Jim's Outdoor Blog

Hunting, RVing and Great Escapes – Everything Outdoors

Bushnell Trophy Cam HD

Bushnell Trophy Cam HD black caseBushnell Trophy Cam HD camo caseBushnell Trophy Cam HD security box


If you are still looking for or thinking about a trail camera, I just bought this one.

It was a tossup between this one and DLC Covert Red 40. My most reliable camera has been the DLC Covert II (discontinued model), so it was hard to buy something different. What finally made me choose the Trophy Cam was the reviews and the warranty.

Bushnell Trophy Cam HD

This is the camera I just bought.  I looked online for hours and hours, and this is the best price I could find. They may have the lowest retail price in America – http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-2012-Bushnell-Trophy-Cam-8MP-HD-Video-Scouting-Game-Stealth-Camera-119437C-/200875665540?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2ec51f6884

Bushnell has a two year warranty, as compared to one year for the rest. I read some hunting forums and guys ranted and raved about how good Bushnell’s service department is to deal with. No questions asked – they either repaired or replaced for 2 years, without whining.

There are a ton of Bushnell cameras on the market, from various years. It is easy to think you have found a particular model, $50.00 less than another site, but, you may be looking at a less expensive model or a different year. The one I just bought is the 2012 HD model; not to be confused with the HD Black, or simply Bushnell Trophy Cam – without the HD, and … the 2012 is different and improved from the 2011. The one I am talking about takes 3, 5 and 8 megapixel photos and the video records with sound. At $156 with free shipping, it may be my least expensive camera, but, their technology seems to get cheaper every year.




Metal Security Box for the Bushnell camera – the box protects the camera from elk and deer horns, bears teeth, thieves and weather – best price I could find online – http://www.ebay.com/itm/SECURITY-BOX-FOR-BUSHNELL-TROPHY-CAM-CAMERA-ALL-YEARS-2012-2011-2010-2009-NEW-/150858282819?pt=US_Camera_Camcorder_Accessory_Bundles&hash=item231fdab743

Master Lock, Python cable lock – this is the type of lock we use in the woods. On private property, you could just use deck screws or lag bolts and attach the metal box to a tree. You can just use bungee cords if you aren’t worried about theft or damage – http://www.walmart.com/ip/Master-Lock-8417D-3-16-in-Adjustable-Cable-Lock/19869873?findingMethod=Recommendation:wm:RecentlyViewedItems


January 13, 2013 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws, Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such, Smile - You're on My Trail Camera, Turkeys, Grouse, Pheasants and other Feathered Critters | Leave a comment

The Hunt of a Lifetime, written by Jessica Sherrard


        It all started in the spring of 2011.  My Dad had been talking about some special hunt that was early in the season.  Something about, best chance to get a big buck and we could hike in and stay a few days.  I was already yawning at this point and whatever was fine.  That summer my Dad went on a rampage, gathering gear and hiking into various wildernesses in search of a trophy buck.  I was lucky as I had been working and missed out on all these seemingly uneventful and supposedly brutal hikes. 

        The days were getting close and the dreadful day of loading our packs and going over checklists to ensure our survival on this “hunt of a lifetime” was nearly upon us.  Once we had all the gear crammed into our packs we put them on and sized them up.  Was he serious?  Did he really expect me to pack this thing three or four miles on some trail, just to camp for a few days?  Let’s touch on that subject….Camping.  His idea of camping was a one man tent with a thin pad and freeze dried food.  Not even a fire for hotdogs or smores.  No room for that, “he says“.  Better yet, how do we pack one out?  I have to admit one thing though, with my Dad as the guide, getting a buck was probably a sure bet.

        The first sign of disaster came on opening morning of the “hunt of a lifetime”.  I don’t know how anyone could expect a girl to perform at the top of their game when being woke up at 3:00 a.m.  I need sleep and it’s one of my favorite things to do.  I got up anyway and met my Dad at the door.  He was frothing at the mouth like some worked up horse at the gate and trying to rush me into the truck.  We headed out….he drove…I slept. 

        When we arrived at the trailhead it was three hours later and still dark.  We loaded ourselves down and using headlamps to illuminate the trail, we headed up the mountain.  He assured me it wasn’t that far, but we had been hiking about an hour when the sun started to show itself. 

        We stopped at the place where we decided to make camp and dropped off most of our load and then continued up the trail with pack frames and weapons.  I was beginning to wonder just how far we had to go to find a deer.  I mean this wasn’t the first time I’d been hunting.  It had always been pretty easy, just go to a clear cut and glass one up.  But right about now, I was wondering why we were we hiking to the top of what looked like the Himalaya’s to find a deer? 

        We finally stopped along the trail looking across a canyon into an open area below the timber line.  We sat down and started glassing and my die hard Dad fell asleep.

        When I woke up…..I mean when Dad woke up…..we started glassing the opening dividing the area between the two of us.  We were spotting deer left and right but, they looked a long way off.  After an hour Dad asked if I wanted to move up the trail another mile or so to another outcropping.  Seriously, like I wanted to hike another foot. It was starting to get hot already and I wasn’t ready to give up on this spot just yet.  I suggested we hold out a little while longer….so we stayed. 

