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Well as you can see, we started the 2011 rifle season with immediate success.  Jake took his first buck from the ranch on opening day just as the light was beginning to fade.  He tracked it up the northeast ATV trail to the top of the ridge and took it on the plateau with one well placed shot.

You'll notice the funky antler on the buck's right side.  When we delivered him to Boss Farm for butchering, the DEC had agents there checking deer size and age. They informed us that these type of antler deformities can occur if a deer sustains an injury the previous year to the opposite side flank.  Often this occurs if they have a brush with a car/truck or are injured there the previous season by a possible buck fight/antler puncture.  Upon closer observation, the burr-pedicle connection of the antler appeared abnormal, meaning that it was possible that it was injured while in velvet or it could have developed an infection that caused the abnormality.  Regardless, he had a nice 4 point antler on his left and a unique 3 point drop antler on his right. 

This deer aged out at 2 1/2 years old, meeting the management goals for the property.  Jake actually saw this deer earlier in the day but passed on him in hopes of seeing a more traditional "trophy" rack.  However, as the day was drawing to a close, Jake decided it was a great opportunity to take an older deer and further our Quality Deer Management efforts we initiated with the harvesting of one doe during bow season.

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We took this young buck on the second day of rifle.  Jake and I were set up in the elevated blind we built during the summer.  He was gracious enough to "keep me company".

At 200 yards away, he looked like a shooter.  He truly was majestic for a local deer.  And while I was happy to have my buck, especially with a 1 shot kill at 200 yards, I was somewhat saddened that he was only a 1 1/2 year old.  These are the age of bucks that we are trying not to harvest.  Allowing them to mature will increase the overall health of our herd.  But that rack looked pretty good and I figured him to be a 2 1/2 year old.  I will not make that mistake again.

During bow season I was able to harvest a young doe for the cooler.  Shooting deer with a bow is very intense.  I have such respect for the animals that I really feel the pressure to be certain of a clean humane shot.  I thanked God that I was able to put it down with 1 arrow. It froze upon impact, took a few steps then fell down.

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And the final deer taken in the fall of 2011 was this large doe.  Kellen, with some scouting help from Erin, harvested this beauty from the elevated blind located in the upper pasture.  The ranch was awarded 1 doe permit for rifle season and since Kellen had less hunting time due to his college schedule, we agreed that he should use the doe tag.  Next season the doe tag will go to Ben, provided we hit a winner again in the "lottery".

 
Well it has been awhile since my last post.  Amazing how little time is available to do all I would like.

Had an enjoyable trip out to South Dakota and Wyoming.  I learned a lot watching the interactions between Mr. Helm and his son-in-law Ted.  As the father-in-law of two newly acquired sons-in-law, watching the dynamics of a comfortable and respectful relationship between Mike and Ted proved very interesting to me.  Unlike your own sons, who share common values and morals from birth and who learned from your behavior, the relationship between "in-laws", especially men of a certain "rugged" and opinionated posture could get complicated.  Routine advice between a father and a son could seem like authoritative or controlling behavior to a son-in-law.  In the reverse, a son's concern for his father's well being could be interpreted as pandering or even a challenge if indelicately presented by a son-in-law.

Watching them interact with mutual respect and concern for one another was just excellent.  Hope I picked up some valuable lessons.

All told there were 8 adult males all related either by blood or marriage ... and me.  Nine men,  11-12 rifles, gallons of Royal Crown (the preferred whiskey of choice), beer, 1 pick-up, 2 SUVs, 4 hotel rooms, lots of hunting tales, irreverent humor, the Black Hills, deer, antelope and turkeys, Deadwood casinos, local bars and Chinese take-out.  Damn, when I die, this better be heaven or I'll be disappointed.

We had a successful hunt, meat for the freezer and an abundance of good times.     


 
Now mind you, it's not a complaint.  Just a statement of fact.  Wanted to hunt the property this past weekend (bow season), but there is still a lot of work to get done.  So we drove up to Herkimer to shop the Walmart for curtain rods and house supplies.  Hit Herb Philipson's Army-Navy store while we were up there.  Great place to shop for the local atmosphere.  Speaking of local atmosphere, we ate at Crazy Otto's Empire Diner.  Old school "silver bullet" trailer for a building.  Decorated with car license plates from around the country, die cast model cars and other nostalgia, including music from the '50s.  Had an excellent "beef" omelet, classic food for the area.

