Big Bear and This Was No Picnic 

There were only four more days left of my Saskatchewan Black bear hunt of our seven day trip, as I climbed into my stand.  It was late afternoon and the bears were starting to feed.  I had only seen one small bear so far, and he was not the trophy I had come for, so refrained from unleashing my arrow through is tough hairy hide. He did, however, feel the need to check me out and climb up my tree and stop just below my platform where I pelted him on the head with a rock, after which he quickly retreated into the woods.

Bear hunting in Saskatchewan at times can be anything, but pleasant.  The biting black flies and mosquitos seem as big as birds.  They are relentless as they try to bite at you; it is a nonstop battle.  Even with multiple thermo cells running they are still ever present.  The smell from the bait can be overpowering, as well, depending how fresh it is.  Additionally, there always seems to be one animal, or another, coming to steal the bait before the bears can get to it. 

I remained optimistic and patient that the bear rug that I had come to collect would arrive soon.  I had seen plenty of signs that there were good bears in the area; such as the large deep footprints that covered the muddy landscape, and large steaming piles of excrement that littered the access trails leading in and out of the tree stands.  I was hunting with my good friends Doc, Earl and Cooper.  Doc was a high school principal, Earl was a truck driver, and Cooper was a building engineer.  Our career paths had sent us all in vastly different directions, but we remained true to our promise to always make time to hunt together.  We all met in junior high school; and we grew up hunting together with our fathers on the weekends for waterfowl, and by ourselves afterschool for pheasants, and other small game.  As we grew older, we got real jobs, got married; we all had children of our own; and less time to spend hunting with each other.  Thus, we stopped hunting for small game and switched our focus to Whitetail deer and Black bears.  This was our 18th annual hunting trip together.  We had been all over North America hunting for seven to ten days at a time. 

The dreary, cold, rainy weather that greeted us upon our arrival in Saskatchewan had finally begun to clear.  We were all cold and wet from dodging storms the first two and half days.  I knew that with the change in weather, the bears would be on the move and in search of an easy meal after seeking cover for the last few days.  I hoped that my luck, much like the weather, would be changing.  After a short time in my stand, a nice sized, 150 pound Black bear came into where I had set up my tree stand; and he worked at ripping apart a fish carcass for a meal.  He was a young bear, maybe around three or so.  It was a good feeling to see a bear munching on a meal from the river so early in the evening, and I just hoped he had invited his older relatives to visit for dinner. 

We chose to base our hunt out of an old remote cabin on Dewey’s Creek, which fed into Hastings Lake, so we could enjoy some time being away from civilization; while at the same time, taking advantage of the world-class fishery we had at our doorstep.  Otherwise, we would be making an arduous ninety minute long drive back to town each night from where we were hunting.  The cabin had all the amenities we needed, and was much nicer than we could have ever anticipated.  Everything was included: a world class cook who made all the meals, electricity, running water, hot showers, full kitchen, an aluminum Jon boat with a twenty five horse power gas motor, comfortable beds with bedding, the list goes on and on.  It was like staying at a five star resort in the middle of nowhere.  Our hunt was the last week of April and the temperatures in Saskatchewan had been in the 40’s with heavy wind and rain.  The camp guide would set up the baits for us daily.  The baits were a combination of fresh fish, beavers, and left over food scraps from the day before.  It was the third day of our hunt before I was even hopeful of seeing a bear because of the bad weather that had beat on us nonstop from the minute we had arrived.  I guess we were lucky to have satellite TV to keep us entertained.  In fact, we chose not to hunt on the second day because of rain and the winds were so strong we feared that we would be blown out of a tree stand.  The hunting stands with the best activity were not accessible the first two days we were in camp because the rain had washed out most of the old dirt logging roads that led to them.  We would have to wait for the heavy rains to reside before we would be able to access them via a truck or ATV.

