Central Oklahoma Gunblogger Schutenfest 2014 – Things Learned

Friday:

Haphazardly throwing meat on fire will get the job done, but properly rubbing it and painstakingly monitoring temperatures produces better results. I think we proved this with pork ribs, beef brisket, and even squirrel.

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It’s always a good time for recreational archery, and a worn out archery target is not at all useless. Please see below.

You know the party has warmed up when the swords come out.

It’s awful fun to hack up a used up archery target with a Scottish claymore.

Sitting by the smoker all day is simultaneously relaxing and exhausting.

Saturday:

No matter how well organized you think you are, you will forget something. Targets, tripods, the other camera, revolvers…

Shooting is a depreciable skill, and I personally am not putting in nearly enough trigger time lately.

Rifles should always outnumber people 2:1 in any civilized gathering. A higher concentration of them is even better.

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With many thousands of dollars worth of hardware laying about, sometimes it’s the $4 vinyl decal that steals the show.

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Trophies make good targets.

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Pulling out a life sized mannequin and placing her downrange will excite a line of shooters the same way the ice cream truck does kids in the park.

And then, a half pound of Tannerite will blow her into more pieces than you can count.

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If you want someone to try your gun, seize the opportunity to shove it into their hand along with ammo at the first opportunity.

There’s no better way to wear yourself into exhaustion than a day at the range.

Sunday:

A windy night will do remarkable things to a 40-foot tarp left out.

There’s a lot of fun to be had even on the clean up day.

Often, a $200 rifle is just as much fun as a $2,000 rifle, even when each of them was fully worth the respective purchase price. You’ll probably want at least one of each.

Make sure you have enough charged batteries for all the cameras you might want to run.

You can in fact have too many tripods. This is a relieving, good problem to have.

A home made long bow with a ~40-lb draw weight will launch an arrow at over 100fps and least 100-yards, although the arrow is nearly impossible to track with a camera.

A pound of Tannerite will reduce 120 eggs to a fine layer of goo and tiny shell fragments faster than you can say, “Woah!” Pics and stuff forthcoming.

Overall lessons from the weekend:

When the event is over, you can simultaneously be relieved to get back to normal life and saddened that it couldn’t last longer.

The third weekend in March is a less than ideal calendar date for an event like this.

Sporting clays apparently reproduce. As long as we keep hosting this event, I’m confident I’ll never have to buy another box of the things. Then again, it’s hard to have too many.

There’s no way to accurately guess how much food will be needed in advance, but we got pretty close this time.

I should already know by now, but a gray tarp would be better to photograph and take video on than a blue one.

As wonderful as it is to see the friends who came, and as grateful as you can be for their attendance, there’s always room to miss the ones who couldn’t make it.

ProChrono Digital from Competition Electronics

Some time back, Brownell’s sent me a chronograph to review. Since we have rimfires and centerfires in the house, in long and hand format, as well as a few shotguns, bows, and Nerf and airsoft guns, we felt like we could put it though its paces. The unit that I received is the Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital. Priced at $119.95, I was a little skeptical at first. When the unit arrived, I appreciatively noted the mark on the box reading, “Made in America with Pride.” The packaging is a box sturdy enough for persistent storage and transportation. The unit has a plastic housing with an LCD readout and five control buttons. On the side, it has the power switch and a jack for the optional PC interface (not included, and not reviewed here as of yet). There is a 1/4×20 threaded brass escutcheon in the base for mounting it on a camera tripod and the battery compartment is big enough for two 9v batteries (also not included), although it only plugs into one to function, giving you convenient storage for a spare. The unit also came with guide wires, diffuser hoods, and operating instructions.

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Operation is very simple. Plug in the battery. Flip the power switch on. Shoot over the top of the unit. The diffuser hoods are required for sunny days. When I received the chronograph, it was raining heavily, so guns or archery were out of the question. So, we set it up on a camera tripod in the kitchen and shot Teen Bot’s Nerf gun over it. It is sensitive to speeds from 22 fps to 7000 fps, and the Nerf darts came in erratically between 30 and 60, with most of the readings coming in right around 40 fps. It had a little trouble with my airsoft pistol, but I have been told that these things typically don’t do so well with .22-cal pellets.

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I have used this in my back yard to measure arrow velocities, and the readings seem in line with the claims of the bow manufacturer. It has no trouble with .22lr ammunition through handgun or rifle, and has done well with all centerfire ammo we’ve put across it. I have used this to fine-tune my bow, analyze hand loads, and compare velocities between ammo brands and between barrel lengths for a common ammunition. I don’t have much reference to compare it against, but the readings come out consistently enough per launcher and projectile that I’m inclined to believe that it is accurate enough for most purposes. The only times we have gotten erratic readings have been when we were standing too close to the unit. It will store up to 99 readings in each of nine separate strings, even with the battery unplugged.

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Being such a relatively low-priced unit, I had assumed that there was something about it that lacked quality as compared to some of the more expensive ones. Because of this, I feared that it lacked durability, owing much to the plastic housing. I worried in vain. While set up at the farm, a sudden gust of wind violently toppled the tripod and the chronograph hit the ground hard. When we righted it, we found that it was still powered up, and still functioned normally. I wouldn’t recommend that you throw this unit around carelessly, but it is tougher than you might imagine. Here it is going down:

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This chronograph is very competitively priced, U.S. made, accurate, durable, conveniently portable, and easy to use. It will measure velocity of just about anything that can travel over the sensors and will store data for recording later. It’s a really neat piece of kit, and I honestly can’t imagine not having it at this point. If something should happen to it, I would gladly pay the $120 that Brownell’s charges for it. If you have ever considered purchasing a chronograph for personal use, I would highly recommend that you take a look at the ProChrono Digital.

