Me and my shadow

Sadly, another hunting season is rapidly coming to a close. Heavy rains that I wish would have been snow finally subsided long enough for me to get out for the last day of Maryland’s late 3-day firearms season. I have one deer in the freezer taken during the early muzzleloader season. A nice mature doe taken just before dark while she feasted on acorns with several of her friends. I still remember it like yesterday the fire and smoke erupting from the barrel creating a mad dash of alarmed whitetails bounding off in every direction. There were more deer around me than I thought! I watched my target on her death run through the smoke as she ran out of sight off to my right. I held my breath and waited for the sound of her hopefully crashing to the ground. A few seconds later I exhaled and smiled as the sound I was hoping for hit my ears. A bit of redemption after blowing my chance with a nice buck a few weeks prior. That bruiser busted me as I tried to position myself for a shot with a crossbow at 15 yards. Shaking my head, I looked down at my trusty hand me down 30-30 recounting another treasure trove of good memories from another season gone too soon. I ran my fingers along the smooth wood stock realizing that it had been several years since I had taken a deer with my favorite gun. The crossbow and muzzleloader had received most of the action the last several years and I longed to raise and fire her on an unsuspecting deer. I remember how heavy she felt as 12 years old and how light and comfortable she felt now some 40-plus years later. I loved working the lever to eject a smoking shell while loading another that I hoped I would not need.

The afternoon sun suddenly hitting my face provided a burst of warmth and brought me back to the present. Scanning the woods for the thousandth time, I noticed the perfect shadow the sun was creating below of me sitting in my tree stand some twenty feet up. I playfully verified the shadow was me by shouldering my gun and watching the black silhouette in the brown leaves below mirror my moves. Pretty cool. Just another one of the neat little things you see and appreciate when spending countless hours outdoors. The woods had been active today after the rains had wiped the slate clean. Squirrels, birds, a fox, and a few deer had wandered by me so far; their noses and beaks exploring what the rains had covered or revealed. With meat in the freezer, I was hoping to see one of the bucks I captured on my trail cam earlier in the week. I have resisted the urge to get the live-action intel provided by the fancy cellular trail cams. I preferred the anticipation of pulling the SD cards and checking the images one by one on my laptop. Crazy to think that is becoming old school now. My latest card pull revealed four mature bucks were still frequenting our woods and hopefully I had myself positioned correctly for one of these wall hangers to cruise by in range. The deer that had passed by earlier did not fit that description, but I felt confident I wasn’t detected. As the shadows grew longer and longer (I could no longer see mine) my chances to work that lever action were fading fast.  Except for squirrels doing their best to sound like a deer, that final afternoon faded to dark without a buck appearing. I gathered my gear and descended the ladder with absolutely no disappointment. It had been another entertaining and relaxing day in the woods. I might still be able to get out one more time with the crossbow before the season ended in a couple of weeks, but it didn’t matter. If the season ended today, I would still be happy and appreciative of the opportunity to be out here.

Safely back on the ground, I cradled the 30-30 at the base of the tree about to head back to my truck when a deer snorted at me from maybe 50 yards away. I chuckled a little in the darkness to acknowledge the deer’s announcement of my detected presence. I stayed and listened in the dark until the snorts faded in the distance while the deer put a safe distance between it and myself. Incentive to try and get out one more time; not that it was needed. I worked the lever on the 30-30 to unload the unused bullets. That action and the sound it made always made me smile. After I gathered the ejected bullets, I patted the old girl on the stock and told her “Maybe next year, maybe next year”. With me and my other shadow now slung over my shoulder I made my way out of the woods to a cut cornfield where walking would be a bit easier. Once there I gazed up into the clear night sky at the first stars that had appeared. “Beautiful,” I said out loud and took in a few deep breaths of the cold, crisp air. Another one of my favorite parts of a day outside lay before me. A nice long walk under the stars back to my truck. I couldn’t be happier.

He got away…again!

*This article of mine originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2023 issue of InsideMD magazine

Hunting season has finally arrived. Well, officially anyway. In my mind the season is always present. Hunting is a hobby; a passion of mine along with many of the other 88,000 men, women and children who hunt in Maryland each year. According to Maryland Department of Resources data those 88,000 hunters (19,000 of which come from out of state) spend a whopping $266 Million annually on various equipment and licenses with a total ripple effect including taxes, salaries, and wages generating over $400 million annually for the Maryland economy. Maryland, often described as America in Miniature, contains a variety of habitats harboring many huntable game species. From the large expanses of forested mountains in the west to the rich agricultural land and broken woodlots to the East, one can pursue the Whitetail Deer, Sika Deer, Geese, Birds, Ducks, Turkey, Black Bear, and small game species such as squirrel, rabbit, and fox to name a few. Along with this variety of game animals to pursue comes generous bag limits allowing for several animals to be harvested. Long seasons in which to pursue your chosen quarry with an array of weaponry add to the popularity of the sport. Maryland seeks to please every type of hunter with opportunities to hunt Whitetail Deer & Sika Deer from September to early February with either archery equipment, Firearms (including muzzleloaders and handguns) to a special primitive weapons season in early February. Primitive hunting devices are defined as longbows, recurve bows, flintlock, or sidelock percussion muzzleloaders. Turkey hunting now has a fall and spring season due to a successful trapping and relocating program that has increased the population of Turkeys statewide.  Turkeys previously only had a huntable population in the far western mountain counties.

