Monday, October 29, 2007

Success Part 2 - Mule Deer Hunting

For mule deer I hunted a few spots that I remembered as a kid and was amazed at how many young bucks there were. The first day out I saw 7 bucks and all of them were fork horns. The 2nd day out I saw 12 bucks, one of them was a decent 3x4 and there were 2 very small 4x4's and the rest were fork horns. I saw plenty of deer each day but nothing even close to what I was looking for. I even thought about taking the decent 3x4 that I saw because the rest of the bucks I had seen were all so young. I was beginning to wonder if I would have to shoot a doe or a fork horn on the last day of the hunt just to fill my tag.

On the 3rd day out I didn't see near as many deer as the previous 2 days. There were fewer hunters out so maybe they weren't moving around as much from the pressure but by 10:00 AM I had only seen 6 does. I watched the does for a while to see what they did (I thought they might lead me to some bedding areas) and after a while I stood up to start walking back to the pickup and I saw horns in the ravine below me! I quickly sat back down and moved around to get some cover between us and checked it out. This was by far the largest deer I had seen so far and I knew if I could get in position to take the shot I was going to try. I had already checked the yardage to the bottom of that ravine and it was 175 yards so definetly within range already. I just had to get setup where I had a clear shot at him. I moved farther down on the hill and laid down on the hill with my rifle resting on my thigh. It made a pretty steady rest and about that time he presented me with a perfect broadside shot and I squeezed the trigger. He immediately whirled and started running away down the ravine. I couldn't believe that I'd missed!! I had already chambered another round and aimed my rifle to where he would have to cross an open spot in the ravine about 75 yards further down. I was trying to steady myself and get ready for what was going to be a difficult shot when I heard him falling down to the bottom of the ravine kicking up some rocks and shale. After that it got quiet. He didn't ever come into the open spot so I moved down to where he had run. He was lying in some brush, I had hit him perfectly behind the shoulder with a double lung shot. The exit wound was barely the size of a quarter with 175 grain Federal Core Lokt ammo so it must have not even hit a rib. When I boned him out I had barely hit the offside shoulder muscle but I don't think the bullet hit any bones.

I checked my gps and it was right at 3/4 of a mile back to the truck with a 400' elevation change. Uphill of course! I boned him out into some plastic garbage bags and hauled them 1 at a time up to the truck in my backpack. 3 miles of roundtrips back and forth to the pickup and my hunting was done.

One other interesting thing was that the deer had warts. Some were larger than a golf ball. I took it to the fish and game department and they said that the meat would be fine and that it was ugly but other than that everything should be fine. The deer had quite a bit of fat on it and the meat looked good so I'm going to go ahead and eat it.

It wasn't a trophy buck by some peoples standards, but it was the largest that I've ever shot so I was pretty happy. It was a little over 21" wide (inside spread) and a little over 21" tall on the rear main beams. I'm definetly going to do a european style mount on it, I don't think anyone would want to look at those warts on a daily basis!

Overally I was very happy with the week of hunting. Both the Deer and the Antelope were larger than any that I had shot as a kid growing up in the area hunting for 6 years, but we never really hunted for horns back then, we were hunting to put meat on the table.

I'm not sure if it takes a good hunter to cash in on a mature animal on public land or if it is just luck, or persistence, especially when you can't really scout the area beforehand to know where the big ones live. I put in 10+ miles of walking each day with some of it on some pretty rough terrain and I think that is what helped me this time. It is amazing the number of hunters that were out there just driving back and forth on the trails hoping a deer would cross in front of them. On one day I was within 75 yards of 2 guys hunting on horseback and I was walking a pretty steady pace and they never even saw me with my flourescent orange on!

But when it all comes down to it I think a lot of it still comes down to luck. I was happy to be lucky on this trip!

That's my report. Nathan

Success Part 1 - Antelope Hunting

Well, I'm back from my Montana combo antelope and mule deer hunt.

