Ending of an Era
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On this 1462nd post of The Outdoor Smorgasbord, I am officially signing off. Yes, right in the middle of finishing up my hunt-by-hunt 2017-2018 deer hunting season (buck tag soup, yum!) and right before blogging that my father took his biggest buck ever this year – a near B&C monarch from central North Carolina. Whereas the blog will remain permanently affixed in the interweb, I will not be creating new content. Certainly not because I am finished adventuring in new places, creating new memories, or continuing to live my (perhaps biased here, but…) extremely interesting life, but more so because it is time to end this endeavor which has spanned nearly a decade. Plainly and simply, it is time to move on.

I hope that what I have created here has allowed some readers to live vicariously through some of my experiences, lent advice to others, and perhaps even inspired on occasion. With multiple million page views, I am of course indebted to my readers – thank you. In fact, I myself have undoubtedly been the blog’s most faithful reader, re-reading old posts much the same way one cracks open the pages of an old journal. For those consistent and dedicated readers, please do not be a stranger. The email conversations and the occasional cause for meeting up in person has been the main return on my investment through the years. I appreciate those relationships forged in such a modern and 21st century-type fashion. For those new readers stumbling into the blog for the very first time, do not hesitate to reach out via email. I will maintain my [email protected] email address and will still check it regularly.

So without further ado..

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunt #12 “Lock Down”
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After my all day skunking, it was another 5 days before my schedule allowed me back in a treestand. I planned to hunt on a public-private boundary where I could see out into a massive soybean field that had been harvested but still peek into the big bush honeysuckle thicket where most of the deer seemed to be bedding.

Right at first light, a coyote came loping across the huge expanse of the cut soybean field and ducked into the woods just down the ways from me. Not long after that, I spotted a small buck walking out in the middle of the harvested soybean field – hundreds of yards away from any cover at all. I could not see any other deer and I had not heard anything that sounded like other deer, so I decided to try to call him in even though he was awfully small. A few grunts worked to perfection and he was circling the bottom of my tree just a minute or two later.

After convincing himself that the “deer” had moved on, the little buck headed straight back out into the field. I don’t know if he was lonely or what, but he just sort of milled around for 20 or so minutes. Shortly after I lost sight of him, I saw another couple of deer way out in the middle of the field—a tending buck and doe, and the buck was a STUD! He was wide and heavy and the end of his right main beam drooped down 3 or 4” on the very end, sort of like a drop tine I suppose. He was patiently standing beside the doe mirroring her every move. The only thing that distracted him was that young buck circling back around and approaching the tending pair. It was really cool watching that little buck try to circle downwind of the doe. Every attempt he made, the much larger buck cut him off with hackles raised and antlers lowered. Finally, the heavy 10 point lost his patience and gave a good rushing charge towards the little buck who managed to keep his distance. With the young buck ran off, I watched the tending buck and doe stay within a 100-yard radius out in the middle of the cut soybean field for almost an hour before they drifted south and out of my sight.

Somewhere around 10 o’clock, I heard a twig snap back in the thicket behind me. Cruising slowly but steadily through the dense brush was a two-year old buck with wide spindly antlers. I did not get a great look at the buck, but I was pretty sure one of his beams was either broken off or malformed. I grunted a time or two to try and turn him back in my direction, but his one track mind carried him off to the north for the last action of the morning.

When I got down from the stand, I slipped about 100 yards deeper into the thicket and found a hub of activity with a tremendous amount of fresh sign ranging from rubs and scrapes to beds and beat-down trails. I wandered around just long enough to pick out a tree and knew I would be back in that spot the next good wind I could get.

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunts #10 & 11 “Nada”
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Unfortunately, after the phenomenal action of the previous hunt, I had a 4-day lag before I could get back out in the woods. Even so, I was pretty excited to have an open schedule to take a whole day and do an all-day sit.

Regrettably, that is about as exciting as this post gets. I have no way to explain it, so I will not try. Perfect conditions spent all-day in 2 excellent spots in the peak of what ought to have been full rut and I saw jack squat. The first spot was on the edge of the big timber watching over the last overgrown field sandwiched in between the woods and the crop fields a little further out. The second spot was buried deep in a bedding area close to where my buddy and I had success on the Saturday prior.

