Thursday, September 24, 2015

California General Deer/Bear Season - Food List - 4 Day trip

Give or take, this is what I'll be eating, with the hopes of cooking some bear fat backstrap on the mountain.

Coffee: 140
Granola: 260
PB Fit: 50
Dried milk: 80
Blueberries: 70
Total = 600

Larabar fruit and seed mix: 200
Larabar: 200 or clif bar: 260
Slim Jim: 70
Justin's almond butter: 190
Fruit strips: 90
Jerky: 90
Total = 840-900

Bagel: 420
Salami: 100
Total = 520

Mountain house meal: 520

Total = 2,480 Calories.

California General Deer/Beer Season - Pack List - 4 Day Trip

My buddy Derek is a man of many lists, I... am not. However, I do make a list prior to a backcountry hunt, there's a lot more involved and a lot more crucial items that need to make the trip. so here's what I am bringing along for my trip this weekend.

  • Outdoorsman Optics Hunter Pack System

  • Hilleberg Akto Solo Tent
  • Big Agnes Q-Core SL Sleeping Pad
  • Big Agnes Deer Park 30 Degree Sleeping Bag
  • Nemo Fillo Pillow
Hunting Items:
  • Remington 700 - 7 Mag
  • HSM Trophy Gold - 168 VLD Berger Bullets
  • Nikon Monarch UCC W/BDC Reticle (5.5-16 X 44 AO)
  • Vortex 1,000 Range Finder
  • Havalon Piranta - Stag Knife
  • Alaska Game Bag - 48" 1/4 Bags X2
  • License, Tags, Zip Ties, Pen
  • Slick Compact 2 Tripod
  • Leupold GR 15-30 X 50MM Compact Spotting Scope
  • Nikon Monarch 10 X 42 Binoculars W/ Crooked Horn Outfitters Bino System
  • Ambush Wind Checker
  • Buck Vantage Knife (Never leave home without it)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Toilet Paper
  • Storm Proof Lighter
  • Storm Proof Matches
  • Wet Wipes
  • Paracord
  • Toothbrush
  • Tooth Paste
  • Platypus 3 Litre Bladder
  • Katadyn Micro Filter
  • Sawyer 32 oz. Squeeze Bags
  • Jet Boil SOL Titanium Stove
  • Jet Boil Fuel
  • Sea to Summit Spork
  • Pack Towel Dish Towels X2
  • Sea to Summit Collapsible Coffee Cup
  • Sea to Summit Collapsible Coffee Bowl
  • MSR Spice Missile
  • Camera
  • Phone
  • GPS
  • Instapark Mercury 10 Solar charger
  • Headlamp
  • Kuiu Pack Cover
  • Sunglasses
  • Face Paint
  • Smartwool Base Layer - Bottom
  • Kuiu Ultra Merino 210 Zip-T
  • Kuiu Teton SS Crew-T
  • Kuiu Teton LS Crew-T
  • Kuiu Super Down Vest
  • Kuiu Attack Pant
  • Kuiu Yukon Jacket
  • Kuiu Insulated Gloves
  • Kuiu Guide Beanie
  • Kuiu Trucker Hat
  • Kuiu Gator
  • Merino Wool Sock X2
  • Exoficcio Give-N-Go Boxer Brief 9" X2 (The best, for the backcountry)
  • Kuiu Chugach NX Rain Jacket (Optional)
  • Kuiu Chugach NX Rain Pant (Optional)

Monday, September 21, 2015

In Search Of...

It was September 14th, and I found myself in between two ideas for the general season opener. I was coming up on a small window for an overnight scouting trip and the decision that had to be made was: Do I head up to the area where I know there's a good amount of bucks and bears or do I head into the backcountry? Is that even a question? Well, it really was to me, and I was having a hard time pinning down what I wanted to do. With the first option, I am fairly certain we could punch our deer tags with a week of hunting and possibly a bear tag as well, however, I really hate hunting the way you have to hunt it and I hate the fact that I would be surrounded by other hunters, who would be pounding the pavement and flinging bullets as they stepped out of their pickups... But there's deer there and bears too and if you hunt it right, you can be successful. You'd have to hunt it from a stand, and everything I have been doing for the past two years was geared to getting away from the road units and stand hunting, but here I was, unsure... at the moment. The backcountry yielded several unknowns, I had not a clue of a good route into this basin I had been looking at, I have never seen it with my own eyes and I really had no clue if there were any animals in it or not. So what did I do? I decided to give my buddy Keith a call to get his thoughts, as he was the only one who signed up to go on this scouting trip with me anyway. It wasn't a long conversation at all, and by the end of it, we were both feeling the backcountry option... And that's what we did.