FTC – this product was provided free of charge from Brownell’s for the purpose of review. They didn’t pay me to say it was good, but sent it to me to wring out and talk about.

KTKC 2013 – Day 16 – Hunting and Scouting

Click here to donate to my KTKC fund.

Photos By Trail Camera

Deer Archery season starts on October 1, along with Fall Turkey and Rabbit season. Squirrels are in season currently. Jennifer and I decided to do some pre-season scouting on Saturday. We stopped at Tractor Supply to buy some salt licks for the deer. It’s a little late in the season for this, and the bucks have long since eaten the last mineral lick as their antlers have grown in this spring and summer. A four-pound mineral lick, about the size of a brick, costs around $5 at the local sporting goods store. By comparison, a fifty-pound block is about the same price at Tractor Supply. They had a few variations, so I got a plain white block, a sulfur block, and a trace mineral block. We shall see what the deer like the most.

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I put small game heads on my arrows, in case we crossed paths with any squirrels, and finally got to try my bow sling that Tanner Hann from Slogan Outdoors hooked me up with.* I may have to write a fuller review of this excellent product, but I thought I would mention it here.

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From the pictures we collected on the game camera, it looks like the deer herd is at least twice as big as it was last year, with several bucks, quite a few does, and a couple of fawns and yearlings.

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If I understand correctly, we’re going to want to cull out a buck or two to keep the male to female proportion properly balanced. Here’s the young one that looks like good stock to leave for next year:

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It’s so funny how they sometimes seem to pose for the camera.

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Of course, there are babies.

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Daaawwwww! Almost too cute to eat!

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And, one gregarious turkey.

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Last year and the year before, I may have fudged the kilt thing once or twice. This year, I’ve made a hard and fast commitment to not wear pants for the month.

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In the spring, the ticks and poison ivy were so bad that there was no way I was going out with uncovered skin. So, I donned my black leggings under my 5.11 TDK and combat boots. This had mixed results. My cousins had mowed and baled in the west field, but it’s been so rainy that the grass has grown up tall and thick again.

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Much of the grass is actually taller than the round bales at this point. And, the stickers are terrible this year.

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Jennifer and I picked no fewer than a jillion stickers out of our clothing. Incidentally, they stick really well to leggings under a kilt.

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The golden orb weavers have been prolific this year, guarding their distinctive webs with the Jacob’s Ladder zig-zag up the center.

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We’re also seeing a whole lot more thistles than in previous years. They were in full bloom this weekend.

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We spotted this on the ground. Does that look like a pheasant feather to you?

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I hadn’t ever seen pheasants on the property, but I wouldn’t rule it out completely. Overall, I’d say it was a good trip, and I’m feeling quite optimistic for deer season here in a couple of weeks.

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The Slogan Outdoor sling performed exactly as I have wished for a bow sling. It was comfortable and secure for all of our hiking. The stabilizer fell off my bow at some point in time. I knew that the chances of finding it in the grass were slim to none, so I ordered a replacement on Amazon.

Again, please do support me on the Kilted To Kick Cancer drive to fight male-specific cancers. Click here to donate. And, huge thanks to those of you who have already so generously donated!

*Tanner at Slogan provided the sling at no cost, for the purpose of review.

Glow Ball Warmening?

The weather has been weird this year. We have had our cold spells, and we even got a little snow on the ground. But, it’s been warm enough for the last few days that a coat hasn’t been necessary. That’s weird for January in Oklahoma. Although for a few years we had an odd neighbor who wore shorts all year, even in the snow. I didn’t think he even owned any long pants until he got all dressed up in his khakis and button down one day. Anyway, I don’t know that there’s any truth to global warming, but why should that keep us from doing our part to help save the planet? In the last year, we’ve made some ecologically smart changes in our life. Jennifer started using this special climate control shampoo.

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And then, she stepped it up a notch and recycled her hair.

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I’ve been trying renewable shaving with limited success.

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I switched to zero-emission hunting and we’ve been eating as much free range meat as we can.

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Please note my naturally cooling unbifurcated garment. We once posed in an electric car.

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And we’ve been using organic heaters.

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And, we even set Jay G on fire!

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Alright, so that last one didn’t really help the environment so much – it was mostly just for fun. Besides that, he made this face at me:

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Tell me you wouldn’t have set him on fire yourself! Yeah, that might have not really happened. Nerd beer was involved and the details get a little fuzzy.

At any rate, we were under a tornado watch this morning. That just doesn’t happen in January. We didn’t get blown away, but we did get a lot of much-needed rain. And, now you can see how hard we’ve been working to combat climate change. So, what are you doing to make the world a better place?

*No bloggers were actually harmed or set on fire in the composition of this post. We here at evylrobot.com do not condone violence against gun bloggers. Any likenesses to any characters, real or imaginary, might or might not be a weird coincidence. Also, squirrels are tasty.

Nikon AW100 Review

Digital photography is one of those things that was weird to see the consumer inception of, especially given the ubiquitousness of it now. Indeed, for the first years of our marriage, we didn’t have so much as an internet connection or computer in the household, so a digital camera would have been utterly useless. We had a couple of 35mms and a little Polaroid, and somewhere we have boxes and boxes of prints and negatives, like many other established households. Once when we upgraded our mobile phones, the neew hawtness was this nifty little flip with color screens and a built in camera of all things! For months, onlookers were shocked to see me taking pictures (however rudimentary, grainy, and low-res) with my phone, especially quaint and hilarious considering how often you can catch people mistakenly using the words ‘camera’ and ‘phone’ interchangeably at this point. I remember when my dad dropped his 35mm SLR while on vacation, and I thought he was going to be sick. When he was told that the camera couldn’t be fixed, he saved up his money and bought a new Cannon Rebel DSLR. I was fascinated. By that point in time, I believe we had an HP desktop we purchased from a Wal Mart Slaughterhouse Black Friday sale, and a couple/few Linux boxes. I’m nearly certain I was running my Hydra, a home-brewed, triple-display, ‘nix-powered affront of technology that was pieced together with the cannibalized remains of dead computers, and ran visual effects in the GUI that still wouldn’t be seen in the world of Windows for several years yet. But I digress…

