29 November 2013

Departure

I leave today for the wolf hunt. I'm excited and filled with anticipation, I've been looking forward to this trip for a while now. The bad news is a few days were shaved off the trip, the good news it's to attend our annual duck hunt in Arkansas. So I'm in to the wolf hunt for five days and then a couple days in a duck blind in Arkansas, should make for a helluva week.

Track found one week ago on the last scout to the area.


The early season wolf hunt in Minnesota hit quota about a week into the regular deer rifle season and thus the early season was closed. It'll take longer to hit quota in late season as most of the wolves taken in early were a matter of coincidence, a deer hunter that had a tag and a opportunity. Late season coincides with muzzle loader and trapping season though I believe I'm going to be alone for the most part. The area is very remote and takes a lot of effort to get to, guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Success rates for wolf hunts vary between 5 and 7%, so odds are not good, but this trip is about more than killing a wolf. I've been thinking about this a lot over the past several weeks. The why as much as the how has really been on my mind.

I have a lot of respect for the wolf, same as I do deer, moose, rabbits, beaver, bear, and all animals.  Because I do in fact care about all animals is why I will try to kill a wolf. I value all animals equally, none over or under the other, this to me is a balanced view and in turn I prefer to think that science and balance belong in the managing of wildlife populations. Minnesota has more wolves within its borders that all other lower 48 states combined. Go ahead and take a look at the estimated wolf populations of other western states that have wolf populations and compare.

As our wolf populations have climbed we've also saw other populations decline. We've hit a point where it is time to manage the population both for the good of the wolf and their prey. Our moose population has now hit a critically low point and some don't think they will ever recover in our lifetime. Our deer population has also been in the decline and no I do not attribute all of this to the wolf, our winters are a thing to behold, snow comes heavy, winds cut sideways, food is scarce.

My point is, if left to their own ends we'd end up with  wildlife populations out of balance, with starving wolves, fewer deer, no moose. Wolves have no natural predators other than starvation to keep their population in balance with the carrying capacity of the land they hunt. And so I will go and hunt the wolf and try to do my part to help keep balance in our wild wood. Odds are against my success but in the end the Minnesota DNR will get their quota, the wolf population will be thinned and balance restored. The controversy will continue, the debate will rage and frankly I don't care about that part anymore. If you think only with your heart no one and no amount of science can change your mind. The shameful part for those who refuse to see reality is if they had their way not only would we be out of balance here, we'd also see the starvation and decline of our wolf population along with the decimation of their prey. They do not live on sunshine and smiles don'tchaknow, they are unrepentant carnivors, much like myself...

I digress.

I've gone through my gear and food lists twice, honestly I think I'm over thinking it. This isn't my first winter multi-day trip, I've done winter camping before but I can't help running through the mental obstacle course of what-ifs and do I want to take that too scenarios. We did the get the weather I thought we would. I've got about six maybe eight inches of fresh snow on the ground, temps have been quite cold for a while now, don't think we've been above freezing for several weeks now. Water is frozen, the closest lake to where I'll be is frozen as of last weekend, and frozen solid enough to walk across and it isn't small water.

Scene of the lake I'll be camping near, as of 24 November it was frozen well enough to walk it.


All the mental acrobatics are over now, I'm loaded up and heading north. Time to put this rig on the road, all goes well I'll be posting trip reports beginning next weekend!


17 November 2013

A day out, a lucky poker chip, and freezer filler...

Finally got out today at about eleven had some things to do this morning so I couldn't get into the woods right at dawn. There was a heavy fog and mist anyway so I let that bleed off while I took care of some loose ends.

The woods were soaked, leaves were soft and a man could walk with little to no noise. So I headed for the big timber to ghost the tall wood in search of some venison for the table and freezer. The wind wasn't quite perfect though so I ended up walking big loops through the timber, over several ridges and gulleys. I sort of drifted cross wind and head north, then veer off to the west and loop back face into the wind. I've found this tactic works very well in the wet after rain woods. Today was no different.

I also remembered to bring my other small camera in order to take a few pics of the filter adapter for the AW100.



As you can see, the adapter clips over the lens. It will accommodate a 40.5mm filter, which then in turn will hold a standard poker chip quite well, thus you have your lens cap for the AW100.

I was trying to stay on the ridges and glassing from each each and into the gulleys between. I love this part of my woods, some old growth stuff here and the walking is easy.



Rifle for today was the same one I intend to take for the wolf hunt in a couple weeks. Weatherby, 7mm Rem Mag.


At about two in the afternoon I was moving slow and easy up a creek bed, moving back to higher ground. As I neared the top I went into slowmo mode, barely moving forward as I scanned the area before me. Over the years I've become accustomed to using binoculars to scan even in thick woods. The number of deer I've found this way, I've lost count of.

