Unforgettable!!

5 09 2012

This post originally appeared in the Ladies In Camo Field Journal.  http://ladiesincamo.com/fieldjournal.html

Unforgettable!  That is definitely how you would describe our family vacation.  Dale and I were joined by our daughter Shannon and her 2 children; Sarah 9 and Ryan 7, and good friends Mike and Vicki.  Both of our grandchildren have been involved with hunting since they could walk.  Each of them has taken deer and turkey on the Pennsylvania Mentored Hunt Program, Sarah took her last turkey with a crossbow.  This trip would be different; they would be hunting in Alabama and Florida for wild hogs and alligators!  We are blessed that we have 3 generations that enjoy all the outdoors has to offer.  Even more so, we have 3 generations of Lady hunters, 3 generations of Ladies in Camo!

Our 3 generations of Ladies in Camo; Shannon, Sarah and Diane

We started our trip at Racknine Outdoors in Clio, Alabama.  Sarah was spot and stalking with me, while Ryan sat in a blind with Shannon.  Sarah was a real trooper.  While we were trying to get on the trail of the hogs, we worked on skills; picking up trails, identifying tracks, identifying different sounds and plants. Several times we were able to get close enough to hogs that we could hear and smell them, but never got close enough for a shot.  I had her lead us out of one area at dark, following the ribbon trail, and we found the boat no problem.  Later Terry told us that he has had to find several men in that area that couldn’t find their way out.  She has a great internal compass that is right on the money!  The one morning we did sit in a box blind, and had a buck come close enough that I could have tripped it, and a doe grazed within a few feet of us.  She took many pictures that day, just thrilled to be in the woods.

Moving onto Florida created a unique set of adventures for us.  Our first night, as we anticipated alligator hunting, we had a storm front move in and dump a huge amount of rain on us.  So instead of hunting, we became well acquainted with the local restaurants.  The next day, the sun was shining and the gators spent the day sunning themselves.  Capt. Billy Henderson, of Deep South Outfitters, went over crossbow operation and safety with everyone, and we took turns shooting at a water bottle cap.  The kids popped it up in the air while Dale and I pinned it to the ground.  The crossbow bolt is attached to a float, so everyone needs to be aware of where the rope is located in relationship to your feet.  The harpoon and also the bang stick were explained, and Shannon and the kids practiced the motions needed to use them.  We went through a few scenarios of how the gators might present themselves, and where to place the corresponding shots.  Being as all of our hunting is done at night, Billy explained how the eyes would reflect the spot light, and how they should come into the call.  Once everyone felt confident, we were off to the river.

We hunted the Kissimmee River that night and Ryan was up first.  The entire evening we had heat lightning lighting up the sky.  Occasional we could hear the rumble of thunder resonating across the flat ground, still to far off to be a threat.  Several gators were spotted, and halfheartedly responded to Billy’s call.  They would hang up at about 20 feet and go down, never to be seen again.  Finally a healthy 7 footer came in and presented a good shot.  Ryan wasted no time, and spined the alligator and ended his hunt.  A perfect shot!  He helped with the taping of the jaws and feet, then clicked his tag into the tail.

Ryan with his new buddy! His 7′ alligator.

Next up was Shannon, who was also on her first gator hunt.  Again several responded to the call, but would drop out of sight before a shot could be taken.  Eventually a good size gator came in, and after a lengthy battle, she managed to land herself a good solid ten footer!  By this time, we were getting short on time to get Ryan’s into a cooler or lose the meat, so we called it a night and high tailed it for the processors.

Shannon with her 10′ gator

The next evening we were once again hunting the Kissimmee River, but this time they were letting water out of the dams to prepare for Hurricane Isaac, which was anticipated to drop massive amounts of rain on this area.  Where we had seen well over a hundred of gators the night before, this night they were few and far between.  Sarah was on the front of the boat; Dale was with her to help with the lines.  They had a gator come close to the boat, then quickly duck into the brush near the bank.  To everyone’s surprise Sarah was able to place a fantastic shot through the branches and soon she was bang sticking her own 9 footer!

Sarah’s 9′ alligator

The pressure was now really on me.  We went for over an hour without having any gator come anywhere close to us.  Near the end of the night, with a storm front bearing down on us, I had a good gator start to come in.  At 30 feet away he started to hang-up and took a deep breath, indicating to me that he was ready to dive.  I took a chance and fired, hitting just behind the skull right before he sank into the depths.  He immediately went into death rolls and tangled the line up tight around him.  I managed to harpoon him after 2 failed attempts, being as he was still rolling.  After a quick shot out of the bang stick, I was taping his mouth and hind feet.  We took off toward the dock, and made it to the truck just second before the sky opened up and started dumping a tremendous amount of rain on us.

