2010 Hunting Resolutions

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. And I hope you all have a happy new year. I know I’m looking forward to 2010, I have a lot of disappointments – in regards to hunting – that I hope to rectify in the new year. As the 2009 hunting season winds down, I’m looking back and thinking on the things that I want to work on in 2010. So here’s my 2010 Hunting Resolutions list.

My first resolution is plain and simply, become a better shot. The three misses of this year’s deer hunts have gotten into my head and I’m just not confident in my shot or my rifle. I need to rectify that. Which means put in time at the range. A win-win for me there. I certainly don’t mind spending time at the range.

As far as the rifle is concerned, my 50 caliber Ardessa Woodsman, I want to experiment with different loads and possibly different rounds and see if I can come up with the optimum load/round combo for it. I’m even thinking about getting into casting my own rounds as well.

My second resolution is to get my daughter out into the field more. She’s active in a couple of sports that keep her active during the school year, so there’s lots of conflict trying to line up a free weekend for her during any hunting season. But the hunting bug has definitely bit her so I’d be remiss not to help her get out more in 2010. She’s a pretty good shot with her Stoeger side-by-side, but she hasn’t had the chance to drop a pheasant yet. That needs to get resolved in 2010.

My third resolution has to do with the positive things of the 2009 season. I rattled my first buck in this year and that was indeed thrilling. But I want to get better on my stand. Whether that’s calling in deer or just being better on the stand (I really have a problem setting still), I wan to improve there.

And fourth, I just want to continue to have fun. The 2009 season was a blast, even with the disappointments. I learned a lot, had some great times with all the guys and had some good experiences. I can’t imagine hunting not being fun, and I’m not about to let it go down that road.

I guess, if I had to sum those up, I just want to become a better hunter in 2010. I want to become a successful hunter in 2010. And really, that’s probably every hunter’s resolution. So how about you? What are your resolutions for the 2010 hunting year?

Deer Hunting with an Original Spencer Rifle

The title sounds pretty cool doesn’t it. It would be, if I had actually taken a deer with it! You see, I am writing to you as a failed hunter.

I am deerless for the Kansas rifle deer season of 2009 and it’s my own fault. See I had this plan; I was only going to shoot a big buck if the opportunity presented itself during muzzle loading season. Because my plan, was to shoot a deer (any deer) with my original Spencer 56-50 rifle during rifle season.

Plains Hunter, dedicated to hunting with historical weapons, I thought my plan would be cool, right?

So I was not upset when I did not get a deer during Muzzleloading season.

Flash forward to Opening evening of rifle season. I’m on the stand when a really nice buck (the one Bill missed during ML season) presents itself 135 yards out. I draw a bead and fire. A clean miss. I forgot to take into account the 183 MPH cross wind. Some where in Oklahoma a farmer is thinking “How did I get that giant bullet hole in my John Deere”?).

One hour later two smaller bucks, a spike and a ragged six point, run down the hill 20 yards to my right and stop 30 yards in front of me. This is where my plan went south. I start thinking: “You know… that big buck will probably be back… It’s only the first day of rifle season… It would be a shame to end the season sooo soon.”

Meanwhile, Dad and Jim are hunting without much success.

Bill arrives Thursday and begins his tragic battle with Buck Fever. In Bill’s case Buck Fever doesn’t properly describe it. Is there such a thing as Buck Cancer? Or at least Buck H1N1? Seriously Bill should see someone. If cost is an issue maybe the Shriners can help. I don’t believe anyone should have to suffer like that. Three shots, ALL at BUCKS! Not a single doe shot. Deer know, I swear they know! If a deer can sniff out Buck Fever maybe they can sniff out other deadly diseases. I think I’m on to something here. I’m going to contact the Mayo Clinic.

Speaking of animals with extraordinary abilities; Every time I walked to any deer stand, carrying only a rifle, a pheasant would flush perfectly; RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!

But while pheasant hunting just a month ago, carrying a shot gun, DEER WERE FLUSHING EVERYWHERE! They Know!… I’m telling you they know!… DON’T CALL ME CRAZY! THEY KNOW!

