Thursday, November 18, 2010


On October 23, I was fortunate enough to shoot a pretty good buck as the sun was breaking the horizon.  Before that day had really gotten started I was on my way home to get all the supplies I needed to field dress, drag, and photograph my deer.

En route to meet my brother, my girlfriend, Jaymie, sent me a simple text....."we have 2 deer to drag out now."  Jaymie was hunting over a small foodplot we'd created on the edge of a wetland property my dad owns, and she'd just shot her first deer ever - and with her bow! 

My brother and nephew were meeting me at dad's anyway, to ride over to where I'd shot my deer.  So before we ever left dad's, we met Jaymie at her stand, and quickly followed the blood trail out to her first deer - a beautiful 2.5 year old doe. 

I don't think we could have asked for a better day!

Deer Year

It's funny how the deer season works out.  On an early October evening I had a really good 7-pointer step out of the woods and into the corn field I was sitting over.  By the time he followed the ditch bank to where I was waiting it was well past legal shooting light and I passed on the 12-yard shot opportunity.

After that I moved tree stands around, hunted hard, and watched helplessly as the corn was picked and the big 7-pointer became a memory. 

For a few weeks I hunted this farm and others, but never had a sighting of even a decent buck.  Then on October 23rd I hunted a great farm I've seen numerous good bucks on, but never taken one from.  I snuck through a multiflora rose/honeysuckle thicket, down a path I'd cleared in August, to a new stand that I'd never been in.  Before I even had an arrow on my bow I had a buck trail a doe into the thicket in the pre-dawn.  Luckily, that buck stuck around until legal light, and I shot him inside of 10 yards before I even had time to get settled.

Just over a week later I had good friend Sean Collins up from Tennessee to hunt for a few days.  On our first afternoon out we immediately started seeing bucks, and in just over an hour had an encounter with a decent 2.5-year old 8-pointer.  Not 15 minutes later we spotted an even better buck headed our way, and I immediately recognized it at the big 7 I'd seen a month before.  Long story condensed, Sean shot that buck at 25 yards after I grunted and snort-wheezed him in.  It was awesome!

So I got to be part of not only my own bowkill this year, but played a role in Sean's success on the big 7-pointer that I'd spent so many hours thinking about.  Like I said, it's funny how deer season works out.

My October 23 bowkill, taken just after legal light on the first sit in a new stand.

Sean Collins with his November 2 bowkill.  Now that's a big 7-pointer!

Monday, July 5, 2010


Fresh off the successful raspberry jelly venture, I picked up some peaches at the Plymouth Farmers' Market this past weekend.  I peeled a quart, diced them finely, and put together a batch of peach jam. 

There's just something sweet about a quart of diced peaches and 7 1/2 cups of sugar cooking on the stovetop!

The jam actually needed a few more peaches than the recipe called for.  You can see the jars didn't have the best peach:sugar ratio!  But it still tastes great!

While I was waiting to hear the lids on my jam "pop" I made supper!  This was the first cucumber from the garden this year.  I peeled it, sliced it, and then battered it in flour, salt, and pepper, and fried it in bacon grease!  I put a little sour cream on the side, and it made a great late-evening meal.  Then I ate some fresh peach preserves for dessert!

Up next - green pepper jelly!


I'm new to making jellies and jams, but the older I get the more I like to eat.  And that leads to me tinkering with things like curing, smoking, dehydrating, and even canning.  The wild raspberries are ripe in northern Indiana right now, so I decided this was as good a year as any to learn to make jelly.

After the berries are picked, they need to be "steeped" to release their juice.  A potato masher helps the process a little.

Then the juice is strained off by transferring the pulp into a collander with a couple of cheesecloth layers added.  Letting this happen naturally, without "squeezing" the pulp, keeps the jelly clear.

The juice is measured, returned to the stock pot, with lemon juice and sugar added.

Once the sugar is melted and the mixture brought to a boil, the powdered pectin is added and the stock boiled to a temperature pushing 220 degrees.

Meanwhile, the jars and lids are sterilized.

