Tod's Blog

Adventures with family & friends and other things I'm passionate about…

Archive for November, 2007

Things you can’t get from a video game

Posted by todblog on November 27, 2007

November 21, 2007

What time is it?

No, you can’t play X-Box. Did you take out the garbage? What about your homework? Did you start reading your book for the Geography book report, write your Spanish paper on El Salvador, study for spelling/vocab, etc…? What’s going on in Math? Let me see your planner. Did you take out the garbage? Remember you have junior varsity basketball practice everyday after school from 6 to 8pm. You need to make time to get some things done. By the way, did you get any batting practice in today? and did you take out the garbage?

So, when there is time, what do kids want to do and what do we allow them to do?

Richard Louv, author of a fascinating book, “Last Child In the Woods” pieces together what has been taking place over the years with our children. Not too long ago, kids ruled the countryside, building secret forts and treehouses, hunting frogs and fish, playing hide-and-seek in the woods, etc. However, over the past 30 years, Louv says children of the digital age have become increasingly alienated from the natural world, with disastrous implications, both physically (obesity) and also for their long-term mental and spiritual health. He coins the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to describe kids and their lack of exposure to nature. In school, kids are taught about the Amazon rainforest’s endangered species but, are not encouraged to develop personal relationships with the world outside their own doors. Advances in technology have created tremendous “virtual” outdoor experiences however, it has also made it all too easy for kids to spend less time outside. Louv adds that sensationalist media coverage and paranoid parents have literally “scared children straight out of the woods and fields,” while promoting a litigious culture of fear that favors “safe” regimented sports over imaginative play. To find out more about his book follow this link: Richard Louv’s Book

I tend to agree. I remember leaving home on a bicycle to go to Wilson Elementary School and I was to meet mom at the mall or at the ball park at 5pm to get a ride home at the end of the day. That was a long time for a grade schooler to be without adult supervision and there was no parenting via cell phone either. We think long and hard about that nowadays. As parents we have been taught to be afraid of leaving our kids alone or letting them roam around unsupervised for fear of the ever present stranger danger. In my case, mom knew that within five minutes of my abduction, a kidnapper would pay her to take me back.

Some of my fondest memories are times spent at my grandparents home in Nuuanu. Lots of lessons learned there. Their backyard was my entrance to the wild outdoors…Nuuanu Stream, Oahu Country Club and beyond. We’d wander for hours exploring the area all the while unsupervised. Mongoose, frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, swordtails, and rainbow guppies were abundant and there for the catching. We’d throw Duck Brand firecrackers in the stream and watch them blow up underwater. These were the potent firecrackers that would leave your fingers numb for hours if you didn’t throw it fast enough! Gung gung (grandfather) had heaps of yard clippings waiting for a pyromaniac with strike-anywhere cowboy matches. In the garage he had loads of scrap wood and cans full of rusty nails to build spearguns, slingshots, forts and ships. We’d nail tin cans to the wooden ship to resemble a smoke stack, then splash some gasoline in the can and light them on fire as they floated down the stream. Now that was exciting. That was where I first learned you can’t put out a gasoline fire with water and eyebrows eventually grow back.

Sometimes I’d go hiking up or down Nuuanu Stream with my sibs Kevin and Maile or cousins or neighbors exploring its meanderings and feeling connected to the wild outdoors. The smell of a warm tropical rain shower, the odoriferous scent of stream algae as I threw it on my sister’s shirt (because I missed her head), the oozing mud between my toes, the glistening sparkling water as it tumbled down a small waterfall and the sound of it splattering onto the rocks below. It was a great way to recharge my soul’s batteries and something all kids should have in some way, shape or form. Of course those regular adventures often took place on Sundays and it would culminate with a TV dinner watching Marlin Perkins on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Unfortunately, as Louv stated earlier, it seems kids today don’t have as many of these kinds of experiences and it’s an alarming trend throughout the U.S.

In his keynote address to the 73rd Annual North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, U.S. Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne stated that, “.. a fundamental truth of human nature is that people take care of that which they love and cherish. Today, we have a generation growing up in America that is more urbanized and more computerized. The closest many children get to nature is the screen saver fish swimming across their computer screens.”

