07 February 2016

Utah Update

Well today ,marks the end of the 3rd week and I couldn't be happier. The trip down was an adventure in itself, between dodging mule deer and traveling through a couple white out blizzards, crossing the Dakotas and Wyoming was a blast.

Some shots of the drive out.

I said my farewells to a special spot the night before. When I first came to Minnesota I spent 18 months looking for the right place to live and I found it near by accident after stopping here. This spot was where I said hello and where I said goodbye.

The next morning I started the 1400 plus mile trek at -22F. The wind was howling, the roads were icy, I couldn't stop grinning.

The below was the last image I will take of Lake Superior.

 I crossed northern Minnesota and headed for North Dakota, No images until I crossed into ND.

I don't remember much of the journey across North Dakota other than making a left on the western side in Belfield where I picked up 85 and headed towards South Dakota. Night fell and I trudged on, finally hitting Spearfish around 9pm the first night on the road.

The next morning I hit the highway early, heading for Wyoming. I didn't get a shot of crossing that state line as the wind was tossing the jeep all over the place.

Once the wind died I did capture a few images along the way to Utah. The weather ran the gamut, clear to white out. I passed through Gillette Wyoming, then south to Douglas where I picked up 25 and headed west to Casper. I took 220 south out of Casper, to 487 down to Medicine Bow. From there I made a right and took 30 out to Walcott and picked up 80 west.

Once I hit 80 it was on. Fighting big trucks and bigger wind I popped the cruise at 80mph and held on! Things calmed down several hours later and grabbed these on the way to the Utah line.

Finally with less than an hour of light left I crossed the Utah line, another hour on the road and I pulled into the hotel lot.

The next morning I made the short six minute commute to my office, and this is what sits in front of my office building. I see it from my 'glass-bowl'.

Have another two weeks to upload later, including crossing of the Manti La Sal national forest, as well as some time in the Wastach, some time in the high Uintah as well as the Ashley national forest. Some house hunting, including meeting a friendly Mule Deer who walked right up to me at one of the homes I looked at.

Thanks to those who've been communicating and following along @ my instagram american_grouch. Appreciate you folks keeping up.

More to come!

06 January 2016

Turning the page...

When I moved to Minnesota I thought I'd never leave, 'bury me here' I believe was the phrase I used. The sentiment was 99% based on the outdoors opportunities and the location in which I lived, here in the wilderness of North East Minnesota.

I suppose things and people change. It's tough to stomach some of what this state has become and on so many different levels. That opened a susceptibility of sorts and I am succumbing.

I was made an offer by a company based in Utah, the company is incredible, the opportunity one that I cannot turn down. As a result I've resigned from my current employer and accepted the offer. I'm moving to the western Rockies, the Wasatch & Unitah ranges.

Probably the hardest decision I've ever made, I've been with the same company for a decade and it has made a lot possible for myself and my family. Between the change in jobs, allowing me a fresher environment to work, located in a place I truly love, I simply couldn't turn it down.

I am quite excited about the change both in location and occupation. I may be absent for a while, perhaps more than is usual. So I wanted to take this time to both update the folks who read my rambles and to thank you for that readership as well as the many whom I communicate with privately that had a hand in helping me with this decision.

There are things I will miss about my north woods home, and there are some things I will not miss. 

Thank you Dear Reader, and see you in the Rockies! 

03 December 2015

A Piece of History, Pack Idaho / BisonGear

Before there was BisonGear Packs the name of the company was Pack Idaho. As best as I can tell the company has had 2 or 3 owners over the years and at least the one name change. I've been interested in them since I saw the first one in an a Traditional Bowhunter ad back in the 90s, I can't recall the edition but I do recall the image.

I've been using a Lemhi and a Lost River for several years now, mostly as day hunting or bumming or stump shooting packs. I've thoroughly enjoyed them both and think highly of their products in general.

I recently acquired a piece of their history, a very early 'Pack Idaho' First Trip Explorer without the panniers and in I believe Pendleton wool. The original Pack Idaho patch intact! This is a smaller pack compared to the Lost River but also lighter in weight. Offers the same freedom that all lumbar packs offer, no restriction at all when shooting a bow. It holds a days worth of stuff and rides super comfortably.

These packs have numerous attachment points and they are some of the more interesting types that I have seen. You can run webbing through the anywhichway attachment blocks, you can also slip MOLLE type attachment straps through them.

There is enough space in the lower for a puffy, hat and gloves, my HC Canteen and some other assorted sundries

I don't know how old this pack is, I'm guessing it's pushing 20 plus years old. Testament to the quality they have always had. I've read numerous accounts of owners of original Pack Idaho packs sending their packs to BisonGear and them repairing or replacing regardless of age. If you find one buy it, I guarantee you'll like it. If you don't then send me a message, chances are I'll buy it from you!

02 December 2015

Longbow Bunnies!

Of all of my hobbies I think chasing rabbits is one of the top five. I chase rabbits in a number of ways, they're a staple in the Grouch's Kitchen but something about chasing them with a longbow sets that method above the rest.

Having recently put blunts on a new set of bacote footed arrows I was itching to hit the thickets.

We got a pile of fresh snow yesterday, and unlike our usual fluffy fine stuff this was a heavy wet snow. I meandered the backwoods enjoying the quiet serenity of a snow covered landscape. It didn't take long before I cut a slew of hare tracks and trails. I took a post close to the runs and became still, waiting.

