Nov 30, 2009

More hunting

A couple weeks ago, Hunting Buddy 2 and I made plans to hunt MrsZ's family farm at some point this season. We worked out scheduling and so forth and this past weekend was the way to go. Initially the plan was to go out Friday afternoon and scout/hunt, hotel Friday night, hunt all day Saturday, hotel again, hunt Sunday morning and be home by mid-day/early afternoon. We trimmed that back to hunt/scout Friday afternoon, hotel, and hunt as much of Saturday as we wanted before heading home.

I had gone out about two weeks before and hung my stand over a promising field - thick brushy grass, even thicker brush around the edges, running stream on one edge, and the woods around just loaded with oak and hickory. In short, it's deer heaven.

I reserved a hotel room for us in a Microtel about 30 minutes away; going with a non-refundable reservation meant we had a room for $50 for the night. I joked with HB2 that because our room was non-refundable, we'd likely fill all three of our tags (his buck tag and my two doe tags) Friday afternoon and have no reason to stay overnight.

Little did I know how close to the truth that would be.

The big day finally rolled around and HB2 arrived at my place around 11. We transferred his stuff to my truck, I gave MrsZ one last kiss, and we headed out under mostly cloudy skies, although the forecast was for scattered rain and snow showers in the afternoon. We ate lunch on the road and got to the farm just before 1. I gave HB2 his choice of spots with the exception of my stand; he chose to bring his chair blind along and sit in the opposite corner of the field from my stand. We were in place around 1:30 and settled in

It was cold. And damp. Maybe 33-35F, and I saw every form of precipitation possible. Rain. Drizzle. Sleet. Freezing rain. Snow. I wished repeatedly that I'd put on the extra layer of clothing that was in the back seat of the truck. I wrapped my hands around the chemical warmers and flexed my fingers, hoping for circulation. I stood up and did a few squats to get blood into my feet again. The northwest wind was a steady 10-15mph and cutting the field diagonally between us, gusting higher now and then.

For the non-hunters - deer don't like nasty weather any more than people do. When it's cold and drizzly and blowing, they tend to hunker down and not move much more than they have to. Except November is the peak of rut around here, and that qualifies as "have to move".

After almost three hours of sitting and freezing, we hadn't seen anything. HB2 sent me a text message suggesting he walk into the bottom and see if he could bump something out into the field for a shot. About thirty seconds later, while I was debating that, he sent me another saying there were four deer picking their way down the hill opposite the creek, so we sat tight. During bow season the deer that had come down the hill into the creek had come right up into the middle of the field we were in, and these stayed true to form - mostly. HB2 had said there were three does and a buck, but I never saw the buck.

The first doe came up over the edge into the field and started across, heading right into the wind at a leisurely walk. I waited and watched, hoping another wouldn't be far behind, since I wanted HB2 to bag one too. Sure enough, the other two does popped out about 30 yards behind the first. I pulled my sight onto the first one and waited for the others to be further out in the field, hoping HB2 would have a good bead on one of the other two.

The chill of the afternoon seemed to have evaporated; I lined up my sights and snapped the trigger and saw the big doe jerk and hunch and take a few wobbly jumps. I racked the slide on my 870, settled in the sights and shot again. She fell over. I swiveled back around towards the second group. Somewhere in the back of my brain I noted that I hadn't heard a shot from HB2's direction yet, and knew he was shooting a muzzleloader. The two does were finishing a quick spin around in the middle of the field, and stopped dead. I put my sight on the chest of the lead deer and waited. A moment later a thump and cloud of smoke from HB2's blind announced his shot, and the deer I was sighted on jerked. It rolled and started to stand up, and I pulled my trigger and watched as it fell over and stayed down.

I saw HB2 climb out of his stand, already reloading his smokepole, and I called to him that they were both down and staying there. I unhooked myself and hustled down to ground level, and straight out to his deer. His FIRST deer. A beautiful nice-size doe, perhaps 150-160 on the hoof. It was quite dead with two clean shots through the chest - one from each side. I headed towards where my doe had dropped ... and couldn't find her. I had seen her go down and stay there. The grass was deep enough that perhaps she could have struggled off, but I didn't think so. HB2 came over and helped me push the weeds with no luck. I climbed back into my stand and got the perspective I needed and walked him right onto her in about thirty seconds. Climbed back down and walked over and saw a HUGE fat doe, probably a 170-180 pound deer.

