Category Archives: Hunting

Keep the Change, Ya Filthy Animal

I love raccoons.

I grew up in the country, and just like every other average American kid I had my share of pets.  There were dogs, cats, fish, hamsters, squirrels, a leopard gecko named Yoda, and more dogs and cats.

Oh, yeah, and raccoons.

raccoon-garage

Don’t all kids have raccoons?  They’re absolutely awesome, so all kids should have them.  They purr a lot like cats, and are much more social.  Cats are jerks, and only care about you when they want to.  I don’t remember our raccoons ever walking just out of arms length, then sitting down to mock us while we stretched out to try to pet them.

I think my dad isn't smiling because he's super embarrassed by how short jean shorts were in the 80's.

I think my dad isn’t smiling because he’s super embarrassed by how short jean shorts were in the 80’s.

I don’t remember the timeline, but I had pet raccoons at several different points in my childhood.  At one time, we had four that were fairly young.  They were in a cage that my dad built, and we’d have to move the cage every once in a while because they would start digging their way out.  One morning, though, they were gone. My mom said that she watched the mommy or daddy raccoon come several mornings to try to dig them out, and she was watching the day that they got away.  She said she felt so sorry for that raccoon mommy or daddy, knowing how hard it was trying to get it’s babies back, so she let them go.

raccoon-family

Apparently my mom even took a picture of the four little rascals getting away!

I was so mad!

Forget the precious momentary connection between and human and raccoon parent, and the unrelenting love for their furry children…  I wanted my pets!

I got over it eventually, though – probably because we had another pet raccoon soon after.

raccoon-david

I got a little raccoon crazy around that time, doing a school project on them, which included going to school with a tail and mask.  I thought I remembered a random fact from third or fourth grade – that raccoons have no salivary glands – but I just googled it and found it to be false.  Don’t judge – we didn’t have the internet back then.  They often dip their food into water, but apparently that mostly only applies to raccoons in captivity (which ours obviously were).  The German word for raccoon is Waschbär, which literally translates to “Wash Bear.”  I also did a school project on Germany.  And on UFO’s, but that’s beside the point.

Anyhow, this is all a really long setup to a much different, darker story.

A couple raccoons have been hanging around our house at night, eating our cat food.  You might wonder how I knew it was raccoons that were eating the food…  I know because we would flip the lights on and stare at them from a foot away through our kitchen window, and they would just look at us like we were waiters asking how their meal was going.  “Needs more water,” I could hear them say.

My wife didn’t like it one bit because she has a soft spot for our cats.  Because of this, I’d try to sneak out a different door with a BB gun to scare them off.  Usually, they’d hear me approach before I had a clear shot and would run off – but there were the occasional times that I unleashed the fury of my 1991 single-pump Daisy.  The gun is apparently strong enough to kill woodpeckers (oops!) and carpenter bees (that’s right – they call me eagle eye), but it’s only enough to freak out an unsuspecting larger animal.

They’d usually just come back thirty minutes later or so, after all the lights went off in the house.

When they really started bothering me, though, is around the time my chicks started disappearing.  It’s one thing to eat our cat food; it’s quite another thing to eat our chickens.  I wouldn’t have have minded it as much if they just ate our cats instead – those guys are freeloaders, and don’t give me any eggs.

So, one night I again went out with my Daisy BB gun, this time staying far enough back to make sure I could get a good shot off.  I assumed that if I could shoot it square in the face, it would be a little less brave approaching our house.  I stood on a chair to line up the shot and…

Bang – right in the face.  And it was the cutest thing ever.

The raccoon looked up in my direction; it couldn’t really see me because the light was in it’s eyes and I was still in the shadows.  It raised it’s hand and rubbed it’s head in a “Why would you do that?” kind of way.

Unrelated “First World Problems” meme – this is how the raccoon looked while rubbing it’s head

But it didn’t run away.  So I pumped again, and shot it once again.  Still, it just looked out in the shadows, wondering what in the heck was going on.  I shot it again and it finally ran off.  Cleary, the Daisy wasn’t packing as much of a punch as I thought.

I went inside, and less than ten minutes later the little punk was back.  Usually, I would give it a little grace, but this one was just mocking me.  So I pulled out the big guns.

