Saturday, February 4, 2017

2016 Deer, A Season To Remember

   I'll be honest, my expectations for this past deer season were not very high.  My wife and I decided to take on the task of opening the Scandia General Store near our home in Warren, PA.  This meant that most of my time would be spent between my current job, renovations on the new store, and working with various state and federal agencies to make sure we had all the permits we needed.  Hunting was definitely on the back burner.  Although, I did make it out for archery season on a handful off occasions, which I was told, was still too much....(Love you honey).
   The archery season was for the most part a bust.  Other than one great encounter with a nice 10-point that I had trail cam pictures of on several occasions,  there were never any other opportunities.
This buck followed a doe around me for 45 minutes one evening in the later part of October.  Never close enough to shoot, all I could do is watch.  Of course, I threw everything I had at him.  Grunts, bleats, rattles, wheeze, and even raking the side of the tree I was in to sound like rubbing.  I recognized him right away when he appeared working a scrape at 60 yards.  The first time he licked the branches I saw those long brow tines. That encounter being the only highlight of my time in the tree with a bow, season came to an end and it was time to get ready for the opening day of gun.
     With there being two weeks between the end of archery and beginning of gun, I left some trail cameras out to try and get a better idea or some confirmation as to where I should be on the first day of the rifle season.  I waited until Thanksgiving day to check the cameras and was surprised to see a new buck show up that I hadn't seen at all this year.
He wasn't very tall but he was wide and definitely mature, even maybe a little over the hill based on his looks in this picture.  Needless to say that with a lack of other pictures anywhere else, I would be hunting this area on opening day of rifle season, which is the same area that I encountered the 10-point in archery.
     Opening morning came and I was in my tree stand by 6:15 am. I wanted to get there before the rest of the crowd came in and started spooking deer around as they raced to their stands just before daylight.  It was not more than 30 minutes into daylight when I heard the distinct crunch of frosted leaves that only a walking deer sounds like.  When I finally caught a glimpse of the deer on the thick brush covered ridge to my right, there was not doubt in my mind that it was a buck sneaking through and after getting him in the scope of my rifle for the first time, there was also no doubt that it was the wide 9-point from my camera on Thanksgiving day.  Openings for a shot were extremely limited, however, there was no worry at this point as he was coming right to me.  As he got closer, it was painful to watch him.  Take a few steps...stop and look around...take a few more steps...stop and look around.  At this point he was at about 80 yards. STILL NO SHOT!  He stopped to look around one more time and as if sensing that something was not right, he made a hard left and started walking away from me and down the hill.  In an instant of worry and panic I just kept looking for a small window to make an ethical shot.  While following him with the scope I remember seeing a gap between two hemlock limbs that allowed me an opening to the back end of his vitals while he was walking away.  With a squeeze of the trigger the deer took two leaps down hill and then headed directly at me before disappearing behind a group of oak trees.  Anyone reading this that is a hunter knows that the next few minutes after realizing that the hard work put into scouting, stand placement, and shot execution has all worked out perfectly....these are the best minutes of your hunting season.  A great feel of relief along with respect for the animal that you just harvested.
     
     This is where the story line changes.  It took me several pictures and even almost to the point of field dressing to realize that this deer looked familiar.  As I inspected the antlers, I noticed that the brow tines were broken off,  not just short, and that is when it hit me.  This is a deer that I hunted hard two seasons previous to this year.  I had many encounters and trail cam pictures of him.

Even my wife had an encounter with this deer in her first season which was also 2014.  She nicknamed him "Sheister" after she had a quick opportunity at him when he stopped running for a split second coming off a circle that I cut for her.  Even though she could not get a shot, she described the rack perfectly and picked him out of the lineup of trail cam pics from that season.  
      I was very disappointed last year to never see or get one picture of him during the 2015 season, although I still managed to take a very nice 7-point on the second day of rifle last year as a consolation prize.  The only picture I saw of him since 2014 was from this past summer.  Another member of the lease I hunt sent me a pic of a buck that he got on camera in August.

