Monday, December 29, 2008

Hunting and Journaling

As the 2008/09 waterfowl season begins to wind down here in Oregon, I know that my days afield are limited. Not just because the season will close soon, but more so due to the current weather and landscape conditions.

The Klamath basin has gotten hammered with close to 2' of snow and sub zero temps over the past several weeks. Fully covering the Klamath River with a solid sheet of thick ice and what little grain there was in the fields with snow. These are the most difficult conditions to draw in birds that I have experienced. Had I one or the other to work with, (open water or standing grain) it would not pose near the challenge or difficulty which is now before me. It's like inviting your friends to dinner and not having any food or water for them. Just a well dressed table with all the accouterments of what is to come, yet never does. It doesn't take but a few invites and you end up with only yourself at a well dressed table. Those late season Canada Geese are savvy and have seen a lot of decoy sets and heard a lot of calling, the good and bad of both. Not having neither food or water to offer leaves me with sparse optimism to lure in the big boys from the north. In stark contrast to the western valleys of Oregon and Northern California. Those remain prime hunting areas til the last day of the season. Offering both food and plenty of open water for lots of late season duck and goose hunting.

Let me digress for just a moment. I have shared many photos with you all that are from the pages of my "Waterfowl Gunning Log". While it's fun to look back with my hunting friends at the success we've had, the journal serves also as a guide for what has worked in tough conditions and those wild ideas that we just crossed off the list. Maintaining a journal is an excellent way to see trends in species, numbers of waterfowl, weather and habitat. Also I can recollect as to what type of decoys I used, how many and in what configuration. So now is the time I find myself turning the pages and reading my notes from years past, hoping to find some antidote for the current situation. So far no luck, yet I do have another idea to try and I'll let you know what the results are after my efforts. In the past I have used black plastic (visqueen) over ice to give the illusion of open water on the Klamath River. I have also tried a green tarp in the field over snow in hopes that Geese would consider stopping by. Both of those attempts were unsuccessful yet I continue to persevere.

Here in Oregon, specifically the Klamath Basin where I waterfowl hunt the duck portion of the season is typically fairly short. This is due to several factors primarily drought and water restrictions during the breeding season. This has had a big impact on production of local birds and thus lowering the number of ducks using the area which I hunt. It takes generations of ducks to insure historical migratory routes. Once that chain has been broken by drought, lack of food, or nesting habitat it takes many many years to regain that portion of the migration if ever. This is the situation I am faced with where I hunt. Though the number of ducks I've harvested this season may seem like a lot to some of you, considering the number of days and hours I have spent hunting it is an average take thus far. Noting that most of the ducks came in the early portion of the season and dropped off markedly when temps began dropping below freezing around Thanksgiving. I was fortunate to get a daily limit of 7 ducks, 3 times which equated to almost half of my season total. Those were local birds and I was tickled to have such success as it doesn't happen very often anymore. Lest I not mention the days this season when I came home empty handed, of which there were several. Many years ago in the mid 80's we had good late season duck populations in the Klamath Basin, yet due to loss of habitat, water and food we no longer have such. We have lost most of the historical migrating diver population. And as far I can see we are no where even close to regaining those numbers and I am not sure we ever will.

These are observations made from years of hunting and keeping a journal of such. I still continue to be optimistic that eventually the late season diver hunts will once again return. I remember having the choice of hunting divers or hunting geese on the same day. Which one would I start my morning with and just how much plucking did I want to do? Now days it is not an option. I put in as many duck days as I can early season after my big game hunting is over, because I know soon after freezing temps arrive the ducks will be gone. Then I am left with very challenging conditions for primarilary geese only. If this were a numbers game I lose before I even get started. For every 4 or 5 days I spend in my layout blind goose hunting, I am lucky if I get a single goose. Clearly it is not the reason I hunt and put forth all the effort I do. It is for that one brief moment in time when a window of opportunity swings my way. When those distant geese finally come and circle my spread of 4 dozen G and H shells that I've been laying in for 3 plus days and decide to drop in. Just for a few minutes I forget about all the work I've done and the cold leaves my body as adrenaline surges through my veins. Their calls echoing in my head as they stretch their landing gears reaching for the ground. My heart beats faster with every vocal they make as I wait for that perfect moment to shoulder my gun in an effort to knock one down. I try not to move and give myself away, yet I don't want to miss my chance either, it's a fine line. You've put your time in and paid your dues. Now is your opportunity, perhaps the last one of the year. Make it count, stay calm, you know what to do, you've waited this long just a minute more. The next pass they make you're ready and as they stretch their feet and necks looking to spot their landing, you unleash both barrels and 2 tumble to the ground. You reload just in case you have a cripple or maybe a third got hit and needs to be chased down. You clumsily extract yourself from your ground blind and run down any cripples. You are elated with your success and rightly so. A long sigh follows and the hours and days you've put in finally pay off.

I can remember back in the early 1970's when the town of Tulelake in northern California was the mecca of waterfowl hunting. This was the place to be, bar none. There were guides and outfitters, yet they didn't call themselves the latter. There were hotels, motels and restaurants that catered to the hunters and a duck processing plant as well. Those days are long gone and I am sad to say the once booming town of Tulelake is now, all but a ghost town. Their high school mascot is still the Honker, and they still make the best horseradish this side of the Missouri.

So, these are the present day circumstances of a well documented flyway. Perhaps I will not see the flocks of one thousand Pintails circling the fields of Lowlands as they did in the 70's and early 80's. Nor the large influx of migrating Diving ducks come December and January. The habitat and historical migratory routes have drastically changed over the course of my lifetime. Modest returns for the efforts put forth these days. No doubt raising the appreciation factor for ones successes. Hunting is about opportunity and to be a successful hunter/huntress, one has to put in the time. So as long as the season is open, then I know I at least have a chance of harvesting a goose. Perhaps if we get a big thaw, then I may even see the opportunity for a few more ducks. At the very least I will enjoy seeing whatever it is that unveils itself to me, along with learning something about my quarry and their environment.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh So Fast The Time Flies By !

I have a feeling that most of my duck hunting is over for this year. That big arctic blast and the continuing storms have turned my hunting area into an ice rink. No open water means no ducks. Yet there is still the opportunity for some late season goose hunting. Which is a much slower pace.

Typically my goose hunting days when in the field and not on the rivers edge, consists of a very long and quiet day laying on my backside in a ground blind in hopes that I will get an opportunity to shoot. Hence it is called a wild goose chase for obvious reasons. It also means very cold days in the snow and without Jet at my side to converse with. She stays in the cabin sleeping, and waiting for my return. Not understanding why she doesn't get to be with me. I do have a field blind for her and when it's not to cold I do bring her. She is not the most patient, especially when we aren't able get in a couple days of jump shooting ducks to kinda tire her out before hand.

When I left Lowlands (our hunting club)I wasn't able to drain the cabin pipes as they were frozen. I may have quite a mess when I return, not to mention a job too. The pipes are Pex and not pvc, so with any luck I may be alright. Think I'll pick up a roll of heat tape for when I head back down there. If nothing has broke, then maybe the heat tape will work its magic.

Otherwise it has been a good duck season with approximately 54 ducks shot and 51 recovered.
Mallard 16
Bufflehead 11
N. Shoveller 8
G.W. Teal 6
Common Goldeneye 4
Lesser Scaup 3
Widgeon 2
Gadwall 1
Snipe 11
Pheasant 2

In looking back over the season thus far, it is not difficult to see the distinction between local early season birds and the influx of migrating birds. Both in species and numbers harvested. From here on out hunting in the Klamath basin will be a process in patience and a reminder of why I pursue waterfowl. It certainly is not to limit out but more importantly to be a witness for another season's migration. As well as the great joy and pride it has given me when watching Jet do her thing. Be it retrieving crippled ducks, breaking a thin layer of river ice for Buffleheads or catching up to and flushing wiley Pheasants. She is now on "auto pilot" having learned so much in her 8 and a half years. I hope I get the opportunity to get her a few more birds this season. Then again if not that is just fine too. She seems to enjoy the indoor comforts a little more each year as we get further into winter's deep freeze. With a little break in the storms I hope to get back to Lowlands before the year is up. If not, it's always been a fine place to bring in the New Year. Maybe Santa will have sent some Honkers there for when Jet and I return.