The first one was less than 20 paces when he moved, he'd been there the whole time and I hadn't seen him. Such is the case most of the time, be still long enough, be patient, then they move. A couple hops and he was less that 10 yards. The string came back, the briefest of moments at anchor and the arrow sang away. The VPA small game blunt did its business and the bunny expired quickly.

I hitched him up to my BisonGear Lost River pack and headed further into the thickets and snow covered hemlock halls.

I repeated the process and the outcome was the same. Another snowshoe hare quickly dispatched via longbow and blunt tipped arrow. I wondered briefly about how many times this has occurred, how many others had filled their supper pots with hares by way of a bow and arrow.  I find it quite entertaining to imagine my forebears doing as I had done, and wondering the exact same thing.

With enough rabbit for a Hasenpfeffer Stew I headed for the barn. While a short adventure, I felt recharged, the cold air nipped at my nose, my boots slid through the heavy wet snow, the weight of my rabbits pulled on my pack and I felt as if I'd touched some ancient root of the tree of time, had reenacted a dance that had been performed untold thousands of times before. I was my ancestor, if only for a moment.

17 November 2015

Sometimes the Decision is Already Made...

On the opening day of deer season I took my son hunting. He's been hunting before but this would be his first season behind the gun guided by me with the intent of him taking his first deer. One hour into the first day of the season he was breathing slow as he dropped the hammer on the old thuty-thuty and had his first deer on the ground. He was both happy and sad, and excited to say the least. I was proud of him and I was proud to have shared the moment. My first deer was on my own and while it was something it wasn't what it could have been, I didn't have that moment with my dad.

Here's second son after taking, cleaning, and packing his deer up for the trek out.

A week passes and after traveling out of town I came home to my eldest daughter's request to take her hunting. She'd finished her hunter ed and purchased her license. Eldest daughter has pretty much moved out at this point though she still comes by frequent like, and she keeps a room here, for all intents and purposes she's moved on. I had always regretted the fact that she hadn't gone hunting with me that much if at all in our past. Timing was usually wrong or her interests were elsewhere. I was quite surprised and pleasantly so, that she wanted to go.

So second son and I outfitted her and made a plan for Saturday morning. I swung by her place at 0540 that morning and off we went. Our hunting ground was the same as it was for second son, meaning we had to cross the river before dawn. I loaned her my Wiggy Waders, which by the way are worth more than twice their cost. I've used them repeatedly at this point, both in Alaska and locally and they are wearing like iron. For what little they weigh and how little they cost, I'm sold on their utility and at this point their durability. Anyway, she crossed the river in the predawn hour without kerfuffle and up the mountain we went.

Our first sitting spot wasn't that far from where second son took his deer. High ground, an outcropping of sorts between two valleys. Deer like to pass through there and often bed down there  for their midday siesta. We sat patiently with our backs to some trees near the edge of where the mountain dropped off.

It would seem that 0500 starts to the day are not the norm for eldest daughter...

Time passed and we saw no deer. I made the call to wind it up to do some still hunting through the timber and off we went. We covered several miles of timber, and kicked up a couple does here and there but in this particular area it is buck only so kept moving.

Not long after noon we took up  another sitting spot, this time with daughter and second son looking to our fore and I kept an eye behind us. Not long into the sit we had does moving through our area. They passed peacefully on and we continued our vigil.

Nearing 230 I spied a buck moving funny like in the dense brush, gave the psst psst to daughter who moved to the rear of her tree and got ready. I went back to watching the buck. He was obviously hurt, he was putting no weight on his left front leg at all but was moving at a fair clip on the same path and direction as the doe had taken thirty minutes before.

Daughter had the rifle to her shoulder and was trying to pace with the buck who was moving surprisingly quickly through the dense under brush. He passed in front of her and beyond, she lowered her rifle, it was clear she wasn't comfortably taking the shot. I'd been watching her and him,, I felt both proud and frustrated, she was making a mature decision, had kept her composure, yet I wanted badly for her to take her first deer. Still, I wasn't going to let a clearly injured animal suffer any longer. I shouldered my rifle and fired, it was a quick matter, the decision wasn't even consciously made, the buck dropped instantly.

She wasn't put off and was still excited, I've known people twice her age with less than half her composure and patience. 

When we walked up to the deer it was very obvious as to why he'd been limping. Someone had taken a very marginal shot, at a very steep quartering away if not straight away angle and had put a bullet through the muscle of the shoulder from rear to front. The wound had stopped bleeding sometime ago but was extremely swollen and it was clear it was going bad, infection was setting in. In the image below the entry point is on the right. The forward part of the shoulder was blown out. My bullet had entered behind the shoulder smack through both lungs, he died instantly.

Seeing what I was up against I sent son and daughter back to their posts watching the trail about a hundred yards away and set about cleaning the buck.

It took me about an hour to clean and butcher him, I prefer to completely de-bone in the field regardless of animal type and pack them out. When I got to his injured shoulder it was clear that it wasn't salvageable. It was infected deep into the muscle tissue, it's unlikely in my mind that he'd have lived another week but that week would have been sheer agony. More than once I had some choice words for whomever had shot the animal from such a bad position, the deer must have been facing nearly directly away from that person, there was no humane shot position available and it never should have been taken.

Work complete and the meat in the game bags I loaded them into the Kifaru Meat Bag inside my pack and mounted it up for the walk out.

We hiked out and talked of the day, of the hunt and things in general. I admit to being quite happy to have two of my children in the field with me. And happier still that eldest daughter has a passion to hunt and the temperament to do it ethically.