On November 30, 2021, I harvested my first deer. Over the last few decades, I have successfully hunted many kinds small game, like squirrel, dove, grouse and turkey, under the tutelage of my friend Bill Booth. He has taught me about guns, calibers, ballistics, shooting, hunting, fishing, wild life and game habitat. I have also hunted deer about 20 times, but I never saw a deer in the woods when I had a gun in my hands.
Last Fall I made a connection with another friend, Hank Forester, son of famous man-about-town Chuck Forester. Hank is a professional deer property manager and hunting guide. He works for a company called Field to Fork, which is associated with the National Deer Association. Both organizations promote managing land and deer for hunting; ethical hunting practices, hunter education, rifle training, processing the meat and making delicious meals. He invited me to hunt deer on some land he manages. Unlike most of my Blue Ridge Outings articles, this one does not show the geographical location, to protect the privacy of the land owner, except to say it is in Wilkes County, NC.
I was using a new gun to me, a Browning semi-automatic rifle. This gun is high quality but heavy weight with stiff spring controlled mechanisms, which were difficult for me to operate. A few weeks before this hunt I took the rifle to the Duncan Gun Shop outdoor range at Windy Gap and shot terribly. Eight of eight shots did not even hit the two foot square paper target. I told Hank that I am not competent to shoot a deer and could not hunt with him. He advised me not to over think the situation, relax, have confidence and practice some more. I called Bill for advice, which I tried to put into practice. A few days before the hunt I went back to the range. The second time I put eight of eight shots within two inches of the target center.
I have no illusions that I am a great hunter or great rifle shooter. Many factors went into making this hunt and shot easier than typical circumstances. Trail cameras linked to Hank’s smart phone are located throughout the property so he can track the deer’s’ where-abouts. Multiple hunting stands are already placed on the property in strategic locations. Some places have corn distributed in sight of the stands, to attract the deer, and to hold the deer in place for a shot. Tree limbs are cut to make shooting lanes.
I shared the two person stand with Hank high in a tree. The stand has a bar in front of the seat to keep the hunters from falling out. The bar was at the right height so that when I rested the fore end of my rifle on the rail, my scope lined up with the deer trail.
Query: Hank, did you set this rail height on purpose?
We started our hunt in late afternoon and only had to wait about two hours for some action. There was no rain, snow, ice or wind. It was moderately cold, about 32 degrees, which is not bad. Through-out the hunt, Hank whispered advice to me, which was welcome.
He heard and then saw a deer before I perceived either. He notified me when and where to watch for it to appear on the trail. I had a hard time finding the deer in the scope. When I could see the buck, I really bore down and concentrated physically and mentally so as not to choke and blow the shot. The deer came in sight at about 50 yards but walked in and out behind a several trees for couple minutes, which intermittently blocked my view of its chest. I took a shot when I was not fully relaxed and in control. The bullet nicked a tree branch and missed cleanly.
The deer spooked, but only for a minute. Extremely luckily for me, it came back in sight. For the next several minutes it kept walking very slowly in and out behind the trees. I followed it with my scope and I kept the cross hairs squarely on its chest. As time went on, instead of getting more tense, I got more relaxed and grew more confident in my shot. Finally, I got a good sight picture of its whole chest. I felt comfortable that I could send the shot there. Without waiting for Hank’s final okay, I pulled the trigger.
The shot was superb. We found later that the bullet pierced its heart. The buck sprang straight up in the air, flipped over, landed on its back, kicked a few times and was still. So, we did not have to look for a blood trail or track a wounded deer in the dark.
It was a small buck, but both horns were broken off, maybe from fighting, so I could not tell the size. Hank did most of the work to clean and gut the deer, but I helped and tried to learn how to do it myself the next time. When we cleaned the deer’s insides, we found the chest cavity above the diaphragm was a big pool of liquid blood from all the heart damage. The hunting knife with a gutting blade which I have carried for 30 years was too dull to cut. Hank provided a razor blade knife which worked better. At his suggestion, I have order a knife with replaceable razor blades for myself.
Hank used his ATV to haul the deer back to civilization; and then used his truck to haul the carcass to the meat processor. Again at his suggestion, I ordered a metal shelf basket which attaches to my Jeep trailer hitch to haul future carcasses myself.
There is a new legal procedure. It used to be that a successful hunter had to tear off a paper tag from his big game permit and attach it to the carcass. Now, the hunter has to call a telephone number on the permit, give some information and get back over the phone a registration number. This number must be written on the permit and shown to any inquiring game warden and the meat processor.
