October 6, 2015
In passing, since insomnia seems to be the order of the day (or night, more appropriately)…
Barnett sent me the cocking device for the RAZR, and I had the chance to play with it yesterday. A couple notes:
First of all… holy crap!
This thing is fast. I don’t have a chrono, but it’s advertised at 400 fps, and I have no doubt these bolts are reaching something near that speed. There’s a catch, though, since the bolts at such a high velocity are blasting right through my disintegrating Black Hole target. They also pass almost completely through my Yellow Jacket.
The problem with the Yellow Jacket is that whatever that magical stuff is inside tends to grab hold of the fletched end of the bolt, and it’s pretty much impossible to retrieve it without stripping the fletches off.
Summary note: I need more crossbow bolts. It doesn’t take long to destroy three of them. I also need a new, serious, crossbow target. Time for a stop at Gander Mountain, next time I’m up in Raleigh/Durham.
Why Gander Mountain?
Well, in short, Kat stopped in to buy a gun recently, and her experience was wonderful. The guys in the shop treated her like a customer, not an unwelcome intruder (a la some shops back in CA and TX). They were appropriately attentive, not patronizing, and professionally friendly. She can’t stop talking about it, and to me, that’s a pretty big deal.
In other news…
I’m starting to think I am going to need a rifle to kill this 8-point. I’ve seen him almost every evening I’ve been in the stand, but never closer than 100 yards. Tonight he really messed with me by feeding out into the soybeans, and then standing broadside at 132 yards for at least five minutes. This is starting to feel like a challenge!
That’s all for now.
We return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
September 9, 2015
What is the sound of one cobweb spreading?
One or the other or both of those things are what you’ve heard (figuratively of course… since this is a text-based medium you don’t hear anything, but you get that, right?) around the Hog Blog for the past few weeks. I broke my rule of posting at least once a week, and to be honest, I’m not real sorry. I just haven’t felt like writing.
But fall is falling.
Kat and I dusted off the shotguns last weekend for the dove opener (I shot like I expected to shoot, having not touched the gun in six or seven months… but we ate grilled doves for dinner last night). I got my first tree stand hung on the edge of the soybean field, and there are two more in the back of the truck, waiting for me to get back out to the place and get them set up. The Mathews is dialed-in for the archery opener this coming Saturday.
It’s all happening… or, at least, it’s about to happen. It’s that magic time of year.
No, not Christmas or Halloween… it’s the beginning of hunting season! But, if you follow the Hog Blog and others like it, you probably already know this. And some of you are already at it. My friend Michael, up in Alaska, has already filled his caribou tags. Jeff, down in SC, has been guiding whitetail and hog clients since mid-August. And, of course, my friends back in California have been chasing blacktails since the middle of July.
But I’m not in CA, SC, AK, or even TX anymore. I’m back home in North Carolina, and already settling back into the groove of the seasons as we move from the beach to the swamp. It’s still muggy and hot. The skeeters, ticks, and red bugs are going full bore, and the cat claws, poison ivy, and blackberry vines cover the trails almost as quickly as I can clear them. To a lot of people, this feels nothing like hunting season. But to me, it’s as familiar as the heady scent of moldering pine needles and the “gronk” of tree frogs after the rain.
And it made me want to pull the Hog Blog up, open up a page, and drabble on a bit. So I did, and here it is.
For what it’s worth…
August 11, 2015
I’ve been working hard to get psyched up for hunting season.
In CA, of course, I’d already be done with my archery season, and into the first week of rifle. Some of my friends back there have been teasing me with photos of hogs, and of course Facebook is loaded with photos of A-zone blacktails (many of them taken in familiar locations).
In Texas, deer season doesn’t start for a little more than another month, but with the availability of exotics and hogs, I’d be hunting pretty much continually. And I had an invitation to run down to South Carolina for the deer opener this coming weekend, but I’ve got grown-up responsibilities (moving into the new place), so it’ll need to wait.
North Carolina archery season opens on September 12. A week prior to that, the dove season will get underway. One way or another, I’ll be right in the middle of it, I suppose.
