Wyoming Hunt 2018 update #2 all about food and cooking

Hello Steve,
Well since my last letter/blog post I’ve had a bunch going on. I bought a house and started the move, and at the same time took several out-of-state business trips. One wiped out a fair bit of my bank account, and the other soaked up a lot of my time. Knowing our hunt is coming up I figured it best to re-prioritize my preparations accordingly.

Since my “one hour per day” preparation plan has been taking place mostly from hotel wifi, I’ve focused on buying a few small things I wouldn’t have to be home to sign for and building up knowledge I will need to tap into for later.

First up is my stove setup. You know I’ve got that wood burning Solo Stove Lite and the Pot 900 I planned to bring. I found out they released an Alcohol Burner that I can add into that and provide me a dual-fuel setup.

After I ordered the burner I did a ton of research on different fuels to burn and I purchased several to test myself. After lighting them all off fire steel and boiling water indoors, I think Everclear 190 proof is what I will carry for my fuel. I got a little light headed and had to air the house out with a few fuels, and some left a ton of soot on my pot.  I am calculating approximately 18 ounces needed for 6 days in the back country for me.  I have a 24 ounce stainless steel water container, I think that is what I will carry just to have a little extra fuel. Good thing in my deal is that I can drop back into wood sticks if needed and save us both fuel if we want to spend the time.

Next bit of research took me into pot cozies. I learned a ton and did some experimenting with these too. This could save us a ton of fuel. I assume you will be taking your Vargo Bot, why don’t you bring it up when you come to Michigan and we will build you a cozy for it as there is a significant amount of surplus in materials.

Once the cooking part was figured out, I started looking into food. You know with my diet I need to be very careful about things like Mountain House or MREs.  I stumbled into a YouTube Channel where a guy prepares all sorts of things I can dehydrate and vacuum seal with the eqiupment I already have.  I especially like his ground meat setup. My plan is to do a bunch of tests through Feb and Mar preparing lots of vegetables, meats, minute rice, and spices  into single serving pouches and then rehydrating and eating them using my Solo setup. I will give you an update as I get these dialed in. Should be pennies on the dollar and plenty light and healthy.

Last thing food wise, you know I love my coffee in the morning. I fell in love with these in Africa and I ordered a bunch of unsweetened cappuccino packets to give a test run with. I can always drop back to Nescafe or VIA packets, but I might take some of these instead. Sometimes when it’s extra crappy out, a little comfort like these can go a long way for morale.

Feb 22 we get our draw results for bucks and bulls, I’m crossing my fingers for us! Will get you another update as I finish my move and make progress on my pack and arrow setup.

Thom

Wyoming Hunt 2018 update #1 application strategy

Hello Steve,

I’m just going to write this blog post like it’s a normal email to you. As real as it gets. I’ve been doing an average of one hour per day of hunt prep. I’d offer updates on all different aspects of my efforts, but it would probably appear too scattered to be useful. Instead I’ll tell you my #1 focus and that is ironing out our application strategy.  Because we are going to try for elk tags, our application will be due Jan 31 instead of May 31 if we were just doing deer or pronghorn.  Non-resident schedule in the second table HERE.

Given that deadline, we have to be 100% sure of where we want to hunt and more importantly how we want to fill out the application. You and I have used mytopo, gohunt, and Wyoming DNR resources to narrow down where we think we are going so that part is in good shape. We can sort out camping sites, glassing tips, and trails after we get our tags.  The big question is how to apply our points. Ive been studying up and I have a strategy to propose. I better break up our application strategy into two sections.

Mule Deer

With our current deer Preference Points we can both draw archery tags this year if we want, but next year we would each have about a 50% chance. Instead of us hunting every-other-year, I’m thinking you should put in for the tag as your first choice and know you will be our go-to guy for stalking mule deer. I will put in for something like area 119 where there was one Random Draw tag for 77 applicants. This should preserve my points and still give me a 40% chance of getting a tag for our area this year. Next year I will plan to cash in my points and you will be trying for the lottery win. This should ensure at least one of us can hunt deer every year.