Maryland boasts over 300,000 acres of huntable public land scattered over many state parks and wildlife management areas throughout the state. Statistics from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources illustrate the popularity and success of hunting in Maryland with hunters harvesting a total of 76, 687 deer and 5, 356 wild Turkeys last season. Harvest numbers are up 8% and 27% percent respectively from last year’s totals. Deer and turkey are the only game species requiring check-in via phone within 24 hours of a harvest.

Maryland is also home to many hunting clubs that lease private land where they enjoy rich traditions of hunting year after year at deer camps started decades ago and enjoyed down through several generations. Groups of public land hunters enjoy these traditions at their favorite annual spots as well. The anticipation of the hunt and camaraderie with family and friends still lead to many sleepless nights on the eve of a hunting trip. I have been very fortunate to belong to one of these clubs for over forty years and the memories made and experiences shared with my family and friends during our common pursuits have formed a strong foundation for the person I am today.

Eager to do my part once again as a hunter and contribute to this year’s harvest numbers, the weather finally cooled enough for my first trip afield in late September. With crossbow in hand, I headed out to my favorite 100-acre patch of woods in Carline County that I lease with four friends on the Eastern Shore. I had the woods all to myself that day and after consulting the weather for wind direction, I made my plan. I had put in countless hours scouting the woods for food sources, travel corridors, and trails where these gorgeous creatures of habit frequent. Putting the pieces of a deer’s daily travel puzzle together is a challenge that creates the thrill of the chase that keeps me coming back year after year. Being in the right place at the right time may get you a sighting but it does not guarantee you a successful harvest. One must also fool and evade the deer’s senses of sight, smell, and hearing which are far superior to ours. Success requires a mountain of patience, total awareness of the environment around you, and a good amount of luck. When it all comes together, the moment can overwhelm you with emotion. On this cool, clear September afternoon my plan was simple. Find the first trail crossing with fresh signs of consistent use, settle in a spot downwind of said trail, and wait. I began walking along a ditch that runs along the backside of our property searching for a spot where the deer were crossing into or out of the woods. Approaching an area where deer have historically crossed, I found what I was looking for. A path about a foot wide carved out of the ditch on both sides appeared among the tall grass and cattails. Closer inspection revealed the pointed hooves of deer tracks crossing the ditch in both directions. I smiled as I felt that familiar buzz of excitement and anticipation that never gets old. I backtracked about 15 yards downwind of the trail and walked into the woods another 30 yards to a spot where I could sit and watch for any deer using the trail. I was settled in my spot by 2 pm to get acclimated and tuned in with the sights and sounds around me. Experience and research have shown that deer travel mostly during dusk and dawn so I had several hours to sit back and soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of the early autumn woods. With the aroma of leaves and pine needles saturating the air, I leaned my head back to drink in the vivid colors of green, red, yellow, and brown leaves outlining a vivid, clear blue sky. Birds and squirrels revealed their presence with songs and chirps while hopping through the leaves and twigs on the forest floor. My camouflage and discipline to stay still seated at the base of an oak tree allowed for close viewing of these creatures, sometimes just a foot or so from my body. As the afternoon slipped by my focus was sharp for any signs of approaching deer. The sun was slipping behind the trees and the woods were starting to dim when I caught a flash of movement about 30 yards to my right. I could not see the animals’ head but a large deer was quickly approaching my ambush spot. I had little time to react as the deer seemed to be on top of me without making a sound. When the deer was behind a tree a mere 15 yards away, I attempted to draw up my stretched-out legs to have a rest to help steady my weapon for a shot. The deer did not materialize on the other side of that tree to meet my arrow. Sensing, hearing or maybe seeing me move, the deer made a sharp left-hand turn and was now 15 yards directly to my right. The majestic 8-point buck looked just as surprised as I did, and gave me just enough time to admire his long antler tines and impressive size before he turned and disappeared with two other deer I had not yet seen. With two bounds all three were gone before I could even think about releasing the safety on my crossbow to attempt a shot. The vision of their namesake white tails bouncing away from me would haunt and entertain me for a long time to come. I smiled and began the brutal process of reviewing the encounter in my head for the mistakes I made. The pain of my mistakes was quickly replaced by the joy of experiencing such a rare up close and personal encounter with a mature whitetail buck.  Although I didn’t score, my planning and scouting paid off by rewarding me with this unforgettable experience. With the likelihood of seeing any other deer now gone, I gathered my gear for the walk back to my truck. The sunset was underway with an explosion of colors contrasted against the dimming woods and now black trees. Enjoying nature’s art, I thought about this young season and how if it ended today, I would consider it a success. Not bad for the first time out this year but the special months of October, November, and December were just around the corner bringing with it the crazy antics of the breeding season where anything could happen at any time. When love is in the air, we animals can do some crazy things! I’m looking forward to the show. As you are traveling around Maryland these next few months you may notice an increase in trucks and campers hauling four-wheelers and other outdoor equipment on their way to or from their happy hunting places.  You may also notice an orange blob here or there traversing a field or entering a patch of woods representing a safe hunter finally getting out to enjoy some time in the outdoors. Having the good fortune of harvesting a deer in this beautiful state for the family freezer or local food bank is purely a bonus to getting out there. Good luck to everyone hunting this year. Enjoy your precious time outdoors, be safe, and shoot straight!

