View of the oak plateau I hunted on Friday
As Paul wrote the other week, deer season is now open in NC, with archery opening mid-September and the Eastern muzzleloader season opening this past Saturday and the Western one opening today. With it being the 1st of October, most other states have opened at least one of their seasons as well so I hope everyone is being safe while pursuing those whitetail that we love so much (or mulies, blacktails, pronghorn, elk, etc.). I know it's a little - ok, wayyyyyy - late getting this hunting recap up but hurried housework before I left for and work up here in Southwestern Indiana has kept me running around like a chicken with its head cut off. None-the-less, I wanted to let you guys know how my first hunts of the 2012 season went.
Cory and I have both been quite busy lately with our jobs so this post is a bit late, but hey, better late than never! We did, however, get out together with the camera on Saturday October 17th for a day of hunting. Waking up around 4 a.m., we got everything packed up into the truck and off we headed to the area Cory hunted the afternoon before on Butner-Falls of Neuse gamelands (see his blog entry from Thursday for the lowdown on that hunt). It was a beautiful morning at that time with temperatures about 60 degrees but we stuck with our decision that we would use the ground blind as there was a very high chance of rain later in the morning.
We arrived to the parking area around 5:30 and started our hike in to our spot, flashlights guiding the way. After finding a spot that we thought was a good location for the blind we had some difficulty setting the blind up (So much easier to set those things up in a lighted garage!). Thankfully we got in with plenty of time before sunrise so this did not cost us any hunting time. Once everything was set up and the blind was brushed in as best as possible, we got all the camera equipment, bows and chairs into the blind and started our wait.
Soon after we got settled in the blind, the sun came above the horizon; unfortunately the heavens also opened up and the rain came! It rained a good part of the day and we were not seeing much wildlife at all. After a couple hours, around 10 a.m., we decided to leave the blind and do some slow stalking and see if we could spot some deer out and about feeding or maybe even ease up on one bedded down. As luck would have it, the deer didn't want to cooperate too well, but we did find a new area to check out later in the season along with persimmon trees loaded with fruit the deer had been checking frequently (Fresh tracks told us we set up that morning on the wrong arm of the lake at that parcel of land). I had to be back home by 1 p.m. as my girlfriend and I had dinner plans with some family, so around noon we headed out of the woods without even seeing a deer.
Even though we saw no deer it was still a great day of hunting since a day in the woods is better than any day in the office in my opinion! We got some good footage as well as good practice with the ground blind and the camera so all in all it was a good day and one that I'll be looking forward to again in the near future! Now if I can only get off of work early one day during this week in time to setup next to those persimmon trees for an afternoon hunt...
So my mind has been other places all week due to issues with my Jeep and trying to get home tonight (I didn't unfortunately, screwing up my plans) and my recap from last Friday just kept getting pushed back. I've finally forced myself to sit down and type out everything that I can remember, so here goes.
Ya gotta work hard to be able to play hard. In my case, this means working 40 hours Monday through Thursday so I can get back home to NC with an extra day to enjoy over the weekend. This past weekend, that meant heading to Raleigh on Friday at lunch time so I could hit the woods in one of my favorite places on Butner-Falls of Neuse gamelands in Wake County. Just about every time I have been there myself or someone else in my hunting party has seen a deer and quite a few bucks and does have been harvested there. With a cold front having come through, I felt good about deer movement over the weekend, as long as rain would hold off on Saturday (more on that from Paul in our next blog entry). With my Eberlestock Blue Widow loaded up with camera and hunting gear, along with my Lone Wolf climber lashed on, I was set to go once I got to the parking area, except for that whole waiting game I had to play since the two guys I was hunting with, Josh and Glen, weren't there yet. It wasn't long after I finished changing and had everything ready to go that the two of them pulled up and off we went.
Having decided that they would hunt in the first spot I ever hunted in this particular area, down the creek bed I went towards the lake some 200 yards below them. I knew there was a patch of oaks there, the creek on one side and the open, thinned out pines on the other. Once I got to the "bowl" of oaks in the bottom area, I noticed that there was fresh grass out in the now dry lake bed at the back end of the cove. I've had good luck hunting the lake shores around this part of NC, but only hunt right along them during muzzleloader and gun season. Deciding not to break tradition, I decided to stick to my original plan of hunting the oaks and picked out a tree about 125 yards from the shore to climb (Keep this in mind for later...) After 45 minutes of climbing, sawing, sweating and getting all camera equipment setup, I settled in for the evening hunt.
