Saturday, August 20, 2011

A U.S. Marine or a Hunter? You decide...

Hello!  My name is Matt, and I'm a recovering United States Marine Corps Staff Sergeant.  I grew up in Calaveras County, in Northern California where I learned to fish for rainbow trout, and was introduced to bird hunting.  My dad had an old L.C. Smith side by side double barreled 12 gauge shotgun that had been passed down from my grandfather.  He had long since hung up his hunting hat, but when I had the opportunity to take a hunter's safety course when I was 15 he told me that if I found someone that I could hunt with I could use his shotgun.  So I started chasing dove and quail through the sage brush and scrub oak covered foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains with whoever would take me and my trusty old 32 inch barreled shotgun. That old L.C. Smith seemed as heavy one of Custer's cannons to a 15 year old kid, but to carry that thing loaded with   #8 shotgun shells made me happier than a room full of dentists in a teeth pulling contest.

I wasn't very successful.  A lot of the time I would find myself trying to snipe ground squirrels around New Hogan reservoir since hunting valley quail without a dog in sagebrush was just about as easy as agreeing on a budget if you're a U.S. Congressman.  It went a little like this:

1.  Quail see you.

2.  You see quail.

3.  Quail runs into thick sagebrush.

4.  You never see quail again.

So I found myself harvesting the occasional dove or quail for a couple years until I graduated high school and joined the Marines.  That's right, the few and the proud.  Eight years on active duty didn't afford me very much hunting opportunity, so I ended up taking quite the sabbatical from my 12 gauge.  I replaced it with an M16A2 service rifle, which I took to with ease!  I always scored expert on the rifle range so after 3 years of being a Marine I was invited to attend a month long rifle and pistol coach training school at Stone Bay Ranges near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Now I'll fast forward to October of 2001.  I had been out of the Marine Corps for almost 2 years.  My oldest friend, Ty, who I had known since 4th grade, finally convinced me to get geared up and join him on his beat up old hand-me-down john boat for some fast action duck hunting on the San Joaquin delta waterway.  We meet at his house at 4 am, and head for the boat launch ramp.  After putting the boat in the water, motoring to his favorite tule engulfed hunting spot, throwing a few dozen decoys out in his best V pattern, we poured coffee down our gullets and waited for shooting time.  And we waited for shooting time.  And then we waited some more for shooting time.  About 15 minutes before shooting time I started hearing the thick foggy air cut with the sounds of fast beating wings.  It was on!  Ducks were buzzing all around, and then a few dropped into our decoy spread with loud splashes.  Waiting in silence, the clock finally reached legal shooting time.  We raised our guns just as the ducks jumped up with their wings beating faster than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest!  BANG!  BANG!  BANG!  Two ducks dropped.  Then it was official.  I was HOOKED!  From that day forward I was a certified duck nut.  Since then I've hunted every season as often as I could.  I taught myself the tricky system of hunting on public refuges across the pacific flyway in northern California's Sacramento valley, and have become a very successful waterfowl hunter.  I'll never give up my obsession with duck hunting, but there's something that I need to add to my freezer this year.


Several years ago on a Sunday morning I saw a Big 5 ad. telling me that they were selling Russian Mosin Nagant 7.62X54R rifles for $79.  How could pass on that deal, right?  So anyway, I have one of those, and that's what I'm planning on using this season to bring down a blacktail or California Mule deer.  A buck.  Any legal buck!  I'm not going to be picky.  My goal is to bring home a buck while spending the least amount of money possible.  My wife and I have fallen in love the idea of organic living.  She is an organic gardener, and we both love to cook.  We have been trying to take one step at a time to convert our diet into a home grown, and wild caught or harvested feast.

So will you join me on my adventure?  I can't promise anything other than this.  It's gonna be fun!  I'll post as often as I have something worthy of sharing.  Please feel free to comment on anything and everything you like!  I love a good debate.  So let's take a shot at finding out what this whole deer hunting thing is all about.  Are you ready?  Let's do this, then!


Phillip said...

Looking forward to see where you're going with this one, Matt! I'll be checking back.

Matt said...

Thanks Phillip! There should be a prize for the first person to comment on this blog. You'd be the big winner. :)

NorCal Cazadora said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, Matt! I regret to tell you that deer hunting in California is a lot like quail hunting without a dog, but let's do it anyway!

Al Cambronne said...

Welcome to blogging, Matt! And welcome to deer hunting!!! If it does turn out to be like quail hunting without a dog, here's the good news: on average, there's slightly more meat on a deer than on a quail.

Matt said...

Norcal: Thank you very much! I'm aware that it won't be like bobbing for apples, but we'll see what comes of it. I'm ready to make it happen this year.

Al: Thank you! I've heard that about deer, however when I was stationed near the coast in North Carolina I saw a lot of swamp deer that practically looked like chihuahuas. :) I'm guessing that they would dress out at about 4 pounds. I think guys would use the ribs as toothpicks! ;)

Jules said...

I followed a link from Holly, and I'll be glad to add you to my reading list. My father-in-law is also a (retired) marine, and we hunt not too far away from you, albeit in D-6 mostly.

gary said...

I am hunting from the other end. I have deer hunted for as long as I can remember and have kept threatening to get into birds. I had better hurry up if I'm going to get it done. Good luck and have a blast, it'll charge your batteries and give you lasting memories and the table fare is outstanding.

Matt said...

Jules: Thank you for checking out my blog! Be sure to say "Semper Fi" to your father-in-law whenever you can fit it into conversation. He'll get a kick out of that, I'm sure. I just checked out your blog, and I'm VERY impressed! I'll be reading it from now on too.

Gary: We could surely point each other in the right direction then! What a great feeling to start something new that brings back the feeling that you captured years ago when starting a hobby that turns into a passion. I certainly see deer hunting becoming that for me, and I have no doubt that bird hunting will do that for you! Good luck and have fun.