That’s a sad state of affairs for our wild places. Who will care about the fish and wildlife and their habitats? and who will pay for it? For many years it has been hunters and anglers who’ve paid for the majority of fish and wildlife conservation with their license, tag and stamp fees and excise taxes on certain sporting goods (archery, firearms, ammunition, fishing tackle, etc.). This group is declining in numbers throughout the nation and fish and wildlife agencies are scrambling to reverse the trend while also coming up with other means to manage fish & wildlife resources. It’s a complex issue with no quick fix. It’s such a concern that National Geographic has seen fit to shed light on this serious issue. Follow this link to see it: National Geographic – Hunters For Love of the Land

A year ago I received a phone call from a distressed parent who was inquiring about a youth deer hunt that his son had drawn and was wondering if it was worthwhile going on. He explained that his son was on the verge of giving up hunting as it didn’t hold his interest very well. He related that earlier in the year, he took his son to the Steens Mountains for a trophy buck hunt (a pretty desirable hunt to draw). They would walk along ridges and look for bucks in ravines and rocky ledges. However, his son didn’t relish the anticipation of finding a buck as they scanned the hillsides with binoculars. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the majestic Steens and the smallness one feels when in its presence had no hold on his son. What his son wanted was instant gratification. Something that was more in his control like an X-Box where he could push a button and have an immediate response. Like the drive thru fast food windows all around us, people today want things quickly because we’re all in a hurry and can’t wait. Anything less promotes boredom and sometimes ill will. I didn’t know what to say to him. All I could do was tell him that there were good numbers of deer in the area and that they should have a great time hunting the area together. I never found out if they went on that hunt. Maybe they did and junior tossed a hunting video game in his backpack to pass the time while dad glassed for deer…

This year Jacob drew the same youth hunt as the kid mentioned above. It was a late season black-tailed deer hunt held in November for three weeks in an area about 15 minutes from our house. Our first day out was during heavy showers and fog. I called it the “monsoon hunt” as we got thoroughly soaked. The heavy pitter-patter of rain falling on leaves concealed any noise we might make moving through the woods. Slipping along slowly and stealthfully requires great patience and faith that the next step may reveal an unsuspecting deer. It’s a hard thing to do all day long, slow movements and keeping the faith that Mr. Big is around the next corner. Towards the end of the day, Jacob’s footsteps got heavier and more rapid which made a little too much noise. A very large buck jumped out of a poison oak patch and took off never looking back. It was a valuable lesson. The time to care about your noise is not after you’ve been busted. By the end of the day we saw 19 deer, of which two were bucks.

Our next adventure afield was the day before Thanksgiving and the weather was overcast and cool with no rain. We left the truck at 7:55am and started up the same trail one foot in front of the other. This time there was no pitter-patter to cover the sound of our footsteps. It would require more stealth. I was amazed that Jacob was actually moving through the woods very quietly. Every few steps we would stop, listen and look for any signs of deer. We had several groups of does and yearlings cross the trail in front of us and were unaware of our presence. Two hours later, we inched around a corner and faced the same place we spooked the large bedded buck on our previous trip. Jacob peeked over the south facing slope and hunkered back quickly with a whisper, “There’s a buck!” It was about 100 yards away in a small clearing within a large poison oak patch. We hurriedly stacked our backpacks to create a rest for his rifle. There was only a small opening to shoot through and if that buck moved in any direction it would be hidden from view. The forked horn black-tailed buck was pre-occupied scratching himself and looking back over his shoulder. He gave us just enough time to set-up. Due to the brush in front of us, Jacob couldn’t shoot from a prone position and chose to kneel. He told me he was going to take the shot and tried to calm his breathing down. I could hear him trying to calmly “blow out the butterflies”. It made me smile for I’ve been there too. There’s so much riding on this one moment of truth. All the time spent preparing for the hunt, reloading cartridges, practice shooting, getting equipped and packed, the early morning wake-up calls, tip-toeing around trying to locate an animal you want to take home, the rush of adrenaline you feel when you find that animal and the anxiety of losing the opportunity if you don’t hurry up and settle down. It all comes down to this one heavily weighted moment…a boy blowing off butterflies trying to hold his rifle steady so he can claim his prize.

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The Ruger rifle let out a CRACK and the buck lay motionless in a patch of leafless poison oak. I was so excited for Jacob that I gave him a high five hug and congratulated him on a terrific shot. His 2007 deer hunting season ended that morning at 10:45am on that hillside. However, we were still reeling with so much excitement buzzing around in our heads and hearts long after the shot. We pulled our sandwiches and jerky out of our packs and drank in the breathtaking North Umpqua River scenery below us. The flurry of emotions combined with the beautiful views all around us had a profound impact on us. Our soul’s batteries were getting recharged.

The whole experience was very personal, you can’t buy it in a bottle and there’s certainly no getting it from a video game. Not even close.

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Jacob’s late season black-tailed buck taken the day before Thanksgiving.

Posted in 2007, Hunting | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

Last Chance Bucks

Posted by todblog on November 6, 2007

November 2, 2007

Today marks the close of another Western Oregon Buck Season. It opened on Sept. 29th and was greeted with cool overcast drizzly weather. Perfect conditions for slipping around in the woods and finding active deer. It was shaping up to be a great deer season with many hunters reporting success or passing up multiple opportunities at deer. Having to operate deer and elk hunter check stations along with our recent trip to Wyoming for antelope, there didn’t seem to be much time to get out and find a deer. One of the problems with having a long 35 day season is putting it off your hunt until later… Later came down to the last day of the season.