Sure enough, there was "Sheister".  However with no sightings or news of him since, he was not even on my radar come season.  After realizing that the buck I had taken was really him, I sat back again giving even more respect to the deer that had eluded me for almost three whole seasons and almost without even a picture for the last two years before showing up on Thanksgiving of 2016.  
     Now, I assumed that my season could not get any better after taking a buck that I had all that history with 30 minutes into opening morning, however my wife still wanted to get out and try her luck as well.  She took her first whitetail last year in gun season.  A nice mature doe all by herself, without a nervous husband talking in her ear.  Of course, all it took was me walking away to try and get some deer moving to make it happen.  I barley got out of sight of the stand when the gun went off last year.  I was happy for her but wished I could have been with her when it happened.  This year, we went to the same stand that she had shot her doe and that I had killed my buck the previous season.  Even with that success last year, I once again had low expectations since I had not gotten one picture of a nice buck in this area all year.  However, I did know that there were some doe around and anticipated that even if we did not see anything at first light that I could walk around and get some moving.  While getting into the stand we hear some deer spook and my heart sank a little thinking that those ones might have been our only opportunity.  After getting set in the stand, its just breaking into shooting light,  my wife decides that this is the best time to get out her thermos of oatmeal for breakfast.  I really wanted to say "do you think this is the best time to eat", but like a good husband, I kept my mouth shut.  About 3 bites in she says "Oh S**t" and hands me her oatmeal and grabs her gun.  I see the deer moving through the thick undergrowth and determine that it is a mature doe.  When the doe finally steps out, I ask her if she on it.  After she replies "yes", I tell her to just put the cross airs on the shoulder and squeeze.  The gun goes off and the deer drops where it stood.  After the shot, she puts the gun back on safe and gets a congratulatory hug from her very proud husband.

        As if this story could not get any better, it is still not over.  After dressing, tagging, and hanging the doe, it was back to the stand.  Honestly, just so Megan could finish her breakfast.  After we got set again, we had encounters with two small bucks that came looking for the doe.  She must have been in heat.  While having her practice getting on the small bucks with no intentions of shooting, I looked back towards where she had shot the doe and saw another deer coming through the brush.  As I looked through my scope, i saw that it had a nice rack and was just waiting to confirm that it was a legal buck because all I could see was an incredibly large Y on its left side.  Once it looked towards the stand, I saw the brow tines and told Megan to get ready, and that it was a good buck.  This deer stepped out exactly where she shot the doe and she pulled the trigger on him.  He ran about 50 yards and we watched him go down.  Unfortunately his G2 and G3 were broken on the right side, but still is a great first buck.  The best part being that I was able to sit right beside her for both.

      This past season is going to be a hard one to beat.  I look forward to trying though!

Friday, January 20, 2017

A New Year Brings New Opportunity

    I'm very happy to restart my old page with its new look, name, and content.  Finally after 15 years in the industry, I'm taking my show independent and it's my pleasure to present Fin & Fly Adventures.  This is a primarily fly fishing based guide service that also offers some terminal tackle opportunities.
    Fly fishing opportunities include trout, bass, musky, carp, and steelhead.  Species options are all based on conditions and time of year.  Both wade and driftboat fishing trips available as well.   Terminal fishing opportunities are primarily targeting walleye, with perch, crappie, white bass, smallmouth bass, and northern pike as a bonus.
    Our area of service would be NW Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of NY.  Waters we fish are, but not limited to, Allegheny Tailwaters (Allegheny River), Clarion River, Lake Erie Tribs, Kinzua Dam, and Chautauqua Lake.
    Also on this page you will see my own adventures from hunting and fishing with family and friends.
 

     These pics are just a little recap of last years guiding season.  We are looking forward to a great 2017!
Where else would you propose taking a lunch break on a hot day?


A rare double on the Allegheny River where both quality fish were landed and able to get pics side by side.

Larry with one of the best trout of the year.

Just another quality Clarion brown for Walt.

Larry doubled up on back to back runs with big Allegheny browns

Great markings.

 A net full of fish is a beautiful sight.
Here are a few more pics from some of the terminal fishing trips.





