Today is the day some Virginia hunters have been waiting for all year, rifle season. The firearms season gives us a chance to give our bows and muzzleloaders a break and allows us to dust off the ole’ trusty rifle. Whether you are using a .243 or a .308, rifle season can sometimes help his relax a bit in our hunting pursuits. I’ve always enjoyed the ‘spot and stalk’ technique while rifle hunting. Given the land I’ve been able to hunt on, which is mostly open pastures and freshly chopped cornfields, it’s always been fun to spot deer from hundreds yards away and slowly creep into shooting range. If you’re lucky the deer will never see you or the bullet coming. This year I plan on setting up in some heavily trafficked fence rows overlooking wide open pastures with shooting lanes from 50 to 400 yards and maybe even further if I feel comfortable with the shot.
Unfortunately I have not been able to do as much whitetail hunting as I have in the recent years on account of an extremely busy work schedule and my newfound passion of fly-fishing for native brook trout. Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t given up hunting by any means. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods I’ll be hunting this year and have seen deer activity every time I’ve stepped foot on the properties. Last week was a sight to see, it was literally like clock work. Everyday about 15 minutes before 5:30 sunset I would see the does begin making their way out of the woods and into the pastures to graze. Not far behind them have been several different shooter bucks, each of them keeping their distance from each other. They have already begun chasing, sniffing and scraping, this leads me to believe that peak of the rut looks like it will be falling right in line with rifle season. Keep in mind that I can only speak for the southwestern portion of the state, rut activity may be completely opposite in northern and eastern Virginia. The weather is seemingly on cue with historical November temperatures (high 50’s/low 30’s) and it doesn’t look like we’re expecting any large amounts of snow accumulations in the near future.
I hope everyone is having a great hunting season thus far and I only wish for it to get better as the season continues. Safe shooting and good luck!
One has to be careful during the Virgina Spring Gobbler season because if you blink you could literally miss it. The majority of the season only allows for birds to be taken before noon followed by just two weeks of full-day hunting. Unlike last years deer season, I haven’t been able to get in the woods as much as I’d like too. I was fortunate enough to take a trip with Will Jenkins up to Highland County VA to chase some birds and trout fish for a few days. Although we didn’t punch any tags we had a great time in the mountains, you can read more about our trip on Will’s blog in his two part article Hunting Highland.
A few days after our hunt, I received an email from one of our Virginia Huntography readers, Regg Simmons, a turkey hunter that has kept his eyes wide open so far this season. Simmons was happy to tell me that the turkey hunting was “hot and heavy” in northern Virginia. The photos that accompanied his email didn’t lie. With two great gobblers on the ground within a week of opening day, I’d say Simmons having one of the best spring seasons of anyone I know. I asked him if he’d like to recount his season thus far and he kindly obliged. So without further ado here is his story…
On the morning of April 13th I rose at 3:00 AM to make the drive from Manassas to my hunting spot in Fauquier County. It was a long cold, hike up towards the crest of Naked Mountain where I set my single hen decoy and settled in to a pile of cut timber to await the coming of dawn and the start of the 2013 Spring Gobbler Season. Toms were answering owl calls by gobbling on the roost at 5:30 AM so I knew things could interesting once the sun came up. With sunrise the birds got all fired up – 5 Toms gobbling at all points on the compass. I was sitting in Tom central ! By 6:00 AM I had a Tom in sight at 100 yards – strutting and gobbling like crazy answering the yelps and purrs coming from my long box and diaphragm calls. Well that Tom was locked up at about 80 yards when off to my right, just over a rise and out of sight, came thundering gobbles from at least two more Toms. A few soft purrs from the diaphragm was the deal closer – over the rise came three Toms, with the biggest boy leading the pack. When they crested the rise and spotted my hen decoy all three Toms went into full strut, spitting & drumming making a beeline for the fake hen. As they closed the distance I had my Remington 870 locked on the leader of the pack. A round of Hevi-Shot Turkey load sealed the deal with the Tom at 18 yards. One of the surviving Toms flew away while the other ran a short distance then stopped to survey the scene. Just for fun, a few soft purrs called him right back in to gun range but of course he would have to wait for another day….
