Friday, November 21, 2014

VIDEO DIARY: Belize 2014, part III

It's Friday! It's Friday! Who else is super pumped? Yes, it is the weekend (at last), but don't forget what else that means... Duck season opens tomorrrrowwwww around here. YES. But! Before I get all distracted, I will share with you the 3rd & final video from our honeymoon in Belize - a quick compilation of 3 days of bonefishing! Well, if you remember, it was actually 2 half days and 1 full day mixed around the diving & snorkeling & sharks oh my... But you get the idea.
I used a fly rod for the majority of our fishing, and John mostly stuck to conventional tackle, but we both were successful in the angling department. Even though 2 of our days were fairly slow, we really got on the fish on the 3rd day and had an [even more] awesome time.
Even though I caught more fish than John can't remember our exact final tally, I at least have tons of photos & video to take me right back to those flats any time I want. From the crazy tailing bonefish to the permit we were *this close* to catching, this was definitely a highlight of an already incredible trip. Enjoy!

If you are having trouble viewing this video, click here to watch it on YouTube.

Now let's go get some ducks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

weekend recap: the ultimate goal

How about this weather, huh? And how typical is it of good ol' South Carolina? I had on shorts yesterday and just about need long underwear today. Speaking of chilly weather, a nice little front moved in over the weekend and we were able to do quite a bit of hunting in the newly crisp weather. I sat in the deer stand most of the weekend, and even squeezed in a quick dove hunt on Saturday afternoon for opening day of the second season. I was only in the field for about 45 minutes since I wanted to get in the deer stand a little early, but I shot a few times and managed to knock down 3 doves.
Then it was back to deer hunting. Although I did not manage to bag a deer (I didn't even see one on Friday afternoon), it was an exciting weekend on the deer hunting front nonetheless. I put up a new stand last Sunday before we headed home, and was so excited to be able to get into it over the weekend. What kind of stand, you ask? My very own climber! There are all sorts of different types, but this is one with no ladder, and it faces the tree. It's one of my dad's that he has had for a while, but this one is basically the same. I have not hunted in a climber much, but it was so exciting to get a little deeper into the woods and have a change of view. Don't worry, always-thinking-ahead Dad got me harness to wear. Let's be honest - if someone is going to fall from a climber, or drop part of it and be left hanging in the tree, it's going to be me.
With a climber set up a little deeper into the woods, I feel like you can see & hear so much more. Sometimes it can kind of be a sensory overload, but it is totally worth it. With the slightest bit of wind, everything is moving, and there is a constant rustling that could mean a.) a creature sneaking through the woods, or b.) you won't hear that creature sneaking by even though it's just a few yards away. But, you are so much less limited, and you can really put one anywhere you want and have a 360* view of the surrounding woods. This is my current climber view:
See what I mean? I didn't get a photo of the view behind me, but you get the idea. With so much wind over the weekend, I honestly didn't have high hopes for seeing much deer activity, and I actually sat in my usual stand Saturday afternoon just for the ease of getting in & out if the weather got too rough. I did see a deer right at the end, but it was really too dark to shoot without being 100% positive it was not a button buck. Meh. I was going to give it a shot Sunday morning in the climber either way. I walked into the woods right at daylight, when it was just light enough to see without using a flashlight, but still early enough to beat the action. I climbed up about 12 feet or so, loaded my rifle, and hunkered down to wait. Around 7:30, I heard a slight rustling over my left shoulder. Sure enough, a doe was creeping along the edge of the woods next to the field, following one of the heavily-used game trails in that area. Rather than go into the field to feed, she meandered back into the woods a little bit, walking right past me in the meantime. And by "right past me," I mean that if I was standing on the ground, I could have held my rifle by the barrel, taken a swing, and smacked her. So. Close. The doe stopped about 15 yards in front of me, having found some delicious snack in the underbrush, and milled around there for about 10 minutes.
I was able to snap a photo or two with my iPhone, moving as slowly and quietly as I possibly could. I was afraid the deer would catch a whiff of my scent, particularly since she crossed over the exact path I used to get to the climber an hour prior, but she didn't. At one point, having turned back around while eating to face me, she lifted her head and looked right smack at my face. I swear, I did not even move my eyeballs for fear of spooking this deer. Apparently my tactic worked - she seemed satisfied that I was just a weird looking tree branch, looked back down, and kept right on snacking. Whew. After another few minutes, she made her way across the woods towards the right, and eventually wandered into the swamp and off to who knows where.
It's pretty obvious that I had more than a few opportunities for a clear shot - so why didn't I take it? Honestly, I was convinced that buck was going to show up, dropping his guard to follow this doe. She kept looking up in one direction in particular, like there was something lurking in the thick brush just out of my field of view, but no buck ever showed up. Not even a fox squirrel. I hunted hard for the next 30 minutes or so to be sure I didn't spot something, but it was a futile effort. Sigh. I was still glad I didn't take the shot even when I had it, though - I'd thought back to a quote I found a few weeks ago about hunting & what it should mean to those who do hunt... It reminded me that this is why I love it - I was in the woods, 10 feet from a deer at one point, and managed to stay perfectly still & hidden despite the rush I still get when I see any deer when I am hunting. I may not get my nice buck this season, and that's a-ok. I am lucky enough to be able to do what I do, as often as I do, and that's good enough for me. I don't think I will ever get tired of it.

PS - Duck season opens Saturday. (!!!!)
Who's excited?

