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Archive for category hunting

Surfcasting In Nantucket

I caught one!

I caught one!

We spent a week in Nantucket in early October. Not too many folks around then, and I finally realized my dream of having a go at surfcasting. The first afternoon attempt was a complete bust. The inn provided an experienced guide at no cost who let the air out of his tires to 15 pounds and drove us on the sand. Nada for two hours. But I never give up.

Two days later I tried again, and this time I hooked five and landed three. Of course I wanted to eat them, but Captain Rob preferred to throw them back. It was very exciting to reel them in with the cold water crashing around and the nearby seals waiting to steal my hooked fish. I’m not much of a fishing enthusiast, but this was definitely a thrill.

And I didn’t mind at all that my guide knew where and when to go, what kind of pole and lure. I felt very satisfied and proud.

not too crowded

not too crowded

When I was actively turkey hunting with a shotgun, I use to make fun of those who hired a guide to take the hunters to exactly the right place, do the calling, bring the bird into easy shotgun range and then pat the client on the back when it was time to take a shot. I was doing everything myself: the scouting, locating the roosts, knowing when to arrive in position, calling after watching videos and hearing the hens in the woods. A long and challenging process.

But a few-days-a-year visitor to the ocean or the woods is handicapped. Can’t learn all it takes. Guides are good. I accept my limitations and have more respect for my colleagues from out of state. It was great fun, and much better when I caught fish, even if I had Captain Rob’s help.

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Walking The Scottish Moors

the pink heather can be a foot high and springy when you walk on it

the pink heather can be a foot high and springy when you walk on it

It’s really hard to walk on the moors, and I want to show you why. I was actually nervous that I would be able to do it safely and ably. Last time I was in Scotland hunting, the gamekeeper told me about a party of five gents who were falling so often that he stopped the hunt within 30 minutes and insisted it was too dangerous for them to be falling down with loaded guns.

easiest fields to cross

easiest fields to cross

tall grasses concealing rough ground

tall grasses concealing rough ground

My anxiety was provoked by my experience in 2011, the first time I’d done it. As you can imagine from one of these photos, walking on grassy pastures is easy. But mostly you are in tall grasses or on top of heather, which is really a springy bush, much like a Christmas tree on its side. Underneath and out of sight are large rocks that can twist your ankle or streams that you can’t see or hear. I stepped in one of those the first hour almost up to my knee…soaked my boot and sock. Messy. Uncomfortable. Cold. Also you are walking sideways on hills, so you are on uneven terrain, with one foot higher or lower than the other.

When a bird flushes, you only have fractions of a second to stabilize your feet, shift your weight to the front foot, find the bird, raise your gun as you release the safety, aim, swing and shoot. Hard…unless you practice a lot, which guys like me don’t have time to do.

As I wrote yesterday, I was wondering why I do this, when it is so difficult. But that is what a challenge is all about, right? And the game tastes so good. And the dogs are so exciting to watch search for, and find, the pheasants.

Once again I made it safely through the days. I didn’t injure myself or anyone else. I was just unbelievably tired from such a push. Nevertheless, I suspect I will be back another year. The countryside and adventure is just too spectacular…

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Shooting In Scotland

tired hunter with Becky and Max

tired hunter with Becky and Max

Spent a couple of weeks in Scotland, including two days hunting for birds. I was way out of practice, so I went to a skeet range three times and a sporting clays course once before I left. I built up to 16 clay pigeons out of 25 on the skeet range. My best ever may be just 21, but 18-19 was not uncommon. The clays course was interesting, because sometimes I was hitting every “bird,” and other times I missed all 10 tries at the same station. I only ran up parts of a big hill at a home twice for physical conditioning. Then I arrived on the Scottish ground.

The description below is based on an email I sent to a few friends:

Was out on the moors for over three hours struggling to keep my balance, not fall into rivulets hidden by the tall grass and be alert for birds that the dogs would flush unexpectedly. I know you wonder what the hell is wrong with me that I subject myself to such physical hardship?

Truth is, I was thinking that myself after just one hour, thirsty and hot and forgot to bring water, and legs aching terribly. It is exhausting. Always determined not to shoot the guide in the head or kill his dogs accidentally. And I was so out of practice–too much tennis and almost no shooting in three years–that it took five shots to hit a bird. The shotgun holds just two shells, but often I miss with both barrels, so one in five was my average. More respectable is one out of three. I missed so many “easy” shots. Very disappointing and frustrating, even though I did hit some birds. Shot my first-ever duck and ate it. Delicious. Pheasant dinner another night.

dinners

dinners

In the end I am thrilled to do it, have done it, to walk the moors, feel the open spaces, hear and see the cock pheasants flying away safely, watch the dogs. Scotland is one of the few places you can do this, I believe. The northeast United States is all stocked with birds raised in pens and placed on the ground the night before the hunt. The Midwest and Dakotas have flat land and far fewer birds: two or three a day may be all you can find, I’ve been told. Where I was in Scotland, there are thousands that are put out for six months before the season…and some live on for a year or two in the wild, learning how to evade predators, be wary and quick. Very challenging. I do love it.

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Decision-Making Can Be Treacherous

digging out of a 30-inch-high snow drift

This little adventure is a lesson in decision-making.

We were stuck in the snow the other day. It was 30 inches deep in some places, but who knew? It’s like walking through a puddle and discovering it’s over your head.

My buddy and I were stocking pheasants for the next day’s hunt…you know hiding the birds in the bushes, so the hunters and their dogs would have the challenge of finding them. And we came up to this snow-covered road with truck tracks that stopped in the middle. But the storm had only dropped 3-6 inches. How deep could this drift be? We saw that it was around a foot, so my friend felt his truck could make it. He shifted into 4-wheel drive, hit the gas, and I said to him, “You sure have balls.” I always admire courage and the willingness to take chances.

free after half an hour

Within seconds we were stopped. Too much snow to push, the wheels spinning, the undercarriage completely clogged in white. Fortunately we were just a 100 yards from the barn, where there were shovels to dig us out. It took half an hour at least to clear the truck and then about 50 feet of road. I was hoping that this could count as my exercise for the day and that I wouldn’t die of a heart attack. While we were digging, my friend told me of a 60-year-old guy he knew who just last month had been dragging a deer he shot out of the forest and dropped dead of a heart attack. Just what I needed.