Tom #1 weighed 23.4 pounds, had a 12″ beard and 1′ spurs.
I got back after them on Saturday, April 20. Once again I hiked up Naked Mountain in the pre-dawn darkness this time hunting near one of my favorite deer stands. As the sun rose I could hear gobbling but it was coming from way down in the creek bottom. Having learned a long time ago to “sit down, be still and be quiet” I decided to stick with my spot rather than go “running and gunning”. The gunning I can handle but the running is getting harder every season…. Other than “tweety birds” the mountain top was quiet, no turkey talk other than my occasional plaintive calls. By 9:00 AM my patience had worn thin so I decided to pull my decoy and slowly walk back down the mountain towards the truck. After picking up the deke and getting my gear stowed I decided to make one more loud series of yelps before leaving the area. I yelped and a Tom thunder gobbled, 75 yards uphill of my location. At break-neck speed I reset the hen decoy, stumbled back into a pile of weeds and tried to regain my composure. Another yelp – another gobble, even closer. Then I spotted that red/white/blue head coming through the brush at 35 yards so up came the Remington and off went the safety. Spotting the decoy the Tom went into full strut at 20 yards and closed the distance to the deke. The Tom circled the decoy several times, strutting and displaying the whole while. A soft putt from my diaphragm got his head up for the kill shot at 15 yards. After recovering from a mild case of hyper-ventilation I recovered my bird and made my way back down the mountain…..Tom #2 weighed 22.25 pounds, had an 11″ beard and 1″ spurs.
Finally, another great Virginia hunting season is upon us. Opening this Saturday (April 13th) is the 2013 Virginia Spring Gobbler Season. The early part of the season only allows for bearded turkeys to be taken from sunrise until noon each day lasts until May 4th. The all-day season (from sunrise to sunset) lasts from May 6-18. During those down times your best bet to get a hold of me will be on the river or lake with a pole in the water. Smallmouth, largemouth, walleye, trout and catfish will keep me occupied until deer season in October.
To kick off the turkey season we’re doing it right here in Virginia. Managing Editor, Will Jenkins from TheWilltoHunt.com, fellow Field Editor, Chris Mann and myself are heading up to central Virginia to set up turkey camp for a few days. Will and I have been doing some tentative planning the past few months and have decided on embarking into one of Virginia’s largest Wildlife Management areas in Highland County. Since we can chase gobblers until 12pm, it will give us plenty of time to get after some rainbow, brown and brook trout in the nearby streams. I’ve already decided that even if we don’t bag a bird or put any fish in the net, I’ll be just as satisfied by being able to enjoy a new hunting experience in a new patch of woods with new friends.
Fortunately, I have been able to line up three other turkey hunts this year in different areas. So far this year I’ve been seeing many flocks of turkey and hearing the gobblers coming down from the roost right at sunrise. Other hunters I’ve spoken to seem to say the same and that there’s no lack of turkey movement in southwest Virgina. Using a combination of my bow and shotgun, I plan to try something new this year. Late last year a friend of mine introduced me to a new hunting product that I’ve since then fell in love with. The GhostBlind is an excellent hunting product that I intend to use this season, it’s mirror-paneled design makes it virtually impossible to see and will instantly adapt to your immediate surroundings. It’s light weight and versatility makes it usable for hunting with a bow or a gun and can used to hunt many different animals. This blind is slick and the companies motto speaks for itself, Not Seeing is Believing. Be sure to check out there website for a wide range of blinds and accessories.
I wish everyone good and safe spring gobbler season and I’d like to her how the season is going in other parts of the state. Feel free to share your story with us here at Virgina Huntography. We’d be glad to have some great representation of the state and allow other hunters to write a guest blog post .