Either way, it was a beautiful day to have spent in the deer woods, it just lacked deer.

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunt #9 “Booner”
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This morning was about much more than just the plainly stated and the titled obvious. But yes, I saw a Boone & Crockett gross buck from my treestand on this day. And no, I did not get to drag him, err…canoe him, out. These are the events of November 4th.

I was not overly discouraged that I needed to move away from the old field that I had been hunting around for the previous week. In fact, I was excited to move back into more inaccessible terrain to hunt, especially given the forecasted NE wind that is incredibly elusive but an absolute requirement to hunt my #1 public land stand in Ohio. My buddy and I also strategized a more stealthy, low-profile approach that would shave quite a bit of walking off our morning hike. Also, if we used the canoe to slip in to our stands, we would eliminate all our scent contamination that sometimes drifts into one corner of the bedding area. Hopes for this hunt could not be higher.

Way before dawn, I was at the base of my tree and working in the pitch black darkness to hang my stand as silently as possible. It took me nearly an hour to successfully do so, working painstakingly and methodically slow, as I had deer working back and forth in front of my set-up almost non-stop. On two different occasions, I could hear bucks grunting and chasing does out in the bedding area.

Finally, I had my stand positioned perfectly and dawn broke. And I saw nothing. Zero. Zilch. Just one time, around 8:30 AM I could some deer grunting and snort wheezing at one another deeper into the bedding area, but that was the only action I had before 10:30 AM. Meanwhile, my buddy was having a public land sit for the ages. A two-year old buck, a yearling buck, a doe and a fawn, another doe and a fawn, 2 more does, another yearling buck, 2 different does, another yearling buck. A non-stop parade of deer the whole morning long. Does moving in to and out of the bedding area with intermittent bucks cruising nose to the ground scent-checking for those first receptive does.

Back to my hunt, just past 10:30 AM I could hear deer pacing down one of the two ridges that dead-end into the steep bluff that border the creek. I am positioned with my back to the creek and overlooking the ditch crossing that connects the two ridgelines. With a loud grunt, almost what I would consider a “buck roar”, the deer burst out of the thick cover and into the slightly more open hardwoods where I could see. Although there are no shooting lanes directly north or south (only due east and west), there is enough visibility to pick apart the cover with binoculars. What I saw through my binoculars, my eyes could hardly believe. There, standing just 30 or 35 yards away, was a bona fide Boone & Crockett grossing buck. Two or three inches outside both his ears, wrist-thick mass throughout his beams and his tines, brow tines that measured 8 or 9 inches, and a towering frame that featured absolute spears for second’s and third’s plus solid G4’s. I could not see a doe, though there surely was one in the immediate vicinity, and he was locked in place. As a couple minutes ticked by and he did not move, I let that image sink into my brain as I studied him through my binoculars. Finally, he slowly turned and moved off in the opposite direction, I have to assume following the doe that still remained unseen. Simultaneous with him turning and walking away, I threw a couple soft grunts out and got an instant response from a button buck that drifted right in below my stand. What an encounter!!

An hour later, at 11:35 AM, a yearling buck came grunting right down the same trail and walked right out in front of the tree inside 15 yards. Oh, for that to have happened an hour ago!! In any regard, I let that buck pass underneath me and wander off before sending my buddy a text that we had better start conserving our respective water and snacks, because it was looking like an all-day hunt was in order.

Not necessary. Just 30 minutes later, I got a return text back that an all-day sit would not be necessary. Deer #13 on his morning had just cruised underneath of him and taken an arrow right in the vitals. He was confident the arrow placement had been on the money and that following the trail would be a mere formality. Success!! He had just connected on his first OH public land buck out of our other quality set-up in this general area.

We convened at his arrow around 2 PM and followed the short trail to his buck before taking field photos, dressing the buck out, and dragging him back down to our awaiting canoe. Thankfully it was all downhill back to the canoe, and after a bit of wrangling, we had the buck positioned for what is surely one of my favorite hunting photos of all-time.

