Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

In addition to this and my determination to find him, I have a few other goals that I am hoping to achieve in 2014!

* Take up muzzle loading.  Blog coming, but I shot my first one right before Christmas.

* Write some real thought provoking blogs for you folks.  I have a couple doozies that I am working on right now!

* Shoot a turkey.  I tried last spring, but I want to shoot one this year - spring or fall, I don't care.

That is all for now but Happy New Year! and may 2014 be fantastic.

Monday, December 30, 2013

What I learned about being a hunting mom

1. My child cries/moans in his sleep! Seriously - see #6.  Is this normal?  Who knew?

2. I needed to bring a lot of gear with me!  My hunting clothes, my 'normal clothes', his toys, his clothes, his bedding, his food... I'm glad I have an Outback!

3. Bringing the wrong "flow" bottle top could alter how quickly he goes to sleep.  Slow flow - forces him to slow down and puts him to sleep.  Rapid flow - drinks too fast and throws up.  And is not tired.

4. I had to make sure to pack enough diapers, food and clothes.

5. Don't forget the bathtub - routine is important! I forgot to bring this the first weekend and our bedtime routine was not the same.

6. You really can stay awake in a tree stand after 2-4 hours of sleep! It helped that it was so cold that I feared hypothermia.

7. Sometimes grandparents can get kids to do things moms can't - like eat all of their peas.

8. There really is guilt associated with being a hunting mom!  I didn't necessarily feel bad about leaving him (I had to deal when I started taking him to daycare) but I felt guilty having my mom watch him every time we went out.  Disclosure: Mom said she had withdrawals the first weekend after hunting was over. Still, there is guilt.

9. I can't just think about me.  I use to be able to check in with friends if I was up in the area to go hunting.  I can't run out for coffee if I have to put the baby down starting at 6:30.

10.  There is nothing better than following my Dad and knowing that in a couple of years, he will be teaching Owen the same stuff he has been teaching me!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The one who lived another year...

He may have won this year, but after Dad went scouting on the first few snow falls, we are pretty sure he is still out there.  Until next year...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On writing and new opportunities

I have been writing this blog for about four years now.  In that time, I have gained a lot of outdoor friends and lost a couple outdoor friends (I'm better off without the drama.) I have learned about hunting issues in Maine and looked beyond deer hunting to bear, coyote and turkey. I have been able to reconnect with friends who are now working for Inland Fisheries & Wildlife as well as meet new friends who helped me get a better idea of what was going on and what the impact was, as I sat in on legislative hearings regarding new potential laws to the Maine outdoors.

In my writing, I have always strive to be unique, honest and to the point.  I don't always do a good job of editing (I am working on that, I promise!) but I am improving and growing as an outdoors woman and as a writer.

In this process, I had the opportunity to blog for a state-wide newspaper.  My excitement and willingness was short lived as I (and others) were bounced from one editor to another to another.  I would inquire about getting more promotion for my posts and try to have timely and interesting materials that would be worthy of a Facebook post or a retweet.  But after a staff writer copied three of my blogs topics and posted and promoted his work, usually done within a week of my original posts, I decided that enough was enough.  I went back and forth with my editor and was told that because we write about hunting and the Maine woods, that we were bound to have similar articles.  I struggled about how I felt about the situation and my writing integrity.  I asked friends and fellow bloggers about it.  I wanted people to read my work because it was a reflection on my thoughts, experiences and feeling towards hunting and Maine. One week later, I gave my notice.

But, when one door closes...

I had been contacted by the editor of a hunting magazine back in January about writing for him because he wanted more women's voices.  I couldn't follow through then because I was four months pregnant and trying to stay awake past 5pm and function as a human was a daily challenge. 

Fast forward ten months and at a sportsman's show in October, I reconnected with the editor and we once again started talking about me writing for him.  After a few emails and an official query, I am the newest writer for the Northwoods Sporting Journal!

Beginning with the January issue, I will write a monthly column called "Woman in the Woods."  I am excited to reach a new group of outdoor folks and look forward to them stopping by Coffee to join in on our conversations!

I want to send a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you who read this blog and comment on my adventures.  I really appreciate you supporting me as I grow as a writer and as an outdoors woman.  I hope you will keep reading and sharing this adventure with me!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Back to the beginning

Our first tree house.

During the last two weekends of hunting season, we headed over to the spot where it all started!


While Hubby and Dad decided to still hunt on the mountain, I needed a place to sit.  Dad said that our original tree house was still safe if I wanted to go there.  He advised me that the roof (made of canvas) had caved in a bit and that could pose an issue.  I hate to be on the ground and trying to hunt, so I figured I would take my chances.