Jet and I wish all of you a safe, warm and very Merry Christmas!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thoughts About Oregonians by Jeff Foxworthy

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you live in Oregon.

If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in Oregon.

If you've had a lenghty telephone conversation with someone who dialed the wrong number, you live in Oregon.

If you measure distance in hours, you live in Oregon.

If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you live in Oregon.

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day, you live in Oregon.

If you install security lights on your house and garage but leave both unlocked, you live in Oregon.

If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you live in Central, Southern or Eastern Oregon.

If you design your kids Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you live in Oregon.

If the speed limit on the highway is 55mph--- you're going 80, and everyone is still passing you, you live in Oregon.

If driving is better in winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you live in Oregon.

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you live in Oregon.

If you find 10 degrees "a little chilly", you live in Oregon.

If you actually understand these jokes and forward them to all your OREGON friends, you live in Oregon.

O.k., I do find these quite funny and TRUE! I am a native Oregonian and although I haven't worn shorts and a parka at the same time the rest pretty much applies. Gets me wondering about Tom and his family over at Base Camp Legends. He's only recently moved to Idaho. I bet you he is pretty versed with the above list too. How 'bout it Tom? Come on, spill the beans, fess up.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cold Blast Freshens The Pot

I am of course referring to the fact that there were new birds in the Klamath Basin this past weekend. Finally got the big cold blast from the far north to push in some fresh waterfowl, as well as getting a lot of birds pushed off the Upper Klamath Lake.

Jet and I headed to Klamath early Friday morning ahead of the pending storm. We arrived in time to get settled in to the cabin and have a quick lunch. Then out to the field we went. We checked the back ditches just in case their might have been a fat mallard lazing about, but found nothing at all. So we headed to the Klamath River in search of divers and perhaps a pheasant if we were really lucky. The skies were overcast and the clouds were beginning to crowd the surrounding mountain tops. The wind was calm for the time being, yet forecast for 30 to 40 mph range come late afternoon. As we walked the river dike their were quite a few divers swimming in the river and even a few flying. This was a good sign. The weather was working its magic and getting things stirred up. Just be patient, only a matter of time before the show really starts.

So Jet was working a patch of Long Stem Bulrush and Tules next to the river. I was walking slowly keeping an eye on her, just as she was me too. I got to thinking after a few minutes that there must be a Pheasant in there. She is thoroughly dedicated to this pursuit. Bobbing and weaving and looking for an avenue when she runs into a wall of tules and continues her pursuit. I start to think that maybe that Pheasant got the better of us, and then suddenly out it jumps. Startling me and with fast wing beats and a flat body flying with a tail wind I raise my gun and swing on it squeezing off 2 shots and missing both times! Shot right over the top of it. Blankety Blankety Blankety Blank Uggh! I immediately watch with the keen vision of a hawks eye just where that fast elusive wing beater lands, and then get set for another go. I am on a mission now! It takes me about 5 minutes to finally call Jet out of the Tules so we can start after it again. I feel horrible not holding up my end of the deal after Jet works her little heart out. Anyway, I did mark it and we made a wide swing out in this field before cutting back in towards the dike. I kept Jet at heel til we both were in range and then I told her to "get'em up, find the birds" and she was off like a shot. We went into the taller cover then Jet double backed and I followed, just then the Pheasant flushed at the edge of the tall cover and this time I dropped it first shot! Finally I thought to myself and somewhat disgusted with my earlier attemps. It hit the ground running and so did Jet. I don't think I've ever seen her run so fast as she did after that bird. After about 25 yards it fell over stone dead and she brought it back and delivered to hand. I'll tell you all, I don't think I have ever seen Jet work so hard, be so focused and make such a beautiful retrieve as this one. I am so proud of her. Also relieved that I held up my end of the deal. I think this may well have been the same Pheasant that eluded me on my birthday weekend. I did the same thing, missed on both shots. So we'll call it a bit of redemption I suppose.

Anyhow, on we go after a big round of hugs and praise for a job well done to Jet. We walked the river dike and it wasn't more than 20 minutes later that the wind markedly picked up from the west.The shelf ice was beginning to stretch out from the river bank. I said to Jet that this is it, the storm has landed and is only going to get worse from here on out. We ended up jump shooting 3 Hen Buffs and a Drake Scaup from the river just as the first flakes of snow began falling. Time to head for the cabin and get the birds field dressed before dark. It wasn't much after I got those birds plucked that the wind was pushing 30 and let me tell ya' it was COLD! I gutted the birds and then rinsed them under the frost free hydrant and my hands were froze. It hurt like the dickens when they thawed. Oh boy, here we go, this is it. I asked for it and got it in spades. Hence the old saying goes; Careful what you wish for , cause you just might get it! Truer words were never spoken.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, December 12, 2008

First Arctic Storm Is Almost Here !

Yea, we can all rest a little easier knowing there are fresh birds coming our way. It has been a poor season generally speaking this year. With very few storms from the far north to push new birds south for their annual migration. We as hard core waterfowlers have had to scour the bowels of what few flooded fields we've had as well as those ditches that fed 'em. The so called local nesting population of waterfowl are either in my freezer, Hunt Eat Lives!, NorCals, Hunter Angler Gardner Cooks, a friend of ours or they have managed to scathe away to a secret hidey hole.

I was pleasantly surprised last Saturday when I shot my first Goldeneye of the season, not knowing that they were a week ahead of this big arctic storm that is only hours away. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. I have been frantically calling all my hunting buddies to see who can come and hunt with me on the Klamath River this weekend. The forecast is for strong winds gusting up to 34 mph and snow accumulation as well. Excellent, this will finally push those ducks off the Upper Klamath Lake and force them to find other areas for protection. There have been a few thousand ducks on the Upper Lake that I have driven by both going and returning home each hunting trip. They have been like the proverbial carrot in front of my nose and just out of reach. Driving on Hwy. 97 at 60 mph. I identify the waterfowl and continually shake my head from side to side. Scaup, Buffleheads, Ring Necked, Redheads, Widgeon, Canvasbacks and the list goes on and repeats. Causing guttural sounds from within along with a slight dis contentedness.

This storm with it's strong winds will whip up that large body of water like a Cuisinart on high. There won't be a duck left on it til days later after the storm passes on Monday or Tuesday. I anticipate excellent diver hunting with plentiful opportunities. Fast flying divers wind driven and skimming the tops of the white caps. I can already see shot strings and skipping Buffs, horizontal snow flurries, the smell of wet dogs, wet wool, and excited hunters. This is what I've been waiting for. Say so long to the mild sunny days of this years waterfowl season and welcome the wrath of winter and the waterfowlers dream. I bid you adieu lest I not be late for the arrival of the last big drake!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Well Hello Five - O, OMG ! Pt. 2

Oh yea, the afternoon Snipe hunt. That's where I left off. Alright so Jet and I had some food, I processed the ducks from earlier this morning and needed to get ready for round two.

More coffee as I grabbed my boxes of # 7 steel shot from my gunning box and began switching them out with the # 3's that I use for ducks. I got my hunting vest loaded with 7's and an extra box in the back pouch of my vest (just in case). Switched guns and double checked the chokes in my Beretta Silver Snipe 20 ga. making sure they were the most open ones I had. Alright, "Jet are you ready to go"? She was indeed and out the door we went at 1:30 p.m. for some fast flying Common Snipe action.