The new place is loaded with deer and turkey sign, but I have yet to get out there and really scout it out. I’ve jumped bedded animals on the couple of occasions that I did get out to explore a little, but I really need to figure out their routes, their hangouts, and all that sort of thing. Buried somewhere in my storage unit right now are my cameras. Time to get them out and see what’s what.
The layout of the property is promising. Almost two thirds of the 35 acres is heavily forested in a mix of oak, maple, pecan, and the ubiquitous pines. The edges and openings are lined with scuppernong grapes, and catclaw briars. It sticks out like a thumb into agricultural fields, and the 11 acres of cleared land is planted in soybeans. I expect I could go lean a ladder up against a tree in the corner of the field and call it good (and probably kill a few deer too), but that’s too easy.
I hauled the tractor out there last weekend, and this weekend along with some painting in the house, I hope to get out and start laying out trails. The undergrowth is nearly impassible, but with the machete and brush cutter (the “Whopper Chopper”) I should be able to get something started in time to set out the cameras and stand locations. Eventually I’ll probably open up a little bit for food plots, although the natural feed (mast, grapes, etc.) is already pretty plentiful. But still, I need to do what fire hasn’t been allowed to do in these woods for at least a few generations.
So much to do, it gets a little overwhelming. In the meantime, I have to maintain the day job, get moved into the new house, and get settled into a new routine.
But hunting season is almost upon me… and that’s a good thing.
August 5, 2015
So, the papers are signed. The check has changed hands.
Now the work begins…
July 23, 2015
Well, I’ve put off posting about this since there’s been a lot of on-and-off, but it looks like it’s all over but the paper signing… Kat and I will soon be closing on about 35 acres of Duplin County farm and woodland.
There’s currently a small, refurbished,1935 vintage cottage at the front of the property, which will work for a temporary residence. The longer term plan is to build something a little bigger (and newer) back in the woods, away from the road.
There’s a lot of work to be done.
The field is currently in soy beans, and I can’t do anything with it until that is harvested. Once it’s done, we’ll convert it to pasture for the horses. In the meantime, the deer and turkeys are loving the crop. They’re also living it up on the mast (oaks and hickory), as well as the wild, scuppernong (Muscadine) grapes. I’ve only explored a small portion of the woods, but it’s pretty good looking habitat.
There are wild hogs in Duplin County, but most of them are in the eastern corner of the county. My brother has been hunting a public land tract that’s also got pigs, but we can only hunt there during deer season. So that’s still an outstanding quest.
So there it is… an update, of sorts, in lieu of over a week without posting anything. Hope that was worth it.
June 25, 2015
I’ve often believed that there are currents and waves that flow through and connect certain spirits. It would explain why occasional moods seem to take some of us at the same time, despite geographic separation. Case in point, Chad Love’s recent rumination on his peregrination. Even as he must have been drafting this beautiful piece of work, I was struggling with some ideas of my own in regards to rambling in my temporary, suburban environs. His is better, by the way.
I like rambling… the word and the activity itself.
There’s a difference between walking and rambling. Most people around here walk. They stroll along the white path of the concrete sidewalk, seldom straying to set foot on the grass or to wander into the trees. Nevermind that the trees are mostly planted stands of whispy decorative plants, carefully selected and placed by landscapers not so much to provide native cover or wildlife habitat as to create a pleasant view for all the residents who look but don’t touch.
I’ll be honest. Most of the time, I set out to simply walk, and it’s from necessity… duty… taking Iggy out to stretch his legs and satisfy his excretory needs. Since he can’t hop up and go to the bathroom on his own, and cutting him loose to roam the neighborhood is neither socially acceptable nor safe (for him), I have to go out with him.
Sometimes, the neighbors are out walking their own dogs… pets on leashes, led from sidewalk to sidewalk to pee on trees, signposts, and fire hydrants. They crap on the manicured sod, and the owners (who’s the master here?) are right behind them with little plastic bags to pick it up and carry it home. All around the complex, there are still undeveloped woods, a couple of big fields, and even vacant lots, but the dogs stay within the length of the leash, just off the sidewalk, leading the people along the concrete trail.
