Monday, December 31, 2012

Rambling Toward 2013

I figured that I would jump on the year-end post bandwagon and reflect back on my first six months as a blogger. I started this blog on June 28 with a post titled Here Goes Nothing!, and in that post I outlined my reasons for starting NC Outdoor Ramblings. Six months and 32 posts later, I'm still here rambling about my outdoor adventures. As I sit here on the last day of 2012, I'm humbled that people actually take the time to read my Internet ramblings. According to Google Analytics, this blog has had 452 unique visitors since I started it six months ago. I feel like I've made some connections in the outdoor blogging community, and have found some wonderful blogs that I enjoy reading by writers who are much more talented than I am, both through comments left on this blog and through the Outdoor Blogger Network.

For my year-end post, I thought I would write up a year-in-review of some of my favorite posts from this past year, starting with this past summer when I started the blog.
Broad River Bream
My first post of any substance when I began the blog was Warm Water Fly Fishing, a post about my new found love of warm water fly fishing, and why I enjoyed it.
Davidson River Brown
There were lots of posts about fly fishing for trout, including Summer's Last Cast.
From the garden
There were also a few about our vegetable garden and orchard, such as A Tasty Legacy.
Blue/Purple/White Triple Threat Streamer
There was a post or two on fly tying, including one about my favorite smallmouth fly the Triple Threat.
Some of my writings weren't about hunting, fishing, or gardening, but nature in general, including my Backyard Ramblings.
2012 8pt Buck
Then as hunting season went into full swing, I found out that Patience Pays Off.
NW PA Snow
Last week, my wife and I were in Pennsylvania to visit her family and celebrate Christmas. Mother Nature helped out with a white Christmas and about 12" of snow! I had thought about trying to do a little trout fishing while we were there, as Oil Creek is close by and quickly becoming one of my favorite places to fish outside of NC. However, the below freezing temperatures changed my mind. As I move into 2013 as a blogger, I plan to continue to write about my outdoor experiences. I already have some posts written, and some of those will see the light next year. Deer season is over, and fishing will probably be slow for a few more months, but there are flies to tie, and small game seasons are still open through the end of February. Hopefully there will be some squirrel and rabbit hunting in the near future for me.

As we end this year and begin a new one, I hope that everyone has a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings this past year!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Hunting For Answers

Saturday morning in some ways was like any other Saturday during deer season. I was up before the sun, and out the door early to get in the woods. I decided to hunt one of my favorite places, and I'm pretty sure I made this decision without consciously thinking about it. It's a treestand that two friends and I built on my grandparents' farm, back in the woods on a ridge overlooking a small creek and pond that my uncle built years ago. I haven't seen any deer from this stand this year, although I will say that I haven't hunted it much. However on this day, it wasn't really the deer I was hunting for, it was the peace that comes from being in the woods.
A Foggy Morning in the Stand

The news about the horrible tragedy in Newtown, CT was fresh in my mind that morning as I sat in the stand. As a teacher, I can only imagine what the students and staff must have went through, and although I'm not a parent yet myself, I can't begin to imagine how the parents of those children were affected. I went to the woods that morning in order to be alone with my thoughts, and just let nature provide some solace.

Fresh Rub on a Pine
Walking in that morning,  I flushed a flock of roosted turkeys along the path, and had to stop a minute and calm down after the initial shock. Once I made it to the stand, I spent the morning watching the squirrels running around and chasing each other, and discovered a freshly rubbed tree not far from the stand. I didn't see any deer, but that was ok. There is something about this place, whether it's the connections to my family or the memories of my childhood roaming these woods, that always seems to lift me up. I decided before I left that morning that deer or no deer I would be back there that afternoon.

Southern Flying Squirrel

Saturday afternoon, I was back in the stand, and made a discovery that added some excitement to the day. For several weeks, I had been hearing something scratching around in the roof of the stand, but I just assumed it was birds on the roof, or a little mouse in between the roof and tar paper ceiling. When I climbed into the stand, I heard something scratching around, so I tapped on the roof, and a flying squirrel sailed out and landed on the tree beside the stand. This was the first time in probably 15 years that I had seen one of these neat little creatures, the last time being not far from where I was Saturday. After it landed, the squirrel stayed stock still, doing its best tree bark impersonation. When I left at dark, it was still there. Once again, there were no deer, but I did something Saturday that I don't do nearly often enough. I just sat still, and took in everything around me.

Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." That's what I did on Saturday. I was still.

For everyone who was affected by the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. 

- Joseph

Monday, December 3, 2012

Patience Pays Off

First of all, I'm still here. I haven't forgotten that I (attempt) to write a blog, but the firearms deer season opened the Monday before Thanksgiving for us here in western NC, and I've spent all my spare time in a stand or ground blind the last two weeks. It's been a strange start to the season here, with some people saying they have been seeing lots of rut activity with bucks chasing does, and other people seeing little to no rut activity. I'm sure the strange temperature swings we have been having haven't helped. As I sit here writing this on December 3, it's 71 degrees outside and I'm in short sleeves. Several days ago we were having lows in the 20's, and highs in the 50's, which is closer to typical for this time of year. I'm sure the deer must be just as confused as I am right now!

Opening day of gun season had me chomping at the bit all day at work. As soon as the school day was over, I headed for the house to get ready and headed for a ground blind I had set up on a friend's farm about 5 minutes away from home. My brother-in-law Trent and I had been seeing a fair number of deer in this field during bow and muzzle loader seasons, and had several does and young bucks on our trail cameras. I was hunting the lower end of a fairly large field, not far from the tree stand where Trent had harvested his first deer last year, an 8 point buck, during bow season.

At this point, I should probably admit that I had only harvested one buck in my deer hunting career, a 3 point buck that was my first deer. I didn't start deer hunting until I was in high school, and it wasn't until I was a senior in college that I got my first deer. I think a lot of this was due to a lack of areas to hunt back then, or seeing does during buck only seasons. For whatever reason, it took me a while to finally get that first deer, but that deer ignited a passion for deer hunting. In the years since, I had passed on several young bucks, with the idea that I would take does for meat and let the little bucks grow. Here in North Carolina we are fortunate to have the opportunity to take 6 deer a year, (something that I have never done), but only two of those deer can be antlered bucks in my area of the state. I think this was another reason I passed a lot of small bucks, thinking I would "save" my tags for that big one that I was sure would come by the next minute, or hour, or day. Over the years, I have usually been lucky enough to take a deer or two each season, but that nice buck always eluded me.

My First Deer - Thanksgiving 2005

Going back to opening afternoon, I got in the ground blind around 4:00pm, and for the next hour or so I heard a few shots in the distance, but didn't see any deer. As it approached time for the sun to start going down, I noticed a deer had just stepped out of the woods into the edge of the field, about 50 yards from my blind. It had it's head down feeding, and I couldn't tell if it was a doe or buck because of the the way the field dropped off at the edge. About that time, the deer picked it's head up and I could tell it was a nice buck! I didn't give myself too much time to think about it, knowing that buck fever was sure to set in at any second. After the shot I couldn't see the deer, but I felt confident that I had made a clean shot. I got out of the blind as fast as possible and went to check. After about two steps, I could see my buck laying just over the little hill on the edge of the field. It was an 8 point buck with a symmetrical rack that was 16" wide.

My 8 point from this year

It's strange reflecting on this hunt, because this is by far my biggest deer to date, and probably the biggest buck I've seen while hunting. I know it's not a record book deer or one like you might see on a hunting show, but for me it is a definite trophy and the memories of this hunt will stick with me for a long time. Best of all, not only do I have the memories, but I have some wonderful, nutritious meat in the freezer, and a good supply of venison jerky, one of my absolute favorite foods.

After opening day and working Tuesday, I spent the rest of Thanksgiving break hunting, enjoying time with family, and freezing venison and making jerky. I can't think of a better way to spend a week than this. I've seen a few more deer since opening day, but so far this is the only tag I've filled this year. This week and next week are still buck-only, and our last week is either sex season again. I'm going to be out there as much as possible, just enjoying God's creation. The deer are a bonus, no matter how big their antlers are.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph