Monday, December 31, 2007

And Just Like that... is over. The holidays are past once again... Christmas number 40 in the books... It has been a very good year. We're out of work early today so it seemed like the ideal time to look into next year (tomorrow and beyond) and see what we can see.

It looks as though I will get about 20 total hunting days in 2008 assuming no complications. The best part of that from my current perspective is that 5 of them will be in the next 32 days. Man do I love this archery hunting thing. Deer hunting every monday for two months and two weeks in the fall should be something amazing. I am sad that the squirrel thing is going to suffer a bit in terms of days spent at it in the field. Growth and evolution are part of aging I guess. Best not to get to fixed on the 'way it is' in any of my endevours. I was once described as a fart in a strong wind by someone who didn't see it that way. I envy folks like that their contenment with the way life is and hope I never run out of energy for trying new things.

The year ahead should be an interesting mix. Things on the radar include:
  • Project Ranger
  • Mrs. Hunter is having both kness reworked in Feb.
  • I have three good books to read, all by Alan Eckert and will get more when these are done.
  • There's a fence to seal and a deck to build in the early parts of summer.
  • I will get to the range at Tranquility one day monthly this year from Feb to August. My skill have eroded a bit and I am not pleased with it.
  • Everyone agrees a beach vacation is in order in late spring.
  • Bow workups as needed to keep something like skills. (range is really close for this :-)
  • I will be ready to run a 5k by August 1. I just have to not die in the process.
  • preseason scounting and stand placement.
  • Lots of hunting in the fall....
  • Being a dad and husband throughout. :-) Truly the best part of it.
I always enjoy this part of the year. Planning and pretending for a while that experience hasn't taught me the plan will never hold together... That's part of the fun of living though. Adaptation and change seem to be the order of the day anymore. I like it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Final Hunt of 2007

I think in one of my earlier posts I said hunting in December was almost always a bust. The wife usually just drops the hammer and says "No" and "Too much stuff for the holidays to do" and "Blah blah blah, gripe gripe gripe, no no no, etc." Anyhow, hunting for the calender year 2007 came to and end at about 3 PM today. I wish I could say I was sad to see it end but it is tough to argue with the status and the joy it has brought me. I have to say being up at 3 to arrive by 5:30 is a bit tiring but everything has a price I guess. All in all I spent 20 days in the field doing my thing and they were almost all good. I think it was a year to be thankful for all in all.

On an up note, today was my first ever bow hunt. Now that was fun. I scared up a couple and may have had a shot at one if I were better with the bow. Both were does. I need to put up a stand. Another plus was getting to hunt the parent's place again. (normally restricted to deer gun season only... not so much now that no guns are involved. :-) Found some really nice, scenic places to eat lunch. Check out the pics.

This is a shot from a big plateau up on the south side of their place looking back north. They have such a nice place. Here's another view which is a composite of pictures I took. I think I will enjoy hunting this again in January.

I think I am out until the Christmas madness has passed. Happy holidays to all from the Hunter's Family.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Concrete Basement Wall - 2, Carbon Arrows - 0

Happy Bow Day to Me! Happy Bow Day to Me! It's a BOW!! Don't tell Mrs. Hunter but I have, since I last posted, completed my bow setup (with a pile of help from the good men of the Vance's Shooter Supply Archery Pro Shop) and assebmled a makeshift archery range in the basement. It isn't much but 15 yard is 15 yards. I have broken 2 arrows in my first dozen shots. Lots of work to do there. Turns out adjusting bow sights adjust in the exact reverse of rifle sights. I guess I would have known that if I had stopped being all jump-up-and-down happy about finding a bag target to hang... Juvenille. That's the word for me. ;-)

Here it is. (Sorry for the flash photo. The lighting is sh!% today and the others were much worse. Ohio in December... Go figure. It's cloudy.) As bows go it is hardly a Ferrari. This is more like a pickup truck. Either way, it's my first one in 20 years and the first one I have had any luck with quickly. I am going to enjoy this.

I was able to get about a dozen shots off before the fatigue set in. I am really shocked by how much work even a 60# pull can be. Still in all, I am still just happy about this. What a good bit of fortune for me to have brought this together. Unless my skills improve dramtically before the Holidays, I will probably just squirrel out the year and scout. Next year will be year for me. I have some good reading and study materials... I will be ready. Until then I will keep this picture around as a reminder of how much work it takes... Like I said, Concrete Wall - 2, Carbon Arrows - 0.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas is Coming

It's easy to get caught up in the idea that the Christmas holiday is a pain. The mall is too full. The roads are too full. Everything is on sale and people want to buy you things you don't need either to show you that you matter to them or because they feel like they have to. Either way, you wind up with more stuff and there is less raw stuff left to be made into useless stuff. It's a bad cycle... and all of it because at one time the goal was to commemorate the gifts of the wise men to Jesus at his birth. I think this part of it is lost somewhere. And so I have felt about the holiday for a while now. But something new happened this year. Someone who has no idea about bills and money or anything has seen for the first time how great it seems to be that the world is covered in lights and we are giving gifts soon. She is new to it. She doesn't remember the three times she has done it before.