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunt #8 “Back in the Bucks”
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Two short days later and still before the rush of inevitable weekend hunting pressure coincident with the opening of pheasant season and peak rut vacationers and out-of-staters, I still had the perfect wind to revisit the same set-up where I had the letdown hunt of only seeing the one lone spike. The only downside was that my one opening landed on a warm front that saw sunrise temperatures jump to a balmy 55 degrees, not exactly ideal weather conditions.

With the warm morning temperatures and no perceptible breeze, a predictable layer of fog hung low in the river bottom at dawn. Without being able to glass very far into the surrounding thick cover, I decided to try rattling in hopes of drawing any nearby bucks in closer to investigate. It worked. Within just 2 or 3 minutes of hanging up my antlers, a decent 2-year old buck was circling my stand about 75 yards out. Though he never worked to within archery range, he was not a buck I would have shot given the opportunity. He was a bit broken up and would not have scored higher than 110 or 115 inches even if completely intact.

His curiosity waned after 10 or 15 minutes, but it was not long before I spotted a second buck, smaller than the first, cruising perpendicular to my set. A couple loud grunts got his attention, and a couple more soft doe bleats coaxed him in from at least 200 yards away. Now to get a big buck interested.

It was another morning that I had to climb down early to go fulfill some teaching responsibilities, so my time was running short when I glassed a big set of what looked like antlers sticking up above the low dense cover 300 yards away. He was bedded down and tucked right up against a hedgerow of thick bush honeysuckle. I was not even completely sure it was a deer until I rattled aggressively and observed his antlers swing in my direction. To the best that I could determine, it was the heavy antlered, short-tined wide 10 point from the hunt where I saw 7 bucks roughly a week earlier. Definitely a shooter. Unfortunately, he was settled in for the morning, and a couple loud and quick attempts to call him out of his bed and in my direction did not work.

Had I not had to get down and go into work, I likely would have tried to put a spot-and-stalk play on him. The wind was perfect and the warm front had dropped a little precipitation the night before. With everything wet and quietened, it would have been interesting at a minimum.

Oh well, duty calls.

A to Z Guide for Hunting Kodiak Island DIY for Sitka Black-tailed Deer
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I decided to make one last post regarding Dad and I’s 2017 Kodiak Island adventure. The point is not to add new content. Frankly, there is not much else to say. What I do want to do is place an organized index of links all in one place – sort of a one-stop shop resource. The DIY hunt series are by far the most popular features on my blog and I field lots of emailed questions from readers, sometimes years after the original posts are made. If you want to ask more questions, feel free to reach out – my email is [email protected] I am always happy to assist in any way possible. After all, there are almost always a host of folks that I have consulted in planning any one of these great DIY adventures that I’ve been fortunate to enjoy the past 10 or 15 years.

Initial Planning Excitement

When is the Right Time to Hunt Kodiak?

The Planning X-Factor: Winter Kill!

Adjusting to Winter Kill

Travel Logistics:
Commercial Flight Logistics

Pricing Commercial Flights with your Alaskan Air Credit Card

Bush Flight Logistics

Gearing Up:
Initial Gear Musings

New Gear for Kodiak, Part 1

New Gear for Kodiak, Part 2

Kodiak Island Bag Dump, Part 1

Kodiak Island Bag Dump, Part 2

Kodiak Island Bag Dump, Part 3

Backcountry Meal Planning

Other Pre-Trip Thoughts:
…On Bears

Pre-trip Expectations

The Adventure:
Days 1 & 2


Day 3

Day 4 AM

Day 4 PM

Day 5

Day 6-8

Day 9

Days 10 & 11

Days 12 & 13

Post-Trip Thoughts:
Reflecting on Expectations

Detailed Cost Breakdown for Kodiak Adventure

Gear Reviews, Part 1

Gear Reviews, Part 2

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunt #7 “High Expectations”
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Four mornings later, I got a great wind and solid conditions to slip back into the same area where I had the phenomenal 7 buck sightings on my previous hunt. This time, I crept straight into the heart of the cover and found a skinny-trunked sycamore in the absolutely perfect spot and tight to where the action had been that other morning.

