Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snow Week!

Well, I've been meaning to post on our Snow Day that we had on Christmas Eve, but since there is still plenty of it left on our road, I guess I need to call it a Snow Week!

We generally don't get much snow here, maybe an inch or two a couple times a year, but we got about 4 or 5 inches this time, pushed by 30 - 40 mph winds so we ended up with some pretty impressive drifts in a few spots. The main road that we get to our house on runs east and west and is below the normal lay of the land it ended up looking more like a snow drift than a road!

Here's a picture of our mailbox last Thursday evening. The line you see in the snow between the 2 tire tracks is the rear differential of our 4x4 pickup dragging in the snow.
We didn't get out to play in the snow until late Friday afternoon (Christmas Day) but the snow wasn't going anywhere. Cathy had fun getting to the mailbox to see if there was any mail since we hadn't checked it on Thursday!

Nope. No mail! The old saying about come rain, snow, sleet or hail isn't really that accurate, we are still picking up our mail at the post office a week later! The joys of country living. This kind of gives you an idea of what the road was like. Going West the drift was at least 3 feet deep for a couple hundred yards.
Not as pretty of a picture, but I took this one this evening. The snow is still a couple feet deep! (still no mail!)
It was actually worse going to the East. The drift was 3 to 4 feet deep to start with, and it goes a full mile in that direction.
Here's the same drift today. It is still over 2 feet deep along the North side of the road.
Here's the road that is actually passable. Those ruts are about 8" deep. My 4x4 Trailblazer occasionally drags high center going through them. You feel like you are in a pinball machine bouncing back and forth in the ruts.
While the roads haven't been fun to deal with, we have had some fun in the snow. Eli had a blast! He loved every minute of it. He said "My skin hurts" after he had been playing out there for a while, it really was the first time he actually got to play in the snow in his life, since it normally melts right off.

First thing he did when we got outside was plop down and make a snow angel. It is amazing what they pickup on their own, we hadn't even mentioned making a snow angel before he did it. The snow had melted a little and refroze so there was a crust on the surface that made it a little harder to play in than when it was soft and fluffy. You could almost walk on the top of the drift, but then you would find yourself breaking through and being waist deep.

After I broke through in one spot I dug it out a little and dropped Eli in there. It was pretty much as deep as he was and it wasn't all the way down to the ground. At one point Cathy looked over and couldn't see him and got a little freaked out, but then he popped back up and started trying to climb out.

That's pretty much it for 2009.
There are a bunch more pictures of Eli playing in the snow if you are interested
They start in the middle of that page and go onto page 10.

We've had a great 2009, hopefully 2010 will be just as good if not better. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Trapped my first bobcat!

Caught my first bobcat yesterday! Had 5 sets out. We had some weather including rain and snow, but I still ended up with a cat in a trap!

It's a male, and the taxidermist said it was a pretty good sized cat for around here. Seems kinda big to me, but I really have no clue. I'm 6'2" and 235lbs for size reference. I thought he had a pretty belly.

I didn't put him on a scale, but I would guess he weighed right around 20lbs.

Thought I had a pretty good catch on him, but with the wet conditions the stake ended up pretty loose. I was able to pull it out very easily with one hand. Based on the way his foot is caught he must have put his full weight on his left foot right on top of the trap.

I can't decide whether to do a full body mount on him, or just get him garment tanned with feet and claws on. I'm leaning toward the garment tanning.

That's it for now. Nathan

Friday, December 18, 2009

Backyard Buck

Got some decent pictures of a nice young mule deer buck at my house the other day. Probably a 3 1/2 year old. The county that I live in doesn't have many deer, so there is not a hunting season on them. I'm seeing more and more deer every year though, so maybe one of these years they will actually open up a season for them. I see about an equal number of mule deer and whitetail deer on my property.

I didn't have a good lens on the camera, and he didn't stick around long enough for me to go swap out lenses, so the pictures aren't that great, but you can get a general idea. We've seen him several times in the last few weeks so maybe I'll get a chance to get some better pictures of him sometime soon.

The only drawback to seeing deer around your house is that when the rut comes along they don't seem to like my pinon pine trees that I planted. Not many trees around here so it hurts to see this one beat up this bad. Not sure if it is gonna make it or not.