We managed to get some fishing in early on the first day of our trip and enjoyed fresh trout and walleye for lunch the next couple of days.  Doc and Earl arrived a few days earlier than Cooper and I, and had set up a variety of stands to accommodate the four of us.  They were pulling out all the tricks to entice bears to our hunting area, as our hunt was almost half over and we had not even started yet.  Copper, Doc, and Earl put together a concoction of bacon, honey, and our leftover breakfast scraps in hopes of drawing in some wall-size bears.  This, plus the bait that the guide was putting out, we hoped would do the trick.  The bacon was fried, the honey burned, the Bear Bomb cans set off, and the nearby grounds and bushes were sprayed with every bear scent product known to man.  In addition, everything we touched was sprayed with Primos XP Scent Eliminator.  We all wore Scent-Lok Vertigo clothing, something Doc highly recommended.  Doc was serious about bear hunting, so I took his word as the gospel. 

It was finally a good evening to hunt on the third day.  At long last, the rain had stopped and the winds had calmed.  The ground was soggy and the trees dripped rain drops on our heads from above.  Cooper had a good bear come in, but it presented no shot as it looked to be more interested in finding a hot sow than eating.  Clearly, he had romance on his mind.  Doc saw several bears; the biggest bruin was a shooter, but stayed hidden from his arrow by a thicket of trees that were as wide as three old wine barrels tied together.  That night, I too saw a bear.  He was a young bear, which was very nervous, acting as if he was expecting a bigger bear to show and chase him away from the meal he had found.  He kept looking behind an old oak tree.  To my dismay, nothing else showed that evening.

Cooper had missed the three previous bear hunts we had gone on, as his wife was giving birth to three of his four kids.  We gave him a pass, but I thought it was just poor planning on his part.  He was surprised at how quietly a bear could appear from thick forest and muddy terrain.  No sooner had he just finished scanning the area and seeing nothing, a big Black bear was slowly nearing his tree stand.  With each step he took, dust would fly off his dried coat as the mud would break loose and drop to the ground.  Not wanting to lose his opportunity to shoot his first bear, he raised his bow, quietly drew back on the bear and followed him in his peep sight until he felt he had a good shot.  Cooper released the arrow and connected with the bear; the Helix broadhead drove through the bear and out the other side.  The bruin did not go very far before letting out a loud death moan, which we all could hear from nearly a mile away.  It was a mature bruin, and weighed about 200 pounds.  This was Cooper’s first bear and he stood over it smiling like a proud father at the birth of his first child.  After we all arrived back at camp and heard the good news, we took some time to congratulate Cooper and take some pictures before we needed to get the bear out of the truck to be skinned, quartered, and frozen.

The three of us got up early the next morning and caught some trout for lunch.  Cooper slept in; he was the last one out of bed because he was so jacked up from killing his first bear, not to mention, he did not finish processing his bear until after 3:00 am.  We loved our remote camp and enjoyed being away from civilization; it was the way a bear hunt; or any hunt for that matter, was meant to be.  After a little relaxation, we took showers and got ready for our evening hunt.  Cooper would continue relaxing and fishing around the cabin, while the rest of us headed out in hopes of tagging our own bears.  We had a few more days to close the deal and the weather continued to improve, giving us hope of seeing and killing a trophy bear like Cooper had done the night before.

Doc is a smart hunter with a lot of bear hunting experience.  He had been hunting for bears longer than all of us.  So, when Doc offered advice, you took it.  The stand I was going to, was one that many bears were familiar with, so he told me to put up a second stand to hunt out of that was well concealed to the bear’s running back into the woods from the river. 

