Post-Season Deer Scouting – 3rd Outing
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I had to make a trip to eastern Ohio for work 2 weeks ago. The main purpose of the trip was to check in on 8 research plots that are due for some herbicide work to control invasive shrub species, but I tried to capitalize on the time afield to do a little shed hunting and scouting at the same time. No antlers despite some reasonably hard looking, but was able to scout a couple new areas.

There’s been more and more talk in the online hunting community about hunting buck beds lately, so I’ve made it a habit to look for deer beds every time I bump deer. I must say it’s been a learning experience. My assumption has often been that deer prefer to bed in hidden, secretive locations where they feel safe. While this is sometimes true, deer also frequently bed in really exposed locations, but in places where they have the upper hand (aka, they’ll see or smell you first!). These beds – there were 3 in all – were backed up against some large diameter fallen logs, right on a south-facing slope where sunlight was penetrating through (see end of post), and had been used many many times over and over. A good view of the valley and finger ridges below, the deer were safe from any and all danger.

Oddly enough, it snowed hard for about 10 minutes even though temperatures were hovering around 40 degrees. As the snow was still coming down, I stumbled upon some FRESH turkey sign. Within 3 more minutes, I found them — 63 in all!! — picking their way down a pipeline rights-of-way.

Last time I was at one site, some loggers were loading up the final pieces of their equipment from a recent timber sale. It was a pine stand that they heavily thinned plus a small pocket of hardwoods that they clearcut, somewhere in the 4-5 acre range. What was particularly interesting about the new clearcut was that it nestled into a larger and older (6-8 year range if I had to guess) cutover that was well in regeneration. I located a couple good trees for a couple different winds and have my eye on this spot for this upcoming and year-following fall. It’s the sort of spot that if I can confirm a good buck in the area with trail camera, I am very confident in how to hunt in and around clearcuts. I’d feel great about my chances of killing him.

One last thing, I’ve touted the praise of Caltopo many times before (Link #1, Link #2) but can’t remember if I’ve ever showcased the “Sunlight” feature. For shed hunting or locating the best hillsides for late season winter deer hunting, this tool simply can’t be beat. It’s instant information on where solar radiation should be greatest for the date you input into the tool. Simply put, it tells you quickly where to focus your efforts. I could break this photo down further, but I don’t want to spill all my secrets.

Post-Season Deer Scouting – 2nd Outing
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Nothing too extravagant to report for this outing in terms of locating somewhere to focus on from a hunting perspective. Scattered sign, not really any distinguishable patterns or funnels or pinch points. That said, I found some large buck rubs, always a good indicator but I’ve found them almost ubiquitous and nearly commonplace in Ohio as compared to the Southeast where I grew up hunting.

I pushed around roughly 10 deer on two different occasions (same group I think) and could pick out 2 fully-racked bucks in the mix – decent not BIG.

The highlight was stumbling on to a year-old shed with thick mass. It was sitting next to a vernal pool – sort of wonder if the buck was nearby to sip some water and just dropped it in the semi-open woods where I found it or whether it had bedded there. The squirrels had their way with it but it was in just decent enough shape to get carried out to the truck.

Idiot-Proof Dry-Rubbed Venison Tenderloin
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My wife discovered this method of cooking venison about a month ago – it has performed flawlessly 3 times now.

Using the same dry rub I showed you a week or so ago, apply liberally on all sides to a whole venison tenderloin that has warmed to room temperature.

Place a cast-iron skillet in the oven and bring to 450 degrees. When the oven dings, remove cast-iron skillet and place on medium-high stove top burner. Sear loin on each side 30-40 seconds.

Remove skillet from stove top and place back in 450 degree oven.

After 4 minutes, turn steak. 3 minutes for smaller diameter loins, 5 minutes for larger.

After 4 more minutes, remove skillet from oven and set steak aside to rest for 10 minutes. Don’t forget this “resting” step and don’t shorten this step.

De-glaze skillet with 1/3 cup red wine and reduce to desired sauce consistency.

Slice thin (~1/4″ or less) and serve with sauce drizzled over top.

Kodiak Island Hunting Trip – Travel Logistics
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On the front end and back end of the Alaska adventure are pretty standard commercial airliner flights. Sandwiched in between the bush flights are anything but standard, at least to most of us, but that’s for another discussion another day. The commercial flights in and out are pretty standard except that 3 lay-overs are almost necessarily required and the flight itself is ridiculously expensive. Cheapest I can find right now, round trip from Columbus (CMH) to Kodiak (ADQ) is sitting just north of $1,100-and that has come down $300 in the past 2 months. OUCH!!

Enter the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card mileage plan. Sign-up, spend some money (pay off your monthly balance–c’mon America!), redeem miles, fly to Alaska w/ a bag or two for $30.

$30 you say, you must be lying. No I am not. Say it ain’t so, but wait, there’s more. Sounding like an “As Seen on TV” ad spot at this point.

Buy a companion fare to accompany you to your final destination at the rock bottom discounted price of $119.

Reasonable annual fee (comparable to the Capital One Venture which I have had for several years but will soon be cancelling) and decent mileage accumulators based on all purchases. In short, applying for the Alaska Airlines Visa card is poised to cut our Kodiak adventure price tag by ~40% of total cost.

I won’t belabor the incredible value that the credit card offers as it is well documented on travel blogs across the Internet. Search around if you want more of the fine-point details.

Spring Garden Seed Starts
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I basically took 2016 off from gardening – busy summer teaching multiple, multi-week field courses away from home, excuses, excuses, I just didn’t plant much of a garden. In 2017, I’m not delusional enough to think a well-maintained summer garden is realistic, but I intend to make the best of the early spring season to plant what are many of my favorite vegetable crops – namely root crops, radishes, beets, carrots, potatoes, etc, but also the leafy types of spring veggies. Raelyn, now 5, is a great helper and really enjoyed packing dirt into the growth cells, sorting seeds, patting soil down, watering, and then…waiting!

Day 1 sprouts

Week 1 growth

She has her own shell peas in another contained and I’m watching the calendar to start a Round 2 of spring seeds – eyeing mid-March for transplant into the outside garden space.

Infolinks 2013