Sunday, May 9, 2010

Turkey season was a bust

Well, "B" week for turkey season in NJ came and went and I never got a chance to get out. I probably will not buy any more permits either. I only have one or two more chances to hunt before the season ends, and it's not worth having to buy a permit for each day, so I guess I'm done. I really enjoy Turkey hunting, but do not enjoy having to buy a permit for each week-Monday to Friday, and then a different permit if I want to hunt Saturday. I would have to buy two permits for just a few hours to hunt on two mornings, and I can't justify doing that.

We will be going back out West chasing elk again this year, and I'm looking forward to that. My brother, Brian, and I did it last year and had a blast, so we are going back. Preparing for Elk season for me just means shaking off the rust and extra pounds from the holidays and long winter, and getting in shape for the Rockies. It also means getting my equipment tuned and ready. I began shooting alot more in preparing for last years trip and enjoyed that. I try to shoot my bows several days a week, even if just a dozen arrows, and that keeps me in good form.

I have two bows, a Mathews DXT that I keep set at 60 pounds, and has a 27.5 inch draw, and a Mathews Switchback XT that is set at 70 pounds, and a 28 inch draw. I bought the DXT after having shoulder surgery. It is a lighter draw weight than my previous bow, and has a much smoother draw, which is something someone with bad shoulders can appreciate. After fully recovering, and being able to draw 70 pounds again, I got a great deal on the Switchback XT, and picked that up as a back-up bow. I ended up shooting the SBXT better than I do the DXT, so it became my primary bow for elk and deer, until the weather turns cold. I shoot the DXT with a shorter draw and lighter draw weight when it gets cold and I have to wear more bulky clothing.

I shoot the same arrows from both: Easton Axis N-Fused 400's, with 125 grain Slick Trick Mag broadheads and blazer vanes. This set-up works very well for me. I hunted 4 states last year and ended up killing 6 deer, a turkey, a coyote, several groundhogs, and an assortment of other small game with them. I'm looking forward to seeing what this year brings.

Good Hunting

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Here is a little video of some turkey hunting from years past. It was a turkey season primer I put up on YouTube. A little corny, but I had fun doing it.

"A" week was a bust for me this year, but it hasn't always been that way. Hopefully, by the end of the turkey season this year, I'll have some new video to put up.

New Jersey's Turkey season: A Week Ups and Downs.

This blog is a hobby for me, and like all hobbies, sometimes you have time for them, sometimes you don't. I have let it sit idle because I didn't have any time to keep up with it. I enjoy doing this, so even though time is still scarce, I'm going to try and resume the Days Afield journal. So here is my re-entry into the bloggesphere with a summary of New Jersy's first week of turkey season.

"A", our first week of season, week is over, and while we started off good, it ended up being a little tough for me.

I skipped Monday, but went out early Tuesday morning to tape my brother’s second turkey hunt ever. We set up on his friend’s property in a box blind overlooking a clover field. I got the camera situated just as the sky was lightening in the east. Jeff had bought a new slate call so I scratched it up a little and was going to make a few soft calls to see how it sounded. I leaned out the window a bit and just as I touched the striker to the slate, he hit me on the back and said a bird had landed in the field. It was a long beard.

I scrambled back in the blind, got the camera on and found the bird in the LCD screen as it ran towards our jake and hen decoys. Just as the bird moved to the edge of the window, and almost out of the camera's view, Jeff shot and rolled him. He got back up, ran back in full camera view, and Jeff shot him again, putting him down for good. It was over in about 15 seconds. A zone 21 longbeard that weighed 21 pounds, 1 inch spurs and 10 inch beard.

On Wednesday I went to a farm in zone 20 that I used to hunt a lot, and recently re-gained permission to turkey there. I had scouted it several times the 2 weeks prior to season and saw birds at the top of one field just after first light on all 3 occasions. Even though the birds always roosted in the bottom part of the field in years past, this year I was seeing them in the top, so that is where I set up my blind.

Just as it got light I heard at least 3, maybe 4 or 5 birds gobbling like crazy…right off the bottom part of the field where they always had been before. They gobbled a lot for about 15 minutes before flying down, then got quiet. At about 6:30am, I made a few calls and heard them sound off, but now they were in the field. There is a rise in the middle of the field, so I couldn’t see them, but could tell they were about 300 yards away on the other end of the field. I called some more and soon saw two red heads pop up over the rise about 150 yards away.

The two longbeards came towards me, but held up at 50 yards and just kept strutting and gobbling there, just out of bow range. Even though I had two hens and a jake decoy set up, the birds didn’t come any closer. Then two hens came out in the corner of the field to my left, and the strutters went that way, and the hens led them off. After they cleared the area, I moved the blind to where we have killed birds here in the past, right down in the corner where they came down. If they did the same thing on Thursday that they did on Wednesday, I would be in the perfect spot.

