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.

Spring Turkey Season March 26th

IMG_1065-1 Brett with gobler resized

Son-in-law, Brett Kelly with his first gobbler – three seasons ago.

There’s a lot to talk about this spring. Rutty deer meat, the arrival of my full body wolf mount, planning my trophy room and purchase of an Open Zone tag are popular topics. But mostly the big news is that spring turkey season opens in 11 days.

We have about 12 to 15 turkeys living on our ranch. I see a few of them each time I go there, but they are not always the same birds. Of the turkeys, my best guess is that about half are adults and the rest poults.

Of the six or seven adults, I think two are mature toms and the rest are hens. Of the poults, probably half of them are Jakes, but I don’t want to shoot a Jake this year as the overall population is down. However, bagging a mature gobbler would be a satisfying feat.

Based upon past experience, the best day of the season to bag a mature Tom is on opening day. With a shotgun it is almost no contest. But, I’ve proven that that’s not the case with bow and arrow. In fact, I’m zero for forever on gobblers with my bow.

On he other hand I’ve got loads of experience (failure) and it’s almost a sure thing that I’ll get a shot opportunity on opening day.

The best tactic will be to set up my Double Bull blind in one of the known turkey hangouts with Jake and hen decoys about 15 yards away. Once a gobbler responds to my hen yelps, it’s almost a lock that he’ll come in strutting. Typically the gobbler will go eyeball to eyeball with the Jake decoy or maybe even knock it down.

At 15 yards, you’d think the shot would be a slam dunk, but turkeys are constructed differently from  anything else you can hunt with bow and arrow. Their vitals are low and back – nothing like deer. And, about half of the target is feathers. It’s easy to draw feathers without drawing blood. It’s also easy to poke a hole through a turkey and not recover the bird.

I’ve done this the wrong way before, but I plan to do it right this year.

I’ll be shooting a bunch of 15 yard practice shots during the next ten days.





Planning an Idaho Whitetail Deer Hunt

Never killed a white-tailed deer in my life. I’ve hunted them at least three times and missed one in BC.

This will be an out-of-state hunt and I’m flying. The drive to Lewiston ID is nearly two full days for a slow poke like me. And, with gas at $4 or more, the cost of driving  – including two nights of hotel fees – is about the same as the cost of flying. I have a high school buddy who lives near Lewiston, so when he offered to put me up, I couldn’t say no.

So here’s some info that may be helpful if you are faced with a plane flight to your next hunting destination. Luggage is a big consideration. Of course you will need a locking case for your firearm. Sometimes borrowing a firearm is a preferred option, especially if you’re going out of the county.

On this hunt I will take a deer rifle, muzzleloader and maybe my bow. The airlines will not allow the ammunition to travel in the same case as the rifle and the ammunition will need to be in an original box which provides protection to the cartridges. They can be stowed in regular luggage.

Even though archery equipment, muzzleloaders and high powered rifles are in different categories, the airline will require that they all be in a locked case. I’ll be flying Alaska Airlines and I read over the fine print regarding firearms and luggage. In my case the 7×57, compound bow and muzzleloading rifle can all be carried in the same locking case.

You’ll want to look closely at your luggage and the cost of overweight or oversized luggage. Your rifle case, bow case and possibly a cooler will be candidates for an extra fee. Alaska Airlines has three categories, normal(<50 lbs – $20 fee), overweight ( 51 – 100 lbs, $50) and oversize (63 to 80 inches total of outside measurements – $50, 81-115 inches – $75). If you fall into two oversize categories, you are charged only once, for the greater of the two.

As the number of bags increases, so may the price of each bag. In my situation the cost of the fourth bag will increase from $20 each to $50. As you can see, the cost of your air travel can rise considerably for luggage cost. If I were to travel with four check bags with two of them oversize, my fee could be as high as $380 for luggage alone.

Here’s what I’ll probably do. I’ll carry rifle, muzzleloader and bow in one case that will be oversize by length ($50), I’ll carry one item of luggage that will cost $20. If I bag a deer, I’ll purchase a cooler in Idaho. It will be overweight and over length, but it will remain in the $50 category. Therefore, in addition to my ticket cost of $420, I’ll end up with $70 luggage fee on the way there and $120 on the way home. Making the total cost of air fare $610. (Plus the cost of the cooler.)

My friend lives in country with plenty of whitetails, so I’m hoping that this hunt will be an ice-breaker.

On a 2010 hunt in BC, my hunting partner bagged this nice whitetail from a treestand during the rut. On the left is Jeff and on the right his guide Corey.

The timing of the trip is intended to coincide with the start of the whitetail rut. The middle of November should be the time when the mature whitetail bucks come out to look for does and I’m hoping to run into one. We’ll hunt from tree stands, ground blinds and also still hunt. When I still hunt, it’s almost another form of blind hunting. I may even ship my guillie suit out ahead of time.

The hunting will be close range in thick cover. Just how close remains to be seen. I’ll bring my grunt tube and rattling antlers. I’d like nothing better than to call one in and pop him at 25 yards. I’m feeling the tension already.

Versatile Clothing Makes for a Light Pack

It’s always difficult packing enough clothing for a serious hunt without creating a huge burden.

On our recent D6 horse pack trip, I worked hard to keep clothing to a minimum. Having recently purchased some Sitka clothing, a 90%  jacket, 90% pants, suspenders and base layer, I made this the core of my daily clothes. I added a down vest and a windbreakers/rain suit. The result was quite effective for the weather on Sonora Pass during September.

Now I’m beginning to make preparations for my BC deer hunt in mid November. Once again I plan to use the Sitka gear as my core clothing. I’ve added thermal underwear, a pair of wool trousers and today I went to the Good Will Store and found a perfect fleece pull over. With the pull over, base layer, down vest, hooded rain/wind jacket and 90% jacket, I should be able to handle whatever BC has to offer. According to the weather records, the temps should vary from a low of 15 degrees to a high of about 40 degrees farenheit. These are great temperatures for deer hunting.

By adding a warm hat, neck gater and warm gloves, I can cover most any expected weather situation. This system will be luggage friendly and I won’t have to pack around huge amounts of clothing – a bugaboo for late season trips.

All I have left to cover is purchase of new boots with thinsulate insulation. I’ll probably purchase them from the nearby Red Wing Shoe Store, they’ve done well for me in the past. My current boots have no insulation and I want to keep my feet warm.

For the trip, I’ll pack my hunting clothes and wear jeans, shirt and a light jacket for traveling and in the airport. That will give me one set of clothing for travel and another for hunting. That’s enough for me.