The drive there and back was long but pretty uneventful. I listened to several audio books and that makes a tremendous difference on the drive for me. I left the house around 3:00 Thursday afternoon and pulled into Glasgow around 12:00 Friday afternoon. There was still plenty of daylight so my mom hopped in and we drove around the old hunting grounds to get myself familiar with the area again during the daylight because I was planning on heading out before sunrise the next morning.

We saw some antelope but they were all a long way off and most of the time they were running. I saw one decent buck but it was over 1/2 mile away and running hard when I saw it. Overall we saw about 20 antelope but only 1 would have been close enough to shoot and it was a fawn. We drove back into town and I was hoping that tomorrow would be a better day.

I got out to where I wanted to hunt before daylight and saw 3 antelope right as it got light enough to hunt, but they were all does. I went to a spot where we had seen antelope a few times the day before and walked out into the bottom and hung out for a while thinking some might filter in as it got light, but after about an hour of that I decided I was going to have a better chance finding them than I would of them finding me so I went back to the truck and drove around a little.

I saw 2 different groups of antelope way down in the bottom and watched them for awhile to see what they were going to do. One of the groups had 3 bucks in it that didn't stand out as monsters or anything but looked like they were decent. They seemed like they were moving slowly toward some water so I decided to go after them. About 2 miles later I saw them about 1/3rd of a mile away, still walking toward the water so I backed up and went around a hill thinking I could head them off and get into position. Either they sped up or I misjudged how far they were though, because by the time I got to where I thought they would be they were gone. I kept walking in the direction I had seen them moving and spotted them again still about 1/3rd of a mile ahead of me. I stopped and waited until they went over a rise and then went after them. I got to within 300 yards of them in a creek bottom, but I had been walking for close to 3 miles and had crossed a fence line and wasn't sure if I was still on public land or not. It would have been a difficult shot regardless and I decided to pass on it. Then they met up with about a dozen other antelope that were definetly on private land. It was some really nice pasture land and they were settled in grazing. I stood up and made sure they saw me thinking that they would see me and run off, but they seemed to know they were safe on the private land and didn't seem to be in a hurry to run off. I later checked the map and the first area where I passed on taking the shot was actually public land but at the time I wasn't sure so I felt good about my decision.

I walked about 2 miles back to the truck and drove around to the other side of the private land. I could see the antelope still on the pasture and I thought they would continue moving east so I walked down about 1/2 mile and waited to ambush them, however they had other plans. After about an hour they started heading back the other direction right where I had been earlier that morning! By that time I had moved a little over a mile from the truck so I had another mile to walk back to the truck and then I drove back around to where I had been that morning.

I pulled up to a ridge to see if I could find them and saw them about 1/2 mile away down in the bottom. I backed the truck up out of sight and headed off on foot to see if I could cut them off. I walked about a mile around some hills and they were right where I had seen them last. They were bedding down. I belly crawled to the top of the hill attempting to avoid as many catcus as possible and got a good return on my range finder and they were 385 yards away. The wind was blowing pretty hard and I didn't feel confident in that long of a shot so I backed out and walked another 1/2 mile or so around some hills to get a little bit closer. Again I belly crawled the last 20 yards or so and this time I was much closer. I couldn't tell how close I was though because with them laying down and the flat ground and with me laying down I couldn't get a return on my range finder. I also couldn't use my bi-pod because the sage brush was too tall so I couldn't use it. There were 3 bucks in the group of about 20 antelope and I spent a while looking through my binoculars to pick out the largest one. They were all still laying down except for 2 does that were about 50 yards away from the rest of the herd. They had seen the top of my head and were trying to figure out what I was. I knew I didn't have much more time before they got spooked so I just sat up in the sage brush and when the buck I had picked out stood up I took dead aim and squeezed the trigger. I ended up shooting from the cross legged sitting position and hit about 5" forward of where I was aiming, hitting it right at the front of the shoulder at the base of the neck. It dropped like a rock. I calculated the yardage the old fashioned way by stepping it off and it was 220 steps from the spot were I had taken the shot.

Here's a picture of the antelope. I was very happy with the way the picture turned out.