The afternoon was warming and the marsh was so still you could see ripples if a pin dropped. The ducks in the river were napping with heads tucked under their wings slowly moving with the flow of the current. No one was making a sound. We made our way out into the shallow flooded fields where the Snipe had been the weekend before. Jet was rested, recharged and fully immersed in the mission at hand, or shall I say paw? None the less, my heart is beating faster with each step I take, knowing full well at any second I am about to be startled. The silence broken by a flushed Snipe vocalizing its high pitched alarm: SCAMP SCAMP SCAMP! It so un does me for the first few flushes, then I settle my nerves, refocus and become hyper alert to the details on the ground around me. If you move slowly enough and train your eyes you can see the Snipe (sometimes) before they flush.

Alright, we have two in the bag and six to go for a limit. There are several flocks of about 15 to 25 Snipe per flock. This is great, I thought the cold temps might have pushed them south, lucky me! We continue to walk slowly ready at every second for a flush and Jet is having way to much fun. She is definitely doing a personal hunt of her own. She seems to have very selective hearing when we are Pheasant and Snipe hunting. Oh S--T, another one missed, and another, didn't even see that one get up. Geeze, my eyes are not getting any better, that's for sure. Ahh darn-it! Now you know why I grabbed that extra box of shells. O.K. time to get down to business. Stop trying to swing and shoot these little guys, do it like I know I can. Point and shoot, get my head out of my way and let my instincts work for me. Boom, 1 down- SEE? There you go, get'em as they flush going away!

After about an hour we had our 8 bird Snipe limit and proceeded to the Klamath River dike to sit a spell and pluck awhile. We did good not losing a single bird and one we knocked down got up and flew off again. So I don't think it was to worse for the wear. Facing south the sun reflecting off the water felt warm and jet was already sleeping again. Sometimes I wish I were a Lab. As I sat there plucking and watching some Buffleheads swim down river I am tickled with such a fine day in the field. Truly one of the best days ever. The first time that I have gotten a limit of divers in the morning followed by a limit of Snipe in the afternoon. Not only that, but shooting my Beretta Silver Snipe 20 gauge ta'boot. Not sure how I'll top this one. Pretty special indeed.

So far this fifty thing seems to be working pretty well for me and frankly, I'm real happy to be right where I am. I am thankful for my health, friends, 4 legged hunting partners and the ability to pursue my passions. Thanks to my fellow hunting bloggers for your support, encouragement, feedback, comments and for welcoming WHJ into your lives. If it weren't for you folks, I wouldn't be writing this, so Thanks! Looking forward to the second half and we'll see you in the field. CHEERS!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Well Hello Five - 0, OMG ! Pt. 1

Yep, that's right, over the hill, the big fifty, as in 5-OHMG! I made it and boy what a memorable 50th. birthday it was with my best (4 legged) friend Jet. As you all know the weather has been anything but "ducky" this season and the past weekend was no exception. The low temp down to 23 degrees and the afternoon highs around 50 or so. Just cold enough to put a thin covering of ice along the edge of the Klamath River and a little thicker ice layer in the ditches. Plus she had her new vest that was a birthday gift from my friend Dan. Lucky dog. Oh, and he gave me 2 boxes of steel shot #7's too. Thanks Dan, we both loved our gifts!

It was Jet and I on another all woman hunt. We got up earlier than needed, excited as usual. Jet is always happy to get up early and eat a bowl of chow, then catch another hours sleep before heading out. Such a Lab! So it was and we left the cabin at 0625 and got into position at what we call, Porto's Point along the banks of the Klamath River. So named for a member who loved to hunt divers there. Anyhow, the weather was clear and a thin skin of ice paralleled the banks of the river. Varying in width from 15 to 50 feet or so depending on the prevailing current. Thankfully the ice was thin enough for Jet to swim through and other than being cold, didn't pose a safety risk to her. So we were in position for yet another, golden sunrise along the banks of the Klamath River.

A pair of Scaup whizzed over the water just out of range as the sky began to lighten. Just about shooting time and the next fly by was going to be sighted at the end of my barrels. BOOM, BOOM ahh sh--! Scaup I missed, darn it. The next was a single about 20 feet high out over the river. A big duck, and as I squeezed the trigger and it dropped stone cold dead I was scratching my head as to what species? Ummm I thought, white breast, dark upper with white wing patches, yet not a Merg; Oh it's a Drake Goldeneye! Wow what the heck are they doing here so early I wondered to myself? There must have been a cold snap way up North for them to be here already. Good enough, I am all to happy to have Goldeneyes around. The next fly by was a pair of hen Buffs (Buffleheads) just off the deck by about 10 feet high, I missed my first shot and got'em both on my second. Known as a "French double", why? I have no idea. On with my story. . . More Buff's flying low. Dropped a single then another French double. This time a hen and a drake Buff, very cool. Jet was doing great with the 6 swimming retrieves so far. It was approaching 0900 and I was getting hungry and thinking about heading back to the cabin. Discussing my thoughts with Jet (this is a team effort, you know) she was in agreement. Just then here came another whistler (Goldeneye) and I whirled around just in time to drop my second Goldeneye of the day and season. This time a hen, wow a pair of Common Goldeneyes. What a fantastic morning hunt and it wasn't even o930 yet. It doesn't get any better than this I thought.

A limit of divers and we didn't put even a single decoy in the river. That was pretty cool, plus Jet got to field (swim) test her new vest and found it to her liking. Especially on the last few ducks she was getting a bit tired. They were long swims for her. So we enjoyed our casual walk along the river dike heading back to the cabin. Jet was running up and back and happy to be moving again. Also she was quite pleased with her performance, and rightly so. She still doesn't like sitting in one place very long. At least not until about day 3 when she is tired. Then she's happy to lay down and sleep through most of the hunt. That is until there's a retrieve to be made, then she will gladly pitch in.

So we got back to the cabin and I made some coffee and gave her a light snack. Then spent some time processing the mornings bounty and appreciating the hunt. After that I fixed myself a nice Venison backstrap brunch with some eggs, home fried poatatoes, toast and another cup of strong coffee. This is what we call; Pig Out and Pass Out, for obvious reasons. None the less it is getting on about 12:30 and I still have my afternoon Snipe hunt to get ready for.

Don't go far, part 2 is just around the bend.
Pt. 2

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, December 5, 2008

What's Going On ?

I am sure that I am not alone in my thoughts about the lack of weather this Fall. For central Oregon we are only at one third the typical precipitation amount of 10". Mt. Bachelor is not even open and for the Thanksgiving Holidays they actually trucked in snow to offer a very limited amount of skiing and then closed immediately afterward.

That is making it difficult for both hunter and those animals that are being hunted. The deer and elk are still up high due to lack of snowfall and come down primarily for water. During Elk season it was so dry I couldn't even attempt to bushwhack without alerting every animal within 200 yards of my presence. I stayed on game trails and old logging roads to keep my walking as quiet as possible. The early rain we did have back around late September and early October was just a tease, and is all but a distant memory now.

I sure would like to see some big storms out of the far north start pushing the waterfowl south. I'm talking areas like Northwest Territory, Saskatchewan and then continue to push them out of the Columbia Basin further south. I am cautiously optimistic that we will still see northern birds before the season ends. I have my fingers, toes and whatever else crossed that I can cross. Then when they do arrive, most likely early January I hope there will be open water for them and they'll stay awhile. Reading The Downeast Duck Hunter and The Maine Outdoorsman blogs I am growing increasingly envious of the storms they've been getting. Shoot, and what do we have ? Bluebird weather in December, Oh pleeeze!

