Tracks in the mud

When it rains, and it has rained a lot, here in the red clay capital of the world, Georgia, the clay makes a wonderful medium for tracks. We didn’t hunt today. We scouted for tomorrow’s hunt.

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Driving a Polaris Ranger along firebreaks we stopped to check for tracks. There is little doubt these woods are filled with animals. Deer, raccoon, coyote, pigs and turkey seemed to have been moving along an “Animal Expressway” during the previous night.

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We’ve found a pig stronghold or two and will be picking them tomorrow. Deer season, for archery, is over soon. Pigs, on the other hand, aside from being tasty are a year round game.

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Tomorrow’s weather is forecasted to be sunny, 53°, with a zero chance of rain. Looking good.

Deer Number 5 for Ray

Brenda wanted to meet our daughter, Heather, in Lexington, GA. Lexington, incorporated in 1806, has a population of 228. There are a number of antique shops along Main Street and the town has two restaurants. We driven through Lexington dozens of times and never stopped. On Saturday morning, we drove over from Tignall to visit the little town. We’d go hunting in the afternoon.

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Main St, Lexington, GA

 

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Court House

Lexington, a total area of 0.5 square miles, did not take long to explore. We’d finished our tour by 11:00 am, about 30 minutes after we arrived. The excursion might have lasted longer but several of the little shops were closed.

Eleven in the morning was time to start thinking about the two restaurants in town. We’d eaten breakfast around 6:00 and we were starting to get hungry. We chose Paul’s Barbeque and walked over for lunch.

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Paul’s Bar-B-Q

Our party, Brenda, Heather, Ray and I, were the first of the day’s customers. Paul’s serves a North Carolina vinegar base sauce, odd for Georgia. We ordered and enjoyed our meals as the dining room was beginning to fill.

Our party, Brenda, Heather, Ray and I, were the first of the day’s customers. Paul’s serves a North Carolina vinegar base sauce, odd for Georgia. We ordered and enjoyed our meals as the dining room was beginning to fill.

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I mentioned to an employee, a middle aged man, that I’d noticed Paul’s while driving through Lexington for many years. I wondered how long Paul’s had been in operation.

The fellow said the Paul’s had been around for a while, but it was never going to make it and was doomed to fail from the day the doors opened.

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“So, how long has it been in business, “ I asked

“Eighty-five years, but it’s not going to make it, “ he replied. I suppose in some books a barbeque hut hasn’t made it until the century marked is reached.

After lunch we returned to Tignall gathered our gear and headed to the woods. The temperature was in the low 60’s with clear sky for a change. The gear included a Polaris Ranger – high style.

I dropped Ray off at his blind by 3:00 PM and was in my stand by 3:15 PM. At 4:05 PM I heard a shot. It sounded like Ray had fired and he’d probably have another deer. It would be dark at 5:38 PM, so I climbed down the stand at 5:15 PM, loaded my gear onto the Polaris and drove it to pick up Ray. I should have left at 4:05 PM when I heard his shot.

Reaching Ray at around 5:30 PM, I learned he had shot a 6-point buck. Great, but I didn’t see it anywhere. Ray had a solid shot on the deer, he said. But, it ran about 150 to 200 yards before dropping. “It took me a hour of hiking around to find it,” he said. He pointed out, “There was initially a lot of blood then it just stopped.”

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The under brush was thick, but Ray had found the deer. He tied orange tape to trees to lead us to the deer. The tape worked, guiding us right to the deer – down a steep slope and laying in an even steeper gulley. The gulley washed in rainwater from the past several days. Perfect.

The buck looked to weight about 150 pounds. I weight about 150 pounds. Ray is 86 and there is no way he’s climbing down the ravine and into the gulley. There wasn’t an easy solution – I was clambered down and hauled the deer up and out. Much easier said than done. Clearly, I’d had been spoiled by the past three easy to retrieve deer.

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You can see where the pigs have been rooting

 

Ray had gotten this deer – I’d been in an areas were hogs have been rooting. None come out before I had to leave. We’ll head back out to hunt again on Tuesday. In the meantime, this buck is being processed and we’ll enjoy it in the near future.

An archer’s day

Today I was able to concentrate on archery. The morning was devoted to target practice, in the afternoon it was hunting.