My girls and this holiday are something to remember for the rest of my life. How special it all seems this year is a function of new role as holiday-dad. I string the lights. I buy the tree. I mail the letter to Santa. (Mom and I anyway) See it all again through the eyes of someone who is seeing it for the first time provides this fresh view that we all just need now and then.
So if I don't get back to it again until after the silliness of the season, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

And so it goes

Deer seasons are never the same from year to year and this year was no exception. I like to think of myself as a fair durable and rugged sort of guy who can certainly handle what comes his way if he puts himself out there to do it. Take for instance, rain. Now, I've been hunting a long time. I've been caught in more than one down poor and carry a poncho with me on just about every excursion into the field. It seems I have a bit more to learn about such things.

I have never, not in my whole life, been as soaked as I was at noon on Monday after sitting under a tree, under a poncho, through six hours of rain. Every single article of clothing and piece of gear was just saturated. When the wind started blowing I made the executive decision to head in, dry my clothes, and warm up. Right about 1300 things got done drying and I was content to pack it in but then the rain stopped. Now here was something I could work with. I went with a much lighter load carrying only my knife, my Blackhawk, and my standard damp weather fleece gear and off I went.

One thing I have to give to the whole 'hunt in the rain' thing... it is damned quiet. I decided it was time to stop sitting and start stalking. The place I deer hunt is covered with cedar thickets and scrubby maples with some old growth hardwood mixed in just to keep it fun. The bucks were going to be in the cedars if they were there at all. It took me nearly two hours to work my way up the 500 yards to the line where cedars stop and hardwoods begin. I paused for a knee and 10 minutes of breathing to let some of the knots in my legs ease. (That stalking walk can be rough on the muscles... :-) My hands were steaming through my gloves and my breath was visible in the air. The rain was back and pretty cold and clouds were black to grey and the dark of the cedars was black as night aside from the openings to the grey sky.

I heard him before I saw him. I am pretty sure the same was true for the deer. I swung the 44 up but I was behind and he was fast. I missed. I watched him bound away in complete awe of the size of him. I didn't get a full count of points but he was not more than 20 and probably more like 10 or 12 with a really nice beam as whitetailed deer go. As he ran off I listed for gunfire to let me know I had scored one for the neighbors but heard nothing. He got away clean. Hmmm.... I have on more day to hunt. Uhh... Wooo Hooo!

After that I decided it was time to pack it in for the day. It was nearly 4 and light was starting fade faster than usual in the rainy, cloudy, nasty looking sky. As soon as I hit the porch I called the wife all a-jitter with tales of monster bucks, riches, shaving adds, hunter of the year.... Oh to be me in the rain in November... the joy of it. Then she said, "The youngster was up until 1 AM and still has a fever. If you didn't get your deer today, get it tomorrow morning and come home." Ugh. Now here I am, two hours from home, two days to deer hunt for the whole year, and my one and only baby girl is call-the-doctor sick with Mommy's nerves clearly reaching the end. What's a Dad to do.... Two things came to mind and in this order:

First, it was with no small amount of disappointment mixed with a father's worry that I showered and packed before those who own the house were in for the evening. When they arrived, I advised of the situation, bought everyone dinner, and then drove for home leaving my buck in the trees for some other hunter to bring down. I hope the hunter was worthy and not just a lucky knucklehead out for a rack.

Second, I considered, in my hour and fifty minutes of solitary driving what a piss-poor pile of luck this had been. One week of gun season and I have a sick little one. I am not mad at or aggravated by her being sick. I am just very disappointed in my luck this year. How, I riddled, could I get to do this (deer hunting) more? And then Pandora's Box opened for me. Archery... plain and simple bow and arrow work would solve the problem for me once and for all. I have actively avoided this path in the past given my tendencies towards obsession and the kind of freedom this would allow me. Enough of that restraint nonsense then.... Archery it is. Just add it to my list of projects I guess.

To close this, the bits of follow-up good news go like this:

  1. The kiddo slept like a log after I got home and woke up on day two of deer season feverless and feel loads better. Mommy slept until noon. She owes me... about a bow's worth of stuff I'd say.
  2. About two years ago I bought a bow that has set in its case since the day it arrived... and it doesn't suck. Time to get it out I guess. I am so hopeful that I can be ready by January. It looks like things may be shifting for me. Maybe I can deer hunt in the morning and squirrel in the afternoon... or maybe just deer hunt. Either way, I need more time.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

About 20 hours to go ....

I got to spend some time yesterday doing last minute scouting around my chosen spot. It's a tricky thing to see what's going on but not disturb anything or spook any of the local critters. Fortunately some good binoculars and a few turns around the roads on the farm showed me what I needed to know. I will have trouble sleeping tonight.

The only downside tomorrow looks to be the weather. 30 hours of rain will begin about 3 tomorrow morning. Tuesday will be better but Monday is going to be wet. No way around it. As a tough-as-hell old guy asked me once, "Some poeple just want to talk about doing a thing and some people just want to do it. Which kind are you?" I know who I try to be... Monday and Tuesday are what I am going to get this year so I am going to do it and try not to waste away any time whining... Cold wet deer huntingkick the crap out a fourth floor cube any day.