Jennifer decided that she’d like to have a digital camera. On her blog, she has briefly mentioned her old Olympus Stylus 600. We had a lot of good times with that little all-weather camera and its massive, 1-GB XD card. In fact, a few weeks ago, we discovered that the card was still loaded up with a bunch of old pictures. When it came time for a replacement, we found a LNIB Nikon P80 for a fantastic price at the local pawn shop. After running that one until she outgrew it, we purchased a new Nikon D3100 for her last year after Christmas. That was around the time that I purchased my bow. Of course, phones were upgraded over the years. Now, the camera built into my Galaxy Epic 4G takes pics to compete with the old Olympus for image quality, and at a higher resolution to boot. Even so, I started to feel the need for a dedicated point and shoot, something that would take better images than my phone, and preferably something that would take good video, and that would go everywhere with me, no matter the weather or circumstances. Having spent quite a bit of time myself with Jennifer’s P80 and then D3100, I turned a biased eye towards Nikon and their AW100.

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Of course, I considered several other options while shopping, not to miss out on a better fit because of said bias. I checked out Cannon’s Powershot D20 and Olympus’ TG series cameras, and I even took a look at the GoPro Hero 2 and the Contour Roam, just to broaden my scope. The latter two really weren’t in the product family that I was looking for, although I’ll probably wind up with such toys before I die. I honestly didn’t know what GoPro was before I ran into a Hero display at Target one day – that probably catalyzed me wanting a waterproof/shockproof camera. Anyway, after considering all the options, I decided that I did like the Nikon the best. The combination of controls, capabilities, size & shape, local support, and product familiarity influenced me to go home with an AW100. Nikon was running a special at the time, so I got a package that included a little carry case and a three-year extended warranty. Since that day, my AW100 goes just about everywhere with me. What came in the box (short of the camera and batter, which were employed for the picture):

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The carry case (upper right) turned out to be entirely too bulky to be useful, so it now lives in the box with the other unused items. Under it, you can see a stack of paperwork and CDs. It also came with a lens filter adapter (upper left), a USB cable, a useless A/V cable, and a useless neck strap that I tried using until I replaced it with a wrist strap that I stole off another camera that was laying around, nearly forgotten in its obsolescence. Oh yeah, and the battery charger – it only takes a couple of hours for the battery to reach full charge, and that will support quite a bit of time for my purposes. I usually wind up charging it once a week or so, but it depletes at the worst possible times. On Saturday, I was trying to get some good pics of a red tail hawk that was circling low overhead when the battery tanked on me.

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A word of advice – if you get a camera like this, get a couple extra batteries. You can find the Nikon-branded batteries on Amazon for around $20, and third-party replacements for a quarter of that. As you can imagine, the battery only dies when you are using the camera, which is by definition, the least convenient time for it to happen. As to the storage card, I’m running an HP-branded 32GB Class 10 SDHD. I may replace this with one of the wi-fi cards from Transcend or Eye-Fi so I can access pics and videos wirelessly from my Android or laptop. It would be nice to not break the water seal as often as I do for file transfers. Here’s a self-portrait:

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I boldly chose the orange variation over blue or black. This little camera boasts a 16MP CMOS sensor, full 1080p video with stereo sound, GPS, compass, 5x optical zoom Nikor lens, and it is waterproof to 33-feet and shockproof from a 5-foot drop. I have dragged this thing through the woods, swimming pools, and like I said – about everywhere I go.

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Despite my inadvertent and sometimes deliberate rough treatment of the camera, the bright orange case is not even showing any wear. At lower resolution, it will capture video at 240fps, for smooth, slow-motion playback, as seen in this video of Firehand:

Of course, the video is not going to surpass a dedicated camcorder, but I would say that the video quality more-or-less hangs with JayG’s Sony. That is to say that the disparity from the two sources is hardly noticeable in this, now world-famous video:

I flushed the camera in the toilet while recording video, but it turned out pretty boring. Washing the camera after the fact came out pretty interesting, by comarison!

At first, I found the menus to be slightly confusing, and I still haven’t figured out how to work everything it will do. Facial recognition and geotagging are nifty features that I probably wouldn’t have thought about building into a camera. I do wish that there were more manual options like on Jennifer’s D3100 or even her old P80, but this is a minor complaint in the long run. It’s not a DSLR, and can’t be expected to do the job of one – it will happily go places you wouldn’t dare drag your DSLR! Although you’ll get better video quality from a camcorder, this one stands in quite nicely for the same purpose. The GoPro and Roam cameras are far tougher and more waterproof, but they are purpose built and don’t stand in very well for a point-and-shoot. the high-speed video settings are cool, but it won’t catch bullets in the air at high resolution like a Phantom, but it doesn’t command a fraction of the price tag either. It’s more compact than a lot of its competitors and has a mind-blowing feature set crammed into the little package. What I was after was a rugged point-and-shoot that had extended features for other uses. I feel like I got that in spades. Basically, what it comes down to is if you need a camera for a specialized purpose, you can probably spend your money better. If however, you want a compact camera that can do almost anything pretty well, indoors or outdoors, in rough conditions, or even under water, I would highly recommend Nikon’s AW100.

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Deer Season Wrap Up

At the end of the year, my hunting license expired, as did my unfilled deer tags. I went ahead and purchased my 2013 hunting license as well as one more deer tag, since I had another two weeks to hunt. I figured if I shot a deer, it counts towards 2012, and if not, I’d have it in the fall. Things were slow going for the last two weeks, with many excuses to not get out to the farm including weather and other engagements. Well, we went out on Tuesday afternoon, as it was the last day of the season.

