Sunday, September 15, 2013

Monsters of the Deep

Occassionaly you come across monsters in the wild. One such monster is the giant Flathead Catfish. Here are some examples of such beasts caught by a freind Lonnie Evans at my place of work. This has inspired me to engage in hand to fin combat with the creatures of the deep which I will post at a later date.....If I survive!:-)

Lonnie Evans "The Master of Cats"

A 40lb+ Flathead

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Blood Instinct: Shark Hunting

         There are certain perks to working on a marina. One in particular is that you meet great people.  One of our members, Dan, is not only a great guy, but he loves to fish as much as I do.  I had been helping him with some odds and ends on his house boat and he invited me to go offshore fishing with him at Dana Landing, San Diego.  Needless to say I jumped at the chance! My beautiful fiance' Alyson was also going to join us on the trip. I had never fished off the California coast, so I was quite excited to see how the fishing was.  Dan had told me there was a good chance of hooking a Thresher Shark which I've heard are excellent eating and make great steaks and fillets.  I had never got a large shark much less a very unique looking shark as a Thresher which are known for their extraordinarily long tails.  I had also just acquired my first ocean speargun and was hoping to have the chance to actually spear a shark.
        Alyson and I left Sunday morning, made the 6hr drive and spent and checked to in a wonderful hotel her mother had a line on.  It was walking distance to a pier, so I decided to wet a line for a bit that evening. In the hour or so I was there a caught fish I had never seen before and a very unique fish at that. It was called an Pacific Sculpin.  They have poisonous spikes on their dorsal fins. I was told the larger ones taste just like lobster.
Pacific Sculpin
The next morning Alyson and I woke up early and met Dan at Dana Landing Marina Village and loaded up on his boat. The first stop was at the bait barge where we picked up some live  12" sardines.  It was hard to mistake the bait barge for anything else due to the Pelicans, Gulls, and Sea Lions hanging out on it for any escapees!  Once we were loaded with bait we cruised in a Northerly direction to a spot that Dan spotted a good group of fish on the sonar.  We rigged the rods with squid and live large Sardines.  We started a drift above the location we and marked the fish hoping drift past and get a bite.  My favorite part of ocean fishing is that you never know what might be on the end of your line once you get a strike. After several drifts the fish just did not seem interested.  Alyson was starting to feel the effects of the 5ft swells, so around noon we dropped her back at the marina which we were not too far away from so she could go relax on the beach.  Dan and I headed straight back out because we were still marking a lot of fish.  We started our drift again without a strike.  It could be barometric pressure or a number of things that had turned the fish off.  I wasn't discouraged. I enjoyed being on big water and actually enjoyed riding the big swells.  After working on water for 12 years I had some pretty good sea legs. The excitement that at any moment a rod could double over and here the line screaming off a reel kept me me at full attention, but I enjoyed looking at the beautiful coast line and distant Islands.  Dan Had told me I would know when there was a strike, it would be unmistakable.  Well, I notice one rod dip with a tap, tap, tap. I decided to check it as Dan said it could be a sea lion stealing bait.  I pulled the rod out of the holder, wound down a bit, and gave it a yank. Something was definitely on!! I started reeling furiously to keep tension on the line. Then as I'm reeling the line went slack. I told Dan "I think I lost It" but I kept reeling fast and raised the rod and the tension returned! Whatever it was, it was still hooked and screaming right at the boat! I finally got hard tension and Raised the rod tip again. I was in awe as I saw the long and huge Thresher Shark tail come out of of the water and slap back down. Now the fight was on! The shark now saw the boat and didn't want to have anything to do with it. That massive creates a lot of power. Finally, the shark came to the port side of the boat where Dan was ready with the gaff.  Dan Grabbed the line and I loaded my speargun.  Just as Dan gaffed the the Thresher I dipped over the side of the boat and finished him off with a perfect shot to the head with my spear gun! My 1st Thresher Shark and a big one at that was ours. Dan gaffed him in the mouth and I went to work raising the catch hatch. Dan muscled him up and over the side of the boat.

I was so excited as was Dan.  He knew I really wanted to get myself a shark and he put me on one.  We high-fived and bumped knuckles in triumph! These sharks are truly unique and interesting. To have caught one with a good friend and excellent captain like Dan made the experience even that much more special.  I truly respect Dan as a Captain and a man. I had a great time just being on the boat with him.  I believe I made a great friend and fishing buddy. 
  As we cruised back to the marina with our catch I looked out over the Big Blue and imagined all the other surprises it holds. The rise over the swell and dip into the trench was almost hypnotic. The gorgeous shoreline to our port and nothing but the deep blue to the starboard. Dan and I talked about catching the shark and the excitement of the catch and all in all just enjoyed each others company. 