        It seemed like only minutes had gone by and my Dad said, “There they are and both bucks are really big”.  He pointed out their direction and I was able to find them in my binoculars.  They were on the move and it was hard to tell just how good they were.  We watched as they made their way from the bottom switching back and forth through the brush until they finally stopped directly across from us and started feeding.  Dad told me they were too far for my rifle and that it looked like a job for “Elizabeth”.  That’s this absolutely, ridiculously, huge rifle that his friend Curt Mendenhall had built and he brings out only for what he calls “Special applications”.  This rifle is heavy and extremely loud, but, it wasn’t the first time I’d met “Liz”.  It’s a .338 Ultra Magnum and has all the bells and whistles for shooting out there a long way.  

        He told me the distance was 508 yards and turned the dial on the scope.  He increased the magnification and I could now see one of the bucks very clearly…it was huge…I mean, really big.  He went on with his normal banter about relaxing, both eyes open, easy on the trigger.  Then he said, “Wait, the other buck is the better buck”.  I don’t know what he was seeing, but the buck in my crosshairs was tall, had lots of mass, and was the biggest bodied deer I had ever seen.  Then came the small disagreement.  I told him there was no way it was bigger than this one, his argument was that I just couldn’t see his horns well enough because of the brush.  He finally gave in and said “It’s your tag.  Will you be happy with this one”?  I told him there was no doubt about it and got myself ready for the shot. 

        The gun went off nearly severing my shoulder and when I recovered from the recoil I could see the buck slowly rolling down the hill.  My Dad then said, “Look at the other buck; he’s out in the open looking for his friend”.  As much as I hate to admit it….the old guy was right.  That buck was much better in the horn department.  He was wider and just as tall with perfect forks and nice eye-guards.  My Dad just laughed and said, “That’s what you get”; as the buck walked off into the timber.

        Now for the fun part…we had to hike all the way across this canyon just to retrieve the deer.  It was very steep and in spots so rocky that you would just slide and fall.  We finally made it up the other side and found the deer.  He was huge, just beautiful, like a mini-elk sized animal.  He was still in full velvet and summer coat and Dad thought he looked like an older deer.  We took lots of pictures and Dad went to work putting the meat in bags and preparing it for packing out. 

        Once all the meat was in bags we started to load the frames.  We had staged them in a huge hollow log that was right next to where we had found the deer.  My Dad grabbed the last pack frame and disaster struck me once again.  Under the frame was my brand new cell phone.  I know, I know, what was I doing with my cell phone in a hollow log?   Anyway, it went sliding down the hollow log like an Olympic Luge, somewhere toward the middle of this log…and then stopped.  The words that fell from my Fathers mouth after that are far too long to list and I’m not even sure I could spell half of them.  It actually was the only thing funny about the whole ordeal.  We each poked and prodded into both ends trying to free the phone, in hopes it would slide through to the opposite end.  I was almost able to reach it at times, but the hole was just too small.  We were finally able to get a branch long enough to knock it loose and it slid within reach. 

        Then we began the long hike back to camp.  Coming out was tough and my Dad was nice enough to stop and wait for me on several occasions.  He climbed the hill with little effort as if he was born to do it…somehow that part of the gene pool skipped me. 

        Once we were on the trail again I began to think that if we stayed I would miss a day of school and I didn’t really want to do that.  We got to camp and I asked Dad if he thought we could just keep going to the truck and head on home today.   The look on his face was as if I was crazy and he asked if I was suffering from the heat.  I told him my thoughts and he began loading up the items we had and said that we would have to come back for some of it.  So, that’s what we did.  We hiked the guns and deer and part of our camp near the truck and stashed them and then went back for the rest.  It was a long, long day and it felt nice to just sit and relax on the way home. 

        I thought about how the boys at school were really gonna flip about my trophy buck and how much fun it was to just hang out with my Dad for the day.  It wasn’t so bad, maybe my Dad did know a thing or two about finding deer and maybe the reason he gets so worked up is because, he wants to see me be successful…maybe he even wants it for me more than for himself.  After all, he put in all the scouting work and was the one who knew where to go.  It really had been the “Hunt of a Lifetime” and I hope there will be a lifetime more of them just like it.

February 10, 2012 Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such | 3 Comments

Hog Huntin, Southern Style…


Hog and Deer hunting in North Carolina with T&M Hunting Properties, LLC

 Just north of the Atlantic Ocean and south of nearly everything else in North America, clients of the Sherwood brothers are taking big Carolina hogs and exceptional southern whitetail bucks.  I can attest to their success, first hand.  Along with my brother Mike Gaskins of Chillicothe, Illinois, I was there in October 2010 and we had a blast chasing “sum big ol hogs.” 

Matt Sherwood is the son of one of my oldest friends, so I have known him for many years.  To say Matt lives to hunt and fish is as cliché as saying “How are you?” as a greeting.  Most people prioritize their lives in such a manner that hunting falls somewhere down their list, well below say, sleeping, eating, mowing the grass and other normal requirements of life.  For Matt, his wife and kids are on the top of the list and the only additional entries are hunting and fishing, in that order.  But, while many people take their passions to the extreme, few have mastered them so successfully.  Matt is a consummate hunter and fisherman.

November 18, 2010 Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such, Fish and Other Stuff that Swims, Hunting Stuff | Leave a comment

Oregon’s ‘Newest’ Record Columbia Blacktail










Oregon’s 19th Century Trophy Blacktail


Roseburg resident Dave Heffner has been trained and certified as an official scorer for both Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young.  Because of his passion for hunting, he volunteers to measure the hard earned trophies of Oregon hunters, by working at the yearly Sportsman’s shows in Eugene, Roseburg and Medford.  February 2009 found him in Eugene, meeting with the proud owners of big game trophies, covering the spectrum from forked horn deer, to trophy sized Rocky Mountain elk and bleached white bear and cougar skulls.


