Hogs....down in the bog!

Hogs....down in the bog!

April 27, 2011

Almost time!

Spring Turkey Season: Part 2
A few days later we were up at dawn and into the woods for turkey season. Josh had explained a lot about turkeys to me. I now knew that they had exceptional eyesight, roosted in trees and flew down in the morning, and that you may only hunt gobblers in spring turkey season. I felt ready; I had the knowledge, outfit, and accessories to be a successful turkey hunter. With Josh as my guide I knew that this would be a good day. I was certain that I would harvest a turkey, I had to, I mean don’t you get one every time you go out? Plus, the pressure was on because Jarrid and Ali were turkey hunting at their Altoona property also. Josh woke me up bright and early, somewhere in the woods of 4AM. He got up and went to get himself ready while I tried to remember the order of all of my clothing layers: Under Armor Cold Gear, thermal, button down shirt, jacket, thermal pants, camouflage pants, gloves, head cover, hat, two pairs of socks, and finally my boots. Yes it was spring, but I get cold. Josh knew that to keep me happy in the woods, he needed to keep me warm. It was right about the time I was finishing my eyeliner that he walked back into the bedroom.

            “What exactly are you doing?”
            “I’m finishing my makeup, I promise I’ll be ready in five minutes.”
            “Why are you putting on makeup, we are going in the woods!”
            “I need to look presentable, Josh.”
            “For who? The turkeys? The idea is for them NOT to see you!”

I decided to forgo the jewelry that day. But I will tell you that a few months later when we were watching Lee and Tiffany Lakosky on “The Crush” she was putting on makeup before a hunt, so I am clearly not the only person concerned about how they look when they hunt. Granted millions of people are watching her hunt, and it’s only Josh and I….but still. So we hopped into the hunting mobile, Josh’s old Chevy Blazer from high school and set off. When we got to the property I jumped out of the car, slammed the door, and got ready for my instructions. I was so eager to do everything correctly and prove to him that I was a great hunter. It was then that I got the lesson about not slamming doors when you are trying to sneak up on animals.

We managed to make it into the woods and get settled under a nice tree. Josh had set up a decoy turkey, which I refused to touch because it looked too lifelike for my taste. Plus he had traumatized me by placing it outside the bathroom door early one morning for me to stumble upon. Those things are very lifelike. Josh started calling, and the turkeys were definitely answering. He was explaining the way of the turkey to me as our hunt progressed. I tried to stay quiet and absorb as much of his information as I could. He reviewed the different names: gobbler, jake, and hen, reminding me that I could only shoot gobblers. He kept reminding me over and over to the point where it was actually getting quite annoying. I mean honestly, a gobbler has a beard and the others don’t. So no beard means don’t shoot. I was a little insulted; I would like to think that I am a fairly intelligent person who can tell the difference between a turkey with a beard and a turkey without. Well all of my paying attention paid off because I was the one who first saw the turkey that was headed right for our decoy.

            “Josh, there’s a turkey!”
            “Right in front of you.” (I thought he was supposed to know what he was
doing out here?)
“Okay, don’t move and be very quiet. Is your gun ready?”
“Should I take off my safety yet?”

Those last two lines will forever be a point of contention between us. When I asked if I should take off my safety, which meant: Can I shoot this turkey? To Josh that meant: Yes because there may be a gobbler following her. Yep, she was a hen. Josh watched the turkey slowly make its way towards our target. I focused on keeping my gun up, my body still, and my mouth shut. As soon as she got within my range I slowly moved my finger towards my trigger. The blood surged through my body. I was about to get my first turkey! If only that thing would stop walking! The turkey continued walking though, right out of my line of fire.

As soon as she left, and we realized that there were no other birds behind her, I put my safety back on. Josh and I went back to sitting in near silence, quietly waiting for another bird to make an appearance.