Uh hem.. I digress. A few days into the season I’m hunting on a different stand. Two does, a shooter buck, and the FATHER OF ALL MONSTER BUCKS is standing thirty yards away. Then the Monster walks within twenty yards and TURNS BROAD SIDE! Then he stands on his hind legs and FLIPS ME OFF! WHY? Because he is a MULE DEER and I have a WHITE TAIL ONLY license! My Dad has an either species license and Bill has an either species license. I change stands so Dad or Bill will get a shot at the muleys. Neither one sees them. After Dad and Bill return home, I return to the stand and the mule deer are BACK! I’M TELLING YOU THEY KNOW!

Slightly changing the subject, I’m not much of a tech guy, Bill can tell you that. But before deer season, I decided I just HAD to have a range finder. So I bought one. Pretty neat little gadget. That’s how I know I missed that buck at 135 yards. Seems like I paid a pretty steep price for a gadget that’s only usefulness is to tell me how far away the deer was that I missed.

wes with doeI bought another item I thought would be a lot handier. I bought a set of insulated coveralls. And they are pretty nice, warm. The problem is that I have always worn a size XL. So I bought a size XL. I’ve packed on a few pounds lately (Noo problem I’ll lose the weight after the holidays, like I planned last year). I sure don’t want coveralls that are too big. So ultimately I paid a pretty steep price for coveralls that fit like a scuba suit. Which wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but I didn’t try putting a rifle to my shoulder wearing my scuba suit until I was sitting on the ground at my deer stand. Consequently, if …I lean back… Juuust righhht… and stretch my arm just sooo…and lean my head waaay down… I can kind of get a sight picture and almost reach the trigger at the same time.

Ultimately Dad saved us from getting skunked by shooting a white tail doe. He shot it with his 50-95 1876 Winchester (I personally think Dad just put a Sheriff’s Office salvage tag on a doe that was killed in a collision with an 18 wheeler.) That 50-95 messed that deer up!

1876 winchesterThe second week of deer season a cold front moved in. One would think in this day and age of high technology the weather forecasters would have better instruments. Our local weatherman stated the temperature was down into the single digits. I know for a fact that the on my stand the average morning temperature actually hovered around 77 degrees below zero. I’m not kidding, cold like that would have killed a normal man.

On the last Saturday I took a friend and two of his sons out hunting. One of his boys shot a button buck with an M-14 with iron sights at 200 yards (I know it was 200 yards because I used my rangefinder!). An M-14 is a historical rifle, kind of.

The final Sunday of the season I rested against a fence post looking out over a milo field and watched a beautiful western Kansas Sunset. I even relaxed smoking my pipe. The wind was in my face so I wasn’t concerned anything behind me would scent me anyway. The light was fading fast so I decided to hunt my way back to the truck and leisurely set about securing my items and stood up. Just in time to see the whitetails fifty yards BEHIND me hauling away. WHAT THE *#@+!! THEY KNOW! I’m telling you THEY KNOW!!

On the plus side the very historical former chicken coop (I’m not kidding) now hunting lodge has come a long way this year. We have a fridge so we no longer have to deal w/ice for beverages, food etc. And we have a TV and DVD player. Now I know many of you are saying that watching TV ruins the historical atmosphere of our hunting experience. Not True! We only watch WESTERNS! John Wayne shooting Comanches, just after the Civil War with a 94 Winchester is very authentic and only enhances our western hunting lifestyle!

If you enjoyed hearing our tales of woe, send your tragic hunting stories to Plains Hunter. Don’t send tales of your amazing success, we don’t want to HEAR IT!


I’ve Got A Fever… Buck Fever That Is

I just finished my third season deer hunting and I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about the outcome it. For the most part, I’m very disappointed. I came home empty handed after spending about eight days in the field altogether between the two seasons. And that doesn’t even count my scouting time out there. But on the other hand, I experienced a lot of pretty cool things. So let me start from the beginning.

I started out in September during Kansas’ muzzleloading season. We had scoped out a couple of good looking spots, seen some deer and lots of sign. My first four days of that season were a bust. The prairie seemed to swallow all the deer we had seen through out the summer. I went back out the last weekend of muzzleloading season only to blow a great shot at a 10 point just 30 yards out. I won’t go through it again, you can read about it here.

OK, learn my lessons, spend some more time at the gun range, there’s always rifle season in December.

Two long months later I’m back out in the field. I’m still using the 50 caliber plains rifle as I have a muzzleloader only any species tag. My first morning out, I go back to the spot of the blown September shot and sure enough, I rattle an eight point in right at sun up.

