November 10th – Big Buck

On November 10th, I managed to take a monster on my parent’s property in Townsend.

Similar to my last post, I want to preface this with my general sucking during this year’s hunting season. This successful harvest was the 18th time I’ve deer hunted this season. Getting out at least once every weekend with a bow or shotgun, I have seen more deer on more hunts this year than any other, but they always seem to be out of reach, or I make some dumb, rookie mistake. I’ve even outright missed two deer with my bow.

I’m embarrassed, but I realize I still only have a couple years in this, while those around me have their whole lives and family’s lives hunting experience to pull from.

Anyway….on to the success story.

I arrived late. I slept through a couple alarms and didn’t get to my parents’ house until about 5. I was dressed and walking through the woods at about 5:15. The books had November 10th, the opening Saturday of November shotgun season, as the peak of the rut. The hottest and best time to be hunting for a trophy.

I had brought along a “Buck Bomb” – Doe in Estrus scent can. They are aerosol cans that dispense a nasty synthetic urine that coats surrounding trees and shrubs. You can do short bursts, or lock down the trigger tab to empty the whole can in about 90 seconds. I, of course, emptied the entire can at the base of my stand, and the entire woods stunk like deer.

I climbed up into my stand; the same 18ft ladder stand I had on another portion of the property last year. I had been baiting the ground with corn in August and September, and during October, because of the large stand of Oak trees, it had become a natural acorn feeding plot. These food sources may end up helping me greatly in the late season.

About 25 minutes after shooting light, I heard a stomping and snorting buck coming right to my fake scent cloud. He was so careless and determined that he was breaking sticks and crushing leaves and snorting with just about every step. He broke through a line of brush and walked right to about 35 yards from my stand. He slowed his pace for about 5 seconds, and that’s when I put the bead on him. He dropped with one shot through the spine and didn’t move.

10 point, very mature, old buck. He had to have been closing in on 190-200 pounds total undressed weight. Took him with my Winchester Ranger pump with a Winchester 2 3/4″ hollow point slug. No scope; just iron beads.

He’s already in the freezer, obviously. Returned about 65 pound of meat, and I am getting a shoulder mount made for this special guy.

Certainly a beast.

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Duck Hunting so far this Season…

Duck hunting this year in Delaware has left something, if not a lot to be desired…for me at least. (again) have been terrible at the up keep of any blog I create, this one not excluded. However, aside from posting every single weekend about my travels to the woods and marshes of Delaware, there wouldn’t be much to post about.

I managed to get out only once in September teal season. My buddy and I took my newly renovated duck boat out into the Woodland Beach Wildlife Management Area in Smyrna, and hunted for teal on September 29th. It was an incredibly sunny day (the opposite of ideal) and unseasonably cold and windy for September. We were in a blind facing northeast, overlooking a large section of “the flats”. The boat did well, and we got to get our gear together early, but we only experienced a small flock of sea ducks and your standard collection of seagulls, eagles, and other marsh birds while we sat and talked.

In the October split of the regular duck season, I got out on Woodland Beach WMA again, in a blind (#2) on the deep Quarter Gut. A drizzly, windy day had many high-flying teal, black ducks, and woodies, but with only a few ducks working my decoys, I wasn’t offered any real shots. This was partly (if not completely) to do with the very recent passing of Hurricane Sandy.

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Another first split hunt at my buddies Port Penn farm had us hunting our favorite impoundment blind with a huge spread out front. The blind was pounded all morning by groups of woodies. The ironic part was that another blind nearby, that had been recently crushed by a falling tree, was getting even more action from landing groups of wood ducks.

This day ended in us bagging a few woodies and teal and one random bluebill. Again, not the best of outcomes, but it was complete human error this time. We were all too busy catching up and talking about one of our new guns than paying attention to the droves of wood ducks headed our way.

Our traditional Thanksgiving hunt was ruined by yet another perfect bluebird day. There wasn’t even a single ripple on the impoundment. Our decoys appeared to be sitting on glass. One duck flew over while we were packing up. It made for some nice views though.

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Another extremely cold and windy day had me out in my small boat alone. A very poor showing in the public lottery at Woodland Beach had me picked third to last, and stuck in a blind with a 20 minute boat ride in 30+ mph winds. A few groups of ducks worked my decoys right at first light, but overall the session was more for photography with my phone than it was for hunting. I left early because I could see waves throwing water into my tiny boat that was tied up near by. It was an eventful ride back…

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We also decided to build a new blind where an old one had been in the back marsh of my buddy’s property. Instead of doing it how most would have (arguably the right way) we decided to just take an old, unused aluminum boat out of his barn, and push it out into the marsh next to the old, destroyed blind. We then used lumber, plastic fencing, and grass to conceal our floating blind. The boat is anchored into the marsh with some old steel fence posts that we pushed in with a sledge. It is a great makeshift blind to hunt the marsh waters that were previously inaccessible to us. We plan to get our first real hunt out of it tomorrow….