The place I am being allowed to hunt for the second time is a really nice hobby farm turned residence. The folks who own it even open their home to me for a couple of days without question. Thanks goodness for good people. I am blessed yet again. I spent some time talking with them about strategy, etc. after my scouting yesterday. While we talked I lost count at 12 deer crossing the back yard. I seriously contemplated sitting on the porch, out of the rain, and scoring my 150 lbs of deer burger in the dry. My final tought was that it was too much like cheating and laided out for them my plans based on weather and projected wind directions. While all about thining their deer, they were pleased that I would never be closer than 100 yds to the house.

I'll get to packing gear after lunch today. I am hopeful to get moving before dark tonight to get there early enough to join into the other tradition of the deer season... the best of three Euchre match. Good people are pretty easy to find but good people who see things in a way complimentary to your own is a lot harder. I wlll be glad for the visiting. Good luck to all if you're out for the season opening tomorrow. Be safe.

Monday, November 19, 2007

November die Hirsch Jägerfeier

I have a hard time with this part of the year. Work starts to pile up as the business starts to see the end of Q4 out on the horizon, the wife begins the annual frenzy to by Christmas gifts, Holiday travelling begins in earnest in just two days.... and in Ohio, Deer Season begins the Monday after Thanksgiving. Now the issue becomes clear. I am compromising how good I am at everything to go turn Bambi and into chops and summer sausage. There are few better forms of the game than this one. Hunting whitetails in Ohio, in late November, in the rain, at the close-in ranges you can only find in a woods of cedars and second or third growth oak and maple.

Now, to understand my love for this you need to grasp all the levels on which elements come together for me around my hunt. Let's begin with the obvious and work our way back to esoteric and even then only hit the really big ones:
  1. My favorite, favorite handgun in the entire world has a purpose for 48 to 72 hours during this week. The 44 Bisley Blackhawk knows few equals for shootability and power and I intend to put it to good use. Last year I used my second favorite handgun, Thompson Encore in 454 Casull. It actually cartwheeled the deer side over side. I decided it was too much for this task. I still love it but this year will just be me and the Blackhawk...
  2. This is the real hunting game. This is what all the prep and practice work stalking the squirrels is all about. For two or three days you hunt, remain silent and as motionless as possible, strike your target from cover, and don't miss and you get a half a freezer full of some good stuff. The reward thing is just really solid.
  3. I am a navy buff. Specifically I love submarines. See the first part of this post for a description of conditions. Speaking metaphorically, it is very much like the sub game. You can't really see very far so you listen a lot. If you are moving it is way easier for the target to hear you and for you not to hear him. Silence is the only way to be successful and patience to a nearly disturbed, far ebyond rational level is required . You will be waiting a long time most days for one shot that may come and go in 10 to 15 seconds. It is just a great, great sport and my favorite part is becoming the deadly black hole in the trees and waiting for my deer.

To be fair, my least favorite part of it is dressing and cleaning the damned things. It's not vomit gross or anything... there's just that moment where the carcass transitions in the brain from living quarry to parts to be sorted out and handling the first leg the first time is always a bad feeling for me. The fur makes it tough. Especially if a shoulder is broken or something. Just an odd feeling for a bit. I worked in a butcher shop for a number of years in high school and once I get moving it gets more like that with each cut, and I know how to tolerate that...

Anyhow, it is go time. The Blackhawk is sighted. The ammo is punchy. My gear is in order. My spot is picked. All that remains is getting through Thanksgiving and getting up on Monday and not going to work. (OHHHH Yeah... no cubical again. Fu&* Yeah!!)

It was last year that I was able, for the first time, to be in the woods at what I considered a good time before daybreak (2 hours or so) and got myself situated. All years previously I had been driving or just running late or whatever. Last year I got to do it right. My reward was the knowledge that the night sky is not really black but an amazing deep shade of blue. Orion was perched just right in the western sky and I, also for the first time ever, saw enough deer to pass up a few before I put the smack down. I hope this year is half as good. It will be amazing...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Hunting Stuff, More Gun Stuff

So go figure, I was out hunting Monday... again. I have a most excellent life right now. I hope it lasts... It was a great day of really great weather with no special philosophical or physical achievements. Just a solid day of quiet in a breezy woods. I snapped some pics but most were not as good as I would have liked. It may be time to invest in a real camera. Anyhow, here are a couple of shots from the trip...

A nearly leafless squirrel alley this time of year but the good news was the rain. It made the approach in all that ground-fall silent as a submarine. I had two shots in very short order. Of course, I missed them...

While moving down this stream I did locate quite by accident a long ago fractured geode with some of its original crystal structure in tact. Being something of a rocker I was all pumped up and missed at least on more shot looking at rocks... Overlapping hobbies... bad for execution I think.

This is a great little pond hidden away back against the base of the hills and the cedar groves near the above stream. Nice place to pause for lunch especially on a less than hot day with the sun out. Nice and warm.

All in all, just a great day I wish I could say I was getting bored with this but I am not. I love this stuff like my wife and breathing. It just must be a part of me. This is my corner of the world to obsess about it.

The dryness this year has been mostly bad. One side effect though has been the small falls in the streams I hunt are mostly dry. It allows a whole different approach to game when you can move down the bed on dry rock.

These little guys mark the jumping off point for picking a path in. Usually nothing Niagara-like going on there but man... nothing at all several times in a row is probably not good. Let's hope the dryness improves.