Saw more turkeys, same basic location.  They were out in a cut field and decided to take flight.  To look at them you would figure they're not too aerodynamic.  But man, they get airborne pretty quick and for a short distance they are impressive aerialists.  Given their body shape, they are more of a "ground" bird.  Their "flying" is quite different from other birds.  They are more like guided missiles, heading straight towards their destination.  No "cruising" around.  Just a direct line from point A to point B with minimal height from ground level.  Highly efficient mode of transportation.     
 
One more thing about last weekend ... TURKEYS !!!  As we were assembling the dining room furniture I caught a glimpse of some black dots in the second lower pasture.  Sure enough they were moving!  I must have looked possessed as I ran to the Envoy to grab my field glasses.  And there they were, a flock of nine birds wandering through the field in the rain picking at seeds and bugs for a fall meal.  Couldn't tell if any had beards, but a few colored heads were scoped.  Most likely jakes mixed in with hens and poults.  Toms seem to go their own way this time of year.  Anyway, WE HAVE TURKEYS, yeeha!
 
Well we were finally able to coordinate the mattress delivery this past weekend.  That meant our first over night stay up at Red Hand.  Jake and Kellen were able to join us due to the long Columbus Day weekend.  It's amazing how quickly I can get the work done with some help.  We were able to complete the building of the bedroom furniture in enough time so that we could set up for some dusk hunting of coyote.  Actually Jake and Kellen set it up and hunted for awhile.  They basically used a Foxpro remote caller that produced the distress call of a wounded rabbit, coupled with a Mojo Critter action decoy.  The Mojo flips around a bushy "tail" mimicing a small injured animal.  The combination of the two is supposed to attract predators to your set-up.  Well in a matter of minutes they had a coyote howling just over the northern knoll.  Very eerie having a coyote howl that close by.  Eerie, but very cool, not to mention a little intimidating. 

The night was extremely dark, just a sliver of moon.  The boys had a flood light set up on a fence rail that was inserted into a cement filled pail.  This put the light about 8 or 9 feet high, with the "critter" and caller nearby.  Well we heard them, never saw them.  It was still alot of fun.

We counted 11 deer that day also.  You can tell the rut is coming.  Lots of activity.  None seen had antlers however.  Next day after some breakfast and a trip to the Fly Creek cider mill, we drove back to the farm and listened to the end of the Giants game.  Then we headed out to survey the land looking for the western property line.  We still haven't been able to ascertain were our property ends and the next farm begins.  Anyway, with Jake and Kellen on the ATVs and mom and I following on the Mule, I asked the boys to try and carve a trail from the west side forest to the eastern upper meadow.  They were effectively blocked by a rocky outcropping.  However they did flush out a couple of deer.  So we rode down and attempted to cross the lower meadow.  It had rained up there for five days straight and things were real sloppy.  Even in 4 wheel mode the mule got bogged down in the mud.  The rear axle was submerged.  Jake rode around us on the Arctic Cat and he fed me the winch cable.  Attached it to the front frame of the mule, mom drove, Kell and I pushed, Jaked pulled with the "Cat".  Got it out, but Kell and I got pretty muddy.

We put out some quality deer food for antler growth in the far eastern cut field then headed up the "hidden" trail to the upper acres to show the boys the newly found shooting shack.  We bush whacked some over grown brush and thorns to open up the trail on the way up while the boys checked out the "crime scene vehicle" hidden in the woods.  After viewing the shack we started down to pack-up and head home to Windham.  Suddenly Kellen and I spotted a deer feeding in the lower pasture that we hope to use for either hay or corn next season.  As we moved slowly down with the machines so as not to spook her we saw our first antlered deer.  He stepped out of the tree line and followed her into the field.  It was getting dark, but you could see the "mass" around it's head.  Could only have been a rack and a decent one at that.  I wondered aloud that maybe they were already starting to pair up in anticipation of the rut.  Got us a little excited.  Saturday starts bow season and I may try some hunting early that morning.  Then off to Sean and Laura's engagement party.


