The Flying Kayak

Hunting, Fishing, Rambling, and Complete Outdoor Hilarity

Category: Wildlife Biology (page 1 of 9)

You Underestimate The Sneakiness

First of all, my apologies for being relatively absent the past month. I’ve started field work again this year and that means no internet access. So the only real time I have to post is on the rare occasion that I enter some sort of town.

Sadly, as far as hunting and fishing goes, my field work so far has been lacking. We’ve only encountered a handful of pigs and I’ve been fishing for Crappie once in the past month. Turkey season is, however, right around the corner and hopefully it won’t be long before I actually have something worthwhile to right about.

But just because I haven’t been actively hunting it doesn’t mean I haven’t been brushing up on my hunting skills. Last year during darting season I managed to spot and stalk a doe out of a group and successfully dart her. The whole process consisted of an incredible amount of luck and the right circumstances. For the most part, I counted the whole thing as fluke. But a few nights back, I decided “Why not try it again”

While sitting in the stand one evening, the does that had been regularly showing up…didn’t. And rather than sit around in the dark all night and not see anything, I opted to climb out of the stand and see if I could find any deer on foot.

About 1/4 mile from the stand is a giant field that pretty regularly has deer in it. I headed that way and sure enough, spotted out a group of 7 does in the FLIR. The question then arose: “How do I cross 300 yards of open field without them hearing or seeing me?” I should mention that it WAS night, but my silhouette could be easily seen by a deer paying any sort of attention. So instead of heading straight across the field at the group, I decided to use the terrain to my advantage. Across the middle of the field runs a road and it happens to be raised approximately 3 feet higher than the surrounding fields.

After scanning the field with the FLIR, I noticed that all of the deer were on one side of the raised road. So with a quick check in wind direction, I decided to move around and position myself on the back side of the raised road and keep it between myself and the deer. For the next 45 minutes, I crouch walked nearly 300 yards until I was within 50 yards of the group.

What amazes me is how in 35 degree weather, I can literally be dripping sweat while stalking. Crouch walking and carrying a dart gun and nightvision is actually exhausting. So every time I tossed up the nightvision scope, my hands would shake from being so tired. I had now managed to close the distance, but I needed to get closer. Our dart guns are sighted in for 15 yards, and a 20 yard shot is beginning to push it. Through some tall grass, I could see the group of does milling around on the other side of the raised road. Some had actually began to bed down. There was, however, a serious problem beginning to arise: Two does were flanking around to my right and were getting dangerously close to moving directly down wind of me.

One of the issues with trying to be sneaky in complete darkness is that it’s almost impossible to see what you’re stepping on. Noisy, dried sticks and leaves remain unseen and only make their presence known once they’ve been stepped on. And unfortunately for me, I had walked into a thick area of the noisiest sticks on the county. Unable to move, I watched as the does walked back and forth at about 50 yards. And to my dismay, I watched as the two does on my right got closer and closer to being dead down wind of me. Knowing that I only had a few moments before I got busted, I cranked up the pressure on the dart gun, tossed up the nightvision scope, picked out the closest doe, and “winged it”.

It seemed like the dart was in the air for close to an hour and I saw the blinking little dart track from over the top of the shoulder and drop close to two feet. But the next thing I heard was a loud “THWACK” and watched as the doe ran off with a dart in her side. Through the FLIR, I saw the doe stop at 100 yards and look back over her shoulder…then topple over.

The next day we ranged my shot at 42 yards. I got incredibly lucky, but I think at least a little bit of it had to do with being sneaky and taking advantage of my surroundings. My friends seemed shocked that I’d managed to sneak up on 7 does, and I imagine it’s just because they underestimate the sneakiness.

I’m going to work hard to keep up with my writing better. I’ve got some plans in the making for buying a trailer for the kayak in the near future and that will mean A LOT more kayak fishing. Stay tuned!

A Look Back at 2012

So it’s a new year. And since I (sort of) keep up with my writing, I suppose I’m required to make some sort of post that reflects on the last year. Right?

Everyone’s doing it, after all.

2012 was bizarre to say the least. With the exception of graduating college, there was practically -nothing- that happened to me over the course of the year that I actually saw coming. So here’s a list of things I absolutely was not expecting in 2012 (Picture heavy):

My first pig.

Wishing I’d played football so I could tackle deer better.

Becoming a giant fan of craft beer.
Killing multiple deer with darts, yet failing to kill one with actual rifles/bows
Playing with awesome technology (including FLIR)

Sightfishing for Bonito

Having multiple writing opportunites open up
Being single for the first time in seven years
Nearly stepping on a giant rattler

Catching my biggest bass

Then doing it again

Getting a Facebook, Twitter, AND Smartphone (I’ve almost caught up with everyone else my age)
Discovering Tannerite

Making life-long friends in the middle of no-where
Realizing that fawns get eaten like hot-cakes

