Wednesday, 01 October 2014 09:55

WV DoeWith a busy work schedule, preparing for hunting season, having kids who play sports and a whole list of other responsibilities, I’ve found it difficult to keep up with a bi-weekly blog. Now that it’s hunting season, I know it’s going to be even more difficult (at least in the early season). I’m just like most of you…I hunt when I can and where I can. I get to work a few minutes earlier each day and find myself not wanting to leave the office for an hour lunch break. I typically run out and grab something (or brown bag it) and just eat at my desk, then when 4pm rolls around, I’m out the door and on my way to a deer stand.Nice buck feeding

 

 

Those last few hours in the day in late September and early October can really produce a lot of deer sightings. Deer that are potentially still on a feeding pattern, still using field edges during the cool evenings and especially deer that haven’t been pressured by a lot of hunters in the woods. These ‘knowns’ can be used to our advantages during the early season, but I caution you to not be too aggressive yet. Sure, the early season is when I love to get out and shoot does. Filling the freezer is always a lot of fun and it’s a GREAT tune up, hunting situation test, for when that buck does step into range.

 

 

Deer feedingGetting too aggressive and hunting your best spots can certainly leave you wondering in early December…”What Happened To My Deer Season???” I’m not saying that if you have the right wind and everything is setup perfect to hunt that spot that you should still stay out of there. That would be dumb! But if you don’t have the right wind and it’s not setup perfectly, I would urge you to hang back. A buck will quickly turn nocturnal on you if he even thinks he’s being hunted so use caution on your best spots early season. Simply hunting other spots that are easy to access and leave without alerting the deer can produce some GREAT early season action.

 

 

The issue I think most hunters have is simply lack of hunting ground or stands to go to. Some of you may only have one small piece of property with one stand on it. I used to be WV Doein that situation and I completely understand. If this is you…then hunt. Our sport is there to enjoy no matter what your acreage is so I simply urge you to get out there and enjoy it. God created all this for us, but I think he had all us hunters in mind when he created Fall. J

 

 

Best of Luck,

 

Josh

Thursday, 12 June 2014 09:09

Josh Checking trail camAs summer quickly approaches I’ve got three things on my mind. Barbecues, beach and BUCKS!!! Yup, that’s right, BUCKS! The hunting season is still four months away, but the bucks are starting to grow antlers and I want to watch them grow and keep tabs on them. This is where the use of trail cameras come in to play. Trail cameras are becoming more and more popular as hunters and hunting clubs practice quality deer management. They’re not only useful in monitoring your antler growth and ultimately what bucks you would like to shoot, but also helping you determine the number of deer on your property. Working with your fellow club members or even with a local game biologist, you can determine your harvest numbers each year and keep your deer herd healthy based off of the carrying capacity of your property, but that’s a whole other blog discussion.

 

 

I don’t get too aggressive with my trail camera positioning during the summer months. High travel routes to and from a bedding area or a water source that creates the least amount of intrusion on my part is where I like to start. In WV and the parts of VA where I hunt, the use of ‘enticement’ or ‘bait’ is illegal even for running trail cameras so I have to be smart about where I put them in order to see as many of my deer as often as possible. Anywhere on a field edge where heavily used trails are coming into the field is a great spot especially since you can drive your ATV, tractor or truck right up WV Buckto the camera. I guess that’s the lazy way out, but I put enough miles on my boots during hunting season so work smarter, not harder like my dad always said.