Busily working to finish scoring the antlers in his hands, Dave hardly noticed the approach of a man carrying a mounted deer head and horns.  Although he’d barely glanced at the man, something in the back of his mind gnawed on him to look up.  When he did, he could scarcely believe his eyes.  Standing before him was Bob Suttles, holding what might have been the largest blacktail buck Dave had ever seen.  For a brief second he thought, “I didn’t know they came that big.”


Mr. Suttles’ blacktail deer had eight points on the right side and twelve on the left.  After deductions the rack officially scored 195-6/8 inches, making it the second largest non-typical blacktail buck recorded in the Record Book for Oregon’s Big Game Animals.  The largest buck on record has a score of 208-1/8 inches and the antlers of the buck holding the #3 position measure 184-2/8.   These two bucks were respectively harvested in 1962 and 1953, a fact that brings us to the rest of the story. 


Bob Suttles is not the hunter who brought this deer from the woods of western Oregon.  Truth be told, Mr. Suttles was not yet born when this exceptional buck was ‘first’ taken to a taxidermist.  Grover Cleveland was President of the United States when a lucky Oregon hunter harvested this deer in the fall of 1895!  Upon learning this, Dave telephoned me and we made arrangements to meet with Mr. Suttles.


This awesome buck was given to Bob Suttles by a coworker in 1985.  The buck had been relegated to the friend’s garage and was destined for a Lane County landfill.  Bob took it home so it could be enjoyed by his sons, both of whom were active hunters.  Understandably the head-mount was in poor condition after ninety years.  So, much to the chagrin of his wife, Lori, the nearly one-hundred year old deer mount found a home above the fireplace in their home.  The boys thought it was “way cool”.


As the story goes, this buck was taken in the Alsea Unit about fourteen miles west of the community of Alpine, Oregon, about thirty minutes west of I-5.  The right antler still holds a steel cable, secured to it by a state employee one year before Henry Ford invented his first automobile (the Quadricycle) and thirteen years before he offered the first Model T for sale in 1908.  It is difficult to grasp, but the cable was fastened to this blacktail’s antler eight years before the Wright brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk.


In 1995 Bob learned his coworkers were having a big buck contest.  Knowing what the result would be, he took his deer to work.  He told me everyone asked him what the buck’s antlers scored, but he had no idea.  In 1996 Bob took the buck to the Eugene Sportsman show and it was measured by J.D. Gore.  Bob said no one really made a fuss about the deer, so he took it home and returned the deer to its honored position in the living room.  It remained there until the year 2000, when he took it to Adams Taxidermy in Eugene.


The original mold for the head mount was made of wood, plaster and square nails.  Over time the hide and mold had deteriorated, leaving the buck looking less than majestic to say the least.  Bob’s family wanted to treat this great animal with the respect it deserved.  Placed onto a modern form and fitted with a new cape, the deer looks great.  You would never guess the deer was taken in the 19th Century and remounted in the 21st.  Mother Nature builds antlers to last.  Perhaps this buck will remain in the family and Bob’s great, great grandchild will proudly display it in their home in the next century.


When local advertising began for the 2009 Eugene Sportsman show, Bob’s son-in-law, Chris Travis, initiated a campaign to persuade Bob to enter his buck into the show’s head and horns competition.  Chris’ persistence paid off and on Sunday afternoon Bob found himself trekking across the parking lot of the expo center, packing the immensely awkward deer mount.  Unfortunately, Bob arrived past the closing time for the 2009 competition, but not too late for official measurer Dave Heffner to instantly recognize a world class set of antlers. 


After photographing the deer at Bob’s home, I sent pictures of the cable secured to the deer’s antler to Tod Lum, a biologist with Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, working in the Roseburg office.  Tod told me that ODF&W did check deer in the late 1800’s and said they often secured this type of cable to antlers.  Unfortunately, the tag on this deer did not have a number engraved in the steel, making it unidentifiable.


In addition to telling him the year this deer was taken, Bob’s friend had told him the buck was shot with a rifle, and said the hunter was a man named James Ball.  Tod Lum was unable to find the department’s paper files from so long ago.  Without the ability to check state records, I am unable to confirm the tale of this deer’s demise.  But likewise, I cannot disprove it.  The year of this buck’s death is not a critical component to securing a place in the records of big game animals.  The antlers of this incredible Oregon trophy speak for themselves.


I spent several hours with Bob Suttles.  For him, the most important thing is that the deer be treated with respect.  He told me his children had grown up with this deer in their home, and it has become an irreplaceable possession.  For generations to come, members of his family will hear the story of his saving this trophy from a less than honorable grave in a landfill.  I came away with one certainty; this deer will undoubtedly outlast us all.


Note:  I have heard of a new world record blacktail buck that may come forward this year.  This buck has an incredible score of 213-5/8 inches!  I have yet to see any official notice of this deer.

April 16, 2009 Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such | 10 Comments

Oregon’s New #1 Archery Mule Deer in Velvet





A New Mule Deer Record for Oregon

Using what some folks refer to as a “stick and string”, Oregon hunter Chris Dunlap stalks bucks and bulls in the sometimes-unforgiving heat of August and September.  As with most hunters, for Chris, each season opens with unsullied enthusiasm and hopes that he may bag the trophy of a lifetime.  Who has not fantasized that one-day they may harvest an animal with a mammoth set of antlers.  It is the defining motivation for countless thousands of big game hunters.  Chris Dunlap no longer has to daydream, for his trophy mule deer hunt has been firmly committed to memory. 