                                                                                                                 The Fourth of July weekend on Chautauqua was amazing.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Beggining of the Clarion River season

    It has been a not so bad start to the season so far.  Water temps are still pretty cold but on the good cloudy days with stable flow conditions decent fish have been caught.  The first couple trips found that most of the fish were grouped up in their prime wintering spots.  Slower currents, deep water, and lots of structure.  As of late, the fish have been spreading out.  More are being caught in the faster current and shallower water.   A few bugs have been present.  Black stone flies and midges mostly.  Not enough for consistent rising but enough to make a trout attack once in a while.  

    We have been fishing mostly streamers so far.  Big and ugly has was the ticket early but a slimmer, shorter profile has been working best as of late.  We have stopped and ran some nymphs in some of the primary riffles with moderate success.  I am sure that a little more time and effort would produce more fish on nymphs, but I must admit that when they are chasing streamers and you get to see the entire follow and take, that I would much rather cast the big stuff. 
    
Warmer temps this week should help get the fish a little more active.  Hendricksons are right around the corner.  As much as I love streamers, I can not wait to cast a dry fly to a big rising brown trout.  More clients are starting to book trips now that the weather is breaking and I can not wait to spend more days on the water.  Hopefully this will be the start to a great season.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Escape From The Cold


I love the snowy months and I love ice fishing but man, what a winter!  Little did I know when my family and I booked a trip to Belize last fall, for the following March, that it would be a much needed vacation to escape the grips of the bone chilling cold that our area has experienced the last few months. We certainly had plenty of ice and an extended season this year, but it comes to a point where enough is enough.  When March finally got arrived was definitely time to go.
            The morning of the trip was here and after driving though a not so unusual blizzard on the way to the Buffalo Airport, it was time to head south.  The flight out of Buffalo left at 6:30am and by 2pm it was time for shorts, sandals, and my favorite fishing shirt.  And oh yes…it was 85 degrees in Belize City.  Another short yet very scenic flight from Belize City Airport found the final destination on the Island of San Pedro, also known as Ambergris Cay.
 Reservations had been made at a luxury resort called Victoria House, and upon arrival on the island their limo and friendly driver was awaiting my family and I.  This is however not your traditional limo.  This limo was one of the nicest 8 person golf carts that you have ever seen.  The primary mode of transportation on the island is either golf cart or bicycle.  After checking in, it was time to make sure that the fly rods had not been damaged during travel and my mind quickly geared towards fishing. 


Now, this trip was more of a family vacation but I was able to get my fair share of fishing done.  There is a nice sized lagoon just a short walk from the resort that I had had some good luck fishing in past trips to this island and it would not disappoint this year.  In fact, the lagoon fished better than it ever had.  Blind casting big streamers tied with rabbit strips from a point protruding out produced snook, baby tarpon, and even a big barracuda.  The lagoon would be my every morning routine.  Get up at 5:20am, fishing as it breaks daylight, and back to the Victoria House for breakfast with the family by 7:30am.  The only problem with fishing by yourself early in the morning is that there is nobody around to take your picture when you catch a nice fish.  I managed to land my first ever tarpon on the second morning and was just hoping to flag down a passer by to take a picture for me to no avail.  After settling for a nice picture of it laying next to my fly rod, I returned it to the brownish off-colored water of the lagoon.
After a few days of seeing the sights, snorkeling, and eating some great sea food, it was time to hit the flats for some bonefish and anything else that may present an opportunity.   The first day I spent with my brother, who had not cast a fly rod since we were kids. Which means it was 15 years ago, and on this day it was very windy.  Not a good combination for your first flats fishing trip.  After big brother (myself) landed a couple, it was now little brother’s turn.  We got back in behind some mangroves and out of the wind.  With a little coaching, my brother (Dan) was able to hook up and land his first bonefish.  He managed to hook 4 other bones and land a couple more on a day that turned out to be more for him than myself.  I would not have had it any other way. 
The next day I was on my own.  I was not really concerned with bonefish so my guide and I looked for some permit and tarpon.  Now, I have never caught a permit.  Nor have I had any very good opportunities at any.  This day would be no different.  After a pelican spooked an entire school of permit before I could make a cast, we headed on the hunt for tarpon.  The tarpon were around but none of them seemed to be very interested.  They were moving very fast and acting very spooky.  The day was ended with a few bonefish before heading back to the resort.
Besides just the spectacular fishing, it was a great trip and a much needed break from the cold weather.  Belize has much to offer such as fishing, diving, snorkeling, sailing, Mayan Ruins, jungle tours, cave tubing, and many other activities.  This was my fourth trip back and I guarantee that it will not be the last.  Great fishing, great fun, and above freezing!  After this winter in the southern tier, it was a great way to break the cabin fever.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fishing The Hardwater