Killing my first coyote
Killing my first boar with a pistol

Going Crappie fishing for the first time

Getting VERY little kayak fishing done
Becoming an uncle

Fishing out of a Gheenoe

Catching my first Snook on the fly

Discovering Mullet isn’t good when grilled

Practically becoming a radio telemetry master
Realizing how important family and true friends are
Having the Jeep attempt to kill me on multiple occasions
Realizing the Jeep will float (for a second)
Discovering that bow hunting for pigs from the ground is easier said than done

Going on my first muzzle loader hunt

Getting momentarily burned out on hunting for the first time
Actually -wanting- to be around people/civilization
Confirming the fact that I absolutely -cannot- work in an office cubicle with no windows
Learning what “Business Casual” means
Becoming a firm believer in the ThermaCell

Getting paid to write
Getting a new girlfriend
Killing my biggest boar

Learning to play one of the greatest games ever invented:  “Stump Game” (I’d suggest googling it)
Learning that deer can actually growl
And finally,
Deciding to go back to school

Though this isn’t an exhaustive list, I feel like I’ve hit the big moments. I purposefully -don’t- write about everything that happens to me in the outdoors. It’s important to me to do this as I often find myself becoming disengaged as I try to take pictures, or failing to really appreciate the experience by rushing to write down the events. Certain things make it on the blog, while others are saved to be told first hand around a campfire, on long drives, or when the bite is slow. The love of simply telling a story often outweighs the love of writing about it.

2012 was a pretty wild ride and brought an absurd amount of unexpected events. If I could change just one thing, it’d be to get more kayak fishing done. I really barely got out in the bright yellow yak. So even though I’m never one to make a new years resolution, I guess if I -had- to, it would be to fish out of the kayak more in 2013. Sounds reasonable…no?

I will be back out in the woods again this spring to tackle unsuspecting deer. I’ve also got one more whitetail hunt planned before the season ends for good. I know that things won’t go at all like I expect them to in 2013, but I look forward to the unexpected. After all, the unexpected is what makes for good stories.

Stay tuned!

Bambi Never Wore a Collar

“FAWN!”, I yelled as it became clear that the gangly little creature behind the Doe in the road was, in fact, its offspring. And it was un-collared. My job is relatively simple…Put radio collars on fawns, and track them. Like so…

My head jerked back is the Hemi roared up to speed, but I kept my eyes focused on the fawn. It and its mother tore off into the bushes as the truck approached where we had spotted them. The fawn was still in that awkward stage where it can’t run really well. Maybe a week old. I had it in my sights. Radio collar in hand, I opened the passenger door to the truck and bailed out…

While we were still moving.

I realized my mistake only after my feet hit the ground. To “hit the ground running” is much easier said than done. And generally isn’t a phrase that’s supposed to be taken literally. The truck was luckily moving slow enough that I managed to keep my balance and only stumble into the roadside ditch.

My feet soon caught up with my body and with my balance regained I charged full speed toward the brush, watching as a tiny white tail disappeared at shin level. From the truck, the brush looked no more than knee high. It wasn’t until I leaped full speed into the thicket that I realized the brush was closer to chest height.

Now considerably slower, I high stepped my way through the brush, tight on the heels of my spotted little target. I was getting closer. Only a stride or two behind the little guy when it suddenly changed directions and made a 90 degree turn. I did my best to follow, but running full speed through high brush doesn’t really allow for quick turns. And almost as if on queue, I began to lose my balance.

There’s a bizarre slowing of time that happens when one is about to fall. Not the kind of falls where you just end up flat on your backside, but rather the falls that you think you can recover from. Slipping on that slimy rock in the river. The slick boat launch at dawn. Tripping over that cypress knee, or even tilting just a -little- too far back in your chair. This was one of those instances. I struggled to catch myself for a good 10 yards (I got this, I got this, I got-) before finally, (I don’t got this) I fell. Hard

Quail plantations are relatively unique in that almost everything that grows can cut, prick, or outright stab you. So when I finally hit the ground, I wasn’t welcomed by a cushion of soft grass, but rather a healthy mixture of briars, Devil’s Walkingstick, and blackberry bushes.

I should get up and keep chasing that deer, is what ran through my mind. Nature, however, had other ideas as I realized I was practically pinned with thorns. I rolled over onto my back and attempted to get up only to discover I’d managed to wrap myself up tighter in the briars. My adrenaline faded fast as I lay on my back and stared through the body shaped hole in the brush to the blue sky beyond. I became suddenly aware of how scratched up I was.

“Did you get it!? Alex? I’ve got the scale!…Where are you?!”, my boss’ voice drifted up from the direction of the truck.

“Ow”, I answered back. My voice slightly muffled. Something was across my face, pinning my lip back. Ah, another briar…lovely.

It took me a couple of minutes to break free from my vegetative hell. I made my way back toward the truck, bits and pieces of thorns and briars trailing behind me.

I can’t believe I got juked by a deer barely old enough to walk.

“I take it you didn’t catch it…”

“Psh…You think?” I chuckled back as I walked toward the truck through the brush. “I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in..”

I was cut short as I heard something moving not ten feet away. I caught a glimpse of the spotted little fawn as it got up from its hiding place. It had been staying still and quiet right next to where I’d fallen. I watched as it made an awkward break for some even thicker cover, and disappeared completely.

You win…

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