Education and wildlife 

Yesterday I had an opportunity to attend a professional development workshop hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish department. We spent six hours on a Saturday learning how to mix literacy and wildlife. I was inspired with all of the ways I can integrate the two disciplines in ways I had never thought of. 

Now I’m looking into additional opportunities to learn with the AZGFD so I can expand both my hunting and tracking abilities but my knowledge in the classroom. 

When looking for professional development opportunities to fulfill the recertification requirements try looking away from your district and school and into other providers. Not all PD that is not hosted trough the school needs to cost, I know the AZGFD workshops are free and the Arizona Science Center also offers free workshops for PD credit. Outside of Arizona I’m sure other Organizations have similar opportunities as well. 

Finding Time

I’m finding that time is my biggest issue. It’s the balance between wanting to work on my fitness and time with my family. My three kids are the reason why I do so much, yet they are also where all my “spare” time goes. I keep trying to get my oldest, my 10 year-old daughter, to come with me to hunt, fish, or hike but she is not a huge fan of some of these activities. She has come hunting with me and I was so excited, and even though we didn’t harvest any meat that trip it was so awesome hanging out with her.

The other thing I find that keeps me out of elk shape is grading, the teaching is easy, grading is tedious.

However, I think I need to take some time for myself so I can be the best hunter I can be so when it comes time to take a shot I am prepared to make an ethical kill and bring home the hundreds of pounds of lean organic free range meat to feed my family and friends. Not only will my family benefit from a successful hunt, so will the people I share my harvest with. That is one of the greatest traditions of hunting, to share your success with others in the form of a meal.

When I get into the field this fall to hunt elk it will be on public land, mostly BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, and right now politicians are trying to change the ownership of those lands and “transfer” them to the states. If that happens it could close millions of acres of publicly owned land to all citizens. That would be a tragedy for everyone, not just hunters and anglers, but hikers, bird watchers, mountain bikers, trail runners to name a few.

I’m new at this blogging so bear with me as I learn. Thanks for reading.

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Here we go

Now it’s time to get serious. The 2017 fall antlerless elk tag has arrived in the mail. This time of year is crazy for meIMG_3384 though so I haven’t had the chance to look at my computer let alone post anything. It’s that time when we put teaching on hold and do our mandated standardized testing. Like it or not we administer the test and hope that all we have done previously has sunk in enough to make a difference. Not only have I been bogged down in that but it’s the beginning of the summer swim season for my daughter and her practice schedule is tough. On top of that I found myself on the league’s board of directors as a secretary taking time away from my weekly racquetball league to sit in meetings. Why do I do all of that? Simple it’s for the kids. Swim season is a time when we have 2200 local kids and we as a league host three invitational meets and four championship events for the end of the season.

 

But, now that my hunt permit has arrived it is time to get serious about the fall elk season. My freezer is running low and I cannot wait to restock it with healthy free range organic meat. Elk is some of the best tasting “game” meat around. This year I want to increase my endurance so I can hike further off the road and into the less traveled areas. I find there is a greater chance of success there. This summer I plan on doing a little physical scouting of the unit and a great deal of digital scouting using my OnXMap software. Amazing stuff to help me ensure I am on publicly owned land.

Recently I’ve been listening to the Conservation Matters podcast with Shane Mahoney, and his wisdom as to how we have brought populations of animals back from the brink of extinction.

 

Thank you for  joining me in my adventures as an adult onset hunter.

 

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Getting into elk shape

This is going to be my biggest challenge for the remainder of 2017. With my draw for a limited opportunity elk tag for the 2A and 2B Arizona elk hunt I feel it s time to get into “elk shape” as I was not for my last hunt. I’m more than slightly over weight and it makes climbing hills less than fun. My knees have been a problem for a long time and the more weight I keep on my body the harder it will be to walk the hills of northern Arizona, even with an unloaded pack.

When I’m not hunting one of my favorite exercise activities for cardio is playing racquetball and league play starts tonight. Another of my endurance exercise past times is swimming, which may not help with the mountains, it certainly helps me loose weight. With the school year ending I will be able to make it back to the 4am practices I’ve been missing since my wife went back to work after the baby was born.

