Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Grouse hunting with Dad

So every year in September after my Dad gets back from his boat trip to Alaska he tries to find some time to come to The Methow valley to do some grouse hunting with me. I always enjoy hunting with my Dad so I look forward to this every year.

This year he arrived and we basically had one day to hunt. So that morning we set out with the whole family because my wife and Maddy decided to tag along. We went to an area we call the upper road and went for a short hike. We did not see anything but had a fun trip.

We got back to the house and my wife went to work and my dad and I hung out with Maddy all day.

I like to start my evening hunts by leaving the house around 4PM. This time it was Maddy , my Dad and I. I decided to take him to the next canyon over from the house since we have been having good luck over there. We get off the main road and right away I spot a grouse on the side of the road. As the good host and guide I let Dad get out and shoot it as it flew up into the tree. About 200 yards down the road Dad spots a grouse running down the road. We get out and chase it and just as its getting into the brush and about to get over the hillside I say to Dad you better shoot it before its gone. Dad pulls the trigger and down it goes.

It is at this point I see how the day is going to go, I see the grouse Dad shoots it, Dad sees the grouse Dad shoots it.

Anyway we get to where we were going to start our hike with Maddy on my back and right away Dad see's what looks like the biggest grouse ever sitting on top of a rock. Dad sneaks up on it staying behind trees and shoots it. When the dog recovers it, it turned out to be the smallest runt hatchling ever. I thought it was a quail, HAHA.

The rest of the hike did not turn anything up. On the drive back home I see a grouse fly up into a tree. I jumped out of the car as fast as I could and shot it before Dad knew what was going on. In that split second I had two choices. Let Dad get it so he could have a limit of grouse and never hear the end of it how I was not able to shoot a grouse. Option two was shoot the grouse and hear about how I was so mean and didn't let Dad get a limit. Of course I chose the latter and shot my grouse.

The best part of hunting with my Dad is the variation of how everything happened. The same event will have a million different stories depending on who you ask. OOO what is going to happen next!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weekend 2 of duck hunting

My family has been duck hunting the same area for around 65 years. This weekend something would happen that has never happened there before.

Friday after work I head up do duck camp like normal. My wife wasn’t feeling too well so she and Maddy decided to stay home. When I got into camp Dad and Ellen are already in camp with their new trailer AKA the castle. They have the fire burning which was great since the weekend before we couldn't have a fire due to an area burn ban. Later that night my sister E'lana and her kids and my little sister's (Ellary) boy friend (Caranza) with his little sister Jazmine showed up in camp.

The next morning we all got up and got ready to go like any other day hunting. The first couple lakes produced some Teal and Widgeon.

Caranza and his double banded Green Head
We get to the lake we call Rock Lake. E'lana goes around to scare the lake and I sneak into my spot. My dad and Caranza are a ways on the other side of the lake. While I am sitting in my hiding spot I can hear all the ducks splashing and talking in the water and I can tell they are mallards by the sounds they are making. Like a tornado they all get up as soon as E'lana shows herself. Just my luck they all go over Caranza and Dad. As I watch the Mallards start to fall I start walking their direction in case they need Remi my dog to help find the ducks. When I get there they have found all the ducks but one. They tell me the area where they think it fell and Remi goes to work. Remi get birdy a few times but isn't finding anything. Finally Caranza says he sees it in a mint bed about 75 yards away. When he picks it up he says it has two bands. Everyone gets excited; Caranza had never shot a banded bird let alone two bands. A two banded bird has never been shot in our group in this area; it only took 65 years and tens of thousands of ducks.

Day one results

Later sitting in the truck after a closer look at the band Caranza finds out that it is a "Reward Tag" worth $100. That has also never happened in a group I have been hunting with.

We continued to hunt and Remi had a stellar day. She was able to find numerous injured ducks in the thick cattails and bring them out. Remi even brought out a 100% healthy coot from the cattails.

At the end of the day we all had our limit of seven ducks and were happy. We returned to camp to clean the birds and tell the stories of past hunting trips around the campfire.

Day two results
Day two (Sunday) yielded 10 ducks. Sunday is a relaxed day where we don’t work as hard since everyone has a long drive home after hunting. It was a great weekend and can’t wait to be back at duck camp.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hunting and protecting your hearing

This is a guest post from John O'Conner about hearing protection during hunting season after reading the article I think I am going to take a bit more care of my hearing.

