Tuesday, October 28, 2014

weekend recap, part II: was it him?

Oh, hello again! Are you ready for round 2 of my weekend recap? As you know, I had a successful hunt on Friday evening, bagging a nice doe and thus beginning to refill our freezer. All antsy & bothered by the desire to shoot a nice buck, I headed back to the stand early Saturday morning to give it another try. With the rut getting underway, it was my hope that a love-struck buck would let down his guard and follow a doe right to my field. I saw a deer sneak across the field just before it was light enough to really see, but I guess I will never know what it was... Maybe it was a ghost, or maybe my eyes were just playing tricks on me. Who knows?
It was a crisp, beautiful morning, with an unreal sunrise that crept through the trees in the woods behind my stand. It created this warm golden light that made everything look like it was glowing. I really wish the photo could do it justice, but I don't think that's something you can quite capture on camera. That's when the previously silent woods started to wake up, and all the critters along with it. Aside from your usual birds & squirrels, it was an incredibly noisy morning. Between the largest woodpecker I have ever seen (literally thought it was a fox squirrel when I caught a glimpse of it before I spotted his red head), to an actual fox squirrel that decided to torment me for the next 2 hours, it was all I could do to concentrate on the task at hand - a buck.

Once it was light enough to see across the field and into the woods a bit, I started to scan the trees and beyond for movement. Unfortunately, I was using my rangefinder to assist me, as I had forgotten my binoculars (forgetting to add those to my own essentials - shame on me!). Today, it really hindered me. The rangefinder helps, but is nothing like actual binocs. But, I hunted on. On one particular scan of the woods, a slight movement caught my eye. Actually, it was more of a sudden stop in movement. Through the lens of the rangefinder, I squinted to make sure I knew what I was looking at. A buck was standing about 10 yards into the woods & had just paused to scan the field. Although I couldn't see a lot of detail, I could easily make out the large body, lighter hair inside his perked ears & under his chin/neck, and horns. It was pretty obvious - this was a niiiiiice buck. His antlers weren't super light, but had more of a brown tone to them, leading me to think it was this guy:
OMG I KNOW. This photo was snapped by the same trail cam as those on Friday's hunt super early in the season - a rare daytime shot of a mature buck. He's since only been spotted on camera very late at night & the wee hours of the morning. As quietly and quickly as I could, without too much movement, I put down the rangefinder and raised my rifle to get a better look see if I could make a shot. By the time I'd done so, there was nothing but a gap in the trees where he'd been standing. Bottom line - I am not sure if it was this buck, but if it wasn't, there's another shooter lurking in the woods out there. Aaaand - cue the heart pounding.

The rest of my hunt was fairly uneventful, even though I sat until a little after 11 am. I did, however, hear 2 bucks sparring in the woods over my right shoulder. Even though I never saw them, it was very entertaining to listen to their little tussle. The photo below was snapped on Sunday morning. No idea if these are the same guys I heard on Saturday, but boys will be boys, huh?
My last bit of entertainment came from my turkey friends returning to the field for their breakfast. (Or brunch? Do turkeys brunch? Or is that a ridiculous question? Don't answer that.) They hung out for about 45 minutes before heading back into the woods, leaving me with my thoughts for the remainder of my hunt.
I sat again Saturday afternoon with no success either, and decided to sleep through my alarm Sunday morning. Per the trail cam, there was no evidence of any deer coming in to feed that morning once it was light outside - the last photo we have was at 5:36 am. I guess I'll never know, though, if Mr. Shooter Buck snuck in on the edge, though!

All in all, though, I would say it was a very active and successful weekend, wouldn't you?
I can't wait to do it again soon... Happy hunting!

