Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

My sister and I (and our children) are, like 2-2-1/2 million living Americans, Mayflower descendants. That is, we have ?X great-grandparents who came to this country on the Mayflower. Some of our other ancestors came on the next few ships to arrive in the Plymouth colony. In other words our ancestors were religious and political refugees who risked their lives, lived in great discomfort, labored for years, separated themselves from the remainder of their families on the hope that they and their grandchildren could live with a greater degree of liberty and security than they had in the "old world". They succeeded and despite the normal life struggles our families have long enjoyed greater prosperity and liberty than they would have had or could have had just about any place else in the world. For their foresight, hope and fortitude we are extremely grateful.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yes, it is deer season...

John A______ took me out to the Bowman Spring Farm and we sat on stand for about 3 hours in the freezing rain (literally, freezing rain) and saw no deer.  Took the .250-3000 again.  Was pretty warm but I picked the wrong book socks and my feet were cold.  Used the hot hands to warm myself after about 2½ hours. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rifle, U.S. M1, .30 Caliber blast deflector...

Received my copy of the Rock Island Auction catalog and seemed to be immediately drawn to lot 1535.  This is an M1 Rifle (Garand) with a unique blast deflector reportedly locally fabricated and used only in Alaska.  This is a gas-trap rifle.  A photo of the blast deflector is shown below.  Bruce Canfield's new book doesn't seem to mention it but it is possible I've overlooked that somehow.  Very interesting to me.  It would seem that it would have to be removed for operator cleaning.  The catalog copy says that only 3 are known to exist.  I've never seen or heard of one before.  Accordingly, this rifle's estimate is between $30,000 and $50,000! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Deer hunting 2013...

The sole sign of life other than song birds and woodpeckers.

The first place I went during the muzzleloading season, mostly for nostalgiac reasons, was north of Leading Ridge Road above Todd Lake in the Dry River District of the George Washington National Forest. Dad first took me here not long after it had been clear cut when there was plenty of browse. We always saw deer even if shooting them was impossible. At the time there was only one "doe day" and you were allowed only one deer per season. Now, 40+ years later, it is once again mostly maturing hardwood or pine with little browse. This year there isn't much hard mast (acorns) either. As a result, there aren't many, if any, deer in the area. I didn't see any and I didn't see any fresh scat, tracks or any other sign that there were deer in the area.

The regular gun season is here. I took my Savage 99A .250-3000 (.250 Savage). Easy to carry and accurate, fairly flat shooting and just plain fun.

So the second day (my first day of I moved down Leading Ridge Road a bit. I hadn't planned to park where I did but there were a lot more hunters out (and many more than there have been in the last 5 years or so) so I moved down to the head of an old logging road and parked there. A slow hunt down along this road a mile or so and back through a couple of open former feed plots found no deer sign here either. All that I found along the road was coyote (?) scat just as I had found elsewhere.

Driving slowly out of the area I noticed that there were at least triple the number of camps in the area. But, that still isn't a lot of camps. Last year I counted 4 and this year there were about 12-14. In the many hours I was in the forest I never heard any gunfire. No shots means that no bucks were being seen by hunters. Yes, it is bucks only on the national forest lands, and I think this is probably a good thing. There need to be does to maintain a population. Unfortunately, there also needs to be some food. I'm just not seeing a lot of dining opportunities for the deer.

Looking down into and up the gorge from Wild Oak Trail.
Yesterday, I was back out and this time I was determined to head into the North River Gorge and see if there were any deer along the river. I parked above Camp May Flather and dropped down onto the Wild Oak Trail. At this point the trail runs about 200 feet above and along the river on the old logging railroad bed. It crosses the river on a suspension foot bridge and crosses the North River Trail and continues to Lookout Mountain. I took the NRT further up the gorge.

Several years ago we had flooding that severely impacted the trail. The USFS has finally made some repairs. I leave it to you to judge whether or not they should have run a small bulldozer all the way up the trail to clear it. Likely this was the least expensive option. A popular horse trail, there was sign that the riders have already been up the trail again. I did find some deer tracks, but they were mostly pretty small, does or yearlings. I didn't see any deer. I did see about a dozen gray squirrels which were missing from the Skidmore Fork area around Leading Ridge Road. The water level in the river is down and crossing dry footed was no problem. It was cold enough that a skim of ice was on some of the pools. All in all it was pretty nice in the gorge. Again, I heard no rifle shots although I could hear road traffic at some points along the trail. Although I didn't see any deer, the concentration of sign dramatically increased about 1 to 1-1/2 hours back. I didn't walk fast, so this is probably about 3 miles or so. That's a long way to walk just to squirrel hunt and it is a long way to drag a deer. I am not that hungry so it would have to a really nice buck for me to shoot one way back there.

Yes, there was some sign...
One benefit to the use of the dozer to clear the trail was that for most of its length the soft earth has been turned up and takes impressions of whatever passes over it very well. That means that if deer are using the trail then it will be pretty obvious. One of two things is happening, either there aren't many deer or they aren't using the trail much.

One thing about these old trails is that you get to see some of the old time ways of doing things. Check out the last two pictures. One is of the rock crib constructed to carry the old railway bed and the other is a cistern used to collect spring water for the railway workers and loggers.

Rock "crib" built to fill a gap in the railroad bed. 
Cistern built to collect spring water.  Somebody has popped the lid.  Note the "drinking" basin on the front.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The greatest speech ever?

One of them at least and here every day for you to read and, hopefully, understand.  The Gettysburg Address

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Out and about...

Went out yesterday, up and down some mountains. It is "muzzleloader" aka "blackpowder" season here, bucks only where I was. However, it wasn't likely that I'd see a deer of any kind. No hard mast, no browse, no water, no scrapes, no rubs, no tracks. Nothing but small birds and red headed woodpeckers. Not even any of the resident crows. No longer a clear-cut as it was 40+ years ago. However, something has been through there.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Saturday, November 02, 2013


John A______ and I went out to scout a place he has permission to hunt on the property of Bill B_____ out Middlebrook way. Very neat place and with that huge spring in front of the house one can easily see why this place attracted settlers. The water is, by the way, just the right temperature and taste for drinking. John and I had a good drink after our scout. We didn't see deer but we saw lots of sign and as Bill says, they are eating their fill in the corn fields. John is hoping for a good deer here.

John recently had an aortic aneurism and now has a bad valve that they will be replacing in December. He needs somebody to go hunt with him and he now has two of us lined up.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Halloween is a bust

We live on a main thoroughfare. When we moved here about 27 years ago we looked forward to Halloween and got ready for the rush. Not one person came to the door. In all the years we've lived here not one person has come to our door on Halloween. We had some "vandalism" this year. I put out the trash for Friday morning pickup and somebody had pushed over one of the trash cans.