Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wishing I Was There 24-7: Photos

Like many who love the outdoors, this is the start of my favorite time of year. I wish I could take three months off and just spend it at our hunting grounds. Using that old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words", I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves. 

A stream runs through it

Trying to fool the thunder chickens

Hilltop hunting

Surrounded by hills

A hunter's lair

Standing guard

Cabin in winter
A cold stream runs through it

View from a tree stand

On the trail

Food plot under snow

A cold drink

Snow on the hills

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blog of the Week: A "Focus" In The Wild

This blog of the week belongs to Stacey Huston and is called A "Focus" In The Wild. Stacey is an accomplished wildlife photographer, hunter, wife, and mother. In addition, Stacey is a licensed falconer and raptor rehabilitation expert. She lives with her family in Wyoming where there are plenty of subjects for her photography.

Stacey's photos are truly stunning! She has photographed everything from bears and elk to rabbits and birds of prey. Her blog is a joy to look at and her work has been featured on the covers of several magazines. Stacey routinely puts out free desktop calendars featuring her photos.

Check out Stacey's fan page on Facebook where you can find some of her wonderful photographs. You owe it to yourself to visit A "Focus" In The Wild. Stacey has an amazing talent that you really need to see! Her photos are second to none!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

More Trail Cam Bucks

Here are some more trail cam photos from the family property. 

The deer in this third photo were a long way from the camera and the angle of the sun washed out the picture, but there are two large bucks standing in the field. By looking at the inset photos you can see they have some impressive racks. Too bad they haven't been closer to the camera yet. My brother, Adam, is keeping tabs on the situation! 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wildlife Callers: Interview with Marc Reindell

For my very first blog interview, I have the pleasure of talking with Marc Reindell of Wildlife Callers. Marc, along with his partners, Mark Healy and Dave Martens, are experts at calling in predators (mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, etc.). Based in Arizona, Wildlife Callers offers true customer-oriented service. Let's hear what Marc has to say about their company and how they can help hunters interested in chasing predators.

What is your hunting background and how did you personally get started in predator hunting/calling? 

Mark Healy has been predator hunting/calling for 28 years. Dave Martens has been predator hunting/calling for 5-6 years with Mark Healy. Together they have called 16 confirmed mountain lions and harvested three. I am new to the calling scene with my focus more on the video aspect of field work and maintaining the website. Mark Healy, Dave Martens and I comprise Wildlife Callers. Our main focus is calling mountain lions here in Arizona where we are based. 

How did Wildlife Callers come about? 

Wildlife Callers came about one year ago. We formed the company with our goal being to provide the predator calling community with a source of information on calling techniques that new hunters drawn to predator hunting could apply in the field as well as sharing some of our calling experiences. We did this by starting our blog. The idea expanded into becoming an online retailer of high end calling equipment. 

What kinds of products and services does Wildlife Callers offer? 

Wildlife Callers is the only authorized dealer of the Wildlife Technologies brand of electronic callers - the MA-15 and the MA-21. The callers are fully customizable so the customer can choose the sounds they want added to their caller.  Wildlife Callers offers over 300 different Wildlife Technologies sounds to choose from and all the sounds are true animal recordings. We work directly with the customer on sound selection based on their location.  

We also carry a full line of Mojo Outdoors decoys designed for predator calling and we are expanding into the firearms realm as well. Currently, we carry DPMS upper barrel assemblies and hope to have our FFL very soon so we can offer a full line of firearms.  

What is the most challenging aspect of running this kind of business? 

Being an online retailer presents many issues. The biggest is being found. We have spent many hours optimizing the website to be easily found in Internet searches. In fact, we just finished a major upgrade to the site to enhance speed and search-ability. Another challenge is the very nature of hunting. Being a seasonal activity means having to broaden our horizons so we don't become stagnant during the off season.  

Is there a big interest among hunters in pursuing predators? 

Yes. As tags for deer, elk and other large ungulates get harder to come by, hunters are looking for other avenues to expand their hunting seasons. Predator calling is something that can generally be done for longer periods of the year in a lot of places, especially in the west. Coyote calling is by far the most common form of predator calling and, in Arizona, allowed 12 months of the year. Other calling opportunities include bobcats, foxes and mountain lions. We were very disappointed in the recent ruling on wolves in Idaho and Montana. We would have liked to have given that a try!  

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get started hunting predators? 

