Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The buck long awaited

Well here we are, nearing the end of 2015. Time is flying by and it has been hard to keep up with things. I have been bow hunting for about twenty years now. I got into bow hunting much later in my life than regular hunting. Somewhere, I got the want to shoot a buck with a bow. My first year out, New Jersey changed the law that you need to shoot a doe before you shoot a buck. Well, of course, what's the first thing I see? A beautiful ten point buck. It was hell not to be able to shoot him. It was the start of a learning experience. Large bucks don't come easy. They get smart. Sure, you see lots of pictures of guys with them. Some guys have more luck then others. Some guys just have more time.

I work pretty much full time and getting into the woods anymore is an endeavor. Just getting a day off can be hell with my boss (that's another story). I have killed my fair share of deer. Mostly small bucks, due to time constraints in the woods. I like to eat venison so when an opportunity knocks I will take it or if I want to fill my tag out and I know I wont be out again I will shoot a doe or a buck. New Jersey affords a longer hunting season. Not that you can get into that many places. I have had countless encounters with large bucks here in this state.One that even had possibly up to 20 points.

I had  hunted a spot for about five years. Working an area I knew had at least two large bucks. I owned my own company at the time so I could get in the woods once in awhile. I sat many an hour in this nice wooded draw with a rock wall with a natural funnel in it. Finally one afternoon I was sitting and I heard a stick break. I looked slowly over my shoulder. There he was a monster 8 point buck just walking along. He had no clue I was there and he was coming in for the perfect shot. My heart was pounding I waited to move, he was in perfect position. I started to draw back and a squirrel must have seen me move and started a very loud alarm call. The deer immediately turn and ran. I was heart broken. I started hunting other areas here and there and had other situations arise.

Bow hunting isn't easy There are many factors you have to think about before you even go, scent control, wind direction, finding a large buck to hunt in an area with few hunters. Good luck with that in New Jersey. Making sure your able to shoot well.Then comes setting up tree stands and lugging in portable stands.

I returned to Jersey from Oregon four and a half years ago now. I had taken time to chase Steelhead out there so my bow hunting took a back seat for awhile. When I returned my buddy AKA the "Cracker", asked me to help him on a small property he had acquired. Well the Cracker is gun hoe deer hunting. He eats breathes and lives for this. I got him into the bow some time ago and I created a monster. Lets just say he likes to move tree stands a lot. The property we hunt is a very spooky place. The father of the woman who lives there planted pine trees over 50 years ago to make it look more like his country of origin, Denmark. There are rock walls and snakes and strange things in these woods.There are screech owls there and if you haven't heard one in the morning, you are not living. The Blair Witch project doesn't even compare when you enter these woods. There are also ever present bears here as well. So it has been lots of fun walking in there in the dark. I get the chills when I hunt this spot.

My first year hunting there I had a 12 pointer skirting my permanent stand. I tried everything. Even using my portable tree stand to change positions.The deer seemed to know I was going to be coming to that tree and wait for me under it. This happened more then once and it was very frustrating. He even crossed in front of me in the dark one night after I had grunted at him for two hours on and off but he was tending a doe not far from my tree stand just out of range of a bow shot. I hunted him hard for weeks. Then the cracker happened!

If you hunt, you have heard of buck fever. At times, after you shoot at one, or have shot one, the adrenalin rush can be serious. I had worked my way across the property leaving the Cracker to get in his stand. I had done a silent walk and it took me over an hour to get to my stand which, at normal walking speed, is about a two minute walk. I was setting up to get in my stand, I had just finished setting up my piss wicks and was about to climb in my tree. Suddenly I could feel my phone buzzing in my pocket. I took a quick look and it was the Cracker calling me. Now we never call each other when we are hunting. So I knew something was up. Well the old Cracker had shot at a buck and was having a case of "Holy Crap, I shot at a big one blah blah blah". At this point, I'm trying to calm him down, I say take it easy sit back and breathe. I told him to wait and I would come over in about a half hour. I start to climb my tree just to get into it and wait for a half hour. I get about half way up the tree and I hear crunch. I look down and twenty yards from me is a magnificent ten pointer looking at me! Needless to say I wanted to kill The Cracker.

So for some time this weight of wanting to get a decent buck with my bow has been hanging over my head. Super storm Irene and Sandy even played into my hunting time, destroying tree stands and blow downs. We even had a snow storm in October which caused broken limbs everywhere and had the power company out cutting trees up 50 yards from my stand.