 
Basically headed up to the farm to accept delivery of the mattresses for the bedroom on Friday.  We bought three bedroom sets and the matresses from Sportsmen Guide.  Great prices but very rustic furnishings.  Hunting cabin stuff.  Raw cedar that you build and finish.  Made in Canada works well for our needs and our check book.
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So it was a shortened weekend trip.  Because we had work in River Edge Saturday, only had Friday to work Red Hand.  Wanted to take a ride so we mounted up the mule, me and mom in the front, Dukey in the "carpeted" dump bed.  Because he slid around so much on the bed liner, I cut a plywood floor and mounted some of the old carpet we pulled out of the upstairs bedrooms onto it.  He loved it!!!  Drove up to the top meadow, around the pond and down the trail past the apple trees.  The picture on the left is what we found, exposed by the fall weather.  It's in excellent shape despite how it looks in the picture.  Simonlacaj had it draped in burlap to "camo" out the windows and the shape.  A good idea that I'll follow through with again.  It has very good shooting lines covering the deer trail that passes in front of the apple trees and leading to the pond.  So that gives us three shacks to set up in for the rifle season.  I've found the fourth site although "Lacaj" took the shack with him for his new hunting grounds.  Now all we need do is find the fifth and final location. 

 
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Spent a few hours at the Cherry Ridge range yesterday afternoon sighting in a couple of new rigs that I'll put to use this fall.  My father accompanied me and I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did.  His ease and knowledge around guns still impresses me.  I hope that I make the same connections and pass along what limited knowledge I'm picking up to my sons, sons-in-law and future grandsons (maybe even interested granddaughters).  Despite the damp, cloudy weather it was both fun and productive.  

The gun pictured is Beretta's newest rifle, the Sako A7 ST.  The A7 retains many of the venerable traits of the Sako 75 Hunter and has added a few new characterists of it's own.  To quote Beretta it "joins Sako's legendary  Finnish tradition of accuracy and reliability with today's American hunter in mind".  Hyperbole???  Maybe.  But I found it to be one amazing shooting gun.  Despite it's noticeably light weight, the feel is one of obvious quality.  Very solid in hand and at the bench, with a smooth silky bolt action.  Maybe I'm used to older, more utilitarian guns, but this was a revelation.  What a blast (no pun intended) to shoot!  Sako brags that it has "better out of the box accuracy and reliability than any other rifle brand on the market".  Boasting "match-grade performance with a price never seen before on a match-grade hunting rifle".  Makes me think I actually know something concerning hunting guns?  Truth be told, even with my limited experience, I could tell this is one hell of a rifle.  Priced exceptionally well, Sako probably has a winner.  Time, durabilty and reliabilty will decide.

The first set-up was an A7 chambered in a .243 Win mag.  The second A7 is a .300 WSM (Winchester short mag).  Both guns sport Trijicon 3-9x40 scopes.  Being only bore sighted, we started shooting at 50 meters just to put some holes on the target board.  The scopes were phenomenal.  I was told by a couple of serious gun guys up at Windham (Rob and Michael) to be sure and get excellent optics.  It really makes a difference, especially now that my eyes aren't as sharp as they used to be.  The Trijicons are particularly good at light amplification  (more on this later).

The guns sighted in quickly.  The .243 took about 8 or 9 rounds before it was dead center.  It was bore sighted by the gun shop.  Should I brag or was it just dumb luck,  but the .300 that Jake and Kellen mounted was almost spot on with the first shot.  We put three sets of eyes on the bore and the scope at about 100 yds. and tweaked it up.  It shot an inch high and an inch left.  Slight scope adjustment got it centered on the next shot.  So when the 30 minute interval arrived and the line was declared safe, we moved the target out to 100 yards.  As soon as the line went hot, we were back to firing.  Amazingly both guns were grouping around the bullseye right from the get go.  These babies shoot real flat, at least at shorter distances.  I let the scopes stay where they were as it was getting late and we needed to head home.  One more session at the range and they'll be perfect.

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The picture at right is a Trijicon Accupoint TR20-1G Riflescope.  It's a standard crosshair with a green dot reticle.  The standard crosshair comes with a green or an amber dot centering point.  This is the reticle on the .243 Sako.
 
Trijicon also makes a Mil-Dot crosshair available with either a green or amber center dot.




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This is the view looking through the Trijicon Accupoint TR20-G Riflescope.  Kind of different, eh?  I wanted to give this a try.  It features a post reticle with a triangle tip.  It's unique design is supposed to allow for super-quick target acquisition in any light conditions.

I really liked the "openess" in the field of view.  Concentrating on that single point of reference with my primary vision allowed my peripheral vision to kick in, even though looking through a scope.  I'm betting that if I have a distance shot on walking or moving game, I'll pick up any branches or brush that might interfere with a hit as the animal moves along.  This is on the .300 WSM, my long gun.

Trijicon scopes are "dual illuminated".  They capture ambient light using fiber optics for general illumination.  The centering dots and post mounted triangle tips are made from Tritium.  Tritium is a self-illuminous, radioactive isotope that stays "lit" even in dark conditions.  This is a battery-free system (never a power outage at the wrong time) with an aiming point that you can see in any kind of light.  It's pretty cool technology.