We filled out our tags and dressed our deer by flashlight (it was full-on dark at that point), then dragged them across the creek, and walked back to get the truck. We bounced out across the fields and down to the creek edge, loaded the deer, and took them back to the barn to hang for the night. Off to the hotel and dinner...

Saturday morning we arrived just before sunrise and picked a different spot; we both sat in blinds and promptly froze, even with extra layers. The wind was howling from the west at a steady 20-25mph and gusting to 30+; I saw half a dozen does running on the far side of the valley but nothing anywhere near close enough to shoot. Around 11:30 we were both frozen, so decided to pack it in and call two fat does a great hunt. Went out and pulled my stand, packed up the truck, loaded in the does at the barn, and headed home via a Denny's for lunch.

She's hanging in the garage now, and will be for another week or so. Biggest damn doe I've ever seen. HB2 has his hanging and took out the tenderloins for his dinner last night; the recipe he used sounds amazing and I may have to try replicating it at some point.

Other note: After fighting with the cheap-ass block & tackle set I got with a gambrel from Walmart, I decided something else was in order. I happened to be in Tractor Supply earlier in the week, and they had 12V winches on sale. I talked MrsZ into one, and it's now mounted in the garage. Talk about the easy way to hang a deer - I hung the buck with the block & tackle and much swearing and grunting. This took me three minutes and gets the deer well up off the floor. WELL worth the money involved.

Nov 21, 2009

Opening day

I've been hunting for five years now, if my memory serves. I've never taken a deer on opening day - the shots just never presented themselves.

Until today.

I made arrangements with Hunting Buddy to be at his place at 5:15 this morning - this is after working until 11pm last night, getting home around 11:30, and then having to be awake at 4:00 in order to make it to his place by the specified time.

I pulled in his driveway at ten minutes past five, and started pulling on the last bit of my hunting clothes. He came out a few minutes later, and the other hunters (three more) arrived shortly thereafter. We made a quick plan for locations and headed off in our separate directions. I was in my stand around 5:40, pushing out three or four deer in the process.

Around 6:20 I heard the first shot of the morning off in the distance - about 30 minutes before legal shooting light, but that's for them to decide. I sat and waited and watched, trying hard not to twitch each time a squirrel rustled the leaves.

About 9:00 a group of doe burst out of the brush halfway down the field I was watching, and cut diagonally across - too far and no clear lanes anyway, so I just watched them run. It wasn't cold temperature-wise this morning, but it was DAMP, and I was starting to get chilly in my stand. Standing up and stretching only helps so much, but I did as much of that as I could and started pondering when I might head back in. A few text messages with a co-worker passed a few minutes.

Shortly after 10:00, a flicker in the brush caught my eye and I looked closely, expecting to see another squirrel. Nope. A deer! I watched it pick its way through the brush coming slightly diagonally towards me; a quiet bleat on my can and a soft grunt turned him more towards me and he cut the distance from 75-80 yards down to about 60. I brought the shotgun up and picked my lane, waiting for him to enter it. He turned broadside right in my chosen lane, and I hauled back on the trigger. I was rewarded with the slam and thunder of a 1oz slug accelerating to 1500fps, and the deer jumped ... because I missed.

He didn't go far, though, which is normal early in the season. He stopped about fifteen feet forward of where I'd shot at him, now partially screened by a thin layer of evergreen branches. I looked at options and decided to take a shot through the branches.

Now, there are rounds out there that are considered "brush-busters" and guns that are "brush guns". High on the list is the .30-30Win in a Winchester Model 94. Most "brush busters" are heavier bullets at lower speeds - they tend not to be deflected by brush as much as a light-fast bullet would be. A .30-30 is usually 150 or 170 grains running right around 2200-2400fps. The slug I use is 435gr at 1500fps - it literally goes THROUGH small branches on the way to deer. I'm speaking from personal experience here; I shot a doe last year that was "hiding" behind a 1" sapling. The tree fell over about the same time the deer did.

In any case, I lined up and pulled the trigger ... and over went the deer, where he started thrashing wildly. Not death throes, but not going anywhere either. I quick-time unstrapped from the tree and climbed down and hustled over. My initial impression of the deer (medium size with a nice 6-point rack) was wrong. He was big, and had 8 legit points, even with one tine broken off halfway down.

