Thursday, November 22, 2007

11.21.07 Randolph County Muzzleloader II

Returned to the same stand over in Randolph County this afternoon and despite the nearly full moon had a good hunt. Saw a button buck at 4:45pm and a ten minutes later, after hitting the grunt tube a couple times, this guy walked out. Not a monster buck by any standards but a trophy to me (and a couple happy little boys).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Outdoor Devotion - Sharpened

I had a mind to fry some fish. There was a new bag of House Autry breader in the pantry . The dogwoods had starting blooming earlier in the week signifing the start of the crappie bite. Athough the temperature was still in the 50's Spring was in the air and it was a perfect day for fishing.
My boys and I had a seven acre farm pond, a bucket full of minnows, three bobber-laden fishing rods and a beautiful afternoon to fill the creel. And boy did the fish cooperate. Thirty minutes later we had a 5 gallon bucket loaded with crappies. When we got back to the house I pulled out the filet knife and went to work. What a mess. The first two fish looked like an alligator had been using them for chewing gum. The knife was dull as a hammer making the task nearly impossible. I pulled out the sharpener, swiped my Rapala's blade across its flint a couple times and went back to work. The remainder of the crappies went like clockwork and before long our family was dining on fresh fish and singing praises to the chef. What a difference a sharp blade makes.

The outdoors is replete with examples of equipment that need to be sharpened axes, broadheads, chainsaws, fishing hooks, knives to name a few. Honed to a fine point a good blade makes most chores more enjoyable.
The same is true in life. Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another." Rather than a whetstone or grinding wheel people need other people in their lives to keep us sharp. This is particularly true of men. For some reason, we find it more difficult or possibly less important to have deep relationships with other men. Maybe it's a cultural thing to try to be the Lone Ranger and "go it alone". In truth this doesnt mean we're more of a man, it simply means that we're more vunerable. Daily life with its busyness, responsibilities, disappointments, hurts and hardships has a way of dulling us. And we need other folks be it fishing buddies, coworkers, golfing pals, etc. to keep us sharp.
Reminds me of an account in the Gospel of Luke. Chapter 5 tells of Jesus teaching in a house one day. Four guys get together and decide to bring their friend, a paralytic, to Christ for healing. When they arrived at the location where Jesus was there was such a crowd that they couldn't get in. These guys didn't give up but instead pulled the roof apart and lowered their buddy through a hole in the ceiling, playing an integral part in him being healed. In fact, Luke 5:20 states, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." What a great story! What great friends! What a great example for us men! Not only do I want to be a man willing to go the extra mile to bring my friends to the Master, but I am grateful for the guys that God uses to keep me sharp.
For more information about sharpening your knife visit Buck Knife's website here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

11.08.07 Randolph County Muzzleloader Hunt

Seven Christmases ago I tore into a present that forever changed my relationship with my wife. It was an elongated box (approximately 30 inches long, 10 inches wide and 5 inches thick), lovingly covered in festive paper and shiny ribbon and it was the first piece of outdoor equipment my beloved ever bought me. Millennium Design Muzzleoader of Vermont manufactured this stainless steel barrelled, walnut stocked, .50 caliber work of art but what made it special was the fact that she had somehow picked up on the research I was doing on inline muzzleloaders and bought the exact one I had my eye on before I had a chance to purchase it.