Trijicon optics are used by the Navy Seals, Green Berets, the US Marine and Army Corps, as well as numerous state law enforcement agencies and swat teams including NYS Tactical Officers Association.  Pretty good criteria concerning Triji's quality and reliabilty.  Check 'em out if you're in the market for a rifle scope.    



    

 
OK, so by popular demand and to catch up on the biggest project we've finished to date, here's the story of...THE BRIDGE.  Red Hand's land is traversed by what is known as a "blue line" creek (pronounced crick by everyone upstate).  It's called a blue line creek because on all the color topography maps that the USDA, DEC and Army Corps of Engineers have of our farm, the creek is printed blue to designate it as a year round "wet" creek.  It doesn't run dry after the spring melt, but retains a steady flow all four seasons.  Our Dept. of Agriculture rep explained that the only creeks/streams rated higher are "hold over" trout waters.  As it turns out, Red Hand's creek feeds into a significant stream that provides hold over habitat for brook and rainbow trout.

The only way to access our middle and upper pastures, as well as the upper meadow and ridge line, is to cross the creek.  There were already existing, two 8' wide bridges that could support the weight of ATVs, UTVS and small tractors.  One bridge en route to the eastern boundry, the other to the western acres.  Well since we are hoping to plant the middle and upper fields, as well as develop a small orchard, we needed to construct a bridge that could support substantially more weight.  This would allow large farm equipment and a bulldozer to traverse the creek.  Because of the "blue line" designation the Army Corps of Engineers had to be involved and their approval was necessary.  Lt. Roy Loftfield provided the parameters that needed to be met and the project began to take shape.  The eastern ATV bridge site was selected for the upgrade.   My idea was to use a culvert, then cover it with stone.  Not the best design as it would impact the creek greatly by disturbing water flow and down stream silt. 

Fortunately for me, the subject came up while vacationing at Candlelight Cottages, Bolton Landing, Lake George, NY.  Mark and Heidi Hess own and run the resort (great place to stay right on the water).  Mark, an engineer, is an avid hunter and was interested in hearing about our farm.  He heard of our dilema and came up with the design for the bridge we built.  Mark said that using his construction design, the bridge could support the weight of a tractor trailer.  Lt. Loftfield approved as the construction would have little or no impact on the creek.

We used treated lumber and galvanized nails for maximum weather resistance.  Two 12' long 6"x6"s were placed on either side of the creek approximately 12' apart.  We then nailed over 90 12' long 2"x8"s using mini sledges with a few hundred 4" and 6" nails to connect both footings.  The boards were set on edge and hammered together making an incredible platform over the creek.  Mom and I ran the saw mill at the garage, Jess drove the ATV rigged up with a 4'x8' trailer delivering the lumber while Kellen and Ben did most of the heavy nailing.  The project was done on September 4th and 5th.  Labor Day weekend was spent doing labor!!!

When Saturday turned into night, we packed it in, locked up the place and drove to Utica.  After puttting the dogs into our hotel rooms, I bought the gang some steak dinners and dessert.  Then it was off to bed.  Up early the next morning, a hearty and healthy breakfast then back to the farm to finish up.  Busted ass one more day and we were done.  We ate at the creamery and of course had some home made ice cream on our way back to Windham.  Got to know the owners real well as Kellen ordered 2 meals and "Barb" took a shine to him.  She and her husband Ivan (Fassett) own the place.  They sat with us and shared pictures from Ivan's game camera.  Pretty cool stuff.  Deer, bobcats, coyotes and bear.  Ivan's a big hunter.  Barb said she's not that much into the hunting but has shot a squirrel or two.  This prompted some laughter from Kell as he stated that his father is a big squirrel hunter too (inside joke).  We worked real hard but had a great time.  It will always be memorable to me.
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So here it is.  You can see some of the overgrown field behind us.  The pic only shows me, Ben and Kellen.  But mom and Jess did just as much work, somebody had to shoot the picture.  The dogs had a blast running after everyone.  Mom said she will post some more pics on the photo page of the bridge building in progress.  Damn I'm loving it all and can't wait to share it with our entire family.  The house is slowly coming along.  Hope it's usable soon as coyote and fall turkey start Oct. 1st.