Hi my name is John O'Connor, I am a father, outdoorsman and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  Over the past few years I have become more and more interested in hearing loss.  My father and grandfathers, who are and were all hunters, are affected by hearing loss.  I feel that there is a general lack of understanding around the issue and it is our job to spread awareness where we can.  Check out my new blog at!


Hunting and Hearing Loss

With the arrival of fall and cooler weather, many outdoor enthusiasts are looking forward to hunting season. But before embarking on their hunting adventures, those actively engaging in shooting sports should always consider effective ear protection to safeguard their hearing. The extreme loudness of shots ringing out in close proximity to hunters' ears poses a permanent danger to healthy hearing if ears are not protected with some type of sound blocking device.

Depending on the type of weapon used, shots can reach up to 170 decibels in volume. However, all gunfire can be dangerously loud and cause temporary or permanent hearing loss to unprotected ears. Hearing loss may be immediate or occur by gradual onset. Hunters may initially experience characteristics like ringing in their ears shortly after exposure to firearm noise and find that they have difficulty discerning certain sounds. Constant ringing in the ear, also called tinnitus, is one of the telltale signs that damage to hearing may have been sustained.

It only takes one severe exposure to gunfire to damage hearing in hunters permanently. Noise-induced hearing impairments resulting from overexposure to loud noise during shooting sports may come with an array of safety concerns that may limit future hunting expeditions if hunters are unable to effectively listen to their surroundings for orientation, location of game, or certain dangers. Permanent hearing damage may require use of a hearing aid for everyday functionality. Hunters who already need to use hearing aids will still need to apply ear protection devices on each outing to avoid further, more severe damage that may leave them unable to hear.

Choosing the correct set of ear protection is crucial to effectively protect hearing. Ear protectors typically come in different shapes and sizes and should always be tight fitting, with no vents and little room for movement. Wearing hearing protection devices the correct way is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of potential short or long term hearing loss. Innovative devices, like electronic hearing protection devices especially developed for hunting use, are able to adjust amplification of sounds of differing frequencies. While hunters using these devices may be able to hear high frequency sounds in their environments, the devices will not amplify sounds above 100 decibels, such as gunshot noises. People who participate in regular hunting events should also consider having their hearing tested occasionally to have any potential existing damage to their hearing diagnosed and treated in a timely manner before their conditions worsen.

It is important for avid hunters to always wear sufficient ear protection. Once hearing is damaged, the trauma may be irreversible. Ear protection serves not only to prevent hearing loss but also to avoid aggravating existing hearing loss in those who already wear hearing aids. Proper hearing is considered a true quality of life.  Hearing impairment, however severe it may be, can significantly complicate daily activities and take the fun and excitement out of hunting adventures if care is not taken.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Duck Jerky Ever

So last weekend after shooting my limit of 7 ducks the first thing I thought about was using the smoker I got for my birthday.  It is a big chief smoker and I've heard a lot of good things about them.

So one night I had time and I cut up all 14 breasts. I then used a seasoning and jerky cure  from High Mountain. I then let them sit in the fridge for 24 hours.

Today I put the smoker together and placed the duck meat on the racks and started it up.

2 hours later some delicious jerky came out.  We like our jerky frozen so it went straight into the freezer for us to enjoy tomorrow.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

First Duck Hunt 2012

So duck hunting and deer hunting open up the same weekend in Washington State each year. Since I shot my deer on Saturday opening morning, I got to go duck hunting on Sunday. So I get into duck camp on Saturday night and I ask my Dad how many ducks they shot during the Saturday hunt and of course my Dad tells me that he limited out, which in Washington is 7 ducks. Talking to some of the other camp member later I found out that the whole camp with 4 shooters only shot 5 ducks. OOOO that DAD...

Chayse and his duck
But on a good note my 11 year old Nephew Chayse did shoot his first duck on Saturday which was a Hen mallard and we are all proud of him for that.

So we wake up Sunday later than normal and we get breakfast and fumble around camp for a while. We finally get out of camp to the first lake we hunt. I sneak down for the scare of the ducks and shoot two teal, as all the birds flew over the other hunters they were able to shoot one widgeon. One of my ducks was in the toolies and one was out in the water. My six year old German Wired Hair Pointing Griffon Remi made quick work of both ducks finding them and bringing them right to me. For my first shots at ducks for the year it was ok but I should of had more ducks.