The drive out was pleasant and uneventful. When we made our way into the hollow, we spotted three does. They were very familiar to us as we have seen this trio countless times in pictures and in real life. This was the same doe and her two yearlings that we spotted when we took Teen Bot out for Youth Deer Gun in October. Indeed, this was the very same doe that he passed up the shot on for multiple moral dilemmas. Good kid.

Those two yearlings have grown a lot in the last few months. Now they are nearly as big as their mother. Before I could get within one hundred yards of them, they spotted me and walked into the woods to watch me from there. I stopped and waited quietly to see what would happen. The slightly larger offspring walked back out from the treeline and watched me. With her ears erect and her nose pointed at me, she laid down in the grass and waited as I waited. I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture of her, at the full 5x optical zoom that my Nikon affords me. I didn’t bother posting the picture. You can see the doe if you know where to look, but I felt like it would be useless here.

So, there we sat in a man versus nature game of chicken; me not daring to move for fear of spooking them, the deer not daring to move for fear of me. The slightly smaller yearling tentatively walked from the treeline and stood beside her sister. With fifteen minutes left of the season, we waited, staring at each other. Neither one of them was in a position for an ethical kill and they were out of bow range anyway. Then suddenly, the three of them made an about face and bounded off to their left, up the trail that they’d carved through the woods toward the car path.

I swapped out the SD card in the camera in the hollow. With ten minutes to spare, we headed back up the trail, swapping out the card in the other camera along the way. I hoped to cross paths with them again at the top of the property with minutes to spare before the end of shooting hours. When we made it back to the gate, the deer were nowhere to be seen and it was time to call it quits. Oh well. Although there was no harvest, the hunt was good. I learned a lot and feel like I have skills that I can put to work in the fall.

As we drove back towards the city, we mused together about the combined deer seasons, and what we had learned. We even laughed about the fact that this particular doe had so narrowly escaped on so many occasions. I was about to take the turn from the property road onto the main road when something came out of nowhere and struck the front of the car in a flash of gray and a startling thud.

“What the!?!?!” I exclaimed as I put full pressure to the Brembo brake calipers. The Italian brakes stopped the car as abruptly as they should and I threw on the hand brake and the hazard lights.

“What was that?” Jennifer asked.

“I don’t know,” I said as I climbed out of the car, “some kind of animal.”

As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw a crumpled mass on the edge of the road. I shined my flashlight to see a relatively large feathered form. I squinted and looked for movement or blood. Suddenly, the creature popped to its feet, wings hanging to its sides.

“Stay back!” Jennifer said, to either Teen Bot, or me, or the bird, I can’t be sure

It stumbled side to side. Standing about two feet tall, its flat beak and horn-like crests gave it away. I reached for my camera about the time the owl shook its head as if to shake off the disorientation. Before I had the camera powered on, the creature shook its head again, spread its broad wings and confidently flapped them several times to propel itself into the air, circling to the nearby treeline.

“Well,” Jennifer mused, “I guess it’s okay.”

“Clearly,” I said, “Those were not the movements of an injured animal.”

Returning to the car, we inspected the front driver’s corner where it had hit. There were brush-like marks in the dust on the front fender near the headlight. We had not hit it, it had hit us. That explained why it was only dazed and not broken. We got back in the car and headed home. It was a good trip overall, and the three and a half months of deer archery were enriching even if they didn’t put meat in the freezer.

Today, I did a little maintenance to my bow and resorted my arrows. I am on the look out for a feeder which I will attempt to maintain year round. We will continue to scout and watch the deer, and we will more than likely sit in the blind with cameras instead of guns and archery equipment at one time or another. The rabbits, squirrels, and quail have been prevalent, and we’ll continue to pursue them. By the time Deer Archery opens in October, we will be far more prepared than we were this year, and I’m sure we’ll have more stories to share!

Holiday Weekend Recap

As I have stated previously, one of the biggest reasons that I bought my compound bow is because we gunnies only get a few weeks that we can shoot deer in Oklahoma, versus the three and a half months that those nasty archers get. Obviously the only way to play the system is to disguise myself as an archer. And yet, here we are, half-way through the monolithic deer archery season, which does envelope all other deer seasons, by the way, and my bow still has yet to taste blood. I’ve been out with it plenty, but for one reason or another, it just hasn’t happened.

Thursday was insane, as Thanksgiving tends to be. That morning, one of my close friends from high school come by for breakfast. She’s one of the few people that Jennifer and I each knew before we knew each other, and she’s the only one of those that we still maintain contact with. We drank several varieties of coffee brewed in the French press, sampled a little tequila, and some nice English tobacco, as well as some Nat Sherman Classics. I know, I know. I never said that I wouldn’t have an occasional smoke. It really is just an occasional thing now. Breakfast consisted of blueberry bagels with cream cheese and lox. From there, we buzzed off to my grandparents’ house where my parents had prepared the full Thanksgiving spread, including pumpkin pie. I’m usually good for about one slice of pumpkin pie per year. My grandpa was lucid enough. He knew who everyone was, and both of my grandparents were quite pleased to see everyone. That evening we went to Jennifer’s parents’ house. By the end of the evening, we were tired, stuffed, and weary of the stress of family. Time to go home. It was a good holiday.