He was snorting and blowing on the ground, thrashing in the leaves, and I shot him again with my revolver. After a minute, he was still thrashing, so I shot him once more and waited - and then shot him a third time. He kicked a few last times and died. Hell of a fighter. I sat and thought for a few minutes, then took a picture and got down to the business of dressing him out. I'm guessing he was about 200 on the hoof, and dressed out nicely. He just barely fits in the back of my truck; there's a hoof sticking up over one bed rail and an antler tine over the other.

It's good to know that we've got meat for another year, and there's plenty of hunting season left for me.


Nov 17, 2009

For sale...

A few acquisitions that I'd let go for the right price.

Mossberg 500 "combo" 12ga. Wood and blue. Includes 2 barrels: 28" ported with three chokes (IC, M, F, I believe) and 18.5" cylinder bore. Also has flashlight mount and pistol grip (not currently attached). New, never fired, with manuals and lock, no box. Won it in a raffle and strongly prefer my 870. $325 to your FFL (from an individual) or $300 FTF.

Winchester Model 94 .30-30. Wood (walnut?) and blue. Serial dates it to the early 1970s. Very good to excellent condition with some honest wear. Receiver bluing has some freckling but no rust. Includes three boxes of ammo. Currently zeroed for 100yd. This is my second try on leverguns, and I've found I just don't like them that much. $475 to your FFL (from an individual) or $450 FTF.

Smith & Wesson 28-2 Highway Patrolman, 4", nickel refinish (very nicely done). Serial #N7xxx There are a couple flea bites in the nickel and one spot on the cylinder that flaked off (about the size of a pencil eraser). Action has been worked, nicest DA trigger I've ever shot. Target grips, not numbered to the gun. One nick on the left grip where it knocked against my 1911 in the safe. Some corrosion to the nickel in the outline of original magnas, completely covered by target grips. $600 to your FFL (from my FFL) or $550 FTF, trade for another .357/.38 (see below) STRONGLY preferred.

Trade interests:
S&W Centennials
S&W J-magnums
S&W .22 revolvers
Glock Model 36
varmint rifles
Ban-compliant AR Carbine upper (5.56)
Ban-compliant AR A3 upper (various calibers)
Open to suggestion...

Reasonable offers may be entertained, as well.




Nov 16, 2009

A superstitious day

I'm not, by nature, a superstitious person. I walk under ladders, I owned a black cat, I don't throw salt over my left shoulder, I've broken mirrors (accidentally and intentionally) ... but some days, things just seem to go wrong.

In this case, it was Friday, November 13.

I'd been planning to work around the house for the morning, and go to MrsZ's family farm late morning/noonish to hang a tree stand and hunt for the afternoon.

MrsZ overslept; I woke up at 7:45 and nudged her awake, then drove her in to work. A quick stop at the store on the way home and it was nudging 10:30am. I gathered together my hunting stuff, took a quick shower, ate a quick bite, loaded the truck, and headed out around noon. Got to the farm around 1:45 as expected. Bounced across the pastures to a convenient "parking" spot.

Pulled on my clothing, put together the bow, slung my stand over my shoulder, picked up my climbing sticks, and headed toward my pre-selected spot for the stand. Beat through the brush, splashed across the creek, found my tree. Put up the climbing sticks, tied a rope to the stand, tied in to the tree, climbed up, pulled the stand up, and slowly got it hung. In the process I pinched a finger something wicked, causing me to nearly (but not quite) drop the stand and a fair bit of cursing.

Climbed down, doffed a layer since I was too warm, climbed up, hauled up my bow, and settled in to wait and watch. For the next two hours, I saw nothing, as the sun drifted westward (and into my vision) and then sank below the hill (thirty minutes before official sunset). Just as I was thinking it was time to pack up and head out, a buck walked out of the brush to my right. Large body and a tall-thin 4-point rack. Shooter. I slowly stood up and waited as he moseyed across the field about 30 yards out. A soft grunt call turned him towards me and he crossed about 20 yards out. I hadn't trimmed branches yet for shooting lanes, so I had to wait for a clear spot. I drew as he was partially screened, and waited at full draw... he stepped into a clearing, and I said my little wish and let the arrow fly...

Goddamn deer jumped the string. I've heard of it but had never seen it and didn't quite believe it. He levitated up and back about a foot while the arrow was flying, and I saw the fletchings zip about four inches in front of his brisket. He turned and ran to the middle of the field, and stood there looking confused. No grunt or bleat would bring him back my way. He slowly picked his way across the rest of the field as sunset finally became official. I stood up and started lowering my bow to the ground...