We then had to go back to camp because one of my brothers had their vehicle battery dead and Dad had to jump them. As Dad went back to help them My little sisters boy friend (Caranza) and I went to hunt a lake next to camp. I told him where to go hide as I went to scare. The ducks got up off the lake and started to fly towards me at about 40 yards the turned and I tried to make a shot on them and missed and went right over Caranza who also missed.  Caranza they yelled to me that another duck was coming in at me as I stood up to shoot the duck flared and I dropped it. 

The next lake we drove up to had a group of teal and one lone mallard drake. I don't always shoot this lake although I do have permission to hunt it.  I pulled right up to the lake and leaned out the window and clapped my hands to get the ducks to fly. The teal took off but the mallard stayed there, which is unusual. So I figured if he wanted to get shot so be it. I got out of my vehicle and as I did the mallard took off, I loaded my gun brought it up and dropped the duck with one shot.

We drove through our loop of lakes with little success till we got near the end. There is one lake near the road that is hard to hunt especially when it was windy as it was.  I could see a big group of Spoonies sitting in the pond. I told my dad and Caranza to go to one side of the lake and I would scare from the other side. As I belly crawled to the lake side the ducks spooked and started  flying. I stood up and started to shoot and try and get the birds over the other hunters.  I hit one bird  as it glided back down to the lake and all the other birds flew out where there was not hunters. My ducks was wounded but to far in the middle of the pond to get a kill shot.  Remi was let out of the truck to go to work. AS she swam after the bird she was yelping and howling at the bird. Just as soon as she would get close enough to grab it the duck would fly about 10 feet. After this happened for about 5 minutes Caranza was able to get a kill shot off and Remi brought the bird to shore.

At thins point the rest of the family has 4-5 hour drives home to the westside of the state so they decided to head back to camp and pack up for the weekend.  Since I only have a 40 minute drive home I went to a few more lakes.

The first pond (Which is the same pond of the great goose jump of 2011.) I always peak over the sage brush to see if there are any ducks and where they are if they are there. I saw plenty of ducks and there was a small group of ducks right in front of where I normally jump them from.  I loaded my gun and walked the 5 minute walk to the other side of the pond. I camp up over the mound of dirt by the shore and of course in the 5 minutes all the ducks had moved to other parts of the pond. I took three long shots at the ducks and nothing dropped. Lucky for me I know because of the lay of the land  the ducks have to turn back towards me to get out of the hole the pond is in. When they did this I was able to drop a big Pintail Drake.

Now at this point I Only need one more duck for my limit. I also know I have one more lake to hunt with a little jump hole behind the lake.  The road we are on my wife hates due to the number of rocks on the road. We get to the big lake and all the ducks fly out the wrong direction due to the wind. So all I have left is the jump hole. I slowly walk over the hillside and don't see a darn thing. As I walk closer to the puddle of water the rock on the far side turned and looked at me. As I was like O a duck I am sure he was like Uh Oh a hunter.  The little teal got up and flew right at me and I dumped him in the deep grass.

Whew I was very happy to get my 7th duck on the last hole of the day. We made it back to camp before Dad left and went to feather and breast out the birds. My 2 year old daughter Maddy feathered one of the Teal all by her self. we then packed up and went home thinking about the next week when we all would be back. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My 2012 Mule Deer

So October is crazy  in my household with all the hunting that we do.  So when ever general season opens for deer I always hope to make a quick kill so I can focus on other things, although a deer is the most important kill of the year for us. We use our deer for all of our normal beef needs but we mostly grind it or cut it up in small pieces for other dishes.

So a few days before I went hunting I found out that there were going to be a few people going to the same spot I was going to go to.  Since I knew the people I called them up and we discussed where we were going to go so we would not disturb each others hunt.

So the morning of the hunt I got into the private property where I hunt at about 5:50 AM and walked about half way up the hill that I hunt. I sat down and watched as the other vehicles came into the property.  At daylight I hiked to the top of the hill and started looking for deer. As I was hunting Quail and Huns were flushing everywhere. I then saw a man with a rifle and no hunter orange on. I tried to catch up with him to see what he was doing but I lost him in the brush. (He was later caught by Fish and Game.)