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Target at 20 yards

In order to practice outside I needed to set up a range. Using a tape measure I marked distances from 20 to 50 yards in 5-yard increments. The Block that I tacked a paper target was positioned onto a plastic chair. The chair was then wedged in the ground before a dirt mound backstop – just in case.

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Old fire wood marks the yardage
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Target at 50 yards

River, my dog, enjoys watching me shoot. On this day her attitude was exclusively play therefore she had to sit in the truck. She whined the entire time. After an hour of shooting and listening to River complain we headed home for lunch.

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River – not happy

Following a feast of Christmas leftovers Ray, my father-in-law, and I headed to the woods. We loaded the Polaris Ranger and hauled it away for the hunt. We’d stay out until dusk, the time our trail cams suggested we’d have luck. We’d each pre-selected an area to hunt. It had been raining and the ground, much of it is red clay, was filled with tracks. We could see recent passing of deer, pigs, coyote, raccoons and turkey. We were optimistic.

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Dropping Ray off at his site I drove the Ranger to the area I’d chosen. It was clear a lot of deer had recently been here.

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Sure beats four walls

It was too dark to shoot at 5:30PM. I’d neither seen or heard anything. The woods were quiet. The woods were also spectacular, cool, calming, and peaceful. Even though neither Ray nor I had seen anything we both enjoyed the afternoon.

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Riding in style

Being able to shoot and hunt is a great pleasure. Practice makes for better hunting when a shot is presented. Even when there isn’t a shot – an afternoon in the woods beats an afternoon at the office.

In Georgia to: hunt, run, bike, kayak, and shoot 3D

Brenda and I made it to Tignall, GA. With us we brought two mountain bikes – we both ride and the land we hunt, 679 acres, has great trails for bikes. I brought two bows, my Mathews Apex 7 and Mathews ZXT, one for a tournament and one for hunting. Our two dogs, River and Nixie, of course made the trip.

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“Are we there, yet?”

Upon arrival, I unpacked, while Brenda helped her dad, Ray, prepare an early dinner. It was too late to shoot, and dark, so after dinner River and I headed out for a run.

Here the terrain is rolling hills. We’d not gone 100 yards when River tore out after deer. The deer are everywhere, here. But, my hunt objective is wild pigs. The pigs that run wild here are abundant. What I am hoping to get is a couple of small gilts, which I think are best for eating.

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Trail cam from October

The after dinner run felt great after being stuck in the truck for eight hours. A bonus was that it was not cold. A friend, Chris back in Maryland, who is an archer and runner had posted that the temperature was 28° F. It was 52°F when I ran this evening.

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We’re here for the next few weeks. I am looking forward to hunting, running, cycling and kayaking. The trip will be topped off spending Christmas with our oldest daughter and her family in Winder. Then off to Social Circle, Georgia for the Buckeye 3D tournament.

Thanksgiving with the Lain’s

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Two of my three grandchildren enjoying Disney songs.

Thanksgiving in American is a major holiday. For my non-American friends as well as those in the US who might be interested here is a bit about Thanksgiving.

Most people associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims. When I asked my friends and family many thought that Native Americans invited the Pilgrims (those British separatist settlers) to a feast. In fact, the Pilgrims had invited Native Americans to attend a feast, religious in nature, as a celebration of thankfulness for a good harvest. This occurred in 1621at the Plymouth Colony in what today is Massachusetts.

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Good food follows days of preparation (At out home in Easton, MD)

The earliest recorded thanksgiving services in a territory currently belonging to the United States were conducted by Spaniards in the 16th century and were routine in what became the Commonwealth of Virginia as early as 1607.

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Hiking with my youngest daughter, Candace, her husband, Jason, and their two children, Cordelia and Merric

The first US President to proclaim Thanksgiving Day was George Washington. He set the date for October 3, 1789 to celebrate. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863. We Americans continue to celebrate this day every November.

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Scene at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, near Seward, Maryland

Part of this festivity involves a large meal with family and friends. Some of us enjoy sports on television like football, which follow the televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in NYC. Others run in Turkey Trot races, typically a 5K or 10K. We also volunteer at food centers to help the less fortunate enjoy a nice meal. And many of us go hunting.

