Decisions Decisions

Last week I returned to Elberton to my brother-in-law’s 400 acres to hunt whitetail. On the drive out, we sipped coffee and talked about our wives, lives and work, but when we pulled onto the red clay dirt road we got focused. We had decided to hit the stand after sun-up this time, to spare ourselves, it was a holiday after all. We sprayed down our camoed bodies with scent blocker then I took the Kimber into my hand and we walked down the trail. We could hear the forest waking up all around us and as we topped the ridge at the end of the trail, I was told I’d be in the treestand instead of the ground blind this year. Better angles, and less chance of my scent tipping the deer off. We walked down the hill and though my eyes were still adjusting to the light, I could see three or four grey shapes on the side of a dry creekbed no more than 200 yards away. I stopped and whispered, “Wow, they’re right here. There they are.”

My brother-in-law paused, let out an explicative and asked for the shooting sticks and Kimber. He set up and took the shot. He missed. And the deer barely looked up. He chambered another round and shot again. A deer collapsed, literally his legs fell out from underneath him, and finally the herd spooked. White tails started bobbing as the deer headed out in different directions. There were at least five, and one strayed on the edge of the treeline, pawing and stamping an alert. She fell after two more missed shots and more cursing. Clearly the sighting was off. My brother-in-law picked up his own AR and brought her down.

And it was all over in less than thirty seconds and a mere minute or two from taking the field. Now, we’re meat hunters so there wasn’t need to examine rack size and we thought we were taking does. As we approached the deer, my brother-in-law was surprised and saddened to see one of the deer was a spiker, a young male buck with his horns barely visible. It seems there were less bucks on the property of late and he’d preferred to take does. I wanted to take a doe because they taste better than the hormone stressed bucks going through the rut. We removed the deer from the field and then decided to continue the hunt until I could take one. After about a half hour on another hill with no deer-sign, I was called back to the original site and to hit the stand. Two more deer had crossed from one side of the forest to another. An hour later, I saw two heads pop up out of the tall grass about 300 yards away and out of range for my level of shooting. I noticed my hand shaking, but forced a breath and calmed down. THEY WERE HERE! About thirty minutes after that, another deer came out of the opposite side of the forest at about 100 yards. I scoped the deer and took several deep breaths. THIS WAS IT. A nice-sized deer in range, and a clear shot I could make. And then I noticed the spikes, about 7 or 8 inches long indicated a young male. This deer would get a pass. But it was an opportunity to observe deer behavior, so I savored the encounter.

The spiker walked down into the gully, sniffed at the site of the other slain deer and decided to b-line it straight for the treeline. He dissappeared but only minutes later I heard him and then saw him walking to my right in the trees. He was just twenty feet away and oblivious to my appearance. He walked right underneath my stand. Then I got a text. It was from my brother-in-law on the ridge above me watching. It read, “there’s a deer right behind you!”

I texted back–“yeah I know, its a spike, he walks.”

About twenty minutes later I watched another spiker cross the field about 150 yards away. I made the same decision and didn’t take the shot. It was time to go but I got one more text, “just take the next deer.” Ha! If it had come in about 10 minutes earlier, I might have taken the spike, but no harm no foul, I had my decision that morning to take a doe, not a buck, and I was sticking to it.

Later it occurred to me that perhaps I had made a decision based on my station in life. Sure, I want to be a meat-hunter, but a hungry hunter, or a hunter putting food on his table for his family, would have taken the young buck. After all, we weren’t really “managing” the bucks on this property. Food is food. Maybe I had been a little high-fallutin’ with my decision. I pondered it and let it go. Nope, I think I learned a valuable decision out there on the fields of Georgia. Hunting is about making decisions. They aren’t right or wrong, but they’re yours. And I think I learned from my close in encounter, not to make snap decisions, to be patient, to go through a checklist and make a decision about what I was about to kill. Though I felt like a predator on that ridge, I was also a man who is nothing but the choices he makes. And without taking a single shot, I think I walked away a better hunter. I sure had a lot of fun too.

**UPDATE** I’ve since learned that taking Spikes is perfectly fine, that they indeed improve antlered populations according to studies, and could even be a sign of a lack of nutrition in the area. Texas Depart of Game and Wildlife suggests taking them when you see them because they have inferior genetics and aren’t likely to get “better” with age. A single buck can breed as many as 40 does, so one with superior genetics (antlered) could do the job with less pressure from spikes. Funny huh? Oh well, live and learn, I think a doe would be tastier than a rut buck anyway.

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Film CRAFT XVII

CARHARTT: MADE IN AMERICA “People are really tired of feeling like everything comes from some other country.”

SEAN WOOLSEY “Actions ignite ideas.”

