Monday, September 18, 2006

Fly fishing Eugene, Oregon -- in town!

Hitting up the Willamette River in Downtown Eugene, I've been banging up the stocked trout that are coming out of Alton Baker park and hanging out on a big riffle. Just a big olive wooly bugger, swing drift and then stripped back. I've had 4 fish nights, which doesn't sound impressive until I explain they were 4 fish nights, fishing for an hour before dinner. Also last week, I pulled a wild cutthroat out of the river. Eugene is good.

Also, there are a ton of Geocaches out there at Alton Baker. Katie did a good job helping me find one the other day.

Here are some pics of my buddy Ben catching some wild cutts.
From MattStansberry

From MattStansberry

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Crater Lake photos

Crater Lake photos
KP and I drove out to Crater Lake National Park. We did some hiking, but spent a lot of time in the car. Hoping to spend more time on the trail next time we get out there. Hopefully see it in winter.
From MattStansberry

From MattStansberry

From MattStansberry

Hunting solo sucks and other revelations

So I've been out hunting pretty much everyday since September Goose season and the Fee Pheasant hunts started up last week. So far, what I've learned is that hunting solo sucks and I need a dog, at least if I'm going to stay with this birding business.

Opening day for Oregon's September Goose season: I get up at 5:30am, grab my coffee thermos, a bag of heavy-ass goose decoys a gun and head out the door. A little before 6am, I get to Fern Ridge and start the mile-long haul back to the marsh, sweating in my waders and camo jacket.

Legal shooting time is 6:18 am and by this time I'm set up in a thicket, kneeling in bog swill up to my hips, trying to keep my gun dry. I've set my small decoy spread to my left, and immediately realize that I've half-assed it and it's pretty pointless. I've got four geese and two ducks. I shouldn't have brought any at all and at least I'd have been more mobile.

I'd been set up for about 30 minutes when it was light enough to notice that I wasn't alone on the marsh. There were other groups of hunters across the water from me, one group of three and another guy by himself. I didn't figure I'd have the place to myself on public land, 15 minutes from town. But we were in a corner of the southern portion of the reserve, where not many hunters would be.

Not long after that, a flight headed my way that seemed more or less in shooting range. I'd read about "Sky busters", guys that just shoot any overhead bird, usually wounding or missing birds and messing up flights for nearby hunters, but I was pretty sure this was my shot. So I took it and dropped the first bird. It just crumpled. I was pretty excited; I got greedy and moved my gun to another bird. Took two more shots at this other bird and didn't even phase it. But by that time, I'd lost track of the bird that I'd hit.

I spent the next three hours dragging myself through swamp grass up to my eyebrows looking for this bird, crisscrossing my side of the marsh. I hated doing it. The other guys were watching me and I knew they wanted me to get the hell out of sight. And I tried. I stayed low, ducked down when I heard a flight coming. But I never found that bird. I'm pretty sure it was stunned by my shot and kicked back up when I wasn't looking.

Walking back wet, embarrassed and empty handed may have been the low point in my hunting career. But it should be kind of funny right? Wrong. Hunters take themselves very seriously, and they should. Killing wild animals, carrying weapons, it's serious business. When hunters mess up, that usually means something or someone died for a stupid reason. So it's serious. The holier than thou; no compromise attitude most hunters have isn't a front. It's their defense to protect the sport.

But it also makes them territorial, unwelcoming pricks for the most part. I said hi to a guy that I'd seen at the DU banquet as I was walking out of the woods one morning last week and he turned away and got in his truck. But you know, I'm going to have to keep on doing this if I'm going to find people to hunt with. And I've got to do that if I'm going to keep hunting.