When a medium size sow came into my stand area, she kept me entertained, so I decided I’d grab my new camera to take some photos, only to realize I had forgotten to put the battery back in my camera, which was still charging back at the cabin.  That sucked.  I had small and medium sized sows and boars at the stand almost all afternoon.  At one point when there were no bears, I suddenly heard footsteps on the trail behind my stand.  I could smell the stench of a bear, but nothing appeared.  I slowly turned my head, but could not see the trail while seated.  I waited, growing more impatient, only to see a big Black bear walking away from me.  My heart sank.  I should have waited longer, as he probably caught my movement.  One of the other bears, from earlier in the evening, returned to my stand area, and then was pushed out by a bigger boar.  I had really wanted to get a better look at the bigger boar, and really hoped he would return.  After about an hour, the bigger bear I had been watching, made a quick exit and I looked back on the trail again; nothing.  I had remained standing, as it was the only way I could see the trail behind my stand and could be prepared if the big bruin returned. I saw a big bear through the trees; he looked to be circling downwind of me, and he looked huge.  Its belly was nearly touching the ground, and he was long like a VW bug.  He was too long to be an old fat sow.  I knew I wanted this bear on my wall, this is the one that I was waiting for and that is when the adrenaline kicked in.

I did not think the bear had gotten my scent, otherwise, he would not have come back.  I was wearing two layers of Scent-Lok clothing, rubber boots, and had sprayed a cover up scent over my clothes, backpack, and bow.  I kept watching and hoping this boar would work his way back towards the bait I had put out earlier.  It had been several minutes since I last saw him and I did not know where he was, when suddenly, one of the other bears reappeared around my stand.  My heart was pounding, and I was nervous about getting a shot at this wary bear if he came to the bait.  He was the biggest bodied bear I had ever seen while hunting.

While watching the bear in a small clearing, I started to relax until I heard footsteps behind me again, and that distinct smell of bear hit me in the face.  I looked down and the big bear was walking right under my stand towards the bait.   The other bears took off running, and I expected to get a shot at the bear as he was walking away from me.  I slowly raised my bow and drew back quietly.  He walked just past the bait and kept going, never giving me a chance to shoot.  I came down off my draw and was really getting depressed.  The more I saw this bear, the more I knew I would settle for nothing less, and he was being extra cautious of the bait.  I guess he did not get this big by being careless.

He circled downwind again from me about 20 minutes later, and I could hear the bruin not too far from where we stopped the night before.  The big bear had gone about six hundred yards passed the bait, then paused, and then started coming back.  This time he stopped at the bait, giving me a shot.  As I drew back my arrow, my legs became weak and began to shake.  I took two deep breaths and lined up my peep and my Hog Father sight.  I was focused on a single hair behind his front shoulder.  I squeezed the release and let the arrow fly.  It struck the bear squarely behind the front leg, and I could see the blood beginning to pour out from where the arrow had entered.  He ran much further than any other bear I have ever shot, and I lost sight of him as he disappeared into the bush.  Normally, the combination of my Helix broadhead and Carbon Express Pile Driver arrow would bring down animals quickly.

I sat quietly in my stand for 30 minutes replaying the shot over and over in my head before beginning the two mile walk out to the truck.  I tried to reach Cooper on the radio, but I got no response.  I was really pissed about having to walk to the truck.  I knew it would be a long, foot-blistering walk (rubber boots are not made for long walks) being swarmed by mosquitoes and black flies, all the while reflecting on my shot and the big bruin.

Cooper and Doc were at the truck when I arrived and they were enjoying a drink when I told them the news.  We jumped on the ATVs and headed back to track the bear.  Day was fading fast and we only had about 30 minutes of good light left.  After a few minutes of checking the area where I had heard the last sound of the departing bear, we found nothing.  We went back to the point of impact and started to follow the faint blood trail.  It did not take long for the blood trail to turn from a few faint drops to a river of red.  The blood trail quickly became very visible.  Blood was seemingly flowing from the bruin, and man, was I relieved. 

I had never before had a bear go this far after being shot, and Doc had never seen this much blood come from a bear.  My Helix broadhead had done its job.  It had been a few hours since I had shot the bear, and the blood was still looking fresh.  The three of us talked it over and felt he may still be alive and we were pushing him deeper into the woods; although we were not sure how a bear that had lost so much blood could still be alive.  But I never heard the death moan that every bear seems to make right before it dies.  We decided to hold off until morning, as it was now pitch black dark and we were hunting for him without our flashlights.  With such a great blood trail, I was confident we could find the bear first thing in the morning.

