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I would really love to know how many miles I’ve traveled, walking behind my bird dogs over the years. These days you can do that. Garmin, and other companies, have products that count your steps, heartbeats, blood pressure and probably even the hairs on your head. Back when I started, beeper collars were the latest and greatest technology. You would charge it up, or in most cases, install fresh batteries, strap it around your pointing dog’s neck along with his training collar and off they would go. A shrill beeping sound would echo thru the West Texas mesquite flats and Montana coulees, giving you an approximate location of your hunting dog. It was pretty neat tech really. It would beep maybe every five seconds or so while the dog was running, and every one second when the dog stopped to point or pass along the leftovers from last night’s dinner. Someone got real tricky and designed a collar that would beep while the dog was running, and screech like a hawk when the dog was pointing. Game birds don’t like to get airborne when a predator with sharp claws and eyes, and Air Force jet speed is nearby. So, the hawk screech was meant to fool the birds into holding tight on the ground until you could catch up with your pointing dog to make the flush.
The desire of a bird dog to hunt and point upland birds is so strong, that after a few short minutes of obtrusive noise, just inches behind their ears, they seemed to totally ignore it all together. After the first beeper collar hunt, it was always welcomed by the dogs. The collar was a sign to them that once they were fitted with their jewelry, it was time to hunt. My friend, Ted Gartner with the Garmin company is an avid bird dog man. He and a few techie types made the old beeper obsolete. Once on a hunt, Ted wondered around the camp-fire one night if he could duct take a GPS unit to one of his dog's training collars and take the first step towards a quiet dog locating collar. The Astro was born from that evening of pondering and red-necking around with GPS technology and duct tape. Astro, now several generations older, shows you where your dog is and what he is doing at all times.
Waaaay back...before the battery powered beeper collar was the simple little brass bell. Obviously making noise while the dog runs, and falling silent when the dog locates birds and points. Purely from nostalgia, I held on to that old bell method. Yes, I always had and primarily used the latest and greatest technology, but could easily step back in time by removing the tech collar and replacing it with a simple bell. I especially enjoyed this practice when hunting alone, working a smaller patch, and partnering with only one dog on the ground as opposed to two, three or even four. If I saw little Button, or ol’ Jill disappear into a plum thicket and the bell jingled no more, it brought an instant smile. Birds!
I still have those old bells that carried the jingle of fall, and the collars from many of my dogs. I can look at a particular collar and tell you about the dog that wore it. I can tell you in detail about how they liked to hunt, how hard they ran, how far or close they felt necessary to hold birds, and how I loved each one. When you step into the fields of fall, behind a well trained bird dog, it's magical. Matters not the technology or lack of. Enjoy your bird season and throw ol' Nose an extra treat tonight. They will give you every ounce of heart that they can muster tomorrow as they jingle off into the plum thicket.
October 12, 2017
I’ve spent my fair share of nights sleeping in uncomfortable situations. Pickup beds, rotted out farm houses and dilapidated old travel trailers, and of course the cold hard ground. I can remember a deer hunt that was so cold and wet that my hunting partner and I zipped our sleeping bags together to fend off the frost bite. On another trip, I dumped the lump out of my pillow case. The lump was a field rat. I awoke one morning so stiff from the pickup bed I’d used for a mattress, that reaching down to tie my boots seemed impossible. I’d do it all again too!
Our passion for this hunting and fishing heritage that we live can lead to some tough places and times, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve also been spoiled with some fine lodging, dining and terrific hunting and fishing opportunities. Robin and I have spent the past week at one of the absolute finest resort hunt/fish destinations that I’ve ever, yes I used the ever word, visited. Joshua Creek Ranch has the credentials. Two Tridents from Beretta, ORVIS Endorsed, heck, George Strait even visits for a little wing shooting from time to time. Everything, and I mean every detail at JCR is tended too. Your mattress, your view, your meals, your linens, your lodging, your everything will be the finest offered. It’s flying first class, and it's good! This is our third trip to this wonderful ranch located about an hour northwest of San Antonio, Texas.
The same detail that’s woven into your lodge experience is applied to the habitat on this near 1,400 acre ranch as well...Two decades plus of back breaking work by the Kercheville family. Years of cedar removal, planting, pond building, etc have produced perfect habitat for the wildlife that love this place. IT'S LOW FENCE. The critters have a choice where they spend time browsing, loafing and raising babies. That’s the best testament to this conservation project-an endorsement from the wildlife on this free range ranch in the Texas Hill Country region.
I’m here to hunt my favorite protein-Axis deer. Axis are found free ranging in very few places across North America-Florida, Hawaii and here in the Hill Country of Texas primarily. They love it here; I guess the country is very similar to their original home in Sri Lanka. Everything about an Axis is good! They are beautiful critters with an orangish brown coat accented by snow white spots just like a whitetail fawn. God must have favored the Axis a little more than the whitetail, because He allows them to keep their spots for life. Axis are bigger than most whitetails too...Up to 250 pounds for the bigger bucks, or "bulls", your choice. They are more closely aligned to elk than whitetail deer. Typical males will grow three points on each side-main beam, a couple of impressive brow tines and secondary points about halfway up the main beam. Thirty inches and longer is considered trophy. They are gorgeous animals and fine, fine, fine dining! That’s 3 fines from the red neck that has consumed a lot of wild game. No wang, no wild taste, better than beef! Axis are a challenging hunt as well. They are spookier than whitetails. If you bang or booger something up in their neighborhood, you might as well move along. They did. Unlike the whitetail rut where single males cruise the country, axis stay in groups most all of the time. Lots of eyes to spot you. They will flock to feeders. If that is legal in your state, jump on it. One of the coolest reasons to hunt axis deer is non-typical hunting times. Axis are considered exotic game in Texas, and can be hunted year round. It's June, and it feels great to be in the deer blind!