So to close, just because I love it, I have to drop this pic of my newest creation. I've just finished the first round of stock finishing prior to bedding and I am really pleased. Have a look. It is my finest work to this point. The pic is not that good but like I said, maybe it is time for a new camera. Black Friday has to be good for something... And yes, I drink too much Coke Zero.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Irrational Love of the Gun Thing and the Yen for Blogging

So, you know how some guys go to tool sales or go to lots to look at cars when the year is ending? You know how that woman you know (wife, best friend, whatever) goes shopping for shoes on sale or how any item, no matter how unrequired, is better and now worth owning at 50 or more percent off? Do ya know? Yeah. I know too. I do this with gun parts and I am bad... Hello, my name is JP. I am a gun junkie. I haven't been rational about these things in 20 or more years... (here you say Hi JP...)

Man it's bad sometimes... Here, to make the point more clear, is a list of stuff I have working right now:
  • So about a month ago I was out trolling the sponsor's sites and discovered that the Whistlepig Gun Barrel Co. had an 18 in, scratch and dent barrel on sale. Holy shizzle! BOUGHT! Then, last week I was out trolling MidwayUSA's site after a request for a review came in my email and wouldn't ya know it... There was a closeout on Fajen unfinished sporter thumbhole stocks for the 10/22 in their grey laminate. Oh no. Another bargain. Well... uh... BUY THAT SUCKER! (It matched the barrel and the black reciever... must have... and oh yeah... I'm not done yet) Now I'm sanding a new stock and buying bedding kits and researching finishes. God knows what I will do with it but I guess converting my last stock 10/22 to something all custom is just the way to finally stop the madness. (Nah, but I will say so anyway)
  • Richard's Microfit Stocks is a company in California that makes gunstocks. They are known for two things: Making great stocks and not delivering them quickly. (8 weeks for standard stuff and much, much longer for the rest...) Chad Ottman Inc is my primary firearms dealer. Chad's a good guy who keeps his eyes open for me when I have a specific request. A while back I was looking for a bolt action 22 WMR. Chad pinged me back to let me know that he had Savage 17 HM2 he could let me have at a great price so I bought it. I, of course, ordered a new stock 5 days later from Richard's. It showed up this week. Oh no... Gun-Building-OCD overdrive.
  • A while back I barrelled a 10/22 action with a Clark Custom Match barrel. Of course no stock I had in house would do so I ordered a different target stock from Richard's for this one. (I ordered this one in May. See what I mean about slooooowwww?) I will need a new trigger and some new optics for this one as well. I mean it is a target rifle after all... Needs to be good. :-)
  • You've all seen my posts about the quest for the ideal config hunting rifle, recorded in previously. (If not, check it out) It's still my favorite implement for the small game bloodsport I engage in from time to time...

Man I just love doing this stuff. In the age of video games and virtual workspaces it is gratifying beyond reason to 'build' things that you take into the field or to the range and experience first hand. Using any tool, device, machine, etc. to which you can ascribe a sense of personalization and personal investment, in my opinion, provides exponential enhancement to the activity being performed. It's why I try to work on my own cars when I am able, why I made my own golf clubs when I was a golfer, why I love to build these rifles, and why (I think) I love to write about this stuff. I enjoy reading the stories and positions of most other hunters / shooters/ etc. It turns out I needed to read about my own too. (and yes, I love me) I seem to have quite a bit of fun... ;-)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Field Report - The Squirrel-Slayer Part Deuce in Action

Every once in a while I gain some satisfaction from knowing my own likes and preferences well enough to translate them into a thing I really enojy. My rebuilt, replacement squirrel rifle (See this post for the why of the rebuild. See this post for build details) is such an answer to the question of just-for-me squirreling implements. It also gives me a bit of pride for making such a solid shooter in my home-grown, self taught gun shop. I'll discuss some details here but it suffices to say that, short of a few minor tweaks to trigger and scope settings, this is a keeper.

I've had it out hunting 4 times now and to the range for sighting and function testing. The results are so pleasing I am reluctant to recount them here for fear of jinxing it... but we'll see how it goes and take my chances.

At the range I used about 200 rounds, all CCI Blazer, to get the scope all tweaked in and doing what I wanted. In addition I then set out on a course of fire for testing involving mixed ranges, rates of fire, and targets. In all cases during the initial workup there were no failures to feed, no misfires, and no failed ejections. It would seem the new extractor and hammer / hammer spring combo were worth the trouble. This makes me pretty happy. I read many things online and in various publications about rifles that function this well and honestly never expected to own one let alone make the parts into one myself. It's just really satisfying. As accuracy goes, I can say that once I got the scope and rifle aligned so that things hit where the scope said I was pointed, it was tough to miss if I did my bit with controlling the trigger. What a shooter it turned out to be. I was able to consistently hold it in the 9/10/x rings on the 50 foot slow fire target without too much trouble. It's defiantly minute o' squirrel.

As a hunter's rifle goes, this one suits me more than any I have ever fired, rimfire or otherwise. While I (like any father would :-) take pride in every inch of this creation I can say that there are some strengths and weaknesses to highlight.