When I was in the Klamath basin last weekend there were still White Fronted Geese (aka Specs) flying around. That is unheard of, typically Specs are gone before Thanksgiving in early November. They are not as tolerant to the cold as are Canada Geese. Had I not taken my boat and hunted the Klamath River for divers, I doubt I'd have come home with many birds. As it was even the divers are now decoy shy. My friend Dan and his son Zac were with me and we shot a little over two limits of ducks altogether. Mostly hen Buffleheads, also called "butterballs" for their wonderful plump layer of fat on their breasts. We shot two Scaup, one of each sex and no other divers at all. Not any Redheads, Ring-Necked or Cans. Note that Canvasbacks are completely protected this year, none can be harvested. As for the likes of Goldeneyes(Barrows and Common), well they are known as the harbingers of winter. Once they are in Oregon you know the season is drawing to a close. They are the last to arrive from the far north. They are one of my favorite divers to hunt. They are as tough as they come and you'd better hit them with your whole pattern or say adios! If you cripple one be ready to load and keep loading because they can take a hit. Not only that but they are notorious for diving and not coming back up. They will grab whatever vegetation there is and hang on with their bill and die. I've had that happen more than once and also with Scaup too. Very aggravating to say the least.

Alright all you die hard waterfowlers out there, I am asking you to get involved and start doing your nasty weather storm jig cause we need it big time! Do it before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning. It can be part of your daily cardio if you like, better yet make it so. I think it is going to take a group effort this year, so times a wastin'. Lets get to wishin' and dancin' for some big ol' nasty, cold and long winded northern storms to come barreling like a freight train into the Pacific Northwest and points south! I want rain, horizontal flurries, frozen rivers, ground fog, and a steady 20 to 30 mph north wind. Does that really seem like I'm asking for to much? I have conditioned myself for those extremes. Both physically and mentally I have prepared myself, just as I have done for the past 30 plus years. Cause when the conditions get really bad the waterfowl hunting gets really good. No doubt us diehards are a breed apart and I would never subject an inexperienced hunter or huntress to such elements. I wouldn't want to lose their interest in waterfowling. There are the fare weather hunters and then there are the rest of us. Some may think we're a half bubble off plumb. Well truth be known, we may well be and wouldn't trade it for nothing!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Worth The Time

There are few things as wonderful as something that is "home made". Especially when you get to use it every night. Have you guessed what this might be that I am talking about? It is a down pillow.

True indeed, and trust me it does take a lot of Geese to make a down pillow. I still have my very first (and only) down pillow that I made back around 1988 or so. It is a wonderful pillow with many memories within.

Those of my Yellow Lab "Teak" who is no longer with me and the Black Brandt she retrieved at Savannah during an all woman Halloween Hunt. Also memories of a very dear friend, Mark Keiser who is no longer with us. I grew up with him hunting, fishing, and ski racing. Next to my dad, he has had the most impact on my life to this very day. At some other juncture I hope to write a story about Mark and some of the fun times we shared.

The process of saving the down is a timely one. In all I guess that it took the down from approximately 40 - 60 Canada Geese. First I plucked the contour feathers off the breast, belly and neck making sure not to leave any quills or blood. Then I made sure my hands were relatively free of blood and started plucking the down. Only the finest, softest down and no pin feathers or bloodshot feathers. I then put the down into a medium size garbage bag and saved them. I had about 10 garbage bags by the time I had enough down. Then I found a seamstress who was willing to help me. I used the traditional blue striped ticking fabric that has been around since the second world war. It is a tight weave and excellently suited for down pillows. I figured that I had enough down to make a supportive, king size pillow. Next step is to pre-wash the fabric, then sew one end closed and the other end at least 1/2 way closed.

Then the fun begins, stuffing the down from the baggies into the pillow to be. Turn off all fans and moving air sources prior to doing this. Best suited for an environment free from any air disturbances. Be patient when doing this and after about an hour or so (maybe less) you will be ready to finish sewing the end of your pillow together. If you are concerned about cleaning the down, you can have your finished pillow dry cleaned. I strongly suggest you write your name on the outside of the fabric with a permanent sharpie before giving it to a dry cleaners. I have had more items lost at dry cleaners than I care to remember.

I have been saving down for about the last 10 years in hopes of making my second goose down pillow. I may already have enough, yet I am going to gather just a couple more bags worth to be sure. My pillow has travelled many places, been lost and found a few times and is still full of loft.

It is really a unique pleasure to sleep on a down pillow that you made. I find the memories within my down pillow comforting beyond the physical level. It keeps me connected to the things I cherish most in my life. That of old friends, dogs, and the pursuit of waterfowling.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks , Everyday

This post is about an individual who had a major influence in my life. Inspired by Kristine over at OBS and about giving "Thanks" this season. Firstly, thanks Kristine for the challenge as I have wanted to write about this for quite some time. Now, the time has come.

As I begin to write this I am flooded with memories from many, many years ago when I was quite young. It didn't take me long to realize that I had my own drummer and wasn't much into dolls or dresses. Mom wasn't thrilled about the latter. Anyways, had it not been for the quiet soft spoken man I called "Dad", I don't how I'd made it to where I am now. Being the youngest of three and the only girl, needless to say I hung out with the boys. I will touch on a few of the highlights so as to not get to long winded.

The beginning of a huntress, somewhere around 1968 I do believe. This was the Christmas dad gave me my first shotgun. A real double barrel side by side 410 gauge, with double triggers, auto eject, straight English grip and amazing fine point checkering. There was no makers name on it, only "made in Belgium". Mom sighed again. I was thrilled beyond belief. He had gotten it when he was in New York city at a business convention. He bought it at went to Abercrombie and Fitch. Back in the day when that was, the outdoor sporting goods store of fine distinction. Not long after he taught me the basics and I passed my Hunter's Safety class with a 96%. Only missed 2 questions, the best test I ever did take! We spent many evenings hunting Doves in September and then waterfowl come October and November.

We had a summer cabin and this was where my dad and I would spend many hours pitching horseshoes. He was good and threw a 3/4 turn shoe and I threw a flip. We both pitched from the same distance and I am sure he let me win on more than one occasion. So when I started pitching professionally a few years back, it was with great fondness that I returned to the horseshoe pits.

He was in the lumber business and had a shop in our backyard. He built a river boat with my brothers when I was quite young as well as many other items. That was where I got my introduction to woodworking. He would bring home bundles of Pine kindling all dimensioned at 2"W. by 3/4 T. by about 14" L. I would build chairs and tables out of the kindling and even though the chair seat was the same height as the table top, he told me "good job, very nice". Oh and how that made me fill up with pride that my dad complimented my efforts. WOW!

I realize that my mom had a big role as well and can not leave her out. She was the rock for my dad and kept the home front running smoothly. Never a meal missed, nor a dinner that we all didn't sit at the table together and enjoy. They were a team and I give my thanks every day for the gifts they shared as well as the values they instilled in me. I feel their biggest gift to me was one of allowing me to be me and pursue my interests regardless of "social gender norms". They were supportive and even though they have been gone for many years. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of them both and give thanks.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, November 21, 2008

Field Dressing and To The Freezer

I know that there are several ways of field dressing your birds. I thought I'd tell you how I take care of mine.

Most days I am in the blind or walking before shooting hours, and don't get back to where it is I am staying until late morning or early afternoon. This means that the birds I have shot, may spend up to 6 hours in my game vest before I start processing them. In all my years of bird hunting I have yet to have any ill effects from this. I am sure some of you are raising your brows at that lenght of time before the birds are dressed. True, I enjoy the cleaning process more when the birds are warm instead of sub freezing, yet its just not possible all the time.

Usually when I get done hunting I am really hungry and looking forward to a hot meal and some good strong coffee. It's also nice to get out of wet clothes or clammy waders and just relax a spell. Then once my belly is full I am able to concentrate again, and ready to start processing my birds.

So, I grab a comfortable seat outside (a log round) and commence to plucking the wings first. I pluck out to the the first joint, both top and bottom. Then I continue plucking the breast, back and legs. I continue to repeat this for each bird til all plucking is done. The only time I consider "breasting out" a bird is if it is immature and full of pin feathers. Even then I will also cut the legs off at the body (hip joint). After I finish plucking, I cut the wings off at the first joint and cut the feet off at the knee. I leave the head on for transport and identification. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requires that either, a wing or head must remain attached while in transit.

