Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Time Has Come to Hunt Some Does in SoCal!

Anyone with an A31 deer tag will tell you that this time of year is exciting, and extremely hot. I plan on heading out with Brett to try and fill our A31 tags on Saturday. These special tags allow us to shoot a buck or a doe with archery tackle. We have scouted a few areas and we have the one picked out to hunt on Saturday. It is going to be a crazy hike in and the temperatures nearing triple digits. I just hope the deer have read the memo.

Anyone else heading out in search of a doe or a buck?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Feeling Like a New Man

Clean air. Dirt trails. Climbing high in search of mule deer. The Silence. This past weekend was just what I needed and I feel like a new man. I was completely at peace in the mountains and it was glorious! It was something I definitely needed mentally and spiritually.

LT and I got a late start due to me having to wait for the big brown truck to arrive. Once my package was in hand, we hit the road to Big Bear Lake. Brett had invited us up there to hunt and we jumped at the chance. We knew we would only have one day to hunt, but it was worth the 2.5 hour drive through Friday night traffic. It's easy for me to say as I didn't have to drive! (Thanks LT!) We arrived late, unpacked and went to sleep. The temperatures were in the 50s and I slept well. 

When the alarm went off, I was up and quickly showered. Once LT was up and dressed, we hit the road to get to a spot Brett had been checking out all week. We arrived early, but it was a blessing as many people drove by glancing at where we were. I think we found a good spot as there were many sad faces in the windows as trucks drove by.

The area we were hunting was vast, so we discussed the landscape and where to set up. Brett was going to head to where he had spotted a big buck a few days earlier. LT and I would hike in and set up near some ridges. Hiking in was heaven. The smell of pine, dirt, and a breeze free of smog. My lungs were happy. I dropped LT off at his spot looking over a ridge and hillside. I continued on to find more and more trees and valleys. I set up where I could glass two ridge lines, a valley, and a grove of burnt brush from a fire at least ten years prior.

Our plan was simple. We would sit and glass for a couple hours and then meet back up at the truck. I glassed and glassed and sat in awe of God's creation. It was so incredibly peaceful. After 45 minutes of seeing nothing, I decided to inch forward about 50 yards to get a glimpse of the valley just out of my view. Almost immediately I saw four deer bounding back down the ridge and one of them was a buck. I couldn't tell if there was a fork or not, but the antlers were 12-14" tall from what I could tell. It was a great start to the day!

After another hour of seeing nothing more than a random bird, I made my way back down the hill to meet up with the guys. After a quick chat with another local hunter and his sons, we hiked back up past where I was positioned and found some large deer tracks. We hiked to the edge of the ridge and glassed for a few moments. When I turned around, I glanced down, noticing something peculiar, and there resting under a bush was a young rattlesnake. Fortunately we were all a good 6-8 feet away. I snapped a couple of photos and was thankful I was wearing snake gaiters. We let it be and hiked back down to the truck after not seeing any deer.

The rest of the day we drove around, glassing, telling stories, and enjoying the beauty of the mountains. By the time evening rolled around, we were ready to enjoy the serenity of nature. I climbed to a new spot on an adjacent ridge and got up high. I was able to see both Brett and LT and they could see me. I cannot describe to you how refreshed, relaxed, and comfortable I felt sitting there on the mountain. Know that it was one of the best feelings in the world. It was so quiet, I could hear LT walking up the road from nearly a quarter mile away. I had a big jackrabbit come in at 40 yards, but he stopped when he heard my breathing. I'll admit, I got excited when I heard some brush moving. He hopped off and a few hummingbirds zipped around the Indian Paintbrush flowers while I waited for the sun to set. We saw no more deer that evening.

The next morning would be our last to hunt, so we set up similar to the evening hunt the night before. I hiked the ridge, but LT ventured to where I first sat the day before. After a half hour, I noticed he was stalking something. He crept closer and closer to a spot that I could not see clearly due to heavy brush. After a few minutes he gave up and went back to his pack. When the time came to head back down, we packed up and met on the road. It turns out that a large spike buck had suddenly materialized in the green growth at less than 40 yards. As LT inched closer, he saw that it was a spike, which are illegal to shoot in California unless the antlers are below 3". His excitement at seeing the buck and getting that close with a bow was clearly shown in his expression and smile. Now we just need to get him on a legal buck!