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US Capitol building in Washington, DC

It is an important holiday in America. We spent this one with our youngest daughter, Candace, her husband, Jason, and their two children, Cordelia and Merric. The holiday was a mini-vacation with a number of adventures hiking in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and visiting Washington, DC.

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Cordelia and Merric were not pleased to see litter. Their mom placed it in the trash.

If you are reading this and you are not an American, you may have a similar holiday your country. If you do then you understand a day of thankful celebration. If not, I hope this very brief explanation helps.

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Enjoying the Smithsonian

Reference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving

Leaving Georgia for now

Hunting is done for a few weeks. We’re going to miss the warm days and Georgia Whitetail. The woods were spectacular and filled with turkey. There wasn’t a day when we didn’t see them. In December we’ll be here for pigs. Once the end of March arrives those turkey we’ve been watching will be on the docket.

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Not a bad haul for a short trip

Agkistrodon piscivorus, the cottonmouth

Areas of North Carolina remain wild. Here bears, the eastern cougar, whitetail deer, coyote, bobcat, river otters, and other mammals can be seen almost daily.

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Reptiles are abundant. One of our major concerns is the cottonmouth or Agkistrodon piscivorus. We see them frequently while kayaking and give them a wide berth.

The other day, my neighbor, Jimmy, who works outside was driving though a swampy area with a friend of his. In a spot they’d recently cleared, they noticed something large and moving. It was a cottonmouth eating a dove.

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These snakes are venomous and aggressive. In my yard when I see one I don’t risk a shot with a bow. It is faster and I feel more certain handling them with a shotgun.

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This cottonmouth messed with the wrong hoe

It’s nice living in this part of North Carolina. Much of it remains wild. In minutes we can be out of sight of everything resembling civilization. Once there, we are careful where we step.

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Beautiful here, but it can be primitive

Chiggers and Ticks – Nasty Pests

It is still warm here in the South, it is hunting season, and we’re in the woods. Some of us have been in the woods all summer. Spring, summer and fall are particularly bad since that is when chiggers and ticks have the seasonal opportunity to fest on humans. These little pests are nasty.

Chiggers are the juvenile form (larvae) of a certain type of mite of the family Trombiculidae. Mites are arachnids (like spiders and ticks).

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Chiggers are found throughout the world. They most commonly live in forests, grassy fields, gardens, parks, and in moist areas around lakes or rivers. Most of the larvae that cause chigger bites are found on plants that are relatively close to the ground surface, because they require a high level of humidity for survival.

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Chiggers are barely visible to the naked eye (their length is less than 1/150th of an inch). They are red in color and may be best seen when clustered in groups on the skin. The juvenile forms have six legs, although the (harmless) adult mites have eight legs.

Chigger mites infest human skin via areas of contact with vegetation, such as pant cuffs or shirtsleeves and collars. They migrate on the skin in search of an optimal feeding area. A common myth about chiggers is that they burrow into and remain inside the skin. This is not true. Chiggers insert their feeding structures into the skin and inject enzymes  that cause destruction of host tissue. Hardening of the surrounding skin results in the formation of a feeding tube called a stylostome. Chigger larvae then feed upon the destroyed tissue. If they are not disturbed (which is rarely the case because of they cause substantial itching) they may feed through the stylostome for a few days.

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The chigger’s mouth and feeding structures are delicate and are best able to penetrate the skin at areas of wrinkles, folds, or other areas of skin that are thin. Most bites occur around the ankles, the crotch and groin areas, behind the knees, and in the armpits. Barriers to migration on the skin such as belts may be one reason that chigger bites also commonly occur at the waist or at other areas where their migration is prevented by compression from clothing. The location of chigger bites contrasts with that of mosquito bites, which are usually in exposed areas of skin where mosquitos can land.

A chigger bite itself is not noticeable. After the chigger has begun to inject digestive enzymes into the skin (usually after about 1-3 hours), symptoms typically begin.

The itching persists for several days, and complete resolution of the skin lesions can take up to two weeks.(1)

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Ticks are no less irritating. Ticks are bloodsucking, parasitic insects that punctures the skin with a sharp beak. Then it burrows into the skin with its head. Tick bites can carry serious illness, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, other forms of tick typhus, and  Lyme disease.Unknown-2

Ticks are small arachnids. Ticks require blood meals to complete their complex life cycles. Ticks are scientifically classified as Arachnida (a classification that includes spiders). The fossil record suggests ticks have been around at least 90 million years. There are over 800 species of ticks throughout the world, but only two families of ticks, Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks), are known to transmit diseases or illness to humans. Hard ticks have a scutum, or hard plate, on their back while soft ticks do not.