Then I cut the ducks butt off and make a small slit on its belly side up to the cavity opening. This makes it easier to get my hand inside the cavity and remove all entrails. The intestines, gizzard and heart come out easily compared to the other parts. I like to remove as much of the lungs as possible, also trachea and poop shoot too. These take a little bit of work and are the last parts to be removed. After that I give them all a good rinsing inside and out with a hose. Then I hang them(by their necks) in the shed. If it is warm I will use a sheet to cover them so no flies can lay eggs on them. Usually it is cold enough that I seldom need to cover them. Yet this year has been very warm and I have covered them.

I have kept ducks and geese like this for up to 5 to 7 days if conditions are cold enough. Typically they will freeze within a day or two and are just fine. Then once I get home I will remove their heads and give them a final going over in the kitchen sink. Making sure I got all the insides out and pluck any remaining stubborn feathers or "pins" if needed.

Then I wrap them in clear polyvinyl plastic (Costco lifetime roll) making sure to get out as much air as I can. Next, I wrap them in butcher paper that is waxed on the inside. I bought a roll that is 18" wide and have found that size works great for all my wild game wrapping. I use a good quality freezer tape and make sure no air can get to the meat, and then into the freezer they go. I tried using the Food Saver for birds but found that the plastic was not durable enough. Especially when I start rummaging around in the freezer. If there was a bird with a broken wing it punctured the plastic. With the freezer paper I can throw a tape patch over the sharp broken bones and found that to be a good solution. I typically will have birds frozen for up to a year and without any signs of freezer burn doing it this way.

Before going in the freezer I use a sharpie and write on the package; date harvested, location, species, gender and condition of bird. That last note consist of either a star for a perfect unblemished breast (meaning no shot holes) and will make a beautiful display for a roasted presentation, all the way down the scale to a note that reads "best for Parmesan Nuggets, a bit shot up" or "really shot up".

So there you have it, that is what I do with my birds. I am a bit old school and a traditionalist. For me I feel best plucking the entire bird and not breasting it out. For me I sleep better doing it the way that I was taught by my dad, even though it takes a bit longer.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Unfair Advantage ?

On my recent waterfowl trip I learned I have some competition. The weather has been lousy for duck hunting. Temps in the mid 60's and barely freezing at night. No northern storms to push waterfowl south. So the resident population are taking it in the shorts.

The habitat that I hunt on is a mix of alfalfa fields that are flooded seasonally, as well areas that are not cultivated but have a mix of natural foods and give waterfowl a safe haven from predators. Some of the fields have a few high spots (mounds) that we sit on when we hunt over decoys. The field are flooded by a complex series of ditches and head gates. These are the dikes that I walk in search of jump shooting dabblers. There are not many ducks using the place right now, and it takes several groups of hunters set up through out the property to keep the birds stirred up and moving. Being one person is not conducive for decoy hunting at this stage of the season. I most likely would be more of a spectator instead of a participant. So that is why Jet and I walk and walk and walk in search of ducks.

This last trip was fairly successful considering the conditions. I didn't take any short sleeve shirts and paid the price. The lightest shirt I had was a long sleeve chamois and I still sweated buckets in it. None the less onward we trudged and on Saturday afternoon headed to the back ditch. Typically this is my honey hole and is usually worth a couple opportunities for Mallards.

As Jet and I got close, I peaked my head over the top of the dike to look for ripples on the water. I saw a whole lot more than just ripples. Looked liked a wake board tournament was going on. There weren't ripples but waves! I scratched my head and looked hard for the intruder. Surely there couldn't be a Muskrat putting out a wake like that? Nope, it was a large River Otter and Jet was ready to go after it. Whoa girl, this one will bite back. I was dumbfounded. Never in all my 30 years of walking these ditches have I ever seen an Otter in them. He was a good half mile from the Klamath River. This was starting to make sense now. That is, the fact that there weren't many ducks using that ditch. Also the remnants that I'd found the day before of a Red Shafted Flicker, several duck carcasses and a Skunk were littering the top of the dike. Mmmm, I can see that someone is eating well. Jet and I watched as he swam around and then realized he had an audience. He then swam through the culvert into the flooded field and began to make a hissing sound at us. Well let me tell you, I hissed right back at him. I was not impressed and if only I had a Fur Trappers License I'd, I'd, ahhh well maybe not. She -he- it! I have been out done by an Otter. I can just imagine him stealthing beneath the water in search of little orange feet. Then grabbing them and pulling them under. Can you imagine the look on the ducks face? Wow, and all without a duck stamp or license.

After taking a few pictures of my worthy opponent we continued our walk down the dike. Hoping that he hadn't been where we're heading and just maybe there was a duck within 40 yards of the ditch. As it turned out we jumped 2 drakes and 1 hen Mallard as we neared the end of our walk. I was feeling a bit smug, knowing I had beaten my nemesis to the quarry. Jet retrieved steady as a rock with hand signals for 1 of the drakes. The other 2 she marked visually and didn't need my help.

We began our walk back to the truck and thankful I had only 3 ducks in my game vest. It was about 3 p.m. and I was hot and beginning to drag a bit. We got back to the truck and never did see Mr. Otter on our return trip. I just hope he found his way back to the Klamath River. We got our birds field dressed and called it a day.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wet , Wet , Wet

Along with that Mallard that had the large tumor, I also harvested some fine waterfowl to bring home last week. It was a very wet trip from the beginning. I awoke to the first snow of the year, ugh. There was about 3 to 4 inches on the ground and I figured time to go hunting.

Jet and I arrived at Lowlands early afternoon and unloaded our gear then started a short afternoon hunt. Walked ditches jump shooting and being selective for Drake Mallards primarily. Eventually we made our way to the banks of the Klamath River and had "Tumor Mallard" plus 2 drake Mallards in my game bag. The river was chucked full of Buffleheads, and as much as I enjoy eating them I decided to leave them be.

We were also trying to kick up a Pheasant or two. The club plants 100 male Pheasants a year, well at least most years. So far we had zero Pheasants, let alone not even hearing a single cackle. Ummm, I start to think that maybe the coyotes and raptures got the better of them. Yet that many in only a couple weeks, surely there had to be a few "smart" ones still around. As we near the Willows and head in to the thick cover Jet begins to get a little birdy. I am optimistic and yet we never found a single Pheasant. Those are Jets favorite and she gets more than a bit "glazed" over when Pheasants are in the area. That is her drug of choice for sure. She goes from being this gentle, calm and mild mannered dog into a type A, "don't hear a word your saying" dog on a mission that will yield, only after she flushes that stinky old Pheasant. She is really something and we usually are both grinning ear to ear. Although on this day it was not to be. We wandered back to the cabin with 4 ducks to clean.

The next day it was overcast in the morning, and we headed to the back ditch. We did well, shooting 3 drake Mallards , 1 beautiful mature drake Gadwall and 1 N. Shoveller. The clouds were starting to let loose and the rain was coming down. Got back to the cabin and ate breakfast then cleaned birds. By this time it was snowing hard, big wet flakes that were sticking. I was not happy about that. It was the type of conditions that no matter how good of rain gear you have, you're gonna get wet. If not due to the fact that your gear doesn't breathe well, or wet from the outside in. Take your pick cause that's just the conditions. So we went back out early afternoon for a short walk and got 2 G.W.Teal and 1 N. Shoveller. We were both drenched and happy to get back to our little cabin. That was it for the day, we had our limit. I ate the Teal for dinner and they were delicious. There have been 2 small flocks of Swans flying back and forth across the river, what a sight to see. Not legal in Oregon, yet in Texas they are.