The antelope ended up measuring 13 1/2" from the base to the tip of each horn but it had some decent mass and decent cutters and was a nice looking animal. I was very happy with it as there were a few times during the day where I was really wondering if I would be able to get an antelope or not. It had been 20 years or more since the last time I had been antelope hunting so just finding them on public land was a success.

Step 1 on my combination hunt was a resounding success!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Well, not a very exciting week this week, but I did get some stuff done.

I got the tractor back together and that went pretty well although it took a while. I really feel like I learned alot out of the experience that's for sure. After I got it back together I went back down to the Fisher county land and got the rest of the grain planted. It took another 2 1/2 times around the field to put 60lbs per acre of grain down, but hopefully we will get some rain and it will be worth the effort. I'm definetly going to figure out the settings on the grain drill before I try to plant with it again.

I bought some last minute hunting gear and am trying to get it all sorted out in time for the trip to Montana. I practiced some more with my new rifle and feel pretty confident out to 200 yards. I would like to get in one more round of target practice in this week before we leave. I'm actually getting a little nervous about the trip. I'm preparing myself for the fact that I might not get anything, but hopefully it will be an enjoyable experience even if I don't.

I will be out in the open country in Eastern Montana next week so I will probably skip a week on my posts.

That's it for now.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Hobby or work?

It is interesting to me that people are willing to work extremely hard on something as long as it is considered a hobby, but if it is a job then suddenly it becomes much less fun.

The fuel leak on the tractor isn't going to end up costing a lot to repair in terms of dollars, but it took me about 3 or 4 hours to get the fuel tank pulled off and get it to the folks to get it repaired. Hopefully I will be able to get it put all back together correctly and hopefully I can get it back together in a little less time. Here is a picture of it in progress.

We hired someone to stain and paint the house and they started on it this past week. On Thursday one of them fell off a ladder and broke his arm pretty badly. Not sure why they were even using a ladder as they brought this big lift machine to use instead of ladders but hopefully everything will turn out okay on that end of things. They are doing a good job on the house and it is amazing how badly it needed it.

A few of my sisters stopped by to visit this weekend so that was good. They were impressed with how fast Eli is growing and how cute he is. He is cutting more teeth and had a bad diaper rash, but we have been using a product called Corona that is made for farm animals that works amazingly well and it has mostly cleared up except for a couple spots. He is now standing on his own for very short periods of time and I'm sure he will be walking before we know it.

I had 2 firsts when I was dove hunting on Saturday. I got my limit (15 doves) for the first time ever and did it in less than an hour. They were everywhere! Also while I was hunting I saw a hawk catch a dove in mid-air. There was a loud popping sound and a puff of feathers and then the hawk was on the ground clutching the dove in it's talons. It was pretty cool!

I'm really getting excited about going to Montana in a couple weeks to go hunting. I was drawn for a non-resident Antelope license and a non-resident Deer/Elk combination license. I don't plan on doing any Elk hunting but hopefully I will get an Antelope and a Mule Deer. I've been getting ready to go and did some last minute shopping for hunting supplies this weekend.

I haven't made it back down to the land to overseed the area that I just finished planting but I will probably go down there this week during the week. I talked with someone at the NRCS and we are going to work on a wildlife management plan and possibly sign up for some government programs on improving the habitat and controlling erosion. Hopefully I will meet them out there this week to go over things.

That's about it for now. I may go back and add some pictures on some of these posts if I get some taken.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Whew... I'm Tired!

Well I just finished planting 16 acres and I am beat!

It rained down at the Fisher county property on Tuesday and Wednesday last week so I figured that I should get down there and get my fall food plots planted ASAP. I spent Saturday helping around the house and headed down to the land on Sunday afternoon. The grain drill that I bought a few weeks ago has been sitting on my trailer down at the land for a couple weeks so to haul my tractor down there to unload it I had to borrow a trailer from a friend. I had a hard time getting the tractor far enough forward to get some good weight on the toungue of the trailer so I ended up pulling it down there at about 50 mph and that was the first of several minor things that all seemed to go against making this a quick and easy project.

