Monday, November 13, 2006

My First Indiana Hunt

I went on my first hunting trip in Indiana last weekend. I spent the weekend at the Receveur's home in New Albany, IN. Family and friends offered directions to many hunting areas, but I chose a place that I knew I could legally hunt. It is public land and they allow hunting. I've never been there before, but I found the location on line. It is the Clark State Forest. After getting a map of the horse trails in the forest, I found a spot that was as far from trails as I could find. It was also close to a lake so I figured it was a good place for deer.

I drove to this spot and parked. Signs said hunting was allowed to the left side of the main road. The right side is where the lake was. There was almost no one around which was a good sign. I found a trail and entered the forest. I was able to find a deer track on the trail. I thought deer probably bed up the hill during the day and come down to the lake at night.

I was having trouble finding a good spot to set up along the trail so at some point I decided to use inner vision. Since I couldn't figure it out based on my little knowledge and experience, I put it to my spirit to get me through. I was led along the trail up hill. As I got near the top I came upon a pretty wide trail. At the top of the hill was a large cylindrical tank so I thought the trail could possibly be a service road. The trail would have barely fit a car down it though so I wasn't sure. I followed this trail along the ridge. I was directed to a spot on the uphill side of the trail.

The spot seemed perfect. There were small beach saplings on the edge of the trail to use as cover. Beach trees are a type of tree that tend to keep their leaves during fall. While most of the trees around were bare my spot had leaf cover. Also the wind was blowing downhill which is the direction I expected the deer to travel so hopefully my scent wasn't going to be a problem.

I got settled in, picked out the shot I was going to take and made sure I had enough room to maneuver my bow. I put my back to the trail so that I could shoot after the deer passed me (refer to the picture below). This is a "quartering away" shot and is nice because it is less likely the deer will see you as you shoot. It's also easier to avoid hitting the deer's shoulder bone which will result in a non-fatal injury.

I next gathered materials to add to my cover. After all, a deer had to walk by me within 5 yards and not see me for this to work. Uphill were many more young beach trees. I now had the opportunity to practice the spiritual caretaking skills I learned at the Tracker School. I let myself be led to different trees. I was allowed to cut certain saplings and branches to use for my blind (cover). Some of the branches were from trees that dead trees had fallen on. One branch was entangled with the branches of a nearby tree. One sapling was the smaller of two that were growing together. I was able to take what I needed and leave the forest better than I left it.

After finishing up my blind I sat down. After a couple hours I heard the sounds of something coming down the trail. It didn't take long to figure out that it was a human. Deer generally take a few steps and then stop and listen. Humans just walk without pausing. It's completely out of the context of the forest. As the person walked by, I saw that it was a hunter with a shotgun. I expected to see him looking back at me but he must not have seen me. I was happy that my cover was good enough that he didn't notice me so close to him. On the other hand, he just left human scent on the exact path I expected the deer to travel and his noisy passing just guaranteed no deer was coming by for at least 20 minutes.

It was dusk now. I think it had been 1 1/2 - 2 hours since the hunter came by. The forest was alive. Birds came to the trees near me. I watched a Red Headed Woodpecker go to town on a branch to my left. A Great Horned Owl started hooting to my right. Then I heard brush crashing behind me. I new it was a deer. I was astounded because the deer didn't come down the trail like the hunter had, like I expected. It came from off the trail right towards me. It chose my spot to enter the trail!

In my last post I talked about the difficulty of shooting a deer from 5 yards. A big part of that is finding a place where you can intersect with a deer. I had just done that without ever being in this forest and the deer came to me not by a clear trail. To me, this was a big confirmation of my inner vision since it led me to this spot.

Since my back was facing the trail I couldn't see exactly what was going on, but I was sure it was a doe. It walked a few steps down the trail and got to the point where the deer is in my picture above. After a pause I heard it bolt up the trail. I turned in time to see its white tail.

I'd like to think it ran because it smelled the hunter's scent, but I can't help but think that I didn't have enough cover. Anyway, it was a success because I had a deer within 6 yards of me on my first solo hunt. I had used inner vision successfully throughout the experience to accomplish things that I couldn't do with my brain. The only negative of the experience was the poison ivy. I got it just by breaking a stem. There were no leaves to identify it. It's in a worse place than last time. Let's just say it's in a place I can't scratch in public and you get it if you concatenate two of the words in this sentence together: "The pen is black." Sorry, no picture this time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Sacred Hunt

The second class I took at PAST Skills was called The Sacred Hunt. Since I have no experience in hunting, everything taught was new to me. I learned a lot! The first two days we packed in a lot of lecture and shooting practice. The last three days we were mostly out hunting.

The rule was that we could only take a shot if the deer was within 5 yards. The reason for this is so that we are more likely to get a clean kill with minimal suffering for the animal. I think another reason is that from 5 yards you can know what you are killing before you kill it. I think you really have to be there for the right reason to go through with it once you see how beautiful and peaceful the animal is.