“That was so close! If only it would have stopped walking. I mean I had my sight right
 on it. It was the perfect shot!”
            “Sue, that was a hen.”
            “You can’t shoot hens in spring turkey season!”
            “Oh, um….”
“You said that you knew the difference between a gobbler and a hen! You told me to
stop reminding you, that you weren’t an idiot. Didn’t the lack of a beard give you a
 clue that it wasn’t a gobbler?!”
“Well, I mean I was just really excited to finally have a real animal at the end of my sight. I just
really didn’t notice. I mean, is the beard really that easy to see anyway?”

I am fairly certain it was at this exact moment that Josh began to rethink my hunting career. I know it was at this point that I began to rethink my listening skills. We did not see any more birds in that location, so we (or rather Josh) decided it was time for us to relocate. We jumped back in the hunting mobile and headed to his uncle’s property about five minutes away.

On our way down the driveway, there were probably close to fifteen gobblers, hens, and jakes in the cornfield. We quickly got the Blazer parked, suited up again, and loaded the guns. Josh led me swiftly into the woods, not more than 500 yards from the house. Josh was sitting in a bush, no more than two feet from me, but there was a giant tree between us. So while he could hear me very easily, he couldn’t see me at all. He had me set myself up on the ground behind a fallen log. It was actually a really great location because I was able to rest my gun on the log instead of using a monopod. I had to strategically place myself so that I was able to see my sight to shoot my shotgun, which meant that I was half laying-half sitting on the ground behind this log. It was fairly comfortable until the entire left side of my body fell asleep. I kid you not, from my shoulder down to my toes was completely tingly. I ached to move, just one little adjustment to get the blood flowing again. I thought back to all of the hunting lessons that Josh had been giving me. I remembered what he said about how well turkeys can see; I tried to rationalize it for myself. I’m in camouflage, so can they really see me? I mean, isn’t the point of camouflage so that things don’t see you? And even if they do, I’m sure it will just look like a giant bush moving in the wind. That’s right, they may see shapes moving, but they won’t realize that it’s a person. Plus more than half of me is hidden behind this log, all they can really see is my head and half of my torso. It will be fine, and Josh will never see me moving anyway. I decided I had to make a move; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to shoot if a turkey sauntered in. I sssslllloooowwwwllllyyy scotched myself no more than half an inch when the bush behind me whispered,

            “What are you doing?”
            “My body is falling asleep, I just need to make a tiny adjustment.”
            “Sue, the turkey’s are right there, you cannot move right now.”
            “I don’t see any turkeys. Besides, I just need to scoot half an inch.”
            “You don’t see them because they are behind those trees, if you move they
will see you and then you won’t have any chance of getting them.”
“Josh, if I stay like this I won’t be able to feel my fingers to pull the trigger. If
you would have just let me adjust myself, I would have been done by now and there would have been a heck of a lot less commotion.”
“Fine, move. Just do it slowly.”

I painstakingly moved my body as slowly as I could. It maybe was half an inch or so, but enough to get the blood moving again. As soon as I was settled again, I heard rustling coming from the woods behind me. That would be my luck, I move the tiniest bit, and scare all of the birds away. Slowly I turned my head slightly to the right to see if it was in fact a turkey or just the wind. The glistening of a shotgun barrel was all that caught my eye.

OH MY GOD. He thinks I am a turkey. Darn Josh and his impressive turkey calling. He had called one in all right, just the wrong one. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t move, breath, or even think. The rustling we had heard behind us was not a turkey, a deer, or any other animal. It was a hunter, more than that, a trespasser. Josh’s family’s properties are all private. I was going to tell Josh, but I was afraid that he would go after the guy and end up getting shot. Luckily, the other hunter realized his mistake and ran off, probably afraid of the repercussions of trespassing onto private land. I did end up telling Josh about the incident, I just waited until we made it safely out of the woods.

April 19, 2011

Hello Spring Gobblers!

As turkey season is almost upon us (can I get an AMEN?), I reminisce about my first season turkey hunting. Turkey season was how I began my hunting career, so every year when it comes around I am reminded of my start with this crazy sport. I broke the following story into two parts because it is way too long to read at once. I'll post the second half next week, right before opening day.