I often think of how one poor decision can be so costly. The actor who played Superman, Christopher Reeve, took one horrible jump on a horse and became a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. How he must have hated that decision for the nine years he lived after it (he died at just 52).

I met a man who owned one of the most well-known public companies in America, and told me his big mistake was buying another well-known department store chain. It put the combined operation into bankruptcy, and cost him almost $100 million personally.

Digging out of the snow is not in that league. I wasn’t in a hurry and took breaks when I was tired. I didn’t strain my back, because I was careful…after straining it two days earlier, when my car wouldn’t start, and I had to push it out of traffic. Small decisions for me so far. I have made much bigger ones that were good ones, like marrying my wife, starting a business, relocating to a farm. No guts, no glory. I love taking chances. Some people hate uncertainty and play life safe. How about you? Made any giant choices lately? How do they feel?

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Early Life Of An Extreme Outdoorsman And Speed Junky (Part 1 Of 3)

idyllic cruising in the great outdoors

Met a new friend out West who described his life of total immersion in the outdoors and his love of fast cars and motorcycles. His stories were so astonishing and descriptive that I urged him to write them down. Who could have guessed that his prose would be extraordinary too. I told him he reminded me of Hunter Thompson’s gonzo style or other journalists I imagine writing about speed on speed…or some other hallucinogenic. You are in for a real treat! (I hope he doesn’t mind that I relocated the first paragraph from deep within the story to give you a perspective of what is going on)

For whatever reasons, not the least of which was my father having a triple bypass at 35, I always figured on needing to pack as much experience into one presumably short life as a person could. So I’ve had the pedal down as far back as I can remember. The joke is on me of course, I never developed heart disease, but I did break a few bones, lose a shitload of skin and probably deserve to be dead 30 times over doing various things. Also got a late start building a career, so I’ll probably be working until I am in fact dead—but I design/test outdoor gear. How bad can that be?

OK, a quick bio: I’ve always been bipolar or multi-polar regarding outdoor sports, grew up at the beach but was sneaking onto the Irvine Ranch (before it was developed) behind our house with my .22 to hunt rabbits and quail (yes, quail, you just have to make a head shot, and I don’t mean when they are flying) and started fly fishing in the mountains around LA whenever my mom could drive me or with the Boy Scouts, then Explorer Scouts. Luckily the Explorer group I joined was the mountaineering group in Anaheim, which gave me my first glimpse of the High Sierra’s, and I got as interested in Golden Trout as I did in peak bagging.

As soon as I got my driver’s license, it was good bye to the scouts, and I was off every winter weekend to cross country ski tour/snowcamp in the San Gorgonio or San Jacinto Wilderness areas, often alone, which would drive my mom crazy, then backpack with a fly rod in the summer. Surf, ski, climb, hunt, fish, and of course getting around when younger I got everywhere on a bike, which became a nicer and nicer bike which became another, lifelong passion including a little bit of road racing in high school. I quit that because I kept getting clobbered by motorists who in those days weren’t used to seeing humans on road racing bikes out in traffic. Last crash involved being hit from behind by a car and flung through traffic across three fast lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway. It was like playing Russian Roulette with only one empty chamber and surviving without a scratch. The rear wheel and rear triangle of my bike absorbed most of the impact and I came to a stop on the center divider balancing on my crank set, still clipped in, cars whizzing by in both directions. I did not get religion, I just left the bike laying in the highway and hitched home. No more road bikes for me.

Then one summer I came through Ketchum on a fly fishing trip and saw my first mountain bike—one of Tom Ritchey’s first hand-made bikes at the Elephant’s Perch, and my life was wrecked. I was living in Laguna at the time and the steep coastal hills were crawling with jeep roads, single track and game trails.

In a fitting way I was wrapping up my involvement with motorhead activities. My first car was a red Alfa Romeo Duetto softail Spider which I rescued from ruin and re-built myself. My second car was a raging-fast Lotus Elan which followed the same pattern, find a junker and bring it back to life one turn of the wrench at a time. I’d had a go-kart my Dad built for me when I was about 7, motorcycles, etc. so high performance driving was written into the software by the time I was a teen, and I could really drive. At one point I actually thought about it as a career, maybe an F1 pilot like Dan Gurney, but as I started hanging out at various tracks I realized I couldn’t stand the people who were involved with the sport. They were like golfers on crack.

With some irony I had long been co-evolving into a leftist tree hugging wilderness freak motorhead. I joined David Brower’s F.O.E. (Friends of the Earth) when I was 16, was reading Abbey, getting pangs about joining Dave Foreman’s Earth First gang but didn’t like the idea of prison. Note that both cars I mentioned were small, light, fast, fuel-efficient machines. But showing up to a Sierra Club meeting with my Lotus (even though it got 30 mpg) didn’t go too well. Which I found really disappointing. The leftist tree huggers turned out to be like accountants on crack.

In those years I tried everything that fit my personal ethos of small footprint, treading lightly, loving wild places, and having a fucking great time getting to those places. Think of hand-made (by me), aero cross-country ski racks and skis tucked behind the tiny roof line of a Lotus Elan howling through the desert North of LA at 2 A.M., on the way to Mammoth Tamarack lodge with the headlights off, navigating by the full moon at 120 mph with the Doors playing Riders on the Storm backed up by the sound of a nasty, tweaked-out twin cam motor pushing a low, smooth glass slipper through the void. Fuck the Sierra Club. (Continue to Part 2/3 in post below)

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How Actively Do You Relax?

I relax by writing, watching TV, surfing the internet, reading a book, looking at the grass grow. This morning I played 1 1/4 hours of squash games, lost every one, and am exhausted. I need to “relax.”