I was up at 4:00am again on Thursday for another try. Brian met me at my house at 4:30 and we headed out to the farm to see if moving the blind would pay off. He was playing camera man today. Right on cue at 5:40, in the same place they had been Wednesday, several birds began gobbling, and gobbled like crazy no more than 75 yards away from my blind. All got quiet at about 6:05am, and we figured they had come down and would be out in the field any minute. After a few minutes, we heard more gobbling in the woods behind the blind. There were several birds gobbling for about an hour, back and forth in the woods behind us, but they never came to the field like they had always done in the past. Foiled again.

Friday morning, the last day of "A" week, I went back to the blind with Jeff in tow as camera man this time. I found my blind nearly destroyed. The wind had picked it up off the stakes and blown it around, breaking the poles that hold the top up, tearing and collapsing the blind in the process. I did my best to fix it up and put it back in place, but I didn’t want to make too much commotion because I believed the birds were close again. The birds had come to the field edge several times yesterday, but would not enter the field. They could not see the blind from where they were on the edge of the woods, but they could see the decoys, and I thought maybe the decoys made them wary. So I set up no decoys, and planned on doing no calling.

They started a little early this time. At 5:30am, 3 or 4 birds began gobbling right where they had been the last two days, maybe 75 yards away. I was sure they were coming this time. I struggled to find a position to shoot the bow from inside the mangled blind. The top was sagging and the sides not fully pushed out because the poles were broken. It was cramped under the best conditions with a bow in this blind, but in this condition, my top limb was hitting the top of the blind and my arm hitting the back of the blind on the draw. I found a spot to make it work if I got the chance, and then waited for flydown.

They gobbled like crazy until 6:25 am before coming down. Within a few minutes, a hen popped out of the woods to the left of my blind, about 80 yards away, and stepped into the field. She was followed by 2 long beards at full strut and gobbling like mad. Soon another hen and third longbeard entered the field and all three went into full strut 80 yards away.

In the past, the birds have entered the field, and then walked along the grassy area where my blind sits, picking at seeds and bugs in the high grass. This is also what they did Wednesday before cresting the rise in the field to the right of the blind. The hens started moving in my direction, but then wandered off towards the middle of the field, picking at the freshly turned dirt instead of moving into the grassy area to feed. They went across the field, coming no closer than 75 yards, and took all three longbeards with them. And that was the end of "A" week.

I have a "B" week permit for the same zone, and another plan. We’ll see what happens.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Harvest time!

Time for a garden update, and all I can say is WOW! Here is my garden project this year.
I have been picking for about three weeks now. It started with a few yellow squash, then a few zucchini, a few peppers and eggplant every few days. Now, I get bucket loads of the stuff every day. This has been a pretty good growing year. I took a quick trip to Ohio to set some stands and camera's, and do some other work, over the weekend, and missed picking for two days. When I got back, the first thing I did was hit the garden to see what I had to be picked. What is on this table represents most of what I found...some has already been given away and cooked for dinner.
We have been eating fresh vegetable dishes for a few weeks now, and I am fortunate that my wife and kids really enjoy the produce. For dinner tonight, it was yellow squash, zucchini, peppers, a few pieces of left-over chicken chunked up, and grilled hot Italian venison sausage, topped with fresh tomato slices and grated parmesian cheese. The vegetables (minus the tomatoes) were sauted in garlic and olive oil, the chicken, (already cooked) was added just before they were done. The sausage was grilled, then sliced into chunks. All the ingredients were placed into baking dishes, topped with sliced tomatoes, and parmesian cheese, then finished in the oven for about 15 minutes. There was plenty left, and it will be served again tomorrow with some garlic bread.

I am about to run into some serious problems though...the green beans have been only sparodic so far, but they are about to come on in full force. This is a picture of just one plant, and I have 4 rows of plants like this. I will be picking two, 5 gallon buckets of beans every three days by the end of the week.

I also have not hit the peak of the egg plant, or cucumbers yet, and the squash are just now at their peak, with plenty of growing left to do. Tomatoes will be heavy this year, but not until August, and I have a few hundred of them hanging on the 8 plants I planted. My peppers have not peaked yet, and the canteloupe and watermellon have only begun. I have probably 75+ canteloupe on the vines, twice that many watermelons.

