Leave your thoughts below.  I would really like to hear your opinion.

In the altered state of uncontrolled adrenaline, the only thing I knew about this buck’s antlers were, there were a lot of points.  Many misses have taught me how to focus, and my arrow struck true.  For a half hour I could see a lone tine sticking out of the mud as I waited to descend.

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The classic half hour wait was a mix of reflection and nerves. I wasn’t supposed to be in that treestand, no, I was supposed to be in class. However, I had broken my front tooth and needed to return home for one day from school in order to have it fixed.  Good thing I decided to suck up the pain.

The following morning when I arrived late to class from my two hour drive, the professor showed a picture of the buck to the class, which was followed by audible gasps. I’ll admit, the deer is big even by TV show standards and in the days following, the picture was being shared around social media.  Then the question of just how big began to swirl.  How many inches of bone lay atop his head? Guesses and debates raged from social media, to my interpersonal interactions with others. Some people seemed frustrated since I had no official score report.  My personal curiosity was egging me on as well.  How big was he really?

However, my hesitation in the time since to have him scored is, I didn’t want this deer to be known by a number.  This stalled me from scoring him, because this deer meant the following to me:

Being mobile and hunting sign helped me kill my best buck ever.

Being mobile and hunting sign helped me kill my best buck ever.

A connection to reality: We are mortal beings, this deer reminded me, no matter what we do, how famous we become or who we are in this life, we will still stand before the creator.

Thumbs up with doeFamily: My younger brother rounded the corner of the trail, only to cut loose his own verbal excitement as the left G2 towered over briars.  We celebrated and shared an intimate moment of hard earned success with a completed dream at our feet.  I was also working for HAWK Treestands at the time. My father pulled up as I was talking with my boss and he told me to hang up the phone and give my old man a big hug.  I did just that.

Yes, you all know about this buck.  Same thing.  Stayed focused all the way through the end of the season.

Yes, you all know about this buck. Same thing. Stayed focused all the way through the end of the season.

Hard Earned:  The last deer I had killed with my bow prior to Lloyd was a doe as a senior in Highschool.  Many miles, tough hunts and heartbreak from sinful arrows had left my string in the years between those two deer.  However, I never once doubted my preferred method of hunting.  But the deer at my feet made up for the empty sits and compounded frustration from four years of bow hunting.  This was my deer killed my way, from a climber on a classic climber hunt with my bow.

Herd Care:  Some think this is BS, but I say you are wrong.  I’ve passed many small bucks over the years because I care more for the future of the herd than I do about my own tag count.  There I said it.  These self imposed rules have made hunting tougher, but forced me to become a better hunter in the long run.  This deer was the ultimate reward for sticking to a plan and working the plan.

My First Buck Ever

My First Buck Ever

Look, I don’t want to be like the next guy who uses score to bolster his name, but curiosity is getting the best of me.  I love the mystery of the hunt and fear to tarnish the adventure by attaching a score to it, but I have to ask, am I doing the magnificent beast a disservice by not?

 

Leave your thought below.

Megatron Loyd 2

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My latest article for Ammoland.com talks about firearms training and profiles an upcoming event where an Army Vet and Top Shot Contestants will hold a class together.

As seen on Ammoland.com

Mention the word hand gun or firearms training in public nowadays, you might get a few nervous looks from certain people. But training other appropriately is a key part of life for Matt Mallory, Army Veteran and owner of Public Safety and Education. I talked with Mallory, a life long shooter and proponent of responsible firearms training and an NRA certified instructor, about his keys to training and a few other fun things coming up in the near future.

To be the best, be trained by the best.
To be the best, be trained by the best.

If you don’t love what you do, then it is truly a job. For Mallory, his joy comes from the Lord,and seeing people develop. To take a person with little to no firearms training, to a responsible, ethical and cognizant is not always an easy task. Mallory says, “To see the improvement, the transformation and confidence of a person increase with their training, my reward is in seeing people grow.”

Read more: http://www.ammoland.com/2015/01/veterans-and-top-shot-contestants-teach-together/#ixzz3Pyos2MlB
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution
Follow us: @Ammoland on Twitter | Ammoland on Facebook

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Sitka Gear Core T Base Layer

A black and white full pagead was not something I was used to seeing in my favorite magazines.  I don’t remember the exact copy of the ad, but I do remember the two names attached to the ad, Optifade and Sitka.  This was several years ago, and since entering the hunting gear scene, the overall standard for hunting clothing has been set and re-set by the people behind Sitka Gear.   

For years I looked at Sitka Gear with a staried look in my eye and a wishful thought. Until one of my best friends and closest hunting partners, my father, began  building his Sitka system for his western adventures.  My wishful thinking became planning. 

After hitting the buy now button on my Core T Base Layer, I waited with abated breath for the package to arrive.  Sure, I’ve tried my dad’s gear, and he has hunted elk successfully with Sitka Gear.  Sure, this is an older model, but I am out of college and don’t have the most disposable income in the world, but am willing to invest in quality gear.  Was it going to be worth the investment?

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From the mountains to the swamps, quality gear turns cruddy days into huntable days.

Holding the new shirt up after tearing the package apart, I knew the materials which made this gear where going to make a difference in how I felt in the woods.  Truthfully, I don’t think I took the Core T base Layer off for two days just to get used to the feel.  What do I mean by feel?  I am not restricted in my movement.  I am excited to move while wearing this shirt, even when sweating.  This is due to the 4 Way Stretch Polyester Bi-Component Fabric.  It reminds me of cutting firewood.  If you think about  the difficulty to cut against the grain of a log, you really can’t cut well or efficiently.  Thus by having a 4 Way Stretch Fabic Pattern, my body is not moving against any fabric grain.  Which simply means, easier and more comfortable motion. 

  

My father in the Western Rockies has continued to report nothing but positive reviews on Sitka Gear.

The Western Rockies are not a place to have mediocre gear.

After two days of being in the house, it was time to field test the Core T Base Layer. With my deer season well over, ducks and geese were the only option.  Late season waterfowling is feast or famine, usually combined with temperatures more suited for the Iditarod.  Hauling dozens of decoys into a field or paddling into some waterway means heavy clothing and sweating up a storm. 

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I picked the open country pattern to use more frequently out west this fall.

Do you hate the clammy feeling you get when sweating while wearing heavy clothing?  Sure you do, plus it makes you itch and freeze later in the hunt. Not fun.  When we left the house to hunt a corn field, the car thermometer read somewhere in the ballpark of 17 degrees.  However, while racing daylight to set three dozen plus decoys and brush in the blinds with a cutting north wind, I sweated, but I didn’t feel clammy.  While burrowed into the blind for cover,  I wasn’t overheating, but I wasn’t cold either. I live about three miles from one of the Great Lakes and north winds are downright mean. For once I was wearing a breathing base layer.   No sweat builds up on my skin and my personal climate was being controlled. My excitement level and post purchase happiness over a shirt were more than any clothing garment I’ve ever owned.

Packing out a public land 7x7.  No easy task.

Dad packing out the final load of his public land 7×7. No easy task.

After several days of hunting, I noticed the lack of something else, odor.  I typically will wash most of my clothing every 2-3 days during deer season to remove the odor grime.  After several days of hunting and hardly noticing any odor, my mind could barely contain itself thinking of this coming September and being less concerned about odor build up on my clothing while 15 miles into the elk mountains.  After researching the elements of the shirt closer, Sitka weaves silver encapsulated technology into the fabric.  If you are not familiar with the odor destroying properties of silver, silver has the most  effective antibacterial ability of any metals.  Silver must be ionized by coming into contact with moisture, I.E. sweat.  By sweating, you are charging your shirt and the silver ions then attack and destroy odor causing bacteria.  This shirt lifts sweat away from your skin, destroys bacteria and has 4 Way sStretch Fabric…… this shirt is practically alive.

But my full and utter trust was gained on an unusual adventure.  I love any adventure which pushes my limits, no secret.  When my brother had dragged the ice fishing gear into the kitchen for a night ice fishing trek, I looked at the gear, then looked at him and said, “We’re really doing this aren’t we?”  He nodded.  If you have never tried night time ice fishing mid winter let me sum things up like this.   The air is so cold, it is deceiving.  Ever cut yourself with a shaving razor or even slid your finger over a broadhead?  You don’t know you’ve cut yourself until you see blood.  The air on the frozen bay cut with deception, but I was wearing my Core T Base Layer.  Yes, in general, we were cold, but again, my core stayed regulated even in the negative degree weather,  and I was able to move comfortably.

back of the divide

Already looking forward to using this shirt next season.