Do your homework! Calling predators presents challenges that you don't find in other hunting activities. Predators can be very aggressive and elusive. Learning about your prey is very important. Learning what type of equipment you will need can also be a challenge as there are many choices, IE: hand calls, electronic calls, use of decoys, proper stand set up, proper choice of firearms, etc.  

What do you see for the future of Wildlife Callers? 

We are very excited about the company's future. We had a very successful first year and, moving forward, we look forward to continued growth based on offering top of class products combined with world class customer service. When a customer contacts Wildlife Callers, they will always speak to one of the owners. We will spend as much time as the customer wants or needs to know they are making a purchase based on product knowledge, not just talking to a salesman.   

What are the different ways Wildlife Callers can be contacted? 

Wildlife Callers can be contacted several ways. We have a contact form on our website at www.wildlifecallers.com, a toll free number: 877-734-1010 or via e-mail at info@wildlifecallers.com. In addition, we can be reached via Facebook, Twitter (@WildlifeCallers) and we have a YouTube channel. For any of these options, just search Wildlife Callers and you will find us! 

I want to thank Marc for taking the time to be interviewed! If you are interested in hunting predators, give these guys a shout. They know what they're doing and can get you pointed in the right direction!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pre-Season Buck

My brother, Adam, got these trail cam photos of a buck on family property. It would be nice to see him from a stand. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Will Boo Boo Return?

Last year, about mid-way through hunting season, we discovered some equipment and food plot damage on our hunting property that we initially thought was vandalism. It seemed odd because the property is not easily accessible and a person would have to know exactly where to go in order to tamper with our equipment. Heavy feeders had been knocked over and broken. When it happened the first time, we repaired the feeders only to later find they had been damaged again. At that point we were convinced someone was intentionally trespassing on the property during our absence. 

After the second occurrence, we began searching around the food plots in an effort to find signs that someone had been there. The year before we had planted a bunch of young fruit trees around the edge of the food plots. We discovered that several of them had literally been destroyed. The trees had been broken off just above ground level. That seemed like an odd thing for someone to do and the trees didn't appear to have been chopped or cut. As we continued to look around, we walked to the pond which is situated at the end of one of the food plots. Along the bank, we came upon the signs of our vandal, but it was not the vandal we assumed. In the mud were several fresh, clearly distinct bear tracks. Suddenly, it all made sense. 

Black bear tracks

We have been hunting this area for many years and had never seen a bear track, much less an actual bear. Up to this point, the top predators were coyotes and bobcats. Bears were pretty much wiped out in Kentucky by the early 1900's due to hunting and extensive logging. The few bears that remained were generally located in the southeastern part of the state. Our property is in the northern part of the state. To say the discovery of bear tracks on our property was a surprise would be an understatement. 

Unlike hunters who live in places where bears are common, we never had to plan or think "bears" while setting equipment or traveling to and from deer stands. Now we realized there was a much larger predator in the area. We surmised the bear was looking for food which is why it went after the feeders and destroyed the fruit trees. The one thing we didn't know was if the bear had taken up permanent residence or was merely passing through. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has radio-tagged several black bears and monitors their movements via GPS. This map shows the travel of one of the male bears over several months: Bear Movement Patterns. As you can see, the bear traveled through KY, TN, and VA. 

One of our concerns was that the bear might eventually get close to our cabin. We do a lot of cooking over the fire pit and an outdoor BBQ grill. The last thing we wanted was for a bear to be attracted by the smell of food or trash. The other concern was bumping into the bear while deer hunting. Since it had obviously been hanging around our food plots we had a new element to consider that had never been present before. Kentucky does not have a regular bear season so hunting it was not an option. The state held its first season last year, but it was limited to three counties in the southern part of the state and only a small number of bears were to be killed. Once (and if) the quota was met, the season was over. 

Black bear track

We didn't find any more fresh bear sign during the remainder of hunting season. In an effort to discourage the bear from staying in the area, we didn't put the feeders back up. Since we really had no options for dealing with a bear, we hoped it had moved on in search of food. 

With this year's hunting season only days away, it will be interesting to see if we have any bear visits again. The population is increasing and sightings are more common, although still rare in the part of the state we hunt. For those of us not accustomed to having bears around, it adds a new twist to the mix knowing a top predator has been and could be in the area. Although bears are generally shy and avoid human contact, the thought still lurks there in the back of your mind while walking to a deer stand in the pitch dark of an early morning.