We headed out early the next day, and with the full light of the sun, we quickly found the blood trail and soon thereafter, my bear.  It was only about twenty yards from where we had stopped looking the night before.  It was a great relief after a long sleepless night.  There on the ground laid the bear that would soon dawn the wall in my family room.  I think the arrow must have hit the shoulder bone and changed course as it cut through the bear and came out its neck.  The 125-grain Helix broadhead held up well, as I knew it would.  I had tested it on 3/4-inch plywood and cinder blocks.  I was thrilled when we found him; though he appeared a little smaller all piled up and deflated from sitting overnight then I had remembered him looking under my stand just twelve hours earlier.  He squared over seven feet and had a skull just shy of 20-inches.  Cooper told me that I did not get the big bear he had seen in the area.  Honestly, I do not think I would have passed on this one, even if Cooper were sitting next to me telling me that when this one came in. Maybe Doc or Earl would get the monster; they still had two more evenings to hunt.

That evening, the temperature began to drop into the 30’s, and I was thankful to be done hunting.  Earl continued to hunt the same stand where Cooper saw the big bear earlier in the week, hoping to get a shot.  Doc went to a new location with a stand set up more for a rifle hunter (than a bow hunter) in hopes of keeping his scent and movement further from the bait.  I wanted to sit with Doc, and be a part of his hunt like we had done in the past, but we decided it was best to minimize the amount of scent and movement.  Doc had a big boar come walking in front of him, though not as big as the one he had seen earlier in the week, and not as big as mine.  Still, Doc, with only two days left of the hunt and not wanting to go home empty handed, drew back and shot the bear through both lungs.  It was an impressive shot from 50 plus yards away.  This was the first time I ever shot a bear bigger than Doc.  Still, it was a nice bear and made a nice addition to Doc’s collection of fine bear rugs.

Earl was now the only guy in camp to have tagged.  We got a call from Doc as dusk was approaching, and Cooper and I went to help get his bear out of the dense woods and snap some photos.  We only had to follow the blood trail for about 70 yards before finding the bear on the ground.  It was a perfect double lung shot; a near impossible shot from where Doc had hung his stand.

The three of us wished Earl the best as he headed out for his final night in the stand.  He went to another new location where there were signs of a big bear.  Earl passed on a couple of bears even though it was his last day of hunting.  He had come to camp for something bigger than he already had, or at least a mature color phase bruin.  As the evening progressed, he played over and over the bear and the pass from the previous night.  He was content knowing he had opportunities, even though the week’s hunt was cut short due to bad weather.  Shortly before quitting time, he caught movement in the dense forest.  It was a large color phase bruin and it worked its way towards him.  Earl had a number of good bears come in that evening, but they were all more interested in finding a hot sow than eating the bait.  Earl did not think the bear was going to stick around as it walked past the tree, so he raised his bow and concentrated on the sweet spot before he squeezed the release and sent an arrow its way.  The arrow sent the bear on a sprint into the forest, where it was found a few hours later.  What a fantastic animal: it squared nearly above six and half feet and had a skull just shy of 20-inches.  While this was not his biggest bear to date, we were all very excited for him.

Hunting trips like this are why I keep going back to Saskatchewan and bringing others with me.  I have been to Saskatchewan several times now, taken several great bears, and have never had a bad experience.

The Rut before “The Rut”

Early archery season can often be frustrating. Long hours afield, disappearing deer and lugging minerals often lead to frustration. Many hunters often find themselves in a personal rut before the November deer rut ever arrives.

I hear a lot of coffee table talk about a popular topic deemed by the experts as the “October Lull”. I’ve read about it in all of the major trade publications, blogs and online forums. I apologize in advance as I am not sure who coined the phrase, so shoot me an email if you know and I will be sure to give them the proper credit.

