having with getting construction of his cabin underway on his parcel of land down the road a piece from the lodge.

Building permits, zoning, health permits, and late contractors. Everything you could think of seemed to be stalling the actual breaking ground on the project. It has certainly been a large point of stress for both Craig and Sid these past few weeks.

Well, another Jim Beam or two later, and Little Ricky decided this was just unacceptable. He decided that since the track hoe was delivered on Thursday, but nothing was done on Friday, that it was time to take matters into his own hand.

A few minutes later, he was geared up, and invited both Sid and I to attend the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the Reagor Ground Breaking 2008.

We thought it was pretty clever, and pretty funny, but little did we know, he wasn't content to stop at that. To our surprise, Little Ricky then sprinted to the track hoe, as he was set to REALLY get down to business.

When he couldn't get in, he decided he was going to break in, and nothing was going to stop him.

Fortunately, Sid jumped into action, and reasoned with Little Ricky. Sid convinced Little Ricky that trying to operate heavy machinery after a few Beam's wasn't necessarily the the soundest decision.

But Little Ricky isn't easily deterred. Sid might have slowed him down a bit, but nothing was going to dampen his spirit, or deter his will to get this project underway. Little Ricky was fixated on getting that heavy machinery up onto the pad and start digging. After a few more minutes, Little Ricky was in position...

...and the excavation commenced.

After a short period of time, Little Ricky really got into his groove, and was making some outstanding headway.

Clearly, he was pleased with his progress in such a short time.

Sid and I were both excited as well, and didn't want to get in his way. We decided to head back to the lodge for a couple of hours, maybe have a snack, and then return to check on how Little Ricky was progressing.

Much to our amazement when we returned, Little Ricky had transformed Craig's pad into a multi-tiered extravaganza.

We're all sure that Craig will be extremely excited.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Laying Low

Been a quiet weekend. Everyone decided to lay low and let the "weekend warriors" drive their four wheelers around the mountains, scaring the deer and the elk.

We'll head back out tomorrow, maybe, or Monday morning after the animals have had a chance to settle down and get back into their routine.

Until then, we'll just watch some football and baseball and enjoy the return of the warm sunny weather.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hiking, Hiking, Hiking

And when I'm not hiking, it's nap time...... forgive me for not writing so much, but I at least wanted to share some more pictures, cause if you're gonna walk the wilderness, there can't be too many neater places....

Good night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mule Deer Bucks

The past two days of hunting have been exhilarating, exhausting, an incredible learning experience, and ultimately frustrating, all rolled into a beautiful package.

Yesterday morning started a little slow, ended with a bang, and yielded an epic chase. At least epic in my eyes. We had one guest hit a 3x2 buck not far from the cabin. 200 yds out and moving. A hell of a shot. He was immediately brought back to the lodge.

Two others were shot right in the back yard. We found blood trails on both, as they were hit, but unfortunately not fatally. One was a very nice 4x4. Greg and I literally chased it for four straight hours. It laid down 10 different times. We must have pushed it 3 miles. We often debated whether to let it lie down and hopefully die, but in the snow, we could see such a distinct trail, and a good amount of blood, so we pushed on and hoped to make it continue to bleed.

We got it to one point where Greg had another shot at it, but we weren't in a place that would have been prudent to shoot, so we pushed on.

After four hours, we decided to give it a rest, and went back to the lodge. Two hours later, we went back at it with Sid, and Sid jumped the deer and pushed it for another three hours. He had a shot at it from 60 yards, but I was up the hill higher, and according to Sid, "I still need some help til the end of the month, so I decided to wait. If it were the last day and I didn't need you anymore, I might have risked it."

He was kidding, of course. But frustrating in the end that we didn't get it. Sid even chased it down another three hours today, but to no end. Truly amazing how strong these animals are, and their will to live.

Sid described it as they don't have a mortgage, they don't have bills, all they have to do is mate and survive, and they're very good at it. It really gives you an appreciation for how smart and willful these animals can be, and how extremely difficult a true free range hunt is.

But, in the end, as you're up on the top of the peak at the end of a hard day, you always remember to appreciate where you are, as dusk approaches, the sun sets, the moon rises, and you can smile, even at the end of a rigorous, frustrating, but extremely exciting day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Global Warming My Ass.....

