Planning Late Season Buck Hunting

One of the best parts of owning an Open Zone deer tag is planning the trip.

Especially as one grows older, it’s better to be looking ahead than looking back.

My foot troubles are mostly behind me. Still a bit of healing going on, but I’m about 90% healed and by November, who knows how far along I’ll be, but whatever, it will be good enough.

During my previous Open Zone escapades, 2016 & 2018, I went to places that I really wanted to see and hunt. Now that the ice is twice broken, I’m going to be a bit more systematic and practical.

I’m leaning towards focusing on two or three November hunts and taking into account my resources. I’m going to do as much scouting as possible during October. I also have some friends who are imbedded in the areas I’m considering.

And, I have the house at Almanor which is located near several of the best late-season muzzleloader hunts. The house can be my home base and  muzzleloader shooting takes less preparation (practice) than archery.

Now that I’ve spent the summer laid up, the time I needed to hone my archery shooting is mostly gone making it unlikely that I could attain the level of confidence I would need to shoot a great buck with a bow, but I can reach that point with a lesser amount of practice with the muzzleloader.

The late-season muzzleloader hunts begin during the last week of October and run through November. And, one of my favorites, M3 (Doyle) ends before Thanksgiving, meaning I won’t have to come home in the middle of the hunt.

Decoy Day

Many hands make light work. That is no better demonstrated than on decoy day at the Kerry Club, which is located in the North Grasslands adjacent to the Volta State Wildlife Area. With about 20 blinds that need decoys, it is necessary for the members to contribute a day of their time to paint, replace line on about 2500 decoys, kill the black widows, clean the inside of the blinds, add new “brush” to the outside, remove peeling paint, add a coat of new paint and grease the stems on the rotating stools.

Decoy day is also the day when members participate in a random draw for their place in the blind rotation. The rotation assures that each member gets a fair share of the best blinds. On good days all the blinds shoot well, but on slow days a good blind pays off as there are a few blinds that almost always shoot well.

On opening day members shoot at the blind they decoy, after that the rotation is in effect.

Each blind has a traditional pattern for decoy placement based upon location in the blind relative to the prevailing winds and also relative to its position in the pond.

Our blind is located on the southeast corner of a large pond. Because the prevailing winds are out of the northwest, we need to have about half our decoys on the southeast side of the blind to attempt to get the birds to swing around the blind and come back in from the southeast. On days when the wind blows out of the south, the blind usually shoots best, but on opening day their are usually enough ducks no matter where the wind comes from.

Decoy lines must be 1/8 of an inch in diameter and of the proper material. The weights must be at least eight ounces to assure the decoys do not float away (in powerful storms, some do anyway).

Tom and I choose to keep the ducks in groups of like species. About half of our decoys are teal, maybe a third are pintails and the rest are a mix.

We have one shoveler decoy that floated in from another blind and a half-dozen mallard.

You can see from the photos that the Kerry Club is managed for wide-open water. The bag is mostly teal, with pintail, shovelers and a few divers mixed in.

Photos From the Deck

On this trip to Almanor, I decided to bring my camera and take some pictures of the wildlife around our deck. Here is some wild and some not so wild.

sea gulls waiting

Sea gulls on the lake seemed to be waiting for something.

DSC_0003ground squirrel watching

This ground squirrel was alert.

DSC_0002 boaters boating

Of course boaters were boating.

DSC_0008 steller jay waiting

Like the sea gulls this Steller Jay seemed to be waiting.

DSC_0033 nuthatch pecking

This nuthatch was upside down.

DSC_0006 black bird huntng bugs

Black birds were hunting bugs.

IMG_7096 Rich watching his running shoes

As a breeze freshened, I walked down towards the water and sat while admiring the lake and my running shoes.

Phases of Ankle Surgery

IMG_6932 getting geared up

Figuring out how you’re going to get around is a major consideration. I mainly used crutches during the eight weeks when I could not put weight on the ankle.

For those who care, I’m posting the progression of my ankle (fusion) surgery from start to finish. Just in case you’re contemplating, or even if you’re not…here you go:

    1. Preparation. It may take years to come to the realization that you can no longer stand the pain. Once you decide to go for it, begin to prepare and don’t look back.
    2.  Surgery. The surgery itself was an exercise in trust. I trusted my surgeon and it worked out. He is a man or great confidence.
      IMG_6933 first cast

      The first cast was heavy and not fun. It stayed on for three weeks before I asked for a new one a week ahead of schedule.