Well, by big guns, I didn’t actually get a gun.  In order to take a shot, I’d have to aim towards the house, and I’m not that confident in my middle-of-the-night-with-the-house-as-the-background target skills.  So I got the next best thing: my crossbow.

The murder weapon

The murder weapon

I got in the exact same position and kind of took aim.  Because it was dark and I was fairly close, I couldn’t really use the electronic scope.  There are three red dots in the scope, and choosing the wrong one would definitely embed an arrow into my shed or my exterior wall, so I just judged where it was aimed as if I wasn’t the one holding the crossbow.  X/Y axis sort of thing.  Squeeze the trigger, and…

Bam.  Perfect shot.

The raccoon looked up when it heard the trigger, otherwise my arrow probably would have been a direct hit to the face.  As it was, though, it went through its chest, then through it’s gut and out its butt.  It was obviously a little terrified and jumped off the shed attached to the house like it was committing suicide.  It ran out in the woods, limping and scraping the arrow on the ground.

Then I realized that it still had my arrow.

I started following it, knowing that if I lost it in the moment, some other animal would drag it and my arrow away before the morning light.  I used my phone as a flashlight, and following the sad sounds of a dying raccoon, its eyes reflected back at me in the distance.

About the same time, my wife came out to see if I’d gotten it – and I realized there was no possible way I could finish the little dude off with my crossbow – so I sent her to the garage to fetch an axe.  She came back with it, and I traded the crossbow for the axe and made my way into the underbrush.

The... other... murder weapon

The… other… murder weapon

It was freaking out, and I felt bad because it was definitely suffering.  Still holding the phone-flashlight in one hand, I try to finish the job with a swoop of my axe.  Unfortunately, a one-handed axe swoop while the other hand holds a flashlight is not very accurate, and I pretty much just chopped at it enough to insult it.  So I turned the axe around to bludgeon it until it was gone.

It was sad, and I felt pretty bad because I like raccoons.  I was also sad because the meat was so messed up that I wasn’t even going to attempt to clean and eat it.  But something enjoyed it, because the next day I came out there and all that was left was a puddle of fur.  (I should have gotten a picture of that, but didn’t think about it until later)

The other raccoon learned its lesson, apparently, because it stayed away for a long time.  It has recently been showing up again, though.  Which stinks, because I really do love raccoons.

raccoon-david2

The Most Redneck Thing I’ve Ever Done (or Roadkill Deer is Perfectly Edible)

Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, I’ve done a lot of redneck-y things in my lifetime.  But I think most people would agree that that today’s actions rank at the top.

I planned on writing about chicken changes: my brother said he’d bring a handful of young chickens to me after some Thanksgiving festivities, so last week I quickly boarded together a phase-two-temporary-coop.  There’s plenty to write about in that, and I have pictures, but that was before today.

Today, while getting things situated for the new chickens, I spooked some deer in my woods.  I was randomly going to see if one of the junk-filled sinkholes on our property held a piece that I was in search of, and about 10 yards in front of me a deer bolts across my path.  It was followed by another one fairly quickly.

As the first ran towards the edge of my property, I glanced down the road to make sure there wasn’t going to be an accident – because we live on a busy road, and accidents are fairly common.  (If I’ve not mentioned it before, I watched a girl’s truck slam into the telephone pole in my front yard while I was working at my kitchen table)

There was, indeed, a car coming.

The first deer runs across the road, and I think to myself, “Surely the driver saw the deer and will slow down.  Everyone knows there’s never only one deer that crosses the road.”

The second deer runs across, still with plenty of distance between it and the car.

Again, the thought crosses my mind, “I’ll bet the car will slow down now, after seeing two.”

The car did not slow down.

As I’m sure you’ve already gathered, there was a third deer.  It didn’t look like the car hit their brakes, so I was bracing myself for the bang! that I heard soon after the deer darted through the tree line that hid that spot of the road from my view.

I ran to the road to see if the driver was ok, but I didn’t see anything.  I ran a little closer to where the deer ran out, and I saw her laying on the side of the road, her tail and head still moving, obviously in pain.  I called my brother, who had left my house a few hours prior, with two questions.