The other night I met a man who said he can only relax by being active. He said that he had hunted EVERY single Saturday for a solid year. Pheasants, quail, chukars, deer. If he couldn’t hunt near his home up north, he “hopped” a plane and went to Georgia or South Carolina. On Fridays or Sundays, he takes a golf lesson in the morning, plays 18 holes, then goes home and has a trainer give him a shooting lesson, and finally rounds out the afternoon by shooting 500 clay pigeons in his back yard. Probably just before going to a black tie dinner party.

How does a seemingly normal human being do all that activity?

But I remembered a lawyer I once hired who invited my family to his weekend house in Massachusetts. He was up by 5:30 am rowing his shell on a lake, then played two hours of tennis. As soon as we arrived around noon, we all ate lunch and went for a hike up a mountain. Back at the house, we were ushered onto a a speedboat for a spin around the lake. He said this was a normal day. Rowing is so beautiful when the mist is on the water. Gets you ready for the day.

But any one of these activities would have been enough activity for me. I was going crazy just talking, eating and hiking. I’d already driven a couple of hours to get there. The boat tour was fun, but way too much input for me.

Yesterday I heard from a friend that these guys may have ADD, which is attention deficit disorder or ADHD, which is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Some part of their brains need to be constantly stimulated to feel ok or calm or relaxed. Too much stimulation wears me out. I need to relax. Too little stimulation makes ADD brains go crazy. They need MORE activity to feel relaxed.

I knew that ADD/ADHD kids are given ritalin to relax them. I never knew before yesterday that the drug is a stimulant and helps decrease one’s need for activity and movement.

Whether the two adults I referenced have any disorder or not, they certainly have higher energy than I do or will ever have. The challenge is to discover what you need, what you like and figure out how to have them both.

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Major Challenges Of Hunting In Scotland

(left to right) hunters Bob and Ira, gamekeeper Craig

I hunted for birds over dogs three different days on my recent trip to Scotland. The first day was the hardest, and I described it here from there. We spent six hot hours sweating like animals on a warm day of hiking up and down the moors and the hills. My legs were like rubber…or wet spaghetti. I was constantly afraid of falling, watching out for 12-inch+ rocks, rivulets, holes in the ground over underground streams, heather branches and slippery grass. You can’t see what you are walking on, because it is either covered up by large fields of heather or because you are in grass up to your shoulders. When you walk on the side of a hill, going perpendicular to the direction that goes to the top, your feet are slanted at every step, angled downhill. Now imagine it is wet or muddy or slippery with tiny stones. A real obstacle course.

we had already walked up behind and then down the peak in the distance

Just making it through each of the three days was by far the biggest challenge. And my biggest accomplishment there. I was very proud that I survived, rarely fell to a knee…unlike those hunters the previous week who had trained in the gym for two months to be in shape for the big Scotland hunting expedition and fell so much that the gamekeeper took them off the moor and back to a stand where they shot at clay pigeons for safety’s sake.

On the other hand, for one of the first times, I felt like an elderly man who was being stressed and pushed by the “walk.” Gamekeeper Craig Graham had a walking stick and didn’t need to look where he was stepping. But he was born and raised there. And when we exchanged my shotgun for his stick, I found it easier as well.

The birds were the second huge challenge. The pheasant season had just opened up when we were there, but I told Craig that I wasn’t interested in going for them. “It would be too easy,” I informed him. I was more interested in the challenge of hitting a faster, smaller grouse or partridge. Craig told me later that he smiled to himself when I said that. And he was right.

I was an idiot. Scottish pheasants are harder to hit than what I have experienced in CT back home, where they are raised in a pen and then put into the field a few hours prior to the hunters and their dogs going after them. Those eastern birds—not the wild ones in the midwest—sit in one place until the dogs locate them, they are flushed by hunter or dog, and then take off slowly and predictably for a relatively easy shot of 15 to 25 yards.

Craig, Ira and dinner

In Scotland the birds are living freely on the moors for two to 12 months and have adapted to the wind, foxes, hawks, and maybe some hunters. They often fly BEFORE the pointers have time to smell them and freeze in position, so they are up at any moment and veering off 20-40 yards before you even know they are airborne. Sometimes Craig would yell “bird” or “pheasant,” but he doesn’t have time to say where it is flying. Now I have about half a second to make sure my footing is secure, no dog is in range or line of fire, no hunter or gamekeeper is in danger, raise the gun to a proper mount and pull the trigger at exactly the right lead, so that the shot will intersect with the bird flying into it. Whew! That is not easy at all.

With such minimal advance warning, I have to be ready with every footstep, and given how difficult it was just to walk and retain my balance, it was next to impossible to keep focused on a possible sighting. While the grouse often took off in coveys or singles 50 to 100 yards before we reached them the first day, I did have ONE (count it, just one) makable shot on the third day. But I was watching the ground to avoid falling…and missed. We also scared off a far away covey of black cock grouse on that third day. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grouse Hunting On The Scottish Moor

walking on that heather on the right was impossible!

A dream come true. Traditional grouse hunting in Scotland…although it’s called “shooting” here. The romance of the moor and the heather and the huge vistas and spectacular hills and views. I just had it all with a new Scottish friend (who has hunted in South Africa, but never for grouse on his native moors), a gamekeeper and his young protege. All three of them wore the traditional cap, tweeds, waistcoat (vest), tie, breeks (pants that only go just below the knees), tall stockings with a bit of colored cloth called a flash). My traditional gear included only the cap, purchased years ago in a London gun shop, and the Barbour coat that kept me sweating like a horse. Accompanying us were three black retrievers and two German pointers.

this is what my moor looked like with green fields in the distance, but NO paths between the heather

What an exhausting adventure. I am proud that I made it at all. I don’t know how people do it, climbing up and down hills that are slippery with running and puddled water on/over/around the beautiful pink-flowered heather obstacle course that can trip you or twist your ankle. Just walking was demanding. Trying to keep your footing, while watching for a sudden explosion of a flying bird—so that you can shoot in an instant—was damn near impossible. In fact a party of gents last week had barely walked 500 yards, but had tripped and fallen so often that Craig the gamekeeper ended the day for safety reasons.

typical proper warm fall day outfit with breeks and orange flash on stocking

As Craig said, at the end of our six-hour effort, “No need to go to the gym for your workout today.” It was much much harder than I ever imagined. I thought the dogs would point, we’d walk up behind them, the keeper would flush them, and we’d take a reasonable shot at 20 or 30 yards. Instead “the birds aren’t playing the game the way they’re supposed to.” Covey after covey would rise in a group and fly off from 50 to 100 yards away. Sometimes there was a straggler who stayed behind and later flew off unexpectedly in a low-flying getaway burst. At the end of four hours, with nothing to eat since breakfast but plain water, we had shot at maybe four birds and hit none.