InsideMD is a subscription-only print magazine published quarterly. Publisher James Nelson (


It has been waaaay too long since I have written a blog post! Life has thrown some curveballs and obstacles at me lately. But I am back and want to share my review of this past hunting season. Many hunters will tell you that the actual pulling of the trigger and putting a deer on the ground pale in comparison to all the “work” that leads up to that moment. I am in that group. I enjoy all the planning and scouting that goes on year-round to get myself set up in the right place at the right time. Even with all the fancy equipment we have to help us, success is never a guarantee.

I felt the need to change things up this year, so I installed a few trail cameras in August and decided I wasn’t going to be as traditional in my approach. I wanted to be more flexible in methods and hunt from the ground more. I needed to try and not overthink and analyze things so much. The signs are all there and enough clues are left behind. But your mind must be open to new ways of pursuing your quarry. Tradition is good but sometimes it keeps you from seeing better opportunities and plans.

I started my revised approach this time last year and after evaluating for a bit I think I made the right decision. I saw more deer this past season than I have in many years and if not for an incorrectly placed 209 primer I would have scored the biggest buck of my life during the early muzzleloader season. Another member of our crew also trusted his gut and made an untraditional decision to try and score. More on his hunt later. Our 100-hundred-acre parcel on Maryland’s Eastern Shore felt and looked different from my new approach. All five of us who pitch in to lease this property had high hopes after viewing trail cam pics of several decent bucks since late August.

Early season hunts can be challenging with high temps and bugs, but last season wasn’t bad at all. We had a dry summer and mosquitoes were scarce. Life kept me out of the woods until my first sit on the afternoon of Oct 5th. My first keep it simple plan of the season was to still hunt with the wind in my face along the top of a drainage ditch that typically has many crossings. I planned to set up on the ground just off the first hot, fresh trail I encountered. I did not have to go far. About 250 yards from where I parked, I spotted a well-worn trail with tracks sliding up and down both banks of the ditch. I started to think that the sign was probably done at night but quickly shook off the typical overthinking and the urge to climb into the traditional stand 50 yards away. I am not comfortable shooting at 50 yards with my crossbow, so I planned a simple ground attack. Scanning the woods to my right I picked a spot at the base of a large oak that had good ground cover to my sides and I nice 45-degree open area in front where I expected the deer to travel into. My ambush was about 25 yards upwind from the trail I expected the deer to use so I got settled in and start enjoying a beautiful early autumn afternoon with temps in the low 60’s. Within minutes I had melted into my surroundings and all my senses were on high alert. With a breeze in my face and the sun just starting to slip behind the trees over my left shoulder I spotted the first deer of the afternoon. A young doe stepped from the shadows into a sunny spot about 75 yards out in front of me. Browsing along with no clue I was there she fed out of sight off to my right. A few minutes later I heard movement to my left and turned just in time to see antlers bobbing above the cattails along the ditch. I couldn’t make out the deer’s body, but he fit my self-imposed minimum of 8points or better. Intel from the cameras showed there was no reason to settle for anything less. The buck had now stopped and seemed to be staring in the direction I had seen the doe. I took a quick peek in her direction and she was still there but not interested in the events unfolding. I peeked back to my left just in time to see the buck drop down into the ditch and out of my sight. I eased my safety off and prepared for a shot not knowing if or where the buck may pop up out of the ditch. Nothing. I glanced back to my right to check on the doe and as I swiveled back to my left the buck ran up out of the ditch, into the woods, and stopped broadside directly in front of me at 10 yards. He was staring in the direction of the doe so I could not move or breathe without blowing my cover. At that instant, the deer gods rewarded me, and the buck turned his head to look back over his left shoulder offering me the perfect broadside shot. I leaned up from the oak, put the crosshairs on the shoulder a fired off the bolt. THWACK! The sound of a good hit brought goosebumps to my skin as I watched the mortally wounded buck stumble 30 yards and expire in a motionless heap. I pumped my fist in triumph and caught more movement from where the buck had come from. Two of his friends, a spike, and four-pointer stared at me from the other side of the ditch with that what the heck just happened look. I waited for a few minutes as they finally gave up on the return of their companion and walked off. I could see my buck from where I sat so no need to trail any blood. At that range, the arrow probably exited the deer and landed somewhere on the other side of the ditch so no point in trying to retrieve that. I gathered my gear and walked over to where the buck expired. My cheeks hurt from smiling as I bent down and grabbed his rack. Not the biggest buck I had ever shot but one of the most exciting hunts I’ve ever had. I inspected the carnage of the shot and the 2 blade, chisel point Rage mechanical broadhead performed well. A double lung shot with a devasting entry and exit wound ended this buck’s life mercifully fast. My Dad was going to love this story! I tagged and dragged the buck about 30 yards to the edge of the woods and left him there to get my Dad. Our plan earlier was for me to hunt one end of the property and dad was going to hang out in a ground blind and do a little recon on the other side of the property. He was about 600 yards from me and I made that hike in less than 5 minutes. I got to the blind and waved him out to tell my story.

I’m sure the look on my face and my presence at the blind before dark confirmed that I had scored. He congratulated me and I reenacted the scene picking a nearby tree to demonstrate my position and every detail of the hunt. The camaraderie of sharing your stories with loved ones or passionate hunting friends are some of the most enjoyable times. After replaying the hunt for my equally excited Dad we walked back to where I had left the buck and I laid out the scene once again showing him where I was sitting and where the buck dropped. I gave his flip phone toting soul a quick lesson on taking pics with an iPhone and we grabbed some pics. One of the cool things about this property we hunt on is its accessibility. There is enough room between the woodline and the top of the ditch to drive a pickup through, so I left Dad with my buck and went to get my truck. I returned in a few minutes with my truck and we gutted the deer, checked him in online, and loaded him up. We were out of there before it got dark. Perfect!