Oregon’s 2007 archery season would mark Chris’ seventh year as a bow hunter.  He has taken several deer and worked hard to bag a bull.  He was determined to pull out all the stops and make this his best year to date.  Chris lost weight and began a stringent exercise routine, which included running five miles – five days a week.  Several years of hunting the same terrain inside Jefferson County served to make his numerous scouting trips time-well-spent.  This season held great expectations for he and his hunting partners, which included Oregon resident Nate Richardson and Dave Isenberger from the state of Georgia.

The first several days of the archery opener were a blur of high emotions and missed opportunities.  Chris and his friends worked hard in the steep, rough and dry terrain.  Although they saw numerous bucks, the difficulties associated with archery hunting stuck to them like the dust and chaff from native plants adhered to perspiration on their skin.  Chris told me that before he bought his first bow, a close friend had given him a poignant warning; “Bow hunting is an emotional roller coaster.”  Chris said he has found that nothing else in his experience can take you from low to high and back again, all in fifteen brief seconds.  His 2007 archery hunt got off to an agonizingly slow beginning.

The men saw more than a few good bucks.  They estimated some sported antlers that would have scored in the 140 to 160 inch range.  But, every stalk had ended in failure.  One evening Chris came upon a very nice deer.  He felt this typical 4×4 held 145-inch antlers above a large mature frame.  As the buck fed along peacefully, Chris began his stalk.  When he got close the buck alerted and sharply raised his head into the air.  The buck stood broadside and fixed his gaze in Chris’ direction.  Placing his 40-yard pin on the animals’ vitals he cautiously released the string.  The arrow disappeared into a manzanita bush and the buck bounded away unharmed.  Sickened, use of his range finder showed Chris the buck had been further from him than he had estimated.

With a good nights sleep, the hunters woke with renewed determination on Monday, August 27th.  Beginning the day at a deep canyon he refers to as his “honey-hole”, Chris quickly spotted something that looked out of place.  Raising binoculars for a closer examination, Chris told me, “… All I could see was HORNS!”

Not bothering to count points, he immediately knocked an arrow and prepared to shoot.  His bad luck was cemented in place; as Chris raised his bow he accidentally touched his release.  He instantly felt the shock of the string blasting the arrow haphazardly into open air space.  The arrow landed twenty-yards in front of the monstrous mule deer.  Chris and his friends watched helplessly as the buck of their dreams exploded across the hillside, taking three additional deer with him.  As the big deer bounced out of sight, Chris’ binoculars served to add pain to the event, allowing him to view the incredible rack of antlers, with long kicker points protruding from the left and right sides.  As this was the last day of their first outing, a dejected Chris Dunlap broke camp and headed home.

Four days later Chris and friends were back on the mountain and resolute as ever to fill their tags.  But it was not to be.  The weekend came and went, with no deer being taken.  However, his personal run of bad luck was about to change in a very big way.

On Saturday, September 8th, Chris and his friends were back in the woods.  Forsaking deer hunting for the moment, the group was concentrating their efforts on finding bull elk.  But, while telling Dave about the big one that got away, Chris decided to show him the area in which the buck had been feeding.  At this point the buck was nothing more than a good story.

On site, the men observed some does and decided to give the canyon a closer inspection.  In minutes Chris saw a deer that appeared to be twice the size of those standing near to it.  Looking through the slightly enhanced lens of his range finder he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  He had stumbled onto the big buck, again!

Stopping as close to the buck as he dared, Chris raised his bow as the animal walked slowly ahead, quartering away from him.  Desperate to succeed, he repeated to himself, “Do not punch your trigger”.  He released the arrow and remembers that, “It just felt good”.  As the buck spun and began to run, Chris heard Dave yell, “Perfect Shot!”  The arrow was visibly protruding from the big bucks’ rib cage and his dash to escape was brief.  Traveling only thirty-yards, the buck was down.

Amazed by the site of this colossal deer, Chris couldn’t wait to have the rack scored.  Long time big game measurer Glen Abbot traveled to Chris’ home and pronounced the buck had a gross score of 230-1/8 inches, with an official Pope and Young Club net score of 225-3/8.  This buck handily became the new Oregon state non-typical in velvet record.  According to the North West Book for Oregon Big Game Animals, with a score of 221-2/8, the #2 archery mule deer buck in velvet was taken in 1960.

To top off his newfound achievement, Chris harvested an archery bull elk four days later on September 12th.  Although it was a bit rough in the beginning, I feel confident believing Chris Dunlap’s 2007 archery season will be a tough act for him to follow in 2008.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such | 5 Comments

Mid-West Whitetails, A Hunters Paradise




The Land of Lincoln and Amazing Whitetails

Whitetail deer are the number-one big game animal in America, which probably makes it the most sought after big game animal on the planet.  In spite of incredibly intense hunting pressure, their populations increase each year.  Due to automobile accident expenses, multi-billion dollar insurance companies see them as their archenemy.  These corporations could out-spend most countries.  But, regardless of their best efforts, whitetails continue to multiply and thrive.

When I was a child growing up in the Prairie State, the state authorized deer-hunting season was in its infancy.  America’s new comers had been turning over black Illinois soil for around one-hundred-fifty years and by the early 20th century deer were seldom, if ever, seen.  Once deer became a protected species the government set about undoing the damage wrought by uncontrolled slaughter and habitat destruction. 

