The Cold, Gray Winter Days, I Love Them!

Time to find a big Bama Buck in the November woods! ~postoak~

As anyone who has read my blog during deer seasons past, I have on more than one ocassion made it known of my dislike for summer. The weather is so hot, my work load gets brutal and many people I have to interact with are “difficult”. During those days, weeks and months, I sometimes stop and take solace in the fact that fall and winter are not figments of my imagination, even on those 100 degree days full of strife.

We celebrate the death of summer every year the week after Labor day and start practice with our bows. In September and October, we work like madmen at our hunting lease or hunting clubs to get fields planted, shooting lanes and roads cleared of overgrowth from summer limbs and weeds, try to get in a few dove hunts and about wo squirrel hunts, three football games…. and then, there it is again!

The cool October days with “bluebird” skies bathed by a vibrant sun. Fall foliage dressed with leaves of red, orange, and yellow, slowly gives way to the first cold snaps of the fall, the first frost of the year, which we had last week, and those cold, cloudy days with a good breeze from the West or North, or somewhere in between. Those days that are wrapped around a cold front and aided by the shorter daylight hours of my old friend, Winter!

Lordy! I do love a cold, cloudy winter’s day in the deer woods! The deer are often active all day so I can stay in my stand longer or stay on my stalk longer and still have confidence that I could shoot a nice buck even at 11:00 a.m. or 2 p.m. with almost as much chance as the early morning or later afternoon hunting periods!

Scrapes and rubs are starting to be made by the bucks, regardless of size, and the big bucks are starting to fight for dominance over a section of the property. Pre-rut rattling, grunt calls made with an agressive tone and cadence seem to work best on our property in November and December prior to, and during our rut which peaks around Christmas week. I don’t care how many deer you have taken, rattling in a nice buck, especially if you can see him coming to you on the run across a field or big open woods is a charge that is on par with any other in the hunt for game animals. Heck, I am a confirmed turkey-holic and nothing sends my hunter’s heart to racing like a gobbler blasting a response to my call on an early spring morning. But a big buck  on the run with his hair standing on end across his back and spoiling for a fight can get real close to the same adrenal “dosing” that is only cured by the successful pull of the trigger!

Yes, I love those cold gray days that will soon be here. Days that give me a chance to escape from others and immerse myself in the solitude of the deer woods. I am able to sit and enjoy the quietness, even when it is punctuated by a drumming, pilleated wood pecker, living in his own world, seemingly oblivious to me but not missing a thing. The woods are alive like that, a section of older, mature woods, whether a pine forrest, or a swamp populated with old growth Oaks, Elms, Poplars and even the Sweet Gum, are all worthy of praise as I sit and ponder how old they are, if they could talk, the stories of their days, how many big deer have passed by them, eaten their mast crops in the dark of night and the early morning light. I love the dampness, the earthy smells, the unique features that have occurred in the trees as they grew.

This may all sound like a bunch of “bull” to some of you, but not to those who hunt the winter woods and have fallen in love with them from the days of their childhood. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have hunted some 54 years, as this will be for me, and to have learned the art of savoring the magic of those cold, gray winter woods and the all too few days we get to spend there, hidden from the rat race, considering many things we are too busy to give thought to as we hurry through life. An hour in the woods last longer, tastes sweeter, can be breathed deeper and offers us a balance in our lives, inside the cold, cloudy winter woods, life is good when you are there!

November is upon us !  Use it before you lose it!

~POST OAK~

Squirrel Hunting, A Great Way to Teach Young Hunters, & Refresh Your Aim

Recent Full Moon was so bright it reflected on this old trail cam buck `Postoak~

The wonderful deep blue fall skies are here and gun season for deer is still almost four weeks away. So, unless you bow hunt (and I do,) it leaves you with other options for getting away to the outdoors. A great option is to take some time to hunt squirrel.