I got to the land around 5 pm and got the tractor unloaded and got started. I had my 8' tandem disc hooked up already and got started discing a smaller 2 acre field first. Even with the rain 4 days earlier the ground was fairly hard and I had to set my disc to put all the weight on the front to get it to dig in well. Because of this I had to make twice as many passes because when it is set all the way forward it digs in on the sides but not in the middle. So an hour and a half later I got done with the first 2 acres and I knew this was going to take a while.

I moved over to the larger field and got started. An hour or so later and it was starting to get dark, but based on how long it took to do the first field I knew I needed to keep going so I turned my lights on and kept after it. Around 11 pm I was running low on fuel so I went back to the front of the property to refuel and shut the tractor down. I ended up spilling some fuel when I refueled but didn't think much of it at the time. I messed around at the trailer for a few minutes and then went back out to start going again and the tractor wouldn't start. I thought maybe the battery was low from running with the lights on for 3 hours so I tried to jump start it with the pickup but it wouldn't even turn over. After a messing with it for a while I decided I would give up and wait for daylight and try to get it running then.

I went to bed around midnight and set my alarm for 7 am so I could get going as soon as it got light. Around 3 am the power went out and the air conditioner shutting off woke me up. Without the air conditioner running, the crickets chirping outside were so loud I couldn't go back to sleep. I laid there for a while trying to go back to sleep but I kept thinking about the tractor and what could be wrong with it and wondered if the breaker had tripped on the trailer and if I now had an electrical issue with the trailer so I ended up just getting out of bed. I checked the breakers on the trailer and everything was fine and nothing was working at the power pole so I decided that the power was just out and nothing was wrong at my end. I tried to start the tractor again and it was still dead. I had thought about the fuel spill on the tractor and grabbed some paper towels and tried to dry all the electrical wiring that could have gotten wet. I especially cleaned up around the starter and checked all the connections there. I got back on and it fired right up!! I was back in business!

I got back out to the field around 4 am and got after it. After the first pass I saw one of the discs had come off and was laying there in the field. (This is crazy because this happened to me before when working a 5 acre field at my house during the day and I never saw that disc again!) I picked the disc up and looked over the rest to decide what to do. I made another pass to see how much of an issue it was going to be and other than being a little noisy with on gang of discs being loose it seemed to be working okay. I decided that I would keep going and if I got done with this field I might be able to plant another 5 acre field tomorrow as well. Around 7 am that thought ground to a halt as the entire disc came loose from the 3 point hitch as one of the pins came completely off.

I unhooked and drove the tractor back to the trailer and tried to determine exactly what I needed because it is an hour roundtrip drive to go to town and back. I made it into Sweetwater and stopped at the Tractor Supply Company to pick up what I needed to fix it. They had most of what I needed but the staff wasn't very knowledgeable and I ended up having to improvise by using some plumbing fittings to get everything to work out. I bought some fuel and grabbed some McDonalds and headed back to the land. A little over an hour of pounding on the disc later, I had it back together and the plumbing fittings worked as I had hoped. One of the gangs was still a little loose, but overall I was VERY happy with my field repair job.

I got back to the field and a couple hours later was done with the discing. It was a little rough and there were some pretty large clumps of dirt that I had kicked up but I figured it was good enough. Now came time to unload the grain drill and start planting.

Another problem quickly reared it's head. My tractor wasn't strong enough to pick the grain drill up off the trailer it was on! I'm not sure if the grain drill weighed more than the guy who sold it to me said it weighed (he said it weighed 1,100 lbs) or if my tractor just won't lift what it is rated for (it is supposed to be able to lift 1,500 lbs) but it couldn't lift it. Part of the problem was that the tractor can lift less the higher up you go and the way it was loaded, I needed to hook up to the grain drill about 6' off the ground. I played around with it and if I worked everything JUST Right I could use the bucket curl to pick the grain drill 99% off the trailer with just a tiny bit still on it. I got in the pickup and after several attempts and adjustments I was able to drive the trailer out under the grain drill! Now all I needed to do was hook it up to the tractor fill it with grain and start planting, but it never is easy.