As strengths go (a strength for the purposes of this discussion is what I see as an outstanding quality of the configuration) this rifle is extremely light and is just one heck of an instinctive pointer for shooting in a hurry. The aluminium shrouded barrel is light as a feather. Coupled with the B&C fiberglass stock, the aluminum scope rings and base, and the other lighter weight stock components of the 10/22 action and you get a rifle of about 4 pounds, scope and all. Compared to the factory stock weight of 5+ pound without the scope I'd say we have an improvement in form and function. As instinctive pointing goes, the B&C Premier thumbhole stocks are topnotch for the 10/22. Alignment on the target axis just happens and leaves time to focus on tweaking and adjustment prior to the shot. My only real gripe with the stock was resolved with a small piece of cotton camo tape placed where the web of my thumb typically lands. Fiberglass on a cold day stays cold. That sucks. So I fixed it.

In terms of shortcomings only one thing really stands out and I am not sure it is the rifle's problem. Squirrel hunting with a scope is a bitch-difficult undertaking. I can't lie about. It makes an already challenging shooting expedition a more challenging and perhaps needlessly complex exercise. Now, what I have to say here before it sounds like I am just down on the scope config is that hunting for most all of my life has been an open sighted endeavor. Scopes are for targets and really fine precision shooting. This is how it developed for me. Hunting squirrel and deer and turkey in Southern Ohio Hardwoods and Cedars is pretty much about a close in, shoot fast, hit hard type of marksmanship. (not everyone will agree with this. Again this is more about my approach than anything I think) My handguns for deer season and every squirrel rifle of mine up to this season has been an open sighted implement. The bottom line here I guess is that I am in need of more work with the scope in high speed situations. Then again I may just see about have a front sight notch cut. There's a chance I may be turning into an old dog and not have an interest in new tricks... :-)

All in all, it was worth the encounter with the wife and subsequent skirmishes about the money and purpose and my need for yet another rifle. It seems now, in taking stock of where things sit from a functional inventory perspective, my first answer of a gun per purpose may have been the wrong way to go. Perhaps owning one or two really good ones is better than owning 20 mediocre ones. And all of this from one rifle build and the space between my ears. The surprises just keep on coming I guess....

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Whisper of Passing Shadows

Do you ever find that you have a feeling and the words just get in the way? I am usually pretty good at sorting out the language around a thing but not this time. This may fumble and ramble a bit so hunker down and hold on...

I was out again on Monday... doing that thing I do on Mondays: Hiking, hunting, taking pics, etc. As I was checking out this new stretch of trail, I found the remnants of an old gate and some other things scattered around up on top of this ridge. All of it was evidence of a past use of the space. You know... a place to maybe live or do some work of kind with stock or agriculture... whatever. Clearly it was something other than it is today. It was the shadow of another time. The outline was there but no real substance remained. I latched on to the metaphor and started thinking about things.

I started hunting when my former father-in-law introduced me to the sport in my early twenties. He was a direct and good man who proved to be a wiser mentor than I knew at the time. We discussed many things in our time together. I can remember a few of those discussions and am glad I knew him. Good friends are rare and should be treated that way. My first marriage failed quickly and painfully and things were bumpy for a while. I worked in that part of the country for three more years, driving a truck, delivering drywall and other supplies. It was a good and simple life. The best part of it may very well have been the survival of my friendship with the ex's dad. Before I left to head off to restart my education and move my life towards the place I am now, I went to pay a visit, knowing that our visits and my hunting would become far less frequent. He looked at me and said, "You'll be back. Once you have been there, the woods whispers in your ear like a woman."

So go figure, he was right. I lost touch with him sometime after I went off to school. given how busy things got and the distances involved, it was just something that just fell away and had to be lived through. Thinking about it now, I can see what it is I owe to that friendship. Squirrel hunting was where I started and it remains my favorite of all pastimes and he taught me. The gatepost reminded me of this sort of impact in my life. Where most of it all began is just a shadow and a memory now but the outline is etched on me and I feel this odd feeling when I bump into it like I did there, on that ridge, looking at some one's work from a while ago.

Is it sentimental crap or just me getting old? I have no clue and really care less about why. I just miss having a friend like that and being the guy who could deliver drywall for four or five years and get to enjoy life beyond the day-to-day run of living. It's much harder now, though it is not unmanageable, and hunting provides the simplicity of purpose that a mind needs sometimes. Pretty big footprints to leave in a life for one guy, 20 years ago. I wish he was around again. It's been a while.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Yep, That just about covers it all.

You know, I try to stay away from the intense rooting and hysteria that can surround the favorite sports team in the life of a sports fan. It's really just sort of a reaction to being transplanted into Buckeye country where football is more serious than anything and perspective is a little skewed. But after watching the Sox (greatest team ever) just have their way with the Rockies last night, I went looking for, and think I found, an image that sums it all up.... (I found it here, BTW) And son... I bet your mama is damned proud of you. I am.