So it would look like this for 2018:

Steve #1 – archery tag, you would get this based on points.

Steve #2 – doesn’t matter, see #1

Steve #3 – doesn’t matter, see #1

Thom #1 – some impossible to draw tag, will preserve points.

Thom #2 – same tag as your #1, I will not draw with points. 40% odds I get one on luck.

Thom #3 – point only

Then in 2019 it would be like this:

 

Thom #1 -archery tag, I would get this based on points.

Thom #2 – doesn’t matter, see #1

Thom #3 – doesn’t matter, see #1

Steve #1 – same tag as my #1, you will not draw with points. 40% odds you get one on luck. You will get a point if you don’t get it.

Steve #2 – point only

Steve #3 – point only

If things stay about the same with tag allocations and point creep, we could plan on 2020 working like 2018.

Elk

This plays into the elk situation. If we want to hunt elk in that area we both can get a cow tag, or I could get a bull tag on preference points. I think I want to go for a one-in-a-million tag as my first choice to preserve points. My second choice will put me into a random drawing for one of only a few bull tags, low odds but why not?

So it would look like this for 2018:

Steve #1 – Our unit for Any Elk. You won’t have enough points to draw, but you will have a 1% chance to get a tag good for bull. At least you will get a point when you don’t hit this one.

Steve #2 – point only

Steve #3 – NA see #2

Steve Type 6 – cow/calf tag for our area. You will get this one.

Thom #1 – some impossible to draw tag, will preserve points.

Thom #2 – Our unit for Any Elk, again a 1% chance to hunt a bull.

Thom #3 – point only

Thom Type 6 – cow/calf tag for our area. I will get this one.

Then in 2019 it could be like this:

Thom #1 -Our unit for Any Elk. I will get it on preference points.

Thom #2 – doesn’t matter, see #1

Thom #3 – doesn’t matter, see #1

Steve #1 – Same as my #1, your odds will be about 1%. You will get a point when you don’t draw which should be enough to get you a bull tag in 2020 with your existing points.

Steve #2 – point only

Steve #3 – NA see #2

Steve Type 6 – Cow/calf the same unit. You will get this one.

So to summarize this strategy:

  • We will trade off the opportunity to hunt deer every other year.
  • We can both get a cow elk tag every year if we want it.
  • We will get a bull tag every 4 or 5 years, or we can build points and go for a big trophy potential unit down the road.

With the strategy set, we will submit for drawing at the end of the month. Then I can double down on other gear and logistics in update #2. All my best!

Thom

 

Lone Wolf climbing sticks for 2018

If you poke around this site or have read any of my old magazine articles you might know that I have been running Muddy Pro Sticks since they hit the market back around 2012. I love the rope system enough to use them despite being 4 short sticks instead of the 3 long sticks I prefer. Well, then I found out that they were recalled and I didn’t know it. I did reach out to Muddy via their website to try to buy replacement tree cleats but I have never received any response from the company.

I was really hoping that Dan Infalt’s much rumored sticks would already be available on the market, but in the wake of the recall I think it might be OK to let other hunters do a season on them before buying. It’s hard to imagine a model of climbing stick with more man hours of use worldwide than the Long Wolf ones.

In the above picture you can see there are two sticks as they came out of the box on the bottom. Build quality was very good, and they feel very sturdy. I’ve used this model on and off over the years and have never heard anything bad about them from anyone.

I have been using Yak Grips on my treestand buckles for several seasons now and like the way they keep buckles from clanging on metal. I bought an extra pair of these that I cut in half and installed on all 4 buckles.

I decided to try out Stealth Strips instead of doing a hockey tape wrap. I must say I’m very impressed with the material and I think I’m going to like them. It did take me a little time to install them the way that I approached the project, but the results are phenomenal!

I really liked the double steps and rope/cam system on the Muddy sticks, but I think this setup is going to serve me well. Now with one off-season project done, on to the other million on my list of things to do before my next hunt in a few months….