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Ticks do not jump or fly. They simply reach out with their legs and grab or crawl onto a host. Although some larvae have preferred hosts, most ticks in the nymph or adult phase will attach a get a blood meal from several different kinds of animals, including humans.

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Except for a few species of larval ticks, the immature phases (larvae, nymphs) usually are even less selective about where they get a blood meal and are known to bite snakes, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Although ticks will die eventually if they do not get a blood meal, many species can survive a year or more without a blood meal. The hard ticks tend to attach and feed for hours to days. Disease transmission usually occurs near the end of a meal, as the tick becomes full of blood. It may take hours before a hard tick transmits pathogens. Soft ticks usually feed for less than one hour. Disease transmission can occur in less than a minute with soft ticks. The bite of some of these soft ticks produces intensely painful reactions.

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Ticks are transmitters (vectors) of diseases for humans and animals. Ticks can transmit disease to many hosts; some cause economic harm such as Texas fever (bovine babesiosis) in cattle that can kill up to 90% of yearling cows. Ticks act as vectors when microbes in their saliva and mouth secretions get into the host’s skin and blood. Ticks were understood to be vectors of disease in the mid-1800s, and as investigative methods improved (microscopes, culture techniques, tissue staining), more information showed the wide variety of diseases that could be transmitted by ticks. (2)

There are a number of products available to help reduce the occurrence of bites from these pests. Save yourself a bit some itching and scratching and spray it on before going into the areas where these parasites live.

Reference:

1)   http://www.medicinenet.com/chiggers_bites/page2.htm

2)   http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11331

TAB Archery “On the War Path” 3D Tournament

One of the advantages to travel is finding different archery competitions in which to compete.  Regardless of where I am, before the weekend has arrived, I have scanned the Internet for local tournaments.  Recently, while in Georgia, I found a nearby 3D shoot in Gray Court, South Carolina.

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 The TAB Archery Club had posted information describing their “On the War Path” tournament.  MapQuest indicated the location was 61 miles from where I was staying.  I found a contact for the club, Frank, and called him to verify the information, which he confirmed.  I was set for a shoot.

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TAB Archery Club House

 At all the 3D shoots where I compete I arrive alone and hope to team up with  2 or 3 local shooters.  After signing in and paying the registration fee I headed to the warm field keeping my eyes open for other strays like myself. 

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The course was a challenge

 On the warm-up range I spied two guys talking that looked as if they could use a third shooter.  Creeping around the guys, listening for a break in their conversation, I butted in and asked if I could shoot with them.  They gave me a wary scowl and rejected me claiming their buddy was on the way.  While I wasn’t actually creeping around, their opinion may have been different or they probably just wanted to shoot with their buddy.

 My second attempt also failed.  That time I attempted to appear open and friendly when I approached 3 shooters and asked if they could use a fourth.  Rejected for a second time.

 My third attempt panned out.  I noticed 2 shooters that were looking for the course entrance.  They’d actually gone way off course and were a little confused.  These where my guys.  They gladly accepted me when I told them I knew where the first stake was located.

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Paul shooting for a 12

Paul and Jesse were my kind of shooters. Light and fast we moved quickly over the range playing around slower groups when necessary.  Paul and Jesse aren’t full-time 3D shooters.  Both are more interested in hunting and practice 3D to keep their skills honed during the off-season. They are both excellent archers.

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Jesse taking aim

The TAB course was another gem.  Extremely hilly and for the Bowhunter Class 40 yards was a common distance over the 25 targets. One hundred and thirty-one archers competed over the two-day tournament. 

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Mathews and Saluda River Archery teams

 The hills were a new experience for me and I appreciated the challenge.  Overall, I was pleased to have existed the course with the same arrows I brought with me.  Jesse and Paul, as in most instances where I barge in, were polite and respectful. The TAB course was one of the finest and most difficult I’ve seen.  Thanks to TAB and to Paul and Jesse for letting me tag along.

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BowTech and PSE both well represented