     First trip on the ice this year.  Temps were in the negatives with the windchill for most of the day.  Fish would freeze before you could get your tip-up back in the hole.  We had a great day on the walleye along with a few nice perch and a couple pike.  Caught on nice walleye that measured almost 23 inches that I released.  She was a very fat female and it was evident that she was full of eggs.  Always have to look out for the future and let the big females go once in a while so that they may spawn.   I'm looking forward to getting back out on a little warmer day but do not see temps above the teens anytime in the near future.  Until next time!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Makin It Easy!


Gone are the days of spending hours in the woods scouting for the upcoming hunting season.  What used to require a lot of time and effort has been made simple by the use of trail cameras.  These cameras have revolutionized scouting.  Just set up and walk away.  Find out what wild game is living in your hunting grounds without the worry of spooking them with human scent or visual presence.  Place multiple cameras in different areas and it is like being several places at once.  Use of these tools is most effective during the early archery deer season or in an area with little or no hunting pressure.  A trail camera allows you to see deer and other game on their natural movements.  If you are placing them in an area with a lot of pressure or activity then all bets are off.  You may get a picture of a good buck one day only to have him pushed out of the area by hunting pressure. 
            
Now, lets talk about setup.  The most popular areas for setup are usually a well used game trail, food source, or scrape line.  Food sources and scrapes are fairly simple.  All you have to do is point the camera right at the scrape or at the area you think the deer or other animals will be feeding.  When setting up along a game trail, be sure to point the camera directly up or down the trail.  If the animal is walking towards or away from the camera then chances increase of getting a full image of the animal rather than just a partial if it just passes by the camera.  There is a delay from the time the camera senses motion until the picture is taken.  Even though some cameras are down to ¼ of a second delay between sensing the motion and taking the picture, it is still enough time for a deer to stride out of frame before the picture is taken.
          
  We have come a long way in the technology of these tools.  Trail cameras have been on the market for a while now.  The original ones required a roll of film just like a regular camera and then a trip to the local Walmart’s “one hour photo” before you could see the images that you captured.  Now these cameras are all digital.  To check your images all you need is to pull the SD card and insert it into your digital camera or put a new card in the camera and take the old one home to look at the images on your computer.  If you do not have a digital camera or computer, they also make viewers that you can buy to show you the pictures on the cards.  There are also cameras now that will send the pictures to your email so that you do not even have to set foot in the woods.
          

  Also, trail cameras come in either a full flash model or in infrared.  Some people prefer the infrared because there is no flash.  In these models the nighttime images will be in black and white as opposed to the full color in a regular flash camera.  Some people believe that the regular flash will spook game at night.   No matter which model you should choose, trail cameras can be the most valuable tools in your hunting arsenal.  They allow you to scout your area 24-7 from miles away.  If your not already taking advantage of these cameras, I urge you to give them a try.  You can get a good camera at a fair price now that a lot of companies are making them. 
          
  Finally, you may want to invest in a security box to lock your camera in while it is in the woods.  Not everyone is honest and many stories have been told about cameras being stolen.  Also, this writer has had a major Black Bear problem with his cameras.  The bears do not seem to get aggressive with them but seem to pull and bite at them to see if it is something they should eat.  One camera has been ruined from a bear biting through the plastic and moisture getting inside the camera’s major components.  So if you are worried, make sure you get a security box!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Warm water heating up!!



     Some early morning smallies followed by carp on dry flies.  A nice change of pace after fishing for trout all spring.  Looking forward to getting into some pike and musky action next week.