Friday, 23 December 2011

God bless America. In two Acts.

Dre and I are in the US, in my future home state (we checked
our site at Shady Acres last night by the way; still lookin’ good) for the
holidays, and being back reminds me how much I love this country.

Act 1: If you can buy a gun, you can buy a beer.

Dre and I went out to dinner and to see the Muppets (it was okay,
but nowhere the series and original movie) with
Bryan last night. When we got to restaurant
there was about an hour wait so we got drinks. The drinking age is the US is 21, as you know, and most places, at least
in Minnesota, are super strict about this law so we were all carded. I had forgotten my wallet and wasn’t served. But it was happy hour and beers were 2 for 1,
so I decided to check the car just in case my wallet was there. Lucky for me it was, but my licence was
not. That figured, but I did have my

“What the hell is this?”

“A gun license. I can’t
find my driver’s license. I’m from
Alberta, in Canada; we get those for guns there.”

Laughing, the bar tender hands me back the PAL without further
inspection. “Good enough for me. What’ll you have.”

Between the 3 of us, 6 beers cost $15.

Act 2: “I’m gonna [expletive] choke you out.”

This morning I opened the paper, the Metro Section of the
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and read about an altercation at a youth hockey
practice. A youth was angered that he
wasn’t getting sufficient time for a particular drill and in frustration swung
his stick “like it was a baseball bat” striking a teammate in the legs. A coach reprimanded the youth who then
stormed off to the locker room. The
youth’s father was not at all pleased by this. He rushed the coach and “started screaming at the victim [the coach]to ‘Get
over here,’”, and then put the coach in a stranglehold. Before others rushed to his aid, the coach
said later we was blacking out. After
the father was pulled off and ejected from the rink he was heard shouting, ‘“I’m
gonna [expletive] kill you,” and “I’m gonna [expletive] choke you out.”’”.

I’m sure it gets any better than this, but if it does I’m
waiting excitedly.

After 2 days of This American Life podcasts in the car courtesy
of Mara’s iPod, I really want to contribute something to the show.

Happy holidays to Jews and non-Jews alike!!

Man-crafts #2 - Leather mitts by ABAS

For the past three years I have been getting my deer skin turned into leather at Halford Hide. I love the store and the clerk has assured me that all the tanning is done in Canada.

At ~$6 per square foot, each hide costs around 65 dollars. It takes about 8 months to get done but is well worth the wait.

A while back I picked up a mitten pattern at Halford's. For Christmas, Kim and I decided to make mittens for the family. Here are some of the final products:

The mit on the left was the prototype and hand sewn by yours truly. As I imagine Mark can attest to, hand sewing leather sucks. The pair took close to 10 hours to complete - contrast that with the 60 minutes it takes to do by machine. That said, the hand sewn mit looks a lot better as you can control the leather and seams a lot easier (it just looks nicer). But one hand sewn pair was enough, and we did the rest by machine.

In total we made 8 pairs of mittens, which took ~2 deer skins and a few evenings of work. We shrunk the pattern for the Shafong ladies.

I have already worn mine ice fishing and in -30 degree weather.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A bit of science (en francais)

Just to add a bit of science and bilingualism to our blog - Laval's newspaper wrote a story about our mountain goat work in Alaska.

It is a pretty cool story involving a bit of Russian-American ethnohistory. Try reading it in french before hitting the translate button:

Surprise en Alaska: Des biologistes découvrent une population relique de chèvres de montagne

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Product Placement: Muck Arctic Pro boots

In the continuing tradition of icefishing-related gear reviews, I present Muck Arctic Pros. I icefish a lot, in much colder weather than I used to (my new minimum temp for heading out the door is -35C), and for the past couple of years I've relied on some felt-lined pac boots from Mark's. They're warm, but they've got a couple of serious flaws:
a) they're only waterproof up to about 3" off the ground, which means inevitably they get wet while I'm clearing holes
b) walking in them is like walking around with buckets strapped to my ankles

This year, I decided to find something better. I've like the idea of rubber/neoprene boots, ever since I encountered fishermen wearing insulated XtraTufs on the East Coast, but I'd never found anything that looked quite warm enough. The Arctic Pros, though, seem to fit that niche.