As an avid whitetail hunter I’ve have been busting my butt planting food plots of beans, radishes, clover and chicory as well as freshening up my mineral sites,  hanging stands and brushing in blinds.

Nowadays it seems like we live by our “trail camera scouting” through the early season. Constantly trying to pattern our hit list of shooters. For me personally it felt like I was putting a whole lot of stock in my trail cameras. I had to sit back and remember what a great hunting mentor once told me…

“A trail camera is a great tool, however, it only tells you where you should have been hunting yesterday.”  

So when your “Buckzilla” disappears from the periphery of your trail cameras don’t fret. Don’t lose patience and quit. Instead just sit back, trust in the work you put in and have fun. Accept that the natural patterns of wildlife are out of your control and know that good things will come your way.

Prior to the “seeking and chasing phase” brush up on your fundamentals. Think back to the lessons your father, mother, grandfather, uncle or another mentor taught you about hunting. Even with all of the advancements in hunting it’s the basics that build the foundation. Be sure that you are practicing good scent control, play the wind, stay quiet and keep your movements to a minimum.

It may seem like, as the frustration of going home empty handed builds, we feel some of the passion dwindling, but don’t lose hope.

Remember why we do this…. For the Love of the Outdoors.

Good luck this season and have fun!

Rick

Getting Nocked Up – Choosing the Right Arrow

For a successful deer hunt, choosing the right arrow for your set up is essential.  This is an area overlooked by many people new to bow hunting.  They will run out and buy the most expensive bow they can afford to buy, and then buy the cheapest arrows they can find.  In choosing the right arrow for your set up, there are a few things you need to focus on: the weight of the arrow and speed you are trying to achieve.   

Hunters should purchase the best arrows you can afford.  When choosing arrows, be sure you are choosing ones that have a consistent spine, have tight straightness tolerances, and are equal in weight.  If money is tight, aluminum arrows are the way to go.  For around $50.00, you can buy a dozen quality arrows.  For a top end hunting arrow you should expect to pay 200.00 per dozen.   

Arrows are available in aluminum and carbon. Arguments can be made for choosing one over the other, but like most things in archery, it basically comes down to personal preference.  However, most shooters these days use carbon.

Carbon arrows have made a big impact in the deer woods.  The strength and durability of carbon arrows has given hunters the confidence to pay extra for them, knowing they are not easily bent or broken. In general, carbon construction has allowed arrows to be made lighter without sacrificing strength and durability, which in turn allows for faster arrow speed and flatter trajectory.

Many hunters like to use a heavy arrow, which tends to absorb vibration and aid in smoother and quieter shots.  Not to mention, it carries more of a punch.  Heavier arrows are also a bit more bow and accessory friendly since the shock of each shot is reduced. Continuous vibration leads to loose accessories and bow wear.  Hunters who prefer a lighter arrow like the flat trajectory they achieve from faster arrow velocity.  The obvious benefit of faster arrows is the forgiveness you get in judging distance in field. With this in mind, there are some definite guidelines to follow in choosing the right arrow for you.

Heavier arrows weighing between 8-10 grains per pound of draw weight will maximize penetration and produce smoother recoil.  Hunters who rely on close encounters and do not anticipate the need for shots over 20 yards will like the results they achieve with these hard-hitting arrows.  Shooting a heavy arrow requires a bit more skill in judging distance due to the lack of velocity, but the extra effort can prove deadly when the shot connects, especially on larger game such as elk or moose.

The best choice for new archers is a medium weight arrow.  Medium-weight arrows between 6-8 grains per pound of draw weight are the most practical solution for most hunters.  They provide plenty of speed and penetration out to around 40 yards.  Also, hunters are able to maintain a quiet bow, generate good arrow speed, and produce enough energy to make effective shots on deer.

Light-weight arrows include those under 6 grains per pound of draw weight.  Hunters who are looking to get the flattest trajectory possible may choose to push the limits of a 5-grain minimum.  Some situations may call for longer shots, such as open country or hunts over food plots.  A great deal of practice will give some hunters the confidence to make these longer shots.  Fast arrows will aid these hunters in making the shot.