Squirrel hunting in the fall was as much a part of my fall hunting as bream fishing was part of my summers. Back then, there was no bow season in October. No compound bows, cross bows or even recurvebows used by anyone that lived in our “neck of the woods” but, that was not something that we longed for. We knew the deer season would be in soon enough and we had pleanty of time to get a freezer full of deer meat, even if the season did end a month earlier than is does now.

Squirrels and rabbits were  the first game animals we hunted each year  and we were as excited about it as we were to hunt deer, maybe more so. Deer hunting was a slower, harder type of hunting back then, mostly due to the human errors we made. There was many days I spent hunting deer in jeans and a flannel shirt with no scent cover and little concern for wind direction. We just sat where we found a trail since nobody planted greenfields back then, I guess that is one reason I still prefer to hunt in the woods rather than on a greenfield most days.

I was allowed to tag along with my dad and older brother on squirrel hunts as soon as I was out of diapers and still remember daddy saying I could go hunting if I could walk fast enough and not pee in my pants. It helped me to “get trained” probably six months sooner! And daddy would ride me on his shoulders at times to help me keep up. The next February, I turned four and considered myself “ready to hunt”. That fall, daddy issued me a 12 gauge single barrel shot gun that was a hand-me-down from my brother. It had a lump in the barrel about four inches from the end where my brother had allowed the end to get in the mud unnoticed and on the next shot it distorted the barrel. Daddy took his torch and a hammer and slowly worked the barrel back down to almost round while he kept it glowing cherry red from the torch. I remember watching him perform the repair in awe. As a child, I thought my daddy was able to fix most anything! And all through my childhood, he proved he could!

Well, the next trip to the woods at the advanced age of four, we were all hunting together and daddy decided it was time for me to “get my first squirrel”. We had walked a long way through the beautiful hardwood swamp on a neighbor’s land and daddy pointed out a squirrel in the top of an oak tree feeding on the acorns that were “raining” lazily down. I had already shot the old Iver Johnson several times at some cans and was confident with it. I lined up the shot and when the squirrel hit the ground with a loud “plop” I was as proud as a hunter standing over a 12 pointer! The great thing was, in just a few minutes I got to take another and then another! We all had old army surplus green canvas field bags and when I got back home with my three squirrels in my own game bag, I thought I was a great hunter! Some memories stay with you. That was 1959 and I have forgotten a million memories since then but, that one stuck!

Now squirrel season last on over into February and I like to hunt then since the leaves are gone and the squirrel are easier spotted. But, nothing is better for squirrel hunting than a early fall day with the vibrant beauty of the fall woods.

I still make it to the squirrel woods each fall for atleast one trip so I can prepare one of my favorite squirrel dishes such as fried squirrel with broth gravy. This is an easy and very tasty dish made by first boiling the cleaned and soaked squirrels in lightly salted water for an hour or more, even overnight is fine. Rinse the squirrels and cover them with water in a boiler pan and par-boil them to tenderize the meat. This is not always necssary but, it does make them more tasty and the broth they make from the boiling water is very flavorful. Flour and fry the squirrel in a skillet. when finished, add a few tea spoons of fesh flour to the skillet making sure there is enough oil to make your gravy base or “roux” as some call it. Brown the base over medium heat, stirring constantly and when you think it is brown enough to suit you add the broth to thin it down, again add the broth slowly while stirring to determine when the gravy thickness is to your liking. Serve with bisquits and white rice or mashed potatoes. It is mighty good!

Back to the hunt, Squirrel hunting is a great way to allow success to come to young hunters. They can use a small caliber shotgun such as a 410 or a 20 gauge with #6 or #7.5 shotshells and with a little prior practice, they can take squirrels! It makes for some memorable mornings in the early fall woods. Afternoons are good too, but the monring light make the spotting of the game a bit easier for those learning the ways of the woods.

