Friday, December 25, 2009

A Happy Christmas to All

Sorry. I was fresh out of partridge and there isn't a pear tree within miles. I hope you will settle for a grouse in a cedar tree.

Yesterday, about noon I noticed a large flock of sharptails out by the front fence. I counted twenty before I lost count. They seemed to disappear for a while and then I discovered they were having a caucus in the front dog pen and some were even up in the cedar tree right by the front deck. They occasionally drop by for the cedar berries, which they apparently like very much.

I will confess that I was slightly tempted to pot one or two but decided against it. I have plenty of food and there was no need to interfere with their Christmas Eve conclave, as much as I do love a grilled grouse.

Emma could barely conceal her disappointment.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

That'll teach me!

Or at least it should.

Day before y'day I made a pot of most excellent chili. Lots of ancho, chipotle, garlic, Mexican oregano, cilantro and all the other stuff that makes a good chile totally addictive.

Had a couple of meals off it and continued my "aging" ritual of heat, cool, heat, cool cycles. Today I had lunch from it and then put it on in the snow on the front deck.

Had about twenty sharptails in the yard today (pix later maybe) and Emma wanted at 'em but I wouldn't let her. Let her out later and by the time I realized she had been out there a long time I discovered that somehow she had gotten the lid off the pot and eaten my chili! It was pretty spicy, too. About 3/4 gallon.

When it comes to food, Emma has no super-ego. I told her Santa may not come for her but she didn't believe me. Damn dog.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


In a winter storm warning here, waiting for the main front to hit us. Everything was covered with thick rime ice this morning, like the cedar in the picture. It's beautiful, except when it coats the electric lines. That makes me nervous. Ice, then wind, is a prescription for no electricity.

But I prepped yesterday. Checked out the genny, brought in some more wood, made chili. The essentials!

The snow is supposed to start later today and go until Friday afternoon. Looks like a white Christmas for sure. I was supposed to visit friends out of state for the holiday but I will be staying home now. The dogs and I will have a great snowed-in Christmas. They love to unwrap presents, but they are so messy! Just part of the fun.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gerber Caping Knife

Here's that Gerber Freeman Caper, out of S30V steel. This is a comparatively new stainless that is all the rage these days, as is the Gerber Freeman series.

This knife comes with either stag or cocobolo grip panels and I wanted the cocobolo. It looks almost black in the pic but is actually a very dark brown with high-quality checkering.

The knife has a 2-1/4" blade, .115" thick at the spine, with a generous finger choil and "file-work" top and bottom for a good grip. The file work is also on the top and bottom of the full-tang within the handle area. It's 6-1/2" overall and a hefty-seeming 2.6 ounces. The sheath is better than it looks and weighs almost as much as the knife. I'd rather have had a full pouch, but maybe I'll just have to cobble one together for myself.

The blade is super sharp and a keen, long-lasting edge is supposedly one of the features of S30V steel. We shall see. The knife feels very good in the hand, with good heft and control, and the fine, deep checkering on the very dark cocobolo handle scales plus the file work make for an extremely secure grip. While the knife may look small, it feels very good and capable in the hand.

I like small knives, finding them more useful than the bigger, more dramatic blades. So far it looks like this one may become a regular companion on days afield.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Larking about...

As our Brit friends might say. I was off-ranch today for the first time since my Thanksgiving bird-hunting expedition. This time of year you want to be sure you have a good weather widow for a trip, as you not only want to reach your destination but you want to be able to return. Today was nice: sunny, mild, little wind, and warmer than it has been in a month or more. The down side of "warm" when there is snow and ice on the dirt portions of the road is... mud. And mud I had on the way home, in spades. But all is well and I made record time, leaving at 7AM and getting back by 3PM.

I didn't really need supplies as I'm pretty well stocked. What I was after primarily was picture frames for gift prints. Not a good selection thereof but I managed to fill the gap. While in town I stopped at the local Cabela's and couldn't resist that new Gerber S30V caping knife. A pretty little thing, it followed me home and now I will have to keep it. The S30V steel is getting rave reviews, as is the Gerber caper. I'll be giving it a good try-out.

The main roads were just fine, but getting to them was a minor chore as the "connectors" were icy and in places still snowed over. (The pictures were taken on the way home when there had been substantial melting.)