Well it’s the start of the new year and most Virginia deer hunters have already begun cleaning their guns and sending their bows off to be restrung. There won’t be any more chances to harvest a buck until bow season next fall. This past year I didn’t have the success I had anticipated but it was one of the best hunting seasons I’ve had in a very long time. I was able to get out in the woods at least thirty times and each trip was a blessing. Through all of my hunts there were only a handful of times that I didn’t see a whitetail deer but my luck never went as far as putting a nice shooter buck within my sights. A lot of times after deer season I hear hunters over use the terms shoulda’, coulda’ and woulda’. At the beginning of the season I promised myself I wouldn’t let the deer get the best of me, as they have every year before, leaving me full of regrets. Since hunting season closed shop last weekend, I’ve only been thinking about all the great times I had embracing the beauty of the woods and the animals that I encountered. There were tons of close calls and each deer seemed to have their own agenda. Even though I didn’t tag out or harvest a trophy buck I was just as satisfied by being able to participate in another hunting season in the mountains of Virginia.
In Virginia, technically deer season isn’t completely over. In over 35 towns and cities across the state, Urban Archery Season lasts through March 30. Only archery tackle can be used and it’s an excellent opportunity to still put some meat in the freezer.
As much as I’d like to continue chasing whitetails I believe it’s time for me to give them a rest until October. So what do most Virginia hunters do after deer season? We anxiously prepare for the next hunting season, spring gobbler! But before you start packing away all your cold weather gear, I would encourage hunters to take advantage of the fall firearms turkey season that kicks off this weekend and last through the end of January. The map below is courtesy of the VDGIF and unfortunately the season is closed to the areas highlighted in white, blue and yellow but the green areas are wide open for hunters that are hungry for a turkey leg.
I don’t foresee myself getting too many chances to chase the late season fall gobblers but this spring fellow huntographer, Will Jenkins and I will be backpacking up to Highland County VA for a few days in hopes of bagging some birds. Will announced our trip along with a DIY elk hunt he’ll be doing out west this September in one his latest blog post, New Year, New Look, New Adventures on his website, TheWilltoHunt.com.
I’d like to personally thank everyone that has supported Huntography over the past year and a special shout out to Rudy for making it all happen! Good luck to everbody that will be out in the woods or on a river bank in the next few months and be sure to keep up with us as we embark into another year full of hunting stories and experiences that we intend to share.
I came iin planning to hunt a trail leading to a line of scrapes but the wind was all wrong so I switched to plan B. I’m hunting an old home site that is a common travel route for deer between a bedding area and acorns. I don’t usually but I’m hunting from the ground hoping for a close encounter. If I don’t see a thing it’s still a beautiful afternoon in the woods.
Good luck to all the Virginia bow hunters out there!
In today’s modern world it seems that everyone is gearing up for the so-called “Zombie Apocalypse”. This ‘disease’ is supposedly uncontrollable and makes one go insane and have an uncanny urge to hunt for meat. I believe it’s already here and in the form of Buck Fever, scary huh? I know we all feel it in some sort of way, whether its shaking as you draw your bow back for the first time in months or sighting in a new scope. As the days get cooler and fall approaches more and more hunters are getting ready for hunting season in southwest Virginia. One mention of whitetail in my local sporting goods store and out come the phones and trail cam pictures of trophy bucks in velvet in hopes that they will stay around till the rut. In the mountains of my local hunting grounds more and more trucks are starting to appear in honey holes looking for signs. Anywhere one goes this time of year holds stories of last year’s hunts and the excitement of this year. My fellow employees start bringing in new gear and hunting strategies, which they are more than happy to share, everyone becomes a salesman of the products that helped them kill the big one. So, in my opinion, the whole zombie worry doesn’t hold a candle to Buck Fever.
Since the official announcement of #DEERTOUR 2012, I can honestly say that there isn’t a day that goes by that I can’t help but think how lucky I am to have been chosen to be a part of such an evolving and supportive culture of deer hunters. I’m excited to meet Rudy and Will and welcome them into the mountainous, southwestern portion of Virginia. Like all the fellow Huntographers, deer season is never over. Over the past few weeks I’ve been checking trail cams, learning the travel patterns and scouting for new hunting locations.