Nothing too exciting, but it is kind of neat to look out the window at breakfast and see a nice buck.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Polar Express

Well, for a little over a month now if you asked Eli what he was going to do on his birthday he would respond with a resounding "Ride Polar Express on my Birthday!" Of course he would say it so fast you could barely understand him, but he has been excited about this for quite a while now.

Well on Monday his birthday finally arrived and we took him to ride the Polar Express.
He was so focused on getting his ticket punched that nothing else seemed to matter. He had that ticket in his hand and waved it in front of anyone that would look his way. Finally the conductor came by to punch his ticket.

We ended up at the North Pole, but instead of letting everyone off the train and then loading them all back up, Santa and his elves ended up coming onto the train. Eli was still focused on his ticket and he wanted Santa to see that his ticket was punched. Santa did give Eli a bell and from then on he rang the bell and showed everyone his ticket.

Overall we had a great time and Eli really did seem to enjoy it. I think he thought he was there to entertain everyone behind us on the train and he really tried to most of the trip.

We had a small birthday party at the house and he really is 3 years old now. It is amazing how fast it has gone!

That's it for now. Nathan

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Well, things are picking up at work and it seems like I haven't had a chance to catch my breath, let alone update my blog.

I'm sitting in a hotel room in nowhere Arizona and finally am getting around to making a new post though.

We stopped by the land on the way back to Lubbock after visiting the in-laws for Thanksgiving and I was able to check my trail cameras. Had quite a few decent pictures, and one pretty nice buck that I hadn't ever seen before. Maybe next year I'll be able to spend some more time down there and be more selective on shooting a nice buck.

New pictures start on page 10 and go on to page 12.

Here's a couple pictures of the new buck I hadn't ever seen before. I had several pictures of him over about a week time frame with many of them in the daytime.
Nice tall tines on this guy.
Some more pictures of a bobcat. I'm really hoping to get one of these guys in a trap this year.
One odd thing is that I didn't have any large sounders of pigs on camera this 2 week period. I did have a few different boar hogs that were hanging around pretty regular, but they were 100% nocturnal.
I moved a camera over onto my field where I had been seeing all the action last time I was down there. If you click on the picture to enlarge it and look really close you can see my tripod stand in the background right over the back of the doe on the left. It looks like a little black dot in the trees.
This buck looks pretty young. Not sure if I've seen him before or not but he looks like he has potential. Of course since I passed on the tall 11 I didn't get any pictures of him during these 2 weeks. Hopefully he is just being camera shy and someone else didn't shoot him.

I did find out that I had a water leak at some point and will be getting a water bill for 9,000+ gallons of water that leaked sometime during the 2 weeks. I have been letting my neighbors tap into my water supply instead of having to haul water out there, but unless I can figure out what caused the leak and make sure I can avoid a repeat of it I'm going to have to re-think our agreement.

I did get a chance to go pheasant hunting last Saturday and brought a couple birds home. I may get a chance to post on that sometime.

Well, that's it for now.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shot an interesting buck last weekend...

I'm pretty sure I have 3 years worth of trail camera pictures of this guy and am guessing his age at 7 1/2 years old based on his jawbone. I did a crappy job of getting good pictures of him as it was after dark by the time I was able to get out of my stand and go get him and I was by myself . I guess I'm going to have to get a little tripod to carry around with me.

Here he is hanging.
The first odd thing about this buck was that the broken right antler was completely detached from his skull plate. I'm pretty sure that it was broken 2 years ago and since it was detached from his skull plate he never was able to drop that antler and grow another. It never turned white, but it does look like it has been hanging on there for several years.

Here is a picture after I skinned his head -

I'm just going to link it since it might be considered a little graphic. Kind of hard to tell, but when I skinned it, the antler was completely detached and meat had grown all around where it had broken. It wasn't much of a jigsaw puzzle because enough bone was missing that it didn't fit back on the skull plate anywhere.

Here's his jawbone.
I have the jawbone of the buck I shot last year that was aged by the lab with cementum annuli at 8 1/2 and based on that jawbone and the trail camera pictures I'm fairly confident this buck was 7 1/2. I'm going to go ahead and send the lower incisors off to get aged anyway. I'm starting to collect some pretty impressive jawbones though!

The buck weighed in at 162lbs on the hoof which was 10lbs lighter than the 8 1/2 year old I shot last year. This guy had some heavy tarsal staining and looked like he was about to get going with the rut right around the corner here. I did get some good video footage of him before I decided to go ahead and take him, if I figure out how to get that uploaded I'll do that. My Sony video camera has a weird codec and it is a pain to resize and upload.