But what's the fun in larking about if there's no adventure? None, I'd say.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Practical Utility Knives

A couple of recent acquisitions. I'm a sucker for "working knives" and I just came upon a couple of offerings from Cold Steel: the "Roach Belly" and the "Finn Bear." Cold Steel makes good, utilitarian stuff and I thought I'd give them a try. Especially at the price: $10.29 and $10.49 respectively from PoorFish Outdoors (through Amazon and even cheaper direct and if you sign up for their newsletter you get $10 off your next order— if you buy at least $100 worth of their stuff), with $4.89 for shipping. Here's the URL for the Finn Bear which is currently on sale for $9.99…

The blades are stainless (Krupp 4116) and relatively thin (.09") in the old style for outdoorsmen's blades, pre-Marble's. As they come from the factory they are "scary-sharp." I haven't had the need to sharpen them yet, but they look to me like they will be easy to keep well-honed. Not being able to leave well enough alone, I stropped the Finn Bear and, yes, you can shave with the thing!

It was actually the Finn Bear that first caught my eye. I have long looked for a decently priced puuko-style knife. I like the blade shape for a general purpose knife and the (sometimes) triangular handle as well. But I was unwilling to spend over $100 to get one, and didn't care much for the round birch handles on most of them.

The Roach Belly is what might have been called a "scalping knife" in the old days and is a shape much favored by old-time frontiersmen. It also makes a very good kitchen knife, which is not out of character since the old boys did just about everything with their belt knives. Both knives would be excellent for dressing out game of almost all sizes.

The handles on both knives are lightweight and Zytel glass-reinforced. The Finn Bear's is ridged and the Roach Belly is more or less pebble-grained, and both seem to sit well in the hand and provide a good grip. Both knives weigh 2.8 oz which makes them a good choice for long days afield while hunting, and both would do just about anything you called upon them to do. They come with lightweight, plastic-lined nylon sheaths that are ugly but do the job. Not bad for about ten bucks.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A bit nippy out

-20°F this morning. Pretty chilly. neighbor emailed me that it was -25° at his place. We've been in the icebox for a few days now, and it will hang around 'til Friday according to the weather boffins. It's been colder, and this too shall pass.

Emma and Mags went out to do their doggie bizness this morning and didn't much care for the cold. Emma was trying to lift all four feet at the same time and Mags did the fastest pee-piddle in the history of dogdom.

Right at noon I noticed some activity out back and saw a whole mixed flock of pheasants and sharptail grouse milling around out by the shop building. They seemed to be getting along just fine and I confess I had a quick impulse to grab a rifle and pot one for supper. But I changed my mind. It's mighty cold out there and that's enough for them to worry about. When they worked their way around front they got Emma's full attention. She sat on the couch and watched them out of the windows for a long time. Finally they wandered off into the heavy brush to the west. There's a pretty good sun today and if they can find a south-facing spot out of the wind they can warm up some.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My poor abused little dawg!

I did not stage this photograph, nor in any way rearrange anything. I went into the bedroom to get something, saw her, went back and got a camera, and made the snap. She groggily acknowledged my presence and promptly went back to sleep. So…

Emma, the Shorthair, sleeps in a large kennel-crate draped with blankets in the bedroom. She prefers this and has for years. Mags on the other hand sleeps in the bed with me. In the winter she starts out on top of the covers, sometimes covered with a blanket, but usually around 3AM she bops me on the head a couple of times and I lift up the covers to let her in, where she stays 'til morning. On really cold mornings I sometimes let them have the bed again after they go out into the frigid morning air to do their business. As I did this morning.

Well, she's not dumb, that's for sure.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another encounter...

Picture from the night before...

This afternoon I remembered that— somewhere!— I had a pair of heavy-duty, insulated Carhartt bib overalls in loden green. Wonder of wonders I went right to the box in the shop that held them. I took them inside to warm up and was going to try them on later.

I got busy and forgot all about them. Then, just as dusk was creeping up on us, I remembered them and changed into them. Mmm. Cushy and warm and a great color. I went out in the living room with the intention of walking out on the porch to try 'em in the frigid air.

But before I could open the door I saw some movement out behind my target butts. That whitetail fork-horn was jumping the wire and coming onto the place from the thick brush to the west. I decided to go out and mix it up up a bit. I grabbed the Seneca, put on a camo jacket, cap, and gloves and sallied forth, waiting until he disappeared behind the old shop building a few yards from the porch.

