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!