Cow Elk Hunt – 2014

I always look forward to October.   Things finally start to cool down around here, we go from 100°+ every day to ~80° by the end of October.   Better still, I get away for a week or more.  Hunting is really just an excuse to get out where cell phones and email don’t work.  You can’t be contacted, so, the only thing to do is disconnect from the daily grind of the normal world.

This year I drew a cow elk tag and again hunted the Cave Valley area.   Driving up, I begin to feel a calm and quietness as Mt. Grafton comes into view.  Rocky ridges surround me and the smell of sage brush permeates the air.
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I was fortunate to fill my tag.  This was the first elk I have harvested and was completely amazed at the size and weight of such an animal.   There is no moving one of these like you do a deer.   You clean and quarter it right were it lies and pack it out.  Fortunately for me, the road was very near by.
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I estimate I have at least 4 or 5 times the amount of meet from this animal as from previous deer.   As such, I’ve reached out to family to come and stock up as well.   Even with spreading the bounty around, I doubt we will have finished this off in a year and so, next year, I will probably just put in for points and not hunt… we’ll see.

Like last year, we spent a lot of time just having fun….shooting our bows,  plinking with our .22s, quading, fishing, and all sorts of other camping activities.

Quading through the trees — heading for the peaks to hike around and scout for elk.

After a successful hunt, we decided to head a little south and camp in Eagle Valley and spend some time fishing.  While there, I met a neighboring camper who was spending some time with his daughter, traveling from camp to camp, fishing and sort of hunting, but mostly just getting away with his daughter.

While talking with him, he mentioned he was setting up an aquaponics system.   Typically, no one ever knows what that means, but out in the middle of no where, the two of us happened to meet.   I told him about my system and experiences and he shared some of the things he had read and learned.   I was especially excited to learn he had some thoughts on why my system would grow so well, but not produce a lot of fruit.  More fish may be needed he told me, so, I will add more fish and see how it goes this season.

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At Eagle, we would typically spend the late afternoon hours fishing.  The first few days, were pasted quietly floating on the water with my fly rod.  But then, after coming back from cutting firewood one day, my float tube had deflated.  It had begun to come apart at the seam.  As a result, I waded in for a couple of days. This wasn’t nearly as fun.

Lucky for me, before my tube had a problem, I was able to get some pictures and video.   The fly was able to attract a lot of rainbows, but also browns and large mouth bass.

The last night, I decided to trade my fly rod for an ultra-lite spinning rod and throw some spinners from the shore.  My goal was to limit and bring home fish for my girls.   As the sun started to set, the fish began to surface.  I couldn’t see what they were feeding on, but it was game on.   Nearly every cast would get a hit and hook up.   In short order I was able to bring in 4 rainbow and 1 big brown.
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I look forward to next year hunting or not, the get away is the real prize.

See the entire gallery of pictures!

 

New Barred Rock Chicks For the Flock

Well, we have had our little flock of chickens for two years now and it has been really a great experience.  We love the fresh eggs, but most of all really enjoy the chickens and their crazy personalities.   My wife loves to give them snacks.   Just walking to the door of the house gets them excited and they come running to see what treat she will have for them.   She has even taken to cooking for them.

We have really been amazed how easy it is to keep chickens.  The maintenance is next to nothing; in fact it is really far less than caring for our dog.  With that said, I decided to add a few chicks to the flock.   I had hopped to add a little variety by getting some Rhode Island Reds or Red or Black Sex Links, but the large feed stores have not received anything yet.  I stopped by an old local Tack store which had some Barred Rock chicks.  I decided since ours have been so good, I would go ahead and get three more.  The main reason I wanted some variety was so I could tell them apart.  Two of our existing girls look so much alike we can’t tell them apart.  Maybe we will get some bands to help identify them.

The new chicks were about 2 weeks old when I picked them up Friday, April 18, 2014 so they were hatched about the first week of April.   I’ve got them outside in the coop in a section I screened off so the other chickens can see them but not harass them.   The first night, they really didn’t know what to make of the little chicks and were quite chatty for a few hours after roosting for the night.  After that first night, they haven’t really seemed to pay any attention to the new chicks.