I watch the spectacle, and I can’t really decipher my feelings… humor? Disdain? Disgust? Pity? I’m not even sure to whom I’d direct this response… the dogs or the people? Myself?
Iggy and I set off with a specific objective. We follow the sidewalk, and I keep him close at heel to keep him from going in the neighbor’s little patches of “yard”. There’s a fire hydrant on the corner, and he can lift his leg there. Anything else, though, will wait until we’re out of the complex and into the woods across the street. He knows the routine, and sets the pace according to the urgency of his needs.
Once we’re there, though, the rambling begins in earnest. Iggy runs ahead, eager to just be a dog for a while, and I follow aimlessly, eager to just be out there.
Sometimes we wander into the patch of trees (designated with a sign that says, “Tree Sanctuary,” and breaks my heart). There are rabbits there, quick little cottontails, and Iggy encountered his first soft-shelled armadillo (‘possum) under a patch of wild grapes. The trails, such as they are, wind between tree trunks, vines, and briars. An old tree house, falling to pieces, and a few rusted cans and old bottles belie the fact that, not so long ago, this place was still country. The city only came here recently.
The spider webs between the trees usually get the better of my mild arachnophobia, and I’ll lead us out into the big, flood control field. Iggy roams wide, smelling smells and running along with his nose to the ground. A little group of deer have acclimated to the rapidly growing housing development, and we see them often when we’re out in the early morning or late at night. Iggy looks at the deer and looks back to me, waiting for a command I won’t give, and we continue along. There’s no sidewalk, not even a trail, and not another single footprint or dog track.
Sometimes, we’ll cross over to an old logging road that leads into the unruly, briar choked thicket that was once a pine forest. This section was logged a few years back, and so far the developers haven’t bothered to roll in with the dozers and graders. We can only go a couple hundred yards down the trail before it is swallowed in a dense tangle of blackberries, catclaws, scrub oak, and sapling pines. In shorts and Tevas, this is as far as I’ll go, but I let Iggy bound through the thickets for a bit before I call him back.
On the way back, there’s a mound made of the spoils from grading the road bed. The little hill is covered with planted trees and mulch, and Iggy and I will trace the back of the hill, just out of sight of the passing traffic, pretending or dreaming that we’re still out in the country, and not a short hop from the grime of Durham and Raleigh.
The fantasy is best later at night, after the airport (RDU) has slowed down and the busy worker bees have all gone back to their hives. It’s never quiet, but it’s quieter, and on a decent night I can even watch the stars as we roam. The oppressive heat and humidity of the day recedes, and sometimes there’s even a little breeze. It’s almost pleasant for a while.
And then we’re back. Sooner or later, no matter how wide we range, we always come back to the concrete and asphalt.
I keep thinking that someone is going to see us rambling and decide that they should do it too. I don’t understand how Iggy and I can have this all to ourselves in this crowded little place, but a part of me selfishly hopes no one else gets the idea. I don’t how I’d feel if I had to share it.
June 23, 2015
I haven’t been covering too much in CA lately, partly (and obviously) because I’m not as looped in to the issues anymore. But I keep my ear to the ground anyway, and this most recent news is something that’s way past due. I hope it’s as positive as the USSA believes it to be.
Sportsmen’s Alliance Applauds Gov. Brown Appointees
Gov. Jerry Brown recently appointed two new members to the California Fish and Game Commission, and replaced controversial Commissioners Michael Sutton and Richard Rogers. This long-awaited action comes as great news for the conservation community. For sportsmen, the two appointees represent the first critical step toward returning balance and integrity to the commission and restoring the invaluable role that science plays in crafting natural resource policy for the country’s most populous state.