The last thing that was interesting was that his right shoulder was fused to his vertebrae with some VERY thick cartilage that was almost as hard as a bone. I had to hack at it pretty hard to get the shoulder off. I should have taken some pictures of it but didn't. When I butchered him, his shoulder muscles were developed a little differently than you would think. I didn't spend a whole lot of time analyzing it, just enough to know that it wasn't exactly normal and I assumed it was related to the shoulder being fused to the vertebrae.

Putting it all together I'm wondering if this guy got hit by a car on his right side or something. I just don't think his antler could have been broken off inside his head like that from fighting and that would explain the shoulder too.

Not a trophy that is going to end up on my wall, but a very unique buck that I was proud to harvest. I don't even know how you would begin to actually score something like him.

I just seem to be shooting these guys after their prime instead of during their prime. Maybe they are easier to kill once they are over the hill than when they are truly in their prime.

I'm not 100% sure, but I'm pretty confident that this is him 2 years ago. He was a pretty nice buck then!
Here he is 4 days later with his right side broken off.
A closer picture of him after the break. This doesn't really fit with the hit by car theory since his shoulder looks fine here.
Here's a couple pictures of him last year. He was just a smooth spike on the left side last year. Maybe he got injured during the summer and that's why his left antler grew funny. In the first picture it does look like some scaring on his right shoulder.

I have some trail camera pictures of him from this year as well. He seemed to be a range shifter as I didn't have any pictures of him during the spring or summer during any year, but he seemed to show up in the late fall.

I did see the 3 1/2 year old that I've been following since last year a couple times and could have easily shot him. I'm sure hoping that he makes it through this year and I get a crack at him next year. I don't think I'll be able to pass him up next year.

I had a novel started on the hunt, but haven't gotten a chance to finish it and figured no one probably wanted to read it anyway so I went ahead and posted this. Been super busy at work and gonna stay that way for a while.

That's it for now.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

The cape is at the Taxidermist!!!

Well, the cape is at the taxidermist!

Hunted hard on opening day in New Mexico, ended up putting 9 miles on my boots according to my gps. I was mainly hunting 2 sections of land that were between some crop circles to the south and a couple circles to the north. This area is generally referred to as the sand hills and it pretty much lives up to it's name. Plenty of sand and plenty of hills! I never did think to just take a picture of the terrain I was hunting in, but it really was some neat country.

I was worried going into the hunt that it would be more of a "shoot" than a "hunt". I had visions of going over there and getting out by a crop circle of alfalfa or peppers and using my spotting scope to pick out the best buck and then moving in on it and closing the deal with my 7mm Remington Magnum. That was not the case at all!

I pulled our travel trailer over there and spent the night so I could be ready to go early in the morning on opening day. I set my alarm for 5:00am and was at a spot that I had picked out when I visited the weekend before at 5:30 waiting for shooting light. The deer clear out of the crop fields long before daylight so the idea is to pick a spot between the fields and their bedding areas and catch them heading back to their beds in the morning. The prime time for deer movement is early in the morning until about a half hour after sunrise. I did see some deer, but only 5 does and one small buck, but nothing even close to what I was looking for.

Around 8:30am I started walking to see if I could find any promising spots to be sitting the next morning and 5 miles later I was back at the truck. I moved to a different spot on the east side of the property around lunchtime and found a nice tall hill that gave me a good view of the surrounding area. I bumped 3 does near the hill and thought it might be a good place to eat lunch and see if I could see anything moving. I ate lunch and got restless, so I put my backpack back on and started walking, looking for sign and thinking I might bump some more deer out of their beds, maybe even a good buck. No such luck, but I put another 3 miles on my boots according to my gps. Between the sand and the hills, I was getting pretty tired by the time I made it back to the truck this time and decided that my evening hunt wasn't going to involve as much walking!

I went up to the north edge of the property thinking I might catch some deer moving into the alfalfa fields before it got too dark. I sat down around 2:00pm and sunset wasn't until 4:50 so I brought a book along to read to pass the time. Around 4:30 things started looking interesting, but I didn't see anything moving. At sunset I wasn't very optimistic, and I got distracted by the sunset and took some pictures with my camera. I'm not a good enough photographer to really do it much justice (and I was using a little cannon point and shoot camera), but it really was a beautiful sunset.