  1. Would a .22 bullet be enough to put her out of her misery?  I was still a good distance away, but I could see enough blood to know that there was no chance this girl was pulling through. I couldn’t just let her lay there suffering for an unknown amount of time.  At first he mentioned that my 9mm would probably be more efficient, because there was the chance that the .22 wouldn’t kill her immediately – but we both agreed that it might not be the best thing to see a guy executing a deer with a pistol on the side of the road.  Especially because I’d already seen 4 police cars drive by in the last 10 minutes, and I don’t have my concealed carry permit yet.  Even though I wouldn’t conceal it, a guy walking on the side of the road with a pistol in his hand (even on his own property) might land me in a situation I’d rather not be in.  I ended up not having to use my gun, because by the time I grabbed my rifle and came back, she was dead.  And question number 2…
  2. Is it safe to eat a deer that has been hit by a car?

Don’t judge.

I’d only been deer hunting once this season, and only a couple times in general before that.  Venison tastes great, and here was this big hunk of fresh meat that otherwise would sit on the side of the road for a few days, bloated and rotting.  I mean – I was doing everyone a favor.  Nobody from the county would have to come pick it up, and the driver could sleep at night knowing that the animal they hit didn’t go to waste.  (Well, the driver would never know, because they didn’t stop – but I’m looking for more people I’m doing a favor for)

So, I think from this situation I learned the following lesson:  If at first you don’t succeed at hunting, wait for the animal to fall down dead on the road by your house.

Anyhow, my brother enthusiastically said yes, roadkill deer is perfectly edible.  Sweet!

So, I dragged the body into the woods a little ways, because again – a guy with a knife inside the belly of a deer right beside the road isn’t a situation that everyone would be completely comfortable with.  I got it into a clearing and texted my buddy Lane to see if he wanted to come help because he’s a new deer hunter as well, and he and his wife hopped in his truck.

deer-start

I donned the hunter orange just in case there was anyone illegally hunting on my property and couldn’t tell that the deer was already dead.

I started before Lane got there, though.  And just like last time with the chicken, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.  Times 100.  I called my brother again, and put the phone on the ground next to me on speakerphone.  I felt like I was on a tech support call, because I was trying to describe what I could see, and he was trying to explain what I should see, and neither one of us really knew what was going in the deer in front of me.  I think he joked at one point, Have you tried turning it off and on again?

I’m sure the NSA is already tapping my phone (I’ve sent out too many texts about my frustration with the government), so they were probably watching my house before the call was over.  “Wait – which part of the ribs do I stick the knife in?”  “Do I just get a thin layer of skin, or do I cut deeper?”  “Are her lungs supposed to be gray, because there’s this big gray thing on top of her heart.”  And that was before trying to describe cutting around the butt hole.

deer-bald-spot

I call this piece “Bald Spot.” Credit to my lovely wife for capturing the essence of the moment.

I’m pretty sure it took me well over an hour to simply field dress the thing, so Lane got there in plenty of time to help.  We had both been around cleaning and butchering deer before, so we both had the general concept – but that’s much different than actually knowing how to do it.  So we flailed together, with my redneck tech support on the line.

We finally got her hung up in my car port (I’m sure that was my wife’s first choice for location), after first using a rope that sagged so much that her neck was laying on the ground.  I really should get a GoPro, because I just can’t explain how hilarious it probably was to watch us.

deer-hanging

We opted to have a column in our way because, well – we just didn’t think that far ahead.

The next few hours were spent cutting while on the phone with various people, watching YouTube videos, and trying to remember details of the last time we’d seen a deer butchered.  It definitely wasn’t the prettiest butchering job ever seen, but it resulted in a fridge full of meat, so I suppose that’s all we could ask for.

deer-lane

High fives!  Er…  Hooves.

I probably should have taken pictures of the meat after it was cut, but I didn’t.  Just imagine that you walked into a butcher shop, but the normal butcher was out sick, and his son (who wants to be a poet) is filling in.  It will definitely still cook, but looks like somebody tried to murder it.  It’s sitting in the fridge right now, and over the next few days I’ll cut it up a little further to freeze it.  For now, though, leaving it in the fridge for a while will apparently help it not to taste too “gamey.”  Because we’re extremely picky about our roadkill.

shotgun

Meat on the table? 7 reasons I suck at hunting

I’ll have to make a confession here.  When I played Duck Hunt on the Nintendo as a child, I would be 1 inch from the screen.  And I still wasn’t a great shot.