Now my not so perfect hunt. Variables and details. Too many to mention and impossible to cover everything no matter how long you stand there at your truck reviewing and thinking before the trek to your chosen spot. Maryland’s early muzzle-loader season is almost just as exciting to me as the opening of rifle season. The deer have not been pressured too much and they are still on semi-predictable patterns. The morning hunt was slow and thought a lot about where I was going to hunt that afternoon. This time, I decided to go traditional and hunt a stand that I had seen many deer out of in the past during archery season but out of range. This stand sits about 40yards back in the woods from a field edge and overlooks a good staging area for deer before entering the field to feed. About an hour before dark I heard deer approaching my spot from behind me and to the left. I slowly swiveled around to my left and spotted two nice freezer sized does about 40 yards out. As I was contemplating a shot, a heard movement behind me and to my right. I slowly twisted back around to my right just in time to see a beautiful 6×4 pal matted buck bed down about 30 yards almost directly behind me. I had several pics of this guy on my trail cam and wanted him badly. If I were lucky, he would be the largest buck I had ever taken. Careful not to alarm the does who were still milling around, I slowly completely turned my self around in the stand. The only way I would be able to get a shot would be to crouch on the platform with back against the shooting rail and the gun barrel resting in a notch between the handrail and backrest. A large Oak between myself and the buck allowed me to only see his nose and antler tips when he swiveled his head around. Just as my knees and feet were starting to burn the buck stood up in his bed. The time had come. After standing up I could only see his head. I centered the crosshairs of my muzzleloader on his ear and waited for a better shot. My mind begged for him to just take one step to my right. Finally, after 2-3 minutes he took that one step and offered a perfect broadside view of his vitals. I tore my eyes away from his rack and aimed just above the shoulder joint. I slowly squeezed the trigger and a sickening muffled “POP” broke the silence. Panicking, I looked down at my gun I saw the gross remnants of a misfired primer! As I fumbled around for another cap, I looked back up just in time to see the buck walk slowly out of sight with those alarmed stiff legs. Upon further inspection, I realized that the primer was not fully seated correctly and when struck, the gap between the cap and load was too great to fire the gun! Lesson learned. With this style of black powder rifle always take a thumb and press the cap to make sure it is all the way on. Back at the truck, I put on another cap and the gun fired as advertised. Frustrating but I was thankful for the encounter.

Digital Camera

I had several more sightings over the next two months, but it wasn’t that 6×4 my mind was aching for. Ending the season on a good note, the youngest member of our small group on this lease managed to down his largest buck to date during the late modern firearms season. He to listened to his gut a bucked tradition (no pun intended). Getting a late start to his stand for a morning hunt he jumped a doe at close range and decided to hang at that spot for a while instead of rushing on to get to his stand before sun up. His change in tactic was rewarded a short time later just as legal shooting light began. He heard another deer moving in the same direction as the doe he jumped earlier. Big body and antlers came into view and he downed the deer in his tracks with a great shot to the neck. When my phone lit up with a text from him at 7:20 am I knew something special happened. When his father and I met up with him a short time later I thought he would tackle us in joy. The buck was a true giant for the area we were hunting, and a lifetime memory was made as he excitedly told us the story of his hunt.

On a final note, when I pulled my cameras in February, I had a pic of the palmated 10 pointer with 9 lives. He had survived the seasons! Looking forward to next fall maybe I’ll try a little unconventional 10 am to 2 pm hunt instead of napping and maybe catch him off guard. The next season never gets here fast enough. Time to dust off the kayak and paddle away from this damn virus for a while. Stay safe everyone.


While lying in bed the other night, I tossed and turned faced with a tough choice; will tomorrow be a leg day or upper body day? Poor ole me right? I was finally able to fall asleep in the warmth and coziness of gratitude for having that choice.

Waking up the next morning I stared at the ceiling with a vision of a kayak over one shoulder and a bicycle on the other. I chose leg day and jumped out of bed to prep for my ride. The weather looked good; sunny with highs in the low 80’s and light winds. I am not a fan of riding any streets with distracted drivers these days, so I choose the Northern Central Railroad Trail for my outdoor gym. The trail, originally built in 1832, ceased operation in 1972 and was resurrected as a rail-trail in 1984. I was riding solo that day so other than sucking up some fresh air and sunshine while getting a bit of exercise, I had no real goals in mind. This wasn’t my first ride on the trail, but it had been a few years since my tires had crunched over this stone dust lane to relaxation. Wrestling my bike from the bed of the truck, I caught sight of the bright blue cloudless sky and lush green trees. I smiled with anticipation for the escape ahead of me. I was starting at the two-mile mark of the trail which stretched another 18 miles north to the Pennsylvania line and then for additional 20 miles ending in York, Pennsylvania. Heading north I toyed with the idea of pedaling the entire 80-mile round trip one day.