Monday, October 22, 2007

High Noon in Squirrel Alley

Man, what a day. As with these many Mondays past back to the beginning of October, I was supposed to be out there with the sunrise, hunting like a fool for the furry-tailed tree devils. But unlike the last trip and all the thorns I didn't count on and didn't enjoy, and unlike last week with the strep throat and ear infections and pills and the yuck, today I did something I knew was going to work and I knew I would enjoy because I have done it before: Hunting in Squirrel Alley.
There's something to be said for knowing the place you are going. It also helps if it turns into a cathedral of gold and red maple leaves during my favorite month of the year. Shots were plentiful and the new rifle did what I would have hoped for and more. It was a good day. My local friends were even in the mood for squirrel tonight so I didn't have to sneak them in the house to freeze. (Mrs. Hunter hates the 'Wild Meat'...)

I have some more pics snapped along the way today. Things were just right for light and color and I had lots of time between shots to look around and photog, pray, and think. Here are some more I snapped. I am a huge fan of the fall and this time of year.... hence the name.

A nice maple I was seated under for a while today...

The Ancient Bridge Abutment - May favorite, favorite sitting spot
Not too much to ponder on today. It was all good and I am tired from the driving and the 4:45 wake-up so I am wrapping it up. More to come I am sure. Some things were on my mind all day and I will address those here, as soon as I am rested and back to being the other guy I am 6 days weekly. For now, I am off to play Dora and Diego save the dog with the flat tire... or whatever she wants to do. Kids are still just the best part of it all.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fall Finds Ohio

It was a fiendishly simple plan and it played in my head something like this; Take very Monday off from the first of October until the week after Thanksgiving. History has shown us that we never get to hunt in December until after Christmas anyway so no need to worry about the Twelfth month. You are too busy during the silly season anyway. Just use up the Mondays as hunting days that way no Monday in the office, hunting fix attained, life goes on, no worries. Right? Well, wrong actually.

The reality of the whole mess goes like this. Fall arrived in about 20 minutes last Tuesday and the high temperatures dropped from a balmy, high eighties sort of thing, down to a it's sort of chilly sixties sort of thing. The nights are following suit as well. Don't misunderstand here, I am a huge fan of the fall weather. What has failed to factor in is that the three-year-old will almost always catch a cold when things change like this. What does that mean? For those of you not blessed with the germ-infested bundles of joy, the rule is like this: If they get sick, you get sick. How special.

So here we are... Monday morning... The sun is just making its way to the horizon and the predawn is gorgeous. I can hear the birds starting to chirp and my rifle on the rack calling to me. It knows I am home and we should be hunting. What nobody else can feel is the red-hot line of pain running down my throat from my nose to my ears and further down. Gawd do I hate sinus infections. They are just the worst. Worse than the flu. Worse than Poison Ivy. Worse than just about everything. It's like someone pressurizing your head with really nasty Jello and then smacking it with a hammer. If I were not sniffing and coughing to go with it, I would be hunting anyway. There is enough OTC sinus stuff in my house to make this possible. The coughing that is in attendance here, makes the whole silent motionless thing just impossible.

So instead of watching the tree for signs of movement, for hopping nut carriers or busy tails flitting around, I am headed for the urgent care. Me and twenty or so others, all in a room, coughing and waiting for our turn to say 'Ah' and buy a prescription, take a pill, and stop secreating. Ah well.... there's always next Monday. I guess even an ill day at home with the kiddlet, sick or no, is better than a meeting about how to amortize or physical asset depreciation. Rock on.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

On-Call Melancholy Annoyance and the Infinite Satisfaction

Imagine if you will that you're asleep. It's Saturday morning and it is about 5 AM. Some where, in a datacenter full of servers, literally thousands of them, a server that knows your name and where to find you has waited until this moment to run out of disk space. Since it knows who you are and that you must fix it if it calls, it decides to wake you up to come and see its boo boo.... and the fun begins.

Such is the life of systems guys during the week of on-call pager duty. Now I can't complain very loudly about this because as a trade off for my once per 7 week rotation, they let me hunt or work at home nearly as much as I want to or at least as much as they can. (Comp time and Vaca time are the world's finest perks I think.) It's tough to beat it really. Couple that with a really nice check and I think you've got a dream-like gig... at least I do anyway.

Monday is a holiday (10 of those yearly. That's two extra weeks off yearly for those of you who don't abla) and I will be hunting again in the morning... home with the wife and the kiddies in the afternoon. I am really going to enjoy it this trip. Maybe it's the many generations of blue-collar worker conditioning built up inside of me or just the way I am wired... either way it always seems that having a day of fun is more enjoyable after a stretch of long work. It's even better if the work was hard too... twisted I know but it's how I feel most times. If it feels like there is still work to be done, hunting is far less enjoyable.

It seems very odd to want to talk about gratitude for days with 3 hours of sleep and systems that just won't keep the wheels from flying off all the time, but I have to say I am grateful for this gig this time around. I have made it as far up the food chain as I wish to go and have decided to do this work instead. I am a lucky guy to have made my way back down the food chain in one piece. I'll not lose this spot again until I am ready to walk away...

At 12:01 AM Monday my on-call shift ends and you can bet, 4 hours later I will be headed for the happy hunting ground, new rifle in tow, feeling very much like I accomplished something and a bit of recreation is truly in order. See? This is the good stuff... ( Oh yeah... New rifle is sighted in and shoots dreamishly. I'll have a post hunt post on Monday probably with pictures and all...)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Goons in the Mist

Saturday saw the end of my golfing this year. It was quite a bit of fun although it still seems a shame to spend that much money on a game I don't really like. The fun in my golfing is the time outdoors with friends and family. This trip was for my Dad. Of course, the big doufas Jay came along and that always adds the entertainment only a 40 year old teenager can supply.