My Shark Next my Speargun
  I texted my Sweetheart, Alyson, and she was so happy for me.  She is truly the love of my life.  Sometimes it can be very, very difficult to put up with a hardcore outdoorsman such as myself.  Alyson seems love to see me succeed and is always excited and proud when I do.  I wish she could have been there for the excitement, but she's more excited to hear me tell the story, sometimes stretch the truth ( as all fisherman do), and most of all to see me happy. I believe the true catch I landed 2 years ago in the form of a gorgeous blonde bombshell who can put up with me!

Myself with my speargun and prize Thresher

Perfect gaff job by Capt. Dan


Always attack Jellyfish before they attack you! I Kid, Don't try this at home!

Capt. Dan Curci Lands My Thresher Shark after I spear him through the head

Sea Lions, Pelicans, & Gulls waiting for escapees from the bait barge

My Beautiful Fiance',Alyson Johnson, headed out with us:)
Just cruising with my friend & skipper Captain Dan Curci

Monday, March 4, 2013

Blood Instinct: Destination Desert-Six Shooter Javelina

I always look forward to my time alone in the Arizona desert. It's my therapy, my escape. It gives me time to enjoy the wild and meditate and think about past memories, present issues, and what the future holds.  My passion for the outdoors is only eclipsed by my soon to be wife, family, and friends. The desert has it's own character and if you listen to the breeze or the howl of a distant coyote, you can almost hear the long past cowboys play their harmonica by the fire or hear rough shod mules clopping down a mountain trail.  This season I purchased an over the counter archery tag for the early season. The unit was right by the Lake I work at so, before and after work, I would sneak the mile and a half to where I knew a group of Javelina were sticking around.  One morning before dawn I was set up on a small rocky outcropping, waiting for dawn, when a Ringtail Cat just about jumped on my knee! Guess I had some decent camo!  For the first three days of bow hunting, I had Javelina in the area, but unfortunately the wind was blowing hard and swirling which goofed up each one of my stalks.  I finally got close enough to one pig and misjudged the distance and painfully watched my arrow past just beneath him. The last two days of the archery season, the Javelina wised up and moved on.  I did try and take some rabbits if possible with the bow and finally succeeded. More of a moral booster than anything, and a great dinner! 


It's always fun trying to get close enough to these Javies.  Even though they have very poor eye sight, they make up for that with an excellent sense of smell, which if you don't pay attention to the wind, they'll be gone before you even see them.This year the Arizona Game & Fish increased the annual bag limit for Javelina from one per calendar year to two. So, even though I didn't bag one during the January bow season, I still a had a second chance with a rifle tag for the southern part of the state for February.  I was a little tied up with work, so I would only be able to hunt for two days ( the last two days of the season non the less).  I left right after work on a Tuesday evening and set up my bivy and hit the sac by 11pm and rose before dawn.  Getting up early if I'm hunting is no problem!;)  That morning I instantly felt content, relaxed, and happy.  I love to watch the desert come alive in the morning.  The birds start to flutter about, the ground squirrels start to forage, and an occasional mule deer will be spotted grazing.  The Desert Silver Leaf glistens with dew as the sun breaks over the mountains.  The Desert Mariposa, Mexican Poppy, and Owl Clover start to bloom as the sun hit their pedals, painting a gray landscape into a scene of brilliant color in progress.  I sometimes forget to look for my prey! I started out at a small granite mountain that I had killed a huge Javelina in'09 that would make the Arizona record books if I ever get it measured.
The Monster I killed in 2009