After taking several pictures (I did disable the flash), I looked around and thought I saw a deer standing there looking at me a couple hundred yards away. I carefully picked my binoculars up and sure enough, it was a deer, and it was a buck! We had a stare off contest for what seemed like forever but was probably only 3 or 4 minutes, and then he started coming my way. I was tucked up under a bush and in full camo except for my hat so I guess he couldn't see me very well. It was pushing legal shooting light, and I could see that he was a decent buck, his antlers were as wide as his ears (generally considered 24" for a muley) and pretty tall, but they weren't very heavy and I could only count 3 tines on one side so I ended up passing on him. He moved off to my west toward the alfalfa field and I waited 10 or 15 minutes until it was pretty dark and then stumbled back through the sand hills to the alfalfa field and then back to the truck. The gps showed a measly 1 mile on my boots on that trip for a total of 9 miles for the day. I was tired!

I was in bed by 8:00pm and set my alarm for 4:30am the next morning. I was going to go back to the big hill on the east side of the property and see if I could catch some deer moving through back to their bedding areas. It was overcast and foggy and I couldn't see much past 200 yards for the first hour or so, but it started to clear up a little and I had pretty good visibility around sunrise at 6:15. After 2 hours on the hill I still hadn't seen a thing. It was quiet and things just seemed dead. I was second guessing myself on passing that buck the night before, and I was really starting to think I should have taken him. Coulda, shoulda, woulda...

I decided to start walking instead of just sitting there, and about 300 yards to the west I bumped 3 does out of their beds. The predominate wind is from the southwest and pretty much all the deer I had bumped from their beds were on hillsides facing north. I checked out a spot that I had seen from the hill that looked promising, but didn't see much sign there. Went over the ridge and saw a spot on a north facing hillside that looked pretty deery. Some good brush at just about the right spot. Started walking toward it and about 100 yards away from the brush, HE popped up out of some grass. He was only about 50 yards away and it was pretty easy to tell right away he was a shooter.

He was looking straight at me, but I didn't want to wait for a better angle, because once an older buck like this one starts moving, they generally don't stop until they are long gone. I just dropped to a knee, pulled up and shot. He just stood there. I automatically chamber another round every time I fire, so I shot again and hit him solid. He struggled for a few seconds and then went down. I was surprised that I missed from 50 yards, but chalked it up to nerves. I called my wife and told her I had a big buck down, but I didn't know how big.

It all happened so fast I didn't have a chance to take my backpack off or anything. It's kind of funny that I've been collecting all these gadgets (range finder, gps, removable bi-pod, spotting scope, etc.) and when it comes down to actually shooting something it seems like I rarely if ever end up using them. This was just a bam, bam transaction. From the time the deer stood up to the time he was on the ground was probably only 10 to 15 seconds. When I caped him out it turns out I didn't miss with the first shot, but it might as well have been a miss. It was a through and through flesh wound on his right shoulder that would have hurt for a while, but almost certainly wouldn't have been a fatal wound. Hard to believe that I made a bad shot from that distance, and even harder to believe that he didn't even flinch or jump or run when I hit him with that first shot, but I'm sure glad he stuck around and let me get that second shot off!

5 minutes later I walked over to him and he was BIG! 6x6! He definitely is an older deer and his antlers have great character.Tailgate tape job has him at 181 7/8! Biggest deer I've ever killed by far. (My 2007 Muley was 145") I caped him out and quartered him on the spot, and his quarters, backstraps and some neck meat wouldn't all fit in one cooler! He was easily over 250lbs on the hoof. He's at the taxidermist now, but he said he would let me have the antlers back and his jawbones until he gets the cape back from the tannery. I'll score him again when I get the antlers back now that my hands aren't shaking and I'll send the lower incisors off to the lab to get a solid age on him. My gut feel has him at about 6 or 7 years old.

The only negative was that since I was hunting by myself, I was using my backpack for a tripod and my camera on a timer. I've used the timer before and the pictures turned out fine in the past. On the viewfinder the pictures looked okay, but it turns out that the camera was focusing on some blades of grass right in front of the camera and not on me and the deer. You can get a general idea from the pictures, but I sure wish they turned out better. I know to clear the area in front of the camera better in the future.
The focus on this one is better, my head is just chopped off!

I stopped by the house to unhitch the travel trailer before heading into town to meet the taxidermist to drop him off, so we took the opportunity to get a picture with Eli. He thought it was pretty neat! He doesn't refer to it as shooting a deer, he calls it "booming" a deer. So according to him, I "boomed a big deer"!