Hank had connections with several deer meet processors. When we were done it was after dark and after business hours. But he used his cell phone and found a processor open. We went to The Meat Sweats located on NC Highway 115 South. Their contact information is (336) 466-2159 and 9853 Statesville Road, North Wilkesboro. The cost was $110 for converting all the meat to plastic shrink wrapped packages a week later. For future reference, they are soon moving to 1608 West D Street, North Wilkesboro.
A few years ago, I had considered giving up on deer hunting, partly due to the negative economics. Many hunters spend tens of thousands of dollars to buy or lease land, get a truck, a nice rifle with an expensive scope, use an ATV, buy heavy winter clothes and boots and a hunting knife. They get back a couple hundred dollars worth of meat.
This hunt was a better deal for me. I already owned and used for other sports everything that I took with me. All I bought was two bullets for $4 and got back the lean, healthy meat.
I have decided that deer hunting has re-ignited my interest in outdoor consumptive sports. To all my readers, please join me in finding some times and places where we can go hunting and fishing.
For other beginning hunters, you can access the National Deer Association at 800-209-3337; www.deerassociation.com ; www.youtube.com/deerassociation ; www.deerassociation.com/ebook ; and www.deerassociation.com/deer-hunting-101/ .
On October 11, 2021, Ranger Bob (me, Bob Laney) met with two retired gentlemen from Greensboro, NC, Steve and Rick, who are experienced and expert hikers. I was introduced to them by a mutual friend in Wilkes County. Steve has explored and mapped on his GPS many dozens of unofficial trails in Stone Mountain State Park. He has found dozens of unmapped waterfalls, about 300 old cabin sites and 80 moonshine stills. He reports that he knows more than the park rangers about all the geographical and cultural features.
We hiked on the Tanawha Trail beside the Blue Ridge Parkway on Grandfather Mountain from Wilson Creek to Rough Ridge. The map said it was only 1.4 miles but the trail was so steep, muddy and rocky in places that it took us a few hours. After reaching Rough Ridge we ate a trail lunch. Then we carpooled to Beacon Heights for a short hike and long view. The weather vacillated from clear blue sky to heavy fog. Fortunately we had enough clear weather near the top of the trail to get some nice long view photos. We used two cars to run our shuttle between trail heads.
Steve and Rick are about my age and nice guys. Their pace was as close to mine as anybody that I have hiked with in a long time. On average I was a little slower and took a few more breaks. But they always waited for me when I stopped and never got far enough ahead to lose sight of me.
A few years ago I was in a dangerous scuba diving situation in the Caribbean Sea near Mexico, thought I might die and panicked. I was at the bottom of the ocean about 100 feet deep, swimming against a strong current, being blown out of a coral canyon about 30 feet high into the next canyon, where I could not see my scuba guide. I did not know how to find the route through the canyons and caves we were traversing and was afraid of getting lost, being abandoned by the boat and dying in the open ocean. Adrenaline pumped into my blood which made me even more panicked and breathless. I felt like I needed more air faster than would feed from my tank.
I eventually saved myself. As a result I developed post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]. I have been scuba diving about 10 times since then with no negative effects. But when I am on land some of the same factors can occur and bring on PTSD.
On the Tanawha Trail last Monday multiple things went wrong at the same time. The trail turned steeply uphill, was covered by large unstable rocks, mud, and slick roots. My glasses fogged over. I started stumbling and falling. Steve and Rick did not see my trouble and hiked ahead almost out of sight. I did not know the trail and needed a guide. And I suddenly needed to go to the bathroom!
I could feel PTSD coming on and said to myself, I am about to get into several hours of agony. Then, before the PTSD could take effect, in just a few seconds, it went away! The credit for that cure goes to my Wilkes County friend Laura Gentry. For a couple weeks I had been taking her NeurOptimal course at her house. It uses a computer, program, electrodes attached to my head, visual and auditory effects. The program trains your brain to recognize a mental problem coming on and switch your thought patterns to something that is not stressful. Contact me if you want to confer with Laura.
A good time was had by all.
On the beautiful Sunday of August 29, 2021, Gerianne Hannibal, Rose Pawlyszyn and Ranger Bob took a paddling trip on the New River in Ashe County. Gerianne and Rose rode their red sit on top kayaks; while I went in my teal and wood framed solo canoe. Our trip was from Zaloo’s Canoes just upstream from the NC 88 bridge to the Gentry Road bridge.
The weather was nearly perfect with lots of sun, periods of upstream breezes and no rain or clouds. I believe Gerianne and Rose used sunscreen. I had been exposed to so much sun playing tennis and other outside sports that I enhanced my tan.