The first few miles ticked by in a flash. Reuniting myself with the old scenic rail bed made me totally unaware of any physical exertion. One of my favorite things about this trail was how it ran parallel to different branches and creeks off the Gunpowder River. My senses enjoyed a true feast with the sight of the calm pools and gurgling rapids of the river and the earthy smells of the mature sunlit forest. Biking through the woods with a creek by your side is hard to beat. My next journey would be on the river in a kayak with the woods at my sides.  Scanning ahead I spotted a nice spot for a break in a grassy area under some trees. Leaning my bike against an ancient oak tree I considered napping in the lush, green grass. Sitting on the ground with my back against the tree I took in my surroundings. If I were a painter, I would have set up an easel right here. The vivid greens of the leaves on the trees and bushes mixed with the browns and blacks of tree trunks that highlighted here and there with a spotlight of the sun’s rays were magical. Throw in a symphony of birds and breezes and nature was putting on quite a show.  Looking around I suddenly realized that I never been this far north on the trail. Walking around to give my butt a break I found a trail marker that showed me I was still in Maryland, but I had ridden 12 miles already! My previous longest ride was a 16-mile round trip. Today was a guaranteed 24 miles unless I wimped out and called a friend. No way man. Too nice of a day. Realizing the pain that lie ahead I took an extended break and walked around a bit. Another great thing about this trail was the many historical references and sites one could find along the way. Coincidentally, I had decided to take a break near an old stone bridge built in the 1800s. The local residents had posted a sign about celebrating its birthday soon.

Back in the saddle and heading south, I contemplated the healing powers of nature. Not once had I thought about a bill, my job, or politics. My mind and body were at peace. A simple yet elusive pleasure these days. Thanks to my inability to find an adequate seat and padded bike short combination, the 12-mile return trip took twice as long. A small price to pay for the extra time outside. My trip back was also quite eventful as I narrowly missed colliding with an equally startled deer, and I enjoyed a good 20-minute break watching an older gentleman fly-fishing in the river. Not sure who’s smile was bigger as he netted a keeper from the end of a taut line. I shared the trail with many people that day, but it never felt crowded. Everyone seemed to be as grateful as I was to be there. The walkers, runners, bikers, and rowdies carrying inner tubes and coolers all passed with a smile and a cheerful hello.

At the parking lot, I eased my sore behind into the drivers’ seat. The fact that I nearly doubled my previous longest ride paled in comparison to the sights and sounds I had experienced. Although I did pause to take a few pictures, this entire trip, along with many others, would be burned on my brain to revisit anytime, anywhere for a long time to come.


I remember like it was yesterday riding past this place with my father last summer. Instantly drawn to the calming peacefulness the sight of it brought to me, I searched for street names and landmarks to remember. How is it possible that there was no one there? This tiny little community park just outside the city limits of a popular eastern shore town in Maryland was my definition of a kayakers’ dream. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of a busy ocean-bound highway I had unknowingly driven past this hidden gem a hundred times. It was a picturesque discovery and as we drove by,  my mind slowed everything down as they do on car commercials when the stylish roadster snakes through town. I recall the warm sun filtering through the trees and the sweet aroma of brackish water mixed with honeysuckle tickling my nose. The gentle slope of the ramp fading into the brown water longed for a vessel to launch or collect. The loan maroon pier reaching out into the creek and dropping down to mere inches from the waters’ surface was perfect for a kayak. The empty (EMPTY!) stone and grass-covered parking lot with a few park benches scattered about broadened the smile on my face. A scene that took possibly 3 seconds to drive past was now slowed down to a dozen or so slides burned on my brain. The moment I returned home I jumped on Google Earth and planned my escape.

Pushing away from the end of that pier almost a year later, my daydream had finally become reality. The Tuckahoe creek lay before me and I briefly wondered if I should go upstream or downstream. Talk about a win-win situation! I paused for a moment to glance back at my lonely truck in the little parking area and smiled; still amazed that I was the only one here. I chose upstream and steered my favorite mode of transportation in the direction of the many twists and turns I had seen on the bird’s eye view of the creek. My views from the surface did not disappoint. Passing under an old railroad bridge, two water snakes slid off a splintered timber cross member and slithered across the water to the opposite bank. A neat sighting but glad they didn’t decide to join me! This part of the creek had many old blown over trees reaching out over the brackish water and under the surface. This offered a perfect spot for the turtles to catch some rays. Many I encountered had washed out gray shells from hanging in the sun all morning. The shells turned back to a more natural black as they dropped from a log into the water. Many surfaced a few feet away to check on my progress up the creek. As the creek grew narrow and the limbs too numerous to navigate, I ducked into a secluded pool and turned around to paddle downstream. A great blue heron and a crane lifted off from a nearby tangle of limbs and squawked in annoyance as I retraced my path through the limbs and logs.

Crossing back under the bridge and past the ramp, a 90-degree bend to the right in the creek revealed a large carpet of green lily pads to my left. I angled over to the edge of the carpet looking for fish. Plenty of minnows darted in and out of the jungle of pads but the big fish hid their escape in swirls of clouded water when I got too close. Around the next bend, the creek widened a bit and I was treated to a multicolored landscape. The bright blue sky with a few wispy white clouds blended into trees with vivid green leaves that reached down to meet the equally luminous green lily pads lying in wait to catch them. My intense red kayak piercing this scene made for some inspiring photographs. It was one of those days where the only plan was to just go around one more bend then head back. Four miles later my growling stomach made me turn back. Forgot some snacks!