The morning dawned cold and overcast with a steady breeze. I was hopeful. Then I glassed and glassed and glassed and glassed some more. It seemed like I glassed so hard my eyes would bleed. There simply was nothing happening in that area on this particular morning. At 9 o’clock, a spike cruised through about 200 yards distant, but it ended up being the only deer between me and an all-out skunking.

That is the toughest thing about hunting public land. The hardest part is not finding a place that can produce an opportunity at a mature buck. The toughest and most frustrating part is not knowing what activity an area experiences on a day-to-day basis. Maybe that morning was a dud because an ambitious group of rabbit hunters gave their beagles a pre-season workout in that field on the Sunday the day before. Maybe somebody made a crappy shot on a doe and trailed it over a half-mile from where they shot it over the weekend. Maybe this, maybe that.

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunt #6 “Bucks Galore”
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While driving back home after my morning hunt turned John Deere farming equipment parade, I had stopped at a couple pull-offs on the main highway to glass in to some fields that were considerable walking distance from the nearest public access point. Most of the fields were not that interesting – either standing corn or standing beans, maybe even already combined and harvested – but one field in particular did hold some intrigue. It was a field that I had expected to be converted back into agriculture, but for whatever reason, it had been overlooked or purposefully left fallow for at least one more year. In short, it was a thick old nasty field overgrown with head tall weeds and grasses and even some aggressive woody encroachment.

That night, I did some looking on Google Earth and some other aerial imagery that I consult here in Ohio and came up with a game plan. The wind was not good for me to get tucked in to what I thought would probably be the best area, but I could slip in and hang a blind set to observe things from afar…perhaps even do some blind rattling or grunting to try and generate some interest from a pre-rut buck.

I did alright finding a good tree well before dawn on October 26th, and the brightening skies showed that a heavy, heavy frost had blanketed the ground. It was not long after sunrise that I glassed up the first deer of the morning – a heavy antlered and wide 10 point sporting thick but stubby tines. Even from 300 yards or so distant, it was immediately obvious that I was staring at a mature buck. He was striking a quite attentive pose, perhaps like another deer was close by that he was monitoring, but he did not give any indication that he was moving direction or another. I decided to keep quiet and let things play out a little bit. 5 minutes later and not 20 yards from the mature buck, another buck popped out into view – this one much younger, probably a yearling. As the yearling buck approached the mature 10 point, the two began to move a little more, weaving in and out of the tall cover of the field. Disappearing sometimes, then re-appearing in the next visible gap. All of a sudden, there was another buck. This one standing right behind the wide and heavy 10 point. It did not take much studying with my binoculars to reveal a real slammer of a buck that towered in height over the first one I had seen. 3 bucks…time to make something happen. I grunted some and did some real light sparring. Nothing serious, just enough to catch their attention.

Somewhere in the midst of not generating much attention with my calling attempts, I glassed in another direction onto some private agricultural fields and caught glimpse of a big mature-bodied deer walking into a woodlot that bordered the public. Though I could not make out any antlers, it had the appearance and gait of a mature buck. Buck #4. When I glassed back to check on the trio of bucks to my south, a fourth buck had joined ranks, this a two-year old type buck – buck #5. His introduction to the group appeared to have rankled some feathers, and all the bucks were starting to demand a little more of their own space and defend it accordingly. It was about that time that everything started to make sense. I could not see the doe, nor did I ever actually lay eyes on her, but there was a doe in there. Those bucks were single-filed puppy-dog following her movements into that old field to her day bed. A couple times the bucks would course and cut through the old field, raising their heads up high – racks gleaming in the bright morning sun – to try and see above the cover. Whenever a buck expressed a more curious posture, I threw some more calling their attention. A couple times I thought it might draw a buck over to my corner of the huge block of thick cover, but they always turned back to the group after a minute or so of cutting a few yards off the distance between me and them.