At first I sat at my shooting bench on the porch, but then decided that I would move out into the yard toward the old shop. Just as I eased down the steps I caught a glimpse of movement to my right. It was another deer, a mulie, but I couldn't tell if it were the buck from yesterday or a doe. I froze and it moved across my line of travel and disappeared behind the shop building.

With no deer in sight I moved slowly and quietly across the grass toward the shop building. As I drew near, suddenly, an antlered head appeared around the corner of the building, looking right at me. We were about twenty feet apart and I froze and closed my eyes. After a few seconds I squinted them open and he was still staring straight at me. I hardly breathed. Then he flagged and stiff-legged up the slope toward the old radio tower and the cedars at the top of the property. I was sure he was gone.

But he stopped about forty yards up the slope and began to nibble at some grass. He would eat and then periodically raise his head and scan all around him, with special attention to me. I decided that I was not going to shoot and wanted to leave the scene without spooking him, if possible. The grass was soft under my feet, having been in the sun earlier. But as I lifted my foot slowly and carefully he snapped his head up and looked straight at me. Had he heard me? He couldn't have, and yet he apparently had.

After about a minute he resumed his feeding and I risked another slow side-step. Once again he snapped his head up. This went on for almost thirty minutes as I eased off to the side and toward the house. There was a big double-boled cottonwood almost between us and I knew if I could get completely behind it I would be able to ease off and onto the porch and then into the house. With him snapping his head up every minute or so it took a while but I was finally out of his sight and eased as quickly and quietly as I could back to the house.

This is a young, relatively inexperienced buck or he would have been gone as soon as he poked his spiky head around the shop building and saw that strange tree stump standing there where it hadn't been before. But I was amazed once more by the acuity of a deer's hearing. Sounds that I could not hear myself caused him to snap to attention at a distance of almost fifty yards. Amazing.

I didn't see the mulie again. By then it was almost full dark. There's always tomorrow.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I've been A.W.O.L

I've been AWOL lately and don't even feel particularly guilty about it. Spent a few days on either side of Thanksgiving on a friend's ranch a stateline away. We hunted birds, much to Emma's delight, and some coyotes. We ate, talked, and generally enjoyed the good fellowship that holidays can bring. While Em and I were out with the guys hunting, Mags was warmly ensconced on a comfy couch in the ranch house watching TV.

Once we got home we faced our one-month-long muzzleloader deer season. This has been an unusual deer season for me so far because my heart just doesn't seem to be in it.

At about 4AM yesterday morning I noticed a dark shape out front through the bedroom window and knew it was a deer. From its bulk and the way it moved I knew it was a buck. I got up and in the dark house I went into the living room and got the glasses. Yes a buck. Looked like a whitetail but in the near-darkness I could not be sure. AFter while another shape materialized. It looked like another buck but neither seemed to have much in the way of antlers.

About noon I dressed for the cold (6° at dawn) and went out with the Seneca. (A long-discontinued T/C .45 caplock of surpassing lightness and slenderness. A collector would call it a modern redaction of a "New England deer rifle.") Sure enough, they were apparently bedded in the cedars at the top NW corner of the property. One went out right away as I sneaked around the NE corner of the shop. Four, maybe five, points and a definite whitetail. The other deer, also a buck, with a very small complement of antlers but looking bigger through the body was less skittish and move slowly to the top of the grade, behind some large trees.

I used the trees to shield my movement and sneaked up to the chicken coop where I could use the sloping roof for a rifle rest. As he moved out from behind the tree trunks I put the Seneca’s sights on him. He paused for a long time looking toward me but not seeing me, I think. Easy shot. About forty yards and a good rest and sight picture. But I didn’t take it. It was only the third day in a 31 day season and, once again, I was not anxious to kill anything. It really wasn’t the puny antlers as I am most interested in a “meat deer.” It was as I say— I just didn’t feel like pulling the trigger on him.

Then, about 3PM, I look out the living room window and there is another one. This one is a big-bodied mulie fork-horn. He’s fifteen yards from the porch and instead of grabbing the rifle I opt for a camera and snap his piccie through the stealthily opened front door. He poses for a couple and then pronks off up to the cedars again and I go back inside.

I'll probably take a deer at some point in this season. I'm running a bit low on venison and could certainly use it. (I'm allowed two on my m/l permit.)But as I said before, for whatever the reason I am just not an enthusiastic deer hunter this season.