Assisted by landowners, the Department of Natural Resources began transporting and planting deer throughout the state.  By the late 1950’s, very limited hunting seasons were established.  Farming practices began to evolve and crop production improved decade after decade.  With this incredible source of food, as good as provided any well-fed steer, their minions faired well.  In the 2006-2007 deer season, running from October 1st into January, hunters took home 200,000 individual whitetail deer.  My how things have changed.


Beginning on the first day of October, Illinois archery whitetail season extends into the following year.  Deer tags are sold in a two-pack, with one “doe only” and one “either sex” tag in each package.  Western hunters can’t wrap their minds around this next tidbit of information, so I want them to read it -s l o w l y-.  There is no limit to the number of two-packs resident hunters can purchase…  Yes, resident archery hunters can buy all the deer tags they desire.  There is No Limit.

Not only that, but archers can also hunt during Illinois firearm seasons.  High-powered modern rifles (center fire) are not allowed, but separate seasons are available for shotguns, handguns and muzzleloaders.  Hunters can utilize the most modern equipment available for any firearm that is allowed.  The point is to reduce deer numbers.

My brother Mike and his hunting partners took thirty-three deer in the 2007-2008 seasons.  One of the above photographs show whitetails hanging in Mike’s shop.  Those deer were taken during the shotgun season.  That scene reminds me of old black and white photographs depicting market hunters or huge deer camps where families gathered to hunt each fall.  It is hard to believe that photo was taken within the last five months.

In the future I will write more about the unbelievable deer hunting in Illinois.  I mainly wanted to upload some photos and whet your whistle.

April 11, 2008 Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such | 1 Comment

This Young Lady is a Successful Hunter and Author


My First Deer, written by McKenzie Badley-Mann

The morning of the hunt I woke up at 6:00 am.  It was mid-November in 2006 and I was going to try to shoot my first deer.  It was a typical fall morning in the Northwest, cloudy and cold.  Excited about the hunt, I quickly tumbled out of bed and put on my hunting clothes.  I wore long johns, camo pants and long-sleeved shirt, and wool socks.  I was not very hungry, but I ate a small breakfast anyway.  All I could think about was the big kill! On the way out the door I grabbed my Marlin 30-30 and my dad and I started out for a hike around our property and surrounding foothills.

After several hours of seeing nothing we headed back home for a bathroom break and to warm up.  It had been a long cold morning and I was worn out from walking the rough terrain.  Not only was I tired; I was disappointed we had not seen any sign of deer.  I was beginning to wonder if I would actually get the chance to shoot one. As the day passed by I was almost ready to give up when my dad suggested trying a new spot.  He was confident we would find a deer and asked if I wanted to go.  My first thought was to call it a day, but then I thought, “What if there was a deer?”  I was not ready to pass up the opportunity so we climbed in my dad’s pickup truck and headed toward a hunting spot 45 minutes away.

Shortly after arriving at the new area my dad spotted a young deer feeding deep in the woods. All of the sudden I saw him, a buck! I was so excited, and I could tell my dad was too. I quietly walked toward the deer to get a better view.  I lifted the barrel of my gun, put my eye to the scope and…nothing.  I was so anxious I could not find the deer!  I started to panic.  I was so frustrated, almost in tears. 

As I lowered my gun to try to find the deer again it was too late.  As I watched him walk away I was devastated.  I felt I had lost my only chance to kill my first deer.  But my luck changed again.  My dad was pointing into the trees where the deer had stopped.  I felt my heart start to pound and I knew I was not going to let him get away a second time.  Dad and I stalked the deer into the woods where I set up a shot at 30 yards.  I took a deep breath, lifted my gun, pulled the hammer back and found the deer in my scope.  I was set to take the shot.  I put my finger on the trigger, and without thinking, I shot it!   I looked up from my scope and the deer was still standing.  I looked at my dad and then back at that deer as it dropped to the ground right where it was standing. I yelled to my dad, “I got it!  I got it!  I shot my first deer!”

We waited a few minutes before approaching the deer. We wanted to make sure it was really dead.  After what seemed like an eternity we headed down the hill to examine the deer. As I got closer to it my heart raced. I couldn’t wait to see what I had shot. It was a spike.  Daddy pulled out his knife and gutted the deer while I assisted. We packed it out and headed home.

I got home and couldn’t wait to show everyone what I had accomplished! Now when we eat tacos I know that we are eating my deer that I provided for the family. The deer’s hide now lays in my family room and whenever I see it I think back to the day I shot my first deer.

March 29, 2008 Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such | 9 Comments

Trail Cameras, The Modern Way To Scout


Trail Cams – See Who’s Coming to Dinner


You’ve been waiting and planning the better part of a year.  The boss approved your vacation request eight long months ago.  Your wife told you that if you don’t stop talking about it, you would be living in your tent until hunting season opens.  This year, with two full weekends and five-workdays you have a total of nine-days with no job related responsibilities.  But, with drive time and camp set-up, you will have only six days in the field.  There isn’t a moment to waste. 

Who wouldn’t want to know the size of an animal and when it actually utilizes a specific trail or feeding area?  How much money and effort would you expend for that information?  With the advent of digital photography, manufacturers are making the solution more affordable and reliable every year.  Trail cameras can save your vacation and your hunt.

These devices are called by a profusion of names, such as trail cameras, stealth cameras, scouting cameras, trail sentries and recon cameras.  You can still purchase trail cameras that use 35mm film.  But, manufacturers are focusing on digital cameras.  You don’t even need a computer with many of the latest models. 