... when something came crashing across the creek from behind me. I sat down to watch and wait, and was rewarded with a doe breaking through the treeline about 45 yards to my left. She stopped cold on the edge of the field and just stood there for a moment. A few seconds later she walked towards the middle of the field. From the creekbed I heard a more steady and methodical crunching of steps. Sure enough, a minute later the four-point walked out from the same spot and followed the doe right up the field. I watched them into the gathering twilight and then set about to go home.

I bent over to adjust the length of string used for hauling my bow or gun up, and dropped my doe bleat into the brush below. No big deal. I finished adjusting the string and turned around to collect my other stuff. I picked up my water bottle, and was rewarded with the sight of my binoculars falling to the ground below - their strap had been around my water bottle. From fifteen feet up, they looked ok. I unhooked myself from the tree and started down. On the ground, the story was different - the binocs were split right down the pivot. I believe they have a no-fault warranty, however, so I'll be looking into repair/replacement and figuring out what to do for the remaining six weeks of hunting season.

After a few choice words, I went looking for my arrow ... fifteen minutes of looking (with a flashlight) and kicking at weeds yielded nothing, so I went back to the stand and looked for my bleat call. Nothing. Now I was getting irritated, so I climbed back into the stand and looked down for the bleat - and promptly saw it, buried in a pile of tops. I marked again where I'd shot the arrow and climbed back down. The call recovered from the brush, I went and looked for the arrow again, still with no luck.

I finally gave up, gathered my belongings, and headed back to the truck, and then home.

Some days you're the dog, other days you're the hydrant. Friday was definitely a hydrant day.

(Three hours in the sun, however, has amazing restorative powers.)

Nov 10, 2009

Off topic

I know this blog was intended to be mostly about shooting, preparedness, and the like, but sometimes there are things I just feel the need to share.

First of all: hunting! I've been out a bit lately, with no tags filled yet. I had a doe walk under my stand Friday afternoon (5 yards, max) and let her go at the landowner's prior request. Further discussion with him has lifted that moratorium. I still won't intentionally shoot buttons or very small deer, but does are good eatin'. I called in to work yesterday afternoon and went hunting. (55-60 degrees and partly sunny, in November, and you thought I'd be working? HA!) Picked my stand and settled in around 1:15. Over the following three and a half hours I saw six bucks, a large doe, and two yearlings. At least three of the bucks were definite "shooters" - a nice size 8-point, a big 6-point, and another big-bodied but didn't count points. None came in range of the bow (most hung up around 45-50 yards), but they'll be there come gun season.

I've finally gotten my tree stand, although in this case it's a misnomer. A tree-taj-mahal is more accurate. Hang-on with climbing sticks, it's a suspension-style seat, bit foot platform, foot rest, armrests, shooting rail, etc. I may add a canopy at some point but that's not a priority. Now I'm deciding where I'd like to put it. Part of me is thinking MrsZ's family farm has some good spots, but that's a two-hour drive (each way) and therefore won't see a whole lot of hunting from me this year. HuntingBuddy's place has some good options, but he has a number of stands in pretty good spots already. WestSideSpot has some good trees but is really a 35-acre field with the best option being longer shots from ground level. I still need to scope my muzzleloader for this place.

When a tag is filled, you'll hear it here first.


Other news. Economics of grooming! A long long time ago, in a galaxy fa... wait, wrong movie.

A long time ago, men were men and grew facial hair as a sign of strength and virility, and because there wasn't really any good way to get rid of it. Besides, how scary is a guy in a horned helmet without a beard?

Somewhere along the way, women got tired of fighting their way through remnants of food in order to get a kiss, and started insisting on smooth faces. (Later on, OSHA got in on the act and decided that firemen shouldn't have whiskers if they want to wear an air pack.)

For a long time, men shaved with a bit of soap, a brush, a straight razor, and a very steady hand. Nicks and oozers were common and shaving was a production. Over the course of the 1800s, various designs for less-dangerous razors were tried. In 1901, King Gillette created the first safety razor, with disposable blades. The razor (handle) could be sold for zero- or negative-profit, and the sale of blades over time would generate revenue and long-term profits. This became known as the "loss-leader" sales model.

For a very long time, the safety razor reigned. Not so risky as a straight razor, and clean shaves became the norm. In the 1960s and 1970s, cartridge razors appeared. No more sharp blades lying around loose, these were super-safe and promised lots of things... and then the number of blades started increasing. TracII. Sensor. Sensor Excel. Mach III. Mach III Power. Quattro. Fusion. These continued on the loss-leader model.