Base layer experiment – Updated

*** Skip to bottom for the update ***

I need to replace some old gear, and base layers made my list for things to look for on Black Friday. Specifically I was looking for First Lite Llano 170 gram tops and bottoms in ASAT pattern. Sure enough they were on sale, but everything in my size was sold out. Internet rumors indicating that it might be a closeout of ASAT entirely.

At this point I wanted to be VERY sure of the system I would be investing in. KUIU Vias and First Lite Fusion were my 2nd and 3rd choices. I came up with a brilliant idea: I would buy one plain t shirt of each material in street friendly colors and plan to wear them exclusively at home for the entire winter. I will wear one every evening and weekend, then after 7 days wash and dry, then switch to the alternate brand. I figured if I could ever catch a whiff of body odor, or if one started wearing out faster than the other it would solidify what base layer system to go with.

I ordered my second choice from KUIU, a 125 gram 85% wool/15% nylon T shirt in gray. It looks pretty sharp in my book.

Then I went to order my third choice from First Lite, a 170 gram 100% wool T shirt in green.  Too bad they are also out of my size  for this like the ASAT so I didn’t order anything.

I guess at this point my business is KUIU’s to lose. The shirt fits PERFECTLY and the material feels really good on my skin. I hope it holds up! As of today the experiment has begun, we’ll see what the results are this coming spring!

*** Update***

I’ve worn this shirt at least 5 hours a day for 31 of the last 32 days (sometimes as much as 24 hours straight.) I have washed it by hand each Sunday, and had a woman with a sensitive nose check it each Saturday to see if she could detect any odor. Never once could she smell anything on this shirt. I slept in it 3 nights along the way just to see if I might stretch it out some way or another, but it didn’t. No little wool balls forming, and no thin wear spots yet. At this point I plan to run this material as my base layer for early season hunts in 2018.

Gifts exchanged

It’s a cool fall morning which would normally lead me into the deer woods, but the wind and rain have left me to drinking coffee indoors today. Seems like a perfect morning to sit back and tell a little story.

There are different ways people tell their friends that they care about them. Some folks say aloud, others by doing something for the other person, and some people like to give gifts. Coincidentally both my old friend Andrew and I are people who like to offer gifts to the important people in our lives. I often gift books, wine, or some little helpful gadget to friends. I’ve seen Andrew give away lots of nick knacks, jars of jam, hot sauces, and all sorts of other stuff to his friends. Many little things were exchanged back and forth between the two of us over the years, some practical, some absurd, some comical. There was one exchange has become even more important to me after my friends untimely passing.

A few years ago I ordered myself a very special hunting knife from Lucas Forge. It took about a year to get it, but it was a supreme knife and absolutely worth the wait. I took it to my next hunt at Wild Things and the group had a good bit of luck that week. There were a bunch of animals to dress out and butcher in the skinning shed over a few days. One evening I watched Andrew working over one hog with his little Opinel and I offered him my Packer off my belt while I was holding the carcass. With great ease he finished up all the required cutting and I knew exactly what my next gift to him was going to be. As soon as I got back to telephone range I called up Lucas Forge and I had a custom knife commissioned for my friend based on the same blade geometry of my knife, but fitted with things that would better suit his tastes than mine.

About six or seven months later I received the knife and it was one of the most beautiful knives I’ve ever seen. A true masterpiece. I packed it up and took it on my next trip to South Carolina that March when Andrew and I would both be celebrating our birthdays. There was one night before the hunters were going to show up so we had a good dinner after a day worth of chores around the property. Andrew seemed keen to know how my preparations were going for my Wyoming pronghorn hunt. It was a subject we’d discussed frequently over the phone, he seemed very excited for my upcoming adventure. In particular this exact evening, he was wondering how my quest for higher power binoculars was going. I let him know I had picked out a pair of 10x42s that I would be ready to buy in a few months.