Paying so much attention to the bucks to my south, I was leery of having a deer sneak up on me from another direction. Sure enough, just before 9 o’clock I glanced behind me to see a decent 8 pointer sticking his head up in some overhanging branches to work a licking branch. I got turned around quickly and reached for my bow, but he was not the caliber buck I had my heart set on. 16 or 17 inches wide with solid mass but short tines, the buck was well within range but safe on this particular occasion. I watched as he pawed out a scrape within 25 yards of my set-up and then he slipped back into the bush honeysuckle thicket that I was bordering. Buck #6.

When I turned back around after the exciting close-range encounter, the bucks (and doe) were working their way towards a small woodlot that straddles the private-public land boundary where I presume they bedded for the day. Finally, and it absolutely kills me that I had to get down early this day, but there was no way around it. I had to teach class at 11:00 AM. At 9:30 AM, I was clipping my pull-up rope onto my bow cam when I caught movement just 50 or 60 yards out in to the old field. Another buck, the 7th on the morning, was slipping through and paused momentarily to gobble down a few low-hanging crabapples. Just a yearling, I watched him cruise through the field and disappear on to adjacent private ground before climbing quickly down and hiking back to my truck. What an unbelievably action-packed morning on Ohio’s public land.

2017 Deer Hunting in Ohio :: Hunt #5 “Harvest Time”
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After my “almost was a great hunt” experience sitting in the corn by the waterhole, I took advantage of the next wind shift to slip just down from the waterhole and perch where the cover intersected with a hedgerow that split 2 fields of standing corn. It was October 25th. Just inside the woods behind me, the thick cover was interrupted by a small opening in the woods where I had some great shooting lanes at several heavy trails that spilled out into the food source.

Right at first light, I could see that the one corn field had had several passes combined off already. I suspected that before my morning hunt was over, I would see the combines come back to the finish the job. Not long after first light, a small yearling buck fed out into the strip of cut corn, took the dogleg north along the mowed corn, and finally stepped into the standing corn where I presume he was planning to bed for the day. It was still early and I could see lots of fresh rubs and scrapes from my elevated position. I was hopeful for more action to develop quickly.

It did. Just not in the form of more deer. Combines, cutting 4 and 5 machines wide, descended upon the field about 9 AM and proceeded to level the remaining corn. I saw that same yearling buck bounce back to the safety of the woods eventually, but no other deer were driven out of the standing corn and back into the cover where I was waiting.

Sort of a disappointing morning sit given the high expectations I had coming in, but thankfully, it was all due to circumstances beyond my control. I can live with that.

DIY Kodiak Island Gear Review, Part 2 :: “New Additions”
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Just when I think my hunting equipment supply is complete, a trip like Kodiak Island comes along and all of a sudden I “need” more stuff. Here are most of my major new additions and what I thought about each of them.

Transitioning from last post, one more shout-out to the Helly Hansen Impertech rain jacket. I bought myself and Dad one last year for Christmas right as we were initially planning our Kodiak Island Sitka black-tailed deer hunting adventure. For the price ($70 versus the more expensive and supposedly better Kuiu/Sitka/fanboy brand options there that cost $250-$400), it is the best option. There is no debate to be had. Keeping an observant eye out walking around Kodiak City, we saw exponentially more Helly Hansen gear than any other brand on the market. The locals love it, I love it.

After 60+ nights of sleeping on it, my Peak A/C two-thirds length mat finally developed a slow leak. Not a bad enough leak to toss in the garbage, but slow enough that I had to wake up once or twice a night to put more air in it. Instead of dealing with that hassle, I took out my Klymit sleeping pad which is another two-thirds length model. Even though it is even thinner than the Peak A/C, I thought I slept just as well on it. Combined with my car windshield reflector, I was well enough insulated from the ground and I will carry the Klymit on my next hunt. For Dad, I bought a Big Agnes Insulated Double Z, definitely a deluxe sleeping pad and certainly in violation of the micro-light approach I typically employ. But boy, oh boy, that thing is comfortable! Dad slept great and that was a huge deal on an exhausting hunt like Kodiak.