When I approached the stand the first time, it looked good.  Not as good as it did when we first built it seven years ago, but stable and strong.

When Dad and I built it, (this was our first attempt at a tree stand), we haphazardly nailed boards to the tree to make steps.  They were not even distances apart nor did they have any extra room for larger boots. Climbing up them again had me wondering what kind of limber monkeys we thought we were back then.  It was a sketchy climb up but I made it.

Once I wiggled my way inside and got my gun in, I realized how slanted the box had become. From the start, it slanted forward a bit but this was more than I remembered.  I moved the stool as close to the tree as possible so that I was on the highest - and most stable- part of the stand.

The roof was usually propped up with a wooden stake.  I remember one morning, I hit the stick and the roof collapsed on us.  Even though it had partially collapsed, I realized that we had put in a good effort to keep up.  Wood and metal combined to prop the wooden stake up but age and weather had jammed the stake sideways.

Either way, as I sat in the upper most corner, the roof created a block from the wind, which was great, but it also blocked my vision if any deer were moving away from Dad or Hubby.  I couldnt rely on sound since the wind was still gusting pretty good.

Looking past the block to my right
Looking past the block to my left

View in front of the Tree Stand
View in front of the Tree Stand
Each time the wind blew, the stand would shift and creek and I would lean against the tree a little more.  It was nice to be blocked by the canvas and still have somewhat of a good view.

Between gusts, I heard footsteps.  Definitely footsteps.  They were coming from my right but I could not see any deer.  I was afraid that they had walked in but turned and walked up the mountain instead of walking through the gap in front of me.  I kept an eye and ear out as best I could and waited.

It was a great spot!  Half way down the mountain, surrounded by oak and beach trees with a stream running off to my left.  I shot my first deer from this stand - and being back in it, made me realize how impressive it was that Dad and I both fit into it and had room to get my gun into position to shoot.  But, this is where it all began.  This was the spot where I became a successful hunter.  This is where Dad and I spent hours during my first real season, talking about hunting and the deer herd in the area.

A few hours after climbing into the stand, Dad came to get me.  It had been him who I had heard walking and not a deer.  We reminisced about my first hunt, where the spikehorn had come in from, where I had shot him and where he had died.  I told Dad that I wanted to rebuild the stand and make it more sturdy for us to hunt from next year.

I dont know if we will or not, but the memories from this spot are wonderful. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Well played, Bambi. Well played.

This is what 7* looks like
7 degrees.  7 flippin degrees is what the thermometer read when we headed outside on Friday morning. I was as bundled up as possible with hand and toe warmers.  Hubby headed to the Sky Condo with instructions to start walking around 7:30am.  Dad dropped me off at our newest tree seat and he took off to make a loop around me.  The plan was for Hubby to come from the right, Dad from the left and me, in the middle, shooting any deer that happened to get jumped.  If it had antlers, it was going down.

When it is this cold, I go into owl mode where I really don't move much more than my eyes.  Plus, I had on so many layers, I could barely move.  Ready for this: 3 pairs of socks with toe warmers, snowmobile boots, 3 layers of long johns under my wool pants and 7 layers on top including my awesome red and black plaid wool jacket.  Plus my neck warmer and hat.  When it wasn't breezy, it actually wasn't too bad.

There were gray squirrels, a red squirrel, chick-a-dees and nuthatches all hanging out with me as the dawn broke and more and more area became visible.  There were no shots early but an hour after legal hunting hours, a shot rang out in front of me.  It was in about the same area as where Dad shot the coyote last year.  It had to have been Dad!!!

The view from my seat, waiting for movement
I uncovered my fingers and dug out my cell phone waiting for the call to come.  2 minutes... 5 minutes... 17 minutes and nothing.  Crap!  I went back to owl mode and waited for the sun to reach me.  Around 8:30 or 9, Dad emerged from the woods.   He was carrying his wool jacket and his orange hat sat high on his head.

Was that you?

Yeah. That doe and pair of lambs were out eating corn. You could tell they have never been shot at because the lambs never moved.

What happened?

I dunno.  I missed.  He shook his head and I could tell he was mad at himself.  We met up with Hubby and headed to a new spot.   I sat again and got cold again.  Even the walking didn't totally warm we up.  But I went to a new spot and sat while the guys went walking.

Lunch came and went.  Dad and Hubby saw a few deer either running from them or blowing in thick spots where they could not not make out a good shot.   It got up to 28* when we went in for lunch and I made sure I was bundled back up for the night hunt. 