So Craig pushed us on for two hours more gunning for partridge. And again we found coveys that rose in the distance. Along the way, we nudged at least 40 pheasant, but their season doesn’t open up until October 1st, so now we had to not only see a bird and raise the gun and aim and shoot in less than a second without falling off or down the hill, but also first size up the breed and make sure it was NOT a pheasant. What a challenge!

A minute after I was bemoaning our first partridge covey that took off more than 50 yards from where I was walking, a straggler at 35 to 40 yards flew after his pals left to right, and I was able to down him. My only bird of the day out of maybe three chances that were within range. Then we followed that group of 10 or so until it was frustratingly busted up by a retriever named Max who didn’t obey his master’s recall. Nevertheless after almost two hours of persistence, my friend Bob hit his only bird of the day that took the five dogs almost 15 minutes to locate.

red grouse

I won’t be able to download my pictures until I return home, so I have found some images from catalogs that will give you an idea of what a gentlemen looks like on the moors. All very dignified and a bit formal, but clearly “right” and quite elegant, don’t you think?

As for the birds? I have included some pictures of what they look like as well.

red-legged partridge

In searching for these photos, I found an August 6, 2010 FT.com story about the British grouse industry, which is very impressive. However I must point out that the costs to me for shooting is nothing like what you will read below. That is because we are staying at a lodge for 11 days, rather than flying in for just one day. Check out these excerpts:

“This year, however, those who look to shooting for part of their income are in confident mood, despite the fragile state of the economy. Mr Shedden said estates could charge more than £10,000 ($16,000+) for a day’s sport, which would typically involve the birds being driven towards eight guns.

“There is no shortage of people looking for good grouse shooting in Scotland,” he said.

Grouse shooting is thought to contribute up to £30m to the Scottish economy. The government estimates that sports shooting in Scotland – including deer-stalking – is responsible overall for £240m of direct and indirect economic activity, and maintains the equivalent of 2,000 full-time jobs.”

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Hitting Tennis Balls Is Like Hitting Clay Pigeons

In preparation for an upcoming once-in-a-lifetime, dream-come-true trip to Scotland in a few days that will include some wild bird hunting, I went to the local skeet range yesterday to remind myself how to shoot a shotgun. It has been years, and I could barely remember which barrel went with which trigger, how to mount the gun, aim, swing.

Most people don’t know that the group of BB’s shot towards the birds (as the clay pigeons are called) travel in a cigar shape or a chubby string, rather than a cloud shaped like a ball. If you follow through on your swing, rather than stopping once you pull the trigger, the string of shot is whipped around in front and behind the traveling disk, and you have a much much better chance of breaking the target. It’s just like cracking a whip. I was amazed that I could still do it. You fire two or four shells from each of eight stations arranged in a semi-circle. As a fellow shooter explained, “It’s like riding a bicycle. You never forget, and it comes back to you.”

I was very proud that out of the 25 birds in a round, I “killed” 18 the first time and 21 the second time. I think the best round I have ever had broke 23 out of the 25. Some experts there easily hit all 25. I was especially pleased, because I make it much harder for myself by beginning with the gun near my stomach. Then, after I say “Pull!,” and the bird is launched automatically, I first have to raise the gun to my shoulder and the stock to my cheek. Next I aim and swing the gun in a smooth motion that follows the bird, passes it and pulls the trigger at the right time, and then KEEPS SWINGING…

Most skeet shooters don’t yell “Pull” until the gun is already mounted, so they save some valuable time. This is an easier way to break targets on a skeet range, but doesn’t give a hunter any practice for what it’s like in the field, when you are walking along and suddenly see a bird that takes off rapidly, away from you. You can’t walk for hours with the gun mounted.

After shooting, I agreed to play tennis today with my friend who almost always beats me. And that is exactly what happened yet again for the first two sets, which I lost 1-6 and 2-6. I wasn’t disgusted, but I was definitely puzzled. After all, just 18 hours earlier I was able to focus on a speeding clay pigeon, keep swinging and hit bird after bird. Shouldn’t I be able to hit a slower-moving tennis ball the same way? By watching it and following through after impact? Especially when it is generally coming right at me, as opposed to the more difficult left-to-right or right-to-left motion on the skeet range?

What the hell! I decided the only thing I was going to focus on was watching the tennis ball, a task that some people have said I must have a psychological impairment about…because I haven’t been able to do it with any regularity. So forget about standing, turning, watching my opponent, putting spin or speed on the ball. Or lobbing it. I would concentrate on nothing else except WATCH THE BALL…or SEE THE SEAMS…or as one champion squash player advised in a movie about his life: KEEP EYE ON BALL.

Well I did it and won 6-2, and then the next set as well: 6-1. This was extraordinary. I may have won just two or three sets against this friend in two years. Now I was frequently hitting the sweet spot, the ball wasn’t going out long, and obviously my serving was stronger. You can’t imagine what a confidence booster this was. And to win point after point. I have been dismayed for years that I couldn’t even watch the ball when I was serving…just too impatient to see where it is going and landing. How can anyone explain this inability to focus It is insane!

But for at least a few minutes, I was able to watch the ball, see the seams, even notice the black type saying “Dunlop.” Killing skeet birds had helped me “kill” tennis balls. Not necessarily with power, but definitely with accuracy and enough speed to decrease my unforced errors and enjoy one of the best days of my short tennis life. I confess I was more determined to do well, to not feel sorry for my buddy, to say out loud to myself that I was going to win. And it worked.