Monday, October 27, 2014

weekend recap, part I: filling our freezer

Happy Monday, friends! I hope everyone had a great weekend. The weather around here was absolutely perfect (and still is), and we were able to spend the entire weekend outside... And by "outside," I mean I spent around 10 hours in the deer stand. Oops. But! It was actually a successful weekend for me on the deer hunting front - doe tag filled, freezer [on its way to being] filled again! Since we ran out of venison a few months ago and really haven't had much time to do some serious deer hunting, it was definitely at the top of my to-do list to at least harvest a doe for us. And if a nice buck walked out instead? Well... I think you and I both know what I would do.
So, late Friday afternoon, it was into the stand for me, with John setting up in another field, and our pal Davis doing the same. Between the 3 of us, we knew we had to have some success. There are oh-so-many does on the property, so it was bound to happen. It was a gorgeous afternoon, too, so that made it extra fun.
Yes, this is the same stand where I sat before, and 99% of the time I am at least entertained by some sort of wildlife - everything from talkative turkeys to fox squirrels too large and loud for their own good. And while I did have a bit of a slow start to my hunt (hardly a bird for the first hour), it wasn't too long before the real entertainment started. Around 5:30, a nice-sized doe wandered out from the woods, followed immediately by another slightly smaller deer.
What is cool about this particular stand/feeder is that we've got a trail cam set up on the tree right at the edge of the field. If you look closely, you can see a tiny black box near the base of the pine. With the camera taking photos, it was neat to see what my hunt looked like from the field:
(Its date/time is off by 1 day and 1 hour, so this was 10/24/14 at 17:36, or 5:36 pm)
It was clear to me that I was looking at an old[er] deer an a young deer - the first was quite grey and just looked much more weathered. As I watched for the next 10 minutes or so, a 3rd little deer came out to join the first two. I raised my rifle to take a look at exactly what I was seeing - I absolutely did not want to mistake a button buck for a doe, and sometimes it is really hard to tell (particularly from 90 yards away).  
Sure enough, the harder I looked, the more it became apparent - this was a little button buck, and the second deer was, in fact, a small spike. They milled around, snacking and sniffing, for a few more minutes, and the doe started to wander back towards the woods (out of the trail cam's field of view).
The doe was over to the right and back about 15 yards from this photo's point of view. After another 10+ minutes, I knew that if she went much farther I would lose my shot & my chance to bring home some venison. Even though I had the rest of the weekend to hunt, I had no idea if I would get another chance. And I've really been craving a good bowl of chili. So, I focused my rifle, waited a few second for the doe to turn broadside again, aimed & took a deep breath. When I fired my shot, the two little bucks looked up & froze, obviously startled, for a split second before high-tailing it back into the woods. 
And the doe? Dead as a hammer, right where she'd been standing. Never knew what hit her (I say that as I pat myself on the back for a clean, spot-on kill shot - I hate to do otherwise). Incidentally, it was almost the exact spot where this guy fell last year. 

Since it was still pretty early in the evening, I knew the other guys in the stand would want to sit until dark, so I was on my own for the next little while in trying to get out of the field with my harvest. I would have just waited until dark to move, but the crows & other birds started making such a racket with a dead deer in view that I knew my chances of another deer coming out were super slim. I waited another 20 minutes or so before climbing down, and went to check out my deer. I must have been just out of view, but I so wish that the trail cam had captured me dragging this deer towards the field's exit path & my oh-so-sad-but-probably-hilarious attempt to get it on the 4wheeler. I am not exactly a weight-lifter, but I fancy myself in at least decent shape (thank you, wedding prep). And yet, I could. not. make. this. happen. I can only imagine the photos as I tried for the next 30 minutes to [very unsuccessfully] "do it all by myself." It hit me around the time when I was standing on the seat of the 4 wheeler, the deer's hind legs in my hands,a rope that went from her waist to my waist for extra pull, leaning back at what I am guessing is about a 45* angle and the deer still not budging, that, oh wait, I am incredibly accident-prone and this might not turn out so well if I don't quit while I don't have a broken limb. Sad Hollis. And thank you, Davis, for your help when you were finished. When I say I couldn't have done it alone, we know I actually mean it. 

In all of my excitement & frustration, I never even took a picture of my kill once the hunt was said and done. I know! I am kicking myself. I wish I had a photo for you. Once we got to the processor (sans phone or camera, of course), we had the doe weighed - right at 100 lbs. Solid! Seeing as that is about 75% of my own body weight, it's [now] not a surprise I couldn't lift it. Me? Stubborn? Never!

Even though I am paying the price of a pulled back today, I am pumped to have had a successful hunt. Now that I'd gotten a nice doe, it was time to set my sights on a buck for the remainder of the weekend. More on that tomorrow! Stayed tuned, & happy hunting!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

i'm back!

Hello hello, long lost friends! My deepest apologies for going AWOL the past two weeks. I DO have a [very] valid excuse though - Mr. Lumpkin & I got married! With an incredible event created by the ah-mazing Calder Clark (think: trees in the tent & dueling Scotch bars), And then promptly went to Belize for a week of fun. With that being said, I just wanted to hop in and update y'all, and let you know that I have tons of fantastic photos & videos from our adventures in Belize. We spent 3 days bone fishing - shocking, I know - and managed to snag a trip out to the Great Blue Hole so John could dive and I could. snorkel. We GoPro'd all of our activities & took around 500 photos, so I will be sorting through it all over the next week or two and showing you just what all we did!