Here are some pictures of the new ones:

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Desert Bighorn Guzzler

This weekend I was invited to help put in a guzzler in the Sheep Mountain Range. A guzzler is a water source for the animals in the area, and while this was primarily for Bighorn Sheep, it will also provide water for coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, bees, and all sorts of birds and other native wildlife in the area.
For pictures, I only had my phone with me, but I took a number of pictures.  Unfortunately the sun was so bright I couldn’t see my screen and couldn’t tell what I was shooting or how it looked.  As a result, at some point I touched something and set my camera to black and white….oh well.

Folks from a number of clubs, fraternities and organizations participated in this project – NDOW, WHIN, and The Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn are a few which were represented.  I’m sure there were a number of others.  The turn out was really quite impressive and ran the gambit from young kids to old timers.   While most of the kids spent the day playing and exploring the rest worked.   And boy did they work!   I was really impressed with how hard an all volunteer group would work.

We started about 7:00 AM with a briefing from our pilot who would fly us into the remote area – You know, all the safety stuff about, buckle up, how to enter/exit the helicopter, how to shut it down in case of a crash, and “most importantly, don’t forget to take the pilot with you if he is unconscious and the aircraft is on fire.”   As soon as we landed, we quickly exited the aircraft and grabbed picks and shovels and went to work.

Briefing
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Flying out to the site
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The guzzler consists of three main parts, a water shed which is located further up the hill, storage tanks, and a drinker.  The water shed is made of corrugated roofing type material and is placed so that when it rains, the water will run into a trough which will feed the water through pipes to the storage tanks.  The storage tanks for this project consisted of four 2300 gallon tanks. And finally a drinker which is a smaller container which is open to the surrounding wildlife providing them drinking water.

Setting up the water shed:
First thing we did was measure out the area where the shed would be placed and outlined it with stakes and surveyors string.   We next cleared the area of plants and rocks so we could build the foundation of the water shed.   To do this, rebar stakes were driven into the ground and to those, cross beams were attached.   Once the foundation was in place, the corrugated metal sheets were laid in place and fastened to the cross beams.    A collection trough was placed at the lower end of the shed and plumbed down to the storage tanks.   Finally the shed was mopped with vinegar and painted desert cammo to better blend in with the surroundings.

Clearing the ground and setting the foundation
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Water collection trough
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Painting the shed
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Setting up the storage tanks:
The storage system consisted of four large tanks, approximately 16’x8’x30″, each with a capacity of 2300 gallons.  These tanks were also painted desert cammo.   Unlike the water shed, the tanks are required to be level and all at the same height.   We again began by measuring out the area and outlining it with stakes and surveyors string.   Once that was done we went to work leveling the ground.   Once the area was level, sheets of plywood were laid down as a foundation for the tanks.   Finally, we had to put the tanks in place.   We did this by sliding 20′ pipes through holes on the sides of the tanks.  Then lift bars were placed under the pipes and over the top of the tanks.   It required about 15 of us to lift a tank and carry it up the hill and place it on the foundation.
Once in place, the needed plumbing fixtures were installed and piping run.

Leveling the ground for the tanks
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Tanks placed and plumbed
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Setting up the drinker:
The drinker is a large metal box, made of what looked like 3/16″ plate steel.   It was about 3′ tall with a base of about 1′ square and was about 3′ x 5′ at the top with a sloping back wall.   This too was quite heavy and required a number of us to maneuver it into place….over and over again.  The drinker, like the tanks had to be level and the top of if at the same height as the top of the water tanks.  This would allow water to gravity feed to the drinker and eliminate the need for anything mechanical like a float valve, thus eliminating any possible failures which might drain the system of its precious water.
We mixed at least 50 bags of concrete to set the drinker and built a foundation around it leaving the top about 6″ above the ground to help prevent dirt from being kicked in.   On the sloping back of the drinker, rebar and meshing were also welded in place to allow a “stairway” for anything which might fall in to climb out.
Drinker set
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Mixing concrete
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By the time I got home, my body was aching all over.  Picking, shoveling and moving bag after bag of concrete had worn me out.  It was one of those times where no matter what I did, I couldn’t find a comfortable position and just craved sleep.   Now it’s the next morning and I feel great, tired still, but feeling good about what I was able to help with.