These boots aren't quite as warm as my pac boots, but I'll happily wear them fishing down to -25C. Their main feature, though, is how damn comfortable they are - much more so than regular old rubber boots, and miles above pac boots. They're great to walk in, and in the ~3 months I've had them, they're definitely my first choice for what I wear outside - if I'm going out the door and it's winter, I put these on. So, I'm very pleased. The only thing I'd warn against is using them as a shoulder-season boot - any warmer than -5C, and they're too hot to be pleasant to walk around in (though they'd be great for being stationary at that temperature). Now, if I had unlimited money, I'd get some slightly-less-insulated Mucks for moose hunting - they'd be ideal.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

First Blood

American Thanksgiving in Pincher = Tom's last chance for deer.

Jesse and I headed out first thing Saturday morning - there were a couple of inches of snow from the night before, and there were tracks everywhere. We saw a few groups within an hour or so, but they were all spooked and running so there wasn't much chance of following them.

A bit later we happened upon a doe a few yards away, she ran a few steps and turned around to look at us, but all I could see through my scope was the top half of her head. Not much to shoot at, and I wasn't confident enough to take a head shot, especially from standing. Jesse had a good look at her, so I sidled over to where he was, and I was looking at a good broadside shot about 40 yards away. Of course, being a newbie to this, and having just finished a minute-long staring contest with a doe, I was a little (ok, a lot) jacked up and I was somewhere between "shaky" and "call a doctor, I think he's having a seizure" on the steadiness spectrum. But closer to the former, I swear. At any rate, after what seemed like a really long time but was probably only 7 or 8 seconds, she huffed, waved goodbye with her tail, and was gone. Curses.

But we'd already seen 5 deer in not much over an hour - surely there would be more chances, right?

We continued roaming around, with a good headwind to keep our scent away. We found a nice set of tracks, with fresh urine in a couple of spots, and followed for several hundred yards, but didn't find anything before losing the tracks in a stand of trees. We ended up just following a trail a little aimlessly, slowly meandering back toward the house for breakfast, when two deer flushed out of the trees a little bit ahead of us and stopped about 20 yards off the trail. I could only see one from the trail, a small doe, and it looked like I'd have a good sightline at another broadside shot a few steps off the trail from about 50 or so yards. No waiting this time; I took a few steps, dropped down, lined up, bang. The deer jumped and ran, but I was sure it was a hit.


Finding this made Jesse really excited. But maybe not as excited as the half-dozen elk that ran past us as we were following the blood trail. Jesse! Stay focussed! We have a deer to find! We followed the blood trail for 30 or 40 yards, and saw the deer in a heap. Not a small doe, but a fawn buck. I'd missed the lungs by a couple of inches to the right. Shit. I felt really bad about it, but at least we were able to find and put him down quickly.

After a quick (but smelly/rumen-y) gutting lesson from Jesse, we started dragging him the couple of km or so back to the house to hang him in the shed.

First thing's first: mining for tenderloins.

Mission accomplished.

Breakfast of champions. (Not pictured: victory shots of bourbon. Which, for the record, pairs nicely with seared tenderloin, even especially at 11 AM)

Apparently Otis, that bloodthirsty carnivore, was jealous of the fresh meat and decided to get some of his own:

Lessons for next year:

1. Hunting for deer in Pincher seems like a good bet, based on how many we saw and how relatively un-skittish they were. It was definitely more enjoyable than the previous weekend I'd gone out west of Edmonton, but having the flu might have had something to do with that unpleasantness. So I guess that makes lesson #2 "don't sit outside in -10 weather when you have the flu." I was probably really quiet, though, if only because I was only semi-conscious.

3. Practise shooting more. My shot wasn't off by a ton, but on a small target like a fawn it was definitely off by enough.

4. Don't shoot anything bigger than a fawn if you drive a Versa hatchback. I really wish I'd taken a picture of the back of the car. It was kind of awesome.