In the meantime, I will leave you with a photo that seems to be making its way around the interwebs & social media. It was taken by the always amazing Virgil Bunao during my bridal portrait session at John's parent's - the same place that this occured about a year ago! Some might find it a little cheesy (and that's ok!), but I think it sums up who I am in a nutshell. It's probably no surprise that having hair & makeup done and jumping in front of a camera wasn't exactly my cup of tea (I never know what do to with my hands either, Ricky Bobby). Virgil got me through the "bridal" part of the photo session, and we casually mentioned that I did, in fact, have my favorite over/under in my car. He immediately said we had to get a photo with it, and I was all on board. Hair thrown up in a pony tail, Ray Bans on, and shotgun in hand. Here is your Bright Side of the Road bride, true to form!

I can't wait to share the rest of the week with everyone!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

weekend recap: 0 for 2

Over the weekend I made it my mission to spend some serious time in the deer stand. I haven't been able to deer hunt much this season so far, and last weekend was perfect for it. Not hot at all, nice and overcast, and more than promising. "Promising," you ask? Yes. After checking a few trail cams, I was after this guy:
I knowww. He's a stud. Pardon the grainy photo - it's a screen-shot from the video I have of him sneaking away from the field just after dark. I figured that even if I didn't see him, I could bag a doe and help fill our freezers. We are all running on empty as far as venison goes, and the upcoming fall and winter months are just begging for some venison chili.
So, I hopped in the stand around 4 PM on Saturday, got settled, and waited. Knowing that dark was over 3 1/2 hours away, I had brought my iPad in anticipation of reading. In actuality, I didn't even take it out of my backpack. I was so hellbent on seeing any deer at all that big buck, I practically bugged my eyes out of my head scanning the edge of the field and the woods beyond, hoping to catch one sneaking by.
After more than two hours of seeing absolutely nothing, three nice turkeys (1 gobbler & 2 hens) came out to do a little bugging in the field. They were pretty entertaining to watch, and they stayed in the field around 45 minutes. At one point, I accidentally knocked my water bottle into my chair with a loud bang, but they weren't startled. At all. Barely lifted their heads to see what the noise was. I swear, they absolutely know when it is not turkey season... And when it is...
Alas, around 7:15 a little tiny doe wandered into the field to feed. "Tiny" as in "just lost her spots, like, yesterday" tiny. Too little for me to want to shoot, I watched her until it was just too dark to see. I would have taken a photo of her through the scope, but she kept looking back towards one corner of the field like another deer was going to come out, so I kept as still and as quiet as possible. But nothing ever came out... Boo. Having had no luck Saturday evening, decided I would get to bed early, wake refreshed, and give it a try Sunday morning! 
Well. Little did I know that my body would decide that 3:15 AM was the appropriate time to wake up "refreshed". Wide. Ass. Awake. Oh joy. Even though it made for a pretty sleepy afternoon, it did allow me to get into the stand by 5:45 with no problem. So there I sat. As quiet as a church mouse, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark and for the sun to rise just enough to see across the field. I was convinced that a deer (preferably a big buck) would creep up from the edge of the woods to check out the food, and step forward just enough for me to take a clear & clean shot. CONVINCED.
By 10:30 I had not seen one deer. Not one! My only entertainment came from my three turkey friends who came back to the field for a little breakfast. I hunted hard, again, and made sure nothing was going to sneak by me.
I had one moment of excitement where I was almost positive a deer was coming towards me through the woods to my right, only to discover that a monster fox squirrel had decided to make it his mission to trick me for the next 20 minutes. Thanks.

Bottom line? I came out of the weekend empty-handed. I was 0 for 2 on my weekend of hunting. I gave it my best college try, and plan on doing the same thing as many more times this season as I can. Those turkeys, by the way? Even less scared of me that morning. I had packed up all of my gear, taken off my face mask & gloves, climbed down from the stand, and was walking out of the field before they decided to run waddle off. While they are very fast, and I know turkeys think they're running, that's not running. They look too silly to call that running. Do you know what I mean?
Someone large had passed this way very recently...

It's still early in the season, and the rut has not yet begun. I'll tell you what, though. I will be in that stand as soon as it is underway. Who's with me?