Spring Turkey Season: Part 1
The whole plan for turkey season was that I was going to head into the woods with Josh and videotape him. That would give me the opportunity to see what hunting was all about, without actually having to do the hunting myself. Josh gathered up some old camouflage that he and his brother had and mixed it in with some new things he had picked up for me. My favorite of my new gifts was the Thermacell to keep bugs away; that thing is awesome! Now, I am not normally a sit back and watch type of girl, so I decided to continue that approach with hunting. Why should Josh get to have all the fun? Find me a gun and let’s get a turkey! I do realize it is a little more complicated than that, so I sent Josh a quick email explaining my new desire. According to him he just about fell off his chair at the office. Looking back, I realize that it was a little shocking. I went from never wanting to hunt, to possibly wanting to just go along and videotape, to wanting to bag me a turkey. What can I say, I like a challenge.

Now I needed a gun. Josh happened to have his brother’s old twenty-gauge shotgun from when Jarrid was a kid, and decided to start me out on this. So off we went. He suited me up one afternoon, I wore my camouflage shirt so that I would look the part, and took me to the old container yard to try some target practice. Josh had forgotten the ear protection, but I assured him that I could handle this. I mean, how loud could this thing possibly be? He placed my target about twenty yards away from where I was stationed. (Apparently for all you non-hunters that was not very far and I should be able to be successful. Josh is a very positive reinforcement type of teacher-he wants me to have success and build my confidence-which is very sweet). Walking back to me he placed my seat cushion on the ground against one of their roll-off containers.

“Hold on, I have to sit in the dirt?”
“You aren’t in the dirt, you are sitting on a cushion. The cushion is in the dirt.”
“Okay, but I am leaning against a dirty container. Wait a minute, are there
snakes under there. I swear to God, Josh, if I see a snake I am out of here.”
“There are no snakes, it’s way too cold for them.”
“How do you know that?”
“Just sit down.”
“Fine, but I am serious, one snake and I’m gone.” (Of course he was right and
we didn’t see any snakes, but still, one could have been right behind me at
any moment.)

Josh explained the basic fundamentals of a shotgun; where the shell goes, which way the shell needs to point, where the safety is, how to tuck it into my shoulder, and how to line up the open sight. He reminded me again that it was going to be louder than my .22, and it was definitely going to kick more. He showed me exactly where and how to tuck it into my shoulder. I tucked my shotgun into my shoulder, adjusted my sunglasses, lined up my sight, took one deep breath, and BOOM!

Tears welled up in my eyes and poured down my cheeks. I practically threw my gun at Josh and started shaking.

            “Why didn’t you warn me how loud that was! My shoulder
hurts! You didn’t tell me it would kick that much.”  (I am practically sobbing..)
            “Yes I did.”
            “No you didn’t!”
            “Sue you’re okay, I promise.”
            “It hurts, I cannot do that. That thing nearly blew my arm off!”
            “No it didn’t. Let’s go see where your shot went.”

So up we went, walking what seemed like a mile to that dinosaur target (yes I thought the turkey target was a dinosaur target the first time I saw them-I still think it would be cooler to shoot dinosaur targets than turkey targets). I was supposed to be aiming for. Honestly, I have no idea where I was even aiming; my eyes may or may not have closed when I pulled the trigger.  I know you aren’t supposed to do that, by how the heck are you supposed to keep you eyes open when something booms that loudly and throws itself into you mere inches from your face? Well apparently I had a pretty good shot, or at least that’s what he told me. So we headed back through the field to my little cushion in the dirt. Well forget the fact that I just nearly blew off my shoulder and blew out my eardrums in the same shot, if Josh thinks that I am not half bad at this, then I am shooting again. (And that was the moment that my competitive spirit kicked into gear). He loaded me up and I shot a few more times before the kick of the rifle made me black and blue. I’m serious; my shoulder literally was black and blue the next day.