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife uses trail cameras to help them determine the number of animals in a particular area, thereby aiding them in animal population estimates.  Dave Immell is a biologist assigned to ODF&W’s Roseburg office.  He showed me several photographs of bears taken in the Cascades, by means of trail cameras.  Their  cameras are placed along trails utilized by bears and other wildlife. 

Some newer trail cameras have a built in photograph-viewing screen, allowing you to see and delete photographs without removing the camera or digital memory card.  Most modern cameras are designed to allow the owner to view photographs on a television screen.  I especially like the idea of this feature.  I nearly always have a television in camp so my friends and I can view daily film footage, watch films from previous hunting trips, or be entertained by professionally made hunting tapes.  This trail camera feature would allow everyone to view hunt related photographs in camp.  And finally, some systems utilize a removable digital camera.  This means the camera can be placed inside the trail cam case, or used at home as a family camera. 

Trail cameras are not complicated.  They utilize a PIR sensor, a type of motion detector that uses invisible infrared light to detect movement.  If you’ve ever observed the cloudy white or gray plastic cover at the base of a motion detection light, that is the housing for the PIR sensor, which operates the motion sensitive outdoor light.  Be sure the trail camera you purchase uses a PIR sensor that requires both movement and body heat to activate.  Otherwise, every falling leaf or limb bobbing in the wind will activate the camera’s shutter. 

Josh Johnson, one of the owners of Spot-Hogg Archery equipment, lives north of Eugene.  He has been operating trail cameras for several years in western and eastern Oregon.  He and a friend built nearly thirty trail cam units at home.  Josh said they use about ten cameras at a time and each of them has hundreds or thousands of wildlife photographs.  They acquired many of their trail camera parts from Pix Controller (http://www.pixcontroller.com/). 

Josh was a wealth of information.  He told me he has owned several name brand trail cams and each of them have positive features and particular problems.  One of the biggest concerns is battery life and the battery system utilized by a manufacturer.  With some models the batteries will last only about one week, even if no photos are taken.  Some will only work at very close ranges, reaching the limit of their capabilities at around 20 to 25 yards. 

Also, you want the quickest camera shutter speed you can find.  If you are constantly getting flank shots or nothing but close-ups, that may be related to a slow shutter speed.  Buyers must ask questions and look for retailers who have answers to specific equipment questions.  Go online and read everything you can find.  Visit “Trail Cam Pros” on line (http://www.trailcampro.com/) to read reviews of most retail trail cameras .  Lets face it, trail cameras can be expensive, some cost more than $600.00.   Do your homework.

Be careful how you affix your camera to a tree.  In addition to being concerned about theft, you have to consider that a curious bear may try to rip it off the tree.  While cable locks such as used on bicycles, will work really well in the woods, one of the biggest problems are curious bears moving them around on the tree.  If that happens directly after you placed the camera, you could lose many days of valuable preseason scouting.  Josh suggests you place long wood screws above and below the cable on either side of the box.  This will prevent the camera from sliding from side to side or up and down.  Be sure to remove the screws from the tree when you relocate your camera. 

Do not place your camera at a 90-degree angle to a trail.  Once the animal activates your camera’s shutter, he could be out of the lens view if you place the camera in such a manner.  Place your camera looking down a trail at a slight angle – facing the direction from which you believe your game will come.  In that way, unless the animal is running, you will get a photograph of its approach.

Ensure your camera isn’t facing directly into the sun for part of the day.  Have you ever tried to take family photos with the sun in your face?  It doesn’t work.  Place the camera facing north or south, or under a canopy of heavy tree limbs or tall brush. 

It is imperative that objects are removed from your cameras shooting lane or line of sight.  Leaves or fern branches warmed in the sun and then moved about by wind will activate your PIR sensor.  Also, hanging brush or branches may partially hide the body of the animal walking toward your camera.  Take a pair of brush clippers or a machete with you when scouting the location for your camera.

You will reduce the problem of bringing attention to your camera if you buy one with an infrared flash, rather than a standard white light.  Josh said bears and elk are more likely to damage the camera if it has a standard flash.  A bright flash of light suddenly blinding them on the trail could be enough to prevent animals from using that trail for some time.  In my limited experience this has not been a problem, the bears, deer and turkeys I have photographed paid little attention to the flash.  But, animals survive by avoiding things that scare them or which they cannot understand.  Keep in mind that high quality color photographs are more difficult to capture with infrared. 

Consider placing the camera at or near a favorite source of food.  When spring bear hunting, consider placing your camera in areas with tall grasses and perhaps skunk cabbage.  In the fall, put the camera near berry patches or on trails leading to those delicacies.  Where I hunt, bears use creek beds as travel routes in the fall.  Blackberries often grow along creek beds and they can be busy animals highways when the berries are ripe.

Josh Johnson lives and hunts in Oregon.  He said he has photographs of coyotes, cougars, playing bear cubs, big bears, and great bucks and bulls, all because he uses his cameras several weeks or months per year.  He told me the quality of his photographs has dramatically improved with experience. 

My grandfather wouldn’t believe the hunting devices we take for granted in the 21st Century.  I’m certain he would be astonished to learn that while we are sitting at home watching a ball game or sleeping soundly in our beds, miles away our digital trail camera is making a permanent record of bear, deer or elk going about their business at our favorite hunting locations.  I urge you to take advantage of every means possible.  Make the most of your vacation before it arrives.  Get a trail cam and see who’s coming to dinner.