Old Ranch from the 30's

After sitting and exploring that area for a few hours, I decided to just explore a little and visit some ancient ranches I knew about from my previous trip. I love Arizona history and especially the little known ruins and mining camps. A post at the the entrance to this group of old abandoned ranches had an interesting note posted by the land owner.  It read to the effect of; "Our family, friends, and old men have enjoyed this land and still occasionally come to ride their horses, but ALL are welcome to hunt, hike, fish, or horseback ride and use the stables.  God's land is meant to be enjoyed and respected. Please enjoy respectfully."  This is rare due to the fact that some jerks litter and trash our beautiful lands.  I have a habit of picking up trash as I hunt and believe that I would be rewarded with an opportunity at the critter I happen to be after.  I truly believe it has helped my success rate, but that's not why I do it.  It's all of our responsibility to protect and preserve our wild lands.  After glassing some hills, ravines, and washes I decide to return to camp and hunt the evening around there.  I found a nice small hill where I could glass the flats and washes for pigs.  After a couple of hours with no movement I decided to try my varmint call. This is a call that imitates the sound of a rabbit in distress or other small prey in distress usually used to call in coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and occasionally the odd cougar.  However, Javelina will eat meat at times and are very curious animals and sometimes will come to a distress call.  I started with a rabbit in distress for a short time, no more than about 5 minutes then waited and watched.  After about a 1/2 hour I switched to a deer mouse in distress call.  Five minutes of calling, I noticed movement in the brush. It was a Javelina! He moved into about 20 yards of me. I had the wind in my face, so he couldn't catch my scent.  I had my REM .300 Ultra Mag ready but at that close distance I was worried I'd ruin the meat with such a big caliber.  I came up with a plan to use "Big Medicine", the affectionate name I bestowed upon my Ruger GP100 .357 magnum, handed down from my father. I had to close the distance a bit more just to be a little more accurate with open sights. I snuck down the rock and kept a bush between me and him to cover my movement. I got close enough that I felt comfortable making the shot. I waited for him to move to a gap in the brush to make my shot. He slowly inched into the gap, feeling like eternity, I steadied my aim and squeezed the trigger. I didn't even notice the recoil of the "hand cannon" or the loud blast of a magnum bullet because I was so keen to watch my prey. The Javelina dropped to his side and then somehow slipped back into the brush.  The light was just starting to fade, so I gave him about 15 minutes to expire before trying to track him down.  Javelina are one of the toughest animals in the desert.  Even with a 220 grain .357 Magnum Buffalo Bore bullet, which is designed for bear defense, I was shocked he went anywhere! These tough critters also bleed very little because of their tough hide. I began to track him down just as the light was getting low. I first went to the spot he was standing when I shot. No blood.  I knew he wasn't going far, but it is always nerve racking tracking down a possibly wounded and extremely ticked off toothy critter that is already known for having a bad attitude. With no blood trail to follow, I began a zig-zag pattern around the area.  Stories I've heard from others hunter's of wounded Javelina grabbing a hunters leg and tearing arteries, and ripping up dogs that don't know when to quite ( some fatal ) ran through the back of my head.  The sharp canine teeth or "Cutters" can reach over 3"s and are sharpened as they mark their territory by rubbing those daggers on strong wood trunks or posts.  They also have built in sharpeners in their jaw socket.  Now tracking down an animal like this in the low light had me nervous. They can blend right in to bushes and rocks right next you, and that can be worrisome! After about 3 minutes of tracking I spotted him, and close! His eyes glowed in the light and he was ANGRY!! The shot had pretty much put him down, but he was lunging at me, gnashing his teeth, and jaw popping ( clacking their jaws together hard making a loud crack, a warning. Bears do this as well ).  I snuck a little closer for film footage and to put one more shot in the head to end it. I took aim at the fatal point behind the ear, steadied, and lights out. I was so ecstatic to kill another big Javelina and my first with a six shooter! It was so exciting! I respect all the animals I harvest and this one was no exception.  The Javelina sometimes gets a bad wrap as suggested by slang terms like "Stink Pig" or "Giant Rodent".  They may be  interesting smelling critters, but like all creatures it is by design.  Their strong scent glands are used to mark family group territories, locate each other, and recognize each other.  Their scent glands are also used to tell male Javelina when the stars have aligned & the time is right for more piglets.  They also, contrary to much belief, are excellent eating.  I love it grounded with chorizo spice, awesome breakfast burritos! He truly was an exceptional, tough, and exciting animal to hunt. I returned to camp and started a small fire to keep me warm as I began to butcher and break down my prize.  As the deep darkness surrounded me, I took a moment before packing camp and heading back to town to watch the stars brighten. As far up dust particles in the atmosphere caused the stars to glitter, I thought how much I enjoy this time away. Time to think. Time to work through concerns with a clearer head, and fall in love with Arizona all over again.