April 11, 2011

South Carolina: Snake Charmer

Josh and I had the opportunity to make a weekend trip to SC, and of course we jumped on it. Josh drove down Thursday evening after work, and I jumped on an evening flight to meet him on Friday. I am not complaining about the heat, but it was HOT. For all you hunters, you know that this means the animals were not moving. SC does not allow you to hunt hens (female turkeys) at all, so that allows for each male turkey to have quite a few girlfriends. This makes it nearly impossible to call one in. That is exactly what we experienced on Saturday morning. Josh and I headed out with Perry, who used to be a hunting guide for outfitters in SC and is a family friend, and while we heard one or two gobblers-we didn’t see any. Perry headed home, and Josh and I got changed and started moving some tree stands around. A timber company had come in and cut down the trees on a few spots on the property, so this meant there were a couple of tree stands left on lone trees in the middle of a giant field. Not exactly camouflaged. Josh got the tractor out of the barn and off we went. Josh taught me how to drive the tractor. Moving the bucket around is super fun!

After lunch at Lester’s, Josh headed back into the woods with Perry to try and chase down some turkeys, while I took a quick nap before hog hunting. When Josh and Perry weren’t back by 6:00PM, I loaded up the ranger and headed out. Foreshadowing is an amazing literary technique; I just wish I could recognize it when it happens in real life.  I was about to walk out the door, when my gaze came across the Tuarus Judge (handgun). This thing had been attached to my hip all afternoon, in case any snakes or angry pigs decided to attack, but I decided that having my .308 was enough protection. Let’s just say I should have listened to my gut.

I parked the ranger about 300 yards away from the stand I would be sitting in, sprayed myself down with anti-scent spray, and headed out to my stand. Literally the second I sat down I realized that I had left the Kodak Cam on the back of the ranger. I hoped Josh would see it when he came out to meet me in the stand and grab it. The temperature at this point in the day was a steamy ninety degrees; there was no way that I was walking all the way back to the ranger for it. I settled myself into my stand, which meant taking off a few layers due to the extreme heat, unpacking my hog calls, getting the Blackberry out (remember Josh wasn’t with me yet), and loading my .308. Finally I was settled and ready to try out these calls. I knew that it was way too early for the hogs to make their entrance, it was still way too hot, but I figured I would give the calls a try anyway. Both calls were Primos brand, a squealer and a grunt, and I decided to give the grunt call a try. I had been practicing with both at home, and felt much more confident with my grunting ability than my squealing ability. I took a few deep breaths, and made some short breaths into the call. The result, in my opinion, sounded exactly like a hog. The rustling in the leaves at my feet had my blood pumping! I had actually called something in! Holy cow, this was exciting! All of my other experience calling animals had never gone well. Finally, something I was good at! I reached for my .308 and scanned the ground in front of my stand.

OH MY GOD. That is not a pig. That is a snake. A very menacing, slithering, looking for a camouflaged snack sitting in a tree stand, snake.

Panic. That is the only word to accurately describe how I felt in that exact minute. Panic because I left the Judge on the table. Panic because Josh was not here to rescue me. Panic because I didn’t know what type of snake it was (not that it really makes a difference in how I would have handled the situation). Panic because I don’t know if snakes can climb tress (think The Jungle Book, when that black snake is wrapped around the branches of the tree-HELLO I AM SITTING IN FRONT OF A GIANT TREE!). Panic because I do not know what to do.

Option 1: Do nothing. Hopefully my slithery enemy will pass quietly by and leave me alone.

Option 2: Shoot it. The problem with this is two-fold. If I shoot and hit it, will it explode up at me? Dear God that is terrifying. If I shoot and miss it, will I scare it into jumping up into the tree I am sitting in front of? Equally as terrifying.

Option 3: Retreat back to the ranger and leave. Though this means I must walk past the snake to escape. That is not going to happen.

Option 4: Call Jarrid. Not quite sure what I expected him to do from PA, but hopefully he would have some wonderful nugget of advice that would tell me how to repel a snake from my location without actually doing anything. Some type of mind hypnosis would be perfect.