March 29, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws, Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such, Hunting Stuff, Smile - You're on My Trail Camera | 5 Comments

No Trees Handy – Use A Hoist


Truck Mounted Animal Hoist


You’ve pulled it off.  After months of running scenarios through your head and dreaming while awake and fast asleep, you have at last filled your big game tag.  The critter is on the ground, or maybe on your tailgate, and you begin searching for a suitable tree limb or leaning tree trunk from which to hang your gimble.  With billions of trees to choose from, you would think this should be a simple task.  But, the right tree is harder to find than a flea at a Frontline convention.  Ever filled an antelope tag?  How many handy tree limbs were in the immediate vicinity?

Hunters can alleviate this problem with a bit of time and not too many greenbacks.

My friend Trace Schreiner built a portable and easily store-able hoist, which slides into the hitch on the rear of his truck.  Check out the basic necessities below and look over the photos in the slide show.  The description below merely details what my friend Trace did to build his hoist.  Use your own plan and imagination.  This is not meant to be an instructional guide, but merely a way to inform you of what Trace built to make his hunting trips a bit easier.

The older you get, the more importance is given to “ease of operation”.

Parts List

Two inch and 2.5 inch square tube steel.  The 2″ slides inside the 2.5″ inch.  The bottom large horizontal tube (2.5″) is 24 inches long and the smaller inner (2″) tube protrudes 8″, and slides into the tow hitch of the pickup.

Trace simply drilled holes into the large tube and used that hole as an access point to weld the inner tube inside the big tube.  Welding one short (small) tube inside one long (large) tube creates one section.  The sections are simply pieced together by sliding a large tube over the small tube protruding from a different section piece.  Drill a hole through both tubes in a section and run a bolt or pin through in order to secure your sections to one another.  In the photos on the slide show, you will not see the sections drilled and pinned together.

You can make the sections as long as you like, and create as many as you like.  Trace made three sections:  two 36″ and one 24″.  You might consider two pieces 36″ long and two pieces 24″ long.  That would be ten feet of 2.5 inch square tubing for uprights and another 4-feet for the bottom and top horizontal large tubes.

Cut your small tubing into one foot lengths and dermine how many you need after you decide the number of sections you are going to make.  You also need a 900 pound boat wench, 30-feet of ¼” coated steel cable, two cable pulleys, three carabineers,  two cable fasteners (clamps) and a steel eye bolt.

March 14, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws, Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such, Hunting Stuff | Leave a comment

Stan Jackson Received Two “Once-In-A-Lifetime” Bighorn Sheep Tags


The Second-Chance Ram


        Hunting for bighorn sheep was the last thing on Stan Jackson’s mind on May 22, 2004.  The Christmas gift of six big horn sheep raffle tickets was half-a-year behind him.  He had just crawled under the covers and was fading fast when the telephone rang.  The caller was Don Whitaker, an employee with Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODF&W).  It took some fast-talking to convince Stan this wasn’t a prank call arranged by his brother Mike, but eventually the truth of it sank in.  Despite incredible odds, one of his tickets had been drawn at Oregon’s annual raffle/auction dinner banquet!


        This tag would allow Stan to hunt for his choice of Rocky Mountain or California Bighorn Sheep, throughout their range inside the State of Oregon.  The enhanced season for raffle winners would run from August 14 to November 9th, providing three months to locate and harvest a magnificent ram.


        In Oregon, the availability of sheep tags is low, but the number of applicants is very high. Thousands of hopeful hunters apply for approximately seventy-tags each year.  ODF&W’s hunting procedures state that persons can be awarded only one bighorn sheep tag in a lifetime.  However, persons acquiring a sheep hunt via the raffle or auction are exempt from this rule.


        Stan Jackson truly had the luck of the angels working for him the night of the raffle, for he had been issued a “once in a lifetime bighorn sheep tag” in 1985.  He was only eighteen years old when drawn, and he knew he could never apply for an Oregon bighorn tag again.  This opportunity was made even sweeter by the fact that nineteen years earlier, Stan was not successful in his attempt to harvest a California Bighorn Sheep.  Now, at the age of thirty-seven, Stan Jackson had been provided a second-chance.


        Like many large game animals, bighorn sheep did not fare well when eastern pioneers settled in Oregon.  Due to land use changes, diseases transferred from domestic animals and over-hunting, bighorns were extirpated from Oregon by 1945.  But, thanks to hunters and organizations such as the Oregon Hunter Association, the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Bighorn Sheep were transplanted to Oregon beginning in 1954.  By the year 1998 there were 31 herds with an estimated population of approximately 2,500 animals.  These sheep are primarily located in the high desert country of South-central and Southeastern Oregon.  A handful of California Bighorns have expanded their range from Southwestern Idaho into Oregon’s Malheur County.


        From 1971 through 1999, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep were repatriated to Oregon’s rugged Northeastern Mountains.  In 1999, ODF&W estimated the population of ten sheep herds was about 700 animals.


        Due to this continual increase in sheep numbers, the state is able to allow some hunting to aid in the management of herd size.  I am always amazed by the astonishing magnetism this big game animal has for hunters.  ODF&W sells raffle tickets for their yearly sheep tag drawing, and they auction a tag to the highest bidder.  In 2004 the auctioned tag sold for $87,000 and in 2005 the highest bidder paid $117,000!