Now there will be a couple of weeks off the courts, and we will see if my game deteriorates, so that I have to retrace this most satisfying athletic achievement. (I write this on Sept. 23rd: Ha Ha! I didn’t have to wait two weeks to find out. My friend wanted to play again today, and he beat me as usual, 6-2, 6-2. I couldn’t watch the ball, I made lots of unforced errors, and he broke my serve 7 out of 8 times. So much for my new strategy. I can’t go overseas feeling so good about my game, can I? Was it just a fluke? We’ll see.)

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Why Hunting Is A Dangerous Sport

So much for being the hunter, rather than the hunted

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Sports/Exercise Report For October

October was reasonably active. I did something physical 22 days, around the same as last month’s 23 days and below my record 25 days in November 2009. I am not counting two days when I just did some push ups or a 270 second plank.

I played tennis or practiced on 15 days, below my record of 18 days set in June, but for 42 3/4 hours, up from last month’s 37 3/4 and breaking my all-time record of 42 1/2 hours. I am now playing the best tennis of my life and last week dropped out of a regular game that has not proved as challenging at my new level. So many improvements in my serve, lobs, forehand and net volley game. I can’t get enough of this sport.

I did crunches four times, up from just once last month and still a long way from my record of nine sessions in May and in December last year. At least I broke my all-time record for numbers…my best session of 1505 (400+455+650) set a new record over my previous record of three sets of 450 (1350 total) in May.

I did some push-ups…wrist still not any hindrance or pain. Only four times, down from eight different days last month. My maximum without stopping was 43, down from last month’s top of 46. I’m inspired by some of the world records I have been reading about and posting, as well as my story and email exchanges with Doug Pruden, who holds many national and world push up titles. There were three days of stretches and doing planks, same as last month, and a record of 270 seconds, up from my June record of 240 seconds.

I made it to two gyms (Boston and Miami), swam two (butterfly and back stroke) laps in North America’s largest and longest pool and went hunting twice for a total of 7 1/2 hours.

I still can’t believe that I have become such a physical person. This past week I played squash four times in eight days, tennis three times for 11 3/4 hours, and went hunting twice for 3 1/4 hours. Who is this guy? I just don’t recognize myself. Do I look familiar to any of you? I only regret that I get tired and “lazy” and can’t make myself do exercises when I am so active in the other sports.

Sports/Exercise Report for May

May results set some good records. I was active 23 days, up from 20 in April, though below my record 25 days in November. Being out of town for my son’s college graduation was a welcome and happy break.

I played tennis or practiced during 17 days over 37 ¾ hours, which is up from last month’s 15 days/31 ¼ hours and is greater than my high of 16 days, though below my record of 41 ¾ hours. I was fairly tired the day I played with three different groups over 5 ¾ hours, and temperatures in the high 80’s and 90’s exhausted me. Many days I played tennis matches in the mornings and then hit balls with a friend in the afternoon. Forcing myself to fit in crunches is the ultimate challenge, and I usually failed at it.

My nine crunch session equaled my high in December. I set a new record of three sets of 450 (1350 total), up from my previous record of 1050 total in January. Then to vary my routine, I started just doing different stomach exercises for 30 minutes a session. We’ll see if I can fill in that one missing muscle, because I really only have a feeble five-pack at the moment. I was told that if you don’t change your routine, your muscles get used to it and don’t grow as much. Jason Statham’s abs still look better than mine.

There were also two squash sessions for two hours total, way below my record of 8 days and 7 ½ hours. I went bow and arrow hunting for wild turkeys four times for 19 hours and also spent two days (3 ½ hours) chain sawing shooting lanes and clearing trails in the woods. Never even took a shot though this year. Too few birds. And two few weight lift days—just two. But my wrist and shoulders are healing—even swam some butterfly laps yesterday and felt no shoulder pain.

Sports/Exercise Report

April results were a bit inhibited by a sore back for 10 days. I only had 20 days of sports and ab crunch activity, down from 21 in March and a record of 25 physically active days in November My crunch sessions totaled eight, up from just four in each of the last two months (my record is nine crunch sessions in December). I did increase to 1000 total-in-a session ball crunches (three sets) up from highs of 750 in March and 550 in February, but below my record 1050 in January.

For the month I played tennis 15 days and 31.25 hours, up from last month (record is 16 days and 41 3/4 hours), squash two days and 2 hours (record is 8 days and 7.5 hours), practiced archery twice and went hunting for turkeys with a bow once for seven hours. I also lifted weights at home three times.

It’s nice to see my abs showing again and to be improving my tennis game with more outdoor practice possible. Spring is definitely here at last.

Hunting On Easter

I organized a hunt yesterday for around 20 friends and family members. My kids traveled as much as six hours round trip to be part of the event. There was food and drinks and even a cake with candles, because today is my birthday. I have made it this far…69 years. What a treat. I am grateful to be alive, to have lived this long, to still be journeying and celebrating.

This morning I forced myself to do 700 crunches (300 bicycles and 400 non-stop balls) after warming up with a brisk 1500 meters of indoor rowing.

Oh yes, that hunt: it was for plastic Easter eggs, about 100 of them, hidden in the cracks between stones in old walls, under plants, in the branches of trees and bushes. It’s a lot of fun. And great exercise. I spent over an hour planting these multi-colored symbols of spring and new beginnings, stooping and bending, keeping my Springer Spaniel from eating the candies stuffed inside. In a warm year like this one, I worked up quite a sweat.

When everyone had arrived, and I shouted “GO!” to launch the egg search, the energy release is a mini-explosion . The kids run like crazy in all different directions, but the adults and post-teen children are running as well, either helping the little ones or competing with them unashamedly. You ever try keeping up with a five-year-old racing for candy? Not easy, bless their little hearts. And they are tireless. No one ever has “enough.”

Then I walk around for another half hour checking all the spots. You’d be amazed how many eggs are missed that are right out in the open. People just pass by them. No wonder I can’t see a tennis ball at 100 mph, when the average human eye walks by a static object without noticing its existence. And every time I announce that there is still another egg to be found, the crowd rushes and crushes to my general vicinity to seek out the missed prize.