The front deck of the lodge. 8am this morning.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall is Coming to a Close

The view out the window right now back at the Lodge tells me fall is quickly coming to a close, so I figure I need to do a catch up before I fall too far behind.

I had a very nice visit. It was great to see my parents and my sister Laura. Mom's recovery after the surgery, though slower than we'd all hoped, seems to have ultimately gone well, and though she was still in rehab when I left, I saw a lot of improvement while I was home. And happily, I can report that she finally got to go home to her own bed on Thursday, and the trooper she is, is planning to head to work for a half day on Monday.

My sister Laura graciously treated me to a Cubs game while I was in town.

We had seats in the bleachers that were a bit obstructed view from left field, but the nice people at Wrigley think of everything, and had us set up so that we could see all of the action.

Of course, I had to partake in some of the tastes of home, and enjoyed a beer and a kosher dog with grilled onions and mustard.

Unfortunately, the Cubs were out of the game basically after the second inning after they gave up 5 runs, and ultimately lost 10-3. There were some amusing moments as usual from the crowd in the bleachers. At one point, as much of the stadium spent the night in stunned silence with little hope of a comeback, I asked Laura if she thought it would be better to lose that way, basically out if it from the get go and have to sit through the balance of the game, or if it would have been better to lose with a heartbreaking rally in the eighth or ninth inning.

Little did I know that on Saturday night, when Laura and I would head to Madison to take in the Wisconsin Badger game vs. Ohio State with Ryan, Megan and friends that I'd soon have that exact comparison.

Always awesome to see the Badgers in action at night, though lacking a little of the typical energy because the band was actually on suspension for sexual misconduct, go figure, Bucky lost after giving up a touchdown with 1:08 to go, 20-17.

Imagine 85,000 people walking away in stunned silence, knowing all the hopes for a BCS season just basically slipped away. Oh well, still always a good time in Madison, and even better to spend time with great friends.

I got back to Idaho on Monday, we spent most of the week doing errands in preparation of rifle season, and as Friday marked opening day, we were even treated to a mid afternoon flurry.

It subsided quickly, and turned out to be a beautiful fall afternoon.

No deer on day one, or this morning, but we're staring at two inches of snow on the ground right now, with potentially more to come. As I've been told, the dark Mule Deer will look like the bright lights of a Christmas Tree when they're turned on the first time of the season for the next few days, so there could be some excitement to come.

Hope every one's well.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy 7th Birthday Whiskey and Snoopy. I miss you boys. (I don't even have a good picture. What an ass.)

RIP Maddie, greatest dog I knew and mother to the two boys and their 6 siblings, as well as Aunt Sadie. You'll both be missed by many.


Thanks to Wendy and Janis for forwarding me a picture.

Maddie, Snoopy, and Whiskey, a few years back

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Elk Hunting Saturday, September 27 Recap

Saturday was completely exhilarating from the totally opposite end of the spectrum of our hunt Friday night. The scenery was no less breathtaking. But the anticipation was different. The hunt would be different. Sid and two of the guys in had headed to the same draw earlier that morning and saw and heard a bunch of elk. Since this was the last evening the guys would be hunting, they prepared for an all out assault. Each of the five guys spread out along the creek flowing through the draw. One hundred yards between each of them so that each could cover the 50 yd range of their compound bows to either side. An elk wasn’t going to get between them.

I was stationed on a hill behind them where I could see the entire tree line and meadow. I was armed that night with the video camera, prepared to hopefully get some good shots of the approaching elk and a soundtrack full of bugles if they cooperated. Sid and I sat between 5:30 and 6, and we waited. Sid expected prime time to be right at about 6:45 or 7.

6:15 was the first bugle we heard. Sid said it was early, but a good sign. After a while we’d hear another, and then another. They sounded “big” and like they were right on top of one of the guys that Sid had stationed just out of sight into the pine trees. I decided that at 7 pm I’d turn the camera on and let it run through dark.

Right on cue, just as I was turning on the camera, another big bugle. It was incredibly exciting. The first time I’d been in a canyon to hear the elk really sounding off, and Sid was right there telling me how large it was, where it was, and which way it was likely moving, just by the sounds and tones. Crazy wild experience.

At 7:05, well, that’s when I learned that just because the battery display on the camera says 90 minutes, doesn’t mean it’s actually going to hold out and work for more than 5 minutes. Of course I said to myself earlier in the day, might as well give it a full charge. Of course, I had about 4 back up batteries that I conveniently had sitting on my bed as well. Yup, bad case of the dumb ass extraordinaire.