With no action taking place the first hour or so, I used that time to cool down and just enjoy being out in the Wake County woods for the first time this hunting season. I also shot some b-roll footage. Around 6 p.m. while glancing out at the lakeshore I saw something that didn't quite look right. Throw up the binoculars and sure enough, there is a doe feeding on that fresh grass I decided not to hunt! I watched her feed out there and then appear to head my way. Standing, I waited and waited, but no deer. So back down I sit to only notice about 15 minutes later a deer sneaking by me on the other side of the creek, 70 yards away, going towards, you guessed it, the fresh grass. I scan and scan to try and find the deer in the binos to no avail and finally decided to just sit back and wait for one to come walking by. And one did, but it came walking by around 125 yards away out in that same patch of fresh grass. I again had more "picking up binoculars" than "picking up bow" time, but I was just content to have my heart pounding again like it always does when I a deer/turkey/whatever I am hunting steps out. As darkness fell, I knew that every day I am able to enjoy the outdoors is truly a blessing and how I couldn't wait to get back out there. Which I did the next morning with Paul, who as I said earlier, has more on Saturday's hunt in our next blog post.
Since Chris thought it was more important to be on the lake wakeboarding than sweating in the humid, North Carolina Summer woods, Paul and I set out for our new hot spot on Butner-Falls of Neuse to prep stand sites for the upcoming bow opener. Turns out filming different things takes up more time than you realize when you factor in shot setup and break-down, so we only were able to trim one camera setup (wasn't even one of the spots we set out to do, completely new place we found while walking around). During all this I took some pics, so here they are. Be sure to tell me what you think, both the good and the bad. I can handle it, I promise.
So early December last year (2010), I decided to hit the road and head from Charlotte, NC up to the state capitol - Raleigh for those of you in Faison - to enjoy a weekend of hunting the gamelands around town. I had to make the most out of being unemployed during hunting season the past few years, so hunting trips were my little way of relaxing. I met my buddy (and soon to be Inside Out team member) Chris at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday December 2nd and off we went to Butner-Falls of Neuse gamelands. Sneaking into a spot I scouted back in college, eventually we string up in a drainage not far from the road. I figured this little patch of land received little pressure during the year and I knew we were hunting in a spot most people would pass-by. After an afternoon of being surrounded by turkeys and squirrels, I had two does come under me right before legal shooting time ended. No horns equals no shooting for me that day since it wasn't either-sex there yet, but it did make me feel confident that I was putting us in good spots already.
The following morning saw us hunting with another buddy along the Haw River in a section of the Jordan gamelands. There wasn't much action atop my hardwood ridge until about 10 a.m. when two came trotting by me, skirting the hillside. Didn't even raise the gun as they never slowed down or came through an opening. That afternoon we decided head to another spot on Jordan, one that Chris had hunted in before. Chris and I headed down a drainage about a half-mile from the road and out towards the lake, in the area he had actually walked through a few weeks prior. I set him up in a prime spot, hardwoods surrounded by small thickets, and off I went about 200 yards out from him. After passing numerous rubs along the way, I set up next to the lake in a small opening also surrounded by some thick stuff, in particular a holly thicket to my North. After 20 minutes of sawing and having to use a tie down to physically nudge a beech tree off the oak I was set-up in, I settled in for the evening 10 feet off the ground in my perfectly hidden little spot. While I watched squirrels and birds play in the woods and fish jump in the lake, a shot rang out behind me around 3:30. My immediate thought was "Chris has finally shot a deer!" I can't tell you how excited I was as I have been trying to put him on deer the past 3 years while also giving him advice whenever he hits the woods alone; I just knew it had all finally paid off. I immediately call him and the first thing he says is "I think I missed her", followed by "I see another one, bye". After patiently waiting 5 more minutes, he calls me back and I ask him about her reaction, if he heard a crash, etc. He didn't, so I tell him to wait until 5 p.m. to climb down and look for blood since it was still early and they were moving out by him.
5 p.m. comes and I am in lala land hoping that he is finding blood when I suddenly hear and see a big, dark bodied deer running my way. I thought I saw horns, not wide but tall, but it was really hard to tell with all the small saplings between me and the deer. Before it hit the opening at me, the deer veered off and headed straight to that holly thicket before stopping. I grunted and even snort-weezed to try and bring it out to no avail. With Chris and I finding no blood nor hair and telling me "She ran, stopped, looked back at me, then ran off up the hill", we came to the conclusion that it was a clean miss and he must have hit a branch or one of the two trees he was trying to squeeze the bullet between. While not the best shot decision, he did make the ethical decision to not take a head on shot, which was very good to hear. After discussing the situation, we decided to leave the stands in overnight, planning to hunt that particular area again the next morning.
