2011 October

TRACKING DAD’S DEER

Posted by | Fatherhood and venison jerkey, In the woods | 20 Comments

I had just walked back from my stand to the truck to meet the kids. Dressed in sweatshirts, jeans, muck boots and still sporting bed-head, they were ready to get into the woods and help track my deer.

Cam: Dad! You got a buck?

Jonah: Where is he?

Cam: Man, I can’t wait to see him. Is he big?

Bird: How many points, dad?

Three kids, my pack, bow and towing a trailer, I drove the golf cart toward to northwest corner of the course behind the 15th tee. Two days rain had given way to a thin, overcast mid-morning sky, as we made our soggy way between pines and locust trees, steering clear of greens, fairways and bunkers. As we passed a couple pairs of golfers and one foursome, the kids waved, drawing smiles and waves in return.

My in-laws own a public golf course with a good patch of hunting woods behind it. On morning hunts, I walk the dark quarter-mile from the clubhouse where I park my truck to the back corner where I drop into the woods and pick my way to my tree stand. I’m usually settled in and having my first cup of thermos coffee by 5:30, listening blindly to the ink woods around me.

The walk in always takes me back to my first few seasons as a bow hunter. After dad and I would part ways from the tailgate with a good luck and shoot straight, it would take me forever to walk the forty yards to my stand in the dark. The inability to make out my path forward, and the nagging thought that some sort of dangerous, nocturnal, Upstate-NY animal had to be right in front of me was paralyzing. First light would’ve just barely arrived and I’d still be 15 yards from my tree. Fortunately, I’ve learned how to unwind that overactive imagination in the years since.

Dad and I have talked about how the sound of the woods changes as shooting-light creeps in. We’re always surprised at how the light itself arrives imperceptibly, until we blink a few times and suddenly the shades of gray have picked up more contrast. Trees start to stand apart from the thorn-brush, swale and each other. Everything has gathered faint color.

This is when the sound changes. With sight, our inadequate human hearing shifts its intent from the close sounds of potential danger to the comfortable universe of sunrise. The constant re-balancing of our survival-instinct. Of course, while our survival-instinct and the deeper biological/anthropological importance of our senses are cool things to ponder, my dad and I also agree that the dark before the dawn is also a great time to catch a few more Z’s.

As we headed into the woods, the kids knew that being quiet is part of the deal. I brought the boys with me and my dad to track a doe of mine last year— my daughter electing to pass on the festivities. It was their first time following a blood trail and like young hound-dogs after a scent, their 7 and 5 year old enthusiasm would not be contained. This year was different. All three walked with me, talking in hushed voices, trying their best to pick quiet steps, keeping their eyes peeled for more deer, shush-ing each other every now and again.

I pointed out my stand. Awesome. We crossed the creek below my tree and picked our way to the rotted blow-down, 21 yards away, where the buck last stood before I let go of my arrow. I pointed out the first drops of blood and the direction that I had watched the buck bolt and all three immediately went into sleuth-mode.

While I kept an eye out for the deer, they strung together the path of blood drops like one of their dot-to-dot coloring book puzzles. Not long into the search, Bird found the arrow. When we got to the swampy, tall swale (not wanting my half-pint help blindly leading the charge into the thick stuff) they filed in behind me. Four steps in I spotted him and the high-fives and hollering commenced.

After the kids were satisfied with the feel of his hair, hooves, antlers and where the arrow went in and came out, I rolled up my sleeves for the work at hand. They pointed out the liver, intestines and pinched their noses at the stomach-full of grass and corn which smelled like dairy farm silage. I showed them the heart and where the arrow passed through both lungs. Cam offered his approval. Yea, he’s not going far without those, right dad? Shades of conversations I’d had– still have– with my dad in the field.

Back at the truck, I poured another cup of coffee and stood, quietly appreciating the beauty and good fortune of the morning–Bird, Cam and Jonah proudly recounting the details of tracking dad’s deer to each other, their cousins, grandparents, my friend Grant and any golfers who happened to be near.

There’s not much in this world that’s better for my soul than that.