I think I have said it a couple times already in other posts, but I’ll say it again here. It doesn’t matter how good a pillow, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, or any other sleeping aid you have while on Kodiak Island. If you don’t have a bear fence up and popping some hot voltage at night, you will not sleep well. We used Kodiak Kamps (link) to rent a fence and would do so again in a heartbeat.

I will not do a review on our Sea-to-Summit head nets or the 100% DEET bug dope we brought along. Thankfully, we never used either a single time, so I am proud to say I still no longer have an opinion on either of those 2 products. We had been warned of the horrors of early season bug swarms on the south end of Kodiak Island, but we were blessed to not experience that unpleasantness. A couple times when the breeze died down to a complete calm, a few biting gnats and mosquitoes would appear to harass us, but it was never any worse than an early season whitetail hunt back home.

We used a Delorme Inreach communication device to coordinate pick-up arrangements with our flight transporter, get the latest weather forecasts from the built-in NOAA weather app, and text back and forth with loved ones back in the Lower 48. It worked flawlessly every single time we turned it on (once or twice a day) and we still had over 50% battery life left when the pilot picked us up after 9 days in the interior. I have no bad things to say about the InReach system and it was a huge step-up from the SPOT communicator I have used in the past.

I will not do a full review on our shelter system. The Seek Outside Redcliff tipi/TiGoat titanium wood stove combo performed flawlessly in what could only be described as an intermittent 15-hour long F1 tornado. No joke. It was scary as &$%@! Other than the stovepipe getting turned into a pretzel on a particularly strong gust at 3 o’clock in the morning, the shelter and stove did everything I could have ever asked it to do and more. Even with specialized 12” stakes at each tie-down loop, we had a couple pop loose from the ground in the worst of the storm. Thankfully, the nearby lake contained a good number of 20-30 pound boulders that we fetched to weigh down the problem corners. Keeping a titanium wood stove going with wet wood is not the most efficient thing I have ever done, but with a little attentiveness and diligence to detail, it can be done and pay-off is huge. Dry gear, stove-top meals, and elevated morale. I am a huge fan of this system and I cannot wait until the next opportunity to spend a few nights in it. Now beware, this set-up is NOT inexpensive, but it is an A++ system with zero identifiable flaws. Visit this link for a fantastic review that I found helpful back when I was shopping for an expanded shelter system.

For an extended 2-man backcountry hunt, compact cribbage. ‘Nuff said.

As many backcountry wilderness hunts as I have done now, this was the first time that I “cheated” and took a fuel canister stove. In the past, I have always taken my ultralight DIY wood stove and found it sufficient to boil water for hot meals. At the recommendation of a local backpacking store, I picked up an Oilcamp Vector HD Stove for right at $30. With just 1, 16-ounce canister and 1, 8-ounce canister, we boiled 2-4 kettles of water daily for 9 days straight and still had a little bit of fuel leftover. In a wet, humid environment like Kodiak Island, I cannot imagine trying to make things work with my DIY wood stove. A fuel-based stove is the only option. I will still use my IKEA wood stove on future hunts, but it is nice to know I have a reliable back-up for more inhospitable environments.

I love my new Husqvarna hatchet. It was razor sharp out of the box and I primed the handle with 3 rubdowns of linseed oil before our trip to Alaska. It was invaluable for splitting alder in the tipi and the blunt hammer side was useful for pounding stakes into a few of the more stony areas around camp. It feels and looks sort of like an heirloom piece that will last generations and can be passed down through time. There are much cheaper options out there but I am glad to own this piece.

The last item I will highlight is my DIY Tyvek butchering/rain fly sheet. This was a great addition to the pack that sheltered us a couple times from hour-long downpours on top of the mountain, transformed into a protective sheet to keep flies off freshly quartered venison, and ultimately wound up as the flooring for our meat tent. The whole thing cost less than $20 but I did throw it away when we got back to Kodiak City. The Tyvek was already starting to break down a little. As a disposable, it was a great solution to a few potential challenges. I am not sure it is a long-term option though and I’ll be exploring some more expensive options that might last through years instead of just weeks of harsh abuse.

Infolinks 2013