I was about to move on when I realized something wasn't right, I scanned back across, there, between two trees at about eighty yards, brown, tan, little bit of black. Then I realized I was looking at the hind end of a whitetail and could see nothing but that. The rest of the deer's body was hidden by the tree trunks.

The wind was quartering out of the north east and in my face as well as the deer's, but the wind had been shifting all day. I waited and waited some more, the deer was locked up and stock still. I think it knew it wasn't alone, I needed to move. An agonizing three steps and ten minutes later I had an angle. The rifle bucked as did the deer, I watched it scoot sideways with a high jump and take off only to pile up twenty yards away.

Bounty of the wild shared, memory made never to fade.



A pretty mean chili to boot...


12 November 2013

Nikon AW100 Test Images

Still on the road but coming into the home stretch, couple weeks of travel left in the year but those weeks are not back to back so things are easing up.

Image courtesy of ssheltonimages.
I finally got around to taking some pics over the weekend with a new to me but not new to the world camera. Nikon AW100 which was released back in 2011 I think.  I know there is a new version out, the AW 110 but at it's current price point versus feature enhancements I just can't see spending the dough. I picked up my AW 100 for $150 new though they still retail close to $300 at some locations.









I've been looking for a lightweight but very rugged point and shoot for a while now. I'm not so kind to gear in general and frankly I expect my camera to hang with me regardless of the weather and take a beating equal to what I'm willing to put myself through. 

A few have survived that criteria but most have not.




So far I've had the camera fully submerged, frozen in ice and dropped from nearly ten feet onto the rocky shore of Lake Superior and it's still working like it did when new. Some of the bonus features like the digital compass and GPS are icing on the cake. Being able to GPS tag your images and then display them in a map view showing direction facing when the picture was taken, along with lat & long is very nice. This is particularly useful when scouting new ground. Take pictures of the sign or features along your scout with the GPS synched then upload, you get a nice trail of pics throughout the area you scouted all plotted out on the map.



Video is solid and multiple modes of HD and slow motion though I've not used that over much yet. Tons of easy to use features throughout.

Light weight, very compact and so much easier to carry than the full sized DSLRs. I suppose the images are quite as good but for me they're good enough. I'm sure I'll still take the big boys out but I'm also sure I'm willing to sacrifice some of their over the top pic quality for the ease of carry and robustness of this little guy.

I've never really been much of an early adopter, I tend to wait to see what is proven out and then opt in. In this case I'm thinking I shoulda opted in earlier!

The following images are unaltered save for a resize, none were taking from a tripod, all are free hand on the trail and using the easy mode on the camera.

So far so good!

Wolf track found on a recent scout, that's a rifle sling to the left.













01 November 2013

Skab Bag - Fast Break ~> Jurassic Rabbit

I've been on the road for the past couple weeks and when I finally returned I decided to go for a walk, my grouse circuit as I call it which is just a three mile loop behind the barn. So I grabbed my 'pot filler' which in this case is a Marlin 925 .22 topped with a 3x9x40 Leupold, tossed my bag on my shoulder and hit the trail.

One of those days where it can't quite figure out whether or not it wants to rain or snow. Either way it didn't matter, I needed to be outside after so many days and flights and hotels. I have to say that no matter how good, hotels suck when you stay in a different one every night, road food is hell no matter the quality of the restaurant, and regardless of where you go or the people you meet it isn't home which is really the only place you want to be.

Because of the rain I had my camera in my coat pocket and really wasn't thinking about snapping pictures, instead I was focused on the smell of my woods and the fact that there are no leaves left on my trees. The wind had a familiar sting to it as it slid through the trees from the north east. The aroma of wet earth dominated all other odors. I could hear a wood pecker in the distance and the call of a raven. Chickadees were in bunches here and there across the forest floor, a cold front is coming in, I think they can feel it.

A brown white flicker, low and fast moving from left to right. It took a second for it to register as a snowshoe hare. Somewhere around forty five yards out it stopped, the rifle rose and pressed into my shoulder, my eye settled and the gentle pop of a subsonic round being discharged disturbed the chickadees for a briefest of moments. The rabbit had fallen on his side and dinner was made.

Never let it be said that our hares here in the north country are puny by any measure.



Someone had asked about how one was to attach game to the game hangers on the bag Skab made for me.

You slip the leather back through the ring, and then within that loop you put the foot, neck, whatever through and let the weight pull the thong taught and viola your game is thus hung for the walk back.

In this case, this hare is nearly too long for this method.

I didn't bother with pictures on the way back to the house either, just enjoyed the lack of human sounds and smells and sights, replaced with the natural world, the sounds and smells and sights of God's own wood. You could almost hear the sound of a soul being soothed, though I leave again on Monday.

Good to be home, even if only for a little while.