I continued my hike and I was on a bench with a few pin trees on it. On the other side of the pine trees I saw a deer go over the hillside. I ran to where I saw it go over and there he was. As I tried to county points he stood there and watched me. I tried to sit down to get a comfortable shot but the brush was to high. After he finally turned his head and I could see that he did have at least three points on one side I started to go through ballistics in my head. The deer was at a steep downhill incline from me. I knew if the deer is down hill I need to aim low. The deer is about 100 yards so I put my cross hairs right at the low part of his chest. BOOM as my shot rang off I could see his front leg react to the shot hitting him.  As I watched him run over the hillside I decided I should likely run after him as I did not feel very good about the shot.  As I got to the next bench he was on and looked over I could see he was running with about 6 does. I could not get another shot of due to the close proximity of the does.   I sat there and watched him at a fence line, as the does all jumped over he was sitting there not wanting to jump. He tried going under the fence but finally jumped over into what I knew was state land. I ran to an area where i thought I could get a shot off and I set up on a little knob of land and spotted him about 120 yards away on the next little ridge line. I got my back pack off to use as a rest, got prone, took a deep breath to calm my heart as I just ran 3/4's of a mile and squeezed the shot off and watched him drop like there was a trap door under him.   

I rolled over onto my back and thought "Whew, O Thank God." I got up grabbed my pack and heard two shots from a rifle 20 seconds apart only about 100 yards from me. I the heard a males voice go WOO HOO. The first thing that popped into my head was my deer got back up and someone else shot him. So I walked directly to the other hunters.  The guy yelled to me that my deer was injured and had gone around the corner. I asked him where his deer was and he pointed to the hillside. He then said "RORY?"  I responded YEA. I the found out it was Scott family friend of ours. His wife Deanna was the shooter and she had shot a very nice big bodied 4X4 mule deer.

I discussed with Scott what he saw my deer do. We decided that he did not see my buck fall and did not know I shot a second time at the deer. All he knew was, he saw it with its brisket torn open before I shot a second time. So Scott walked over with me to the area I shot my deer. I thought I shot it higher on the hillside but within a few minutes Scott found it laying in the sage brush with a broken back. I used a 9mm Glock to put one shot at the base of the skull and put it out for good.  I thanked Scott for the help with the heart of the deer and he went back to Deanna to help her with her deer.

I called my wife to bring the trailer down from home so I could get this guy home. After I got him gutted and took some pictures we started the drag out. It was up and down hills with tight cow trails through rocks and sage brush. When I finally got it to where I could the the jeep and trailer to I was very tired. But I knew that we would eat well for the rest of the year and the next day would be all duck hunting and I was excited.

This was a good year for deer in my area, the picture to the left is my deer head with the antlers of my friend Jason who shot his deer opening morning as well in the area by my house. We are still looking for a deer for my wife to shoot. Have found a few shooters but just can't get in to the right position for a shot but we still have tonight to try for one.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Washington State High Hunt 2012

So this September I went on my first ever Washington State High Deer Hunt. I went in to the Pasayten Wilderness in North Central Washington. The areas you are allowed to hunt are no motor vehicle access areas.

So Monday after work I drove an hour to the trail head where I was going to hunt. I left the car at about 5:30 PM with my pack and gun and started up the hill. I had never been to the area I was going but had somewhat of an idea how to get there. After about an hour and a half it got dark out. Of course I was on a steep side slope with loose rocks. My pack for this trip was about 30 pounds and the bag was not fitted for me so it was making life hard on me.  With my head lamp on I continued and kept telling my self one foot in front of the other.

I had no idea where I was going to camp. I knew I was looking for a steep meadow which is where I would be hunting the next day. At about 8pm I found the grassy area and started looking for a place to camp in the trees.  I decided this trip to pack a hammock to see if I could avoid sleeping on the ground. I found a small protected area about 10 feet of the trail and used a bone saw my dad gave me to cut some spruce branches off two trees to set my hammock.    After the hammock was up I set a tarp over the top of the just in case of some wet weather. You never know up at 6000 feet.