We played at Shawnee Golf Resort down along the Ohio river and the morning was freaking foggy... (thanks in no small part to the river itself). I, of course, just thought it was a cloud of pain and gloom drifting on the wind from the greater Portsmouth area. My father advised otherwise. Anyhow, check out this level of visibility.

I have to admit I am not much of a golfer to begin with and the lack of visibility did nothing to improve things. What I can say about golf, after 20 years of struggling to get why someone would do it, is that I don't get it. What a silly game. Given my recent state of mind I've decided to be done with it for a while. Add to that my motives for playing the first time, it was not an easy decision. Granted I said I was done for the year but to make the point more real or concrete I am thinking of selling my beloved Titleist irons. (More money for other things that don't cost money just to be frustrated...)

I took up this stupid game when I was 21. After drinking my way out of college and finding a way to make a living driving a truck, I decided I needed some form of recreation in the summer. Golf seemed a logical choice given my grandfathers' and fathers enjoyment of the game. (Family time has always been a good thing for me...)

My first set of clubs was McGregor Nicklaus Master irons and Ben Hogan persimmon woods. These guys were old when I got them in the late 80's but still played good enough for a guy who couldn't swing the club. My Dad paid for them and seemed really glad to do so. Playing golf, it seemed, might be a connection point and he was happy about that and so was I. It's been a downhill run since then.

My Dad is my perennial playing partner. In the last 3 years and 3 months I have played golf a total of 5 times and all with my father. Now that I am quite a bit older than when I started and I am well clear of the insane world of single, not quite adult living, aching for social acceptance, or just trying to be one of the guys I can see that this was a good thing. When there was nothing else to talk about or do, golf worked for us. It's a easy to have a laugh when somebody shanks a ball (usually me)and nearly clips the other guy (usually him) by accident... Jokes ensue and for while things are all workable. Now, as we are both starting to grey a bit more, we don't need to do this just to hang out. We are just as apt to watch football (other sordid and low pastime but this one costs nothing and provides no real frustration for me as I simply do not care about it :-) or try to solve his raccoon problem as anything else. He really enjoys the game. I just don't.

You know you're in trouble when you think of an activity in terms of genuine assholes who do it regularly. My mother tells me this is the easiest way to miss the good stuff. (If you let other people drive you away then the assholes get more, I am told...) In this case, I disagree. Golf easily maintains the highest per capita asshole ratio of any game I have ever played. It is the only recreational activity in my life to make me swear to never do it again with at least 4 people that I know and like otherwise. Some are even family. How sad is that?

To all of you out there, struggling with your own 'really competitive spirit' and your lack of ability to hit it big and just retire early, give it up. You're an average person. You 'could not have been Tiger if your dad had just worked with you more...' and not wanting to 'work to improve your game' does not mean there is a some fundamental flaw in character. There are plenty of good guys who have never broken 90. It's time to just enjoy it and stop 'working' on it. It's just a game and a silly one at that.... Let it go. I have. :-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TUSR - Building Squirrel-Slayer Part Deuce

To put a close on this long-running saga of squirrel rifles and my bad luck with them this season, let's have a look at the finished product of my efforts to replace my busted gear and the steps I used to assemble it.

Here you can see the Bell & Carlson stock I have chosen for this new platform and one of my less-tweaked target actions, barreled with a full .920 match barrel. (This thing weighs like 20 pounds...)

Here's the action stripped to the receiver with a quick test of the new Nikon scope on the base. Also you can see the new TacSol Barrel there, just unpacked and the new extractor and spring set lying with the bolt. The extractor installs are always fun but this one went well and the action reassembled without issue.

Some minor sanding with some really fine grained paper was required to fit the barrel shank to the receiver but the fit is rock stable and the alignment of extractor and extractor notch was very workable with a little light oil and elbow grease...

and the action is assembled and barrelled.

All of this lead up to the finished product... Coming at just under 4 pounds, I am really pleased with the looks of it. It handles quickly and points pretty instinctively. The B&C stock is top notch. The Nikon scope, once mounted and adjusted, is really bright and clear with fast acquisition.

Now all I need to do is find time to get to the range to test it... Of course the wife tells me that being unavailable to play doll house with the little-bit is not an acceptable outcome right now. Not for the sake of the new rifle anyway. I sort of have to agree... Someday I guess.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Best Part of Being Me

So, I just can't lie about it. The best parts of my existence are my wife and my youngster. Here they are, glorious and beautiful as they can be. Having said that, I recount this tale of manipulation and treachery for all to see.... :-)

After I returned home and told the hunting tale in the previous post (with a good deal more theatrics and cursing...) and after the wife stopped laughing at me for being clumsy and getting older not as gracefully as she, the serious ridicule began.

"Let me see if I have this right," she said "A rifle that worked perfectly well from the factory wasn't good enough and you had to buy parts made of plastic" I try to interject 'ultralight carbon-fiber' in there but she says again, "Made of plastic. Right? Couldn't function without them. Right? Need the edge of light weight to maintain energy or some nonsense. Right?"