Friday, November 14, 2014

VIDEO DIARY: Belize 2014, part II

It's Friday! Who's excited? I know I am... Aaaand that's because I have part II of our Belize trip for you today, via video, for a little #tbt #fbf Flash Back Friday. I meant to post this yesterday, but a few technical difficulties really did a number on me. BUT! We are back on track and here it is.
We took a day trip to Lighthouse Reef Atoll to dive the Great Blue Hole... Ok, ok. John dove, I stuck to the snorkel. Either way, it was incredible. Belize has one of the largest reefs in the entire world, second only to the Great Barrier Reef, if I am not mistaken. I really wish I had gotten a good shot of the Blue Hole from the boat, but it was such a cloudy day that the grey sky just reflected off of the water and made it hard to tell what you were even looking at.
The all-day trip (leaving the dock around 6 am and returning around 5:30 pm) allows for 3 dives in 3 different locations within Lighthouse Reef, so we were able to see quite a bit of the sea life Belize offers. And by "quite a bit," I mean lots o' fish and lllllllots o' sharks. (Thankfully) John didn't tell me exactly how many he came into contact with until we were back on land, or exactly how close he got to them. I don't mind sharks from the safety of the boat, now, but put me in the water and I'm all dun-nuh-dun-nuh-dun-nuh Jaws-is-coming-after-me-unless-I-swim-faster-than-you... Whew. PASS. Hard pass. But John was all "You swim AT THEM and they get scared of you and won't bother you."
I digress. Back to the video at hand. We both had our GoPros for the entire day, so you can imagine there was quite a bit of footage to comb through, and even more exciting things to see. I've narrowed it all down for you into one video, so you can get an idea of just what all we saw! Enjoy!

If you're having trouble watching this video, click here to view it on YouTube.

See! JAWS. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

weekend recap: fired up

Hi, friends! I hope everyone's week has gotten off to a good start... Is anyone else already ready for Friday? Like more than usual? I know I am. Why, you ask? This past weekend was filled with activity and quite a bit of hunting. Shocking. I know. I am so predictable. BUT. I am extra fired up for several reasons...
I started off my weekend a day early, taking Friday off to go marsh hen hunting with my dad and Douglas (of Big Marsh and the Rascal) in North Inlet. With the season in and the promise of a nice flood tide thanks to the moon, it was a great time to work on our "hensmanship," as we say. Sort of like... Sharkmanship and raymanship? Si? Anyways, back to the hunt. We headed out around 6:30, fortunate enough to see one of the prettiest sunrises I have seen in a while.
I know, right? That moon! The morning was full of promise... Dad and Douglas had hunted the previous morning with success, and I was extra excited to get out there.
Alas, the wind was not in our favor, and the tide did not rise as high as we had anticipated. Since marsh hen hunting revolves around the tide, and those little buggers are experts at hiding in the marsh grass, we unfortunately came away with nothing. Like didn't even pull-the-trigger-nothing. Grrr. It wasn't for lack of trying, though, and I know that sometimes it's just not meant to be. At least we were out there, right?
Back on land, I figured there was no need to dwell on the past. I headed back to our beach house to gather my gear and head to Estherville to hop in the deer stand. I did get a tad distracted in doing so, however. Our beach house is right across from a large pond, and many a duck can always be seen. Little did I know that THIS was the view from our 2nd story porch.
I think their little fannies in the air are so funny. Sadly, no, this is not a pond that one can hunt. I'd probably spend several thousand dollars getting numerous ducks mounted for sure. But doesn't this just get you so fired up for duck season? Black ducks, pintails, widgeon... YES PLEASE. How many different species of ducks can you find? Go here for help.

And now, on to the deer stand. I hunted Friday afternoon to no avail, and had the same luck (or lack thereof) on Saturday morning. I did spot this on the way to the stand, though. 
That track is almost as wide as my foot and half as long. Ahh... The chase for the elusive [monster] whitetail buck continues. Maybe it was this guy? 
I am not sure if this guy is responsible for that track, but he's still there making tracks of his own either way. Perhaps this guy has evaded me yet again...? I may never know. I sat in the stand Saturday afternoon with my dad, and all we saw was a group of racoons coming to feast on the corn. Entertaining, yes, but not what we were hoping for. 
Sunday morning was my last chance for the weekend. When I woke up wide awake at 4:15 I could hear the rain, but knew I couldn't fall back asleep, so I got ready and waited until it was time to head to the field. It was cold and rainy, but I was stubborn and sat it out for much longer than normal. And man am I glad I did. At around 11:20 Sunday morning, a small doe wandered into the field for some brunch. Can't say I blame her - I was getting pretty hungry myself. 
Speaking of getting hungry, we are all in need of venison, and I was encouraged to shoot a doe if I could despite having recently had success in that department. One deer can only get you so far, ya know? I watched this doe for about 15 minutes, wanting to take the shot but secretly hoping a buck would drop his guard and follow her into the field. When I had just about made up my mind to go ahead and shoot, I caught some movement behind her a little deeper into the woods. No way, I thought. NO. WAY. Was I about to hit the jackpot? 
So close! It turned out to be a young 6 point that I have seen on the camera a bunch over the last month or two. While this is not a deer I would shoot this season, it was encouraging to see buck activity during the day and helped keep me entertained for the next 15-20 minutes. After milling around the doe for a few minutes, I guess he decided he didn't want to pick up what she was putting down, so he cantered to the opposite end of the field to enjoy some brunch himself. He will be an even better-looking buck next year, huh?

Whew! What did I tell you? Between marsh hens (I'll get you soon!), ducks (is it duck season yet?), and deer (still waiting on a shooter), I am pretty fired up about hunting after the weekend. 

Tick-tock until Friday!