Oh well. Fortunately for me, no elk came out into the open, so I didn’t actually miss any video, but unfortunately for the hunters, all the 25-30 bugles we heard did nothing more than tease them, as none of the big bulls moved into a position to be seen or shot at.

The bugling continued as dusk faded to dark, and when it became apparent it would be too dark to shoot, Sid and I stood and started to head down to meet the guys. Just then, after we’d moved about 5 feet we heard a rustling in the trees in the draw just down to our left. We hear a big bugle, and Sid can make out the outline of an elk just bounding out of the Aspens.

We hear trampling in the sage brush, another big bugle, and then a hollow gurgling type sound that Sid explain the bulls make with their stomachs when a bull wants to “get to know” one of the cows a bit better. The cow kept moving forward towards us. The bull would give chase, bugle, make the stomach gurgle. You could hear the bull try to get up behind the cow, but she would continue to move forward. We could hear them moving up the hill straight at us.

Another bugle, more stomach gurgling, and more rustling in the sagebrush. The bull was getting mad that the cow wasn’t being more cooperative. And then continued to get closer and closer to us. Just then, the cow appeared just on the other side of the knob we were standing on. We could see her outline 15 yds away from us in the darkness. She immediately stopped, and the bull appeared just behind her.

The cow stood for a second trying to figure out what we were, and when she realized that there weren’t supposed to be two pine trees on that part of the hill, she took off and was almost instantly 75 yds away back into the Aspen trees that she’d originally emerged from. The bull wasn’t long to follow her.

What a cool experience, though. The sounds of those majestic animals were just incredible. Totally exhilarating, and very cool to be able to have that happen while I was standing next to Sid.

Elk Hunting Friday, September 26 Recap

Well, I’m on the airplane to Chicago. Was actually a breeze through security and check-in, very few people the terminal I was flying out of Salt Lake, but a full flight, and I’m quickly reminded how spoiled I’ve been the past few months. At any given time, when I looked around the streams, or where I was hunting, there may have been a dozen people within 10 square miles of me. Now, there’s 12 people within spitting distance. Maybe 15 with good trajectory. It’s a means to an end, and certainly faster than driving, but boy, space is nice. And seriously, $7 for a beer? Really? And you take credit cards in flight now? Good thing I heard a rumor about a Hooters near the airport so I could stop for lunch and a beer before I flew.

Now that I’m done complaining, we can focus on the cool stuff. Friday and Saturday’s evening hunts. Each really made an impression on me for two totally different reason.

Friday, I headed out to a different stand than I’d ever walked to before. As remote as many of the others seem, this just seemed to be so perfectly secluded. I emerged from a stand of pine trees to see a large hill covered in sagebrush that descended into a small babbling stream. Across the stream was an open meadow surrounded by pine and aspen trees on either side.

When I entered the meadow, there were cattle cows watering at the stream that immediately trampled into the woods upwind of me, which I feared meant that any shot at seeing another animal that night would be over. Two small foxes did move through. Their rustling in the grass actually woke me from one of those eyes half open eyes half closed sleeps that I used to fall into during economics class.

After my little startled awakening, the meadow was phenomenally peaceful. A slight breeze rolled our of the pines from the northwest. I wondered how many other people may have sat in that spot before me? Maybe two dozen? Fifty at the most? Breathing air that has likely passed the nostrils of less than fifty other people.

Everything else was still. Every now and again a squirrel might walk across a downed tree and let out it squeaks. They sound like those chew toys that you’d give your dog, whistling each time they chew it. And the more they realized they can make the noise, the faster they chew to make the sound over and over and over until you want to just stick a knife through it so that it’ll never make that annoying sound again. But other than those few moments, everything was so still and peaceful.

The sun slowly fell over the ridge to the west. The last few rays of sunlight climbed the hills to the east with the sagebrush and the aspen trees. The orange and yellow fall leaves glowed in the final moments before the darkness overtook them. The sky, completely cloudless, fell from a crystal clear sky blue, past every Crayola color in the box, until a deep navy engulfed the tops of the trees.

It was incredibly scenic. Incredibly peaceful. And during the entire time, an incredible sense of excitement and anticipation was bursting inside of what may have emerged from the woods to join me.