Turkey Hunting With Kids
April 29, 2013 - Something surprising happened while hunting turkeys with my kids...
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So, the kids didn't have school today, Monday, and Daddy daycare kicked in. We went turkey hunting, obviously.
In the car on the way to my latest good place to get skunked, we practiced our hen yelping and cutting. Actually, with the kids using my box call, they didn't sound too bad since we'd listened to the sounds on a turkey hunting DVD earlier. With a little pep talk about when to use each sound, I thought it might be great to finally have a caller behind me for a change.
At the rainy trailhead upbeat kids in snowboots and an assortment of my camo tumbled out and hit the trail as I fumbled to get my gear in order, I heard a super excited, "Dad, turkeys!" as geese squawked and honked in the distance. I caught up to them, pointed out the geese by the river, and reminded them that calm and quiet voices wouldn't scare everything away. A little while later I demonstrated how loud stepping right on ponderosa pine cones sounded compared to stepping on soft wet grass. It's all the little things...
We moved slowly and each kid took a turn periodically working the box call in a nice calm yelp. Cool. Nothing. Then, the box call got wet and quit working. Dang. That dumb thing says "Waterproof" right on the lid, so I thought it might be kid proof, but nope, the friction required to make a sound disappeared, I had no chalk, and we switched to Plan B with me wheezing through a mouth call.
I must be getting better with my mouth call because all of a sudden things went from happy-go-lucky to real serious in about a half second as soon as a tom turkey gobbled at us from the timber in the draw below us!
Wide, unblinking eyes said, OK Dad, what do we do now? My plan of turkey attack had been to move forward with my bow and let the kids yelp and cut behind me, but now all we had was my mouth call. One option was to park the kids where they stood and go hunting. So... I gave a super-quiet reminder to be quiet like a ghost and follow me to the edge of the draw. While doing so the tom turkey gobbled again and a strange thing happened. My daughter started giggling uncontrollably, and I mean uncontrollably.
Hunting is a game of persistent, sometimes dull, observation with bursts of intensity and people react to the excitement differently. I briefly get a little shaky. Some people get full-on buck fever, shaking like a '72 Ford Pinto in a panic stop. (That's pretty shaky.) My son's stomach tightens up. And apparently, my daughter gets the giggles.
She knew she had to stop and she jammed a hunk of her coat in her teeth and bit down, but no use, the giggler kept giggling. Honestly, I was more amazed at this spectacle than disappointed.
Finally, she calmed down and I let out a hopeless little yelp to a tom turkey who had skipped town. Then, we all sat together, a motley, hardly-made-for-TV bunch and talked about how hard it was to... walk around in snow boots. Damn straight!
This evening my eight year old daughter sighed and said to me, "Dad, I wish we would have killed that turkey today."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," I sighed back. I love it.
(If you like this, I have a good story about my first ever hunt with my son here.)
March 18, 2013 - Maybe someday our pup will be a champion shed sniffer...
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This puppy has a great nose and a lot to learn. On our three hour hike today I found this heavy five-point elk shed with a brow tine chewed off. I let the pup "find" it before I touched it and praised and petted her repeatedly for a job well done. This really ramped her excitement up... to the point that she jumped all over me for a bit once I strapped it to my pack. But, knowing she'd calm down, I didn't get after her for this and now that we're home I have a great shed to train her for finding shed antlers in the future.
Finding a shed rewards my preference for hiking far from trails. I don't search sheds out for any other reason than just simple fun and love of deer, moose, and elk.
If you head out to do your own shed hunting, remember to do your homework first and make sure the area isn't closed winter range.
And here's a good read about shed hunting from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
Ride Your Bike (more) Like A Pro
March 12, 2013 - Here are ten tips to help you ride your bike (more) like a pro. And here's a photo of my just completed single-speed road bike. I love training on it and it's geared with a tallish 53x20. You should try a single-speed bike, but beware of junk bikes...
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A pro bicycle racer spends a lot of time on his/her bike, obviously, and they have the details dialed because they want to be as comfortable and effective as possible. Learn from the pros and run through this quick checklist to make sure you're not short-changing your own riding. (I am not a pro cyclist, as you probably guessed, but I know a few things.)
1 Correct bicycle frame size.
This is a huge. If you're frame doesn't fit both your torso/arm length, as well as your leg length, you need to get a frame that does. Competent bike shops should be able to help you perfect this, hopefully, but basically you need a comfortable reach to the handlebars and a comfortable leg extension at the bottom of your pedal stroke while at the same time having a handlebar stem at 110mm, plus or minus a little, and a proper amount of seat post showing.