Needless to say, I've had  some ups and downs with bow hunting. Now some time back I started reading a book by Peter Fiduccia called White tale strategies vol II. It talks about calling deer using calls.  I'm not super man at this yet but I have been using his methods and they have given me some success. I think I might have more if I was better at remembering all the calls and what they are for. It's like learning a different language but you have to use calls. This doesn't just mean knowing how to use a grunt call. There are different vocalizations used by a doe and these can be used at different times to bring large bucks to you.

Well that's just what I did to finally seal the deal. I had gone out in the afternoon and gotten set up in a stand location. I'd seen a few bucks here, but hadn't got a shot at one. Now getting to this spot is an up hill climb and I have to take my portable tree stand with me. It weights about 25 pounds when fully loaded with my pack and gear. It has been a warmer than usual winter here on the east coast. So getting in to this spot was no easy ordeal plus climbing in. By the time I was up in the tree I was exhausted, hot, and sweaty. I like to bow hunt in colder weather because I don't sweat so much. I got settled in and waited about an hour, and started out doing some rattling. Big bucks don't usually come charging in to the horns in the woods, though I've been caught off guard once or twice. If you rattle in a tree you have to be ready to move fast because they come looking. So, I'm always at the ready. You can't be in the open either because you need to set up for shots. Deer see small movement. You can't even move your feet because they catch those movements. You have to wait till they are behind a tree to move at all and you have to move slow. Even when I am sitting in the tree I don't move much. My movements have to be thought out.

Well I grunted a few times here and there. I was getting tired from my hike in and climb up the tree so I decided to take a quick nap. Which by the way is really why I hunt! Nothing better then a cat nap in a tree. So I woke up and wasn't really asleep because, trust you me, I'm listening. I looked at my phone and my buddy who was hunting with me had texted me and asked If I'd seen anything. I responded "no it's quiet up here". With that, I situated myself and rattled some more and watched. Nothing was moving. So I let out a doe bleat followed by a grunt call with a long grunt at the end (the sound of a buck makes when he is mating with a doe). Before I could let the grunt call fall from my fingers, I saw a Russian olive tree suddenly get smashed from side to side! All  I could see at that point was horns and  brush  thrashing together. I knew it was a big buck and I grabbed my bow and got set.

This all happened in seconds and my heart was pounding! To me, it all seemed like slow motion. He came charging in hard, looking for whoever was on his turf. He came right down through the woods toward me.He stopped  turned and looked right up at me. Then came to a stop. My heart sank because I thought he had seen me. If he had, it didn't matter. At this point, he was pissed and he turned and stopped and went into the sneak mode. I don't know what stopped him except possibly the smell of the doe pee I had dragged behind me walking in to my spot. When he turned he stepped back behind a set of small trees I drew on him but he sat there for what seemed to me like 5 minutes but was probably less then 30 seconds. He turned and started walking away from me.I had to let the bow come back to the ready position. Then he turned back toward me but still walking away from me.

At the time he was about 40 yards away, I knew it was now or never. The brush is thick in this area so things get distorted. What I thought was a going away broad side shot was actually an angling to me broad side shot. I drew mentally estimate 40 yards and shot through a window in the  brush. I heard the arrow hit home but couldn't see where I hit. The deer jumped took off and ran about 60 yards, then stopped.

At this point I wasn't sure if Id made a good shot on the deer, as I hadn't seen the arrow go in. Mind you, I practice a lot and I do mean a LOT. My adrenalin was pumping like no tomorrow! I watched the deer stop suddenly sit back on its hind legs and fall over dead. I sat there not believing what had just happened. I kept my eye on the deer waiting to see if it got back up. Nope it was laying there and it was for real! I finally texted my buddy I had a hammer down, and he texted me back  "WTF?" This had all happened moments after I had texted him,"it was quiet up here." So he was all confused. I was just personally laughing to myself and jumping up and down like a little kid!

So to the hunting gods and the Lord above thank you for lifting that weight and rewarding me with an awesome buck! This goes to show you, if you want something bad enough and work for it, it will happen. This is a day I will never forget and that is what hunting is all about!