We put in early morning and paddled five miles in a couple hours to the New River State Park Wagoner Access. Along the way we encountered few [or no?] other paddlers. There were some scattered tubers with coolers and a laid back way of traveling. At the park we ate our picnic lunches. Rose had several peanut butter and banana sandwiches. She kindly shared a tasty sandwich with me, so I gladly skipped my snack of beef jerky and granola bars. Unlike my last several trip, I brought two canteens of water and did not run out of drink.
After lunch we headed further downstream five more miles to the Gentry Road bridge in another couple hours. In between the water seemed to be a little low. There was a long, nearly two mile stretch, with nearly constant riffles. None of the riffles were big or difficult to navigate, but the exposed rocks were barely big enough to catch a carelessly paddled boat, hold it and possibly turn it over. After a while it became an irritation to constantly paddle and steer with no break for two miles.
After that, we encountered a moderate rapid that I did not remember from my prior trips. Gerianne and Rose took the left side of the river and eased through. I took the right route and encountered a section with no way through. I realized the problem too late and caught a fairly large rock in a moderately large rapid. In an instant my canoe capsized and filled with water. Fortunately my boat was stuffed full with four flotation bags which kept the canoe high enough in the river to be manageable and not unwieldy heavy. Further fortunately the rocks in the rapid were sized and placed conveniently to prop up one gunnel, turn over the canoe and empty the water. I could sit and re-arrange my scattered gear. I had enough foresight to have everything strapped in so nothing was lost downstream. Hoping back in and continuing to paddle was not a problem.
The take out at Gentry Road bridge was small, steep and somewhat hard to handle. Quite luckily the Zaloo’s crew who met us at Gentry arrived one minute before we did. They helped us get to shore, haul our boats uphill and load onto their trailer. Zaloo’s shuttle back to their shop where our trucks were parked was breezy and pleasant.
My plan for our next trip is to paddle from Gentry Road Bridge to the New River Outfitters Shop downstream from the US 221 bridge and hire NRO to run our shuttle.
A good time was had by all.
On the (mostly) hot and sunny Saturday of July 24, 2021, Ranger Bob (me, Bob Laney), Gerianne Hannibal and Rose Pawlyszyn biked the New River State Park, VA, trail. We went downhill from Dannelly Park to Fries Junction, and then back uphill to Fries, VA. We encountered one intense rain fall, but it only lasted about 30 minutes and did not harm anything.
Rose was our leader. She had been there a half dozen times. Gerianne and I had been on other NRSP sections, but this trip was our first to this section. We covered 26 miles on a smooth, gently rolling trail which was a converted railroad bed. The uphills and downhills were well graded and mild.
Ranger Bob lost at least two outdoor sports merit badges, maybe three, on this trip because of my poor performance. I have been on many long, tough trips; like backpacking 60 miles through the Wind River Range, WY, in deep snow drifts and many places with no trail; or canoeing 70 miles on the Shenandoah River; or backpacking the Highline Trail in Grand Teton National Park. But this trip was the most exhausting and painful I have ever experienced.
The trouble was not the trail or terrain. Rose and Gerianne handled the entire trip easily. I was operating under several disabilities. First, I am about 40 pounds too fat, which is a lot of weight to push even 5 miles. Next, I was carrying a 20 pound pack full of gear, like a bicycle tool kit, a first aid kit, a repair and survival kit, rain suit, head lamp and a half gallon of water. But I did not bring excess water; I ran out about two miles from the end and should have brought a little more. Finally, such a trip would be easy for a biker with a modicum of training. But I had no training. I had not been on my bike for two years, except for one day the week before I pedaled 5 miles - not nearly enough training.
By comparison the ladies were slim and trim; carried about two pints of water and no equipment; and had plenty of recent training.
I have seen videos of people running marathons who cannot make it and give out before the end. The runners’ muscles cramp up all over their body, their knees buckle, their arms and legs go spastic, they fall down and sometimes they get nausea or diarrhea. Their body has shut down. To a lesser degree, I suffered many of those symptoms. Four miles from the end my body tried to shut down. I had to stop every few hundred yards to rest. Two miles from the end I had to stop pedaling and just walk.
Rose kindly hung back with me to assure I did not get left behind and further in trouble or lost. When I had to walk she walked with me. When I ran out of water she gave me a pint canteen. Then she carried my pack for a while. A half mile from the end Gerianne came back to find us, took my bike and let me just walk. Then at about a quarter mile Gerianne came running back, took my pack from Rose, put it on and ran back up the trail. She reminded me of videos of Marine boot camp.