For me, it was a great weekend to be up in the mountains with friends. It went far too quickly as I could have stayed up there a week. As the rifle season creeps closer and the temperatures drop, I am hoping for a few more days out there to find my first legal Cali buck to send an arrow through. Until then, I will scour maps, practice, and daydream.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Product Review: Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System

Image provided by Work Sharp.

Knife sharpening is easy. Yep, you heard me. It's easy, but it takes practice! When you try the new Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System, you will see that not only is it easy, it's fun, and you will want to sharpen everything. Work Sharp sent me the new kit and the upgrade kit to review. I had no expectations going in, but I couldn't wait to start sharpening things! 

Here's what comes with the kit:

  • Benchtop Sharpening Platform
  • Coarse Diamond Plate (320 Grit)
  • Grit Fine Diamond Plate (600 Grit)
  • 17° / 20° Angle Guides (2)
  • Ceramic Field Hone
  • User Guide/Quick Start Guide

    The Guided Sharpening System features:
    •     6” coarse (320 grit) and fine (600 grit) Diamond Sharpening Plates
    •     17° and 20° Angle Guides
    •     Coarse and Fine Ceramic Hone with built-in Angle Guides
    •     3 sizes of ceramic rods to sharpen serrations
    •     Pivot-Response technology
    •     Removable diamond plate holder for sharpening tools

    • Curved Blades
    • Straight Blades
    • Serrations
    • Tools
    • Hooks and Fine Points

    The Upgrade Kit extends the range of diamond plates by adding an Extra-Coarse 220 Girt for blade repair and coarse tool sharpening, an Extra-Fine 800 Grit for delicate sharpening tasks and edge refinement, plus a Leather Stopping plate with 0.5 micron honing compound and a 25° Stropping Angle Guide.

    First off, when you open the box, take everything out. Don't start assembling it right away. Read those instructions. People work hard to put those together for you, so you don't make mistakes. Read them all the way through and then put it all together. It's a really well thought out and downright cool system!

    Now, I reviewed the Work Sharp portable knife sharpener a few years back and it is still in my backpack when I hunt. In fact, after my review of it, a handful of my hunting buddies picked some up and continue to use them. Get ready for the new and improved version! This new one is slick! The key factor is this:

    It features the innovative Pivot-Response System which allows the abrasive to follow the curve of the blade – making manual sharpening faster, easier and more precise than ever.

    That's it in a nutshell. The Pivot-Response System is exactly what we DIY guys have been looking for. If you want to see it in motion, check out the Work Sharp website videos. it's really awesome to see how well this works.

    As part of the review, Work Sharp provided a brand new CRKT knife to test out with. If anyone knows CRKT knives, when they come to you, they are already razor sharp. I needed a dull knife, so I put the call out to my hunting buddies. 'Who needs a dull blade brought back from the dead?' One of my hunting buddies immediately said he needed his knife sharpened as it was incredibly dull. He wasn't kidding! It was quite possible one of the dullest knives I have seen and I really wasn't optimistic about getting it sharp again.

    What I like about the new system compared to the portable version is that I don't feel like I am going to slice into my fingers with this one. The guides are more pronounced and easier to follow. Plus, you are elevated off the table or bench you and on and have more area to work with. That gives you that full range of motion. I began with the extra-coarse diamond plate and the system worked well and followed my movements. It took some doing (the knife was really dull) to get an edge back, but I was successful. I did notice that you want to have the system on a table or something at the right height for proper movement. Too high and it gets very uncomfortable.

    Once I had an edge, I followed up with the coarse and then fine grit plates. I find knife sharpening therapeutic in that you get a flow going and once you see that edge getting sharper, you feel great! I worked on this knife for a while because I wanted to fully test out the system. I have to say, I really like the way it works and it gets knives really sharp. My friends knife is now very sharp and ready to use in the field.