After dinner I presented him with the knife I had made for him, when he opened it I could see he was in awe of the quality, fit, and finish. I said “happy birthday my friend!” He gave me a big hug and then really looked it over for a while. I knew I had found the perfect thing for him, and that knife never left his canvas hunting bag. I wonder how many animals it dressed and quartered out over the last few years. Looking back I can’t recall if he gave me a penny for that knife or not, many people believe giving a knife will severe a friendship, but I was not concerned in the least about our friendship.

After a few moments he reached up on top of the fridge and pulled down an old Leica box. He explained that when he closed his sporting goods store this was one thing he refused to discount, so he kept them in his safe for the last 20 years. When I told him over the phone I was shopping for some 10x42s, he figured that their destiny should be hanging around my neck. It was my turn to be awestruck. That week I glassed up alligators, hogs, deer, and turkeys.

I took them to Wyoming where I used them to judge horns on pronghorns, and glass up moose, badgers, mule deer, and all sorts of other animals. Also got some really good looks at some bison coming through South Dakota.

I took them to Africa and glassed up more things than I can recall. Giraffes, buffalo, wildebeests, kudu, eland, impala, mountain reesbuk, warthogs, nyala, and baboons among them. My memories of using those binoculars in Africa are bitter sweet because it was on my last day that I was told of Andrew’s death.

Upon return I was unpacking my hunting gear, and these binoculars in particular and I stopped for a long time to reflect on them. I spent quite a while thinking about my friend, and wondering what hopes he might have had for these when he gave them to me. Did he imagine me looking at trophy bucks through them? Did he think they would actually get to Africa? Did he picture us sitting on the porch in camp, drinking coffee and looking at alligators?

Reflecting on the idea that of all of the things Andrew gave to me over the years, I realized that these are the only piece of actual hunting gear he ever gifted to me. Maybe I’m becoming a sentimental fool early in life, but I decided that I want to have these on my chest for my future hunts. I want our hunting memories near at hand when I am going afield.

As for the knife, I know not what happened to it or where it ended up. I care not. The important thing to me was seeing the look in his eye and knowing he probably thought of me every time he fished it out of his bag to dress out or butcher an animal. The significance of that knife to me passed with it’s owner.

Africa 2017 wrap up

Giraffe, wildebeest, eland, impala, and guinea foul.

It has been about a month since I returned from South Africa, and it seems like a good time to do a little wrap up post about my trip. I’ll cover all the highlights, a few frustrations, and a few links for folks who want more info.

The first thing many readers will want to know is that I did not get a buffalo on this trip. We had 3 days dedicated to hunting them in the Limpopo region and we were in with bulls every day. The final day of the buff hunt I did have a grand bull at 17 yards broadside in the last minutes of daylight. My PH gave me the thumbs up and I began to draw on him, he raised his head and caught my movement.  He turned towards me with his head low and began to stare me down. The following seconds were among the longest of my life, there is in deed something otherworldly about the hate in a buffalo’s stare. Seeing it first hand was worth the price of admission.

Heading to the blind.

I would have loved to know what my arrow would have done in that shot, and I would certainly like to have seen this pursuit to a conclusion on my first hunt over there. Alas it was not to be, I fear I will have to return to try again.

About a week after my hunt was over, a friend of mine did bag that same bull with one shot from his recurve bow. I saw video of the shot and it was perfect lending to a very short recovery. I’m very glad he got his bull, and I’m glad he got one that I had the opportunity to get to know for a few days. Some folks thought I’d be bummed about it, but I’m really glad that bull didn’t succumb to a volley of gunfire. A peaceful end for the old warrior.

After packing up camp we went to the main lodge at Zululand, and that night everything was perfect for a sit for plains game. Several dandy impala came out and I decided my shot on this one was way too good to pass on.

These are incredibly fast reacting creatures. At 12 yards he put on a pretty good spin before my arrow got to him. Still, it was a good hit and a very short recovery.

First round of impala ram chops! Seconds and thirds were equally good!