Photo Journal

Glassing for Javelina

Nice View

comfy set up :)

Video Journal

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Blood Instinct: " Hunters Proposal"

I proposed to the love of my life.  I fooled her into beleiving we were scouting for Javelina for the blog.  She recieved a very special surprise.         No Javelina though. Ha!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Blood Instinct: 2012 Duck Season

It is tough in Arizona to be a waterfowler.  My Grandpa in North Carolina guided for duck and took me on my first duck hunt.  I shot a Wood Duck drake as my first duck and I was hooked.  Hunting ducks can kind of be like offshore fishing, you never know what might fly in.  I love the prospect of a mixed bag of colorful and different ducks.  This year I got my first set of Mallard decoys.  On my first decoy set up, I had ducks skidding into the set along with the help of Grandpa's duck call.  It's always exciting seeing those small flocks way up there and wondering if they'll see your set and come to the call.  Hunting in Arizona, you must be willing to adapt.  You may take a 30 min. boat ride, set up, and the birds go to the opposite cove.  One technique that has worked well for
me has been to use a spot and stalk method.  If the ducks have not come to calls and decoys, beach the boat in a small nook between the coves.  At this point slowly work your way over the next cove and glass.  Once a flock is spotted, back away and try to move as close as possible.  Once you crest the ledge over looking the cove, the ducks will generally jump and you'll get a shot or several.  Also, another helpful tip, once the ducks are up they usually circle, so keep using a loud call.  They may swing back by to have a look.  The majority of what we get where I hunt are Mallards, so I love picking off a duck I haven't gotten yet. I've also checked abandoned desert canals. Every now and again there will still be pockets that still hold residual water.  I've two flocks of ducks this way.  Pre-season scouting is a big help too.  Fortunately my job allows plenty of scouting time.  One recent morning I took my Sister Erin for her first duck hunt.

 It was the coldest, toughest hunt I'd had all year.  The boat and lines iced up and the wind blew 20+ all morning.  We had several shots at Lesser Scaup and some Teal but nothing hit the water.  As the morning went on it was obvious the birds were not gonna work with us.  I took  Erin to a pocket that has tons of Coots in it.  Once they started to scatter, she was able to get one. Her 1st duck non the less and great catfish bait too!;)  This was one of my favorite moments. My sister is really one tough momma and I hope we start hunting much more together.

  I took my fiance, Alyson, out to goof around the North end of the lake so she could collect interesting wood for her art projects ( which are great by the way ) and I would of course sneak over some ledges and hope to see some ducks, maybe get a shot.  I also had my quail vest loaded in the truck just in case.  We explored a lot of neat trails and really just enjoyed the awe inspiring Arizona desert scenery and sunset.

Green Wing Teal
   Well, as my Sugar looked for interesting rocks and unique wood pieces, I snuck over a ledge and peeked into a cove and found a flock of Green Wing Teal.  I backed away from the ledge and made a big U to put me closer to the flock,  As I approached where the ducks were feeding, I gingerly peeked over to make sure I was in the right spot. I backed away from the ledge, got my 1100 ready and inched forward to the ledge.  As soon as my silhouette come over the cove the teal shot up like rockets.  I shot once as they flew towards me and missed.  As the Teal just started to pass me I shot again and watched my first Teal fold and drop to the water.  They are such beautiful ducks, fast!, and fun hunting.

  One of my First mornings of the season I had no decoys and the loud Mallard call did little to coax birds in.  This is how I adopted my spot and stalk technique ( especially ) useful during low lake water conditions, which we have this year. I would snug my little fishing boat in a small nook and put boots to the marsh. I snuck over several different coves and flushed at least a few ducks from each.. Not all the ducks hit the water, but it was exciting!

mixed bag


Nice spot N stalk Golden Eye

Hunting in the desert at this time of year you've got, quail, rabbit, varmint, and archery deer seasons open.  So, usually my truck is filled with hunting gear nearly everyday just in case I get a few hours before or after work to do some hunting. I've been Bow hunting Javelina (post coming soon), shooting quail, ducks, and rabbits to keep my freezer somewhat stocked. It's nice to pick off a rabbit or some quail for the pot too.  Also, I was able to find great areas exploring to set up for coyotes and varmints.
Cottontail & Merganser dinner
Of course, with all the different seasons open I generally have my bow handy too.  Next years goal is get a duck with my bow on video!
     I took one last trip out with my Father to see if we could get a few more for the freezer. The weather was supposed to be perfect for duck hunting, but it didn't last.  We had quite a few shots, but missed due to light shotgun loads and no choke.  Lesson learned.  We did manage to drop a drake Mallard and a hen.  I was also able to pick off a little Wigeon hen. I always have a good time hunting with my Dad.  I used follow him around with a pop-gun dove hunting, so It's nice to show him he's instilled good hunting ethics and that he passed along the love for the outdoors to me.