I have a dozen nice pumpkins too. Overall, it's been a great growing season, and now the work of picking the produce before it rots on the vine begins.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The timing was perfect this morning. As I drove across the 34th street bridge out of Ocean City New Jersey, I punched the button for my favorite Country Music station. The radio was a little scratchy. The station was WXTU, out of Philadelphia, and reception is not good at the Jersey Shore, but it was just good enough to catch the familiar line from Alan Jackson, “where we you when the world stopped turning on that September day”… That line also happens to include the title of the song. That is one of my favorites, and even though it wasn’t the most clear playback, it was good enough. Just as I settled on that song, I looked to my left and saw a big American flag, planted in the salt marsh, waving in the morning sea breeze.

I’ve seen sights similar quite often. In fact, I passed another flag further up route 49 in Cumberland County, near Union Road, proudly standing on a small mound in the middle of Cumberland Pond, rhythmically waving to all those passing by. The radio station was playing an appropriate collection of songs, all patriotic, American themed selections. After that Alan Jackson tune came “An American Child”, and then Toby Kieth’s somewhat new hit, "Love me if you can", where expresses no apologies for his strong support of traditional “American” values. There were many more, all along the same line of thought. As we approach the celebration of our Independence, I expected as much from that radio station, as Country Music artists seem unabashed in their support for traditional American values, and express that regularly in their music.

I wonder though how many of us notice those flags, and think of what they stand for. To be honest, I cannot remember if there ever was a flag flying in a lake, pond, marsh or field before September 11, 2001, but immediately afterwards, I noticed them, everywhere. Many of them are still up, and some, well, I couldn’t tell you because I don’t notice them as much any longer either.

I can remember where I was that September day. I was speeding up the New Jersey Turnpike shortly after the plane hit the second tower. You can see the New York City skyline from the turnpike easily…but not on that day. On that day, all I saw as I raced north was a heavy black cloud where the famous and instantly recognizable array of buildings previous stood against the blue sky. It was erie. For miles, the turnpike was a parking lot. My pace was dramatically slowed as I tried to find room on the shoulder. All traffic was stopped, people were walking between cars, standing on the shoulder of the roadway, leaning against the concrete barrier, staring in disbelief, looking towards that all too familiar skyline that was now shrouded in smoke, ash and death. As I got closer, the sights and smells reminded me of something I’ve experienced before: there was no doubt this was a war zone. I’ve seen this before I thought, but this can’t be happening here…in MY country. But it was. This is something that only happens “over there” I thought. Not any longer.

And it CAN happen again. As we go about our daily lives, it’s easy to forget, it’s easy not to notice those flags flying in those places where flags never flew before. It’s easy to look past them, or even if we do see them, forget why they were planted there in the first place. It’s easy to sit around the picnic table, or the bar-b-que grill, stuffing ourselves with more food in one day than some of our soldiers get in a week, and bash our Government, and our President as we Monday Morning quarterback his every move. That is easy, maybe a little too easy. What is not easy is seeing another day like that September day. Yet if we forget about those flags, if we think that we already earned our freedom and don’t have to work at keeping it, there Will be another one of those days, and maybe more than one. We’ve all most certainly heard the saying "Freedom Isn’t Free", but how many of us actually think about it? Do we think that freedom “wasn’t” free, meaning that “hey, they already fought for our freedom and won, God bless those patriots from 1776”. Or do we realize that freedom isn’t free also means we have to keep fighting for it?

Fighting for freedom isn’t the sole duty of our soldiers either. It’s the duty of all citizens. Something as simple as voting for the politician that preserves our freedoms, instead of the candidate who thinks we need less freedoms because we can’t be trusted with them, is also a vital step in preserving our freedoms.

We have a lot to think about this July fourth…our Independence Day. Notice those flags. Pray for those soldiers and their families, pray for our leaders, and if you get a chance, find that Alan Jackson song, “Where were you when the world stopped turning” and listen to it, either the for the first time, or just once again. Nothing could be more appropriate for our Fourth of July celebration.

Have a great Independence Day holiday.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is it September yet?

Sunday, my family was gathered at my mothers house for her birthday. It was unbearably hot...98 in the shade, and I was standing over a mini grease fire under the grated surface of the gas grill. Seems the beef patties my brother bought were not the most lean hamburgers we have had( I know, I know, should have been ground venison, but I wasn't the one providing the food), and all the fat dripping from them ignited quite a blaze in the drip pan. Anyone for blackened burgers and hotdogs?

The heat of summer had me longing for cool autumn days and crisp, frosty mornings, and of course, bow season. For most of the afternoon, me and my two brothers sat around reliving old hunts through probably somewhat embelished hunting stories...well, at least theirs were embelished, mine were remembered exactly as they happened. We had a good time telling hunting stories, and it reminded me of why I have been keeping hunting journals for many years now. Not only do the journals provide great entertainment of re-living hunts of days gone by, but I have been using them for, and actually began keeping them in the late 1980's for the purpose of, logging good information on deer habits, and what patterns have worked in the past.