My exchange with Jarrid went exactly like this:

Me: What do rattle snakes look like????
Jarrid: Do you see a snake??? (Oh no, I was just curious-YES I SEE A SNAKE)
Me: Yes!!!! Can they climb trees???
Jarrid: Is it on the road? (Why isn’t he answering any of my questions??)
Me: Under my stand. CAN THEY CLIMB TREES?
Jarrid: They shouldn’t climb up…but make sure Josh knows you seen one under the stand before he comes to you. Try shooting it if you want. What color is it and how long and is it fat or skinny?
Me: Skinny with a design
Jarrid: Diamond dark designs??
Me: Yes (now I am even more panicked because he must know what it is and it must be something incredibly scary because he won’t tell me)
Jarrid: Just keep your eye on it you’re fine. If you feel safer just have Josh back the ranger right to the stand so you can step from the ladder to the bed of the ranger.
Me: Good idea.

The exchanged continued for a few more minutes as I explained how the useless hog grunt call must have been mis-packaged as a snake-charming device. Needless to say that thing is going into the trash the second I get home. It also goes without saying that I will never go out without the Judge again.

The slithery monster made its way into the bushes behind me, and there were no sightings of him or his friends for the rest of the night. Josh finally made his way to me and the rest of our evening was pretty uneventful. No hogs, no deer, no turkeys. Snakes must have scared them away.

Side Note: Once I got to work on Monday I immediately "googled" the snake that I saw. It was a Copperhead. Yep, extremely poisonous snake willing to kill you and eat you at a moments notice. Awesome.

April 8, 2011

Top 10 Weekend: Hunting with Josh

I am dedicating this week's Top 10 list to Josh because he is the reason I started hunting to begin with. I wouldn't be doing any of this without him, and I definitely wouldn't have any nearly as many incredible experiences to write about.

1. He keeps my licorice supply well stocked. I'm sure you are all sick of hearing about my favorite snack, but this week alone he brought me FIVE bags from his dad. Joe gets some credit for this one too :o)

2. He does the laundry. While I do our everyday laundry, Josh has taken over the task of making sure our hunting clothes are clean and scent free. Although sometimes he forgets to shake them out first and I find dirt clumps left in the washer/dryer, which then leads to me needing to clean the washer. That of course adds one more thing to my list of chores, but I digress-he tries to help and I appreciate it.

3. He packs my bag. Without him, I would have left on many hunts without something imperative. Case in point-we were in SC and I had forgotten my lucky hat. I was devastated, but he had remembered to throw an extra one in for me. We are getting ready to head to SC again this weekend for some spring turkey/hog hunting and he had my turkey vest all loaded up and ready to go for me. He is the best! (Somehow he managed to forget my super new hog calls-don't worry I threw them in my carry-on.)

4. He carries the heavy stuff. The bonus to hunting with a boy is that he carries the guns when they get too heavy, the backpack which is loaded down with "necessities," all the camera stuff, and still manages to walk faster than me to the tree stand.

5. He does the calling. After three years I still sound like a dying animal when I try to turkey call, useful when hunting coyotes, not useful when hunting turkeys. Last year Josh called in a turkey no more than five feet away from us. It was incredible! The one time he let me try a grunt call I started laughing so hard that I couldn't get a squeak out, so without him I am lost. Although, I think I will be in charge of these hog calls-he hasn't practiced nearly as much as I have.

6. He makes sure I am awake. 4:00AM is pretty early, and I have a bad habit of snoozing my way through my alarm. Without him I would have missed many morning hunting opportunities.

7. He is my faithful videographer. Since I have started hunting, Josh has sacrificed his hunts to videotape me in the stand. I always feel badly that when we hunt, it's really me hunting. He continues to say that he is more excited to watch me hunting then to go by himself, but I still feel badly sometimes. Maybe I'll let him shoot the first hog this weekend.....maybe.

8. He is super supportive. I can honestly say that Josh is my number one fan and supporter. He backs me up on everything I do, or want to do. He doesn't make fun of me when I start crying in the stand because it is too high (though I get heck about it later on), he is willing to take the second shot when I get scared that my hog won't stop moving (though again I get heck later on), and he is so proud when I manage to harvest something. He is the best cheerleader!