We left our community around 5:00 am, and the sun was barely up as we pulled into our parking spot at the base of the mountain. Looking at a map, I thought I knew the best route to get to where I wanted to be, we found out shortly into the hike, I was severely wrong. Every where we tried to gain altitude, we got choked out with manzanita, and not the young, close to the ground kind... it was old, strong, and tall and you couldn't see through it. This went on for awhile, up then down trying to get around it, until we had no more options. Sheer rock wall to our left, impassable, and then straight up the mountain, straight through the manzanita to our right. We went to the right... 1.58 miles, straight up, right through the manzanita, it took us 1 hour and 47 minutes, and it took a whole lot more than that from our bodies, but we made it over the worst of it and then it was about another 3/4 of a mile to get to where I wanted to be. By this time, it was starting to warm up at a fairly quick rate and I knew we were in for a relaxing afternoon, while we waited for the sun to go down... got our camp set up, went out and glassed the basin for a short while and then went back to camp to rest and wait. This is where the hard part comes in for me, the wait. We were right where I wanted to be, huge basin, perfect for glassing, but yet, there's still the question of, "what's on the other side?" Keith and I actually had a discussion about this while were "waiting" not very patiently, at least I wasn't. I think I put it to Keith this way, I told him, I never just go to an area and let my eyes and the scopes do the work, I'm always pushing on and I feel like I miss so much when I do that, so we're committing to this basin... we're all in. It's hard to do, it's hard to just sell out for an area, especially if you have no idea if there are animals there or not, but I was determined to give this area my best shot and then pick up the pieces after we took all we could from it.


The evening comes, well, not really... we were a bit ahead of schedule... it was 3:00pm and we were pulling out the spotting scopes. We glassed for hours, as a matter of fact, we glassed for about 3.5 hours without seeing anything. However, around this time, I started to hear movement to the left on the mountain across from us. I couldn't see that side from where I was, but the sound, it just sounded like it was an animal, a fairly big one too... I kept to my position and then I heard more, and then curiosity got the best of me. I abandoned my post, stood up and moved around the outlook to the left to see if I could put eyes on what I thought I was hearing. My eyes were immediately drawn to a huge dark spot amongst the manzanita... there was no question, I knew exactly what it was, I had scoped every inch of the mountain... I knew all the other dark spots, grey spots and brown spots... every crevice, every opening, I could draw that basin from memory alone... but this, I hadn't seen before and my heart got to pounding. I crept around a little more to see if I could locate Keith, and when I did, I said... fairly quietly, "BEAR! Big Bear, right across from us!"


Big, I'd say so... I'd also say that he was the biggest living bear in California, that I got to see with my own eyes. I'm sure there's bigger bears, but this guy, he's definitely the biggest to me. We sat there watching him for about an hour so... he ended up feeding down towards us and at one point in time, he was around 125-150 yards from us, then the wind shifted a bit and he decided to push away, but definitely in no hurry. During all of this, I'd like to think of Keith and I as if we were two children, perhaps seeing a bunch of Christmas presents around the tree early in the morning before your parents are awake... I'm not sure how many times we told ourselves how amazing this was, how awesome it was, to be there, just the two of us and this massive, gorgeous creature doing something he's done a thousand times, and we got to live it. It was exciting, I felt honored and thankful. He moved back up the mountain, in the same direction he came down... we decided to get a head start on dinner, at that moment, I had seen everything I needed to see. Oh yeah, I felt like the bear needed a name, on his chest is the perfect, absolutely perfect, I couldn't draw it better... anyway, a perfect white patch that is in the shape of a "V"... We'll refer to him from here on out as, Mr. V.

Back at camp, it was getting dark... I popped a melatonin, I wanted to get a good night's sleep, so I could be ready to wake up early for some more scouting. Anyway, Keith and I are both big fans of music, and I know it's not typical to play tunes while you're in the backcountry, but we put some music on softly and sat out there in the open under the stars discussing music, life and some religion too. I was fading pretty quick from the melatonin, but that night made me really appreciate the friendship's I have and especially the friendship I have with Keith, and I was happy he was willing to hike in there with me. I enjoy sharing the outdoors with good friends and family, it just makes the experience so much better, in my opinion.