    You are probably thinking the Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System is expensive, but you'd be wrong. At $59.95, it's not only reasonable, it's a sound investment. I am most certainly recommending this to anyone who wants to sharpen their own blades. Now I need to go find a few more blades to sharpen!

    Tuesday, September 8, 2015

    Opening Day Leads to Plenty of Doe

    As soon as the previous deer season ends, we bowhunters start counting down to opening day of the next bow season. In SoCal, we prepare all year by consistently making it to the archery range, exercising, scouting, and earning spousal points so we can make it out the door for extended periods of time and hunt. It's a process, but a thrill in knowing that once your boots hit the dirt, it's game on!

    The excitement level was high as we drove up the mountain. We spoke of meadows, trees, and bucks waiting in the shadows. That all came to a grinding halt when we encountered boulders blocking the road. There was no way around them and without the proper vehicle, there was no going over them. Our only choice was to back down the hill, in the dark, to a turnabout and head back down the mountain. Initial disappointment was there as we all hoped to be hunting a different area, but our choices were limited and we needed to adjust on the fly.

    After we parked and sprayed down, we hiked to the edge of a wide valley to glass. The sun was coming up and we hoped to spot some bucks feeding. After only a few minutes I spotted a doe and a fawn feeding on some leaves. We watched them for a half hour and saw that no bucks were around. We decided it was time to hike to another spot and glass. Down the trail we went and saw some beautiful, open hillsides. We happened to be standing right in the sun, so we pushed on until we found some shade. That's when we glassed up doe, after doe, after doe. We located seven doe in all. Some had shiny coats and some with such light colored coats they looked white. We patiently waited and glassed a while and saw zero antlered deer. It was opening day and it's a good sign just to see deer!

    The sun was beating down and we knew there was a stream somewhere below us. We also knew there were trees where we could find shade, so we hiked into the depths of the valley and into the trees. It was much cooler! We split up and each took a spot in the shade of some trees. I kept hiking, hoping to find something more exciting than just some shade. While I didn't find a buck, I did find a stream that was flowing well enough that I had to smile. With the drought, it's not often you find a stream like this. I dropped my pack and set up in hopes of finding a deer or a bear. After thirty minutes, I moved up the road a bit and then came back to the shade. It was nap time! I found a nice tree for a pillow and slept for 45 minutes in the cool shade and it was glorious! When I awoke, I hiked down to find my friends and shared my find. We hiked back to the stream and decided to relax in the shade for a couple hours as the temperatures were climbing.

    After we sat for a while, we felt we were recharged enough and headed back out the trail. We glassed a bit on the way out, but there was nothing on the move. Even the butterflies had stopped fluttering around. Yes, it was really that hot.

    Back at the SUV, we loaded our gear and broke out the ice cold Monsters out of the ice chest. We had hoped for a better area to hunt, but the day didn't turn out bad and we were able to locate some deer. We had fun learning the land and knowing that we have to work harder the next time out. If all things work for us, we are planning on getting to a new spot this weekend and hiking much further. We are already anticipating a whole new hunt with a new set of challenges and I couldn't be happier.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2015

    Family, and Mule Deer, and Bears...Oh Yeah!

    Every couple years I am blessed to be able to head back and bow hunt whitetail deer with my family in New York State. This year happens to be one of those years and I can hardly contain my excitement! You see, I love hunting whitetails. I love the planning, the hunt, and the feast after. Most importantly, I love hunting with my dad and brother. I get to go back to my roots. The smell of the woods, the treestands, the stories, and the camaraderie. I live for that!
    For the past few weeks I have been talking with my dad and brother about the property we get to hunt, treestand placement, archery practice and how much effort they are putting in to find good spots. While I know that I hike in a ways and scout as often as I can, these two are putting in much more time and physical labor to get things proper. In fact, I look at them as if they are my guides. I understand whitetails, but these guys are living and breathing them in NY. They KNOW whitetails and are constantly studying their behavior. I am very thankful for all of their hard work! I just pray they don't put a treestand up for me that faces the sun! Ha!

    Needless to say, I am practicing a lot, planning my trip, and at the same time gearing up for hunting deer and bear in SoCal this weekend. It's a whirlwind, but I wouldn't have it any other way.