It was my first time with rattling. Plus I wasn’t sure if there was still enough rut going on for it to work. The whitetail buck came up from my right (south of me) and I was looking away for the most part as generally, the deer come from the north on this stand. I didn’t realize he was even there until he was about 10 feet from me. I realized he was there when I saw deer tail running away from me. He ran about 30 yards out up on top of the ridge, stopped and watched me from head on.

Now, it took me a few minutes to get my heart out of my throat. Well, actually, I never did. The buck shook me so much by just appearing like that. It’s amazing how they can appear like phantoms some times. So now the buck is just standing there watching me and I’m trying to do a 180 degree turn so I can get my rifle up on him. And how is it they always come up from the way I’m not looking?

It took me a few minutes of moving very slowly between times of him looking away or down. I was moving in fractions of an inch sometimes. I finally get to where I’ve got him in my sites, but I’m a nervous wreck after all that and my heart is still beating like mad in my ears. Plus, he’s still head on at me. I’m a little panicky because I can’t decide where to aim. I know what to do when they’re broadside, but hadn’t considered a head on shot. So I just keep aiming and waiting to see if he’ll turn.

He finally turns and gives me a beauty of a shot. I aim… BLAM! He disappears over the ridge and I sit and wait for a minute then decide to belly crawl up the ridge so I can see over. I glass him down in the valley (or what passes for one in SW KS) and watch him for about 15-20 minutes. I watch him lay down in this draw and I’m elated thinking I took him down.

I mark the spot, sit down and drink a cup of coffee. Take care of some other business (you know) and decide to go investigate. I marked him about 300 yards out. I’m getting a little nervous walking towards him because I’m not picking up a blood trail but hope that maybe he ran a little erratic rather than the direct route I’m going. I’m walking up to the spot I marked only to see him jump up and run off over another ridge (in a field I don’t have permission on). He had jumped a fence prior to laying down, so I back track to see if I can pick up a blood trail but I can’t find one. I go back to where I shot at him and can’t pick up one there either. I missed again.

I managed to rattle another buck in the next evening at another stand. This one was a smaller mule deer, probably a 3×3 (which still looks pretty impressive). I was amazed it worked really. He came in over a ridge and was very cautious. I could only see him from the neck up for quite awhile. Funny thing, as soon as I saw his head, my heart is banging back in my ears again. I’m trying to calm myself down but all I can think is “here we go again” and for a moment, I almost decide to not shoot. Not sure I can take the disappointment of missing again.

But that only lasts for a moment.

I try to settle down as he approaches my stand. I’m going through all the stuff to remember… aim off his shoulder… keep it low… squeeze don’t pull… calm down, you know what to do. You know, all the stuff everyone tells you to do.

Finally the buck is broadside and in my sweet spot again, probably just under 40 yards. I set up my shot, squeeze the trigger… BLAM! The muley scampers off back the way he came. And no blood trail again. I look for quite awhile but the sun had since gone down. I can’t find anything remotely looking like a blood trail.

Dejected, I walk back to deer camp. I actually think about telling everyone I didn’t see anything, but I come clean. The next morning I go back out for the last time this year. This is it. About an hour after sun up the rain and sleet starts coming down. Black powder doesn’t do to well in the wet. The stuff wasn’t supposed to show until later in the day and I didn’t have any of my rain gear with me. I walk back to camp again truly disappointed.

I’ve thought about those three missed shots a lot and played them over in my head again and again trying to figure out what I did wrong. I’m sure it all comes down to my marksmanship. I’m totally amazed that I was able to rattle those two bucks in, that was first and definitely a thrill.

All three times I had a hard time getting my breathing under control and that heart-beating-in-my-ears thing is a bit distracting when trying to concentrate on shot placement. The other thing that I’m wondering is if I’m just not that confident with this rifle yet. The doe I took during my first season hunting was with my Enfield and I had put a ton of lead down range with it before taking it out in the field. I’m pretty confident with shot placement on that gun. Not so much with the Plains rifle. I’ve shot a lot with it, but I’m no where near as confident with it compared to the Enfield.

So that’s what I’m going with and that’s what I’m going to work on before next September in 2010. I’m planning on doing some work to it, changing the sites to a more traditional site and reworking the stock finish. Hopefully the new sites will help and I can get more comfortable with it.

So my seasons over, there isn’t any meat in the freezer – at least not venison. But, I’ll be back next year, because I’ve got a fever and the only cure is more deer hunting.

Keep your powder dry and “watch your top knot”.