Jars are then filled, air bubbles removed, and 2-piece lids are placed and centered.  Jars are returned to the hot bath for 10 minutes of processing.

The final product is a terrific tasting wild raspberry jelly that's going to taste darned good on a buttered biscuit sometime this winter when the snow is piling up outside!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


In the colder months my basement is a makeshift taxidermy shop where I put together full mount turkey deeks.  But when it's warm out, I'd rather be outside shooting my bow.  It's then that my basement gets reogranized into an archery shop.  This past weekend I put my nephew's bow back together after his string mysteriously came off (dry fire maybe?).  I then found a broken serving that needed fixed, adjusted a small cam timing issue, waxed string and cables, and installed new string silencers.  After about an hour of fiddling around, Brandon was back on the range stacking arrows.  I love this stuff!

One of the age-old debates that seems to kick up every now and then when I work on equipment for folks centers around what makes a better hunting arrow - a super fast lightweight arrow, or a slower, heavier projectile.  For my part, statistics show that the vast majority of Midwest whitetails, my chief fall target, are bow-killed from inside 30 yards.  Range estimation isn't extremely critical or difficult at those sub-30 distances, so in my mind, blazing arrow speeds aren't needed.  I'd much rather shoot a mid-weight or heavy shaft at slower speeds, which translates to better transfer of kinetic energy when the broadhead meets the deer.  The deadliest rig I probably ever shot was a 29 inch 2317 aluminum arrow tipped with a 150 grain Snuffer cut-on-contact broadhead.  That thing would shoot through a 55 gallon drum.  Slow, but MEAN!

Here's the simple formula for measuring kinetic energy:

Another often overlooked part of successful bow/arrow set-up is the flight of broadhead tipped arrows.  Broadheads must be spin-tested to the arrow, insuring that the arrow spins perfectly true with the broadhead installed.  If it doesn't, adjustments need to be made to correct the causitive factor (untrue insert face, one slightly longer blade in a replacement-blade broadhead, simple debris on the broadhead ferrule).  I make sure every broadhead arrow I put in my quiver spins on my caloused palm without any wobble of any kind.  I prefer feeling the spin to looking at it in a tester.

And given real-world conditions of poor releases, wind, flinches, twigs/grass in the arrow's path, etc, an arrow that is forward-weighted will perform much better than one that is balanced near its center.  In other words, the arrow should have a front of center balance of no less than about 8%, and somewhere in the 10 - 12% range is generally better (providing the arrow has sufficient spine to accomodate it).  The transition to 100 and 85 grain broadheads has created some FOC issues, since lighter tips reduce FOC, all things being equal.  But the advent of small, Blazer-type vanes has somewhat reversed this trend.  At any rate, anyone putting a bow hunting arrow together should take FOC balance into consideration. 

Here's the simple formula for measuring FOC:

I once had a medical doctor friend that spent nearly $1000 on a new bow, rest, sights and so on.  But when bow season rolled around, he had 3 different shaft types in his quiver, with 2 different broadhead designs (some 125 grain and the others 100 grains) adorning them.  And nothing was overly straight or sharp.  I was dumbfounded, and spent 30 minutes lecturing him and another hour or setting up 4 matching hunting arrow.  If you're serious about shooting animals with a bow, pay attention to more than just your bow.  The arrows and broadheads are the only part that hit the animal, so no matter how pretty/fast/expensive your bow is, performance is measured at the broadhead end of your shot.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I like to tinker with archery equipment.  I got my first bow before I turned 10 - a Bear Blue Denim compound (I still have it).  I still remember my dad and brother trying to change the draw length for me out in the front yard.  Dad forced the limbs together while Ricky moved the cable ends to holes drilled in the eccentric brackets bolted to the ends of the limbs.  It came from Target in South Bend.  I shot it so much that dad realized I was serious. 