That evening, I called my brother on the phone. “Do you know what I want to get tomorrow for Black Friday?” I asked my brother, “A deer!” We made plans to head out to the family property and see what we could do. In cameras and in-person observation, I haven’t seen much in the way of morning activity. It seems that we have night-owl, party deer instead of sensible, morning deer. Therefore, we didn’t bother getting up super early. We settled into the blind in the early afternoon. My brother absently gulped water out of his Camelbak, and I hoped that wouldn’t lead to him blowing our cover. Sure enough, after we’d been in the blind for an hour, he had to slip out to answer the call of nature. And, then again, an hour later. As we sat, the wind got harder and harder, to the point that we’d hear a gust coming and each of us would grab the side supports of the blind without even looking up from our smart phones. We called it off and decided to get out of the wind.

On Saturday, Jennifer and I went back out. The bait that I had spread out the previous day was still on the ground. Looks like it was a good call to quit when we did! Although it was a lot less windy than Friday, it was probably still a little too breezy for wildlife. We saw no deer. We saw no bobcat. We didn’t even see any Oklahoma monkeys. Each of us nuked at least two phone batteries on Bejeweled and IRC. We were diligent and sat silently until 30-minutes after sunset. We decided to leave the blind and chairs and come back in the morning.

When the alarm went off at o’dark-thirty on Sunday morning, it was painful. I told Jennifer I didn’t think I had it in me, and she agreed. So, we fell back asleep. When we finally awoke, we met up with my parents for our Sunday lunch and hung around all afternoon. It looked like we weren’t going to get in another day of hunting after all. Even so, we still needed to go and collect our blind, as weren’t simply going to leave it out all week. So, at around 17:00, we hopped in the car and ran out to the farm to retrieve our blind and chairs. The property is twenty to thirty minutes out, depending on traffic and where we decide to park. We have been parking pretty far up the trail and hiking in, so as to maintain invisibility. Since we weren’t worried about stealth, I pulled on down to the hollow. As I turned into the hollow, there were four white tails. This was the first time I’d ever seen four of them at once in the hollow. Jennifer said she could make the shot. The sun set at 17:19, it was 17:40, and that left nine minutes of legal shooting. Jennifer did everything she could to grab her rifle and a pair of ear muffs and I sat in the car, trying my best to look non-nonchalant and non-threatening to the ungulates. They stirred nervously, but not freaked out, and hesitantly started filing off into the woods. Just about the time Jennifer got to the point of setting up for the shot, the last tail disappeared between the trees.

Once I heard FarmDad comment something to the effect of, the best way to hunt antelope is to act like you aren’t hunting antelope. I have to wonder if this philosophy holds true to other types of game. This is not by any means the first time we’ve driven into the hollow to be greeted by deer. Every time, they loiter around for a few minutes before retreating. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s tempting to try something new and brash this last week of deer gun season. When Jennifer gets home from work, we could throw guns and supplies in the car and drive out. We’d pull up to the hollow with the intention of Jennifer getting out with her ears on, grab her gun from the back, and take care of business. I’d probably want to park just out of sight and trek the last few paces into the hollow. This shouldn’t take but a few minutes. Jennifer knows her way around her rifle and should be able to make a good shot before the deer have much of a chance to decide what they want to do next. After months of picture collection, hours of silent sitting in the blind, ammunition research and testing, supplies purchased, regulation reading, and everything else, this could come down to a five-minute strike. From everything I’ve read, there shouldn’t be anything amiss on any laws or regulations about this. We would very specifically not be hunting from the car, we’d safely and legally transport guns, and use all appropriate safety gear. I don’t want to do anything illegal or unsporting. Does this sound okay? Not that I’m honestly asking for legal advice on the internet, but I would be interested in hearing disinterested thoughts and opinions.

Having two unfilled archery tags still, I did not purchase a deer gun tag and have not been participating in deer gun season. Well, not behind a trigger, anyway. This has been a combined effort. If Jennifer puts 150-lbs of doe meat in our freezer in the next week, I’m going to feel personally accomplished. Similarly, if I manage to take a deer or two with my bow in the next sevenish weeks, I will expect for Jennifer to share in the credit. One way or another, there hasn’t been nearly enough venison on my grill recently, and I hope to remedy that!

Bobcat Sighted

So, we did a little deer hunting over the weekend but didn’t see any deer come out into the clearing this time. On Saturday, sitting silently in our ground blind, Jennifer whispered, “LOOKLOOKLOOK!!!!” I followed her pointing finger and saw nothing. I looked all around and looked back at her and shrugged. “It’s coming down the hill, towards us, right over there,” she hissed.

I looked again. I squinted. “I don’t see it,” I whispered as quietly as I could manage, “Is it a doe or a buck?”

“It’s not a deer,” she said, “Keep watching. It keeps stopping, but it will start walking again.

So, I stared. And then, I saw the movement. What the? That’s either a furry octopus or the world’s largest wild rabbit. “Is is a rabbit?” I said.

“I don’t think so,” Jennifer said, “too big for that.”

“Well yeah,” I said.

And when it turned so we could see its profile, we ghasped in unison, “BOBCAT!”

“Gimme your camera,” Jennifer said, and I quickly handed it to her.

She snapped off a couple of pics and I said, “Video! Get some video!”

She looked over the controls and frustratedly shoved the camera at me. I motioned to the video button and she fired it up. When she could no longer track it from her side of the blind, she asked me to take the camera and I had a very hard time tracking it. Even so, here’s what we came up with:

Pretty cool huh? We could see deer in the trees in the background of the video until the cat came through. At that point, they had better places to be. I showed the video to the proprietor of the local liquor store who asked me if I was scared of it. I assured him that we were in no danger from the cat, but I left out the fact that I was far more concerned about the local two-legged varmints.

So. Close.

I never got to go hunting growing up. In fact, my parents only took me target shooting a couple of times. Literally, I can think of about two occasions when my dad threw his .22 pistol and 12-gauge shotgun in the car with the tent when we headed out to the woods. Back when a two-liter bottle had the black plastic cap on the bottom, I remember wedging what was left of the bottle of Pepsi from the previous night in the fork of the great tree that no longer stands there, aligning the sights of that Mark I, and pressing off a round. I remember feeling disappointed when I saw no change at the receiving end, and approached the bottle for a closer look. And, I remember the glee and self-satisfaction that came from seeing a stream of Pepsi flowing out of the new hole in the bottle. For a long time, I was not a gun owner. I’ve been a firearms enthusiast since I was a young boy though.