 

THE FOUR COURSEMAN “I can’t exactly tell you where they’re based because its a secret.”

 

MADE BY HAND: THE DISTILLER “It was challenging to get people to take me seriously.”

 

QUINTIN X INTELLIGENTSIA

 

BILLYKIRK X HUDSON BAY COMPANY “We’re on the right path.”

Hunting Black Friday

The rut is in full swing in Georgia with bucks chasing does everywhere according to the forum. So I’m going hunting with my brother-in-law in Elberton again this year. Its only fitting, while the girls hunt for deals on Black Friday, I’ll hunt for meat instead. Last Xmas, we gave it a shot only to find that every yokel in the county popping off their new toys which scared the deer away for miles.

I’m assured the stand has been productive as two nice does have already been taken this season. Apparently, venison burgers and italian sausage await me in Decatur.  I may just have to “finish” the sausages in my brother’s smoker too.

Not to knock shopping too much since I do enjoy it, I’ve got a backup plan in case we get rained out. With guidance from  Red Clay Soul,  I’ve got a few places I may have to wander in to.

420 Hours

OK, so you know its time to change the fly line when its so knicked you can see the core and your tippet gets caught in the knick on every bad cast–which is like–every other cast for me when I’m fishing sloppy. Its also a bit embarrassing when you get on the water and your line looks like wrinkled shit. I really like Yukon’s review of the Rio WF5F line, particularly his analysis of how long a line should last.

“One can expect 200 to 300 hours of actual use with a modern fly line. If I do some quick, back of the envelope calculations, I fish, at minimum, one time a week (no matter the time of year). That’s at least 52 days on the water a year. During the summer, spring and fall, I will often fish 2 to 4 times a week (two full days and one or two partial days).  Each season is 13 weeks. Assuming that I fish once a week during the winter (13 water days) and between 2 and 3 days a week (78 to 117 days) during the remaining seasons, I probably fish between 91 and 130 days a year… Assuming an average of a 6 hour outing (accounting for partial days and shorter winter days) with about 3 hours of actual use of the fly line, I spend approximately 273 to 390 hours of my year actually using fly line. So, a fly line should last me a little less than a year.”

I did my own math. I too fish at least once a week, so that’s 52 days. This Spring before I started the new gig, it was twice a week, so about an extra 12 outings, and a few full weekend trips, another 6 days (Delaware, Shenandoah, Santa Monica). I almost never fish a half-day, often a full day around 6-8 hours with about 6 hours of fishing. So we’re talking about 70 days x 6 hours is about 420 hours of nirvana fly fishing this year. WOWZA. I’m way overdue.

Incidentally, education experts say it takes about a 10,000 hours of doing something before you can be said to be a “master.” Clearly whoever came up with that theory was not a fly fisherman.

While I’m at it, I could use a new 5wt reel too…Santa?

There are quite a few things you can do to recycle your old fly line that can improve your fishing.

WET FLY FISHING INDICATORS

According to FishingwithFlies, you can cut your fly line up into pieces after removing the core and thread it onto your leader for a bright, highly visible, sinking indicator perfect for streamer fishing or nymphing when you don’t want a bobber.

LAWN CASTING PRACTICE

With my old reel, I’m planning on using the line to work on my casting. Its already cracked and dirty, so harm no foul casting on the urban fields of Rock Creek Park in DC.

SHORTLINE NYMPHING

Cut it in half, tied in a new loop and make it a shortline nymphing rig. The back half of the line is in much better shape than the front end, and as long as I don’t cast too far, it’ll be usable for at least another year.

BASS LINE

Even though its a 5wt, that’s more than enough stopping power for the average bass. Cut off the first 15 or 20 ft (the weight forward part), and then add a sinktip to make it a bass line. Just make sure to cut out the cracked material.

On Thursday – Keep America Fishing

Roland Martin is not only an amazing bass angler, he’s one hell of a fly fisher too. Yeah, you have to wade through a lot of plug fishing episodes of Martin’s show, but  he fly fishes every so often, they’re in there, and they’re sweet. There’s a recent episode of Martin fly fishing for tarpon in the Florida keys where he’s jumping tarpon left and right. In fact, I learned quite a lot about reading water from Martin’s 101  Bass-Catching Secrets, and any fly fisher who wants to add to their body of knowledge would benefit from picking it up.

Martin is also an ambassador for Keep America Fishing, part of the American Sportfishing Association. KAF represents the sportfishing community to make sure access to fishing stays open. Through policy, science and conservation, KSA works to minimize access restrictions, promote clean waters and restore fish populations. KAF also created an Angler’s Bill of Rights and Ethical Angler Pledge to ensure a commitment to keep our waters open, clean and abundant with fish. KAF also supports Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who along with fourteen co-sponsors, introduced the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 on September 10. The legislation provides for increased access, habitat conservation and improved fish and wildlife management. But you don’t have to be an angler to get behind the Sportsmen’s Act.