For adults, squirrel hunting with a 22 rifle is a challenge! a squirrel on the run from tree to tree can be harder to hit witth a 22 than a dove with a shotgun!  Stalking and taking squirrels with your 22 rifle is also a great way to home your spot and stalk skills for the upcoming deer season, not to mention you can cover alot of your deer hunting ground and get in some good scouting for rublines and other deer sign. Try a few squirrel hunts! The season is in and the time is now!

More next week, until then..

Postoak

Bow Season is Fun Season, With Time Left Over for Fishing!

Took this photo on our club back in 2009. This one should be all grown up for this upcoming season. ~postoak~

Over the last 30, 35 years, I have found a way to “double-down” on my outdoor days fun. I pack my fishing equipment along with my hunting gear for some mid-day or late day fishing action. I started incorporating the fishing with my hunting trips only during the spring turkey season since the crappie were starting to move up in the water and could be found in a “hungry condition” along many of the grass beds lining the banks of the Tombigbee River were we often hunted Army Corp.land for some swamp gobblers.

About 20 years ago while packing my gear for an early season bow hunt, I decided to throw in a couple of my fishing rods and planned to catch some bream in the event my hunt went well and I took a deer early in the day. Since I hunted in Tuscaloosa county at that time and the club had multiple lakes, it was a natural way to spend the rest of the day other than scouting or laying around the camphouse. Going home was not a good option since the trip distance one way was about 112 miles.

I  took a nice cull buck on opening day over on the stand we called the “corner.” It was a ladder stand situated among several white oaks that were dropping acorns at a rate of 10-12 a minute, more when a breeze stirred. The corner was in just that, a corner of our property with two old fence lines running through it and another pasture on the other side on the adjoining property. It was a natural bottleneck of woods and a very active corridor for deer travelling along the Warrior river who wanted to use the cover of these woods to get to the large tract of hardwood swamp that covered several thousand acres behind our place.

I got to the stand well before daylight since I had hunted it many times and it was only about 300 yards from the road. As I sat in the darkness, a deer “winded me” and started blowing. The deer’s alarm did it’s job as I heard other deer blow and a number of them ran out in the woods behind the stand and out into the swamp. Then, as I sat there in the darkness, a mosquito bit my cheek and I slapped him in disgust about how my morning had started out. I sprayed down with some deet spray and took a sip of water since I was nearly sweating and the sun was just visible through the woods behind the stand. I cooled a bit, so I put my cap and face mask on, knocked an arrow, and waited.

I figured the hunt might be a “bust” due to the deer blowing their alarms but, after 30 more minutes I saw some does coming from the direction of the road. I had decided to not take any does and sit for a buck to start the season off right. I also will confess right here that my bow shooting skills were lacking at that time so I had markers tied on small saplings around the stand indicating my effective shooting range. Some previous failures where I missed or even worse, sent an arrow into a stomach or hip, convinced me to make only shots with a high success potential. I watched as more than 20 different does and yearlings passed by in the next hour. Then I saw a buck that was what we called a “cull” coming toward the stand from the road side. He fed slowly my way as he munched acorns and I figured he was headed to the swamp to bed down for the day. He kept coming until he was right under my stand! When I made the shot, I almost tacked him to the ground! the arrow did a clean pass through and he took off like a rocket down toward the swamp! He went about 60 yards, stopped and looked back my way as if to be thinking “what just happened?” and then he fell over!  He was a scraggly antlered 7 point  that only weighed 165, but his jaw bone report the bioligist was doing back then listed him as a 4.5 yr old deer so it was a good buck to get out of the gene pool.

I had him cleaned and hanging in the cooler by 11:00 a.m. I went to the camp house took a shower, then a nap under the air conditioner. At 4:00 p.m. I got up and headed to one of the ponds where I knew I could fish in the shade. I caught about a dozen big bream and culled back to the biggest six fish. I had them sizzling in some peanut oil by 5:30 and enjoyed three of them along with some fries and cole slaw.