On my return trip, I paralleled the opposite bank to explore a few old duck blinds I had noticed earlier. Drifting past I could imagine the hunters in there with a black retriever, watching the sky and cutting up on each other while waiting to ambush a few ducks or geese. The screech of an osprey diverted my attention skyward just in time to see a bald eagle lift off powerfully from a nearby tree. His white tail feathers, glossy black body, white head, and sharp yellow beak glistened as he soared up and around the bend. Seeing eagles always gave me a thrill and chill and I paddled swiftly around that next bend to keep him in sight just a few seconds longer. Paddling towards me from the direction the eagle departed was an older couple in kayaks who were excitedly sharing my joy in viewing our majestic national bird. As they drifted by we chatted briefly about what we had experienced so far this beautiful day and agreed it doesn’t get much better. The ramp and pier reappeared around the next bend and my truck was still the only vehicle there. This must be the best keep secret in Maryland I thought. But thankfully, I’m beginning to discover many sites like this. My home state has too many for all of them to be crowded. A warm feeling of satisfaction and gratefulness soon replaced my sadness of reaching the end of the days’ excursion. Loaded up and pulling out of the park and back toward the concrete jungle, another truck with a kayak in the back pulled in. We smiled knowingly at each other and gave a thumbs up. Enjoy my friend. It doesn’t get much better.


Once again, the sun has set on another deer season. I am eating tag soup for the first time in quite a few seasons. I don’t, however, feel the least bit disappointed. The gratitude I feel for having the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors far outweigh any hunts (all of them this year) that didn’t go my way. Even though I did not harvest a deer this year I enjoyed changing things up by adding a few twists in my game plan. Trail cameras made the biggest impact on my season. I never knew there were so many bucks visiting our property! Unfortunately, this led to passing up several deer that I would have normally shot any other time. I learned a lot this year but studying the photos to determine the direction of travel and time of day. Marking these encounters and sign on the hunting app Hunt Stand revealed tons of intel for my wild theories on where the deer would be and when. I also turned up the scent control and attractant scent game this year. The buck bomb attractant fogger I tried worked like a champ. The closest buck around was a button buck that came straight into the can. Hunters Specialties fresh earth cover scent wafers kept me from getting busted as often leading to many close encounters.

          Something surprising to me that I learned this year through increased scouting is how long the rut can last. I am aware of the secondary rut, but I was still discovering fresh scrapes up until the last week of January!  Not all does get bred in November. Some get bred in December and even a few stragglers fire up the woods in January. Guess that explains the presence of a few extremely small fawns this season that probably weren’t born until June or July because their moms weren’t bred until January last season. So, the cameras have been pulled and gear stowed. I’ll probably wait a few weeks and then try a bit of shed hunting. After that, dad and I are talking about finally trying turkey hunting in May. Several toms also showed on the trail cameras. Until then, we had only seen a hen or two. When July rolls around I’ll bring out the trail cams again and post on mineral licks and deer trails discovered and marked last year. Hopefully, some of last fall’s rock stars and a few new bucks will parade their impressive headgear by the lens again. All and all another great season hunting with my now 82-year-old Dad. He didn’t make it out for all of the morning hunts but still showed great enthusiasm when he was out and loved the new twists we tried this year.

          Visions of exploring in my kayak and making some casts with the fishing gear are now starting to take up space in my mind vacated by the passing hunting season. During a brief warm-up this week, Dad and I pulled the cover off the boat for a quick peek. We vowed to get her off the trailer more this year to toss some fish into the cooler or crabs in the bushel basket. Not sure if it was the rare 60-degree February Day or another rush of gratitude that warmed me up and gave me chills at the same time. We were both grinning as we slid the cover back over the center console.  Gotta love life’s many simple pleasures.



Happy New Year all! I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season. Feels good to be tapping away at the keyboard again. I am fresh off a very different holiday experience that involved our family driving to Bradenton Florida for Christmas! So glad we decided to break from tradition. We were not able to take a summer vacation this year, so this fun-filled, sun-filled week in Florida was just what the doctor ordered for all of us. Much to our delight, the Christmas spirit was just as fresh and alive in the warmer temps as it would have been back home in chilly Maryland.

            Never thought I would be kayaking, biking or beachcombing during Christmas break but we did it all. Our lodging for the week was located three miles from the gulf beaches and within easy biking and paddling distance to several nature preserves. Our first excursion brought us to the beach where we found many families doing all the typical beach activities while wearing Santa hats. We joined right in and promptly took our Christmas card photo for next year in our beach attire. After a relaxing day of gentle waves, soothing sunshine and a beautiful sunset we decided to hop in the kayaks to explore the mangroves the next day. What a treat! Smooth clear water and wildlife at every turn. Even the animals were more relaxed here; letting us drift by within a few yards on many occasions. Observing the many species of birds navigating amongst the maze of the green mangroves had my cheeks hurting from smiling. Cruising in a kayak and being able to look down 8 feet to the bottom is an experience not found at many places in Maryland. I quickly filled up storage on my phone with pics of starfish, horseshoe crabs, herons, pelicans, and egrets. Paddling back to the house on one of the canals we were treated to playful dolphins and pelicans dive-bombing into the shallow waters for fish. Front row seats for a lesson on how to fish. After relaxing around the house and spending a day or two around town at the many delicious boat to table eateries,  we decided to pedal off the extra calories the following day. Flat Florida is perfect for casual biking with well-maintained streets, bike lanes and paths allowing for an excellent day of sightseeing in the Preserves and around town. A twelve-mile ride felt like a trip around the block. At the end of the week, we all felt refreshed and recharged.