I need an extra set of eyes, maybe somebody with a dog. I need somebody with me to help me drag my deer out of a ravine. I need somebody to tell me where I can get my deer processed or how to preserve my pheasant's skin for fly tying. So the struggle continues.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dove hunting Fern Ridge; Cascades high lakes fishing

Last weekend was big. Labor Day and opening day of the upland bird season. I started the weekend off Friday morning with my shotgun at Fern Ridge. I saw a mess of turkeys in the field across from the East Coyote Parking lot. Also saw a nice looking California Quail walking in the road. Couldn't have shot either, but it was cool to see them -- a good omen.

I was the only car at the particular easternmost lot and had the place to myself that morning. I hiked near the roads, looking for gravel to be holding some doves, but that wasn't the case. I hiked all over the east side of the unit, then started coming into some doves as I got into a big grove of trees on the way back. I shot three doves that morning, but sadly only made it back with one.

The first shot was great. Doves flying kind of toward me and across, I picked it off but it didn't drop right away. It landed back in the bush. So I headed back there to get it. The weeds were up to my eyes and the bird was the color of the dust and the size of my fist, but I found it. As I put it in the little plastic bag on my hip, a second dove flew through my peripheral vision. I blasted it, but I realized too late there was no way to see where it would go down. I jumped and thrashed to get out of the high weeds, to see where it would land, but lost it. And in the process, the dove I had recovered had torn free. I didn't find that out until later, when I shot my third bird and tried to put it in the empty bag on my hip. I ended up putting the dove in my pocket. I ate it for dinner that night.

Pretty good day, despite the bird waste. But I'll consider it a treat for the coyotes I haven't been able to get at.

That afternoon I sighted in my gun at the Emerald Gun Club. Weird folks running that place. Maybe not running it; the guy running it has an e-mail address and I'm supposed to e-mail him if I want to become a member. The guys running the place when I stopped by didn't look like they had a street address, let alone an e-mail address. Despite the attendant's inability to form a sentence, I got him to give me some ear plugs and paid $5. Following the trigger job at Mazama's ($75 well spent), I shot like a champ and had some nice groups in the bullseye at 100 yards. But I got greedy and tried to shift my group from the bottom of the bull circle to the middle, just a last nudge on the scope settings, and messed it up. But at least I know my flinch is going away. I'll have to reshoot and settle on a shell I like. So far, I'm leaning toward Winchester Heavy Game CXP3s.

After that, I went to Shotgun Creek, looking for grouse and scouting for deer. I didn't see a single deer or even any deer sign. But I saw a few grouse. Any ideas people might put in your head about them being dumb, unwilling to fly away from you, are totally off. I couldn't get anywhere near a shot. I need to go further back on those forest roads. I tried the first good looking pull off, hiked back a mile, but no sign. I'll keep digging.

On Saturday I met up with TU Chapter 678 crew and headed out to the High Lakes region of the Sisters Wilderness. We fished the Erma Bell lakes, camped out and had a good time. There were lots of fish in Upper Erma Bell, lots of big fish in Middle Erma Bell and some REALLY big fish that nobody in our group could catch in Otter Lake. We recorded info, took pictures and measured fish for ODFW. The organization has been stocking these lakes via helicopter, but hadn't been able to check survivability and reproduction potential.

From MattStansberry

From MattStansberry

From MattStansberry

The hike in was tough, since my old school mega-backpack weighed a ton, and I hadn't known how to adjust it. But once I got it right and it stopped cutting off the circulation in my arms, it was a lot better. I tried out my super cheap camp stove and it worked awesome. I can't imagine the $100 could cook that much better than my $19 deal. But as far as gear is concerned, I do need to continue the buying spree: I need a thermarest roll; hiking socks; and two PFDs. I heard enough stories of people getting stuck in "strainers," logs on a river that hold you in place while you drown, to make me want to buy some life vests.

Katie and I explored Elija Bristow Park yesterday on the Willamette, couldn't find two Geocahes, even though we dug around for them for an hour. I did get into two nice cutthroat trout and about got run over by a bunch of elk crossing the trail.

I'm heading to Fern Ridge tonight to keep on Geocaching and maybe find a flock of geese to hunt on Friday.