Morning comes, and I am back on the outlook, slightly before Keith... warmed up some coffee and got my breakfast together and then punched the clock and went back to work. Never saw a single deer in the basin, but after an hour so... we heard more movement from the same direction as the night before and sure enough, there he was again... Mr. V, not alone this time though... there was a much darker bear, slightly smaller than him, but she was cruising near him, but not like they were together, just like there was two bears in the same area. Through the glass, this second bear looked like an old female to me. Grey in the face and a super saggy belly. She seemed like she was in a hurry and Mr. V was doing his thing, but still moving in her direction. They didn't stick around for long this time, but it definitely made me feel better to see the same bear we saw the night before... I now had a lot more hope. Saturday is the general season opener for deer and bear, I never thought my initial plan, would be a bear hunt on the opening of deer season... but, I want that experience. I found what I was searching for... 

Shortly after both bears disappeared, we decided to hike out. With the goal to find an easier route in, which we did, though it is still not ideal, I have one other route in mind and we will give it a go Saturday morning. Counting down the days...

Keith showed me this picture after we got home, the words below just seemed fitting:
"I'm most comfortable here, amongst the things forgotten. Observing a world where I mean nothing, and I try not to... Yet, there I am. To be, only what I was meant to be."

I couldn't live a life, without the wild.


Friday, August 14, 2015

And so it ends...

That is, my 2015 archery elk season, but if I am honest with myself, all signs lead that way throughout the year anyway. A lot has happened to myself personally and to my family over the course of 8 months. Friendships dismissed, family members lost and a knee injury that is plaguing my father.

We ventured up to Oregon with a little bit of hope, which was quickly overshadowed by the reality of the situation. It's just my father and I, and if one of us is not healthy, an elk hunt will simply not happen and that was the case for this season. On top of that, the area we scouted in Oregon, vegetation wise, was not what I expected. I can see why there are elk there, and that's also a good reason why there aren't many hunters there either, but it would be a challenge to hunt and an extremely physically demanding challenge at that... One that would tax your body day in and day out. No big deal, if you're ready for it. I felt like I was... To summarize the scouting trip, we saw elk, we saw some amazing country, saw some big bucks... and that's about it.

On the way home from the trip, my father called my mother to inform her that his knee was not holding up and that we were coming home from the trip early. I got a good laugh out of the fact that my mom gave my pops a good old school lecture about taking care of his body, and I also learned throughout the conversation that my mom was not doing so well emotionally. See, this whole summer my mother has been taking care of her father, my grandpa... She's been by his side as he is losing a fight to cancer. Right now, it's only a matter of time, which there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of it available... My mom was supposed to go on this elk trip with us, but within the last couple weeks said she couldn't go, because she needed to be home with grandpa.

Elk season, for many reasons... just wasn't meant to be.

The bright side, as if there is one, is I'll get to focus my efforts on hunting in California... and I'll get to write about it as well.


Friday, August 7, 2015

And so it begins...

It's 11:42 pm... We are headed North and we just passed an "Antelope" road sign. It's dark out, with an occasional instance of brightness from someone, headed somewhere, we are not. I am eating wasabi peas, while listening to the Corb Lund Pandora Channel... We've been on the road for over 5 hours now and it is my father's turn to take the wheel. 

Essentially, we are on our way to find out if all of my hard work over the past several months will pay off or not. If I could sum up our efforts in regards to archery elk hunting, I'd say it much like the song I am listening to, "I'm a losin' lately gambler, but that's not all I have ever been. Cuttin' back your losses is just another way to win." To elaborate on that thought, our destination for elk this season is Oregon, a state that has defeated us twice, but not entirely. We've cut our teeth here, we've got close and we have learned a great deal from hunting in The West and East. So back to Corb, I cut my losses with over the counter elk tags in Idaho and decided earlier this year, that my father and I will focus on Oregon. It's our closest opportunity to hunt OTC, and I know the quality of the hunt can be just as good as Idaho, at half to quarter of the distance.  I want a place we can call our own, I want to know that all the maps I have researched feverishly, all of the biologists that I have harassed recently, that this knowledge gained... Will pay off. I want my father and I to taste a victory, that we can own wholly. This is what hunting means to me in a large way... A responsibility of education. It's a lot about pride, but with even more humility and reverence to what I feel hunting is all about... 