Photo Journal

Decoy Set

Perfect Morning

Rabbit with a bow

Dad & I
My Fiance with a Green Wing Teal hen
Lookin for in-comers in the morning

Sweet Desert Sunset

Video Journal

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Blood Instinct: "Double Down"

Fall is one of my favorite times of year. The weather gets crisp, the trees in the forest start to don their fall colors, and of course hunting seasons start to open. My father & I drew fall turkey tags for the White Mountains, Unit 27.  This is another one of our favorite areas to hunt. We not only can usually find our target species, but we see all kinds of wildlife. We left Thursday night and set up camp as the next day the turkey season would open.  We awoke just after sunrise and gathered our gear together. I was excited just to have tag in my pocket and being in the beautiful outdoors. I knew it was going to be a great day.  Also, I always enjoy the times I get to hunt with my Dad.  We loaded into the truck to head to a couple of spots we know to generally hold turkeys.  We had just started down the dirt road to our spot when I spotted a flock of turkeys 20 yards off the trail! I stopped and grabbed my Remington 1100 from it's sling as did Dad. I crept into the woods to get closer to the birds. I had a shot , but decided to wait for Dad to be ready as well.  Well, the turkeys had enough and started to bug out so Dad said "Take the shot if you got it". There were so many birds cris-crossing I couldn't pick out a safe single to shoot.  Then as I looked to my left I saw one solitary turkey getting ready to bolt.  I raised and aimed right at the neck and squeezed the shot off.  Feathers drifted in the morning sun light. The turkey dropped in it's tracks. It was a big healthy hen.  Great table fair;) Dad couldn't get a clear shot, so he suggested going around the corner to see if we could cut them off.  Well, Dad was spot on. The turkeys were right in front of us as we rounded the bend. Dad was able to pick one off before he disappeared in the thick woods. Two turkeys down within 20 minutes of opening morning!!  Now that we had filled our turkey tags so soon, we decided to drive some of the roads and check out some of our favorite hunting spots and see what damage the Wallow Fire had done.  The fire had burned quite a massive area, but new growth was coming up strong and the downed timber creates another obstacle or eco system depending on how you look at it.  The deer seemed to vanish in the stacks of fallen timber and slip into the thick still standing old growth.   We pulled off on one rough road to have a
look around.  As I start to walk to the edge of the ridge I hear a rustle or drumming sound.  I walked back to my truck to grab the ol' trusty 1100.
As I walked back to the edge of the ridge a big Blue Grouse flushed and was quickly on his way to the opposite ridge. I shoulder my shotgun and made a snappy shot and dropped thankfully before he got so far out that he would fall to the bottom of the ravine.  Fortunately a fallen log stopped him from rolling down the ridge.  It was still a steep recovery:) I have never shot a Blue Grouse and I was stoked!
What beautiful birds they are! I was surprised how big they are too.  This one will certainly fit in my trophy room nicely.  Dad left the next morning and I decided to stay and try hunt down a bear and maybe pick up a few more Grouse for the table.  I hunted hard and worked my way into the thickest cover I could find figuring the bears would be focusing on fattening up for the winter.  I found an Oak thicket surrounded by thorny foliage about shoulder high. As I crawled and worked my way in, I found bear tracks, scat, and where a bear had spent a lot of time.  Every few feet there was a bear pile(scat) and tracks every now and again. All the grasses and limbs were matted down and I could see the depressions where the bear had enjoyed a little rest.  Hound hunters were running dogs in the area so I'm sure the bear that occupied that ridge wised up and moved on.  Still it was very cool to have snuck into his hideout, just wish he was home:)  I tried different methods over the next few days bear hunting, including calling with a varmint call.  Unfortunately I had no predators come to the call but some ravens.  Regardless it is a fun tactic to try.  You never know when something is gonna walk out into view.  I eventually got tired of eating ham & cheese sandwiches or powerbars, so it being squirrel season I shot a few each day and cooked them right over the fire. The day before I planned on leaving back for the Valley, I tried to walk some thick Spruce thickets in hopes of finding another Blue Grouse.  Working my way through these thick ridge tops payed off as I was able to pick off another great male Blue Grouse!

A good bear track
The time came eventually to return to my responsibilities too quick as usual.  The Arizona deep woods are nearly indescribable in it's beauty.  I cherish every moment I have to spend out there.  It was great having my Father along for a bit too.  The Blood Instinct runs through my veins and always will. Take time to enjoy your surroundings.  I find my peace and time for meditation sitting next a good looking meadow as I wait to see what the the woods will reveal to me.                                    
Always be respectful and kind to Mother Nature, but don't be afraid to take something from the fridge now and again.:)

Sapling abused by a rutting bull elk
Happy Hunter

Turkey Tracks

Hunt Video Journal