We went over to the mountain for the first part of the afternoon.  I dropped Dad off along the roadway for him to walk up the east side of the mountain.  I drove the truck a little further and dropped Hubby off so he could walk up the front of the mountain, then drove another mile or two into the woods and parked the truck, loaded up and headed up to the original tree house.

It was nice to sit up there and be out of the wind.  I waited for a couple of hours before Dad appeared.  We headed back down and picked Hubby up.  When he got into the truck, he said that two hunters had followed him up the mountain.  Awesome! Two men with guns, trespassing!!!!  Hubby had quickly gotten to the top of the mountain and waited for Dad to meet up with him.  If it had been me, I would have marched towards them (I know, I know) and asked them if they had landowner permission.  Since I knew they did not, I would assume they would say yes or there would be an awkward pause, at which point, I would have said, "You know, Bob.  Tall guy with blonde hair who owns this land" and when they agreed with me, I would tell them that my Dad (who NO ONE would describe like that) owns the land and they needed to go.  My willingness to fight is why Dad wouldn't let me go yell at the guy last year who trespassed.

We ended the day back where we started and headed out when it was dark.  Nothing.

The view from the Sky Condo
When I woke up Saturday, I immediately went to the thermometer.  4*!  It was colder than the morning before.  It was the last day of rifle season so not going out was not an option. When Dad got up, I announced that I would be sitting in the Sky Condo with the heater. 

The ground was frosted and it was loud walking in.  It was actually so cold that the trees were snapping themselves and faking us out, thinking that there were deer coming.  As the morning went on, I hugged the heater more and more.

The sun had just started to hit the back portion of the field when Dad stepped out of the woods and headed towards me.   He stood at the bottom of the stand and talked with me, waiting for Hubby to show up.  He had not seen any deer but had seen a couple new stands and saw a few more hunters.  We waited a little longer before I sent Hubby a text to find him and get him to come back to the Sky Condo.   When the group was together, Dad jestered to have us get going to another spot.

No way!  Im sitting here with this heater!

The guys left and headed to the next spot to hunt.  The sun was still trying to inch its way across the field and onto the SC.  I huddled around the heater and rattled the set of antlers we had there.  Nothing.  I tried the bleet.  Nothing.   Then, poof! My heater ran out of propane.

For the next two hours, I used an extra pair of toe warmers to keep my hands cold.  My nostrils and eyelashes were freezing and I could feel the condensation melt when I closed my eyes.  As much as I tried to say it was just the cold air, my nose began to plug - but just one nostril.  I wasn't getting sick!

The minute I saw Dad appear again, I was down from the Sky Condo and in the sun!  It felt good to get some warmth on me.  Dad and I did a bit of scouting at the back of the clearing where deer usually traveled.  There were lots of signs, hooking on a few bushes and a clear trail.  Just no deer.  We waited for Hubby to meet up with us (he is new to the hunting area and still learning how to not get lost when we give him directions like 'follow the skidder trail' or 'stay on the old snowmobile trail til...' or even 'when you hit an old choppin' that looks like a jungle, stay right'.)

 After lunch (which we didn't get to until 1pm) we headed back over to the mountain.  At this point, my 'frozen' nostril was not thawing very well and my throat was a little dry.

A shot looking at the path that takes me down off the mountain.
I told Dad that I wanted to sit back in the SC after we hunted on the mountain.  Hubby and Dad dropped me off and I walked up the mountain to my tree house.  They took a new (old) hauling road and were going to come out above me and walk down to get me. 

The afternoon wore on and the sun started to go down. I figured we were going to be done soon and not go sit.   I was ok with it because I was eating Vit C drops non stop. My nostril was stuffed now and I could feel the drain of getting up early (and having a baby sleep in the same room with you) throughout the season.  Bambi had bested us.

The sun had just dropped below the trees when I heard crunching.  I tightened my hands around my gun and moved to look... it was Dad.

He had jumped 5 deer on the slope but they ran in the wrong direction.  He had run along a side road in an attempt to make enough noise and force the deer down towards me, but they outran him and were not going to be easily swayed by one man.  Dad had instructed Hubby to go back down the way he came up and meet us at the bottom.   Dad showed me a few fresh tracks that had gone right past the tree house and we walked over to the spot where I had shot my first deer.  There were deer around but we were not meant to get one this year.  Mother Nature was keeping us humble.

Although we had a third person join us, Dad and I ended the season the same way we started it.  Together, walking in the woods.