Just wanted to say one more thing If it wasn't for the Cracker this would never have been able to have come true.He is truely die hard when it comes to deer hunting and he puts up with my bitching and complaining but he makes me getter done!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The long and short of how I got into spey rods

It has been some time since I was introduced to the Spey Rod. I moved to Oregon in 2005. I was looking for a new life. I had been going to Oregon to visit my friends since 1996. I fell in love with it out there immediately. Back then the only steelhead I had seen were on TV, with Jim Teeny on ESPN. I had started fly fishing years before this, Large trout were just a dream then. I barley knew how to mend a line back then. I can still remember being on the south branch of the Raritan river trying to figure out how to nymph. Nothing came easy to me back then, I didn't have anyone teaching me.
  I was learning to tie flies back then, I was introduced to fly tying when I was 5. So it was in my blood I really didn't get into it till after college. Large Rainbows were in my dreams and in my head like some strange addiction that one just can't escape. I grew up bait fishing and spinner fishing for trout. We had a ready supply of brook trout that my father and I chased in streams in north western New Jersey .
   It is funny how I ended up all the way out in Oregon from New Jersey  but I would say the trout called me there like whispers on the wind. My father instilled this addiction at an early age and I would beg him to take me fishing on Sundays just to get out of going to church. In general I just liked to fish it really didn't matter how! I'm glad I grew up that way. I have had to many run ins with Asstatic fly fisherman who are kings of the fly world. Fly fishing was just a natural progression for me as I wanted more challenges. Through many trials and errors I got better at fly fishing. I read books about it like crazy and fished whenever and where ever possible. All the while I had these steelhead in the back of my head. I was getting so insane I had started building rods to even chase these fish and had never fished for them. I use to go to a shop in Pennington New Jersey just to build rods. I built a single hand 8wt just to fish for Steelhead.
I was living in Jersey with my own Landscape and Carpentry business going. I skimped and saved every penny to move to Oregon. I finally made it out there. I got stuck in a job building cabinets 60 hours a week it was hell. I built and installed cabinets. I could only dream of getting on the river. In my spare time I explored the rivers of Oregon. I finally made it to the Deschutes one day. I had my 8wt rod and make shift hair wings in hand and no clue what I was doing!
I walked up from the mouth of the river. It was like walking into the gates of heaven to me. Yet as you enter the gates there is a nice sign saying beware of rattle snakes! I worked my way up river tip toeing through the grass, watching out for snakes.
Well half way through the day  I had been chucking line like mad! I was tired and all the while across the river there were three or four guys casting rods and lines I had never seen. I was just worn out from casting and these guys just kept going. My introduction to the Deschutes wasn't simple either! The wind was crazy there and casting wasn't easy. One cast even got blown back at me and a 2/0 hook hair wing fly nailed me in the palm. It was a painful moment to say the least.
I went back another time or two but one time sticks out like a sore thumb. I had worked my way up river it was mid morning. When a guy showed up across river from me with one of those rods. I kept fishing but could see the guy out of the corner of my eye. I happened to look up river and saw a steelhead rise to his fly as he swung it through the run. The man jumped and missed the fish. It was like watching a film from across stream. About two minutes later out of the corner of my eye I watched him hook that fish and it was on! He had been waist deep and at this point was trying to make his way back to the bank. This fish was moving down river fast. I had never seen a battle like this before so I followed him down river. It was like watching a fishing film out of the 80s but live. This guy ran down the shore line. The fish hit the fast water and wasn't stopping , the guy opened the reel up and let the fish run! When it hit calm water he put breaks on!  The fish took off and went on a crazy run down river to more fast water and the guy just opened up the reel again. It was awesome , as the guy ran down river with the reel open ducks exploded out of a little cove they were in, as he ran by.That was when I wanted a camera! Well the fish hit slack water and this guy laid the breaks on again! I was in amazement and watching the whole thing.The fish did another run into fast water and stopped, he put the breaks,this time he got a handle on the fish and slowly worked it in!
  It had to be 18lbs it was huge. He had nailed a B run Steelhead.
Well that was it I wanted a Spey rod! The insanity started from that point on. I went to a local fly shop and started looking into rods and reels they were crazy expensive! It was like some blood lust, I had to have one of these rods! I worked saved and slowly got a rod and reel. It was all a learning experience. I was lucky though and I was in the heart of the revolution and met a few people and went to the Sandy Spey clave , it took time to get the casting down! Again I didn't have anyone to teach me I just went and did it.
Lots has happened since that time and I just seem to be on that journey with the fish up river. It has lead me to a boat rods. reels, waders,and  night mares.One of these days It will be just me the river and the fish.