Posing with the buck

 

Photo credit: Grant Taylor

–This is my submission for the Sportsman Channel Writing Contest for Hunters hosted by the Outdoor Blogger Network.

BLOODY KNUCKLES

Posted by | On the water | 22 Comments
First fly rod pike

First fly rod pike

It was a morning like any other morning on the water.

Then it wasn’t.

Big nasty got a whole jaw-full of strip-set-streamer-and-eight-weight comeuppance.

Toothy sonofabitch.

GEAR REVIEW: COSTA TAG SUNGLASSES

Posted by | Reviews | 7 Comments

I have a small melon. Very few hat styles fit, short haircuts make me look 12, and sunglasses give me agida…until recently. On another good mail-day prior to our trip to Idaho, I received a pair of Costa Tag sunglasses. Named after the tagging initiative that folks at the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust are building, the Tags are new style in an crazy-extensive line of high-quality, good looking eyewear. And they fit.

Costa Tag sunglasses

These particular sunglasses came with their new 580P (Polycarbonate) polarized lens in copper. They’re also available in glass. Coupled with a fused nylon and Hydrolite frame, they feel lightweight but well-built. According to the folks I talked to at Costa down at IFTD, the 580 lens (a level above their 400’s) completely eliminates reflected glare, blocks yellow light and boosts red, green and blue light, the C-WALL coating repels water, oil, dust and scratches, and the copper color best-serves sight fishing, driving and everyday use. Having a long-frustrating sensitivity to light (bright daylight and headlights at night), I hoped the additional optic assistance would make a difference.

For the 10 days we were out west, the Tags (which retail for $169) performed exactly as described. The five rivers we fished all brought different conditions to the game. Cloudy and fast; deep and gin clear; wide and choppy; high and white; smooth as glass.

Even with clear blue skies and the resulting glare on the water for 90% of the trip, I rarely (if ever) had to squint or strain to see where I was wading or casting to. The wider wrap-around style blocked peripheral glare as well. Without the eye fatigue, I was much more comfortable on the water. Plus, the flexible temple-tips kept me from getting those “pressure-spots” on the side of my head–even wearing one of those hats that actually fit.

Deep and fast ain't nothin'

This glare ain't nothin' either

They fit, even with a lid on backwards

I put the “driving” benefit of the sunglasses to work as well. We spent the better part of 24 hours over the course of our trip on the road to and from water. But it was one run that sealed the deal on the value of the Tags. I fell on the sword for the four hour drive east from Boise to Idaho Falls on Wednesday morning. Looking east into a bluebird central Idaho morning sky, there was nothing but front-and-center sun. And sun like that plays hell in a couple ways: the intense glare off the windshield (and every bug, wiper drag and water mark on the windshield), and the direct brightness that burns a circle on your iris and leads a trail wherever your eye moves.

It took 3 hours for it to actually dawn on me that I hadn’t had to fight the unruly windshield glare, burned irises or light sensitivity I always have. That’s not to say I didn’t use the visor or gangsta-lean to better use my rearview mirror’s shadow at times, but again, the eye fatigue I should’ve experienced from an entire Idaho plains landcape-full of morning sun simply wasn’t there.

The road back from Stanley and the Salmon

On a mission to Idaho Falls

See the fish. Be the fish.

Nowhere to hide

All-in-all, a great pair of sunglasses that I plan on getting a lot more use out of during our other-than-fair-weather east coast seasons.

PROS:
• They fit my small head
• 580 lens eliminates glare, blocks yellow light
• Lightweight but well-built feel
• Durable Polycarbonate lens
• Flexible, comfortable temple-points
• Great on the water and on the road
• $169 is worth it for little-to-no eye fatigue

CONS:
•  Let’s see after a few seasons of use

For more information on these and other Costa optics, visit www.costadelmar.com.

 

Reviews on this site are my unpaid and unbiased opinion of gear, music, guides, books and other outdoor-related items. In some instances I may be allowed to keep what is sent to me for review, but as of right now I’m not affiliated with any company, manufacturer, publisher, or producer in any other way. I suppose there’s still hope though.