Vacation – Stretch band!

I’m just back from a couple weeks of vacation with my family. Prior to leaving ,the thought of bringing my bow, briefly crossed my mind, but it really wasn’t practical, and bringing it, would have very likely detracted from the memorable family adventure we ended up having.

I did have some concern about losing ground on the work I’d been putting towards my form though, so I packed a stretch band.

Stretch band in hand 2 (1)

This turned out to be a great solution, It took minimal space, was light and it allowed me time in front of a mirror in the early mornings to practice. I discovered that the mirror/stretch band combo gave me good feedback, and helped me identify posture issues and inconsistencies in my draw.

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Me, while on holiday, looking a bit serious for the camera.

On the travel end, we didn’t check any bags, and I carried it onboard in my backpack with no issues from the airport security folks, although halfway through the flight I did consider tying up one of my kids with it…

Kiddos aside, the stretch band worked well for me, I found it helpful and an easy peasy solution to a bit of archery in your bag, travelling or otherwise.

C.

 

Archery at Bowdoinham’s Ice and Smelt Festival

My town has an annual event called the Ice and Smelt Festival, there are many events and contests some of which include the Parade of Smelts, a best beard competition, bonfire and luminaries.

Ice fishing shacks on the Cathance River, Bowdoinham

Ice fishing shacks on the Cathance River, Bowdoinham

The smelt festival is derived from the tradition of ice fishing in shacks on the Cathance river and Merrymeeting bay that are popular in our town. There is also an archery event, which is organized by long time archer Carol Dyer.

Sue Dyer watches as Susan Brown takes a shot at the "giant smelt"

Carol Dyer watches as local resident Susan Brown takes a shot at the “giant smelt”

Carol is an active member of Maine Traditional Archers and was generous in giving some of her time to organize and help many kids and adults alike give archery a go despite the cold, cold temps on Saturday.

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Chris Edwards gives his son Caleb a hand.

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Caleb reigns triumphant over the festival smelt.

Many families and kids lined up to give archery a try.

Many families and kids lined up to give archery a try.

P1020597It was great to see an event like this in our small town, many thanks to Carol Dyer for braving the cold and lighting up kids eyes as they released their first arrows also thanks to the Merrymeeting Arts Center for the Smelt Festival!

A tale of winter archery

When it comes to archery, I can relate to the post office motto:

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

 The version I go by is a little different:

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, stays this archer from the completion of his practice rounds”

So, I practice at night, day, early morning, winter, summer, inside, outside and while the inches pile up.

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The comical part of this to me is that I’m currently practicing for “indoor archery competition” outdoors…

Winter archery both fills my need to be outside and satiates my, dare I say, addiction to this sport.

There are pluses to being out with ol’ man winter:

It’s beautiful out. It is great to be out in the world hearing the sounds and seeing the sights, whether they be animal, bird life or the snowflakes accumulating on the tip of your stabilizer.

How many times in our lives will we get to experience this while letting go of arrows?

I get that this has the potential to be a cold and uncomfortable experience, but by stacking the cards in your favor and dressing for the event, one can be comfortable and happy outside, so, dig out that long underwear and pile on the layers, use a neck buff or scarf, insulated boots and good socks and turn a potentially miserable experience into an enjoyable one.

Snowy arrows

Snowy arrows

One of the minuses of shooting outside in winter for an archer is dealing with your hands.

Whatever you have in contact with the string whether it is a tab or an archery glove will have an effect on arrow flight, so wearing nice, warm, insulated bulky gloves is not really an option if you are trying to pile them into the bullseye.

I compromise by using thinner gloves and realize that I will be out there until my hands can’t take it and I need to go inside. They are the weak link in this winter endeavor.

I use fleece gloves which aren’t as good as their insulated companions but good enough to get practice time in. For my string hand, I took an old beat up glove and cut off the middle three fingers. Then I wear a 3 finger leather Damascus archery glove beneath. This does the trick for me.

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My winter solution to archery gloves

I’m on a hiatus from using a tab so I haven’t tried using one over gloves, if you have, please leave me a comment with how you fared.

If I am shooting a compound bow and a release I use good fitted fleece gloves (LL Bean fleece glove a size small) which work fine with the release I use.

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One last benefit for those of you that live in the cold climes. When it is cold, dreary and miserable out, it’s easy to make the choice of staying indoors. I don’t know about you but this sometimes leads me to cabin fever. It leaves me restless and makes me lethargic. Getting out and pounding arrows into a target or stump or whatever you’re into is invigorating and will put some pep in your step!

It breaks up that winter monotony and gets your blood pumping, it also makes the coming indoors that much sweeter.

Why not give it a try this winter?  Bundle up, get out of the house and watch your arrows arc through the snowflakes, quietly making their way through the snowy stillness.

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First Deer

I took Tuesday off from work to go hunting, I went out in the morning on my property with no success, around the middle of the day I went into public land near my home and in the afternoon I went to a friend’s property where I have a blind setup on a field.

I had setup the blind almost a month prior, enough time for the deer to get used to a new object in their environment and brushed it in to help it blend and so it wouldn’t stick out.

I got into the blind around two o’clock, the interior of the blind is black so I wore black so as to camouflage with the inside. I had gotten reports from the property owner of deer crossing the field, I had seen deer standing next to the blind when I’d intended to go hunting but gotten there late. I also had trailcam pictures of these deer, so I was feeling confident about my chances at seeing them that day. I had drawn a doe tag in the anydeer lottery which was good as I’d only spotted does out there and on the trail camera.

I had talked to other hunters about this field situation and what they would recommend for setting up there. An experienced hunter advised to not hunt the area in the morning because it is adjacent to bedding areas and often the deer will bed on the field itself, sounded like good advice so I had reserved this spot for the afternoon.

I sat on an upside down five gallon bucket and felt tired. It had been an early morning and I found myself with the bow on my lap and my head on top of the bow, not quite sleeping but in a trancelike state. That restored my energy enough that I was able to sit up with my senses on high alert, listening for footfalls. I also took the time to take a few pictures from the inside of the blind using the panorama feature on my son’s camera. See below:

View from the blind.

At around 3:30 I heard them. Pretty loud on the field grass, more than one and coming fast. The adrenalin kicked in and my heart started pounding like it was going to come out of my chest.

They came into sight quickly from the right, paused a second dead ahead at 20 yards, I didn’t have my bow up and I didn’t dare raise it as I was sure they were looking at me. They moved further left and I had the obstruction of one of the diagonal supports on the blind. I took the opportunity to raise the bow, draw and aim, except that the arrow exits the bow lower than the line of sight and I was afraid I’d hit the  window crossbar, they moved further left 30 plus yards, then everything happened as if I had been switched into auto-instinctive mode, I had a correction to make because the single pin sight was set at 25 yards and now they were further, the mind never entered into it, I just automatically raised the bow to the correct height and loosed the arrow at the largest doe. A hit! The three deer took off across the field into a strip of woods with a small ravine and I lost sight of them.

When using archery gear an animal very rarely just falls over after a shot, what typically happens is they take off and you patiently wait then track them to recover your quarry, so I waited, then walked across the field where they had  disappeared. I saw plenty of sign that the doe had gone through there, I climbed up the shallow ravine and exited into another field. It was twilight then but as I looked left I thought I could see a shape, I walked closer and sure enough it was the doe. She had gone a total of about 100 yards.

I felt elated and thankful. I called my wife Laurel to tell her, then set up a towing harness to drag the deer off the field. I had never field dressed a deer before and although I’d watched the YouTube videos I thought some guidance would help. I called my neighbor, Aaron, who is a longtime hunter and we agreed that I’d go tag the deer then meet at my house after he’d had a chance to vote.

This proved to be a good decision as  nothing really compares to someone showing you the ins and outs first hand. Thank you Aaron!

Once we were done, Laurel took the tenderloins and fried them with onions and we all had a beer to celebrate.

The day was over, I was grateful and thrilled at my first deer.

Fall Turkey

I came home yesterday in the late afternoon after having had a bit of a trying day, grabbed my compound bow and rangefinder and made my way out to the backyard target.

I had taken the rangefinder because I wanted to practice at 30 and 40 yards and I had not marked the distance. I warmed up at 20 yards then stepped back to 30 yards. I shot a few ends at 30 yards then heard heavy flapping on the other side of my house next to my driveway, I managed to look quickly enough to catch a turkey flying up to it’s roost. I walked further around the corner and switched from a target field tip arrow to a broadheaded  arrow, fortunately my quiver was attached to the bow.

I then spotted a 2nd turkey walking towards the same patch of woods where the first had roosted. I had my rangefinder so I quickly ranged a tree just ahead of him, 30 yards, the single pin sight was already set at that distance, so I drew, waited for the turkey to clear a clump of brush and loosed the arrow.

I hit my mark cleanly in the vitals and with it had my first ever successful hunt. Laurel and the kids arrived shortly thereafter and there was much excitement and the kids and I went down to the country store to tag him. I’d never tagged anything before so it was all novel. I later cleaned it, which was new too, YouTube showing me the way.

It is so interesting the changes we undergo as people, I would not have thought in prior years that I’d be a hunter, fascinating the paths we’ll take and the growth we can experience when we permit it.

C.

The hunting puzzle

It has been heart lifting to be outdoors lately as the temps have been warm and the fall foliage is in the full throes of its seasonal metamorphosis. I often forget how a little time in nature can re-charge one’s batteries and reset your outlook if you’re finding yourself a bit skewed by life.

The fall foliage is of course the most obvious change this time of year but there are others, for example the great amount of mushrooms to be found in the woods this time of year. they are interesting to see and find, like gnomes hiding in the woods.

The oak trees are turning and dropping acorns, which in turn feed the forest to include deer, squirrels and other critters.

The area I live in is oak full. Which in my view is a plus and a minus. A nice boon because it is a food source for deer which means that they’re around, but with so many oaks it is difficult to pinpoint where they’re feeding and where to locate them.

Oak

Acorns – all over the woods behind my house right now.

On the hunting front I’m starting to figure out why the call it hunting and not “getting”. Fortunately for this greenhorn there is a lot more season ahead to make up for the steep learning curve.

I did have an interesting experience while in my treestand in the pitch with just some moonlight out, as I sat,  I spied  green eyes digging at something in the ground a mere 12 yards away. The green eyes had a very faint glow to them, surely reflecting the bit of moonlight out. I thought back to the trail cam pics and how two does frequented this area at about this time, I could barely see the movement of bodies down there, too dark to tell, also not legal shooting time even if I could see. I stood stock still waiting for daylight only to find that they had slipped away in the darkness.

When I climbed down from the stand, I went over to the spot where they’d been and found a mostly nibbled mushroom. Interesting info in my education of whitetails.

Mostly eaten mushroom

I’ve also been finding some signs of a buck in my area. There is an area of saplings that has rubs on it from previous years but I also found some new rubs, see pic.

Rub!

What I’ve found about hunting so far is that it is very puzzle like.There are hints all over the woods left for you to decipher in order to put together a picture of what is going on. How successfully you form that picture and the decisions you make in reaction to your information plays a big part in how you fare out there.

I would also say that this puzzle solving process is an enjoyable one and it constitutes a big part of this endeavor. I’m new to this but I would venture to say that preparing, practice,  research, scouting, interpreting information, then setting up situations based on the knowledge gained is most of the experience. I would put the rest of it as waiting or being patient, good hunters are a patient bunch. The actual encounter with an animal is the smallest part of this, probably falls in the minutes and seconds category for most.

I believe this equation probably changes with experience and technology. A trail camera for example can be your eyes while you’re running your life. Someone who has hunted the same patch of woods for 30  years probably has a lot of accumulated knowledge of the habits of their local quarry and can shorten the process if they so choose.

You can also hire knowledge in the form of a guide or an outfitter if your time and access are short. With our busy lives I’m sure this makes sense for many.

Lastly there is luck, always plays a part. I just need it to play it’s part for me before the season is out!

Red squirrels are loud, deer are quiet

I had my first hunt yesterday. I started trekking out there a little after 5 AM, the northerly that was predicted was really a southerly, which was not what I wanted as it would blow my scent downwind towards the deer,  but I have but my one stand and it was my first time so I pushed on.

I don’t know what flashlight protocol is,  I used one and wondered if every animal in the area was aware that an intruder was in the house.  Many moons ago, when I was in the army the flashlights came with colored lenses to reduce the likelihood of being spotted. I may try that next time.

A lot of things came to light that could use improvement. I could use a small pack as my pockets are full of stuff. I have to figure out a better way to play the wind, are flashlights a good or bad idea, etc?

In the treestand

I also discovered that red squirrels are loud and deer are quiet.

Red squirrels are a noisy bunch, you can hear them scurrying through the ground cover, in the trees and if they get to chattering, oh my god, cover thy ears. If you are a newbie like me every crack and crinkle in the forest is the monster buck of a lifetime about to present himself in fact it is really an ultra hyper 4 inch long red squirrel after his daily nut.

I spotted a doe out in the distance yesterday, not a sound, just appeared, totally silent.  That’s my current working theory anyway.

Speaking of silence, the other visitor I had yesterday was a cat, a cat out in the middle of the woods. What?? As far as I know cats are domesticated beings that live in houses and around them, not this cat. He was on the hunt too. Appeared silently out of nowhere (probably heard the red squirrel chatter) and about 8 yards from me. I could see him sniffing around, I was sure he’d made me but didn’t see me. My scent seemed to freak him out enough that he slinked away through the underbrush to other hunting grounds.

My last animal sighting was a raccoon. I was pretty excited about this one as he was big and fell under the huntable category unlike meow mix earlier. He was also but 8 yards from me, also sniffing around but never saw me. He then climbed a huge pine not 5 yards from me and when he got to my level, he sniffed around some more, I’m sure he knew I was there. Then climbed 75 feet or so up the pine to his resting spot, he was very interesting to watch, hunting wise he’s out of season.

Raccoon, sniffing me out!  (you can click on this to make it bigger)

So go my hunting experiences,  more soon…

Bowhunting Whitetails – Getting ready

The archery deer hunting season starts in Maine on September 27th which is a scant four days away, it has taken me a bit by surprise, I thought it started in October! I will have to get into high gear to be ready.

Fortunately I have been scouting the land around my house for months and months, I’ve also been asking for advice from hunting neighbors, reading up, and just getting in the flow of the season, as I’ve mentioned before I am new to hunting so everything is fresh and eye opening.

One of the fascinating things I’ve discovered in the hunting world are trail cameras, for those that don’t know they are motion sensitive, weatherproof cameras that you can mount in areas where you suspect activity and gain valuable information about the movement of your quarry.

I went well intentioned to buy the cheapest available a week ago, about $ 65.00, but was successfully talked into a bit of a better model by the hunting salesfolk, spent about twice what I had planned, $ 140.00, then also had to get accessories, memory chip and batteries, another $ 30.00 or so.

You pre-set the time and date on the camera then hang it in the woods, it comes with a strap that you can put around a tree and then you’re ready.

The totally captivating part of all of this are the photos of course:

My first picture!

A lot of does around my area.

The photos provide date, time, temp and moon phase. Here is a daytime picture, same location:

If you look carefully there are two deer in this picture, one is on the very left edge of the frame, hidden in the foliage. You can click on the photo to get a bigger image.

I don’t have a tree stand as of yet, thinking I had more time so this morning I’m off to do that. Then scout for a good location for it.

More to come..

Going public – Free archery range in Colorado Springs

While in Colorado Springs, Colorado searching for places to practice and release a few arrows I ran into a public archery range.

The range is located in Bear Creek Park which is in the foothills on the west side of the city. The park also boasts lots of other cool amenities like volleyball and tennis courts, horseshoe pits, horse riding trails, a community vegetable garden, and a place to release your dogs so they can cavort leashless with other dogs.

The range is an open outside structure, built in such a way to contain any errant arrows and keep other park users safe. Impaling someone’s pooch would just not be a plus for the sport…

The back line or furthest distance you can shoot, is separated into lanes by metal pipe spacers, these spacers have pipe quivers,  there is a big trash barrel and the furthest shooting post is roofed, which helps with the intense Colorado sun, broadheads and crossbows are not allowed. The range rules are prominently posted.

While I was there two young archers with their new Samick Sage bows showed up as well as a father and his son. We took turns shooting far and near so dad and son could accomplish their goals and we could revel at how much more fun it is to miss from far instead of near.

Young archers sporting their new bows, these guys unleashed a torrent of arrows!

Dad giving tips to his son. This is about 5 yards out.

Loosing those first arrows, just magic.

There are long sections of tough black rubber that span the range width every 10 yards or so which keep any stray high arrows from exiting the range, this same rubber material is also on the face wall of the range keeping missed arrows from being impaled badly into the wood. Most just bounced off or came off very easily.

From a distance I thought the butts were made from hay bales but upon close inspection found that it was a shredded wood bale. Seemed effective but I’d be curious to see how they would hold to a fast compound bow.

You provide your own target or be satisfied with just shooting the bale.

Bales were not hay, rather looked more like shredded wood.

While I have not read it I understand that there is an ordinance against shooting bows within the city limits, say in your backyard and so having this free public facility is a big plus, it is nice to know that when the archery budget gets stretched thin and the addiction of watching your arrows soar to their mark takes a hold of you that there is a free, safe place to go to.

I don’t know the origins of this range and how it came to be but I salute Colorado Springs for having it.