 

 

There are so many options when it comes to buying a trail camera, but from my experience the following features are important to me. Burst Mode: Making sure your trail camera will shoot in burst mode is a must. A deer could be walking through your setup or on a trail and having two or even three pictures of the same deer will get you the shot you need to determine its size, possible age and SD Cards & AA Batterieshow many points he may have. Memory cards have come way down in price so get something 4GB or larger and you can take a lot of photos without having to check the camera as often. Video Mode: I love running my trail cameras on video mode, especially on scrapes or big rubs during the hunting season when I know a buck is using these areas to mark his territory or track down does. These 10, 15 or even 30 second video clips are fun to watch and can really tell you some cool characteristics about your deer. Field Scan or Plot Mode: I’m a big fan of Dr. Grant Bresser trail camWoods and Bill Winke. These guys live off of field scan throughout the summer months and sometimes even during the hunting season. Positioning a camera 8 to 10 feet (or higher) off the ground overlooking a field can help you determine where deer are coming/going to and from the field and at what time. This information becomes extremely helpful during the hunting season and will show you where to position your stand or blind in an excellent ambush spot. AA Batteries: I can tell you from experience that the cameras that use the D or C batteries don’t last very long in the elements. I’ve had a few cameras that used each of these power sources and by far the AA battery operated cameras are definitely the way to go. With one of my trail cameras, I was able to go a full 8.5 months off of one set (8) of AA batteries. I had it set to burst mode and it was in a heavily used area which resulted in a lot of pictures and I was very pleased with the results. If you wanna save some coin in the long run, purchase the rechargeable batteries and you’ll have months if not years of use out of those batteries and your camera.

 

 

WV BearNo matter what trail camera you choose to buy, I hope these few tips help make your choice easier. There are a lot of good cameras on the market ranging as low as $99 to as much as $600, but if you look for these features in your next camera, I promise you’ll have a blast looking at the photos or watching the short video clips. They provide excellent insight into your hunting areas and show you things you may have never even known were there.

 

 

Good luck & Shoot em’ straight!

 

Josh

Thursday, 17 April 2014 09:43

Removing meat before boilingI got a text message from a buddy of mine late last deer season asking me if I still messed with doing European mounts for folks. I’ve done a few of these for myself, but mostly for other people for a number of years now. I really didn’t have the time, but he’s a good friend so I said ‘sure’ and he said ‘Good, cause it’s already in your garage…LOL’. There are many ways to display your trophy, but I have to tell you, I really like the look of the European mount. If it’s not a giant buck that you’re going to spend the money to shoulder mount, a European mount looks awesome (for any size buck) and you can put it anywhere… with your wife’s permission. I’ve already completed the work on my friend’s deer head, but I still had one from my dad that I told him I would do for him. I’ve been pretty busy with work and my son’s baseball team, but I recently cleaned out my garage for spring and knew it was now or never on this deer skull. I thought this would be a good blog post to show you how I clean them and bleach them so I went ahead and filmed the whole experience. It’s not as hard as you think and doesn’t take all that long, plus it actually saves you quite a bit of money by just doing it yourself. 

 

I got bored while it boiled! LOLFirst things first, I remove the head from the spinal column. You can feel (with your knife) and see where the spine attaches to the back of the head and where all the nerves and vessels make their way into the brain cavity.  Carefully cut those nerves, vessels and connective tissue until the only thing you’re holding is the head. After removing the head, I skin it out and remove the lower jaw along with the tongue and as much of the chunky meat around the ear and nasal areas as possible. It’s not extremely important to work a long time during this phase, but while I’m already bloody and have it in front of me I just get rid of the bigger chunks. You can remove the eyes here if you wish, but the next step helps make that a lot easier before boiling. After the initial prep work I soak the skull for a month or more in just a 5 gallon buck of water. The bacteria in the water (after it sits for a while) will actually help you out as it starts to break down the remaining meat and connective tissue. This can get a little smelly as the days and weeks go on so for as long as you can take it, let it sit. I recommend at least 30 days, but I’ve had great success with letting it soak for 60 days or more (obviously in my garage and not my basement). If the smell becomes unbearable, I’ve even dumped half the bucket of water out and filled it back up with fresh water. The bacteria are still in the water from the portion you left, but the fresh water will get rid of the smell (at least for a while). 