Once the desired weight has been determined, it is time to consider the best arrow shaft stiffness for your given set up.  If you choose to use a mechanical release, you have more flexibility in choosing the proper stiffness.  As the arrow leaves the bow using a mechanical release, most of the flex that will occur will be up and down, so there is little, if any, problems with arrow clearance.  Finger shooters need to pay closer attention to the flex of the arrow because there will be some side-to-side motion of the arrow as it leaves the string.  This is caused by the string having to move around the fingertips as the string is released.  Most arrow manufacturers have an easy-to-use chart that will aid you in finding the correct arrow stiffness.  To use these charts, you will need to know your length of arrow, the desired weight of point, and your desired draw weight.  It is important to stay consistent from field point to broad heads to maintain a balanced arrow and a well-tuned bow.

After you have decided on the right arrow and point weight for your set up, the last thing you need to decide is what type and size fletchings you prefer on the back end of your arrow to help stabilize flight.  The two more popular options are plastic veins and feathers. You will find both in sizes ranging from 2 to 5 inches.  As a general rule, the larger the fletching, the quicker the arrow will stabilize after leaving the bow.  The only drawback to larger fletchings is that you will lose a few feet per second (f.p.s.) of arrow speed.  Smaller fletchings have less wind resistance, offering less speed loss, but also less ability to stabilize the arrow.  As far as choosing between plastic veins and feathers, there are a few things to consider.  Plastic veins are durable and a bit less expensive.  They tend to allow for faster arrow flight when compared to the same size as a feather.  However, feathers usually will provide quicker arrow stabilization and they have an attractive, traditional look to them. 

Nothing beats trial and error when selecting new arrows.  What works well for one person may not be the choice of another. Choosing arrows is no different.  Think about what you are trying to achieve in the woods and make you decision accordingly.  In the meantime, ask lots of questions and pay attention to each manufacturer’s recommendations.  Straight shooting and less available space in your freezer will be the end results.

Rick “The Butchers” Famous – Duck Blind Breakfast Mess

If you’ve ever spent a day in a duck blind, you’ll understand that waterfowl hunters love creative solutions and they love to eat. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a permanent duck blind, floating downstream in a canoe or in a makeshift blind on the banks of a lake avid waterfowlers will always find a way to feed their crew.

As someone that loves to cook and someone that loves to duck hunt one of my favorite duck blind rituals is to serve breakfast. I always have a big thermos of hot, black coffee and the “go to” breakfast is Rick “The Butchers” Famous – Duck Blind Breakfast Mess. This meal is usually pretty true to its name.

It is a super easy recipe that you can prep for the night before. You can use your favorite portable stove in the field or simply prepare it the night before and stow it in a small personal size cooler. If you decide to make it the night before simply fill the cooler up with hot or boiling water and allow it to heat up the insulation. When the food is ready dump out the water, place the food in a container and stow it away in the cooler.

  • 1 pound – Ground Sausage
  • 1 pound – Bacon
  • 1 dozen – Eggs
  • 10 – Medium Redskin Potatoes
  • 8 oz. – Shredded Cheese.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Loaf -Bread

The night before…

In a large skillet brown the sausage over medium high heat.

Dice the bacon and add it to sausage.

Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Cube potatoes to about ½ inch pieces.

Season the potatoes.

Add them to the meat and cover the skillet.

Cook over medium heat until potatoes are slightly tender.

***At this point you can refrigerate or place the container right into the cooler***

 

In the field…

Crack the eggs into a shaker or Nalgene type water bottle (I often do this the night before)

Heat up the meat and potatoes.

Shake the eggs to mix them.

Add the eggs to the meat and potato mixture.

Cook the eggs until scrambled.

Top with cheese and serve on a slice of bread.

Enjoy!

 

Stay warm, stay safe and have fun.