And while I’m being honest, I also shot the dog when he laughed at me.  (Just to clarify for any non-80’s kids: the dog in the game, not the actual family dog.)

Both of my brothers hunted when I was growing up, but I never really got into it.  Every Christmas, they would ask for a camo shirt or some sort of bottle of deer urine – but I would ask for a book or video game or some other inside oriented thing.  Any surprise I’m a computer programmer now?

But, I saw this in my front yard this morning:

deer-front-yard

Three deer, in case you can’t see… I took the picture through my window.

And I saw this in my back yard while we were renovating:

turkey-backyard

These days, I definitely see the benefit of hunting, and I want to hunt – but there are some things about myself that I’m going to have to get over.

1. I Hate Waking Up Early

The last few years I’ve been self employed, which means instead of waking up to an alarm I generally work from when my wife goes to sleep until I can’t keep my eyes open.  There have been a few times that I went to bed after my my wife woke up to get ready for work.  So it’s safe to say I’m a night owl.

Hunting, on the other hand, is early.  Early early.

I went dove hunting with my brothers-in-law this past weekend, and Ben said we could sleep in until 7am because it was “vacation.”  Generally, in hunting, if you get to your spot after the sun is slightly up, you’ve lost your chance.  Actually – there seems to be a trend among men that in order to prove your personal commitment and general manliness, you get up earlier than everyone else.  6am bible studies…  5am mastermind groups…  3am golf tee time…  (Ok – maybe last one hasn’t happened yet, but just wait.)

I get it, for the most part.  The reason most people do those things that early is because they have to get to work by 8 or so, and they have full evenings.  I’m very blessed that I’m “in the office” whenever my laptop is on.  But I’ll always opt for the later slots – the men’s groups and coffee appointments that are in the evening.

But still no decaf – I’ve got work later.

2. I Don’t Like Being Cold

The further south you go, the warmer it is – so moving from Kentucky to Tennessee did give me slightly warmer winters and summers.  My perfect temperature is upper 70’s inside or mid 80’s with a good breeze.  I prefer ‘extreme’ hot to ‘extreme’ cold hands down.  But don’t go crazy…  If I had to choose between 140°F and 40°F – even though 40°F is “colder,” it’s the obvious choice.

But, TN is not immune to ridiculously cold temps, especially the last few years.  Early this year, my band decided to schedule our outdoor photo shoot on what turned out to be the coldest weekend of the year, in the teens.  Or – if it wasn’t actually the coldest, it was the coldest that I was outside all year.  Oh – and we took pictures by a lake.  All day.  I shivered uncontrollably, and when I was given the “action” signal from the photographer, I put my best acting abilities to use.  “I’m not cold,” I tried to tell myself.  “It’s blazing hot out here.”

But I was cold.  And it was not blazing hot out there.

So, a number of the photos had to be thrown out simply because I looked like I was in horrible pain – and I was.  (To be fair, though, mine were not the only grimaces that caused us to toss some of the shots)  I’m pretty sure the “keeper” shots we have now have been photoshopped so that I don’t have extremely pale skin with an extremely red nose.  I’m not going to ask Johan though, because then I can act like he didn’t.  But you and I know he did.

Anyhow, most of the “worthwhile” hunting seasons are scheduled during the freezing cold. I’m planning on going bow hunting this year, and the season starts at the end of September – so I’m hoping the temp won’t drop too much by then.  (Though the immediate drop in temp over the last few days squashes my hope a bit.)

I suppose this year I’ll be the one asking for warm camo for Christmas.

3. I’m A Very LOUD Person

Holly often whispers “shhhhh” to me when I think I’m talking in a normal tone of voice – especially when we’re getting ready for bed.  She’ll follow it up with a soft, “You don’t have to yell” – and again, I think I’m simply being audible.  I always say it’s because I’m a Stevenson.  (Hey, Stevensons – admit it.  We’re loud.)  But it also could be because I’ve been in a rock band for almost 8 years, was in another one in college, and have been playing loud music for a really long time.

When you’re lying in wait for your prey to approach, any noise you make lets them know that you’re there and that they probably don’t want to be.  I suppose I won’t be making as much noise when I’m hunting by my lonesome (I don’t think I’m loud when I talk to myself), but so far I’ve only gone hunting with other people.  And I have the uncontrollable urge to socialize with them.

4. I’m Not Good at Sitting Still

I can lay still – that’s easy; I enjoy sleeping.  But sit me down with nothing to do and you’ll get the least amount of focus possible from me.  Hyperactivity was my best friend as a kid.

I can focus hardcore.  While I’m programming, it’s easy for me to get into the zone and lose track of time because I’m coding up a storm.  But when I don’t have an all consuming focus, I’m as distracted as a cat chasing three laser pointers.

With nothing to do, my mind wanders.  I think that can be a good thing – because of that, I’m a songwriter, and I recently finished writing my first novel (more on that later).  Letting my mind wander allows me to create other worlds in my head, and I try to put that down on paper when possible.

But when you’re hunting, you have to sit still and be focused – because otherwise, all of your preparation and still-sitting is for nothing when you either scare something off, or something passes right in front of you and you’re unaware.

5. I’m Still Not Fond of Killing Things

The first dove I killed, I prayed over it, thanking God for creating animals for us to eat, because I needed to remind myself that it was a good thing.  The first chicken I killed, I had to put my head between my knees because I was getting incredibly nauseous.  We, in the “civilized” world, are so completely disconnected from our food source that we generally don’t think about the death of animals anytime we bite into a juicy steak or a glorious piece of bacon.

I’m trying to get better about that, eating less processed food, and paying attention where everything actually comes from.  (I started writing a separate blog post about that – maybe I’ll finish it one day.)  I’m getting better in terms of killing and cleaning animals…  I’ve slaughtered a handful of chickens since my first one, each getting easier.  After hunting this weekend (I shot at a bunch, hitting nothing), a friend of my bro-in-law killed a squirrel, and three of us huddled around it and a youtube video, figuring out the best way to clean it.

But…  Blood can still make me faint.

6. My Eyesight is Getting Worse

I have a computer programmer’s eyes.  I code in the dark, with an dark color scheme.

coding

If you turn on the light in whatever room I’m in, I will invariably hiss like Dracula seeing the sun.  When going outside, I have to wear sunglasses even when it’s overcast, else I’ll end up with a headache in no time from all of my squinting.  I don’t think that sunglasses will help me see deer/birds better.

I also have floaters in my eyes, which oddly look a lot like birds when I look up in the sky.

And lastly, I had a doctor diagnose me with Convergence Insufficiency, which means that when I’m tired, I have a hard time focusing my eyes on something.  When people talked about “double vision,” I never thought that they were describing what I saw.  And, unlike Foreigner, it never gets the best of me.

7. I’m Extremely Cheap

Extremely.  Cheap.

Just ask my wife.  One of our most memorable fights early in marriage was caused by her finding a deal on some shirts.  For me.  She got three for the same amount that we agreed that she’d spend to get me one.  She thought I’d be excited, but instead I was mad because she could have still only bought the one, and saved 2/3 the money.

I’ve loosened up a bit since then.  And it helps that we’re both making better money than a part-time hotel room service attendant (me) and an ice cream scooper (her).

But hunting is not cheap.  It’s expensive.  Guns cost, like, a lot of money.  And ammo prices have been rising almost as fast as gas.  It pays for itself – as long as you kill some big game – but the initial cost could easily finance my bees, chickens, and whatever’s next for a number of years.

But, as a man, I like guns.  So I’ll take the hit and buy some guns.  And luckily, I got a crossbow for Christmas last year.  And I’ve been practicing.  So, watch out, trees right beside my future target.

crossbow

Bonus! I Can’t Tell Birds Apart

This  is a bonus, because it only pertains to bird hunting, which won’t make up the majority of my hunting experiences.  Whenever birds flew overhead this weekend, I pretty much always looked at someone else to see if they were raising their gun first – because I had no idea what kind they were, and if they were in season.  At the end of the day, I still didn’t know which ones were doves for sure, but I at least knew which ones I’d be thrown in jail for shooting.

I’ll let you live this time, bald eagle.

And, in general, I simply have no idea what I’m doing.