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Blackiston Wildlife Area Map May Need to Be Updated

Yesterday, Friday September 28th, I went out bow hunting after the end of the work day, like I often do on Fridays.

I had planned to try a new spot on the map at Blackiston Wildlife Area that I hadn’t hunted. To make a long story short, I didn’t end up able to actually hunt any deer from a deer stand, as they were all destroyed in the area that I was in.

Two of the 3 destroyed stands were cut down and cut apart by a chainsaw. If it was DNREC that did it and not vandalism, then they really need to update their map so idiots like me don’t go hiking all the way out into the woods looking for a stand that no longer exists.

This is the first negative experience I’ve had on state land.

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Ending my hiatus with a good post

I haven’t posted in 3 months….and it’s ironic, because right after my last post, I had the most successful outing I’ve had in a while.

On April 22nd, the Saturday that was included in my 2012 public land turkey hunting permit, I headed out to the field at about 5:15. I was already late. I didn’t have my coffee made, my gear organized, or even any turkey loads purchased. I headed to Walmart to try and pick up some turkey ammo, and of course they were all sold out…..so I bought some #4 steel duck loads and continued onward.

This was my first turkey hunting season. I got my permit/license last year, but never made it into the field. So, because I had never done it before, I tried to keep my gear expenditure to a minimum until I knew I was going to get serious. That being said, I only own a dove vest (not a nice turkey vest with a flap-down seat), a set of Primos and Hunter’s Specialties calls from WallyWorld and my pump Winchester. I looked like an idiot, but I got out in the field about 10 minutes before dawn and headed to the hedgerow from which I had spotted turkeys 2 days earlier.

It was the perfect temperature and there were absolutely no clouds. Good thing that I brought my ThermaCell though, because the bugs were pretty bad in my hedgerow. I picked a spot where I could see the whole back corner of the corn field in which I had scouted the turkeys that week. Right about dawn, I made a couple calls with my owl-imitator call to see if I could locate any birds on the roost. No response. I tried a few more times as we moved towards sunrise.

At sunrise, I still hadn’t heard anything, so I decided to switch to my slate call. I scratched out a couple low clucks, and to my complete surprise, a gobbler absolutely hammered back. It was the coolest thing I have experienced in hunting to date. The sound that that bird made in response to my weak, beginner calling was crazy. I made a few more strokes, and about 15 birds hammered back. I must have situated myself into the center of a turkey mother lode. I was completely surrounded by birds. The field behind me had something out in the middle that I couldn’t see. The field and trees in front of me had multiple gobblers and/or jakes that were all worked up.

I was so excited. I kept on calling. I kept adjusting my legs that were fast asleep, while trying to keep myself completely camouflaged. I was wearing my cheap-ass camo jeans, camo long sleeve shirt for bow hunting, camo gloves and facemask. I had to keep my gun hidden under some weeds because it is not a camo gun, and has a turkey-frightening, metal sheen.

I called and called for over an hour. The bird must have been taking 2 steps per half hour, because it didn’t seem to get any closer. I glassed over the field at one point and could see the big boy sitting right in the edge of the woods, eating something, but lifting his head every time I called.

At about 2 hours, I was starting to get worried. The birds had moved away, and then moved closer, and then moved away. Suddenly, a pack of at least 5 turkeys – 4 males with one female (oddly enough), burst out into the middle of the field that I was sitting in, and weaved in a strange zig-zag pattern while running very rapidly. I stopped calling and let them do there thing. Then they moved into this low bunch of saplings directly on the opposite side of the field from me, and were moving further and further away. I was sure that I lost them.

I read something about fooling birds by moving to a new spot mid-hunt, but that it was normally very hard because they have such incredible site, that most guys get caught when they try to do it. I was willing to give it a try, so I picked up my gear and peered over the hedgerow. I didn’t see any birds, and I almost couldn’t hear them anymore. I moved down the edge of the field, in clear site, to a new spot. I sat down even further back from the field, under a huge oak tree.