Rick “The Butcher” Bolinsky

Earth to Table (September – Stingray Salad)

If you read my last article you may remember that I prepared grilled stingray filets. When I made that meal my wife and daughter were out and about and missed out on dinner that night.

 I was left with a couple extra filets and came up with this recipe. It is now my “go to” recipe for leftover grilled stingray. When you tear the leftover stingray apart, it has the same flaky texture as tuna.

 

 Grilled Stingray Salad

Yields 2 to 4 sandwiches

 

  •  2 – six ounce grilled Stingray filets (freshly grilled or leftover)
  • 3 Tbsp. – finely chopped carrot
  • 3 Tbsp. – finely chopped celery
  • 3 Tbsp. – finely chopped onion (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. – lemon or lime zest
  • ⅓ cup – mayonnaise

 ** Optional addition – 1 Tbsp. Thai basil or mint (chopped)

 

Using 2 forks shred the filets

Place the stingray in a mixing bowl and set it to the side.

Dice all of the vegetables and add to the bowl with your meat.

Mix together thoroughly.

Add the mayonnaise to the bowl and mix thoroughly, but lightly. You don’t want to pulverize the meat.

Add the lemon or lime zest,

Add salt and pepper to taste

Serve on your favorite bread, crackers or a bed of fresh greens.

 

 

Tales from a Treestand

I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for two weeks. I missed muzzleloader season last weekend because the husband was out of town. The weather isn’t perfect, it’s cool, windy and misting rains. But I can’t kill deer from the house, couch or the comfort of my bed.

Last night’s Halloween party kept me up later than I needed to be. I set my alarm for 4 pm rather than am. Woke up in a mad rush to gather my things, my thoughts and my coffee. I knew I’d get to the farm at daybreak so I planned to stalk in quietly. To my surprise, I was greeted by two random dogs who reeked of skunk. I thought for sure they would escort me to my stand.

Excuse me, there are deer here.

Two does exit stage left…

As I was saying, I had to run dogs off. The hike in was super quiet. Rain saturated ground creates a double edged sword. It makes moving quiet but climbing mountains slick! We all know I fall a lot so that was fun.

Within eyesight of my stand, the dreaded doe blow breaks the silence. I freeze, glass and see white tails everywhere. 🤬 wait them out a few, another step, another blow. Daggon it. So I just sit down. Spray some Nose Jammer on and check the wind…they definitely saw me cause the wind is great! As the blows end, I gather my things and trudge on in the final 100 yards to my stand.

For a moment, I just stare at this Summit climber I’ve become so familiar with, then up to my mark on the tree at 25 ft. Ugh. This is gonna suck. Tie all my gear together with mule tape and begin my ascent. Once settled, I was sure I would see nothing so I started this blog. Then came the does.

Obviously, by their posture and timid approach, these were the two I bumped coming in. They overcame their fears pretty quick when they got nose deep in Rackology. I watched them. I contemplated shots, but I waited, They walked away, and that’s okay. I need those girls when rut kicks in…😂😂😂

Winds picked up. No movement here in the 100 acre woods. My belly says, “lunch”. My feeder says, “corn”. And my morning coffee says, “Please go pee!!” So, down I go for food, corn and a bathroom break.

Returning with 50 lbs of corn, my bow and all my gear, I begin the .80 mile hike straight uphill. At the first plateau, I’m certain I will die before I get to my stand. When I make it to the top of the first ridge, I nearly collapse with fatigue. My hamstrings are on fire and my already injured shoulder is screaming angrily. I take a minute, lay down on the cold, wet, leaf covered ground and listen to my heart pound. Looking up, I see the canopy of foliage that is the epitome of KY beauty, take a big deep breath and tell myself (outloud), “ Get up, you’re almost there.”

Pushing forward, arriving at my set, pour out the corn, tie gear on to rope, stand and stare at the climbing stand, dreading the torture that is about to ensue. My legs still burning, my shoulders and back quivering in distress, my mind tells me, “There’s no way you’ll make it.”, but my heart says, “Girl, you better get up that tree!”

