Monday, September 1, 2014

We took to the woods

I was nervous. Ridiculously so.  I was seeing the big bears that we had coming in on the cameras at each site and I knew that I had to make a damn good shot if a bear came in. I has shot three times to get my gun sighted in and knew that it was right where it needed to be - and I was comfortable making those shots.

I packed all of my clothes, which were washed in anti-scent detergent and properly washed and stored with anti-scent dryer sheets. I showered with my anti-scent soap and put everything into the car.  As I sat in the driver seat of the car going through my mental checklist, I realized that my gun was still inside.  A quick run back inside and I was really ready to go this time.

At Steve's, I prepped some bait for the day.  I was a pro at this point. It was hot - 86 degrees and no breeze but regardless of all of this, it was opening day of bear season!  We had lunch, put everything in the back of the truck and were off to bait sites in the woods.

The plan was to get to the site around 2pm and take our time getting into the blind.  The last thing we wanted was to get sweaty and then have to sit for more than five hours.  I was still nervous during the drive up but I knew I had everything I needed and a gun that was ready and could do the trick.

As we turned off onto the dirt road and rounded the corner, there was a jeep parked where we normally park.

They had pulled up parallel to the road, turning the three potential spots into one.  We pulled up along side of them and Steve went to find the owners of the jeep.  Whomever was out there needed to know that we were planning to hunt and that there were plenty of bears coming into the area.  We also wanted to make sure that if we did shoot a bear and it ran a little ways before it died, anyone else around would be aware and know to expect gun shots.  I waited next to the truck and got my gear unpacked.  I heard voices in the woods and then saw Steve coming out shaking his head
" We have to call the Ranger.  They have a fire going in the middle of the woods.  No fire ring and no rocks.  Just an open fire in the middle of the woods surrounded by pine needles."

It set us back an hour but eventually some very drugged out hippies from out of state emerged from the woods.  One girl and two guys reluctantly packed up their jeep and angrily drove off, honking the horn five or six times as they left.  They even turned around and drove back by, making sure the honk then as well.  The ranger came by and looked for the fire.  The hippies had covered it up using pine needles (nature's kindling) and it was still smoldering so he had to soak the fire to prevent any flare ups from starting.

Loud voices, a random fire and some less than polite harassing hippies and we were finally heading into the woods.  And I was even more grateful than ever that I deer hunt on land that we own!

Our view of the bait from the blind.
In the blind, I got my steady stick set up with my gun  and we waited.  It is weird when you are in a new place - the sounds and light is new, so it takes a while to get use to it.  This was my first day in the blind so everything was new and took some getting used to.  Every year I have to readjust to the fact that squirrels really don't sound like every other large animal in the woods but for those first few days, like most hunters, you swear that what you are looking for be it deer or bear, is coming in when in fact it's a squirrel.

Steve and I waited and waited.  I visualized the bear coming into the bait site and the exact shot that I would take. We hadn't seen any sows and/or cubs on the cameras just good looking bruins of all sizes coming into the bait.  And one massive bear that I wasn't really sure I wanted to see in the woods.

As soon as legal hunting time was over, at 7:58pm we packed up and headed back to the truck.  The bears were around and were steadily coming into the bait but these are wild animals and there is no guarantee that an animal will show up when you are there waiting for it.  It's nature.  It's hunting.  I love it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Social Media impact on Hunting

Social media has added a new element to the world of hunting. There are great resources for hunting out there but until the boom of social media, they were limited.  Now, you can watch live video feed of deer feeders in Iowa to see what is coming in.  I have recently found maybe one of my favorite resources for hunting…podcasts! You can listen to hunters talk about African hunting, antler growth and how to cut shooting lanes... the possibilities are really endless. 

Up until a few months ago, the word ‘podcast’ was something that I assumed as like a radio show but online (and it is).  I didn’t go looking for them or know how to get them.  And now, as I write this, I can not think of what it was that made me get started but I have not stopped.  There are incredible hunters, men and women, all across the United States who host weekly or monthly shows that are usually about an hour long that bring the best of the best to the forefront to talk about their expertise when it comes to hunting. Most are free and you can listen all the time! In the car, at work, at home… unlike those cable shows, podcasts offer the opportunity to cut the fluff away and get to the questions you may have about hunting. 

If you have access to podcasts you can listen to a hunter's podcast, tweet with them on Twitter and friend them on Facebook in order to continue the conversation about hunting and what it means to them. If you really wanted to make sure you didn’t miss a single thing from your favorite hunting personality, you could also subscribe to their blog, YouTube channel, Instagram… it goes on and on.  I do realize that being on the younger side of the bell curve, many hunters just don’t care about friending a fellow hunter, but that is where we are headed.  In this technological world, those who host these podcasts or write these blogs need to put themselves out there to get people to read and comment on what they are doing.  It is a bigger push for a conversational style rather than just writing or posting a story and hoping that someone cares enough to read or listen to what you have to say.