This season will make us better, no matter of the ghosts that shadow our efforts. Our sights are set on the future, and I have to believe in optimism. 

2015, a new journey begins. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

A hunt, a Cook and a Book.

It was Thursday, November 13th around 8:30 in the evening when I received a text from a buddy of mine... This buddy of mine happens to shoot in my old blind that's located out there in Willows. He said, "Do want to hunt ducks tomorrow with Ed and I?" To which I replied, "Hell yes I do." This prompted a phone call... to summarize, the conversation went something like this... Specks are gone, ducks are in, Ed's dog is laid up due to surgery, we need a shooter and a good dog... I was their guy.

I quickly remembered why I didn't rejoin, 3:00 am wake up call, long drive... just my dog and me. However, I do enjoy that aspect of waterfowl season. I'm never without a hunting partner.

I arrived at the parking lot with plenty of time before I was scheduled to meet the other guys and we're socked in with fog. Super thick, but there's a ton of birds around... Mallards and widgeon mostly, on our ponds, on the next guys ponds and for as far as I can hear. Sent the guys a text to let them know that I was going to head out and get Penny's blind situated and the lids opened up.

It was evident that when shoot time would arrive, the fog would still be there. Some guys love hunting in the fog, I don't. It's like a vacuum of missed opportunities. You can hear the birds, you know they're right above you, but you can't see them... and when you do, it's almost too late and too quick of a look to get a shot off. This is how the majority of the morning went. Regardless, by 10:00am, I had 5 birds down (1 mallard and 4 widgeon).

The other guys had to take off, but said I was welcome to stay out to try and finish my limit, I gladly accepted. The fog was finally beginning to lift and I felt good about the odds of pulling two more birds in. As the guys were walking out, I took a few photos.

I saw the guys pull away in their vehicles and things started to pick up immediately. Got bombed by a single wigeon, which spun around to the call after I watched him pass by... he cruised the decoys for a sec, and then came right over the top of me at like 100 mph, I missed. I like shots over the top, but the over the top, while flying downward at 100 mph, that tends to humble me from time to time. Oh well, onto the next opportunity. Way off in the distance, I saw a group of four mallards, they were headed south and they were over an adjacent blind that had no hunters in it. I grabbed my Lares A-5 and sent out some prayers. They quickly banked my way... I figured I'd get them in the pond and then have to work them a bit more before sealing the deal, but as soon as they crossed the line onto our property they began to descend, they came right over the blind... 3 hens, 1 drake, 1 shot, 1 dead drake. Easy retrieve for Penny.

This whole day I kept thinking to myself, man, it would be nice to shoot a bull sprig, so when I finally saw a bull sprig. I was stoked, but he was with four other birds and they didn't look like sprig. Got on my pintail whistle, and he worked into it perfectly, but so did the other four... they were all wigeon. Worked him a few times out over the decoys and then it was time, I flipped the lids and came up... the bull was bunched with three out of the four wigeon, with one bird to go, I took the only bird away from the group... a drake wigeon. My hunt was over.

 Back at home, I got to processing the birds. Prior, to the hunt, I was browsing through Hank Shaw's book, "Duck, Duck, Goose". I have to say, it is one of the most well written wild game cooking books to ever hit the market... and what I mean by that, is that it is absolutely complete and extremely informative. One thing I admire about Hank, is his care and his approach to processing wild game. He makes use of just about every edible part of the animal. The recipes in the book are brilliant. Anyway, Hank has inspired me to take on a new mission this season, and that is, to leave nothing edible behind. So as I was cleaning the birds, I took everything I could. The wigeon's had very little fat, so I skinned those and removed the breasts and the thighs. The mallards had some good fat, but after a long debate with myself, I figured I would skin them along with the others. I picked out a recipe for the mallards, and "gifted" the wigeon to a friend who wanted to make some Florida original "Duck Stew". For the mallards, I chose "Duck Bulgogi" from Hank's book. My good friend Sam provided me with some real deal kimchi. The meal was absolutely amazing.