When it became obvious that I'd outgrown the Blue Denim, dad consulted with a cousin, Billy Joe Risner, who had his own basement pro shop, and was notorious for trying out the latest-and-greatest bow gear.  He directed dad in purchasing my first REAL bow, a Martin Cougar Magnum.  That Martin still ranks as one of the top 5 gifts of my life, and I still have it.  The craftmanship is exquisite, and every year I toy with the idea of setting it up and killing another deer with it.

Anyway, I've been hooked on archery since I was a little boy, and my affliction doesn't seem to improve.  I recently bought a new bow press that handles the modern parallel limb bows, and this week built a prototype draw board to help look at cam timing, cam lean issues, nock travel, draw force curve dynamics, and much more.  I'll eventually have my brother help me build a metal (welded) frame instead of the wood variety I'm experimenting with, but the fun is in refinement!

As an example, I put my Hoyt ProTec on the draw board last night, and used the draw lenght/weight data to build this draw force curve table:

It shows the bow has a pretty gradual build to peak, a wide peak top, and a fairly gradual shift down to the wall.  This curve doesn't show it, but the bow has a very narrow valley at full draw.  Taking peak draw weight (44 pounds) and subtracting holding weight (16 pounds) gives the let-off amount of 28 pounds.  Dividing 28 by 44 and multiplying by 100 gives the percent let-off of 63.6%.

I'll compare these numbers with those of my new Maxxis when I get a chance.  Note that I've shortened the ProTec up as much as the cam modules and cable/string twisting will allow, and backed the limb bolts out as far as possible.  I'm setting the bow up for a beginning adult archer that needs low draw length and weight.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I'm not a "numbers" guy.  Honest.  When someone this spring asked me how many turkeys I've killed in my life, I honestly couldn't give them the number.  I have a strong guess (and it's not that many), but even now at only 39 years old, the events of years-gone-by are beginning to escape me.

So for the sake of posterity, here's the list of 2010 birds that now reside in my freezer, and in all cases but 1, at least 1 picture.


April 8 - A jake was the first bird to fall this year.  My trigger finger was itchy, and he was gobbling at a train going through on the next ridge over.  I shot him in the bean while he had his head stretched out.  No picture.

April 10 - Killed a good 3-year old as part of the Governor's One-Shot Turkey Hunt gala.  The hunter I was guiding killed a jake earlier in the day, and was willing to hang in there with me until I got this bird within gun range.  Video to follow!

April 13 - This was a 2-year old that should have been part of a double, but my good friend missed a chip-shot.  I happens to us all.  Chalk it up to tight chokes.  Video to follow!


April 21 - This was a 3-year old that came in silent to whack my tom decoy, and was my only bow kill of the year.  I shot him in the head at 10 yards, but only scratched him.  Well, I didn't know that at the time, but as he walked slowly away following the first shot, I decided to anchor him with a second.  That arrow, delivered at about 28 yards, hit him stern-to-stem.  I'd love to share the video on this one, but I hit the "record" button twice, and have all of 1 second of video.  I was almost physically ill.


April 26 - The first Rio of the year fell as part of a double.  My hunting buddy on this trip was Bob Allen, 4-H agent in Clark County, IN.  Bob and I roosted this pair of 2-year old birds the night before, and got right between them and a longbeard with some hens that roosted on the opposite side of the field.  They strutted so close to one another when they got to the decoys that we almost didn't get to shoot.  Luckily, it eventually worked out.  Cool stuff!  Video to follow.

Bob killed his second Rio that night, within 200 yards of where the morning pair fell.  No picture, but video to follow!

April 27 - The second Rio was a solid 3-year old with good color.  I'm not sure how far he came to get to us, but a jake actually walked him in, and the jake came from nearly 600 yards away - we watched him come every step of the way.  The jake bred the hen decoy, fed around, came back to snuggle with the hen decoy, fed again, went away, came back, then went away again.  I kept him gobbling most of the time, and when he came back for the 3rd time, he was towing this longbeard behind.  Sorry, no video!

So that's it.  Six birds for the year, 5 of them longbeards.  Bob can tell you, when my 2nd Kansas Rio hit the ground, I was fired up.  Shooting turkeys never gets old!