That is when it gets fun! Hunters from all over the United States, Canada and the world can now connect to one another with a couple clicks of the mouse.  For me, there are some incredible outdoor women who are doing some cutting edge hunting and working with firearm companies to create more effective, lighter rifles and shotguns… and I can connect and talk with them through the venues of social media.  Women like Britney Starr, Carrie Zylka, Mia Anstine and Barbara Baird are nationally known hunters who are leading the women’s movement in the outdoor industry and they talk with me about their hunts, my hunts, the best trail cameras… it’s endless.   I have chatted with hunters like Steven Rinella (and freaked out when he started following me on Twitter) because social media allows the opportunity for a hunter in Maine to get the thoughts and opinions of renowned hunters.

Social media offers hunters all over the chance to connect with one another and get tips and tricks for the best, more successful hunts possible.  It may seem a little ridiculous but the opportunities for those of us who want to connect with others and learn from people beyond our immediate hunting circles, these podcasts and social media connections are priceless.

Hunting Podcasts that I am listening to:
Wired to Hunt
Wild Game Hunting
Wild Word of Carrie Z
Foremost Hunting

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New (and some of the best) bear pictures

BIG BEAR!  No one is scaring him off of that bait

That is a normal sized milk crate! 300-400lb bear looking at you!

My preferred bear: one that comes out during the daylight

My shooter.  He came out at 6pm.  I would gladly shoot him and be happy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to Baiting

Lance and Lorri putting some bait into an empty bucket

The good smelling bait... mmm strawberry
I was sure that beaver was the grossest smell ever, but I was so wrong. It is easily rotten lobster bodies - the kind that are put into black trash bags and left out in the sun and forgotten about.  I dont think any of us didn't gag, hold our breathe or pull our shirts up over our noses in an attempt to stop the smell from penetrating into our nostrils.  We added it to one of the beaver carcases and for the first time, I really had to question a black bear's eating preferences.  Of course, there is also the 'good' smelling bait that looks like it could be a bunch of $7 granola bars from Whole Foods dumped together and mixed with this great strawberry smelling stuff.  That, I don't mind being around.

It was another day in the woods baiting with Steve.  We also had his girlfriend Lorri and their friend Lance with us. We headed yo a new-to-me spot where Steve had killed his 420lb bear a few years before.  The site had been hit!* The camera was an old school one that had film in it.  With 18 pictures taken, we knew we would have to find a place to get the film developed!  Lorri and I walked around the site and saw bear poop so the anticipation for what was on that camera heightened.  We refilled the bait and dumped the lobster bodies on top of the beaver (I took photos of this happening but for everyone's sake I will not post them.  They are very unflattering pictures of us gagging and nearly puking) but we filled everything back up and headed out.  We went to Lance's site and had to tweak a few things.  It had not been hit so we refreshed the bait and moved on to Site 1 and Site 2.

Without Lance, the three of us grabbed bait and some secret ingredients and headed into Site 1.  We walked as slowly as excited people could.  A bear had been coming in regularly and we so wanted to see some good pictures.  The minute we rounded the corner, we could see that the site was destroyed! The crate was thrown, the beaver was torn apart and on the ground and bark was clawed off of a tree from the ground up about 20 feet.  Claw marks were on the trees... yikes!
Destroyed site
Steve walked over to the camera and noticed that it was moved. Turned.  A bear had hit in, leaving claw marks on the tree and turning the camera away from the bait site.  Tricky bear!  Not wanting to spend too long in the woods and trying to beat a storm coming in, we refilled and headed to Site 2.

Site 2 was still in tact.  Nothing had some in but there were some pictures on the camera.  We scanned them and saw that a bear had come in, smelled the bait site and left.  He never stopped to eat or check things out more than a quick sniff.  Bummed, but still excited from the Site 1 action, we declared that the worst part about not getting hit, is having to carry the full buckets back out of the woods. 

On the way back home, I asked Lorri about hunting bear and what her experiences had been.  She has shot two bear.  One from a treestand and one from the kitchen window (which is impressive).  She gave me pointers on where to aim depending on where the bear is.  It will be different because we are going to be in a ground blind instead of up in a tree. 
Site 1 getting refilled. Notice the missing bark on the tree!
Steve and Lorri also trap so I asked her about it since Steve's 420lb bear was in a trap.  I mentioned that I would be terrified of releasing a bear from a trap and Lorri's comment was the best.  It was exactly what people should hear from bear hunters as a prime example of responsible hunting; "If we see cubs on the cameras, I will pull my trap.  The last thing I want is to get a cub and have to release it knowing that Mamma bear is around.  I will just pull it and wait until the male bears start coming in and by then the sows and cubs are gone."

We take to the woods on Monday!  I have Monday and Friday scheduled to be in the blind waiting for the bears.  I am nervous, excited and relieved that Steve and Lorri will be with me.  I bought the bear tag for my license and will be sighting in my gun this weekend.  My clothes will be washed in unscented soap and I will say a little prayer to Mother Nature that I have a successful hunt and no one suffers (me or the bear!)  Wish us luck!!!