“We applaud Gov. Brown and his appointments staff for selecting two new commissioners to the board rather than maintaining the status quo. These appointees provide a much greater geographic and demographic representation of California’s citizens, and they will undoubtedly bring the voices of varied interests and perspectives to any discussion,” said Michael Flores, senior director of western operations for Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Consistent with his wise appointment of Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, we believe that Gov. Brown is effectively re-establishing a commission capable of having more rational and reasonable deliberations on topics that require objective analysis and science-based policy decisions. It is very evident that Gov. Brown and his staff understood and agreed with the concerns of the conservation community.”
Under the banner of the Al Taucher Conservation Coalition, which Sportsmen’s Alliance revived in 2014, several conservation organizations had called for new commission appointments and ultimately prevailed in the face of ardent opposition. The Humane Society of the United States, Project Coyote and other animal-rights groups had lobbied to keep Commissioner Richard Rogers of Santa Barbara and Commissioner Michael Sutton of Monterey on the board, despite their terms ending as many as four years ago.
The two new commissioners, both attorneys, hold promise of evaluating evidence and facts as they are presented and not being easily swayed by popularity concerns and the politics of emotion. They also bring a different, more inland-based, background to the commission, which has been dominated by residents of coastal communities.
Eric Sklar, 52, of St. Helena, located in northern California’s Napa Valley, is a vintner who is deeply involved in the area’s wine industry, as well as serving as a member of the St. Helena city council. He earned his Master of Business Administration from the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business and was an adjunct professor there from 1997-99. Sklar is a sportsmen who enjoys waterfowl and upland-bird hunting.
Anthony Williams, 47, of Huntington Beach, originally hails from Bakersfield in California’s central valley. Williams earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and a Master of Public Policy degree from the Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government. He has been director of government relations at the Boeing Company since 2014 and has served in various legal capacities in the public and private sectors, including as director of government affairs at the State Bar of California from 2004-06.
“With their legal background, we look forward to the scrutiny of facts and evidence Commissioners Sklar and Williams will bring to the decision-making process that will make them better equipped to discount or dismiss the emotional arguments that were so compelling to the former commissioners,” said Josh Brones, coordinator of government affairs of western operations for Sportsmen’s Alliance.
About the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation: The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (USSAF) is a 501(c)3 organization and protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. The USSAF is responsible for public education, legal defense and research. Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible.
June 5, 2015
“It ain’t easy being me…”
Not to complain, but it certainly hasn’t been easy to be a blogger lately… particularly not a hunting blogger. Because I haven’t been hunting. Or shooting. I’m not even sure which box my ammo is in right now.
It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have. I’ve written thousands of words, at least, over the past several days. I’ve addressed topics ranging from lead ammunition to Zambia’s recent decision to lift the ban on hunting lions. I’ve written opinion laced with fact, and fact laced with opinion. I even scratched out a touch of poetry.
And then I deleted it all.
I guess the redundancy of it is what gets me. I need a new issue. Or I need to go hunting. Or maybe I need to hunt some new issues. Whatever it is, stay tuned. I’m still out here, and liable to start repeating myself again at any moment.
Unless something new comes along. But then, as we know…
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
May 18, 2015
I guess I’ve been in the West too long. I’d forgotten how green the air is here in North Carolina at this time of year. Green and wet… not mossy and clammy like the Pacific Northwest, but verdant and dripping with warm water… like breathing through a blade of grass in a terrarium.
It’s not hot enough yet to be oppressive. That comes in another month or so. For now, it’s warm enough to break a sweat simply by walking out the door, but it still feels vital. I may have grown a half-inch since I arrived… although, truthfully, any real growth has probably been more horizontal than vertical. Barbecue (real barbecue, made of pork and wood smoke and deliciousness) and Brunswick stew and lounging in the air-conditioning have a way of contesting the management of the middle-aged waistline. Banana pudding is a bonus.
I suppose I’d also forgotten, a little bit, the comfortable pleasure of spending a warm afternoon with family. We gathered at my brother’s place in Wilmington to celebrate a belated Mothers’ Day on Saturday. There was great food, drinks, grandchildren (and great grandchildren), and it was really a pretty good day. When I loaded Iggy the Party Dawg into the truck for the trip back to Durham, it was with the happy realization that these weekend events were no longer half a continent away.