Lots of laughs. The downed “game” is devoured within an hour, along with the cake—I had three pieces—and ice cream for those who reward themselves for such an active workout.

Who says exercise helps you lose weight? Not on Easter Sunday or your birthday.

hunters and game—4/4/10

hunters and game—4/4/10

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Exercise/Sport Report

David Beckham shows off abs for Armani ad—2009

David Beckham shows off abs for Armani ad—2009

I am now addicted. Maybe it’s endorphins that are kicking in. I read that they can be as powerful as morphine. I have become a sportaholic or exercisaholic. I am astonishingly fit, hardly tire, barely sweat (it is 40-50 degrees outside the indoor tennis courts I play on these days).

In just 25 November days, I have done the following:

Tennis—played 15 times, some sessions for three hours of singles and doubles

Squash—played, mostly practiced 6 times, three in a clinic, each session one hour.

Hunting—3 times, average of three hours each time

Zumba—once

Crunches—9 times, some slow, some sloppy but 500-700 most times

Lat pulldowns—6 times

I am now an exercise junky. Read the rest of this entry »

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How To Catch And Cook A Pheasant

Went hunting for pheasant twice last week. With a double-barreled, side-by-side, 1929 American-made (an L.C. Smith), 20-gauge shotgun that has art deco, large-leaf engravings. Five and a half hours walking in swamps, mud, cornfields, hayfields, woods, brooks and briars. Joyfully watching two friends’ dogs sniff and search for birds. There are now two pheasants and a quail in the freezer that I prepared for Thanksgiving dinner.

Ira, Blitz the German Shorthaired Pointer, and shotgun get the birds—11/10/09

Ira, Blitz the German Shorthaired Pointer, and shotgun get the birds—11/10/09


Pheasants and quail caught for Thanksgiving dinner—11/10/09

Pheasants and quail caught for Thanksgiving dinner—11/10/09

Non-hunters can never know the glorious hearts of canine breeds that find those still and silent birds. These pets track bird scent with the grace of ballerinas and have almost inexhaustible energy. When close, some dogs freeze, point and wait for the bird to bolt…or the hunter to prod the prey into the air, where it rockets suddenly at 40 to 60 miles per hour. Hopefully a retrieval follows.

Other dogs, like my English Springer Spaniel, Bella, are flushers. They track and do the bump as well. You just have to keep them relatively near by, because the shotgun only has an effective range of 35 or 40 yards. The pointers can wander all over, maybe a football field away. Some will stay motionless with nose aiming at the pheasant for 20 minutes. Then the hunter has plenty of time to close in for the shot. But a flusher out of range is a real frustration. You just watch the birds fly away, and curse, and yell at your dog.

As I mentioned in my bird stocking post (http://www.irasabs.com/?p=2430), the pheasants have a much better chance than chickens raised for supermarkets. In fact on the second day, during four hours of hunting, my friend and I fired at five pheasants and a woodcock, but only took one pheasant home.

My English Springer Bella after a swim—6/11/08

My English Springer Bella after a swim—6/11/08

Bella was lame for many months, so she hasn’t hunted for two years. She now seems healed. Hopefully we can search the fields together soon. She loves to romp and jump. She gets so excited when I take out the neck bell that helps me locate her as she scours the bushes and grasses. It is grown-up Hide and Seek.

For the birds the stakes are high. It is not a game. Yet they would probably not be alive in the first place if there weren’t hunting clubs eager to purchase them. Over 10 million pheasants are raised each year. It is an annual ritual anticipated by two million American hunters. These sportsmen welcome the challenge, the camaraderie, the preparation of the birds and the various recipes. My favorite way to cook pheasants is double-basted in raw eggs and flour, sauteed and topped with strawberry liqueur.

art deco shotgun engraving

art deco shotgun engraving

I only learned to hunt as an adult after I moved from Manhattan to Connecticut in 1990. Read the rest of this entry »

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Helluva Week For Physical Stuff—From A (abs) to Z (zumba)

Back home to normal life: signing checks, initiating roof replacement, selling a horse. But still awed with the increased physical activity of the last week. I will post specifics later of my time:

hot tubbing with Palm Beach girls,
eating enough desserts in Florida to gain five pounds,
swimming in the country’s biggest hotel pool,
tennis playing/practice (four times in six days),
squash practice twice, including a one-hour group lesson,
ab crunch workouts twice,
practicing archery for upcoming hunting of wild turkeys,
two gym visits for mi latissimi,
Zumba dancing with 26 mostly Latina ladies,
skipping Connecticut meals and exercising enough to lose five pounds,
driving a newly-leased, “brilliant red” car like I was on the race track, and
making 25 green-headed, red-faced, white-ring-necked pheasants feel drunk, so they wouldn’t fly away as I set them in bushes.

I am determined to rebuild my abs and play better squash and tennis, and this burst of body energy better jump-start the effort.

How To Make A Pheasant Feel Drunk

(For those who hunt pheasants, it is necessary that there be pheasants to hunt. Few are wild in most states, so the birds are purchased and hidden in the fields. This article describes the hiding experience, called “stocking.” To see what happens next, the hunting is explained in this more recent report: http://www.irasabs.com/?p=2803)

This is a secret known by many of the nation’s 2,000,000 pheasant hunters who chase after 10,000,000 pheasants raised on U.S. farms. These red-faced, green-headed, white-ring-necked birds are then sold to hunting clubs, hidden in bushes, sniffed out by specially trained dogs who point and flush, so that men with shotguns can pull triggers, down the game, and utilize much-talked-about recipes to cook delicious meals. In the United Kingdom, 35 million pheasants are raised annually.

ring-necked pheasants

ring-necked pheasants


So I want you to imagine how many times a year what I am going to describe takes place. It is a primitive practice as old as the wind that is totally unimaginable to almost all city dwellers, suburbanites and the majority of rural inhabitants. It has shades of voodoo and witchcraft, talking in tongues and reading the runes.