The snow turned to rain late that night and as morning broke the skies dried up for a short time. We hunted the same area as the day before and the results were similar. Shot 3 drake Mallards, 1 hen Mallard and 1 N. Shoveller. It was a short hunt, as I needed to get things cleaned up and head back home. Jet did really well. Her 8 and a half years of experience shined through. Her ability to mark fallen birds and deliver to hand was incredible. She is not as quick as she was, yet neither am I.

Our first hunt of the season was in the books and all went well. Both dog and huntress returned home safe and sound, if only a tad bit sore. My shooting was better than anticipated as was Jet's field work too. By the time we got home the first snow of the year had all but melted and the sun was beginning to peak through the grey skies.

I think it's time to head out again, really! I can hear the marsh calling my name. Catch you in a few days.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, November 10, 2008

Looks Can Be Deceiving

It seems that each year I get a few ducks that aren't quite what they appear to be once I have them in hand. This hen Mallard is just one of those.

From her initial jump when Jet and I crested the top of the dike she seemed a strong healthy bird. It was after we returned to the cabin and had brunch when I began processing (cleaning) my mornings harvest. I typically begin plucking the wings out to the first joint and then pluck the body. Well as you can see from the picture this duck had a golf ball size tumor on her upper left breast. It was very firm and not mobile at all. There were no signs of a previous wound, no gang green and from all appearances seemed to be an internal issue. I was reluctant to finish dressing her out and decided best to leave her in the field. I don't like not being able to eat what I kill, yet this time it seemed to be the prudent decision. I thought about taking her to Fish and Game on my way home, but I forgot to put her in the freezer and by the next day, it was to late. She was not an overly robust hen Mallard like some are with a nice fat layer under a corn colored skin. I suspect she was last years hatch since she is void of pin feathers(2007) and just didn't have the ability to bulk up like some Mallards can and do. So she went to the Magpies in the end and I was sorry to have seen her end up that way. It wasn't my first choice that's for sure. Not knowing what the tumor was, it was not worth the risk to my own health.

Over the years I have shot ducks and geese that had been previously shot and showed a greenish tint or color to their skin around the wound. Definitely gangrene and in most of those cases I have cut out the affected area and eaten the birds with no ill affects what so ever. This was just not one of those cases.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thanks everyone for all your comments. I am retiring for the season from my doe hunt. The snow has come and time to go duck hunting. Jet is more than ready for her turn and it's the least I can do. When I return I will share with you the adventures that lie before me. Hopefully get to jump some Pheasants and maybe even some Snipe. Have a great week!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nervous In The Woods?

I thought I would take some time and tell you a little about last years Elk hunt. This was the same area as we hunted again this year.

My hunting partner John and I had spent a lot of time in the thickets and willow patches. We decided to return to an area we had hunted 2 days before to see if there was any fresh sign of elk in the area. As we crossed a small creek heading for another patch of timber, I noticed a "cantaloupe" rump. Unmistakably an elk, and it was on the ground in between a few small trees. At first I thought that it had been shot and the hunter was unable to recover it, due to the fact it was on private land. As John and I got closer we grew more suspicious of its demise. There were no bullet holes or arrow holes that we could see, nor any sign that the elk had been bleeding. Yet what we did see sent chills down to the tips of my toes. The young cow elks head and throat were covered with pine needles. In fact it was buried in such way that it looked as if the needles had fallen from the trees. There were no scratch or drag marks anywhere that John or I could find. We carefully removed the pine needles and saw the fatal injury to the throat of the elk. The blood was still red and no sign of decomposition (maggots) yet. The elks neck had not been broken, nor had rigor mortise fully set in . So this kill was pretty darn fresh! Well it didn't take much ciphering for us to know what kind of animal had done this. A cougar, (click on link for description) plain and simple.

We could kiss this area good bye as far as trying to find elk. Although, now I was feeling like I needed to grow eyes in the back of my head. Well we're not always the smartest when it comes to hunting, so we actually continued on with our game plan. We knew the elk had crossed the creek there and since the cougar already killed one, we figured that the pressure was off the elk herd. So on we go, this time even more aware of the fact that we were most likely being watched. I was nervous and whenever I heard a twig snap, I looked hard and long in that direction. The one thing about Cougars is that they are stealthy beyond belief. I have no doubt that cat was watching us. Perhaps we were the ones to push it off its kill? May well have been. We never did see the Cougar.

If one was interested in harvesting a Cougar that would have been an excellent place to sit, wait and watch. Waiting for his return to the kill. I was not of that mind, let me tell you. I was of the mind not to stray away from John to far and was looking forward to returning to our rig.

Fast forward to 2008 and my first waterfowl hunt with Jet along this same creek. All the while we had been hunting elk, John and I saw several small flocks of Specs (White Fronted Geese) in the area. So after elk season was over I had permission to spend a day waterfowl hunting. It was a nice day, very pleasant with mild temperatures. Jet and I walked N. along the creek through the willows looking for Specs. The willows had been thrashed and shredded by rutting elk. Eventually we flushed the Specs from a grassy patch and they flew and landed in the creek. I quickly glassed them with my bins (binoculars) to mark their location and Jet and I began our stalk. We used the willows to our advantage and got within about 20 yards and then I stood up. The Specs jumped out of the creek with a froth and we got a double. Jet made nice retrieves and we continued on our way again. As I was walking I noticed Jet had dropped back behind me. I looked back at her and she was sitting and wiggling her nose in the air. Uh Oh! I instantly recall last years elk hunt. I call to Jet to come and she is reluctant at best. Head hanging a bit low and ears down. I do all I can to use my happy voice to try and give her confidence(actually, for both of us). She does come and over the course of travelling another 200 yards repeats her protest to following me. By this time we have jumped the Specs again and had 1 more on my game strap. I looked at her and said, "alright lets go back" and she understood.

We cut through the willows moving away from the creek and headed to a road that is in the timber. Usually when a dog gets to a road they'll follow their nose in the direction your going. Well not this time. I check my GPS and tell her we're a 1/2 mile from the truck. All the while using my upbeat happy voice. For a split second she is comforted and then sits in protest again. Ahh s--t, come on girl lets keep going. We both had our tails tucked and kept our focus, all the while hyper aware that we may have company. I never smelled anything, at least not bear or elk. I am less worried about bears and the only issue with elk is that I don't want Jet chasing them. Don't know if Cougars have much scent that a human can pick up. Yet dogs can sure smell them.

We arrived at the truck in tact and I unloaded my game vest and walked over to the creek to begin plucking and field dressing my birds. I kept my loaded shotgun next to me and Jet was watching my back . . . literally. Jet was gaining her confidence back and an extra scooby (dog biscuit) didn't hurt either. We got our birds cleaned up and headed home, wondering just who else was on our hunt or keeping an eye on us?

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I must admit that I am a sucker for good cookies. Especially Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies. When I was a kid I loved Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Still do, only they seem to have found my waistline, so this is a compromise on my part. This recipe came to me via a friend and I have made a few modifications to it. These are delicious and it is next to impossible to eat just one.


In a bowl add the following and mix together;
1 c. Adams Crunchy Peanut Butter (I drain the oil off the top)
1/2 c. softened butter
1/4 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar

after mixing add the following;
1 egg
2 tbs. Hazelnut Coffee Mate creamer (sugar free)
1 tbs. whole milk
1 tbs. vanilla extract

In a separate bowl mix together;
1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
then add to wet mix.

Next add;
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. dry roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 and bake for approximately 12 to 14 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool 3 minutes, pour yourself a cold glass of milk and begin dunking!
MMMmmmm Good! Enjoy

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Welcome Women Huntresses

This story is of a young woman's first duck. It was in my "in box" when I returned home from my recent deer hunt. I was so thrilled to read her waterfowl hunting story that I asked her if I could share it with the rest of my readers and she agreed.