Chris, Will and I have loosely agreed on upon setting up deer camp at a hunting cabin in southwest Virginia. The property will be a new hunting spot not just for Will but for myself too. When I met the owner of the cabin he was anxious to show me a photo a black bear that was around the property during his last visit.
There’s defiantly no shortage of deer, turkey, and bear in the part of the state. Even the coyote, raccoon, and fox populations have been vividly noticeable. We hope to represent the purity of our hunting culture. Special thanks to Rudy and Will for letting Chris and I hop on board with Huntography and we are patiently on the countdown to November.
Memorial Day weekend was amazing this year in southwest Virginia. Temperatures held steady in the mid 80’s and we didn’t see a drop of rain all weekend. Fishing and hiking were ideal, and I managed to do a little bit of both on my extra day off. Special thanks to those serving around the globe in the U.S. Armed Forces fighting for our freedom so we can enjoy the great outdoors.
Even though whitetail and turkey seasons have wrapped up for the year, October bow season never seems too far away. I’m always on the lookout for wildlife, even during the off-season. Over the years one thing I’ve noticed that the deer around here in the summer months get a real smooth, almost red coat. While I was doing some work around my house on Monday afternoon, I noticed this curious doe sneaking up to my back porch.
To show a better comparison of the color difference of the deer fur, here’s a photo I took last September just a few days before the 2011 bow season opened. It’s a nice 8-point buck that has already grown out his winter fur and a spike that’s still donning the summer coat. These deer were photographed in Washington County, Virginia.
Many of you can agree that a sharp blade is just as important to the hunt as a finely tuned bow. For years I’ve used the same knife to skin out game. The blade I used worked just fine and still gets the job done today. Over the past 2 years I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know some new hunters in my area and I’ve noticed many of them share the hobby of making knives. Being around these guys talking about the process of knife making has inspired me to get more familiar with different types of knives and the craftsmanship that goes into making a solid blade.
Through the grapevine, I’ve discovered two extraordinary knife makers in southwest Virginia that are banging the steel and producing some amazing knife works. Since the early 1990’s Charles Vestal, of Abingdon, VA, has been perfecting his craft as a knife maker. Vestal creates a variety of skinners with stainless guard or bolsters and stainless bolts or pins. His prefers to use natural materials for the handles but offers customers the option for a synthetic or Micarta finish. Every Vestal knife comes accompanied with a high quality vegetable tanned leather case that is hand stitched. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an exclusive waiting list for Vestal’s masterworks but defiantly would be worth the wait. For more information and a photo gallery of Vestal Knives check out his website here.
Less than 20 miles away in Bristol VA, Burt Foster is busy keeping the tradition of knife making alive. Foster’s website answers the question, why we should buy a handmade knife….
“Hand made knives, like many hand crafts represent a slower time when everything a person owned was made with care by a craftsman, and most stuff took a while to make. Even dinner took all day to make! Our society usually doesn’t permit us to live at in the slow lane, and to do so is death in the modern world, but if we can step down sometimes and consider the future, not the next hour or day or week, but for a generation or two, we would put greater value on things that last.”
Foster is a certified Master Bladesmith by the American Bladesmith Society Inc. and likes to build forged, fixed blade knives. He also produces a variety of camp knives, fighters and hunters while specializing in stainless and carbon laminated steel, Damascus steel and even basic, high-performance, working knives. Foster’s website includes a 150-photo slideshow that showcases the step-by-step process of a hand crafted Damascus steel camp knife.
Vestal and Foster are just a few of many local knife makers in Virginia that have taken the time to sharpen their craft in order to create quality products. Their skills are traits that any hunter or outdoorsman can appreciate. I would encourage everyone to support their local knife maker and take the time to respect the craftsmanship that goes into making a quality handmade knife.
A friend of mine in Montgomery County, Virginia was able to do some research on knife making and within a few months he had created his very own masterpiece. He doesn’t consider himself a professional just yet but I’d say he’s off to a good start with his blaze orange skinner.
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