My log sheets contain boxes for detailed weather and wind conditions, moon phase, the equipment used, deer sighted, etc. at the top of the page. Below those boxes is a large narrative section in which I recount the details of the hunt. I often attach photo's and maps to plot the approach route of any deer sighted. I have used the information kept in those journals sucessfully a few times. In years with a heavy mast crop, I go back and check previous seasons to see what the deer were doing, and have found patterns to be pretty consistent. I have actualy been able to note which white oak trees deer preferred, and found the same to hold true years later during times of heavy acorn production, when acorns litter the ground and it can be a daunting task to narrow down the best place to be. Knowing what specific trees deer have preferred in the past has helped me greatly. Also, in times of sparce mast production, knowing what trees have produced has enabled me to find those secret little honey holes where there are acrons in years when they are scarce. That also works with crop rotations. Deer patterns change depending on whether we have corn or beans planted on the farms we hunt, and those close to us, and I have found it useful to study what deer have done in previous seasons with the same crop plantings.

Over the last few seasons, my journals have become very illustrated. I print them out on a good HP project paper, so they have taken on a magazine-like quality. I have also been doing the video taping thing since about 1991, and absolutely love taping hunts. Since upgrading to high quality, 3ccd mini DV cameras in 2001, I have over 100 hours of videos lying around, a small sampling of which you can find in the October, December, January and March months archives on this blog. I also have dozens of finished videos on three separate hard drives, and several years worth of home videos I've compiled. I go back and watch them myself from time to time in addition to looking over the journals. It's a great way to relive those hunts. I'll try to make time to upload some here, but time is something I don't have much of to spare, and it takes a long time to upload videos, so I don't know how many I'll get on-line.

Sitting around talking hunting with my brothers, re-reading those journals and watching some of our videos has me asking...Is it September yet???

It'll be here soon, and I'll be ready.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

I’m back, and so is the heat!

Well, I’m back to writing a few words after a little break. It may have been a break from writing, but in reality it was no break at all. Since going back to work on May 1st, I have been very busy. Long work hours were also coupled with the normal things that spring brings: kids ball games, yard work, family parties, yard work, and did I mention yard work. The heat has also returned as we are entering our first heat wave of the season in southern New Jersey. Temperatures are blazing up to 96 today, with high humidity, and will be about the same for the next four days. I finished my chores outside by lunch time today, and am now taking a break indoors with a cold drink, hacking away at my keyboard.

This year I’m trying to grow a garden again. In past years, I have had a large garden, but due to ever increasing time spent at work, I have not had time to maintain something of that size in more recent years. Gardening requires a good bit of time and effort. I don’t really want to call it work because to me, it’s a also a form of relaxation. I skipped doing the garden for a few years due to lack of time, but last year had a small plot planted that did very well. This year I expanded it some, but it’s not as big as what I had done in the past. Hopefully, I’ll make the time to keep up with it, and enjoy the fruits of my labor all summer long. Considering the skyrocketing food prices, I’ll certainly welcome the fresh, free produce right out my back door. This is a picture of my garden when it was bigger, I can't maintain something of that size now, it's just too time consuming.

Even so, this year I have planted much more than my family will be able to use, and probably more than I could give away before it goes bad. In my part of the State, small roadside produce stands can be found all along the roadways, and travelers and locals alike can find fresh fruits and vegetables at a variety of locations. They may have one more to choose from this summer, if I still have my green thumb.

My garden this year consists of several rows of green and yellow wax beans, about 3 dozen watermelon plants, sugar babies and crimson sweets, 18 cantaloupe plants, a dozen jersey tomatoes, grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, frying peppers, green bell peppers, summer and yellow squash, zucchini, acorn squash, cucumbers, egg plant, with pumpkins and ornamental gourds to be planted soon. I should have added strawberries as I just returned home from paying $5.00 for a quart. Next year, I’ll have strawberries for sure.

I really enjoy gardening, as well as hunting and fishing, and coming in right behind them is cooking what I grow and take from the woods and waters. My family eats a variety of meals made from the garden all summer long. Add in a grilled venison or tuna steak, or filet of flounder, striper or weakfish, and life really doesn’t get any better. On the menu today will be a venison loin slow cooked over charcoal with some mesquite wood chips soaked in water thrown on for that smokey flavor. I’m going to grill some squash, and make a tomato and corn salad to finish it off. Afterwards it’s a strawberry and banana smoothie for dessert and a run through the sprinkler for the kids while mom and dad sit in the shade.

Hope your weekend is a good one too.