Heading home
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It already feels like Spring

Work has been all consuming, leaving me little to no time to do anything around the house and yard.  I have taken advantage of the longer days and warmth recently to clean up the yard and get the garden going again.

With the nice weather here, our chickens have started laying again this week which we are really excited about.  The fresh eggs are so much better than even the expensive organic ones from WholeFoods.

I took a minute today when the sun was partially out and snapped a few pictures of the garden.   This is about a week after planting.

I planted a bunch of purple and white onions this year.
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Lettuce on the right, strawberry center and heirloom tomato left
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Chinese cabbage
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This Swiss Chard is from last year — still going strong
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Yellow Corn
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Broccoli & Kale
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Sugar Snap Peas
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Here are a couple of the girls in their favorite dust-bath spot.  The other is in the nesting box ready to lay an egg.
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Cave Valley Deer Hunt

Each year I look forward to getting out of the city and spending a week or so in the outdoors. Typically for me, it is hunting season, but it really doesn’t matter if I’m hunting or not, it is the outdoor experience that rejuvenates me. When I am lucky enough to draw a tag and harvest an animal, it means we will be blessed with meat for the year. If not, we eat a lot of beans, rice, chicken and fish.

This year was really great! I camped with three friends, LJ, Don and Doug. This year only LJ and I had deer tags, and Don and Doug came along for the fun. While camping we enjoyed all sorts of activities.

Nearly everyday we shot our bows.

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Relaxing around the camp and nightly campfire
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We explored the Cave Valley cave. Deep in the cave there is a section with lots of names and dates going back to the early 1900’s. The Morris family has a lot of representation on the cave walls.

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One of the days, we took out the .22s and played around with the dueling tree. It is always fun to burn through hundreds of rounds of .22 trying to best your opponent on the dueling tree.

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Doug writes an outdoor column for the RJ and I thought it funny that one afternoon he spent his time writing his column while out in the mountains camping.

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Cave Valley weather changes from day to day. One day it felt like it got up to 80°; others it barely reached 50°. Nearly every morning when we would get up, it was in the teens or low twenties. We even had a day and night with snow and rain.

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In the area where we hunt there is an old rock house hidden among the rock out cropings on the mountain side. It looks like it was an old outlaw hideout. It affords a view of the entire valley so as to be alert to anyone approaching. From below, it is nearly impossible to see even when you know it is there. One afternoon I hiked up to the old house.

See the upper left corner
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I then continued up to the end of the draw and hiked over the ridge and down the other side of the mountain. There is a great peace that comes when you are alone on a mountain, feeling a cool breeze whip across your face while being bathed with warm rays of sunlight. I took advantage of the time to reflect on how great God’s creation is and how blessed I am to have time to enjoy it.

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While exploring the country we came across wild horses, elk, deer, antelope and coyotes.

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As for the hunt itself, both LJ and I hunted opening day. We saw very few deer, but by mid-morning a group of buck passed between where LJ and I were hunting. LJ was hunting high and I was down low in the flats. Since it was the first day and they were all forky’s, we both elected to just admire the animals.

Monday was our second day for hunting and again it was very slow. Again I was low and LJ was up high. Doug and I parked ourselves out in a flat area in plain view with no cover anywhere near. After a long while, I saw some horns bouncing into sight from behind a parallel ridge about fifty yards in front of us. For a minute, my adrenaline really started to pump, but I quickly saw it was an antelope. This big guy walked over the ridge then turned up the draw and went straight to LJ and Don who were concealed in a patch of sage and buck brush. Once he reached the brush where they were hiding he began feeding; some twenty-five yards away from LJ and Don who were glassing in the opposite direction. Neither the antelope nor LJ and Don knew of the others presence. While Doug and I laughed at the scene a doe and two fawns popped up about twenty yards from us, spooking Doug and me. This time the joke was on us.