I took the morning off from work and went out with a good friend Justin Hadwen who had already filled his buck tag during an earlier Eastern Oregon mule deer hunt. Justin was familiar with some country not too far from Roseburg and although he couldn’t promise me anything, he said of this spot, “I’ve had to work hard not to shoot bucks when going there…” Hmmm…now that sounded interesting. If there was any legal buck willing to go home in my truck, I wasn’t going to hesitate on the last day of the season. Besides, I signed out on the office board that I’d be coming to work after lunch.

The morning met us with a heavy blanket of fog and we waited for a while to see if it would lift. We would get periodic views of open hillsides and brush and then fog again. We decided to take our chances and head out along a trail and into the patchy fog. We glassed the hillside whenever the fog let us and suddenly Justin spotted a small buck about 50 yards below us. It appeared to be a spike [legal bucks must have at least a forked antler] and it was feeding parallel to the trail we were walking. Then 50 yards ahead on the ridgeline in front of us was a huge buck with tall and wide antlers. It was skylined and moving what looked to be toward us. I took a knee on the trail and chambered a round waiting to see if the buck was still there. The fog made visibility tough and we soon learned that the buck was actually heading away from us. We waited for the fog to give us more opportunity to see what was around us. Justin spotted a large buck below us at about 100 yards and it was barely visible to me. At times I could see antlers and its outline mixed with brush. It eventually walked over a ridge and out of sight. We waited for the fog again…

Justin spied a dark blob in some light colored grass way below us. The binoculars confirmed it to be a buck bedded down. Was it the big one or a different one? It didn’t matter to me, it was the last day and I was grateful to have one last opportunity. My rangefinder display said “low battery” and I muttered to myself, “That’s the story of my life..” I consoled myself with the thought that the rangefinder wouldn’t work with so much fog anyway. I opted to take a prone position on a small flat piece of ground below the trail and set-up for a long shot. We estimated the buck to be close to 300 yards away and all I had for a target was his head and neck as he lay in the grass. Once again, I found myself using Jacob’s .260 Remington. It is such a sweet shooter with mild recoil, flat trajectory and plenty of oomph. Everything felt good as I lined-up on the buck. The bipod gave me a rock solid rest and I waited for the fog to lift once more. As it did, I flicked the safety off and swallowed my pounding heart one last time. Everything looked perfect as I squeezed off a shot. The buck never got out of his bed.

Thanks to Justin, I was able to fill my tag and I was done buck hunting in Oregon for another year. I would even make it back to the office on time!

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Western Oregon Buck season ended for me on the last day at 9:15am

 

Justin was super generous and extended the same opportunity to Jacob the next day. As a juvenile, Jacob was able to hunt an additional 2 days after the regular season ended. It was Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s way of promoting hunting opportunities to youth hunters during the Western Oregon Buck season. We met Justin the next morning and it was totally socked in with fog as we drove into the hunting area. As the truck gained elevation the fog broke and revealed a clear mountain overlooking an ocean of fog below. It reminded me of hunting on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea in the early morning above the clouds. We had great visibility and glassed the slopes to find several bucks walking around below us. We spotted a flock of noisy crows and a large healthy coyote feeding on bones and flesh from the buck I collected the day before. Off in the distance we saw a decent buck and we opted to try and close the distance to him as he was about the same elevation but, over 1/2 a mile away. We slipped along a trail and tried to keep tabs on the buck that kept going in and out of the young fir trees. He finally disappeared from view but, we knew he wasn’t far away so we chose to wait and see what would happen next.

I glassed around the hillside and caught a glimpse of another buck feeding in the open and unaware of our presence. It was a forked horn busily feeding upslope and offered a broadside shot at 220 yds. We immediately went into stealth mode and hunkered down. Jacob tried to utilize a charred and pointed stump for a rest but, couldn’t get a steady hold on the buck. After wrestling with the stump and having no success, Jacob chose to belly crawl ahead another 5 yds. to a spot clear of tall grass. He propped his rifle up with the bipod fully extended and found the feeding buck in his steady crosshairs. He took off the safety and waited for the buck to turn broadside. The .260 Remington let out a CRACK and the buck walked off in a small circle and went down a few yards away. Jacob’s annual buck hunt was over at 9:10am.

 

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Jacob with his Last Chance Buck above the clouds with dad.

 

 

 

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Next day, cutting up the vennison into stew meat chunks, steaks, and…

 

 

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sliced 1/4″ thin for teriyaki steaks on the grill, some onolicious eatin!

Posted in 2007, Hunting, Stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »