2016 Florida Rifle season opener

Living in Leon County gives me the opportunity to hunt three different management zones which gives me a longer hunting season. The day before the season opener I threw a venison flank steak onto the grill, the last of my venison, so it worked out great that does were legal game that weekend since it was time to restock the freezer.

Opening morning was warmer than I was expecting so the mosquitoes were my companions throughout the sunrise but let up as the fog cleared. I watched a few young deer cross the old logging road I was sitting on but let them grow for another day. A couple hours into my sit a mature doe without any fawns skirted the trees along the edge of the opening, once she presented me with a shot I took it and the bullet I am testing for a friend of mine performed flawlessly. After a quick butchering job I had the meat in the cooler and was even able to make it to my wife's charity bake sale, not a bad way to start the season.

The next morning found me on the same property sitting on a power line and as I got settled in I raised my binoculars in the predawn twighlight and spotted a deer about 75 yards away, It had a large body but it was too dark to see what was on top of its head. I watched through my rifle scope for about 20 minutes as this deer fed up and down the powerline but could not tell for certain whether it was a doe or not. For it to be a legal deer it must either be a doe or a buck with at least two tines on one side of its antlers and I try not to shoot young bucks. In fact last year on this same property I was in a similar situation and took the shot, resulting in a fat young five point that I wish I had not taken out of the herd. However although that particular deer got away a couple hours later I saw movement down at the other end of the opening. I got on my rifle in time to see a couple deer slip through the narrow opening about 150 yards away. I flipped the safety off and got ready on the trigger hoping their were more in the group, at that moment I saw the long snout of a mature doe clear the brush line and as her shoulder came into view I squeezed off a shot and it dropped immediately,

My initial field test of these bullets has been a great one, once I finished using my Outdoor Edge Slingblade knife to do the butchering I washed up, changed cloths and made it to church in time. This opening weekend has been a success at both collecting venison and building up much needed brownie points with the wife. Lunch that day consisted of fresh venison tenderloin and veggies from the garden, there is nothing quite like enjoying a meal you harvested yourself.

That afternoon my brother in law and I headed up to our favorite processor to get some of our venison turned into the most amazing jalapeno cheddar sausage you can imagine. Jone's Meats is hard to beat and well worth the scenic drive up to Climax, Ga. The hog that has been showing up on my camera is next on my list since I'm running low on pork.

IDIS Course

One of the many perks of my job is the incredible training opportunities I am provided. The past few weeks were an example of one of the more memorable courses I have been through. This course is designed to make us better at what is known as a HAHO insertion which stands for high altitude, high opening. We were generally opening our parachutes at between 13 and almost 20 thousand feet so we were under our canopies for quite a while. Every jump was to an unmarked drop zone that we had never seen before. These were not manicured and cleared drop zones, they were essentially random spots in the desert complete with rocks, cactus, mesquite trees, uneven terrain, gopher holes and did I mention cactus? Many of these jumps were at night and we had our night vision goggles, body armor, rucksacks and oxygen systems for the majority of them so the training was as realistic as possible. The instruction was top notch and it was great to see our progression over the couple weeks we were there. Being able to pick a spot on a map, exit an aircraft and fly over 15 miles in formation and land at the objective was an awesome experience. There were many lessons learned that could only be taught by getting out there and messing up, whether it be how to utilize your instruments to determine if the actual winds are similar to the predicted ones or how to fix an issue with the formation. Memories like these make me even more grateful to be able to do what I do, even if I am lying on the ground with cactus spines stapling my glove and sleeve to my body.

2016 Panama Yellowfin Tuna Trip

Last fall my old college room mate and spearfishing buddy Chris asked me if I would be interested in joining him on a trip to tuna to try and spear some yellowfin tuna. This was something we had been talking about for years so it was an invite I could not pass up. The dates were tough because I was set to return from a month long assignment in Alaska the day before our Panama flight. We were able to pull it off and as the last of our gear came off the carousel in the small Panamanian airport it sank in that we were really doing this. After a long ride down bumpy dirt roads through villages and pastoral scenery we arrived at the lodge and met the rest of the guys we would be sharing the seas with for the next few days. That night we drank rum listening to the howler monkeys as we told spearfishing stories and double checkout our gear, too excited to sleep. Before dawn we began the two hour journey to the tuna grounds and once there immediately got to work. Over the next few days we saw plenty of tuna and learned a lot about them and their behavior. The first time you see one swim by is hard to forget, with those giant yellow sickles coming off their sleek and starkly colored bodies they are incredible animals. We each had multiple buoys attached to our spears and once a tuna was shot all hell would break loose. The force they are able to exert and the speed they can tow those floats makes you appreciate how dangerous they could be. It was always a team effort fighting them to the surface and we would dive down and shoot each others fish to further secure them and then hauled them up to the boat. The tuna would often be following giant pods of spinner dolphins and their acrobatics provided constant entertainment and watching them swim by with a wall of tuna below them was stunning. It is difficult to articulate the feeling of being sixty feet below the surface and seeing dolphins above, below and to your left and right almost as far as you can see. Every night we ate like kings and had tuna every way I could think to prepare it. When it was time to pack up and bid farewell to our new friends it was a strange mixture of emotions, we were sun burned and exhausted but did not want to leave this magical place. The whole ride back to the airport we were planning our return.  I brought home about 50lbs of tuna and every time I make some poke or sear some of the steaks I day dream of Panama and know it won't be long before I slide back into those waters, speargun in hand in search of fresh ahi.


2016 September Colorado Archery Elk Hunt

I was invited to a friend's wedding in Colorado and decided to take advantage of the fact that I was already there and it was elk season to spend a few days in the mountains. With my understanding wife's blessing and a tag in hand I congratulated the new couple and headed off to elk country. There are few places that rival the beauty of the Rockies in early fall with the dramatic landscape and stunning aspen groves. I met with my friend Jay Fagre who among many other talents is an incredible chef in Aspen, CO and we started climbing in search of elk. We saw elk every day and had close encounters with mule deer, bears and even a coyote that laid down about 30 yards away and scanned the valleys below with us until dark. Unfortunately the bulls were not bugling yet which made the hunting tough but a great friendship was developed and tons of new memories. According to my Garmin watch I covered over 50 miles and was clambering up slopes ranging from 8 to over 12 thousand feet. It put my Salewa boots to the test but my feet held up and I look forward to my next elk hunt in December.

Spearing groceries in the Gulf of Mexico

I got a call from a friend asking if I would be interested in going offshore to look for some grouper and hogfish. It was a tough offer to pass up especially since I was fresh out of hogfish in my freezer. We headed out as the sun rose and made our way through the 2 foot waves out to our first spot. Once the anchor was set it wasn't long before we were pulling fish into the boat. Most were red snapper which we weren't allowed to keep and undersized grouper. So we decided to grab our spearfishing gear and find out what was down there. The maze of rock ledges and small caves were teeming with life. The visibility was decent and we were able to collect plenty of fish. The next few spots produced similar results and we saw all kinds of other marine life along the way. By lunchtime we had more fish than we wanted to clean and our boat limit so we pointed in the direction of the dock and headed home. After cleanup was done I stopped at a small local fish market to pick up some deviled crab to stuff the flounder I cooked for our dinner and made the wife happy. Which any married fisherman knows is crucial to being able to continue fishing whenever you want.