Fast forward to Saturday December 4th. Sunrise came and went with us not waking up, so after a really late start, we got in the woods and setup at noon: Me at the same spot as before and Chris up the ridge about 50 yards from where he was the previous afternoon. Being a bit of a weather nerd, I knew there was a chance of a little wintry mix that day, I just didn't think it would amount to much. Well around 2 p.m. the snow and sleet started up; at one point in time it was snowing so hard I could barely see the opposite lake shore which was only 250-300 yards away. Birds were active but that was it over our way. Our buddy who we hunted with the day before, however, had managed to see deer left and right over at the Haw River and harvested a cowhorn. By 4 p.m., there was a dusting of snow and sleet on the ground but everything switched over to an on and off rain/drizzle, soaking me in melted snow. I texted Chris that "I am cold and wet, but we are toughing it out this remaining hour and a half" and let me tell you, I am glad I did!
Around 4:30, I took a look out towards the holly thicket mentioned earlier and saw movement. Then legs. Then a whole body. The deer is real light colored and I ease up the gun. Just like I thought, my scope was fogged up but I could still see through it enough to tell it was a doe (and that was tough to see at that distance). With nothing dry to wipe it off with, I knew I was going to have to get a deer in close to take a shot, which I needed anyway since the furthest I could possibly shoot was 50 yards. I continued to look towards the thicket and see another, darker colored deer before finally seeing yet another large, dark colored deer step out into a large opening beside the other two. I immediately thought "That is the deer from yesterday!". As I was saying that to myself, the deer picks its head up and I saw horns, good ones at that. To say I was praying for them to work my way is an understatement. With my attention fully on him now, I watched this buck feed his way right to me. Every now and again he'd stop and look my way while I was trying not to shake from the cold. Oh, let me stop right here and mention that I had taken off my wet gloves to try warm my hands next to my body. Ever hold a cold, wet gun bare-handed in 30 degree weather and try to keep steady while the biggest buck you have seen while hunting is standing a mere 50 yards away? Yea, that was a moment of mind over a matter.
As this buck came closer, I noticed the doe was directly in front of me, so I eased the gun around in the direction he was in while making sure to not get caught. At 20 yards, he stopped under a large holly tree that was beside me. "5 more feet, just 5 more feet is all I need". Nope, he turned around, but headed straight towards another opening. Foggy scope and all, once he hit it and stopped, I put a 150-grain Remington Corelokt right through both lower shoulders and his heart. The beautiful 10-point dropped like a rock, the other deer scattered a little ways and I was shaking like a leaf from a combination of the cold and my largest buck laying dead 20 yards from me. As I called Chris, the other deer eased around in front of me, so I tell him they are headed for his general direction. Not that it matters much, but the other dark deer turned out to be a spike for those of you wanting to know. Unfortunately, they do not head his way. After trying to calm down and calling Paul to tell him to get our processing stuff ready as well as my mom to spread the good news, I tried to stay in the stand 15 minutes. I promise, I really did. But I couldn't take it, after about 5 minutes I said to myself "Whatever, I have to get down, get warm and grab those antlers!" I like to think that I set a new world record climbing down that tree and literally running to my buck. As the heavy sleet and snow commenced again, I just had this huge smile knowing that my plan for that weekend had come together.
As you know from my blog post Saturday night, we were out stomping around a section of the Butner-Falls of Neuse that morning and I decided to take advantage of us putting some miles on our boots to get some video with my Go Pro. So without further ado, here is our first short video for the year.
Sometimes the great ideas that we have just need something to bring them to the forefront. The Inside Out team will be putting our talents to work and sharing our knowledge and love of the outdoors with anyone who wants to listen.
Curran's Outdoor Adventures
GoBlog (Get Outdoors)
Grants Blog (Growing Deer TV)
Hunt Like Your Hungry
inFOCUS (Campbell Cameras)
inMotion (Heartland Bowhunter)
Make It Happen Outdoors
Taking a Walk on the Wild Side
The Rivah Blog
The Will to Hunt
Wired to Hunt