I’m daydreaming about boats now. It would probably be impractical and unwise at this particular moment to buy a boat, so I’m shopping for something in the 20 to 23 foot range. I felt the salt in the air over the weekend, and it reminded me that the spanish and king mackerel will be coming into the near-shore water any time now. In another month, the dolphin (dorado) and maybe even a sailfish or two will be inside of 20 miles, and I barely have to close my eyes to imagine the breeze in my face as I drag a couple of ballyhoo along a line of sargassum. I shouldn’t, but I probably will.
Kat’s away in California right now with meetings, but when she comes back this weekend, the search for property begins in earnest. I detoured off of the freeway on the way back from Wilmington yesterday, and had a chance to take in some of the countryside. It’s certainly not Texas Hill Country, but it’s pretty… especially right now, in the full bloom of late spring. There’s a lot of potential here, tangled in the cat claws, scrub oaks, and pine thickets. I can work with this.
I felt something else in the air over the weekend. It was wispy and passing, at first. I didn’t recognize it because I think I’ve avoided it for so long. It’s something I never felt in California. I thought I had it in Texas, but it wasn’t this strong. Once I let it in this weekend, though, blowing up the Cape Fear river on that wet, green breeze, there was no denying it.
I felt Home.
May 13, 2015
Where’s the song of my canyon wren?
Where is that lilting call… those piercing, clear notes that build and climb and move something heavy in my chest? Where is the tiny, grey body that perches on the porch rail, or sits in the gnarled, lightning-stricken oak tree outside of my bedroom?
It feels strange.
Absent as well are the other birdsongs, many of which have never been more than unidentified melodies… finches, sparrows, nuthatches, and so on, brightening the morning. For that matter, the oak tree is also absent from my morning. So is the view out my windows of the sun lighting the rocky western ridge of the canyon, and the seasonally changing scents… agarita blooms, dried grasses, caliche dust…
I guess, if I were to put it in perspective, it’s not those things that are absent. They’re right there, where they belong. I am the one who is gone away. I’m not there anymore.
As I type this, I look out the window to see a privacy fence. Over the top of the fenceline, forming what there is of a skyline, are a few oaks and maples, and the empty space where the pine forest is slowly being supplanted by multi-family homes (or whatever they’re building today). If you’ve ever seen a forest after a fire or a hurricane has ripped through it, that’s what the woods across the street look like now… or at least what I can see, that isn’t blocked by this fence… a lot of empty space where treetops should be.
In place of birdsong, I hear traffic when I awaken Private vehicles buzz back and forth, yards from the bedroom window, interspersed with the roar of construction trucks hauling concrete, lumber, sheetrock, and brick. The sharp beep of backup signals, and the belch of air brakes let me know the crews are arriving to begin work on the nearby units. Soon, instead of woodpeckers tapping a tattoo on the tree trunks, I’ll hear the rap of hammers and nail guns, whining saws and drills, and the multi-lingual shouts and chatter of the carpenters, electricians, painters, and bricklayers. And sure, there is birdsong, but it’s difficult to hear it over the cacophony.
I take small comfort… minuscule solace… in the deer tracks I saw when I took Iggy for his morning walk.
And there’s another alien thought… the whole concept of having to take the dog for a “walk”. It’s one thing to let him run around when I go out to feed horses, check the fences, or any of the myriad ranch tasks with which I busied myself in the past. It’s one thing to let him come indoors for a treat, and then turn him back out for bed.
But now it’s another thing altogether. Now I have to make the conscious effort to remember he’s here, in the house instead of outside (where a dog should be). I have to accompany him to go out in the yard for water or to hike his leg on the little, non-native ornamental bushes. I have to walk him, sometimes quickly, out of the complex and across to the open area where he can take a crap in a place that I’m not required (by strange, social convention if not by law) to pick it up for disposal in a little, plastic bag. What does it say about a place when dog shit needs to be collected in plastic and trucked to a landfill?
This, too, shall pass.