    3.  The second cast was on for the remainder of the first six weeks. It came of in mid-July. By the time it came off, I was suffering from serious  cabin fever. Even took some anti anxiety pills. They worked.
      IMG_6934 new cast - red

      The second cast was a nice red color. It stayed on until the first  six weeks point when I was allowed to use a removable cast – but could still not put weight on the foot.

      4, With the new “boot” cast I had to use crutches for two more weeks, but at the end of eight weeks, I was allowed to walk with the boot on.

      IMG_6968 boot, but don't walk on it
      Here’s the special boot used to get started walking.

5.Finally the day when I could put my mountaineering boot on my right foot. That was around the 10th week. The July 15 X–Ray showed that the bone was 80% grown in.

IMG_6978 real boots - Kennetrek

Putting the Kennetrek mountaineering boot on my right foot was a major positive. I had to cut the tongue of the boot in order to fit my foot into the boot.

6 After putting on a real boot, it wasn’t long before I could take real walks and even a hike at Del Valle dam.

IMG_7011 first hike

Lola and I didn’t make it to the top, but we did go almost half way.

7. At some point in mid August, I celebrated a bit because I could see better days ahead.

 

8. Today, at the three month visit. Dr. Hamilton told me that I was good to go  and that I didn’t have to worry about hurting the ankle because it was 100% fused. He told me to do whatever I was comfortable with.

He also said he liked my video.

Today I climbed the hill again. Not all the way to the top, but at least half way. Didn’t want to get too sore, but right now, I’m fine and ready for more. Let the mountain climbing begin.

 

August Coming to a Close

IMG_7060 sunrise at Almanor cropped

Spent last week at Lake Almanor. The fishing was rough, but there was some promise.

My friend Bob Smallman and I searched for fish at Almanor without success. We did find some fish on our fishfinder, but only one hit during the entire effort and we didn’t hook him.

IMG_7001 New P-Boat

Here’s Rob with the new boat at it sat behind the Bass Pro store in San Jose.

I’ve recently invested in a pair of downriggers, so now I need to learn how to operate them. Looks like YouTube time. Linda and I cruised the lake in our new boat – quite fun, but it is definitely a lot of work managing it and getting it ready for action.

IMG_7071 Linda cruising Almanor

Linda enjoyed the comfort of the boat which can seat eight people.

While at Almanor, Rob was in Alaska fishing for Coho salmon. I’m sure he’ll have some photos that he’ll share.

My neighbor at Almanor drew a X6A archery deer tag and came home with a whopper.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with my doctor and I hope I’ll come home with a good  understanding of what to expect with my ankle as it continues to heal. Right now I’m walking fine, but not setting any land speed records. His input will help me plan my deer hunting. The Open-Zone tag will play a big role in my hunt as the extra weeks before the seasons close should allow me to hunt in a near-normal fashion.

If all goes as planned, on Tuesday we’ll be heading back to Almanor. I know where some fish live. Now I need to find out how to get to them.

In the meantime I spent a couple hours today messing with decoys as duck season is approaching. Here are a few of the birds in the project.

Yesterday I cleaned out the freezer and smoked the salmon remaining from last season.

img_7082-smoked-salmon.jpg

These were Silvers from last September’s trip to AK. Still in very good shape.

That’s about it for August, unless I get into some fish this week. Most of the Labor Day Weekend will be occupied by watching the grandkids as they explore the outdoors around the lake.

Nice to be on my feet again.

A-Zone Opener

We had a very good time on the opener and we bagged two bucks while doing it. We also ended up with a bonus pig, a nice-sized boar – weighing in at about 250 pounds.

Here are some success photos.

Son-in-law Brett got his buck Saturday morning

IMG_7034 Brett's buck

We spotted Brett’s buck about 8:00 AM on Saturday morning. From about 430 yards, Brett watched for a while before deciding that he was the right deer. Seeing there was a good path to about 200 yards, Brett decided to go for it while the buck remained bedded.

The 200-yard shot hit the buck in the heart. His reflexes carried him in a 20 yard circle before he fell. Turns out their were four other bucks with him.

The cocktail-hour boar met it’s demise about an hour before sunset on Saturday night. It ran into some steep country where it almost was lost, but the crew finally located him in a crevice about 100 yards from where he was shot.

Due to darkness, there we no photos taken at the sight of the kill, but here he is hanging in camp.

IMG_7041 butchering the boar after dark

Joe’s buck was even further in the rough. He arrived in camp in pieces. Here’s a shot of his head and antlers. A nice 3×3 with eye guards.

IMG_7036 Joe DiDonato's buck

My fused ankle held up well. I stayed away from slopes, but managed to get around pretty well.