I really can’t wait for next bow season.

Yet, there is a bigger story behind why I like this Sitka base layer.  This base layer is a step toward re-claiming something I lost.   A story I never talked about.

When I was 17 I had the chance to go elk hunting with my Dad.  A basic DIY backcountry bow hunt was my senior present from my parents for hard work, and staying out of trouble. It was supposed to be one of the greatest trips of my life.  I didn’t grow up on cartoons, I grew up watching every Primos and Realtree video I could get my hands on. I grew up tagging along with my Dad and this elk hunt was more than an elk hunt.  It was the chance to live out dreams and apply every hunting skill I’d been taught.   But a month before we left, I got sick.  Like really sick, to the point where I was on the couch writhing in uncontrollable pain. In and out of the hospital for months, I was only able to go through the motions on the hunt I had worked so hard to reach.   I essentially missed my dream hunt.  Heartbroken, distraught, angry.  Even as I write this, there is a small knot in my stomach as I clench the left side of my jaw.  Six years later, I have been healed.  That sickness made me tougher, and God had it happen for a reason no doubt.  But I’ve got a little extra motivation with a score to settle and a bull to tag.   

Training with a ferocity to return to this.

Training with a ferocity to return to this.

I bought this piece of Sitka Gear to continue the building process in re-reaching this goal. I bought this gear because I refuse to let the past define me and make me a victim. I bought this gear because I will train with ferocity to return to the mountains and settle the score with mother nature.

    I Am Building My Sitka System           To Seek Redemption.

Where Eagles Dare, Push The Wild Limits

Jason

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Hunting Africa And Ebola

I was asked to write some blogs for Safari Club International in regards to hunting Africa and the current Ebola situation. Here is what I learned. http://www.ammoland.com/2015/01/why-hunt-africa-now/#axzz3OfLzMw00

 

This native brookie we released unharmed.

Mending The Line

Winter chrome and browns on the fly, a seriously overlooked adventure.  Small creeks and other tributaries feeding from larger bodies of water provide the conditions for immaculate egg sac imitation and presentation.  However, after a childhood of struggling to consistently connect with these stream beauties, I finally was taught, why my presentations sucked and how I mend  my problem.

If you are like me, fly fishing is a fantastic hobby you thoroughly enjoy yet only have limited opportunities each year.  None the less, you want to make any time on the stream count and catch fish to make the effort and investment in gear worth your time.  I was continually frustrated in previous years with my lack of catching fish.  After a guided flyfishing trip in the greenest state in the land of the free, I understood what mending the line was, why it is important,  and it’s simplicity.

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Think about how natural food cruises along the bottom of a waterway.

Especially in the winter time when cold temperatures and crystal clear water, bring a different set of cards to the table, presenting your fly or bait in the most natural form possible is the centerpiece of success.  Looking back on my childhood,  I never understood how unnatural my presentations looked to a fish since I was not mending the line.  Essentially, my baits and flies had extra drag from my leader inhibiting the bait’s ability to freely bounce along the bottom.  A fly fishing guide in Wyoming once told me, “You wouldn’t eat a burger with a rope sticking out from it would you? Same with the fish, if they see or sense anything unnatural in your presentation, it is just like having a giant rope sticking out of your food.”  The way I fished, I was putting extra drag on my line.  Specifically, through making a cast and holding the extra line down,  my baits were floating cross stream in an unnatural half circle.

This native brookie we released unharmed.

This native brookie we released unharmed.

Mending the line is a simple technique which allows your bait to bounce in a free and  uninhibited motion through the water.   My guide taught me these three steps.

1) Make the cast

2) Strip extra line from your reel

3) By flicking your rod, feed the extra line into the water

4) Like a small roll cast, roll your extra line directly in line,”mending the line” with the line in  the water to keep your bait or fly flowing straight.

Keeping the line straight is the key to this operation for the maximum natural presentation below the surface.  This is not just a one time mend per cast, continue to mend the line until the entire drift is complete.  Learning to mend properly does not take much effort to master.  In one afternoon of guidance, three of us were mending the line perfectly and landing trout consistently.