It is for young upcoming women huntresses (like Tiffany Robertson) that I started the Women's Hunting Journal blog, offering encouragement, support and sharing my 30-plus years of bird hunting experience with other women hunters. Tiffany already understands that hunting is about being present in those wild places. As a woman huntress she feels the magic of being an active participant in her environment.

Reading her correspondence I can't help but reflect back to my early years hunting: Feeling the chill of a cold frosty Autumn morning; glistening frost covered leaves, cattails and marsh grasses. A thin layer of ice covering the flooded fields as my dad and I walked along the dike edge to our blind. The ground was white with frost as we layed our gear down and settled in. Soon the sun would rise enough to take the chill away. We watched the frost turn to water dripping off the cattails, the small Marsh Wrens finding a sunny stalk to sit on and glean a bit of warmth, singing joyously to all that listened. These are just a few of my fond memories of being a young woman huntress. I am fortunate to be able to participate in hunting and be in wild places. Thank goodness hunting season is finally here again!

Please welcome a new woman hunter to the duck blind. Enjoy and keep the magic alive!
My First Duck Hunt!
by Tiffany Robertson

I live in North Dakota and the opportunities to hunt waterfowl are awesome here. My boyfriend has been hunting for years now and I begged to have to have him take me out. First, I went to the gun range to get a little last minute practice.

We then left for my first waterfowl adventure on Sunday, October 5th, 2008. After 2 hours in the truck,we arrived at a field full of ducks feeding (at least 1000). With our gear, decoys, and dog, we walked alongside the field over a hill to a nearby slough where the ducks would come to sleep that evening. The weather was windy and rainy, perfect conditions for duck hunting.

We carefully placed our decoys in the slough and got into ready position. As my boyfriend called them in, I took a shot at my first drake overhead. He came down beautifully and Dakota (our golden) went to retrieve it. Never before had I seen something so beautiful. The drake was about 2 years old with 2 curls on his tail. After this moment, I didn't even care if I shot another duck. We did an evening hunt from 5-7 pm. Although a few got away, I still managed to shoot my limit of 4 mallard drakes and 1 mallard hen. My boyfriend couldn't have been more proud of his little hunter. This was my first hunt but definitely not my last. At the end of the evening, I cleaned and debreasted all the ducks myself. Memories I will never

Thank you Tiffany for sharing your story and I trust it will inspire more women to give hunting a try. Best of luck to you during your first season of waterfowling. Keep the stories coming.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Code Of The West

Alright, you are gearing up for the big game season and you've got some green horns or flat landers in your party. Not the experienced, tried and true hunting partner you've had for the past many years. Which means ultimately there are going to be some bugs that need working out. What I am referring to is the split. So someone in your party harvests an animal and there was no discussion before hand about splitting up the meat . This can either break friendships or create long lasting ones. It is a serious topic which needs to be addressed before leaving home.

Imagine, you just worked your a-- off helping to pack out a big Elk that your friend shot. This was on the next to last day of the season and everyone is celebrating up until the conversation turns to sharing the spoils. Soon you realize that you won't be getting your share. Instead of making a big deal about it you keep your mouth shut and remember to never hunt with that person again. You are more than a bit peeved and rightly so.

Anymore if I hunt with someone new I make a point of discussing it thoroughly. If you are all out there for the same reason and put forth an effort than it ought to be split fair and square. With my friends we call it the code of the west. My hunting partner John and I are about fairness and reciprocating. We make sure if we hunt with a newby that we are all in agreement about sharing of the meat. That way there are no surprises or hurt feelings and everyone has a good time.

Just curious to hear how the rest of you big game hunters and huntresses address this or don't before you head out. Have you had some hurt feelings or folks you won't hunt with anymore or both? What are your codes of the west ?

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Sunday, October 26, 2008


This season's Elk hunt began with the usual enthusiasm and energetic spirit. My friend John and I didn't draw our controlled hunt tags, so we hunted the Cascades general rifle season. Neither of us had heard any news regarding Elk numbers in the region, so we went about our business and put in our time.

We hunted in the same area as last year, so we are getting to know it better and better. We had permission to hunt private property adjacent to public land. We hunted the same season last year, so we were somewhat familiar with it. When it comes to Elk it pays to scout and get to know your hunt unit as best you can, and even then there is certainly no guarantee you'll be successful in harvesting an Elk. We had heard sightings of 2 bulls in the area the day before the season opened. One a 5 point and the other a 6 point. We never saw either of them, yet our hopes were high that we might get lucky. It seems that they know when the season opens and when it closes and make themselves able to evaporate in a moments notice.

The weather leading up to opening day had turned mild with cold nights and sunny days. No precipitation and a growing moon. This is your typical Indian Summer, yet not so welcomed when it's hunting season. Also known as bluebird weather by the waterfowlers. Anyhow we crunched our way through the timber and over hill and dale to no avail. We worked the low river bottoms covered with Willows and only once did John push a couple Elk out of their hidey hole. The cover was so thick that a shot was not possible. My heart raced with the sounds of antlers ticking through the willows and the hooves pounding along the edge of the stream. It is so darn frustrating to have adrenaline surging and yet unable to use it. It is like an invisible target that you can hear but not see. For such a large animal as Elk are to be able to hide themselves so well is truly amazing. Hiding in plain sight, the elusive obvious. I do wonder what I did not see and was I ever close enough for a shot? Those questions will remain unanswered, yet I give myself the benefit of the doubt and say nope, and repeat the question.

We were in the woods before daybreak and back to camp after dark every day and saw very few tracks. I never did find fresh droppings, not even close. The few tracks we did find were from night time movement or just before day break. No frost in the tracks, yet no Elk in the tracks either. The dirt was very dry and little moisture in the ground. Up in the woods was even tougher to track with the pine needles and no moisture. After 5 full days of hunting our optimism was seriously waining. We hadn't heard of many bulls being taken. Also with fewer hunters in the field it was tougher to get the Elk pushed out of their hiding spots. Just to much real estate to cover. We put in a solid 1/2 day on this past Thursday then called it. Neither John or myself throw in the towel easily and yet, we just didn't see enough fresh sign to convince us to go back out Friday for the last day of the season. The tracks we saw were only a handful of Elk at most, no large numbers. As John says "Elk are like gold, they're where you find them". Truer words were never spoken.

So we called her quits and broke camp all the while scratching our heads. We had a fun time none the less and saw River Otters, White headed Woodpecker, lots of Specs and other waterfowl. We groused (startled) a Grouse and he Groused us back and all the while figuring we'd have limits of Specs if only we had our shotguns with us. We ate like kings and queens, laughed and told stories and enjoyed our time together in the pursuits of the still elusive Wapiti. We are already discussing next years controlled hunt and the points that we have. Hopefully we will draw our tags and have something to put in the freezer when we return home. I guess ordering that half beef wasn't such a bad idea after all.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Review: Icebreaker 260 Tech Top

I accidentally happened upon this product a year ago when I received a shirt as a gift (wrong size) and the store didn't have my size, so I decided to splurge and try the Icebreaker. The store owner told me that all of her employees wear Icebreaker and not synthetics anymore. I was interested to find out for myself just what the buzz was about.

It didn't take me long to understand what her employees were raving about. To start with the top is made with 100% pure New Zealand merino wool. It does not itch, is excellent at wicking moisture and insulates when wet . This top has a long zipper to help control temperature. It has long sleeves with thumb holes which I found quite beneficial in helping to keep my hands warm during late season hunts. I did not feel that the thumb holes interfered with my gun handling abilities nor did they impede circulation. The Tech Top has long tails which also help keep the back side warm when sitting or lying in a ground blind. I really like that feature. I was perhaps most amazed with the fact that after 5 days of hauling 747 goose shells, ground blind etc. that I didn't stink to high heavens! The Tech Top does not hold oder. Let me say that again, it does not hold oder! Unlike capilene and other synthetics, which in less than half day is stinky after shuffling decoys or walking and jump shooting. Being a big game huntress the fact that the Tech Top doesn't hold oder is a huge plus. I am looking forward to the start of Elk hunting this Sat. Oct. 18, '08. Let me also say that it feels good against my skin, cozy and comfy. It hugs your body comfortably and moves with you. Yet retains its shape and doesn't get baggy after time.