The next few days the weather took a horrible turn for the worse. My PH offered good advice, but I was insistent on going out to sit in hides anyway. I spent a lot of quiet hours seeing a relatively small amount of game, but it is a beautiful landscape for that. I wrapped up the trip hunting a treestand and probably saw over 400 animals in that one day alone. I got really fixated on trying to get a wildebeest bull and passed on dozens of shots not wanting to create any disturbance that might ward off what I was after. By dark the herd had not come in, but it was an incredible day to sit back and glass all kinds of animals of all kinds.

With this short version of the story covered here, I will point out that I was interviewed on the TBWpodcast recently and we covered many aspects of this in much greater detail. Click that link and take a listen if you want more info.

The anatomy flip charts I found inside the hide.

Now that the dust has settled I find myself looking back at what I could have done better, and how I might do it differently.

First thing, I’m 100% happy with my choice to go with Dare To Bowhunt. Lammie and Allison were fantastic hosts, and I’m only embarrassed that my horrible run of luck could be seen as any sort of shortcoming of theirs. I left camp just as the weather turned back to it’s typical pattern and the two guys in camp put up 17 animals in 10 days including some AMAZING trophies. I greatly appreciate that the property is setup for guys like me with longbows and recurves. Good height clearance in the hides, and short shot setups are the norm. For anyone who doesn’t know, Lammie shoots and hunts with his longbow himself. He knows what it takes and will setup hunters for success.

I want to hunt African buffalo again someday, and I do hope Lammie will be up for it when I’m ready. Not many people have both experience with longbows and buffalo, and I could see everything he put into trying to block the eyesight of the guinea foul, and keep our wind from the warthogs. Setting up a sub-twenty yard opportunity is quite an undertaking with that many eyes and noses that could alert the buff. In spite of the challenges, Lammie put me right in the zone a few times. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out when I can go back.

Flights can be miserable. It basically took me 3 days to get to Johannesburg after my initial leg of my first flight got cancelled and I missed my connector. Even in the best of conditions, it was almost two days to get home. Given the days spent in airports and in the air, I would do a longer trip next time.

Last thought; if you want to go hunt Africa, what are you waiting for??? There is no better time to book than right now!

Andrew Harper, rest in peace my friend.

I opened my eyes and looked into complete darkness. I was disoriented coming out of my deep slumber. I found the alarm that awoke me and turned it off. I listened through the open window to a perfect silence and felt the cool dry air softly blow over me. As I begin to gain consciousness I realize I am in a hunting camp, I am in Africa. I turn on my phone and it uncharacteristically gets several messages all at once, many of them were cryptic with urgency implied. One other message was from my friend Charlie, it said that Andrew was no longer with us.

I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do. I let one thought guide me in that moment; if Andrew were standing in front of me and put his hand on my shoulder, what would he say? Little did I know how many times I would need to ask myself this question in the time since that morning. I made a good cup of coffee and went out to my blind in the darkness. I watched an incredible sunrise over the veld as I felt the steady stream of tears fall through my beard and get soaked up by my facemask. I watched a majestic kudu bull walk across the horizon silhouetted in front of the sunrise. I realized that I would never have been in Africa to see this dawn had it not been for Andrew’s inspiration. I cried some more.

Andrew was my best friend. We called one another “brother” and meant it genuinely. We were big enough men to hug and say “I love you” when we parted ways. I’m grateful to know that he knew exactly what our relationship meant to me. There are volumes I could say and share about the man, but I will chose to keep them to myself and share them with only our mutual friends who are also mourning him.

Life is short. Kiss your spouse, hug your kids, book that hunt, and live boldly.

Buffalo arrow build

It all begins with a “simple” idea.

On a bitterly cold Sunday morning last winter I started scratching out ideas of different arrows I could build for my upcoming African buffalo hunt. The following day I started ordering different components and I organized them into different groups as they arrived in the mail.

Apparently other people call my arrow room a “kitchen”, whatever that means.