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Finally, a respectable winter steelhead.

 

 

Thumbs up with doe

The King Of Queens

Originally written October 13, 2013

Between Austin Groff and myself, we hunt hard.  There is no fancy way to dance around describing the gut wrenching grind of balancing college studies and deer hunting.  Simply put, we lay it all on the line when the leaves change color.  Over the past three years, Austin has had a majority of the punched tags between the two of us, which is completely fine with me.  At the end of the day, we eat really well. 

Austin seems to break every rule of deer hunting while I seem to follow all the prescribed rules.  I use Scent Blocker, wash my clothing regularly, wear rubber boots and hunt from above.  Austin, does not wash his clothing regularly, wears leather hiking boots and hunts on the ground, sometimes without a blind.  Despite his seeming unorthodox methods, he has killed seven deer in the past two full seasons and what is not even a quarter of the 2013 season.    Every time I get “that call” summoning me to a packing job, I still am in amazement at his abilities to get the job done through his un orthodox ways.  No one can argue with a record like that.

Thursday, October 10, 2013 dawned at a stinging 38 degrees.  After an actioned packed two hour sit, I saw a total of 15 deer, mostly doe, skirt just out of bow range from my climber position.   One freezer queen  blindsided me appearing from the morning dew with such stealth, I did not see her until she stood at ten yards.  How often does one guy go and see 15 deer and still not get one? 

Fact was, I played the contour of the land wrong by setting up too far into a bench.  Every deer filed from a drainage, slipped around the corner of the bench I was sitting on, dumping off into the brush just out of range.  Determined to make things right, I made the adjustment for the evening hunt.  However, due to the warm weather, I could hear bands of people shouting while hiking the trails above me, not to mention someone driving a golf cart up the hill.  Not to mention my phone died.  Shaking off the disappointment of having a ruined hunt I hiked out to the parking spot to find Austin. 

Just as I left the darkened canopy of the trail, a dark figure was lying on the ground to the left.

Groff:“Hey dude.”

Kicked back and relaxing, propped up on his backpack, his squeaky little voice told me something was up.  Although I have only known him for a few years, I have learned enough about him to know, his voice only squeaks when he is excited. 

Me: “Dude my phone died sorry, Did you see ann………”  My voiced trailed off as I picked up on the unmistakable white under hair of a deer, dead beside him.

“NO WAY!”  My heart jumped in unbelief  and I immediately gave him the hunting buddy congratulations tackle.

Austin arrowed the 100 pound doe right after my phone died and as a result of someone driving a golf cart through the woods.   He had been set up at the base of a tree next to a corn field with no blind.  This deer is Austin’s seventh collegiate deer, Sixth freezer queen, sixth doe with a bow on the ground!

For all the nicknames we here at Houghton have given Austin Groff, I am giving him one more.  Austin Groff truly is the King of Queens.

In the time since I graduated College, Austin has continued his incredible streak.   I also realize now since I have been gone from school, how much I miss being there and the friendships forged in the woodlands of southern New York.

Austin on one of our many pack outs.

Austin on one of our many pack outs.

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Release Ticks & Get Them Tested.

Tick problems are getting worse each year.  Removing a tick is one thing, having a way to find out quickly if you may have a disease is another.  This new product hitting the market this year gives you a chance to do both.   I reviewed the new Tick Releaser Spray & Mail-In Test Kit recently.   Check out my review for  Ammoland.com.  If you enjoy the outdoors, your will want this in your pack.

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http://www.ammoland.com/2014/12/tick-releaser-a-first-look/#axzz3MALoRSqF

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The Hammer

Locking into the cocked position, the only element which separated the contained explosion of live spark meeting black powder, was my exposed finger.  Age and experience held my finger from squeezing off  a hail-mary shot at a large doe, deciding to “let the play develop” so to speak. Although it was the last hunt of my deer season, the long shot could have been justified.  Yet with each step mingling towards my stand, my heart rate began climbing ever so steadily upward as I knew exactly what was about to happen.  IT, was about to happen.  That one moment, which makes every step, every tired muscle and disappointment worth it.  Using the tree to steady my right elbow, the scope came to eye, stock to my cheek.  The world became a picture between the scope dictated by each step of the large doe.  But the judge came in the form of the intersecting reticle.