But there has been a quiet backlash against the loss-leaders. Nothing huge, because the cartridges are convenient. But the quality of shave is lacking something. I'd been debating trying a traditional safety razor for a while but hadn't been willing to cough up the money for a Merkur or Rooney or similar. I did some digging and found the Weishi RetroRazor. $27 and it came with a few different brands of blades so you could find one you liked. I'd been using a shaving brush and soap for a while already, since it gives a better shave (IMHO) than anything from a can or tube.

The razor arrived, and I did my first shave according to their directions. No bleeding, no burn, no bumps, and baby-butt-smooth. Oh man! I tried one of the other blade packs and didn't care for it as much (too close, razor burn!). Tried the third one and thus far it's a toss-up between the first (Personna Red) and the third (Dorco ST301). I'll get in a few more shaves with each one before I make a decision and order more blades. (A blade is good for 2-3 shaves for me. A Fusion catridge is good for 3-4 shaves.)

So how is this economical? Ignoring the comfort factor (priceless!), here's the hard numbers:

Weishi RetroRazor: $27.00
Gillette Fusion Power: $9.50 (Target)

Dorco blades: $12.00/100 blades = $12.00/200 shaves = $0.06/shave
Gillette Fusion blades: $13.50/4 cartridges = $13.50/12 shaves = $1.12/shave

I shave every other day or so. Less if I'm on vacation. One 100-pack of Dorcos costs less than a four-pack of Fusion cartridges and will last me more than a year, instead of about one month.

It's really a no-brainer, folks...

Shaving steps:
- shower (softens the hair)
- brush up some lather and apply against the grain (stands the whiskers up)
- shave! (add water as necessary)
- rinse, pat dry
- a splash of your aftershave of choice (I've been using witch hazel and it works wonderfully)
- rinse the razor under hot hot water and then a splash of rubbing alcohol (keeps the blade and mechanism cleaner)

Off you go!

Seriously, if you're considering it, try the RetroRazor. If you hate it, sell it to someone else or chuck it. You're out the price of two packages of cartridges. If you love it, then you can look at upgrading (which is my next step, maybe a Merkur long-handle). I just wish I hadn't taken so long to switch!

Nov 2, 2009

Line crossing, part II

As anyone who knows NY's maze of gun laws knows, pistol permits are a pain in the butt.

For those outside NY, here's the basic gist:
Each county appoints a "licensing agent". It's typically a judge or the sheriff, although some have civil employees for the purpose. In order to receive your permit, you go to the licensing agent and apply. Fingerprints, pictures, references, background check, etc. Wait for it all to clear and come back and wait for the licensing agent to sign the permit. This can take anywhere from 3-6 months, although longer is not uncommon. The licensing agent has non-statutory authority to put restrictions on the permit. The most common is "Hunting/Target only", and mine is so stamped. The permit is still valid as a concealed carry permit, and there is no crime you can be charged with for carrying on such a permit, but the licensing agent could theoretically use that as cause to revoke the permit.

Now, before you ask - a pistol permit is valid everywhere in New York State, except the five boroughs of NYC. So you end up with a patchwork of restrictions, but no real way to enforce them. There is nothing in law authorizing the restrictions, but court challenges have upheld the authority of the judges to place those restrictions. (Fox guarding the hen house much?)

Each pistol you purchase is registered with the licensing agent and listed on the permit. In order to do so, the receipt for the pistol is taken to the licensing agent and then a coupon is issued to actually pick up the pistol. This can take anywhere from four days (my shortest ever) to four weeks (longest yet).

I called the Sheriff's department in my new county the other day to ask about procedures for transferring my permit over. They told me that (A) they don't do restricted permits, everything is concealed carry; and (B) I needed to talk to the County Clerk's office.

I stopped in to the county clerk this morning, who explained how it actually works. I need to apply in the licensing county to have my permit transferred to the new county of residence. It'll cost me ten bucks for the transfer and fifteen bucks for new permit. When I get the permit they'll give me a coupon then and there to carry around for any purchase - meaning no back-and-forth to the gun store, and gun shows now are a practical option!

So I went to my original licensing agent (Sheriff's department) who pointed me to the county clerk in my old county. Called them, and they pointed me to a form online to print and bring in.

So that is printed and done, and I'll be dropping it off tomorrow... and hopefully I'll have a new unrestricted permit in a couple weeks!