It is incredible the number of skills involved in hunting in this fashion. Imagine having to find a location in the woods where a deer will pass by you within 5 yards. Then imagine not being scented, seen, or heard as the deer gets that close. I forgot to mention that your mind also has to be clear because animals can sense your mood even before their other senses come into play. Also don't let any birds or squirrels know you're there either because they'll tell the deer. Then try to draw your bow without being seen or heard and make sure you hit the deer in the right spot. Hopefully the bow and arrows you made from scratch are of good quality. Finally, you better know how to follow a blood trail or your hard work is for not.

After this the work really begins. You have to honor the deer by using as much of it as you can. That means butchering the meat, boiling the bones and extracting the sinew for tools, tanning the hide, etc.

As Billy said hunting is the reason for practicing primitivie skills. You have to be able to track, use camouflage, build bows and arrows, flintknap arrow points, understand bird language, etc. to be successful at hunting.

So how did I do? First of all I didn't kill a deer. I didn't even take a shot. I did learn a ton of stuff each time I hunted though. For the record I did have two does broadside at 20 yards that never knew I was there. If I was hunting with a rifle it would have been an easy kill. I was content to see deer that close in a natural setting.

Long before the deer showed up, I determined through "inner vision" that I was going to see deer but not shoot any. At the time I thought that meant I would see a buck since we were only hunting does. I forgot that the other possibility was to see does that were out of my range. The last day we hunted I had the same vision and a doe came through my area again. This time it was actually right in my shooting lane, the only problem was that it was sprinting through it since it had seen me moments before.

That doe had been shot by another student minutes before. I like to think that it's hyper-aware state was part of the reason I got busted, but I know my cover and camo was pretty weak too. Later we followed the deer's blood trail for probably 600 yards before we lost it. It was determined that the deer was hit in the muscle of the leg and would probably survive. Even from 5 yards there is no guarantee of a kill. It was a tough way to end our class, but we learned many lessons.

I didn't end up taking many pictures since I was out hunting a lot of the time. Here is a picture from a 3d shooting course. This helped us practice shooting through brush at life-like targets.

For fun we took shots at a bear target off in the distance. I estimate the distance at about 60 yards. One of the times we shot, I was 2 for 2. One shot hit the bear in the eye. I was pretty lucky but I felt cool. No one else hit it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Flintknapping Workshop

I'm back from my trip. I took two classes at PAST Skills wilderness school. This is a new school founded by Billy and Kristy McConnell who used to be instructors at the Tracker School where I have taken most of my other classes. There are many attractive things about this school. The staff are awesome people and practitioners of primitive skills. The class sizes are small so you get a lot of personal attention. The atmosphere is very laid back. While not learning we all hung out at the house we stayed in. The food we ate was amazing. Among other things we had fresh duck and caribou. The meal of duck was basically like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

The first class was a four day flintknapping workshop. I learned way more than I expected. The class size was key. I had a front row seat to watch Billy break rock. One can learn a lot just from watching someone better especially that close. Each of us also got a personal session which was huge for me. Billy corrected my form which is going to have a major effect on my progress.

Here is Billy demonstrating. You can see that the piece is taking shape. He started from a big chuck like the one on the floor at the bottom right of the picture.

Another big help was the amount and type of rock available. Rock can get quite expensive not to mention hard to come by so it was great to have a huge supply of rock. I was never worried about wasting money with each strike I took like I was at home with my $25 dollar rock.

While not in lecture, we spent most of our time actually practicing. This picture shows our "knapping pit". In this picture everyone is pressure flaking on small pieces as opposed to striking them like in the first picture. Pressure flaking is used on smaller pieces for shaping, sharpening and notching.

I spent a lot of my time doing billet work since I had done a decent amount of pressure flaking before taking the class. I had almost zero experience in billet work going into this class so I chose to focus on it. Here are some of the pieces I worked on. The only one that is nearly finished is the gray piece at the bottom right. The gray rock is Dacite and the rest are Obsidian. The larger obsidian pieces on the sides are preforms that can further be reduced to become sharp points. These started as big chunks of rock. You can see I snapped one piece in half. I'm going to try to make an arrow head out of the top piece.

Another cool thing we got to learn about is cooking rocks. Some rocks are hard to work with naturally, but can be cooked to make them workable. We cooked rocks both primitively with a fire and in a kiln.

Here is rock called Ft. Hood Chert. We covered it up with about 2 inches of dirt and then built a fire over it.

The fire burned over night. When it was done we had usable rock. It was very fun to work with. It is very different from obsidian. You actually have to strike the rock hard to get it to fracture. With obsidian it is like lightly peeling off flakes of rock.

I didn't really complete any pieces at the class since I was focused on billet work, but I'll probably try to make some before the weather gets too cold. We got to split up all the cooked rock as well as a bunch of other pieces. I also bought some rock so now I now have plenty of rock to work with. I'll post pictures of any new points I make.

My next post will be about the second class I took which was a hunting class.