Down the length of my right arm, electric pulses rode the length of my central nervous system to my right index finger naked against the cold metal of the trigger.  Through the breech plug, a live spark embraced the compacted black powder, combusting,  leaving my world blanketed in smoke.  Temporarily lost in smoke, the hammer of judgement spoke with authority.

I had pulled the trigger on a living animal and took responsibility for it’s life.  In that intimate moment between hunter and prey, the primal core of humanity rushed back through the nerves of my body as I laid hands on her for the first time.

That deer has meaning to me.  Do deer have meaning to you beyond just a management number or slap on the back?

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A little product plug yes, but my little DXT has become an extension of my arm, a trusted ally.  It will not sin unless I sin.

Stories From The Season Part 1The Swamp Stand

My Fall took many twists and turns, which made keeping up daily with writing, difficult.   Now, as hunting season comes to a close, I want to share the stories which made this fall memorable and heartbreaking.

The Swamp Stand:

We are told by experts to have all of our stands for bow hunting deer set up and primped by mid July at the latest.  But realistically, we all know that doesn’t always happen.  Life and work get in the way and many of us can’t break away until it is hunting season.  Which was the case for my father and I as we hung a new stand the day before opening day of archery.

The stand was set on a pinch point just south of a swamp.  The big Maple tree provided the cover necessary for bow hunting  concealment in such tight quarters.  Each of the last two seasons, my father had watched bucks use this particular trail.  Yet cutting through the Poison Ivy infested tree the day before the season started, we felt like we were breaking every rule of bow hunting.   And in a way, I paid dearly since it turned into the worst case of Poison Ivy I’d ever contracted.

About two weeks or so after hanging the set, I was still looking for a new job and finally, an opportunity opened up with an ingredients company in their wildlife division.  My father told me to go bow hunting the next day as a way to celebrate before starting the job the following week.

I love my morning coffee.  A classic ritual, but what comes with coffee is a harsh tax.  Nearly to my stand, my body let me know I was going to pay the price.  But I held still for as long as possible.  It’s interesting through how the body responds to adrenaline.  The swoosh of a deer step in the dry leaves directly behind the tree threw my body into focus.  I felt nothing else but my finger on the cold trigger of my release and turned my head slowly.  Two doe, appeared to be headed to my left, and as a right handed shooter would be the perfect angle.  But to my horror, due to one of the limbs we had cut a few weeks before the deer swung to the right offering a tougher angle and less opportunities to draw.  As the queen in the group froze behind me, I practiced envisioning my pins behind the shoulder, but she moved through my lane before I could turn.  I thought I’d blown my only chance, until I heard a third step behind me.  Another decent sized deer appeared following the same path as the first two and since the eyes of the deer were past me, I was able to make my move.

“NOW”

My mind screamed, sending the impulses down my nervous system into my muscles.  My body, locked into auto pilot, stood, turned and drew in one motion. As fluent as an orchestra conductor, it felt seamless.  My mind felt only the basic instincts.  Once my hand landed on its anchor point, I whistled.  The early morning sun filtering through the trees lit upon my target.  Her curiosity caused her to turn enough for my comfort and my pins rested calmly upon her quartering ribs.  There is a difference between shooting an arrow at a deer and hoping it finds the mark and knowing you will not sin.  The tell tale sign of a lung shot came from the classic high leg kick upon impact.

A little product plug yes, but my little DXT has become an extension of my arm, a trusted ally.  It will not sin unless I sin.

A little product plug yes, but my little DXT has become an extension of my arm, a trusted ally. It will not sin unless I sin.

Even though the arrow was covered, but I’ve learned many times over the painful lesson of punching the tag before the  animal is recovered so to speak.  An hour later, I realized the truth of my arrow flight as the doe had lasted only 60 yards.

You may be able to relate to this.  Doesn’t it seem like some people have all the luck?  Anytime they hit the hoods they return with smiles and bloody hands?  I am certainly not one of those people and to have a situation actually work out like a movie script was a phenomena I relished the entire drive home.  I love bow hunting.

There is an unexplainable relief in finding an arrowed animal.

There is an unexplainable relief in finding an arrowed animal.