Wee Bot (now Teen Bot) received his first gun for his tenth birthday. It was an older model 10/22. We had him in a competition air rifle class for some time. We took him to Appleseed. Before long, my kid could rock a rifle with a set of good iron sights as well as anyone else I knew. Nonchalantly. It wasn’t even like he was going target shooting so much as picking up a tool to hit the target with it. He has always enjoyed his 10/22, but began to get gunlust for an AR15 of his own. He had shot S&W’s M&P15-22 before it even hit the shelves. S&W’s CEO was even witness to that, in fact. So, we probed him on whether he would want a .22-caliber AR or an actual .223. We let him know that the centerfire ammo was a lot more expensive, so he wouldn’t get to shoot it nearly as much. He said he’d like the centerfire, as he already had a good rimfire rifle. And at that, almost a year ago, he got a brand new, M&P15 Sport for a late Christmas present.

In the spring, when we had Central Oklahoma Gunblogger Schutenfest, we set up a CRT computer monitor on the rifle range. It was about a 17-inch screen, and we set it out at 50-yards. Kiddo fumbled with the controls on his new rifle. I assume that this was in part due to excitement and also because it had been quite a while since he had really worked with a Stoner platform. I helped him out, of course. Once he was in battery and ready to go, he raised the rifle to his face and put his first shot through the center of the monitor, and giggled. I told him to give it another. The second shot struck within two inches of the first. Once he had emptied his magazine, he had knocked out the center of the glass on the monitor. As previously promised, he hasn’t gotten to shoot his AR as much as his .22, but when he has, he has handled it well.

Over the last year or so, we’ve gotten more into hunting. Indeed, Jennifer made a New Year’s resolution to get closer to her food. Hence gardening and hunting and stuff. This has led me to regard .22 lr and short in a whole new light as a hunting round. Also, it has caused me to memorize many of the hunting regulations of our state. It also influenced me to shop and purchase a compound bow. Keep in mind that neither Jennifer nor I knew anything about hunting. We’re total noobs. We’ve made some pretty hilarious mistakes along the way, actually. I owe a lot of my knowledge and most of my success to advice that I’ve received from my friend, Daniel S.

Well, when Deer Archery season opened this fall, I bought a couple of deer licenses. And, we also picked up a Youth Deer Gun license for Teen Bot. This weekend was Youth Deer Gun season. It opened on Friday, thirty minutes before sunrise, and closed yesterday evening, thirty minutes after sunset. While at Academy, I picked up a couple bags of deer corn and perused the aisle of deer attractants. I was looking for something to mix in with my corn. They had all kinds of products with graphics and fonts on the packages that read like a monster truck rally radio announcement. “SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SOMEDAY! ATTRACT THE ABSOLUTE BIGGEST BUCKS!” They had deer acorns, deer feed, deer crazy. But, I wanted deer crack. I asked one of the employees who I have had good interactions with in the past and he recommended a product from C’Mere Deer. So, I bought it and took my new wares home. On Wednesday, I began to organize everything I thought we would need for our expedition.

That’s when I discovered that Teen Bot was about 20% behind in his core classes. Thursday was the first day of Fall Break, but not for Teen Bot. It was the end of the nine weeks, and he was too far behind to start his vacation. “If you are still behind in your classes, there will be no Youth Deer Gun for you,” I told him. He worked hard. At approximately 9:30 on Thursday night, when we were eating dinner (squirrel stew), I asked him if he wanted to give up and not go out or if he wanted to press on and finish his work. We had arranged for my brother to come with us on Friday. It was a little late to call and cancel on him, but not outside of my willingness. Teen Bot expressed that he still wanted to go out and that he would finish his work. I told him that I wouldn’t accept the attitude that usually goes along with a tired kid. I’m sorry, but I will not be punished like that. He agreed. He finished his school work at around 1:00 a.m.

The alarm went off at 5:00. I thought I was going to die. I reset the alarm for five minutes. JUST FIVE MINUTES, I SWEAR, THEN I’LL GET UP. Much to my surprise, I did find the will to get up at 5:05. My head swam with exhaustion. Shower. I needed a shower. I couldn’t have been in the shower for any longer than fifteen to twenty minutes, but it felt like an eternity. By 5:30, I was dressed and waking up Teen Bot. Usually, I only have to reach in his door, turn on his light, and tell him “good morning”. I only wish getting up had ever been so easy for me. The night before, I had loaded the car with pretty much everything except the valuable stuff. I had a hot-bag with Thermoses full of leftover squirrel stew and another Thermos containing ten shots of espresso – I was going to need that. We threw the guns and my bow in the car and headed to my brother’s house.

Although I hate to get up early, I love to be up early. I’m an extremely isolationist extrovert. I love to be with people, but they’ve got to be the right people. I hate a crowd at the mall and I hate traffic. At o’dark-thirty, nobody is out. The roads that are congested in rush hour are completely clear. The air is crisp and the stars shine. Headed down the road with the windows down and the stereo blaring over the open exhaust was quite stimulating. The coffee didn’t hurt any, truth be known. When you’re up that early, you have the whole day to work with. Sleeping in until noon on a Saturday discourages me. It makes me feel like I’ve wasted something valuable. Like when you’re saving a piece of food for an occasion, but then it goes bad in the freezer. There’s too much life to live to sleep it away.