              During the long 17-hour drive home I had plenty of time to reflect on our good fortune and the many benefits of spending time outdoors. Not once did we crave any of the nearby trendy tourist spots in Tampa or Orlando. Cell phone use decreased dramatically, and books were read. Sleep came easy and lasted through the nights. We planned nothing ahead of time and were not rushing to get to anywhere by any certain time. This week “off the grid” had us all reevaluating how we spend our time. Our days spent in Florida were what vacations were supposed to be. Relax and exhale. I don’t even remember feeling the dread of returning to work. All I was thinking about was how fortunate we were to have the opportunity to get away and I would soon be returning to one of my other favorite places. My mind shifted gears wondering what new pics I would discover on my trail cams back in Maryland. They hadn’t been checked in a month and I was excited to get back and see what had been stomping around our hunting lease. A brief two-day late firearms season for deer was next on my agenda. Returning to work was reduced to a minor distraction by the buzz of being outside. Hopefully, I will complete my quest with Dad this weekend to fill our freezers.

            If you are the type of person that makes resolutions, I strongly suggest that one be to spend more time outdoors this year and beyond. Getting outside is truly therapeutic for the ever-present daily stresses and expectations of our society. Go ahead, just open the door. You wont be disappointed!



I don’t like to use the word tough when I describe a hunting season. When you are doing something you love there is nothing tough about it. One thing that does make it rough though is when certain events transpire to keep us from doing the things we love. So, in that sense, this season has been tough.

After enduring the recent loss of two close relatives and watching one prime weekend after the other fly by with many family commitments I now find myself hoping for some late season magic. Fortunately, Maryland provides opportunities for hunters with my dilemma. Now I am daydreaming of a day or two on stand when the late muzzleloader season kicks in the last two weeks of December. After that, we have a two day firearms season at the beginning of 2019 and then a late archery season to finish out January and the season. I will probably face some challenging weather, but I’m prepared to wear ten layers if needed. The woods are calling big time.

Although tough, this brief season for me has been quite exciting. You may recall from earlier posts that I have been trying some different tactics this year. I am now officially hooked on the use of trail cams, Buck Bombs and the Hunt Stand App. Trail cams bring a whole new level of excitement to the sport. Until this fall, I had no idea we had some many bruiser bucks cruising our lease! Unfortunately, that leads to some painful realizations that maybe I should have called tails instead of heads when deciding on which hot stand to hunt. Two occasions found me in one stand while decent bucks passed by the camera during shooting light at other stands. Still, the anticipation of checking trail cams came close to that of an opening day. The buck bomb worked as advertised. The button buck came right to the spent can and milled around by it for several confused minutes. The big guys were probably already locked down with other ladies. Lastly, the Hunt Stand App helped me log tons of good intel regarding trails, sightings and food sources that will help me zero in on deer refueling after a crazy rut.

Should have picked tails!

In a couple of weeks and throughout January I will continue my pursuit with renewed anticipation, energy and altered goals. I have a responsibility as a hunter to help keep the herd in control and to fill my empty freezer. Mature Does have now been added to the hit list and I would be happy to have either. After several weeks away I am again looking forward to treating my senses to the cold, crisp air,  some snow and the heart-stopping excitement of the flash of a tail or flick of an ear. I long for the solitude and to immerse myself into another world.

I want to thank everyone for stopping by to check out my site and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hopefully, my next post will have a selfie with a deer instead of just my view from a stand!


Another early Muzzleloader season has come and gone. Yes, as of this writing I can still take a Doe with a Muzzleloader in Maryland through October 27th. But with plenty of meat in the freezer from last year’s success, I am opting to hold out for a mature buck this year. To date, my commitment to this feat has allowed me to pass up at least a dozen “shooter” does and a small six-point buck. All would have sufficed last year.

I have had a change of heart recently. In previous writings, I have shunned most new technologies available to hunters. Aside from fancy weapons and camo, I try to keep my approach as traditional as possible. Not sure what exactly changed my mind, but I have decided to change my approach a bit. I will be using a trail camera this year and maybe even a commercial scent to try and attract a mature buck. Could be that all my buddies are using cameras and I must keep up! Blech! Can’t believe I wrote that. Yes, I envied the stud buck pics they were getting from using cams. I often wondered what could be roaming my slice of the hundred acres. As a compromise with myself for giving in, I purchased a basic camera. Not the super fancy kind that sends a text when a buck sneaks by. Nor do I plan on checking it every other day to try and pattern a buck. I must continue to rely on boots on the ground scouting as my Dad taught me. Luckily, at 81 years old, he is still willing and able to hunt and he would never let me get away with anything fancier. Thorough scouting, wild guesses, and strokes of luck are all I need anyway. I can always find tracks, rubs, and scraps but I haven’t had much luck being in the right place at the right time for a true wall hanger. Many of us weekend warriors complain that there are not enough weekends and vacation days to match wits with a mature buck. I can’t help but daydream about what happens at my vacation spot when I am not there. So far, I have only managed to capture turkeys, raccoons, and squirrels on my trail camera. A few adjustments to camera angle and elevation should bring the object of my obsession into focus. Hopefully, in another week or so when I return, the card will be full of my quarry mugging for the camera.