I was more exhausted than I have been in my entire life. I was in major pain in my thighs, hips, butt cheeks, triceps and wrists. Gerianne kindly put my bike in the back of her truck because my triceps were too weak to lift it onto my Jeep roof rack. Then she drove out of her way to bring my bike directly to my house. Rose and Gerianne are my heroines.
Other than my travails, it was a fine trip! The scenery of mountain shrubbery, wild flowers, creeks and the immensely wide New River were beautiful. Rose and Gerianne pedaled coolly and quietly the whole time. We had a lunch at the NRSP family park at Fries, where Rose bought a hot dog loaded with all the fixings. There was a car show and music festival getting organized as we ate.
A good time was had (mostly) by all! Two good things are I have been suffering from plantar fasciitis in my left foot for several months. It was gone! And, I lost four pounds! Only 36 pounds to go.
On the bright, sunny warm Saturday morning of June 26, 2021, Ranger Bob went paddling with Gerianne Hannibal and Rose Pawlyszyn. Bob was in his solo canoe while Gerianne and Rose were in their sit-in kayaks. We put in at Zaloo’s Canoes just south of the NC Hwy 88 bridge and paddled to the take out at New River State Park, Wagoner Access.
The trip was five miles and took two hours of half drifting and half paddling. There were plenty of shallow rocks and small riffles to steer around, but no rapids. We all got into the Zen of the time and just about totally relaxed. We passed a half dozen other paddlers and inner tubers on the river, and a few fishermen.
At the take out we ate our picnic lunches. Gerianne and Rose were astounded at the heavy weight of my canoe full of gear for potential rescues compared to their kayaks. A good time was had by all.
Next time we hope to make it a longer trip and may take the 10 mile route.
For Free! Belgium made (high quality) 16 gauge top break action shotgun. Fires one shot at a time between breaking open action and reloading another single shell. Kicks lighter than a standard 12 gauge shotgun.. Good starter gun for a teen ager, woman or other small framed person. First caller gets the shotgun.
For sale. Garmin GPS Map 66i. New. Hand held electronic device for hiking, camping, backpacking, hunting, fishing or any outdoor activity. Combines color screen with map of current location; or any other location to which you can navigate; GPS function that shows your current location; trip planning and route finding; tracking route taken; sending and receiving texts to any reciptient without use of cell phone towers when truly in the wilderness; can be Blue Tooth linked to your cell phone to access your Contacts; weather reports; send SOS rescue request signal to emergency responders; and other functions all obtained from satellites. Go to www.rei.com and search for Garmin GPSMap 66i for more detailed pictures and descriptions. Go to the Internet and do a Google search for Garmin GPS Map 66i Manual for a detailed, thorough and easy to read guide book on its operation. Cost new $600. Priced to sell at $400.
Thermarest Pro Lite Apex self-inflating camping and backpacking sleeping pad. Color deep orange. New and never used. Cost $79 new. Priced for sale $55.
Ranger Bob had planned a backpacking trip to Grandfather Mountain on December 28 - 29, 2020. I made my reservation using the new Internet system adopted by the State Park several months ago. A couple days before the trip I received a call from one of the Park Rangers. I had never been personally called by a park ranger before. Apparantly I was the only person to have a reservation to camp on the mountain that entire week, so I caught their attention. He wanted to know if I was aware of the conditions in the Park.
He said the trail head parking lot is on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is closed due to deep snow. Then the camp site I had reserved has no water, so I will have to carry all I need for two days. And the only spring where water is available on the trail to my camp site is frozen over and not running. Then the trail itself is iced over and covered with deep snow. Not only would these conditions make for difficult hiking, but the mountain is so steep and rugged that even in clear, warm, dry weather some steps can be difficult and dangerous. Under deep snow the steps would be invisible and even more dangerous. Finally, the temperature is expected to be about 5 degrees, with a wind chill factor well below 0 degrees.
I said that I am 68 years old, my family has owned a cabin near Grandfather since I was born, where I often stay. I have hiked, camped and backpacked on every trail in every season and weather condition, so I expected these factors. The ranger fell all over himself apologizing for insulting my experience.
I laughed and said that my experience tells me not to go on this trip. Even if I could handle it and survive, I am not in that strong shape physically and I would be miserably cold. I thanked him profusely for being concerned about my safety and for contacting me as a precaution. We chatted for a while more about the Park before hanging up.
This trip is the first one in my life that I have cancelled due to bad weather conditions and my own lack of acclimation and physical shape. I suppose this situation is a condescension to my aging, and maybe to my getting a little bit wiser.
A good time was had by all snuggling on the couch in front of the open wood stove and drinking hot chocolate.