As the sun headed for the horizon on October 30th, I put on my high-calf boots and heavy gloves and headed out with a friend to “stock” pheasants in fields for the hunters who would search for the birds come Halloween morning with their spirited dogs and menacing guns. There were 10 birds to a cage, a mixture of brilliantly feathered roosters and dully-tan, camouflaged hens, and we would transport four cages to four different locations (five to 30+ acres each) in a soon to be mud-spattered, white, 4-wheel drive pickup truck.

Bouncing on rocks and over dips, avoiding the scratching brambles and who-knows-how-deep puddles from two-days-ago rain, we drive cautiously on bush-hogged trails, across streams, through shorn cornfields, and in pastures. We are looking for scattered sites to hide the birds from tomorrow’s predators. Our mission is to place 40 birds down gently in the woods, under bushes, beneath fallen trees. And keep them there. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vladimir Putin Needs To Work On His Abs Too!

vladimir putin needs work on his abs—8/09

vladimir putin needs work on his abs—8/09

The Russian Prime Minister is an incredible athlete, so it may be nervy to comment on his physique. Nevertheless, now that I am aware of a good ab from a not-so-great ab, I would like to suggest that he work on his stomach area a bit as well. And you can look at my post of June 17th to compare President Obama’s mid-section with that of the Russian leader: The Battle of the Stomachs…much better than the Battle of the Bulge(s).

Vladimir Putin has buffed up his action-man image and raised the pin-up stakes among world leaders by posing barechested for another set of holiday pictures.
Photographs were published yesterday showing the Russian Prime Minister stripped to the waist riding a horse through rugged terrain during a brief holiday in the Siberian region of Tuva. Wearing only green fatigues, his eyes hidden behind reflective sunglasses, Mr Putin also showed his gentler side as he fed the horse from his hand after the ride.

The former KGB officer, a mountain skier and judo black belt, is a fitness fanatic who regularly starts his day with weight training in the gym and swimming in his country residence outside Moscow.

putin butterflying—great arms

putin butterflying—great arms

Mr Putin, who will be 57 in October, showed off a set of rippling arm muscles as he demonstrated his butterfly swimming stroke. The photos will inevitably trigger mass swooning by women all over Russia — as well as unfavourable comparisons of their husbands to Mr Putin’s manly physique. They will also confirm the Russian Prime Minister’s status as a gay icon.

Mr Putin camped overnight and went whitewater rafting down the region’s fast-flowing rivers, according to Russian news agencies. Other pictures show him walking through fields with a hat similar to that worn by Indiana Jones, the Hollywood adventurer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can You Make Sudden Changes of Heart and Mind?

I had a real confrontation yesterday morning that is worth mentioning as an example of how hard it is to change your mind and be flexible. I’ll detail it in a moment.

There are many people who want constant stimulation and excitement. They go from one party to the next, maybe three in a day, play tennis in the morning and golf in the afternoon. Hopefully you, like me, have seen three movies in a row. But some of us, and I am one of those folks, need a little space between the highs. A breather. A time to reflect, or at least digest, the great times we were just fortunate enough to experience.

I admit that I am able to spend time alone and not feel lonely. I know personality types who are energized by being in crowds or groups. Still others could almost be despondent if they had no plans to socialize on a Saturday night. They boast gleefully that they were invited to an exclusive party or to so many Christmas celebrations that they are basically bar hopping. Or that they are already planning, and possibly taking, yet another vacation after only eight weeks.

Some will admit that being alone makes them think too much about their lives and problems. They need to be constantly distracted by external events that demand their attention or interaction. Maybe they can never be satisfied for long, by either one partner, one house, one play or just one restaurant meal a day or a week. And I am not saying that anyone should be. We are all different people with various personalities. That is part of the richness of meeting people and having new adventures.

Ok. What was my confrontation? Read the rest of this entry »

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Mother Nature Gets Even and Has a Tick Attack Me From Behind

The turkey is cooking as I write. Friends will come over to taste wild turkey for their first time. It is nothing like a domestic bird. I have marinated the turkey for two days in garlic, oil, white wine. It smells great.

before cooking

before cooking

The day of the hunt, Wednesday, I went to the gym. Nothing special. I was pretty tired. But at least I made it there–workout number 7 for the month.

On Thursday the 28th, I did 50 push ups again, 10 breaths, 10 more, 10 breaths, and 6 more. I wrote and rested.

Then Mother Nature got even with a smile. In the afternoon, I felt a sharp pin prick near my butt. I touched, my wife looked, and there was a tick, locked in a potentially harmful 36-hour kiss. It was hidden between my cheeks! And that was why I had missed it when I’d done my “tick check” with a mirror. Clever guy. He also knew how to conceal himself from the prey…which was me. And I was worried about the coyote jumping me from behind. A tiny tick did it.

Every time I come out of the woods, I unfailingly examine myself for ticks within three hours. I have been told that if you remove them within 24 hours, there is probably going to be no problem—not enough time for the insect’s saliva to make much of a difference. After a day, there is more danger of getting Lyme disease or another very serious bacterial infection called ehrlichiosis.

So if I got a bird, a tick got me. I have many friends who have been sickened by these bites, and in addition to dizziness, fatigue, fever, aches, some have had facial distortions, lost memory for years…it can be bad. So it goes.

I knew I had really adapted to country life when I could walk in the woods and tall grass and be OK about spending a few minutes taking 20 or more ticks off my clothes and skin. I felt I had arrived.

I have city friends who drove to our farm, got out of the car, stood on the driveway and unabashedly placed their pants inside their socks, sprayed insect repellent containing DEET on their clothes, and then walked on the driveway pebbles into the house. Fortunately I have learned to love the woods and live with its risks. And I have never even seen a bear or a mountain lion…just coyotes and bobcats, like this one a friend photographed at the same farm where I shot this week’s turkey.

bobcat

bobcat (photo by Rudy Kellerman)


Read the rest of this entry »

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Using Tennis Advice So That Ira Can Finally Drop His Turkey

I shot a turkey yesterday morning, only the second time with a bow in eight years (that’s 16 seasons).

first bird with a bow in five years—5/27/09

first bird with a bow in five years—5/27/09

Before I describe the whole hunt in another post (which may not interest you), I want to tell you how tennis prowess and peak performance was used in my turkey hunting. And I think it can be applied to other sports as well. This had all been explained the day before by my friend and tennis coach, Frank, when I asked him what allowed the very top players to dominate the game.