        When a much younger Stan Jackson sought a bighorn ram in 1985, Mother Nature seemed to block his success at every turn.  Hunting rocky bluffs more than 5,000 feet above sea level a raging wind pushed blowing snow for the first four days of season.  Freezing winds and accumulations of snow rapidly changed the bighorn’s feeding and sleeping habits.  He spent days attempting to re-locate wandering herds.  Only once did Stan locate a “shooter” ram.  It was bedded down, the wind was correct and he began his stalk.  But, the consistency of his poor luck stuck to him like glue.  Just as he reached a reasonable shooting distance, a roving coyote spooked the ram from his bed and it was gone in an instant.  Stan did not connect with a ram.


        For his 2004 hunt, Stan chose to once again seek a California Bighorn ram.  He had hunted desert mule deer in an area east of Paisley and north of the Abert Rim, and knew it held good numbers of bighorns.  Stan would be seeking his ram in management unit #575A, the “South Central” hunting unit.  This isolated and seemingly infinite expanse of desert rests at approximately 4,500-feet above sea level.  Resident sheep reside on rugged mountain ridges and canyons, rising as much as 2,500-feet above the desert floor.  Consequently, each morning Stan would be forced to climb 1,500 to 2,500-feet in order to begin his hunt.


        Before traveling to the area on scouting trips, Stan telephoned ODF&W wildlife biologists, Mary Jo Hedrick and Craig “Foz” Foster.  He found them to be more than willing to aid him in his quest.  Stan told me they offered suggestions and patiently answered a multitude of questions.


        Scouting in mid-July, he had little problem locating large numbers of sheep.  Aided by his brother Mike and their father Dave Jackson, the men covered an enormous area evaluating bighorn rams.  Probing thousands of square miles, they scoured the countryside within the Abert, Coleman and Fish Creek rims.  Eventually, Stan and Mike located a bachelor-group of eighteen rams in the South Central unit.  Amongst these individuals was what they believed to be a very large ram.  Upon spying this exceptional animal, Stan determined it would be the bighorn he would attempt to locate and harvest when the season opened on August 14th.


        In camp, the night of August 13th was a long one.  A severe thunderstorm with high winds drenched the area with heavy rains.  Hundreds of lighting bolts blazed across the black desert sky with a performance equal to the finest Fourth of July display.  Still misting rain, opening morning was cool, wet and muddy.  Stan, his brother Mike Jackson and their friend Dave Backen climbed to the rim top on the southeast end of their chosen area, carefully probing rocky bluffs and outcroppings for the big ram.


        Stan, Mike and Dave located a group of fifteen rams early in their hunt.  Although they didn’t see the big ram he wanted, they decided to remain stationary in hopes that he may join the others.  This small cluster of sheep eventually surrounded the men, some coming within 60 yards of the hunters.  When the first day of the 2004 bighorn sheep season came to an end, they had seen numerous sheep, but the trophy ram was no where to be found.


        While making their way to the rim the following morning, Stan and his group observed a decent sized ram about one-half mile in the distance.  Walking north they saw several ewes, and came across some small rams.  Before stopping for lunch the group of hunters had seen dozens of sheep.


        After eating and napping in the warm sunshine the men resumed their trek.  They quickly spotted a group of six big rams about one mile ahead.  The sheep were slowly moving across the top of the rim, apparently heading for water or afternoon beds.  Although they couldn’t be certain, the men hoped “their ram” was in this band of sheep.  Making their way through a maze of boulders and rocky outcroppings atop the rim, they observed a cluster of about two-dozen rams three to four miles to the north.  Sheep seemed to be everywhere!


        Closing the distance as quickly as they dared, the men watched as the band of large rams stepped off the rim and into a shallow depression.  The animals had not detected their presence.  As he reached the last place he’d seen the rams, Stan stopped about 50 yards from the edge of the canyon.  The wind was in his face and his heart was racing.  He knew the sheep were close.


        Pausing to scour the landscape, Stan discovered a medium sized ram standing only 40 to 50 yards below him.  The sheep was frozen in place, with his gaze solidly locked on Stan.  Moving only his eyes, Stan observed four more bighorns, just twenty yards away.  Suddenly he saw the large ram.  Bedded approximately forty yards in front of and below him, the bighorn had no inkling of his presence.  Positioned completely in the open, Stan knew he dared not move a muscle for fear of spooking the ram whose eyes remained fixated on him.


        After what seemed an eternity, Stan slowly began raising his rifle to a shooting position.  When he fired, the ram was instantly on his feet and bolted toward the other sheep.  Stan charged another cartridge into the action and prepared to shoot again.  Standing a few yards behind his brother, Mike Jackson knew the shot had been perfectly placed and called out for Stan to wait.  Within seconds the beautiful California Bighorn Ram dropped to the ground.  With a green-score of 170-1/8″, the sheep would not qualify for Boone & Crockett’s book of records.  Nonetheless, it is the trophy of a lifetime for Stan.


        After posing for dozens of photographs the men dressed and caped the ram.  With the horns, head and cape affixed to his back, Stan stopped at the summit of the rim to soak up the scenery and fully absorb his once in a lifetime experience.  Perched at more than 6,500′ above sea level, he could easily see 60 to 80 miles across the vast expanse of desert.  Stan knew that by every available statistical measure, he should not have been here.  Nineteen years earlier he had drawn his “once in a lifetime bighorn sheep tag”, and yet, here he stood.  Feeling the weight of the sheep’s head and cape in his backpack, Stan Jackson couldn’t have been more grateful for the opportunity to take his “Second Chance Ram”.

March 12, 2008 Posted by | Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such | 1 Comment