We arrived at my brother’s house just after six. No surprise to us, he wasn’t ready. My brother’s house is more towards the edge of town than ours, and it shows at times. On that Friday morning, standing on his porch in the dark, I saw an owl swoop down out of the shed at the north-east corner of the yard and soar across the two acres and up into the trees at the south-east corner. The bird must have only cleared the ground by about five feet between the two points. From the trees where it landed, I heard the loud, warbly call of the barred owl. After it hooted and gargled several times, I could hear others of its kind answer the call. There were at least three or four of them that answered from different directions. I knew that owls lived on that property, but that was the most that I’d been able to observe them. Teen Bot and I got a kick out of that.

Once my brother was finally dressed, we loaded his stuff in the car and headed toward the family farm. We parked the car on the private road that leads down to the hollow where we’ve had the trail cameras set up. We hiked down with the stuff we’d need. It took about ten minuted to pitch the blind, set up chairs, and spread the corn mix. Then, we sat and waited. And waited. And waited. And, there was nothing. Granted, it was a little on the windy side, but we saw no animals. At about eleven, we gave up for the morning and broke for lunch. I have spent some time procuring good insulated containers and found that the squirrel stew that I’d packed the night before was still quite hot. My brother complained about the amount of jalapeños in it, but that didn’t keep him from eating his share. After lunch, we wandered around the property, explored the woods, and looked for squirrels that needed to be dispatched. Still, we saw no signs of life. As it turns out, my brother hadn’t gotten to bed much earlier than we did. By mid-afternoon, the three of us were feeling pretty exhausted and discouraged, and I still needed to pick up Jennifer from work, so we headed on home.

Friday we went to bed early, with the intention of getting up early again on Saturday. On Saturday morning, we felt a lot more refreshed. Jennifer and I each had a double shot of espresso, but I felt no need to bump the dosage up to ten. We actually made it to the property a little earlier than the day before, most likely due to not having to wait for my brother. Again, we parked the car on the road and hiked our gear into the hollow. And again, we pitched the blind and chairs, spread grain, and parked. Again, we saw nothing in the morning. When we broke for lunch, I checked the SD cards in the game cameras, and paid special attention to time signatures. It appears that among the deer we have, we have evening deer and not morning deer. Interesting… We had packed bread and ham and mayo and a bag of potato chips for lunch. That was a really amazing ham sandwich. What is it about eating outdoors? During the day, we followed some game trails and wandered around where we’ve seen animals in the past. We saw no animals, but we did see signs of them. We found very fresh coyote droppings and the bones of several animals; turtle shells, a cow skeleton, and a raccoon skull.

At about 16:30, we returned to the blind. It was hot. We were set up on the east border of the hollow, so it had been pretty cold in the morning. After spending the afternoon in direct sunlight, it was fairly sweltering in the blind. At first, we left the door and all the windows open. At about five, we started to hear more birds and saw a few squirrels playing in the woods behind us. We slowly started closing the door and the non-essensial windows of the blind. And we waited. And waited. I was never so thankful to have spare batteries for my android phone. Teen Bot was pretty good, all things considered, but he did get restless and began to fidget several times. I had to remind him to be still so that he wouldn’t make noise. At about 18:30, we heard what sounded like footsteps in the woods behind the blind. It was too thick to see even if we hadn’t already closed our rear-facing windows. We sat and silently listened in anxious anticipation.

Legal shooting hours are thirty minutes before official sunrise until thirty minutes after official sunset. On Saturday, official sunset was at 18:49, which gave us until 19:19 before we had to give up for the day. It was right about 18:55 when Teen Bot spotted the deer entering the hollow. It was a nice looking doe and two yearlings. He pointed toward them and turned to face me, his mouth agape in a gasp, and his eyes lit up in excitement. We had just traveled through time. My son was six again, and this was Christmas morning. We watched the three deer wander into the hollow and begin their nightly exploration, that I’ve witnessed in digital pictures so many times before. I tapped Teen Bot on the shoulder and pointed to his rifle, sitting on the stool in front of him. I’m not sure the three of us even breathed for a good three minutes there.

In Oklahoma, we don’t have game that is very big. Indeed, there’s not a thing in the state you can’t legally hunt with a rifle that they won’t let you hunt with 55-grain .223. Our whitetails are pretty small, actually. Teen Bot’s M&P15 has a 1:8 twist rate, and he had a seven-round magazine loaded up with 62-grain, semi-jacketed Federals. The deer got closer. The doe stopped probably 40-yards from our position. My heart was pounding in my ears. My bow lay on the stool in front of me, and I knew that there was no way I could nock an arrow without spooking the deer that were so close now. It was all up to Teen Bot. I made eye contact with him and gestured wildly for him to shoot the doe. He sighted it in but then dropped his rifle to low-ready. The doe raised her head and sniffed the air, staring directly at our blind. She stamped a little bit and then settled again, this time at about thirty yards away. She stood with her side presented to us, head down to sniff the grain mix. Again, I wildly gestured for Teen Bot to shoot, this time with more desperation. He looked down the sights and whispered, “I don’t think I can get a good shot from here.” Are you kidding?!!!??!?!? That’s a gimme shot! Perhaps because of the whisper, or perhaps just because of the sheer energy of the situation, the doe rared up, snorted several times, and bounded off into the woods on the other side of the hollow. The yearlings hesitantly followed her. It was very clear that they wanted that corn. I was disappointed and a little peeved.

We waited out the remaining twenty minutes until we could no longer legally take game. Then, we called time and began to gather our things. Jennifer suggested that we leave the blind in place to normalize the deer to it so hopefully we would have a better chance the following day. We agreed that this was a good plan and hiked back up to our car. Along the way, Teen Bot attempted to explain why he didn’t take the shot. I cut him off, telling him that we should remain quiet, but that he could explain on the way home. As I approached the car, I saw a tractor parked next to it. It was very dark and I was having a hard time seeing it. It was hitched to a flat bed trailer, and was parked in such a way to pin in our car on the path. As I strained my eyes in the dark, I saw two figures sitting on the trailer. “Hello?” I asked.