I marinated all the thighs in the same marinade as the breasts and grilled everything together. The thighs, though tougher in texture than the breast meat, were probably my favorite part. I can't believe, and I feel a bit shamed to admit, that I have tossed so many birds without removing the thighs, they're absolutely delectable and well worth the little effort it takes to remove them... now I need to find something to do with the innards. On to the next adventure.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Evolution of Me...

It used to be about the kill or rather, I wanted the kill, I wanted to feel as if I had accomplished something. I told myself it was about the meat, but that just wasn't so, I wanted to say that I had killed. Wasn't raised that way, and I am not sure when the momentum shifted that way, but that's what I had become, a killer. 

I'm a constant critic, of myself and my own nature. I analyze myself almost daily and while sometimes it takes me longer to finally see or realize that I have done or become someone I am not proud of, in due time, I am able to make shifts and adjustments accordingly.

I had an awakening last year. Perhaps it was a reaction to something else, but it was positive, it was positive and true to who I am. I'm a hunter and I have a code of ethics that I follow and I have a passion for the outdoors unlike any other.  Realizing this, which was, this awakening of self discovery, it set my sails on a new course. When I say course, I mean direction, and by direction, I mean my approach to hunting. 

I want to tell you a story,  but my reasons for sharing this is not a means to pat myself on the back, it's simply honesty and in some ways it begs a question. I won't judge another's ethics, however, I will question them, as I do my own.

It was my first hunt of the general rifle season of 2014. I was hunting with the man whom I call, my younger brother. We arrived to our spot just before shoot time and we took a stand as the sun peaked over the Sierra Nevada's. We were hopeful, we waited and waited. Being that it was my first hunt in California, I figured that after we sat for awhile, we'd get mobile and take a look around to see if there were any new trails. We "still" hunted together, slowly walking through the area, carefully keeping a watch out for any movement or sign of life. I think we made it about 400 yards or so, when I caught the glimpse of antlers quickly shifting from underneath a small bush, just 20 yards to the east. There was no question about it, this was one of the biggest bucks that I have ever seen in this area with my own eyes, I could tell he was 4 on one side, but never got a solid look at the other set. By far, the biggest animal that I have ever seen in the area. The buck didn't jump out of his bed in the way that you would think a deer of this caliber would, he simply stood up and trotted off directly away from us, all in one motion. Not hurried, or running, just a relaxed trot. I drew my gun, and what I saw, was the backside of a massive deer. This whole experience played out in seconds, but it was long enough to take a shot, I had the buck in my cross hairs, I am sure my bullet would have pierced it's body... but I drew down. For myself, this is somewhat of a defining moment between a hunter and a killer. A deer that is trotting directly away, provides zero opportunity for a quick clean kill, and I'd say 9 out of 10 times would require either a follow up shot or a long track, and there's also a big possibility that you lose the deer altogether. The only shot placement that could ensure a clean quick kill, would be the neck, but this is such a small target that is constantly moving, the odds would be in the category titled, pure luck. So say I pull trigger while aiming at the biggest part of the deer (it's backside) and I hit it, there's a good chance I lose a hind quarter, there's a good chance I destroy the tenderloin and back straps and there's a good chance my bullet ends up in the guts, and that story typically does not have a good ending, so why do guys take this shot? I couldn't find a justification, for myself, and I left that day with zero regrets. There was no questioning of myself, "Should I have shot?" "Why didn't I shoot?"... none of that. I knew I did the right thing.

What I don't understand about those who take high risk shots, is the justification for doing so,  and I hear this a lot, "I hunt for meat, not horns or antlers." So meat hunters take whatever shot they can, even if it is a shot that wounds or destroys a substantial amount of meat? Sorry, I can't grasp that train of thought. 

It would seem to me, that the person who shoots an animal in a way just to knock it down, with no regard... is not the meat hunter, he's the trophy hunter. If meat were the primary goal, you wouldn't take that shot. 

As a hunter, I feel a responsibility to myself and the animals I pursue. Hunting has to be more than about bragging rights in a photo, at least to me it does. It has to have meaning, the act of killing is not a thoughtless action. It should involve skill, patience and we should do whatever we can within our means to ensure a clean and quick kill. My motives for hunting can't be based on killing, for that is such a small detail in a rather big picture of who I am, and why I am... a hunter.