It wasn’t long after, I spotted a pair of antlers a few hundred yards out on the horizon heading straight for me. I quickly whispered to Dough, “I see a buck!” Doug then started to turn so he could see when I yelled as loud as possible when whispering, “Don’t Move! Stay quiet! He’ is looking straight at us.” A few seconds later he dropped behind a ridge and allowed me to bring my rifle up without giving away our position. Doug had now turned around and had his glasses fixed on where the buck had disappeared behind the little knoll. It seemed like we waited an hour for the buck to reappear. We scanned high and low, not knowing if he had turned up or down the draw he had dropped into. Then he suddenly reappeared still walking straight towards us. My breathing became heavy as I anticipated the moment. I watched through my scope for what seemed a very long time as he presented nothing but a head on shot. Several times he stopped, looked directly at us, then continued towards us. Doug and I remained as still as the rocks, never giving away our presence. Finally, when about 75 or 80 yards out, he turned enough to present a shot. I exhaled completely. paused and squeezed. The bark of my .308 broke the silence of the morning and the buck was down.

While this whole scene played out, LJ and Don watched from above. Don said he looked down and saw my rifle was up. He told LJ, “Paul has his rifle up. He never brings it up unless he sees something.” Then they spotted the buck heading towards us. Finally, Don said to LJ, “He just shot it.” LJ answered, “how do you know?” As soon as the words escaped his lips he heard the report of my rifle. Don had seen the buck jump when hit, a few seconds before hearing the shot.

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I ended up taking several hundred pictures of a lot of beautiful scenery.  To see all of them go here.

 

Camping, Hiking, Rock Climbing in the Valley of Fire

This weekend I went with our Scouts to the Valley of Fire.   This is a great little spot with incredible scenery.  The Valley of Fire is only about an hour from Henderson, so it is great for an over-nighter.  In just this one day, we did all of these great activities: Camping, Hiking, Rock Climbing and Repelling — A whole lot to squeeze into an overnight camping trip.

The only camera on this trip was my phone, but it really takes quite good pictures.

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Labor Day in Hatch Utah

It was so nice to spend the long weekend in Hatch.  The weather was wonderful, rain, sun, a light breeze and just the right temp.   We have some wonderful friends who invited us up to share their home.   This was a great time to unwind.  We had no agenda, but did all kinds of relaxing fun wonderful activities –

  • Sitting on the porch watching the sun rise
  • Shooting our bows
  • Shooting our pistols and rifles
  • Sitting on the porch
  • Riding quads
  • Watching movies
  • Sitting on the porch relaxing
  • Going out for ice cream
  • Sitting on the porch glassing for deer and watching the horses
  • Going on walks
  • Early morning runs
  • Playing Spot It

Here are a few shots of the weekend:

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Have a look at the entire gallery – [Not a valid template]

 

 

Lady Bird Lake

This week work has me in Austin.   Both my office and where I am staying are just across from Lady Bird Lake.   It is a popular spot for walking, running, biking, and all kinds of things on the water itself.   My first day here, I noticed the lake from the twelfth floor window of our office.  It is a spectacular view of the water and bridges.

My second day here I decided I wanted to explore.   I had brought my bare foot shoes which I hadn’t worn in over a year.   After work, I walked back to the hotel, changed, and headed out to hike Lady Bird Lake.  The weather was a little warm, but compared to the Vegas weather it felt like a cool spring day.   I started out on the trail around the lake.  From what I can tell, you can do up to a 10 mile loop or shorter depending on what bridge you decide to cross.   I ended up doing a little more than 5 miles including the walk from and to my hotel.  Unfortunately this was about a mile more than my feet could stand in my shoes.  I should have done something shorter to help them get used to bare foot walking again.

Some of the many people kayaking on the lake
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Wonderful Scenery
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There were turtles everywhere on the lake
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Lady Bird Lake turtles

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From the bridge, you can just glimpse the trail through the trees on the edge of the water
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Finally back — couldn’t wait to get these off
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New Pictures

There are lots of tomatoes on the vines, but something is eating them before they ripen.   I haven’t found a worm yet, but something is out there.   The vines were everywhere, so yesterday I hung some fencing as a trellis and tied the tomato plants and cucumbers to them.   I found a large cucumber already which was totally hidden before I began moving everything around.

This past week when it was 115°+ for two days, was too much for one of my poor chickens.   The other 3 seem to be doing quite well though.   The fish in the aquaponics pond are really growing.  Some are close to 3″ now, nearly 3x the size of what they were when I first got them.

My neighbor gave me this great old lantern and ironworks which I hung in my yard.
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The hidden cucumber
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The pepper plants are taking off too now!
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Swiss Chard
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Tomatoes
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