“Hi there,” my greeting was returned. The one speaking had a white beard and I recognized him as my mom’s cousin, B.J.

“Oh, hey guys!” I said, approaching them.

“Hello,” said B.J., clearly having trouble in the dark, himself, “Who am I speaking to?”

“It’s me, Evyl Robot,” I identified myself.

“Oh, hi there Evyl,” B.J. said, and we shook hands all around. The other one on the trailer is one in B.J.’s family who I have met before, but his name escapes me. I get the impression that he regards us as the city slickers that don’t deserve that piece of land as inheritance. I could be wrong, and he may just have a brusque personality though. I noticed that he had a bolt-action laid across his lap and so I stepped to the side of its muzzle. We chatted for a few minutes. B.J.’s family has kept an eye on the property for years, running off the riffraff, who have apparently been a bigger problem than I ever imagined. He requested that I give him a call in the future when we’re headed out to hunt so that he won’t disturb our hunt. He also asked if we were going to hunt muzzle loader. I told him that we weren’t going to, but that I’d be working with my bow. Muzzle loader season is only two weekends, and the week in between. I told him that I could leave the hollow to him for those weekends. He defensively said that I could hunt anytime I wanted. The land belongs to my side of the family and not his. But, as much work as he does on it, I’m not going to pull a monopoly on the harvest there. He asked about my parents and brother. We talked about the deer and about the local people. Soon thereafter, we parted ways.

On the way home, we talked to Teen Bot about the day, and why he didn’t take that shot. As it turns out, the yearlings with the doe bothered him. He didn’t want to shoot some babies’ mom. It’s nice to see that level of empathy in the kid. We explained to him that those were not baby deer, but they were more like college deer. They’re practically grown and will be out on their own soon, one way or another. We also explained that deer are simple creatures and won’t be emotionally scarred by the loss of one of their own in the same way that we would be. He also expressed a concern for shooting through the blind material. I told him that I can get camouflaged duct tape that will patch a .22-caliber hole with no problem. By the time we got home, he seemed reassured, confident, and perhaps a little silly for giving up such a great shot. I’m proud that he thought about his actions so thoroughly before pulling the trigger.

That night was a blur. We went to bed and slept in some, with the intention of going to church in the morning. Since we’d just had two days in a row where we had seen nothing in the morning, we decided that it would be a good idea to take Sunday morning off. Sunday morning, we got dressed and went to church. I chuckled at the thought of myself in my Armani suit, handmade Italian peccary oxfords, and a pair of S&W Performance Center revolvers, singing in the church choir, only to go home and put on my surplus BDUs and hike out into the field with my bow, hopefully to put venison in the freezer. It is like leading a double life. After church, we changed and loaded up the car, and headed to my parents’ house for our weekly, Sunday lunch. We had homemade spaghetti and meatballs, and discussed all the recent goings on. At around 16:00, we got back in the car and headed back out to the property.

It was hot. The previous afternoon had been warm, but it was hot and humid at this point. I was melting in my t-shirt and BDU pants. I was trying to drink enough ice water to cool myself but not so much that I’d need to leave the blind. I was sweating enough that I could smell myself. I only hoped that it would cool down enough when the sun dipped below the tree line that we’d dry off before the deer came in again. No such luck. At around 17:20, the same doe as the previous day wandered into the hollow from one of the game trails. She only made it to within 75-yards or so before she caught our scent. Figures. She began to snort and stamp, and she retreated back into the woods, shaking her head with her tail held high. Queue simultaneous sigh of disappointment from three people in a deer blind. Still, we waited.

We were about to give up. It seemed that the sun had long since sat and it was still hot. We heard footsteps and sniffing at the back of our blind. The doe had doubled around on us to investigate in the dark! Again, she snorted and stamped and took off. If it had been gun season, I would have just ended her with my M&P45, right then and there. My Bowtech Assassin isn’t nearly so nimble. A few minutes later, the two yearlings wandered out into the hollow, investigated a little, and wandered off again. Checking the time, it was exactly 19:19. We called time. It was officially the end of Youth Deer Gun 2012, not a bullet fired. We packed up our things and headed home again.

On the way, Teen Bot expressed regret for not taking that shot on the previous day and that he hadn’t put meat in our freezer. I reassured him that he did the right thing for not taking the shot when he wasn’t sure it was right. We had come closer to bringing home venison than ever before. For three people that don’t really know what they are doing, it was an impressive degree of success! His deer tag is still good for Deer Gun season from November 17 through December 2. That will give us a full three weekends that we can try again. In the meantime, I’ll have to see if I can take one or two with my bow. My archery tags are good through the end of the year. I haven’t seen our buck in any recent pics, but he may still be out there. I understand that once the rut starts, strange things start happening.

I want to grill up some deer steaks so bad. The other day we had a small pronghorn tenderloin for dinner. Then, there was the aforementioned squirrel stew. A couple months ago, we bought meat from a traveling salesman with a refrigerated truck. We’d purchased from him before, so we were happy to buy his beef pack and his pork pack. We have just now depleted what we purchased from him. It’s not like we’re out of food, but the frozen meat has gotten more sparse than I’m comfortable with, and things are lean as they ever are this time of year. I hate to admit that I really had my heart set on venison. Oh well, upward and onward. I think Jennifer and I are going to take the afternoon off on Friday and head back out once more before muzzle loader season starts on Saturday, just the two of us. The forecast looks like it will be quite a bit cooler than it has been, so that should help with scent concealment. As close as we’ve gotten already, I see it as only a matter of time and persistence before we do have a freezer full of venison. Wish us luck!