I got my bed set up and went straight to sleep. A few hours into my sleep I noticed my backside and feet getting cold. I was in a 0F degree sleeping bag and it was only 35F degrees out, I shouldn't be getting cold. I realized that as I sleep I was slipping down  in the hammock so my feet were getting above my heart which was making it hard for the warm blood to get there and warm them. With my backside it was cold because there was no insulation besides my sleeping bag under me and the wind was blowing . After a few hours of trying to ignore it I got out my sleeping pad and slept on the ground. The only reason I had my sleeping pad was because my mom who was visiting while I was packing said " You never know you might not like the hammock."

After tossing and turning for the rest of the night on the ground I got up right before sun up and got dressed. With my gun I walked over to a near by creek to get some water for the day. As I did this some deer started walking out of the woods into the grassy area at about 70 yards. All I could think was "Please let there be a buck and we can get this over with right now." After I watched the 5 does for about an hour I continued to get my water.

So I decided to walk up the steep meadow for the morning hunt. At the top of the meadow it turned into a big alpine bowl with a lake at the very top. It took me a few hours to get to the top. It was beautiful up there, with the high cliffs and even a little bit of snow. I saw lots of deer sign but no deer. I did flush a big blue grouse but missed it with the .22 revolver I had with me. When I got the the small lake it was about 11am and I found a nice shady spot and laid down for a little nap. The lake was 100% clear and beautiful. A half hour into my nap I was awoken by the sound of a voice. At first I thought I was dreaming but I kept hearing the voices. I looked up over the little hill I was sleeping on and sure enough there were two hikers walking up through the rocks. I yelled to them letting them know I was in the area. The couple walked over to me and we chatted for a bit.

As we were talking a falcon started chasing a small tweety bird, every few times the falcon would dive the smaller bird you could see a puff of feathers come off the small bird. The small bird finally hit the water and the falcon quickly scooped it off the water as if it was nothing.

The couple said their good byes and they went on their way and I hiked back down to camp. At camp I cooked my lunch of top ramen.  By the way did I mention all I packed for food was three power bars and six packages of top ramen.  After an even longer nap in the hammock in camp, which was very comfortable during the heat of the day I explored more around camp.

I decided at dusk to sit at the bottom of the meadow and see if anything comes out. As I was sitting there a Mother bear with three cubs came into the meadow. My camp was about 70 yards to my right and the bears were about 50 yards directly in front of me. I did not get a picture of the bears as it was too dark for the camera I had with me. After watching them for a while I got up and ran them off in the opposite direction of my camp.   

A bear scratch marks on a tree
I returned to camp and cooked my self a second helping of top ramen. After dinner I went to bed, this time I started sleeping on the ground. Through the night the mice were crawling on my sleeping bag. I would kick the mice off the bag and hear them land off in the bushes. After getting tired of that I placed my sleeping pad in the hammock and tried to go back to sleep. The pad solved my backside being cold but not my feet.

Again I woke woke up at daylight and went to sit in the meadow area. I was sitting next to a stump and I could hear something walking through the bushes on the other side of the stump. I got up to look what it was and it was two other hunters who seemed just as surprised to see me as I was them. We told each other what we each planned to do for the day so we would not interfere with each other.   

After the other hunters walked up the meadow I decided to walk up the main valley to see what it had to offer. I found that 30 steps pat my camp was a real campsite with flat places to sleep. Well at least I know this for next year.  As I continued up valley, the main trail stopped about 1/2 mile past camp. I then entered into thick old growth forests. As I got further back it started to open up a bit. I found a avalanche slide path that looked good to hold some deer. As I sat down I could hear something walk through the thick brush. I waited for about 15 minutes four does walked down a path. I was hoping that a big buck was going to follow them but I was thinking that it was going to be a pain in the ass to get that deer out of there if I shot one. But of course just does.

On my walk back to camp I decided with my lack of a good sleep, lack of seeing bucks, only having one more day before I have to be back at work and my lack of energy due to the awesome choice of food I brought I should likely pack up and get out of the woods that day before dark.

So I got back to camp made and while making some food next to the creek the other two hunters showed up. They said they saw a little two point up next to the lake but that was it.  I spoke with them for awhile and then went to camp and packed up and got home.

I had a great time hunting in the high country and I learned a lot of lessons. #1 Bring Protein, #2 leave the hammock at home and #3 it would be better with a 2nd hunter. I cant wait to do it again next year.