I did recover the bullet and was pretty impressed that it had lived up to it's advertising. I was shooting Winchester E-tips and they advertise 90% weight retention and good expansion. I found the bullet just inside the skin right next to the right hindquarter when I was quartering it out. The bullet had traveled about 3 feet to get where it was at and looked just like the ones in the advertisements. The rifling marks from the barrel were very distinct on the black bullet.

Well, that's about it for this novel. Overall I would have to say it was a VERY successful hunt.

When I took it into the taxidermist he said that was a deer of a lifetime and it is true so far for me. I don't think I'll quit hunting though!

I'm actually planning on going hunting on my own property toward the end of this week. I don't think there are any deer close to that size on my property, but there are a few on my hit list that I would like to see in person. A 150" whitetail would be about the equivalent to a 180" mule deer and I have a couple bucks that might be pushing that mark. Having a buck like this at the taxidermist will make it easier to pass up that 130" 3 1/2 year old if I see him though!

That's it for now. Nathan

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Newest toy is here!

Well, my new electric golf cart is here! I'm pretty happy with it. I talked them into throwing in a few extras and they knocked a little off the price so I went ahead and got one of the camo ones.

I've already sent 2 referrals to them who ended up buying carts as well, and I've told a bunch more about them so I think they should still be okay after knocking a little off the price. After you figure in the electric vehicle credit of $5,335.60 on this model, it costs less than most 250cc 2 wheel drive ATVs.

Here's the cart home and unloaded. It has a full windshield that the demo cart didn't have and I really like the look of the black seats and black wheels over the tan seats and steel wheels on the one that I demo'd. It's street legal with blinkers, a horn, lights, etc. The new one seems to be a little tighter overall and doesn't creak and squeak like the demo version did, but I'm sure after enough bumpy rides it will get some creaks and squeaks of it's own.

Here's another picture of it. The back seat folds down to a platform and I'm going to build a wooden box that will sit on the platform that I'll use for hauling things like logs and rocks along with things like my chainsaw, etc. That way I won't have to strap things down and I think it will prolong the life of the platform and the seats underneath as well. I already bought a winch for it at Harbor Freight and will also be buying a gun rack for it off ebay. We took a little family drive around the property with it when I got it home and were rewarded by seeing a couple small mule deer bucks on the western edge of the property. We would have probably still seen them if we were on a 4 wheeler or in the pickup, but I don't think the cart being very quiet hurt anything. We got within 100 yards of them before they saw us and decided to run away.

I'll be heading out to New Mexico tomorrow evening for opening day over there on Saturday. Hopefully I'll be updating the blog with a successful mule deer hunt before too long!

That's it for now. Nathan

Monday, November 2, 2009

Trick or Treat... My 100th Post

I thought about making some kind of special post for my 100th post, but instead I'll just keep doing what the blog was intended to be, keeping an online diary of what's going on.

Of course Saturday was Halloween and we took Eli out Trick or Treating. I still have yet to see anyone giving out tricks instead of treats on Halloween, but I guess at some point that was an option!

Eli dressed up as Superman for Halloween this year and seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. Our church has been doing a "Trunk and Treat" for several years and we did that this year for the 2nd time. We probably had around 200 trick or treaters stop by our tailgate in right at 1 hour while we were there. Eli made the rounds and nearly ended up with as much candy as we gave out!

Here he is in his Superman costume. I think he was expecting this guy to pour the entire bowl of candy into his bag! He really seemed to enjoy passing out the candy to the other trick or treaters, but there were a few that scared him and instead of giving them candy, he covered his eyes! You probably can't see me in the picture since I'm dressed in all camo. ;-)
Some of our friend's son from church also ended up dressed as superman. I think they were discussing who the real superman was here.
I uploaded about 3 or 4 months worth of pictures into Eli's gallery last night, and am now pretty much caught up. There are a lot of pictures from this summer and fall in there including some from the elk hunting trip to Wyoming and several others. I really thought this picture of him in the sunflower field was cute. He is starting to say "cheese" for the camera, the only problem is that when he says "cheese" and smiles really big, he generally closes his eyes!
Here's a BUNCH more pictures of him if you are interested -

Well, that's about it for this post. Some beautiful West Texas fall weather recently here. Hope everyone is doing really well.