For six seasons I've tried to take a deer with this prized rifle. I'd come close several times. Two years ago I had the hammer pulled back and crosshairs placed behind the shoulder of a Guilford County doe only to be disappointed by a metallic "click" when I squeezed the trigger revealing the fact that I'd forgotten to put a primer cap on the nipple. Last year I watched a spike buck through the scope but decided to let him grow. However, I never could seem to close the deal.
Two weeks ago some family friends gave me permission to hunt on their land. I finally got around to scouting it out and putting up a stand and four days later was sitting in that stand, scanning the surroundings and, of course, second guessing my location.
The woods were chocked full of squirrels. The gray squirrel population has got to be at an all-time high because every time I'm deer hunting it seems I'm surrounded by them (the only time I'm not surrounded by squirrels in the woods is when I am squirrel hunting!). There was one eating acorns right in front of me. Another was shuffling through fallen leaves looking for his supper. And yet another one was jumping around and scampering through the woods on my left. Directly behind me I heard squirrel number four barking at something, letting the neighborhood know something was not right. Immediately I heard the sound of footsteps through the fallen leaves and assumed it was another squirrel. I was wrong. The sound became louder, more distinct and it was quickly apparent that the incoming footsteps belonged to a deer.

A yearling stepped beside me and walked on through the woods. Next came a doe, followed by another yearling. The doe was very skittish as a light breeze was blowing across me and into the deer's path. She licked her nose and stuck it higher into the air, sniffing and trying to figure out what she was smelling. Eventually she walked on through and joined the yearlings, feeding on acorns and other mast. I guess curiosity got the best of her and she walked back toward me. I had it in mind to hold out for a buck but as it got darker and the deer continued feeding right around me I decided to opt for meat in the freezer and take a doe. As I shifted my weight and raised my muzzleloader barrel, one of the yearlings spotted the movement and blew a warning. I squeezed the trigger and boom, the world exploded with the sound of a .50 Hornady Lock-N-Load sabot being propelled out the 1 in 24" rifled barrel and deer running everywhere. Triple Seven smoke filled my vision making it impossible to see more than five yards in front of the stand. As the smoke cleared an eerie silence fell over the woods and a quick check revealed the doe was not there. I got down and checked the area, finding blood and feeling better. Then I headed back to truck to get a flashlight.

Whitney, my buddies' teenage daughter, wanted to tag along so we tracked the deer ten yards at a time periodically marking the blood trail with small strips of toilet tissue. Being somewhat discouraged by the lack of blood I began to question the shot but continued forward, energized by the enthusiasm of my tracking partner. Forty-five minutes and a hundred or so yards later we found her. Not a trophy by most standards but a great prize in my book.

Friday, November 2, 2007

11.01.07 Thom-a-Lex Canoe Adventure

The plan was for this to be a fishing trip. I'd been wanting to take my boys over to Lake Thom-a-Lex to try fishing from a canoe that had been gathering dust in our backyard. Of course they were gungho and ready for any outing that included their father, water and even the smallest hint of danger.
When we arrived at the boat ramps there were a couple older fellas sitting at a picnic table shooting the breeze. I should have known by the knowing twinkle in their eyes that I was in for it. Apparently they knew all too well how much trouble a dad, two small boys and a canoe can get into. When I asked them to say a little prayer for me I thought one old codger was going to fall off his perch in laughter. With a couple fishing rods, a tackle box, a bag of snacks, a camera, life jackets and oars loaded into the canoe we launched into our inaugural canoe expedition.
It was a beautiful, fall morning. And after rowing several minutes all my worries subsided and my boys were content to put their hands and feet in the chilly water, soak in the surroundings and watch their daddy partake in the rigorous cardio vascular exercise of propelling eighty pounds of children and many more pounds of parent across the lake. We pulled into a pretty little cove and they began casting worms and bobbers into the coffee stained water. Immediately I spotted movement off to the left, along the bank. Two mallard slipped off the shoreline and into the water and began to swim away from our approach, wary of the canoe full of humans.
I continued paddling toward the ducks and although they seemed very skittish they did not take off. I could not believe how close they allowed us to get to them. As we continued to the end of the cove five more mallards appeared out of brush lining the banks and began paddling away from us. Without warning they lept from the water and flew right over us, less than 25 feet from the tops our heads.
That was the highlight of our morning. We fished for an hour or so and only got one bite. We spent the next hour eating snacks and searching for lost bobbers along the shoreline. It was a great day!