Alert! If you get it and don't like being bogged down by details, skip to number two!
Take me for example, I'm 5'8" with long legs relative to my torso, and again, I'm no pro, but over the years I've learned my best frame fit has a 52cm top tube and a 52cm seat tube. Throw a 110mm stem on that frame and I'm ready to roll.
Top tube length problems... If you need a short handlebar stem (less than 90mm) or long stem (greater than 130mm) to get the handlebars at a comfortable distance, your frame size is wrong.
Or, seatpost issues... If your saddle sits just above the top tube with barely any seatpost visible, or you have a long seatpost set at the minimum insertion level, your frame size is wrong.
You will never completely enjoy your bike if you can't feel comfortable and well balanced. Go to great lengths to get this right. And, look at photos of pros on their bikes, keeping in mind they may have their handlebars lower and farther out than most people because their backs can handle what ours can't in the name of aerodynamics.
2 Proper helmet fit.
Spend ten minutes with your bike helmet in front of a mirror and make sure you have it set up right. First, don't let the helmet sit on the back of your head. Pull it down so most of your forehead is covered and snug the fore/aft adjustments so it fits like a comfortable baseball cap. Now, make sure the straps don't touch your ears in front or back and make sure the straps are even on both left and right sides. Now set the buckle so that the straps hug the sides of your face and comfortably come under your chin. Need a new bike helmet?
3 White handlebar tape for road bikes.
Ok, this might sound a little elitist, suggesting you have white handlebar tape on you handlebars... but seriously, the title here is "how to ride like a pro" and pros have white handlebar tape, not goofball purple, or whatever. OK, maybe I'll allow black tape. Nuff said.
4 Level saddle.
Ever seen a pro bike with a saddle tipping up or down? Me neither. Once your saddle is correctly positioned, fore and aft, and at the right height, make sure it's DEAD LEVEL. In fact, use a level to make sure. There is no reason to have it pointed up or down, and if you think there is, something else is wrong. And don't even tell me what Katie Forking Compton does!
5 Ride in the right gear.
As you ride, your cranks need to be spinning at a spirited ninety revolutions per minute, plus or minus a little. Try to get familiar with this quick cadence and remember this is the reason a bike has gears. Grinding along at 60 rpm looks and feels terrible. Shift, dude!
6 Level handlebars.
On road bikes the very ends of a drop handlebar should be nearly level. They can tip up slightly, but if they tip too much in any direction, they need to be adjusted. Also, your brake hoods on the handlebars should be mounted high enough that your hands never feel like they could slip forward off the top of the hoods while braking.
7 Pull UP, UP, UP on the pedals too.
This is the whole point of clipless pedals: They give you the ability to pull up on the pedals as well as pushing down. The more muscle you have contributing to the pedal stroke, the faster you will be, and this also helps stop you from bouncing on the saddle. If pulling up feels uncomfortable at first, keep working at it. Eventually, you will have big, strong hamstrings! (like a pro)
8 Keep your head steady while you pedal.
Rookies bob their heads up and down with every pedal stroke. Don't do it. If you're pedaling well, you won't be a bobble-head.
9 Yuck: Don't over-dress for your ride.
Sweating and overheating is your ticket to misery. If the weather is iffy, wear a thin windbreaker. Once you warm up, roll it up and put it in your back pocket. Another hint: If you feel a little cool when you start you're ride, you'll probably feel dressed just right once you warm up. But...
10 Danger: Don't under-dress for your ride!
Wearing just a pair of shorts with exposed knees, or other exposed skin, on a cool day is a total rookie maneuver. Be like a pro and stay covered up during training, especially the knees, or serious problems can result. Never super-cool a body part while it's exercising! How warm is warm enough for exposed knees? I don't know, maybe 65F is the cut-off, but if you come home and your patellas feel cool, you're playing with fire. (Note: pros race with exposed knees in cool weather, but they have a ton of waxy/oily embrocation on their skin.)
A couple of notes here: I have a friend who suffered from painful Achilles tendon inflammation because he rode in cold weather with short socks and exposed ankles. Bad idea. And, I have suffered from severe knee pain from riding in really cold temperatures with not enough insulation of my knees. Ouch.
Another note: I remember riding in Belgium on a nice spring day and noticed the locals racers on a training ride appeared over-dressed. Of course, they knew better and looked upon our cluelessly exposed arms and legs with European disapproval. "Ah, these Americans."
Most likely, none of us will ever race with the pros, but, if you pay attention to what the pros do, you will enjoy your cycling more. Good luck!
by Brink Kuchenbrod
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