 My boil pot


Cleaning off the cooked meatOnce you’re ready to boil the skull, go ahead and get your pot and your burner ready to go. I DO NOT use a pot from my wife’s kitchen. That’s how they say ‘the fight got started’! I actually went out to Wal-Mart and bought my own and this is the only thing I use it for. I use a turkey fryer propane base to heat my pot of water and I mix in a good bit of dish soap. This helps degrease the bone and helps the meat come right off (usually a lot of it in the boil pot). While the water is heating up, I throw on a pair of latex gloves and remove the eyes and any other pieces of meat I can. Once the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat just to maintain that constant slow boil and place your deer skull in. Covering up the base of the antlers with boiling water is OK. I was worried about this when I first started, but it’s no big deal. It’s difficult to save any pieces of tree where the deer was rubbing simply because of the steam from the boiling pot. You can try, but it’s more work than it’s really worth to me. Boil your skull for a good 30-40 minutes. Keep the water at a slow boil by adjusting your temperature. Stay nearby because if the water boils over it will put out your flame. This has happened multiple times to me. LOL If you’ve soaked the head as suggested above, this first boil will help you remove a good 80% of the meat and tissue.

Watching & Waiting


Looking pretty goodAfter your first boil, remove the head and quickly start working on removing the pieces of meat that have cooked. Be careful because it will be hot so wear some old work or butchering gloves. Tools that come in handy are needle nose pliers, flat screw driver, putty knife, a sharp knife and small wire brushes. Sensitive/thin areas in the bone and cartilage are the nasal cavity, tear duct/gland and the inside part of the eye sockets. If you’re not careful you can easily puncture a hole in these areas and not necessarily ruin the mount, but you’ll have a hole where you really shouldn’t. It’s a fairly nasty, smelly and difficult job to do, but after this first boil you’ll need to stick something up inside the brain cavity and give it a good stir. I use the bottom of a tomato cage that I cut off and bent a hook on the end. It works GREAT! After you’ve gotten as much as you can off during the first round, take a garden hose with fairly good pressure and spray out the brain and nasal cavities and give it a good spray down all over.  Put it back in the boil pot for another 20 minutes and repeat these steps until you’ve cleaned every piece of meat off the skull. I’ve rarely had to boil it more than twice using the ‘soak method’. That really seems to help break everything Hanging out to drydown to where it just ‘falls off the bone’. 

 


Applying the bleaching creamAfter you’ve hosed it down one last time to make sure everything is clean, hang it up and let it dry completely. At this point, it can still smell a little so I wouldn’t recommend drying it in the house. After it’s completely dry, it’s time to paint on the bleaching agent. In the past, I’ve used the basic peroxide that mom used to put on my cuts and scrapes and it would burn the crap out of me! Most recently, I’ve used the 40 Volume Crème Developer that salons use to dye hair. I use the cream instead of the liquid because it’s easier to paint on the skull and it doesn’t run down on the teeth (which I like to keep looking ‘normal’ instead of bleach white). Another tip for this phase is DO NOT get any cream on the antlers. It will bleach anything it touches and you want your antlers to stay their natural color. After a good layer of cream has been painted on, let it sit for 24 hours to soak up the peroxide solution and bleach the skull. If it’s a nice sunny day, I’ll hang the skull out in the sun and this helps it bleach out even more. You can repeat this step until it’s reached your desired bleach color. Some skulls vary, but most that I’ve done only require two coats of the solution.

Bleaching overnight

 

After the bleaching process is complete, spray it down with the garden hose one last time to remove the peroxide solution and wipe it down with an old rag or towel and let it hang dry overnight. You’ve now completed the European mount and can display it in several different ways with many different mounts they sell on the market. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding to shoot, process and preserve your trophy. Next time you harvest a nice buck that you’re not going to shoulder mount, give this a try and I’m confident you’ll be pleased with the results!

Shoot ‘em Straight!

~Josh

 Finished skull