All I can do is say, head down, "Yes."

"Now it's broken? One fall and it's broken?" she asks more like a parent than I remember her and all I can say again is "Yes".

"So OK, superbrain-computer-nerd husband, let's skip over the whole why-the-hell-would-you-buy-plastic-parts-thing and go straight to the you-want-to-fix-it part. How much?"

She clearly far more worried about the cash than my emotional well being or the technical inaccuracy in her 'plastic parts' statement. The trauma of a blown hunt and my new favorite rifle being reduced to so much recyclable junk is just a non-issue for her. So, I play it cool and say..."$900.00". Of course it doesn't occur to me to be ready to dodge flying flatware and I have shirt with a fork shaped tear in it now. Dang it! Abort! Dive! Dive! Plan B! Tee it up and Go!

"Alright" I say, " I am not exactly sure. I think I can do it for $300 and I can sell one of the unused multitude of rifles in the cabinet to pay for it." This is what she wants to here. I have missed, again, the ploy to reduce the number of arms in our house and she has played me on a two-fer on this one. One squirrel rifle in the can (I am honestly unsure if the receiver is damaged as well. I need to check it more when I have $ and time) and one of my other must-haves sacrificed on the alter of financing the hunt of the mighty squirrel.

Ah well, the 270 I decided to cut loose is rifle I have owned for two years and never fired. Given the cost of keeping the youngster in our house, the out-of-state rifle hunt for anything appears many moons away. Besides, I sold it to a good friend. If I need it, I can borrow it.

Then I get to work. I get to build squirrel-slayer part deuce and the wife is happy about it. For the first time in a while I see that she gets it. Probably better than I do, she gets it and I love her for it. She could say things like "Get them all out of the house." or "No more hunting if I will be home alone with the kids." or "No more vacation time for hunting." but she doesn't. Instead all she says is, "If you have to fix it right now, you better not take it out of the checking account because the massage I would cancel is all that is keeping you from being impaled by that fork once a day." I like that.

So, I pinged up my buddies at Midway for a new Tactical Solutions matte green barrel and a new extractor. Then I set to work converting the action of one my two target 10/22's to be loaded for hunting. I found a good Nikon rimfire scope and mounted it. The other new parts are due to arrive tomorrow. I will be hunting by the weekend, new rifle in hand and a a pile of support for me at home. (Maybe not a pile but enough) Oh yeah, and no plastic parts....

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Three Days, A Busted Rifle, and One Heck of a Good Time

I am really blessed to have a wife that, even when she doesn't quite get it, tolerates it. It, of course, is my yen for hunting. She thinks I am too old to be traipsing around in the weeds in search of the bushy-tailed tree rats in the obsessive sort of way I do. All I can do is shrug my shoulders and say, "Bye" and "I love you" and I am gone. Such is the call of the first month of squirrel season.

I managed to wrangle free of my life for three days to venture into the wilds of southern Ohio for a three day hunt and some golf with my Dad. I could hardly sleep just thinking about it. I spent weeks planning my paths, by hunting day, to the spots in the Tranquility Wildlife Area that I knew would be teaming with the little tree creatures. I provided my wife with pictures and maps, packed my gear, and ran for it. Time to hunt.

I left home at 0430 (That's 4:30 AM for those of you that don't abla) and was in the parking spot by 0615. I had my newly tuned and re-camoed 10/22 ultralight custom rifle ready for action and capable, if you believe the range results, of producing minute-o-squirrel accuracy out to about 50 yards. I strapped on my new Kelty day pack harness thing and headed down the trail to the creek bed that leads to my favorite spot , ever, for this sort of thing.

I deserved to find the log laying in the underbrush by upending myself over it and landing on my knee. Worse was catching a bunch of my weight on the rifle as I landed. I was already cooking the gravey when I went down hard. It hurt. Worse, the rifle made rattling noised when I got up. Well Fu^& ! 10 freaking minutes! Broken rifle. No backup. (I mean it's squirrel hunting for God's sake. Who brings a backup rifle?) I decided this would not deter me. I was going anyway. I mean how bad can it be? The ranges are usually in the 40 to 50 feet area. I should be able to make it work. Right? Oh dear. I was wrong. Ten missed shots later, I see the flaw in my thoughts. Well fu&* (again)... I will find a range and re-site this thing. And I do. Then I find out if the local Wal-mart sells any rimfire scopes worth a damn because the one I own is just broken. Not my best first day out but it sure as hell was not sitting at my desk. Can't beat that part, ever.

Day two and three are more of the same really. The rifle is not right. Something else is whacked in its silly carbon fiber mechanism and I am not driving home just to fix it. I use the chance to scout for new locations and start thinking about whether or not I want to clean a deer this year. I decide to look for rubs anyway. It's early but I can hope... October is coming.

One big perk to being out of pocket for a few days is the feeling of coming home to your own bed and your own house and a warm, loving person or two that is glad to see you. Of course it is the shorter of these persons who runs to me screaming "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!!" and provides my sunshine through the gloom I always feel, post hunt. She rubs my head and says, "You stink Daddy. Did you find deer poop this time?" I smile and say if course. And then I am playing doll-house in my camos....

Saturday, September 1, 2007