I found the Tech Top to be quite versatile regarding temperature ranges for the sheer fact that is has a long zipper to adjust for heat dissipation. Also I can snuggle my nose and cheeks under the turtleneck when it is fully zipped. That is an added bonus when it's windy and or cold.

As for the seams, I did not have any discomfort at all from any of them. No chafing, or jabbing from poor workmanship. This is the best of the best from my experience. The price is a bit steep, although considering the tops versatility, durability and the "no stink" factor I can easily get past the cost. Retail is $99.99 for the top and is offered in several color choices. I am going to continue to give this top a work out and will let you know if my opinion changes. Honestly, I don't think that will happen with this product.

It reminds of when Thorlo socks were all the rage before SmartWool came on the scene. I had saved and saved to acquire a weeks worth of Thorlo's and then here came Smart wool. After I tried SmartWool socks that was it, sorry Thorlo's. I am now the proud wearer of Smart wool socks for all seasons. So, I am now saving for more Icebreaker products in different weights for the various seasons. Thanks Icebreaker for making such a wonderful product.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Disclaimer: No financial gains were made for my impartial review

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Too Soon,

I wanted to mention a loss to the extended family of NorCal Cazadora. Please visit the Cazadora and show your support. There is a scholarship fund being established on behalf of her friend, Jamie Gonzales. I know money is tight for all of us now, yet I am sending a small donation to help. So if you can afford to send a donation in lieu of your Starbucks Latte that is GREAT! I know that any and all efforts of support mean a lot at a time of loss. Our thoughts are with you NorCal.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wetlands Buck

I had a wonderful deer hunt this past weekend. I even surprised myself on a few counts. I left town last week having some social commitments to address before getting settled in for my deer hunt which opened on Saturday Oct. 4 th.

I had been keeping watch on 5 bucks in a specific area of southern Oregon where I also spend time waterfowl hunting. I arrived a few days early to continue scouting and to hopefully, locate the bucks. The weather turned cold, wet and windy. I was a bit worried they might leave the area in search of cover. I was in sight of them 2 days prior to opening and on Friday I never saw any of the bucks. The weather was whipping up a strong S.S.W. wind and I figured they headed for cover. I was beginning to realize how ill prepared I was for inclement weather. I didn't bring my rain gear, warm coat, fingerless gloves or a warm hat. What the heck was I thinking? I had at least washed my hunting clothes in Atsko Sport-Wash as well as sprayed them with UV Killer before I left home. So I felt confident that my clothing wasn't going to give me away. It poured most of Thursday and again on Friday. Fortunately I had some friends coming to stay with me Friday night after their sons football game, so I asked Dan to swing by my house and grab some gear for me as they departed Central Oregon for the small town of Ashland, Oregon.

Dan, Pam and their son Zac arrived late Friday night after the game. We stayed up and talked into the early morning hours. Zac and Dan filled me in on the game, and their opponents quarterback before nodding off around 1:00 a.m. I had my alarm set for 5:30 a.m. and didn't even need it. I was awake by 5 and up with coffee brewing by 5:30. Dan and I were the only ones awake and enjoying our first cup of coffee. Hell, it's not like I even needed any coffee, as I was already spinning, twittering and anxious as a fox in a hen house to get out and begin my deer hunt. I had a bite to eat as I double (quadrupled) checked that I had packed the gear I needed in my fanny pack. Dan and I chatted about past deer hunts we've had, as we anxiously waited for daylight to break in hopes that the bucks would show themselves. It was 6:50 a.m. and barely daybreak as we both strained to find the bucks in the lowlands.

"There they are," I exclaimed as calmly as is possible for me on an opening day. Dan saw them too. They were in the field beginning to move around and feed. I wanted to wait and see which direction they would commit too. Either moving to the North for protection from the strong winds or else going into the wetlands and bedding down on a grassy dike amongst the tules and long stem bulrush. I was out the door a few minutes later as they seemed to be heading into the wetlands to bed down. Dan wished me luck and was watching from the cabin using my 10 x 42 bins, while Pam and Zac were still sleeping soundly.

I layered up as best as I could and took the long way down from the hill remaining out of eye sight of the bucks. There were 2 of them, the big 4 x4 (or better) and his smaller buddy a stout (bench leg) forked horn. I worked my way down onto the lower slopes of the hill and began glassing. I saw the forked horn briefly as he followed the larger buck into the wetlands crossing 2 ditches and going out of sight. I eased my way up the hill glassing every few steps to see where they were bedding down. To no avail after an hour and a half I never did see them. Knowing full well they were in there I called Dan and asked if he saw where they went? He saw them slip away into the tules and not come out. I told him I will either take the road or go right in after them, but I wasn't sure what I was going to do yet. We hung up and I began my stalk.

I had the wind in my face from the south at about 10 to 15 mph with the occasional gust nearing 20 or more. It was perfect. The low clouds were holding back their impending showers and I was counting my blessings. I moved to where the bucks crossed the 2 ditches and made my decision to go in after them. This was going to be my best option considering how tall the vegetation was. My new Irish Setter boots were now christened, as I was wet up to my knees after crossing the ditches. There was a dike with a decent channel of water on the other side of it. I inched my way very slowly, staying at the edge of where the dike bank met the flooded marsh lowlands. I would take a few steps then look around and glass for the bucks as I headed for the area where they have bedded down before. It was just behind and off to the side of an old telephone pole on top of the dike that I was following. The distance was not more than 75 yards, yet I took my time realizing this will be my best chance, if not my only one.

It took me about 45 minutes to get within 10 feet of the telephone pole. Then the grasses, tules and bulrush were blocking my view. I sat there a minute studying the vegetation in front of me. I was thinking to myself that they have got to be right here! Moments later I saw the outline of an antler, then an ear and realized it was the forked horn. He was looking right at me, bedded down, well at least facing my direction. My heart instantly began pounding and adrenaline flooded my veins. I was kneeling, with my butt on my heels. I looked around me and realized I was at the end of my stalk. If I moved to my right the telephone pole would block my shot and if I stood to try and find the big buck I may not get a shot at all. So I rolled my safety off and made a clean shot on the forked horn. His head dropped and he died instantly. I was within 15 feet of him and neither buck heard or saw me, wow! I waited about a half minute just to make sure he was done before I got up to go to him. As I stepped into the open the big buck was still bedded til he saw me then he sprang to his feet and gave me a 1 second "buck in the headlights look" and then bolted across the ditch. Wow, he was big and knew right where to lay. His little buddy had saved his a-- this time.

I gave Dan a call and told him I had the forked horn down. He said he never heard the shot over the wind, but only saw the big buck bolt out of there. So, he and his son Zac came down and gave me a hand getting him drug out of the marsh and onto dry ground to begin field dressing him. We found a grassy slope and I began field dressing my buck. This was the first time for me to do this on my own, and I guess I fretted about it enough so that it all went without a single hitch. PHEW! Dan and Zac helped by holding the bucks legs apart which was a big help, as was their moral support. We got the buck field dressed, skinned and was done by noon.

Pam came out and watched the skinning and offered to get some coffee going. That was the best tasting cup of coffee that I've had in a long time. I was a bit chilled by the wind and if it wasn't for adrenaline, I'd have been much colder. After the buck was all taken care of we sat down to a fine brunch and recollected about the mornings adventure. I was so thrilled to have my friends there and be a part of the hunt. Memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Thanks for your help Dan, Zac and Pam, there will be some venison in your future!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt
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