Sunday, March 13, 2016

Turkey Season is almost here!

Turkey season is almost here in Georgia! I've seen a few pictures on social media from successful hunts in Florida and they're making me a little bit jealous. Season here opens March 26 and I've been selected for a limited quota hunt at Blanton Creek WMA that runs the first two weeks of the season. I'm excited to be back in the woods hunting and for the chance to participate. Check back soon for updates from the hunt!

Old Hunting Grounds

I'm an adventurer and I love going new places and seeing new things. I like hunting new spots and putting the pieces of the puzzle together to find the game I'm pursuing. I like wading new streams and finding out what makes the fish there tick. But there's something about going back to old hunting grounds that is good for the soul. 

Growing up hunting with my dad, we returned to the same general hunting areas every season. Not because of our unbelievable success, because honestly we ate some tags. It was more about familiarity with the game and land. Taking in the same scenic views painted by God's paintbrush, walking the same trails through dark timber that we had seen game use in the past, going back to the "sucker blind" one more time, just to see if there were any deer there. As the years go by, clearings fill in with new growth pines, game patterns change and ice moved away. But even now, I spend a lot of time in my mind in those old hunting spots. 

On a recent hog hunt in the Cohutta Wilderness of north Georgia, I walked through the same clearing where I killed my first turkey a few years ago. I relived the the hunt like it was yesterday, down to the last detail. I had spent a couple days camping there, without much luck, and one night sitting by my campfire I read an article in a magazine about bowhunting turkeys without a blind. Thinking to myself "why not?" I set up the next morning with a plan to make it work. About 8:30, I called in a Jake who cooperated almost perfectly with my plan, save for making me hold at full draw for a minute that seemed like ten. 

The general idea was to set up your decoys so that a gobbler coming in would pass behind a tree or other cover giving you the chance to draw without him seeing you. I set up where trees would give me that window of opportunity from several directions. When he paused behind a tree I drew. He probably stayed out of sight for less than a minute, strutting a little bit, but holding my bow at full draw made it seem like a lot more. After he finally cleared, I was able to make a good shot at about 30 yards. 

I can remember every minute of that morning. Making me wonder sometimes I forget what I did yesterday. Or forget to put black socks for work in the laundry. But my point is, going back to those old hunting spots floods your mind with a lot of memories that bring you closer to good times past, family and friends, and to nature. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself standing there daydreaming instead of hunting. It doesn't matter though, because sometimes it's about reconnecting. 

Do you have old hunting or fishing spots you love to return to year after year? I'd love to hear about them. Comment here or message me on my social media accounts. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Weighted Pack Training

Training with a weighted pack, or rucking as it's called in military circles, is a great way to intensify your cardio workouts, as well as prepare your body for carrying heavy loads come hunting season. In addition to the hunting I do out west, the mountain hunting here in Georgia can at times call for quartering up an animal and hauling it out as opposed to dragging it a little ways to the truck.

After doing a little research I found a good way to add a realistic weight to your pack without investing much money. This whole project cost me just $10 and some change. 

The ruck "pill" basically consists of play sand inside a sandbag, and then wrapped in duct tape. For my purposes I skipped the sandbag and just used the bag the sand came in. I folded it over in half and started taping it into a "pill" shape. I used about a roll and 1/4 of duct tape to cover the entire thing well. 

All finished, my pill weighs about 35 pounds, and is just the right size to fit in my day pack. It may have been a good idea to start with a lighter weight, but it's too late now so I'll just go with it! I definitely recommend doing this project in a place where spilled sand won't matter or will be easy to clean up. You can experiment with different weights and sizes depending on your gear and fitness level.

Now all that's left to is hit some hiking trails or go about your regular workout routine. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Into Africa: Rifle or bow?

If you've been keeping up with me for a while, you may know that I'm going to hunt Africa in 2017. Even though I've been talking and thinking about it often, I don't think the reality of that sunk in until I met Mike and Karen Helbing at the NWTF Convention in Nashville. They weren't at the World Deer Expo last year where I won the safari they donated, and prior to meeting in Nashville we had only corresponded by email. When I sat down at their booth at NWTF and Karen started going over all the logistical details, it finally hit me....I'm going to Africa!

Wild Wildebeest Safaris is based in South Africa, with hunting concessions throughout South Africa and neighboring countries. They offer hunts for almost every huntable African species, limited only by your pocketbook. Looking at pictures and video of the accommodations, the lodge appears to maintain a good balance between the African experience and still being comfortable enough for Westerners to relax and rest easy during their stay.

Between research on my own and conversations with Mike and Karen, I know a lot more about what to expect than I did back in July when I won the safari. The main question in my mind was whether I would plan to hunt with a bow or rifle. Bowhunting is by far my favorite method, but I'm not going to hunt Africa every year, and I don't want to come home from this kind of trip with nothing to show but some landscape photos. After asking questions about the opportunities for bowhunting and looking at the extensive catalog of succession bowhunts they've had the last few years, I've decided to hunt with a bow. As a last resort, rifles are available to rent if the stick and string work doesn't go as planned. 

Bowhunting Africa is more seasonally dependent than rifle hunting, due to the fact that much of the hunting involves sitting in blinds over water holes, and for that tactic to work you need dry weather. The season begins in May and gets drier as it goes on to September. So my tentative plan is to hunt in late July/early August. 

The next update on this hunt will be my "wish list" of animals, which may or may not change over the next year and a half. There's plenty of time to add and remove animals from the list, but I want to have a general idea. More on that soon! 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Georgia Campus Carry Legislation

On February 16, the Georgia House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee passed House Bill 859 on a 10-3 vote.  HB 859, sponsored by Representative Rick Jasperse, a Republican, seeks to amend restrictions in state law that prohibit law-abiding Georgia Weapons License holders from being able to carry and protect themselves on college and university campuses. Today, the Georgia House of Representatives passed the bill on a 113-59 vote. 

Although it's already obvious to many of us, CCW holders do not threaten public safety, as they are one of the most law-abiding portions of the population. They shouldn't be prevented from exercising their right to self-defense simply because they are seeking a college education. The bill will now move to the Senate for committee assignment and consideration.

In other college news, many colleges take great pride in bragging about their “diversity” and “inclusiveness,” but just wearing a tool of his trade was reason enough for one police officer to be excluded from a class he was taking at Darton State College in Albany, GA. 

There aren't many details available, but several accounts say the uniformed officer escorted from class because the instructor was uncomfortable that a gun was in the classroom.

So far there is nothing to indicate that the instructor’s “discomfort” was due to any threatening or disruptive behavior by the officer. The school has reportedly apologized to the officer for the incident. It turns out that Darton State College generally bans firearms from campus, but makes an exception for police officers.

Most colleges and universities ban staff and students from carrying weapons on their campuses. These bans do nothing to prevent firearms-related incidents! All they accomplish is providing an easy, open opportunity for those who would do harms to others and don't pay attention to the "gun free zone" signs.

This has led to efforts to recognize right to carry on campus in several states. Let's hope HB 859 continues to carry through the Georgia senate.