Diane’s 9′ gator

The next day we tried hunting wild hogs with dogs, something none of us had ever done before.  While we took our rifles with us, we ended up using the spear that the guide provided.  We pursued them riding in a swamp buggy with the dogs racing in front of us.  The dogs really worked together tracking the wild hogs, then a 3rd dog was released to help grab them by the ears.  Once the dogs had control of the hog, we would move in to spear the animal.  This allowed us the opportunity to harvest 5 good meat hogs, and have some really great memories!  While I love eating wild hog, the ability to help get a few of these destructive animals out of the swamps really makes it worthwhile.  Filling the freezer with fresh sausage is an added bonus!

Sarah, Vicki, Diane, Ryan, Mike and Shannon after a successful day of wild hog hunting!

That evening the tails of Hurricane Isaac hit us, so instead of hunting, we spent the evening in the hotel lobby in an impromptu Hurricane Party.  The power kept going out, so it was still an early evening.  The wind howled all night, and the rain flooded all low areas.  We were under tornado warning most of the night, and police brought several families to the hotel because of flooding to their homes.  By morning the hotel, that had been almost empty the day before, was filled with people seeking refuge from the storm.  The next day was no better, winds were high and the rain continued.  Bowling for the kids, and gambling for the adults helped fill the time.  Surprisingly Dale won enough at slots to spring for dinner for everyone.

The next day was still bad, but we only had 2 nights’ left and still had 4 tags to fill.  We were hunting Lake Okeechobee that night, and there was a heavy chop on the water complicating things even more.  We started our hunt under a double rainbow, which left us with lots of hope that a big gator would be our pot of gold!  After a few sightings of gator eyes, one came in within a few feet of the boat, and Mike let his bolt fly.  The bolt hit solidly, and the gator took off with the float trailing behind.  We caught up with it in a bed of hydrilla.  With Billy holding the line, Mike poised with the harpoon, Dale started quickly pulling the mounds of hydrilla that was wrapped around the line.  As soon as he opened up a clear area, Mike stuck the gator with the harpoon, and we were able to get control of the situation.  Hit with the bang stick, wrap the mouth and legs and the 9’ gator was tagged.  We tried for another, but conditions were deteriorating quickly, again.

Mike with his 9′ alligator

Our final day to hunt, the sun was shining and the wind died down some.  It seemed we would finally have a good day to go out.  WRONG!  Shortly before we were to leave, the skies opened up and the winds once more started to blow.  We still had to go.  We headed south to a dock on Lake Okeechobee and kept our finger crossed that maybe, just maybe we could get out on the water.  The water was still really high, and cotton mouth snakes were in the parking lots.  We killed one, and saw several more that other people had dispatched before we got there.  I hate the idea of being around poisonous snakes in the dark!  I would much rather face an alligator than a cotton mouth!

Vicki did not have long to wait at all, the boat was barely launched when she got on an 8 footer.  She managed to get her shot made before the rains started, but we still had to harpoon the gator, shoot it with the bang stick and get it in the boat during a pouring rain.  By the time this gator was in the boat, everyone was soaking wet and covered with mosquito bites.  We retreated to the truck, and hoped for a break in the weather.

Vicki and her 8′ gator

After what seemed like an eternity, all of the food and drink in the truck was consumed, and the weather finally gave us a break.  We searched for a long time to even find an alligator; the weather was pushing them deeper into the water.  We caught a glimpse of good size eyes a very long way off, but we had to try.  Slowly we crept up using only the trolling motor.  I think this gator was confused as to why anyone in their right mind would be out on a night like tonight.  Confused or not, he presented a shot that Dale could not refuse, and our 7th alligator was tagged for the week.  Whew!  We had to work hard for all of the gators we took this week.  We still have one tag left that hopefully we can make it down after September 12th to use.  Our tags were for the 2nd week of the season, but after September 12th any unfilled tags may be used again.

Dale’s 9′ alligator

We are passing on our love of the outdoors to our kids and grandchildren, teaching them skills that are not taught in our schools.  Good or bad, this trip was what memories are made of.  We had a lot of wonderful experiences that we got to share with our family and friends, we got to laugh and cheer each other on.  Three generations of our family got to enjoy the hunting, fishing and fun that this trip had to offer!  We harvested 5 wild hogs and 7 alligators, and filled our freezers for the upcoming year.  How can you go wrong with that!

www.racknineoutdoors.com

http://www.dsooutdoors.com

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2011, A Very Good Year

30 04 2012

This post was originally posted on Audacious Women.  http://andreamain.com/2011-a-very-good-year/

2011 marked my come back to hunting, following my recovery from a bilateral mastectomy due to breast cancer.  I felt like I had 2 years to make up for, so I wanted to hunt everything, everywhere!  Rifle hunting was fairly easy to pick back up, but archery eluded me for this year at least.  Thank goodness for cross bows!