Over the next 6 months I was forced to go back to the drawing board six times to finally come to a combination of components that would tune to the desired up-front components.

Sleeving one shaft within anohter.

After having every .250 spine shaft be too weak, I ended up with the most complicated arrow of all my January scratch pad ideas. It has extra parts to fail and I had hoped to avoid it. I was not willing to change out the 300 grain Tuffhead broadhead, or my 250 grain insert/adapters from Traditional Archery Solutions. Since every .250 shaft was too weak with 550 grains up front out of my 87# longbow, I had to sleeve another arrow shaft inside of it.

Simply Traditional sent me some Black Eagle Deep Impact .400 spine shafts that I epoxied inside of my Black Eagle Carnivore .250 shafts. My initial test I used 8″, 16″, and 24″. The 8″ sleeved arrow was still too weak, the 24″ sleeved arrow was too stiff, but the 16″ sleeve came out just right.

Buff arrows, sleeved and footed.

The last thing I wanted to add was 2″ of aluminum footing, when I shoot I like to feel the footing touch my index finger as a draw check. I added the sections of 2216 to my first 3 test shafts with field points and started shooting them as bare shafts as well as through paper. I changed out the factory nocks for the illuminated nocks I covered in the past.

Testing with 2″ feathers would occasionally show a tear at close range through paper tuning, so I ended up going to four 3″ parabolic feathers at 90 degrees with a straight clamp. With arrow tuning complete I started testing integrity. After some hard hits I found the early arrows constructed with JB Weld and with 5 minute epoxy could have components loosen. Granted I was shooting concrete, rocks, and steel with them, I was hoping to drastically improve the overall integrity of my arrows now that the components and tune had been perfected. Enter golfers.

The 15 deadliest arrows I’ve ever made.

When I was done I had 15 arrows in my arrow box averaging over 1060 grains with an FOC well over 30%. After weighing, spin testing, and 10 test shots a piece, I took them to a paper wheel and some jewelers rouge yesterday.  With that these arrows are in my luggage and ready to go looking for buffalo, hopefully we can find one!

Michigan Bow Hunters

Michigan Bow Hunters logo

I’ve been a member of MBH since I moved back to Michigan and got serious about bowhunting. Although in the past I’ve been more active in other organizations, I’ve always paid my dues, bought some logo gear from time to time, and attended events as convenient.

Last fall I went on a Wyoming hunt with the current president of the organization and we had a few days in camp to talk as we both tagged out on the first day of the hunt. I always knew that this organization was fighting on my behalf for my rights as a bowhunter, but I didn’t know everything they did. After being briefed on everything that would be considered “current business”, I got a quick overview of the accomplishments from my six years of membership as well as the major victories across the entire 70 year life of the organization.

I no longer take for granted our long archery seasons, the existence of our combo-tag, or our right to legally pursue game on public land throughout the state. I am also no longer oblivious to all of the people who want to erode or completely dispose of these things I love. I decided I wanted to make a statement and apply for a life membership to show my dedicated support of this organization.

The number of hunters using bows in Michigan has hovered around 300,000 people for a long time. I would assume the membership in MBH would be at least a large minority, but it’s not even close. I have taken to asking every bowhunter I meet if they are a member of MBH, and not a single one I’ve met outside of MBH, MTB, or MLA has been. I’m just going to guess that I know 30 bowhunters from my circle of friends via my job, I am the only member. Most of them will spend $1,000-$2,000 per year on gear and tags, but they lack either the understanding or appreciation to the point of not spending $25 to keep people fighting for our rights in Lansing.

I am proud that I was accepted as a life member yesterday at the annual membership meeting, many of the people I admire most are counted in those ranks. While in the meeting I contacted the Membership Secretary and requested to be put on electronic newsletter only so the cost of print and mailing won’t drain the coffers. That’s a step I suggest to anyone holding an organizational life membership, that or making additional donations to offset the ongoing expense.

If you hunt with a bow in Michigan, go join today.