The evening hunt was uneventful. No deer. Swampcat squirrels, constant rain, hurricane equivalent winds, and neighbors sighting in rifles or having WW3? As the light disappeared, again I shimmied down this ole oak and began my trek out. I left the stand with tags left to fill. My body was beyond exhausted. My clothes were wet and my boots were muddy. But my heart, my heart was happy.

You see, I’m no “professional” hunter. I don’t have land managers, or thousands of acres planted with soybeans. Hunting doesn’t pay my bills and probably never will. The reward for me comes from thinking I will surely die packing corn into the mountains, and pouring it out on the ground a few minutes later. It’s standing at the base of a tree thinking my body can’t make it and clipping into my safety line and doing it anyway. It’s pushing my self to the limit…and then pushing a little further once I get there. And someday, if that big ole Booner buck cruises by, I’ll be ready.

The Flats

While the East Coast of the United States may be famous for city living and vacation destinations it is also home to some of the greatest waterfowling tales of all time.

The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most historic waterfowl hunting locations in the United States. Although the Eastern Shore receives most of the notoriety there is an area at the top of the Bay, between Havre De Grace and Perryville, known as the Susquehanna Flats. As the name denotes the flats are located where the mighty Susquehanna River enters the Chesapeake Bay.

A hunting trip this past September gave me insight on the history of this region. There was visits to decoy carvers, waterfowl museums, hunting over stretched canvas decoys and dining on steamed blue crabs and oysters.

I was invited to join a group of fellow Drake Field Experts on a flats hunt for resident Canada geese. Although the overall hunting came up short on numbers the experience was incredible.

As a new member of the team I was a bit nervous to meet a group of experienced hunters that came in from Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Texas. Those nerves were eased as we spent the first evening, sitting in a Mexican restaurant, exchanging war stories while the rain poured down.

The next morning, we assembled at the boat ramp and split into our four assigned teams to hit the water. After a short boat ride we had reached our destination and set out the rather unique decoy spread of silhouette Y-Boards and stretched canvas full body decoys. I have to tell you the nostalgic feeling of hunting over that spread, in this place, was pretty cool.

We managed to scratch out a handful of geese on the morning hunt and decided to head to shore for a little down time walking the streets of Havre De Grace. This quaint little town offers a boatload of historic charm. There are shops, restaurants and the Havre De Grace Decoy Museum.

After a couple hours onshore we packed up the boats and took a stab at an evening hunt. Although we saw a bunch of birds we only managed to knock down a pair of geese on the evening hunt. That being said the experience and comradery made the time worthwhile.

We used Sunday to tour the Havre De Grace Maritime Museum, The Havre De Grace Decoy Museum, Joey Jobes Decoy Shop and to partake in some of the local food specialties. As the evening approached we did what any group of waterfowl hunters would do…fired up the grill, showed off our favorite wild game recipes and told stories about our hunting adventures. As a 20-year-old kid I spent a lot of time listening and laughing.

Monday morning rolled around and we headed back out onto the water. We had been warned that Labor Day would bring a different group of people out onto the flats and it certainly did. At the first blind location we found a boat anchored, a sparsely dressed couple in a tent and a roaring bonfire. The second blind location had six boats tied off within 20 yards of the blind marker. We set up our spreads at the third and fourth location only to find out that with every passing moment more and more people were headed out to enjoy the holiday.

We spent a couple hours enjoying the show and laughing at what was taking place before we called it quits. It was finally decided that there were trucks to pack, drives to make and flights to catch. While the hunting wasn’t awesome we did manage to see birds each time that we hunted. We were able to spend some time learning about how wooden decoys were made, we got some instruction on body booting and spent some time walking around the history rich museums.

As a young hunter I understand that shooting a limit is a lot of fun. One of the things that I learned on this trip though was there is a lot more that goes into becoming an avid waterfowl hunter. It’s about learning the history of our sport, making new friends and being out there to enjoy the experience.