I’ll keep exercising and maybe together we can get into elk shape.

My first crane hunt

Like other hunters I know and read about I watch the Meateater TV show. I enjoy Steven Rinella’s approach to hunting, and could even trace my desire to jump into hunting when my father-in-law brought up the idea to me. I watched the episode on the Sandhill Cranes and started researching hunting them in Arizona. I am not truly a wing shooter, but more of a big game hunter. However, I like the idea of eating “rib-eye of the sky” so I applied for the 2016 hunt permits. I was drawn and I started researching even more.

The majority of the crane winter at a location known as “White Water Draw” and it is a no hunting area to give access to the plethora of bird watchers. There were more than 15,000 birds there when I went for my hunt. The issue for me is that there is almost no accessible public land and I prefer to hunt on public land. After a few phone calls I secured a place on private land to hunt from though. All of my regular hunting buddies were busy so I took the best person I could find to go with me, my ten-year-old daughter Caysea. She was in the middle of taking her hunter safety class and I thought this would be a good hunt to bring her along.

We had a great time. She proved to be an amazing crane caller. She practiced on the Haydale’s CC-07 call and became excellent. There was one point when she had about 100 crane circling about 500 feet over head above our decoy spread. I took a shot on one when it dipped down closer to 200 feet, though I didn’t give it near enough lead.

We had a great time.

A little background.

This blog is going to start as my adventures getting into hunting as an adult. I was dragged in, though quite willingly, by my father-in-law when I turned 30. He thought I should start hunting, and I had no real opposition to it at the time, so I put in for the 2010 Arizona elk draw as a resident. I was so excited to go elk hunting in the fall I failed to think about what I was doing, I didn’t do any real research on units or draw odds, or any research at all for that matter. I just bought my licence and picked up the regulations and got started. So I put in for the best rifle hunts I could think of hoping to bag a huge bull my first ever hunt. Needless to say I didn’t get drawn. But, I learned to read the hunt regulation books and was sure I could get drawn for deer. So in June 2010 I put in for an “any antlered deer” permit in unit 16A in western Arizona. I picked this hunt because the draw odds were 100%. I figured I may not know anything else, but I’ll be drawn.

So now what? I didn’t own a rifle, camouflage, optics, or even decent hiking boots. So the real adventure started, I borrowed by father-in-laws Winchester Model 70 chambered in .30-06 with a 4 power fixed scope. Then he gave me $100 and said buy a new scope. So I went to Sportsman’s Warehouse and upgraded to a 3×9 made by Bushnell. After that I headed to the range to proceed to teach myself how to shoot a rifle. I’m still working on getting better at that.

Then my wife, who was, and still is, a big supporter of this endeavor, helped me find camo and just about everything else I needed. She encouraged me to go hunting with her dad so I could supply our growing family with healthy organic meat that we knew was humanely harvested. This is not unlike many of the other growing numbers of what has come to be known as adult onset hunter.

The thing is, I grew up in Tucson, AZ with parents who did not care for guns or hunting. This hunting experiment was a major departure from what I had been doing my whole life up to this point. My sister was so upset with me and even asked, “Why don’t you buy your meat at the store like a normal person?” Well, maybe a normal person doesn’t get their meat shrink wrapped on a Styrofoam tray? My ability to answer her question has grown more and more over the years. At the time I just ignored her.

I spend the time between when the draw results were released in July and the hunt beginning in late October at the rifle range and with my family. This was a tough time for us as we just had our second child in April that year and we were adjusting to life as a family of four.

October rolls around and I pack up the fifth wheel and head out to this little town called Wikiup in north western Arizona. When I arrived I was struck by some of the most unique landscapes I had seen. Hunting has taken me to places in Arizona I would have never gone otherwise and I am every so grateful I was able to see that Trophy Country.

Long story short, my father-in-law and I hunted hard for several days and saw many head of cattle and even some of the infamous wild burros, but not a single deer. Though after that I was hooked.

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Welcome

As I’m writing this huge blog post I though I should have something much shorter to start. I’m starting this blog to help track my path as one of the growing number of people who did not grow up hunting but picked it up later in life as an adult. I am an adult onset hunter.