Scents are another animal. Millions to choose from. To date, I have only used those cover scent wafers pinned to my hat to make me smell like dirt and leaves. Seems to be working well. Rarely do I sit in my perch and not see deer. I don’t see the big boys. The big males helping to create these new little fawns scampering around every year. I know they are out there. I am thinking they know where I am as well. For now, the boys are not sharing their intel with the girls. So, I want to change things up a bit more this year. If I confuse the bruisers with a little fake news of doe in heat scent they will forget about me and come charging in. Works on TV and magazines so why not my area? I am still not 100% comfortable with this change in tactics, but I guess once I see that first monster on my camera, I’ll be hooked. The rut is about to begin so seems like a good time to try.


Baiting is another animal. In Maryland, baiting deer on private land is legal. Yet, I still can not bring myself to completely break from my traditional methods. Tossing out hundreds of pounds of corn in a bait pile doesn’t appeal to me. There is plenty of “natural” bait out there already. Figuring out which food source the deer are using and when is part of the chase I love. I will not waver. I enjoy sneaking around looking for acorns, hot crop fields, fruit trees and browse. Plus, I don’t have to buy it, transport it and lug it into my area. It’s already there!


Come the first few days of November I will continue my quest using a crossbow a few new tricks up my sleeve. Assuming I will be armed with photographic evidence and smelling like a doe in heat, I hope to be covered in Bucks! I often dream of writing a riveting post about being fortunate enough to harvest a mature buck. Relaxing my “standards” a bit may finally put me in the right place at the right time.

2018 Bow Season Opener

Sycamores are my favorite trees. Around my way, in mid-August, they are the first trees to start changing into their fall wardrobe. When I see the sycamore leaves start to turn and drop, I get an extra bounce in my step knowing my favorite season is right around the corner! I am a Hunter and even though all seasons and anytime spent outdoors are special, fall and winter find me outside the most. Inhaling that earthy smell of dead leaves and hearing them crunch under my foot, triggers my annual transformation into Hunt Mode.

Thanks to my parents, and DNA that is fifty percent American Indian, I now look forward to  Hunting Season almost as much as Christmas. I couldn’t be happier not having a choice in the matter. Hunting and the love of the Outdoors are in my blood. This past weekend the weather finally cooled enough in time for the opening of Maryland’s Archery season. Sleep did not come easy the night before. Rarely does the night before any opener. Opening morning dawned with overcast skies. A slight breeze and temps in the 60’s. Quiet enough to hear my own heartbeat. Feeling thankful, I reviewed in my mind all the preparations I was able to make since the end of last season. All allowed me to be here, relaxing in a tree stand 20 feet up, watching and listening to the woods come to life. Confident with trimmed shooting lanes and tuned equipment I was on full alert for any snap of a twig or flick of a tail. As the trees and ground cover finally started to materialize in my favorite hundred acres, the familiar sounds of birds and squirrels rummaging in the leaves made music in my ears. Fall’s full glory was still a month or so away, but scanning the yellow and green foliage above of the brown carpet of leaves beat the four walls of the inside any day.

“I could not yet see a Deer, but I could feel it.” 

Shifting my gaze to the shadows and gaps between bushes and trees below, I felt a familiar sixth sense creep into my awareness (As if five were enough stimulation!). This sense is hard to describe; I assume it’s like that gut feeling many people get before something good or bad happens to them or someone they know. As strange as it may sound to some I began to feel a presence; a slight shift in the balance of the delicate atmosphere I had melted into. In the “zone” with all my senses already at full attention, the change in the air was undeniable. My heart started beating faster and felt even more alert than a minute ago. I recognized this feeling from many past hunting trips and knew it meant that a deer was close by. I could not yet see a Deer, but I could feel it. I squinted my eyes and tilted my head to pick up proof of what I sensed. After a few minutes, I finally noticed a flicker of movement about 20 yards to my right. An ear, connected to a large Doe finally appeared from behind a mature pine tree. Her nervous body movements revealed that her own sixth sense was working as well. She wasn’t yet looking my way but the quick bobbing of her head let me know that she had detected something out of place. She was now close enough for me to see the wetness of her black nose, pushed high in the air hoping to capture any unfamiliar scent in the area. At that moment I became aware of a slight breeze on the back of my neck that would reach that wet nose in a few seconds. On cue, her alarmed snort signaling danger shattered the silence of the woods. The woods erupted with three Deer bounding off through the woods. Big Momma was running point for her two offspring and had performed her duties flawlessly. As I watched their brilliant white tails and reddish gray coats fade into the mix of green and yellows, I realized I had not tried to raise my bow.

I had reaffirmed to myself that I was, in fact, a hunter and not a killer. Sometimes I get caught up in the beauty of the moment and I forget all about my responsibilities as a hunter. Trimming the population or providing meat for my family became the furthest things from my mind. I tipped my cap as the Doe led her children to safety. She didn’t provide meat for my freezer but did give me a great story to share with my family and friends.

I lingered in my tree for another hour or so and enjoyed several other close encounters. A fox, a turkey, and several more squirrels all came to visit with no clue I was there observing. A strong craving for my Dad’s scrapple got the best of me and I climbed down from my perch. I reveled in the smile on my face and the buzzing in my soul. They say laughter is the best medicine but for me, an hour two outside cures all ills. I don’t remember walking back to my truck and the short drive to my parent’s house. My head filled with anticipation of this new season. What new bucks had moved into the area since last year? Would I get to put the crosshairs on a mature whitetail or would Dad be the lucky one? Would we get to hunt in snow this year? Doesn’t matter I thought as the smell of my favorite breakfast treated my nose. Even if the season ended today I wouldn’t be disappointed.