I started the year off hunting for whitetail deer on Anticosti Island in Canada.  My husband and I hunted with Safari Anticosti, and enjoyed every minute of it.  The first day, my husband spotted a really nice buck as I was being dropped off where I was to hunt.  He told me to make sure I got him, I told him I would.  I positioned myself on a steep bank overlooking the river, and waited.  Eventually 2 doe come out to feed on the river banks, so I was hopeful that a buck would follow.  They fed for a long time before I finally spotted the buck from earlier.  I had to wait for him to cross the river, and come near the does, before I could get a good shot.  I squeezed off my shot and watched him disappear into the tall grass.  After waiting what seemed like forever, I went to track him.  I found the blood trail easy enough that is until it he crossed the river.  It took a few minutes of searching both sides before I found the trail again.  When I finally walked up to him, I could not see his head.  Any part of it!  He must have died in mid leap, and took a header into the soft muck surrounding the river.  I couldn’t move him, so I started to dig him out.  Finally I could see his antlers, and excitement really settled in.  I had to wait for my husband and guide to show up after dark to get him drug out.  He was a huge bodied buck.  When he was hung in the meat shed, his head was to the ceiling and he was almost sitting on the ground.  By the end of the week, I knew I had the biggest buck in camp.   When we got to the airport, it became obvious that I also had the biggest buck from the island!  I had also taken a doe on the last day, to fill my tag with some good eating.

Safari Anticosti Buck

Our next hunt was for alligators with Deep South Outfitters in Florida.  The temperature was only in the 40’s, not at all what you would want for gators.  We went on a short boat ride before Billy started to call.  Instantly we had a gator rushing toward the boat.  In no time it was within a couple of yards of where I was standing, with the crossbow.  I shot, and there was no splashing or action of any kind.  While I feared I had missed, Kenny realized I had spined it.  This was the most adrenaline packed hunt I think I have ever been on!

Florida Alligator

Immediately after getting home from Florida, I drove to Illinois with my daughter Shannon.  We joined a Ladies Archery Hunt at Eagle Lakes Outfitters.  Vicki Cianciarulo was trying to get to film footage for The Choice hunting show. I was using a crossbow with a handicapped designation, which I was not happy at all about.  Hunting was really slow for the first couple of days, to hot, to windy.  Finally I had a nice buck start down toward me, but a doe stomped her foot and snorted at him, so I place my bolt into her.  She ran only 20 yards or so, but right into the lane that I would be picked up on.  My kind of tracking and dragging!  Eventually 3 doe were shot for the group, 1 was also lost to coyotes, and I had a buck that we could not locate the blood trail on.

I finally got to hunt at home, and took my granddaughters out in the stand with me.  Sarah has been hunting for a couple of years, but this was Ginger’s first exposure to it.  On the evening of the first day of rifle season, Ginger was with me when I took a doe.  She was so excited; she is now intent on taking her hunter safety certifications so she can hunt with me next fall.

I happened upon a Ladies in Camo hunt at Racknine Outdoors in Alabama, at the last minute.  I flew down for a buck, doe, hog, coyote hunt.  My first morning, I was able to take a nice 8 point buck that was feeding about 80 yards out.  He had come into the clearing and made a scrape right in front of me.  I also had 2 young buck sparring and playing.  After I shot, the young buck continued their play for another 15 minutes or so.  I have never hunted anywhere that a gunshot didn’t clear the area of all deer.  The blood trail on the 8 point was almost no existent, but we did locate him about 75 yards from where he was shot.  The next day I was stalking hogs, when I located a group in the pines, they were about 75 yards out.  I had a large sow cross an opening that I had, that was about the size of a coffee can.   I took the shot, and watched as she only went 2 or 3 feet before she dropped.  I tried to get on the hogs again, but they joined a group totaling over a hundred, and even with that many hogs, I could not get a clear shot at any others.

Alabama Buck

I know I title this 2011, but I am including the first half of 2012 also, since it all is part of the same license year.  I joined another Ladies in Camo hunt at Mountain View Plantation in Alabama, in January.  This was a tough hunt.  Only one buck was shot, and that was by my cousin Eva.  She is a new hunter, and I had taken her along to help her get experience.  We also hunted quail, which is always a good time, and shot the 5 station they have.

Racknine Hog

February had me back at Racknine (My favorite place to hunt!).  This time was a couple’s hunt for hogs and coyotes.  What a wonderful group of people we had at this hunt.  Alabama had had some severe weather, including tornados shortly before we arrived, and the hogs had made themselves scarce.   By then end of the weekend only 1 hog was shot.  We really had to work hard at this hunt.