I had the other three for breakfast the next morning. I still love cold fried fish to this day!   

I plan to recreate this “double pleasure” a few times this fall. Try it, it makes for a great day outdoors!

Send me those deer pictures for posting! Just email postoakman@gmail.com

Good luck !!

~Postoak~

Hunting Season, Are You Really Prepared?

Bucks at the feeder, September 2013

The opening day of bow season is fast approaching, and while the excitement builds for those of us who love the outdoors and the thrill of the “close up” style of hunting it offers, I have to ask, are you really prepared? Most will say for sure! “I have practiced with my bow for many hours”. “My stands are where they have been for years and I have trimmed the shooting lanes around each so my shots will have room to get to the target”. “I am ready to hunt!”

Yet, each fall in Alabama and around the nation there are many hunters injured and some even killed in the woods by various failures in equipment or by human error we are each subject to make as we venture out to the woods trying to get that big buck.

Already this year, a local hunter was killed in a tractor accident while preparing a green field when a pine tree that had been killed by beetles fell on him. He suffered several days in the hospital until his condition was deemed unsustainable.

One of my Face Book friends was hunting in a state where bow season has started and fell from a lock-on stand 25 feet to the ground before he had a chance to attach his fall  prevention harness when both straps on the lock-on broke due to a deteriorated condition. He said he had cimbed up in to the stand just weeks earlier when he was trimming the shooting lanes and it seemed to be in good condition. Nylon straps are very convenient, but do you want to trust your life to one? When in doubt, change it out! Even better, get a chain with a turnbuckle and secure the lock-on with two or more chains and of course, always use a fall prevention harness. My FB friend wishes he had been more prepared. Now he has a broken femur on one side and a broken hip on the other. He also got both wrists broken and had to drag himself out to a nearby greenfield and scream for help from a hunting partner. He will not be hunting this year and had to have several surgeries in the last week to repair the broken bones. His wife posted his accident on his FB page and she is not too happy about the situation but, did say she was glad he did not break his neck!

These are just two very recent  accidents that happened in the outdoors and sadly, there will be more during the upcoming season.

Like me, most of you consider the woods a very safe place to be, but the isolation that we love can when we get out in the woods can quickly turn to a deadly enemy. Be sure to take your cell phone if you are hunting in a location where you have cell coverage. Be sure to sign out at your club and then hunt where you sign out for.  I was in a club a few years back where signing out for a hunting area was required but, it was a Tuesday and no one was at the club when a long time member decided he would hunt in a different location than the one he signed out for since there was a wind direction he had not calculated properly on. I got to the club about 45 minutes after he signed out and signed out for an area that was over a half mile from where he was signed out for. I parked at the designated spot for that stand and  slowly made my way to the stand since I was a little late and thought a deer might possibly be in the field already. After a 20 minute slip to the stand, when “I got to the green field and was “glassing it” before walking out to my stand I caught some movement, of an orange cap he was waving! I just turned around and left, too mad to hunt and I went home. When “I saw him a few days later, he apologized and told me why he did it due to the wind change. I told him I understood but that he was still “in the wrong” and the safety rules he broke.  We just avoided each other after that.

If you are hunting private land  where there is no sign in process, atleast post a note on you truck and ATV telling your location. You may be knocked out and unable to summon any help.

Just remember, falls from tree stands kill and injure many hunters each year. Accidents involving tractors, four wheelers, chain saws, axes, machetes, and other tools have ruined alot of hunting seasons and created “forever injury” outcomes to those out trying to enjoy the beauty of our outdoors. BE PREPARED AND DON’T BE A VICTIM!

I have received a number of emails about my being absent from my blog for a few weeks. Well, on Friday the 13th  I got sick and had to spend  a few weeks in the hospital. Including a couple of weeks in ICU on a ventilator. Thank God for good doctors and nurses and thank God from answering prayers from my family and friends.

See you next week,

POST OAK