With my back to the tree, I gave some more scrapes on my slate. Immediately, I had the birds hammering again. They gobbled and gobbled, and soon fell dead silent after moving what sounded like incredibly close to me. While they were silent, they were actually sneaking in to see what was making all the noise. I was straining to see through the edge of the trees when I caught a glimpse of the 3 turkey’s heads. It was 2 jakes and one big gobbler. I’ve never shot a turkey before, so my hands were shaking. The birds were about 30 yards away, and I only had an improved cylinder choke in my gun (I was too cheap to by an undertaker turkey choke). They were all bunched together, but I had my bead right on them. As soon as the gobbler took 2 steps out in front of the other 2 birds, I squeezed.

I put that load right in the middle of his eyes. His buddies all took off running then flying. It sounded like a small tornado as they all freaked out. My dude was flapping for a couple seconds, but then nothing. I was so excited that I broke a basic rule and got up and ran out to the bird.

I think this post is long enough, but I wanted to make sure I completely described this amazing hunt. No other type of hunt has yet to get my heart pounding like that.

See epic picture of my gobbler below. 17 pounds with a 9 13/16″ beard and 15/16″ and 17/16″ talons.

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Bass fishing fail, but a nice sunset…

On Friday, April 20th, after a long day, I decided to take the boat out on Garrisons lake solo. I geared up with all my freshwater gear. I added a few more bass items while I was buying salt water gear at Dick’s. I bought a football jig, some shaky worms and stand-up shaky head jigs to put them on.

To make a long story short, I stayed on the water until sunset and caught no fish…..fail. I threw everything in the box at them, but I was off my game and spent a bunch of time untangling lures from the lillies and pulling my trolling motor out of the mud.

I took this sweet picture as I was moping back to the ramp.

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April 16th, 2012 – Turkey Scouting

With my busy schedule, I not only waited to post all of these updates at once, but I also put off scouting for turkeys until the last minute. I had applied for the State’s Public Land Turkey Hunting Permit Lottery, and received April 21st – April 27th as my dates, with my first choice of land – Blackbird State Forest – as my area to hunt.

This pretty much meant that I would be able to hunt the 21st, and that’s it…as it was the only Saturday I had in my time frame. If I couldn’t get one on Saturday, I could maybe squeak a hunt in before work on a Friday morning.

Some background to my land choice: When I took the Turkey Hunting Class at DNREC last year, the instructors covered many things, including a brief history of how the Eastern Wild Turkey had become extinct in Delaware, and then was brought back from neighboring states. In 1984, birds were released in different parts of the state. Birds were never released into Blackbird State Forest, but there is a thriving population that may have migrated over from Maryland.

That was my motivation to hunt there – no one else goes there because they want to hunt the public spots where birds were originally released.

I scouted the Peters tract of the Cypress Complex back in February while rabbit hunting, and this time I stopped right down the road from there and scoped the Gonce tract of the Cypress Complex. I had also rabbit hunted this tract.

The majority of the Gonce tract is agricultural fields separated by hedgerows. I have seen rabbits (killed none) and woodcock (was out of season), and now I found a few turkeys in one of the back fields. It appeared to be 3 gobblers (adult males) together and they ran as soon as I stepped out of the hedgerow, but I marked the spot on my GPS. I will probably have to hunt this spot as I won’t have much more time to scout.

April 14th, 2012 – First Surf Fishing of the Year

Danielle and I finally got on the beach for the first time this year. (Navy Crossing – Cape Henlopen State Park) The DNREC fishing report has the rocks in the upper bay for the spawn and some sitting a few miles offshore. It could have been a good chance to grab a few fish, as some keepers and shorts have been caught from the beach recently (according to local reports).

I took some frozen bunker and frozen squid. I was using my 14ft pole and my cheap Shakespeare spinning reel….and this may be one of the last times I use that rig. I had read up on some surf fishing stuff online the past couple weeks (as I still have only been doing it for about 2 years). I had been getting ready to install a shock leader to my rig before my first trip (as I am only spooled up with 15lb test), but I never got around to it. (A shock leader is a short-ish piece of much heavier line that attaches to your terminal tackle, and then goes down and spools around the reel one or two times before attaching to your regular line, that way when you cast with a massive pole, the fore doesn’t snap your regular line)

I soon found that I should have made the time to install it. With a bigger pole, older line, and a much improved cast from all of my recent fishing, I was able to break my line not one time, but three times, and chuck about $20 of tackle into the ocean……needless to say I felt stupid. At least the beach is empty in April.

To add insult to injury, every time I actually got some bait in the water, a big skate would crush it and fight like a discarded tire all the way to the beach.

See some picture of our April (not full summer time hang out) setup with Bentley also enjoying his first beach trip.

On a brighter note, the weather was pleasant, and we had plenty of beer.

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