The NRA, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and several other other national, regional and local groups are pushing their communities and members to press their Senators to pass the bill according to this Outdoor Life article. The Chicago Sun-Times makes a point that this is one case where sportsmen and government align.Of course the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act has a number of different bills in it–and you might not agree with them all. For example, the National Resources Defense Council has a problem with a bill that would exempt lead-use in shot and fishing sinkers. Personally–I’m for non-toxic shot, but not opposed to individual states deciding on the issue.

The vote is Thursday on the 14th of November, but there’s still time to have a say! You can get involved by going here and signing-up to communicate with your Senator your support for the Act.

Home Brewing Pt. 1

I’ve been itching to try homebrewing beer for quite a while. I took a class at Brooklyn Kitchen a couple years ago, bought the kit but never followed-up. Recently, I was inspired by the release of the recipe for the White House Honey Brown Ale under a Freedom of Information Act. So I grabbed my brother and we messed up his kitchen in Bloomingdale last weekend.

Of course it is tradition to sample brews AS you brew. Fat Tire’s Snow Day and Heavy Seas Loose Cannon kept us properly marinated while we steeped the grains, boiled the wort, and added the first and second batch of hops. We then moved the wort to the fermenter, put the lid on and attached the airlock. And now we wait. The recipe suggests that we rack the beer for the second fermentation after 5 days, but while doing some reading on the homebrew forums I came across the notion of a “long primary.” Seems today’s homebrewers now agree that a single longer primary fermentation will yield a more clear beer with less risk of oxidation in the transfer to a second fermenter. After checking in with the guys at DC Homebrewers, I took their advice and am going to let it sit for 2 weeks before bottling and conditioning for 2 more. So I won’t have the beer in time for Thanksgiving, but definitely should have it to give as Stocking Stuffers!

Morgan Run Brown

Couldn’t find any of the stocked bows in Morgan Run this weekend. I’m pretty sure they were washed to oblivion by Hurricane Sandy. I did coax a nice brown to take a black streamer from a deep bend after some serious walking. This gorgeous northern Maryland stream feels miles away, with boulders the size of houses and cars, genuine riffles and real undercut banks. Sign, if only it had a sizeable native population of trout.

Justice on the Jackson River, Not Yet

For my everyday readers, you’ll know that I’ve followed Dargan Coggeshall’s fight for justice on the Jackson River in Virginia. I read with sadness recently that he has lost his court battle, leaving anglers in deep doubt about their rights in the Commonwealth. From the release:

“On October 9, 2012, in the Circuit Court of Alleghany County, attorneys for Dargan Coggeshall and Charles Crawford informed the Court that their clients did not have sufficient resources to proceed further in the defense of the trespass case against them.  Accordingly, they consented to the Court enjoining the two of them from wading or walking on the contested portion of the streambed of the Jackson River.  The Court stated that although the information the plaintiffs had presented was insufficient to prove their claim of fee simple title to the riverbed, they had shown prima facie title. Prima facie title can be established by possession of the property and a current deed purporting to convey the property to the plaintiffs.”

Now, I hate injustice, and its hard to see a silver lining here. Its damn hard. I know injustice and I know Coggeshall is hurting, and all of us who support the Virginia Rivers Defense Fund are hurting. We’re in fear that any of Virginia’s great rivers, the Rappahanock, Cowpasture, Shenandoah, could be the next site for an outrageous act of cowardice from the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and VDGIF if a landownder decides to sue an angler, paddler, kayaker, hunter or bird-watcher who steps foot in water where some lackey tax-collector has erred and given the landowner false information that leads them to believe they own the Commonwealth’s rivers.

But I know something about justice. It doesn’t come often and easy, but it does come.  Justice does come. Now, because the civil litigation has ended, other organizations can step-up on this issue and fight alongside the VRDF. Strangers can step out of the dark and become allies in the full light. Will you stand? Will you stand for justice? I don’t care what your other politics are, will you stand, if you stood with Dargan before, will you keep standing? Trout Unlimited, will you stand? VA National Rifle Association, will you stand? Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, will you stand? Virginia Sportsmen’s Foundation, will you stand? VA Boy Scouts of America, will you stand? VA Sierra Club, will you stand? VA hunters and anglers, bait chuckers and dry fly purists, will you stand?

To those mentioned in this article, and other owners at The River’s Edge, its never too late to do the right thing. There is no shame in fighting the good fight, whensover you choose. Will you stand?