9. He keeps me entertained. He will refuse to admit this if anyone asks, but when the animals aren't moving and I start to get antsy, he plays "rock, paper, scissors" with me to pass the time. He loves to tell me old hunting stories while we wait, and he is always up for letting me play with the video camera in the stand. He is also pretty good at remembering to bring me some snacks to keep me quiet.

10. My absolute favorite thing about hunting with Josh is that we get to spend uninterrupted time together. I am guaranteed that no mater what, I have his undivided attention. We have had some of our best talks in stands and blinds, and I look forward to many more.

April 6, 2011


Allow me to introduce you to my favorite song EVER! If you have never heard the Bone Collector CD, go to Itunes and download it immediately. If you hunt, you will love it! Click on the "Hawgs" below to hear the song.

I'll give you one guess as to what I'm doing this weekend.......

April 1, 2011

Top 10 Weekend: Turkey Hunting

With turkey season fast approaching, I have decided to share with you my personal turkey hunting tips. Granted I still have yet to harvest a bird, but I think I finally have things figured out. This will be my year!

1. Wear layers. Turkey season is notorious for being thirty degrees when you get into the woods before daylight, but quickly changing eighty-five by the time the sun is  up. Light layers are the best because you can tie them around your waist or shove them in your turkey vest as you warm up.

2. Wear comfortable shoes. In spring turkey season you will be walking, and sometimes running, for most of the morning. The first time I went turkey hunting in SC I thought it was a good time to break in new boots. BAD IDEA. I ended up spending the rest of the weekend hunting in pink Muck boots. Learn this lesson early.

3. Bring water. Again, running after birds tends to make you thirsty. Last year Josh had me climbing up and down mountains after those silly birds. We didn't have water with us, and I was so desperate that I almost drank from the creek. EWWW! I am pretty sure that I would have ended up with some weird infectious disease had I done that. Plan ahead.

4. Number four goes well with number three. Bring snacks. You will get hungry. Especially when daylight hasn't yet broke and you are waiting for the birds to fly down from their roost. Quiet snacks are best....perhaps some green apple licorice?

5. Make sure you have a sling for your gun. I didn't my first year and I had to carry it all morning. Across every single field, stream, mountain, and rocky ravine. We are lucky I didn't accidentally shoot a tree.

6. Face paint. While a face mask seems like a great idea at 5AM when it is freezing cold, it isn't. Once the sun comes up you will suffocate. Plus, they tend to squish your nose which gets very irritating if you are hot. Just don't forget to cover your ears with paint too. We have some really funny pictures where Josh's face is all black from paint, and his white ears stick out like lightbulbs.

7. Turkey call. Seems obvious, but I have heard stories of people who went out archery hunting for deer and left without their bow, and only realized it once they were in the tree. (*cough*Jarrid*cough*) Find one that works for you. I continue to try to use a mouth call, but after three years I still sound like a dying cat. Box calls work well for me, I can guarantee that I will call in an orange cat every time I practice! Josh likes slate calls, so that is what he chooses to use. Either way, we always end up in the woods with our turkey vests full of different types of calls.

8. Turkey seat. While I don't recommend an actual seat (way too much of a pain to drag through the woods with you after a bird), I like the ones that are more like cushions. I have one attached to my turkey vest and it is perfectly comfortable. If your turkey vest does not have one attached, then invest in one. It has transformed may uncomfortable tree stumps into comfy couches!

9. Turkey sights. It makes sense; you are trying to hit the skinniest part of this bird who will maybe stand still for a second. Why wouldn't you want to give yourself the best advantage? Josh got me amazing new sights for my 20 gauge this year. They are awesome for turkey hunting because they force you to keep your head up. I will double check the exact name of the brand and post them. They also make sights for goose hunting that work the same way. I was against Josh changing my sights until I stumbled across these. He used the goose sights and said that they were awesome. He was much more accurate with them then in years past.

10. Ground blind. Josh got me one for my first season turkey hunting just in case I was completely unable to sit still. While I did prove him wrong that first year, it is nice to be able to wiggle my feet a little bit while I am sitting in front of a tree. It gives me extra security that the turkeys won't see me, plus then I can leave my licorice on my lap without them seeing it.