My most regrettable miss with rifle came about five years ago right here on JCR. I had a nice 30 plus inch axis in my sights after three days of hard, HOT hunting...Shot right under his belly at 135 yards. The bullet made a cloud of dust, and I’ve watched him run off in my head over and over again...Again this week, three days of hard, not quite as hot hunting with no meat to show for the effort. There are probably 25 to 30 blind locations on this ranch. We have hunted daylight to dark most of the time and visited maybe 10-12 of those blinds. We have glassed a lot of Axis deer too. Several hundred I’d say, searching for the right buck. About 1:30 yesterday afternoon, we made a move to a blind that we’d not hunted yet on this trip. When we rounded the corner in the road, I knew instantly that this was the exact spot in my reoccurring nightmare miss. I had been here before in person and many more times in bad memory. We spotted a small herd of Axis back in the thick cedar brush and one of them was a hard horned buck. I was hunting with Billy Torkildson, JCR guide, who can take a 5 second look at an axis buck and tell you how long he is to within a half inch of antler.
At about 4pm, the herd made a move, and out he stepped. Five seconds of analysis, and Billy T said, “shoot him”. I was situated in the same blind, taking aim from the same window, with a 30 plus inch Axis standing about 30 yards behind the missed shot from five years ago. I put that old memory behind me and collected my breathing and focus. Does were milling about, and I had to hold my shot for a couple of minutes, waiting for them to clear. When the opportunity opened, I was ready, and he fell in his tracks. 30 inches on his right side, 31.5 on his left, heavy bodied and beautiful! The ghosts were gone. Billy T had no idea that I had missed from this exact location before, or that this was my birthday. When I finally had my hands on this magnificent animal, I shared the story with him. Back at the lodge, I would enjoy a hot shower, delicious pan seared Axis steaks prepared by Chef Holden and an incredible mattress for the first full eight hours of sleep in several days. This time though, the dream was different!
If you go...
Axis can shed, be hard horned or in velvet at any time of the year, however, late May to September are the most active rutting and hard horned times. Take plenty of gun. These animals are extremely tough, and probably bigger than the whitetails you’ve been hunting. My setup: Weatherby Vanguard in .270/Winchester ballistic silvertip 130 grain. If you normally hunt with something smaller (.243) I’d step up a bit. The 300’s are good choices. Dress cool! Talk to your outfitter before you go. Will you be stalking or blind hunting. Stalking these critters is very difficult since they run in herds. If you are still/blind hunting, shorts, t-shirts etc. Light, cool clothing. Stay in the blind. Yes, they are active at the most popular times, dawn and dusk, but, you will see them meandering mid-day as well. Patience has killed more critters than Tarzan. Range finder. Great tool. In the rolling terrain that Axis favor, depth can be deceptive. Naked eye would tell you that my shot would be 120-130 yards. The laser reported differently-169 yards. Depending on bullet rifle combo, that’s enough distance to affect trajectory.
June 9, 2017
Sunjack Portable Solar Charger, You need this!
I am taking some time over the dog days this year to feature some items that will come in handy, or in this case, could be a lifesaver during your next wilderness trip or fishing excursion. While it’s too hot to do very much outside of early morning and very late evening, it’s a great time to “gear up” and get ready for the fall seasons that will begin to unfold soon.
I have been spending some time with the Sunjack Portable Solar Charger of late...and I like it. I like it enough to tell you about it. I won't ever lie to you or invite you to purchase junk. Sunjack is a keeper and like I said, could be a lifesaver...no exaggeration.
More and more, our gadgets are part of our hunting and fishing, birding, boating and hiking. Whether it's keeping up with our favorite football team while spending a day in the blind, keeping up with our remote trail cameras, recording our hunts/fishing trips, or using the phone for business or family concerns, we are forevermore attached to our electronics. At BBKO radio we spend a great deal of time each year in a hunting scenario, or on the boat. When we cover events life the Bassmaster Classic, we're on the water recording and photographing the event and burning up the batteries posting the latest to the social circles of the world. Power has been a problem in the past. That’s why I was thrilled to find out about the Sunjack, and why I was even more thrilled to find out that it does exactly what the folks at Sunjack said it would.
*recharge my devices at wall outlet speed
*fit the small storage areas in my boat and hunting pack
*handle phone/tablet/GPS units/GoPro cameras/etc in short order using only God’s good sunshine.
*durable and dependable time after time after time
It folds to up to a small 9x7 inches. When unzipped and laid out flat in the sunshine, it stretches to 26 inches of sunbathing power plant that works...and works fast!
The unit features two USB ports for multiple charges directly from the solar panels, as well as a separate battery pack for even smaller back up power in your pocket, pack or tackle bag. The separate battery pack also features a small built in L.E.D. flashlight (just in case) and a L.E.D. power level bar that tells you exactly how much power is available.
I have met a lot of folks that hunt off of the grid...waaaaaaay back in the out yonder (I’m talking remote Alaska, Africa, Tajikistan etc.)-Areas that you DO NOT want to hang out for 7 to 10 days without power that can give you a life saving connection to tamer places. Same goes for your boat, you don't want to be on a lake that you know well when the motor stops or that unexpected storm beaches you in a bad spot.
Be ready. I recommend it, Sunjack Portable Solar Charger. Lay it out or hang it up in the sunshine while you're out on the boat or busy hunting, then charge up to eight of your devices while you wait for tomorrow to show up. Remember this one...Sunjack. It Works!
JULY 15, 2016