I had actually looked at the drill and the tractor hitch and thought before I went to town last time to make sure it would work and thought it would, but when I got ready to hook it up I found out otherwise. I needed a drawbar and that meant another trip into Sweetwater. Lucky for me, Tractor Supply Company had exactly what I needed and after another run through the McDonalds drive through I was back on my way. Without too much difficultly I had the grain drill hooked up and was ready to go. The grain drill is probably 40 or 50 years old and hadn't been used in at least 10 years so I spent a little while greasing it up (it has at least 30 grease zerks) and cleaning the hopper and then dumped about 100lbs of seed in the hopper. I'm planting a mixture of seeds for a fall food plot for wildlife so I put in 1/2 bag of beardless winter wheat, 1/2 bag of triticale, 1/3 bag of oats and 1/2 bag of winter peas and mixed it all together. I double checked everything and I was ready to go!

I made my first pass around the field and everything seemed to be working fine for the most part. Out of the 16 seeders the small discs on the front of 3 of them weren't turning but they were all planting seeds and the springs allowing them to move up and down all seemed to be set correctly and overall I was VERY happy with how it was working. I was concerned about the rate that it was seeding because I don't have a manual for the grain drill and have no clue what it was set at. The guy I bought it from and a guy who sold me a disc that was missing on it both said it was "set for wheat" but that could be anywhere from 35lbs per acre to 60lbs per acre depending on where you were at and what kind of rainfall you expected. Plus I was using 4 different types of seeds all mixed together and the wheat was probably the smallest seed out of the 4. I was hoping to plant the 2 acres and use all 100lbs of seed I had put in the hopper for around 50lbs per acre, but when I got done I still had probably 50lbs of seed still in the hopper. I had tried to be smart and set one of the gears at the 2nd smallest setting instead of the smallest setting and I think that made it seed at a slower rate. I moved it down to the smallest setting and put another 500lbs of seed in and mixed it up and started planting my 14 acre field. Again I was impressed with the old grain drill and it seemed to be working fine. I was also happy that the tractor was pulling it fairly easily and that I wasn't getting beat to death even when I was going on a different line from where I had run the tandem disc. I checked on the seeding and it was pretty hard to tell how fast it was seeding, but it was working well and going steady and that was good. The 3 discs that weren't turning would occasionally build up with trash (weeds, etc.) and I would clean them out. I got over 1/2 way done and I started getting worried about my seeding rate. I could hardly tell that I had made a dent in the seed in the hopper, but the hopper is wider at the top than it is at the bottom and I knew it was putting out seed because I could see it dropping into the chutes. I kept at it and after about 2 hours I was done. I still had about 100lbs of seed in the hopper so that means that I only planted about 30lbs per acre when I would have liked to have put down about 50lbs per acre. I still haven't decided whether I am going to go back and go over it again or just leave it as is.

After I got everything put up and unhitched I noticed that my tractor was leaking diesel fuel. A steady drip, drip about every 2 seconds. I had noticed some diesel had leaked on the trailer Saturday but didn't think much of it and attributed some of the leaking on Sunday and Monday morning to my spill when refueling, but there was no doubt now, there is a leak somewhere. The lights aren't working on the trailer that I borrowed from a friend and I wasn't going to make it home before dark so I moved his trailer around behind some trees so no one would be tempted to steal it and loaded my tractor up on my trailer and brought it home. Hopefully I'll be able to figure out where it is leaking tonight at it will be an easy fix.

I did see some wildlife while I was down there but I was so busy and focused on getting my planting done that I didn't even check what was on my trail camera. I saw a couple coveys of quail and quite a few dove. Around 7:30 pm right before I loaded up my tractor I saw a flock of 12+ turkey by the pond so that was pretty cool.

Other than the novel that I just wrote, not a whole lot going on. Eli just had his 9 month checkup is 30" tall and weighs 20lbs 12oz and has 6 teeth already and is working on 3 more right now.

Well, I'll be amazed if anyone read this entire post but I thought I would put it all down on paper or electrons or whatever you call a post on a blog.

That's it for now.