Osceola Turkey

Turkey season finally arrived, and we were off to Florida, to hunt with Deep South Outfitters again.  I filled my 2 tags with Osceolas.  The birds were not responding to calls, so I sat in wait near a well-used trail to a feeding area.  Finally I had 3 toms come into view, and when my guide said they were shooters, I shot!  This was my first Osceola ever!!  I took another jake before I was done, but then I got to hog hunt while my husband tried to fill his tags.  I had crept into a tree stand before light, listening to hogs not more than 30 feet away!  By the time I could make out dark shadows, I had a dozen hogs in front of me.  It was nerve racking to know the hogs were right there, and it was not light enough to shoot yet!  I don’t think I waited more than a minute once the sun came up.  I picked a big red sow with black spots.  She was almost underneath my tree stand, not exactly the shot I would like to take.  While the angle was extreme, she only went about 30 yards, before she piled up under the palmettos.  What a great trip!!

Florida Hog

The weather completely turned against us after that, so we headed to Racknine again for some more hog hunting!  Ladies in Camo was having a couples hunt so we joined them.  Dale and I were spot and stalking when I had a hog grunting and squealing, just as the hog was coming into view, Dale shot.  I thought he had shot the hog, but he was facing the wrong direction when I turned to him.  My first thought was that he was screwing around, until he showed me the dead coyote.  From my angle I could not see the coyote approaching.  Later that morning, we joined 2 other hunters to go after hogs in the palmettos.  We had gone a couple of hundred yards into the woods, when you could hear hogs grunting and squealing.  I climbed onto a leaning tree (about the only way I can climb a tree!) and scanned the area for the hogs.  I could see for about 20 yards, and we now knew the hogs were further than that.  We slowly made our way toward the herd and positioned ourselves to take a shot.  Jeanne was trying to get a clear shot on a nice gray hog, but it never presented a good shot.  Meanwhile I had a small black hog that I was going to shoot, when a much bigger hog crossed in front of it.  I told everyone I had a shot, and took it.  The hog dropped in her tracks!  That was the easy part.  We now had to drag that hog back to the HuntVe through swampy muck.  We all worked hard to get it out.  Dale and I were the only ones left to hunt the next morning, and Dale was able to take a big boar.  This group of 5 hunters, at Racknine, had managed to take; 1 turkey, 1 coyote and 3 hogs.

Racknine Hog

Each hunt I am finding that I am getting stronger, and more like myself.  I keep pushing myself to build back the muscle that was lost.  This upcoming hunting year is pretty well filled already, I have 5 hunts scheduled, with hopes of more.  My next hunting season starts in June when we are going bear hunting in Saskatchewan, and this fall I will be going on my first archery hunt with my compound bow since my surgery.  I am already pulling 40 pounds on my bow, I would like to be built up to 45 lbs. before archery season begins.  With work, I will be there!  Sometime I feel like the 6 million dollar woman, I am getting faster, stronger, better!





Gator Hunting with Deep South Outfitters

20 04 2012

This post originally was posted on http://www.ladiesincamo.com Tails of The Hunt

We arrived in Florida to temperatures in the low 40’s, not a great time to start a hunt for alligators with Deep South Outdoors. The first night was too cold to even consider going out, but Capt. Billy was able to help fill our time with bow fishing for mullet. This was our first attempt at bowfishing. After so many years of shooting at a target, it was hard for me to shoot below it. My attempt was not impressive, but I did manage to hit a fish-once!! The next time, I will do better, I promise!

The next evening was my chance to hunt. After a short boat ride and instruction on the crossbow and what was to come, Capt. Billy started calling and spot lighting, and immediately we were rewarded with big splashing not far from our location. This alligator was rushing to the boat very aggressively. When the gator was only a few feet from the boat, Capt. Billy told me to shoot. I pulled the trigger and thought I had missed! There was no splashing, just quiet. Then Kenny started yelling “she spined it!”. There laid my alligator right where I had shot it. I finished it off with a bang stick and helped tape the mouth and rear legs. This portion of my hunt from the start of calling to pulling it into the boat was about 3 minutes, a very intense adrenaline packed 3 minutes!

Dale’s hunt happened the next evening, and was as different from mine as you could get. Capt. Billy called and called, moving frequently, but the water and air temperatures were very cool. Finally the calling brought movement in the weeds. Very slowly, cautiously this alligator crept into our sight, stopping often, always quietly.

Finally when the gator was about 8 foot from the boat Dale shot and the splashing and thrashing was on! After the gator calmed down somewhat it was pulled up to the boat and shot with the bang stick. Dale taped the mouth and legs and we were off once again to butcher shop. As well as our hunts went with the weather being against us, I cannot wait to go again when the air and water are more comfortable.

http://www.dsooutdoors.com/florida.html

captbilly@dsooutdoors.com