 
Well a shortened weekend spent upstate but still managed to get stuff done.  Usual agenda, Thursday night at Windham, up early Friday morning and then off to Red Hand.  Tim Y and the boys are finishing up the bathroom and painting the upstairs.  Me and my better half started driving the  7' angle iron rails I ordered along the property line bordering the road.  By Saturday we posted the property completely along the roadside boundary.  We'll need to get into the upper meadows and ridge line to post that also.  But that will have to wait until the Mule is delivered to haul the posts and driver up there.

After not seeing game for the last 2 or 3 weekends seems like this weekend we hit the jackpot.  One of Tim's guys spotted deer and a coyote in our lower fields.  Late morning, Mom yelled out to look into the cut hay field and I just caught a glimpse of a big whitetail bounding into the tree line adjacent to the Barton's farm.  Nice size deer, appeared to be a doe.  So of course out come the binoculars and sure enough, within a short time, mom picks up another one in the hedge row between the lower and middle meadows.  She even has some pics of a turkey flock grazing in a green field.  

Driving up Thursday, we took a slight detour and ended up at Davis' Sports in Sloatsburg, NY.  I've been dancing back and forth with the rifle and caliber I want for the coyotes up on the property.  Narrowed it down to a Remington 700 or a Winchester 70 (or so I thought) chambered in a .223, .22-250 or a .243 Win.  Well the .243 came up the winner for a number of reasons.  Originally designed as a varmint/predator round (coyotes, bobcat, fox, etc.) it's based on a necked down .308 cartridge.  Just enough pop for bigger game (whitetails, mule deer, pronghorn, hogs, black bear and caribou) and fast, accurate, with a nice flat trajectory for predators.  My dad always speaks glowingly of his favorite rifle chambered in a .257 Roberts.  Well it's a tad too much bullet for 'yotes, fox and bobcat or I would have honored his tradition and chambered the rifle with it.  So for now it's a .243 Win mag.  But the gun!!!  Oh boy, never, never, ever pick up a Sako.  Of course I did, and once again it will cost me.  As much as I wanted to pick a classic American rifle by Remington or Winchester, you can immediately tell the difference.  The bolt throws short and easy.  The rifle shoulders fluidly.  And the 2 lbs. lighter weight make it impossible for me to pass on.  Stainless steel barrel with a dull black synthetic stock.  Being in the  Beretta family seals the deal.  

Nikon makes a nice coyote scope with a BDC (bullet drop compensation) reticle, but once again I made a fatal mistake and checked out a Trijicon.  Needless to say it's now on order.  Hell of a rig, hope to put down lots of 'yotes and more than a few deer.  So all said and done it's a Sako .243 Win, stainless/synthetic bolt action, topped with a Triji.

Caught an early dinner at Rubbin' Butts smokehouse/BBQ in Cobleskill.  Ate outside as it was a crisp, clear fall day.  The ribs were good, but the chicken was better.  Excellent whipped sweet potatos.  Worth the stop.
 

Spoke with Ray Bennett this morning.  He's the owner of Bennett Motor Sales in Fly Creek, NY.  I've been working with him on the purchase of Red Hand's newest all purpose piece of equipment, the Kawasaki 4010 Trans 4x4.  It's appropriately named the Mule.

Four stroke, liquid cooled, overhead valve twin-V, digital fuel injected.  CVT trans, high/low range and 4 wheel drive.  Power assisted rack and pinion steering, independant MacPherson struts in front, a semi-independant rear axle suspension with leaf springs and shocks.

It converts from a 4 seater with a 400 lb. capacity bed to a 2 seater with an 800 lb. bed in about 2 minutes.  Payload is 1330 lbs. with a towing capacity of 1200 lbs.  Mule, perfect name for it.

Add-ons include front and rear CV joint guards, head and tail light guards, front brush guard, bed liner, soft top and tandem gun boots.  No winch, as the Cat has a heavy duty Wren on it that is very serviceable for our needs.

Hopefully all the attachments will be delivered by this weekend as I'm psyched to get it up to the farm and put it to use.  Access to the upper pasture is very tight with an uneven, sloped trail.  Hauling up the red 4'x8' trailer would present problems.  The mule should be much more nimble.

Check out the video at www.kawasaki.com  select Utility from the left menu.  When the drop down menu opens select ... Mule 4010 Trans 4x4. 

Spoke with Matt from Canadarago Electric, looks like they'll be finished with wiring the upstairs bedrooms by the weekend.  If the motion sensors come in they should complete the full job, inside and out.  That's really good news as the fall hunting season starts October 1st.  Already seen the turkeys fattening up in the fields and waiting to spend a night at Red Hand to scout out the coyotes.