One squash coach told me (see April 21st post) that it’s easy to swing the racquet perfectly, but adding a ball that you’re supposed to hit on the swing changes the dynamic enormously. Similarly, aiming at and hitting a stationary, life size, 3-D turkey target is one challenge. But shooting a moving, walking turkey that might see you raise your bow and fly or turn away from you at any second is totally different.

Turkey stories aside, and in accordance with Frank Adam’s advice, I was able somehow to enter a kind of numbness or zone. I was on automatic, totally instinctual. I never calculated distance to the bird, the angle down, what the horizontal length was (see the May 2nd post about Bow and Arrow Lessons). It all just sorta, kinda happened. I wish I could explain it. Read the rest of this entry »

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My Perfect Turkey Hunt (Non-Hunters May Want to Skip This Post Except For The Type In Boldface Below)

The most amusing thing about this hunt was how many things went wrong. When I woke at 3:30, I could hear the raindrops on the roof and down the gutters. I put on a bathrobe and went outside to actually feel how bad it was. Only slight. I would be drenched and cold by the end of the morning. But the season ends on the 30th, so I had run out of time.

Once at the farm where I hunt, I walked through wet grass in the hayfield that was up to my waist. Damp and chilled already in 43 degrees darkness. A quarter mile later I am in the forest at meadow’s edge, decoy set up. I wait an hour for light and the first gobbles. Nothing, but cold.

After another 30 minutes, I give up, assuming there are no turkeys in this roost where they often spend the night. Just as I put my arrows back in the quiver, I hear the cluck of a tom, already on the ground and looking for a hen. I talk to him for 20 minutes, trying to attract him in my direction. I never see him, but do hear a hen come in toward him swooning and then the quick fluttering and clacking as they mate briefly. More silence.

At last I do give up, stand and walk towards a pasture. Shockingly, after I move 25 yards, two birds fly away. One goes southwest and the other northeast. I head toward the bird to the north, laughing at how they laughed at me. Maybe watched me. Usually by this time, they would have been on the ground for over an hour…at some distance if they were nervous at my presence. Bad enough they didn’t make a sound. So much for all my patience. Maybe the drizzle and cloudiness kept them in the trees so much longer.

Anyway I circle around and never spot the bird to the north, even after creeping slowly past the openings to two pastures. Along the way, I almost step into three coyote scat markings. Continuing to the west, I do see the bird who went south. He is three fields away, at least 200 yards, and making a gobble that is more like a baby gurgling. Subdued and as if he has a berry stuck in his throat. Nothing firm and resonant.

I consider circling around through the forest behind me, so that I can move 100 yards closer to him off to the right. But my instinct orders me to just stay put near where I am. So I get into position on the edge of the forest, next to the second pasture, behind a tree but a foot wide. I cut some bushes in front of me with clippers and wait to see what will happen.

Just then a young scrawny deer darts out to my left, pauses, walks about five yards in front of me and heads along a trail to my right. I thought she would smell me and bolt, but she moves easily, and neither starts nor stops. Ahhh, the surprises from Mother Nature.

Meanwhile the turkey has continued moving in my direction and cleared a stone wall. He is about 150 yards away.

Next a real surprise. A coyote comes along, following the deer gradually. Again just five yards away. I am waiting for him to sniff my presence. But I am invisible to him too. Maybe the wind is blowing towards me, so that my scent is behind me. At this point I am a tiny bit nervous. I’d rather not have a hungry coyote face -off and have to pull a knife. The hunter might become the hunted.

coyote

coyote

One time years ago when I was calling toms with the sound of a hen in heat, a coyote stalked me. When I stood up to see what was making the sound on the leaves, I was staring at a coyote three yards away ready to spring. And I had no weapon in hand for defense. We looked in each other’s eyes for what seemed like 10 or 15 seconds. Then he turned and ran off. I didn’t like being so helpless. Though these animals weigh about 40 pounds and look like mangy dogs, I have seen the deer and sheep they have killed with a bite and rip to the throat.

But this time nothing happened. Although I was listening a bit for sounds from behind.
Read the rest of this entry »

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A Footnote for Those Who Abhor Hunting

I know that some of you are willing to eat meat and fowl, but would never think of killing the animals yourself. I understand and respect that point of view. I once took an Aikido workshop with a master from Japan. He said he thanked every grain of rice for giving up its life, so that he could be sustained. My turkey is already plucked and dressed and marinating in the refrigerator for a big meal of gratitude this weekend. I hope this makes my experience a little bit more acceptable to you.

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Can You Serve a Tennis Ball While on Your Knees? Or Win Points by Walking or Not Moving?

Went to a pro squash match in Wilton CT. These players rank from 56 to 120 or so, and the quality of their game was way above college level. They can really whack the ball and retrieve seemingly impossible shots. Lots of long rallys. However I have to say the general play was not as strong as the other pro match I saw, when some players were as high as 24 or 36.

I’d invited a former college roommate to meet me there. Michael had never before seen a squash match. His droll comment was that “You had to be in pretty good shape to play this game.” It definitely takes endurance and flexibility. He did say he had heard over the years of heavyset guys who could place the ball so well that they won points and games in spite of their inability to move very fast or for long.

He also told me about a grossly overweight tennis coach in high school he would watch who could just stand in the middle of the court, barely move his feet, switch the racket from one hand to the other, and then win many points against his students. It was because he could place the ball so perfectly. Hard to imagine, even though I face excellent placement from many of the older guys I play doubles with. This coach would also SERVE from the baseline ON HIS KNEES, again to emphasize that you don’t need a powerful serve to win points. Just place the ball with great dexterity.

I’ve played against a guy who shifts the racket back and forth between hands. Weird. So I can vouch for that skill. But what do you think? Can anyone be even a decent competitor without a strong service game? Read the rest of this entry »

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