Hunting & Fishing for Stories & Photos

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

AZ Desert Bighorn Sheep - Age and Score

After taking the full-body cape to Marc Plunkett of Wildlife Creations Taxidermy in Camp Verde, AZ (928-567-6890), Erik took his ram to AZGFD for the mandatory check-in. The biologist aged it at six-years-old and gross scored it at 168-7/8, with a net of 167-6/8! It might just miss the B&C all-time book, but when a sheep is that georgeous and was that fun to hunt, who cares?

Be sure to check out Jay Scott Outdoors for an awesome video of the hunt and a bunch more photos...

Monday, December 5, 2011

AZ Desert Bighorn Sheep - Hunt Success!

I'm sorry we have not done too well with the updates. Early mornings, long days, and late nights were the norm during the hunt. We all split up and covered a ton of ground in trucks, on quads, on foot, and sometimes all three. We explored some amazing country, glassed until our eyes fell out, hiked ourselves sore, and had one of the best hunts of all time.

On Sunday morning, after much deliberation the night before (and a sleepless night for Erik), we went back to find Pinky, the ram AZGFD found during their survey and Erik and Jay had been keeping tabs on before the season. Although we didn't think he would score tremendously high, Erik decided that his size was not the most important thing; experiencing the hunt with his friends and family mattered more than a couple inches. It turns out that he got both his wishes: an awesome ram hunt shared with his closest hunting buddies and a spectacular ram that grosses nearly 168 inches, the Boone & Crockett minimum.

Following are just a few of the 574 photos I took yesterday. Be sure to check out Jay's blog at Jay Scott Outdoors for more photos and video. I know he was working on editing the video and should have something posted soon - he even got the kill shot on video! Thanks for checking in... I will post more later about Erik's hunt and all the awesome equipment and strategies we used.

Friday, December 2, 2011

AZ Desert Bighorn Sheep - Hunt Part 1

I know many of you are wanting to hear an update about Erik's hunt... One ewe and one tiny ram on day one. It was a cold, windy day that found us bundled in all our clothes and trying to keep on the lee sides of the hills. Day two: "The most wonderful sheep hunting day possible," according to Michael Sisk, one of Erik's best friends. Jay and my step-dad Rob found three ewes and a 160-class ram, but Erik, Michael, and I saw nothing. We are all a little discouraged, but there are still 29 days left. I'll post photos later! Make sure you check out Jay's blog at Jay Scott Outdoors. (He's not back to camp yet...)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AZ Desert Bighorn Sheep - Scouting Part 4

Family Day! With my mom, step-dad, and nephews in camp, we decided to take them back to where Jay and I found sheep the day before. None of them had glassed any desert bighorns in the wild before, so we wanted to make sure they saw some.

We got to our glassing knob just after sunrise on an overcast day. After nearly an hour of intense glassing, the same group of seven sheep finally stood up from their beds under a couple palo verde trees. They hadn't moved more than about five yards from where Jay and I last saw them the day before. At more than three miles away, I was hard-pressed to see them in my Swarovski 15s, but once we put the spotting scopes on them, everyone could take a look.

There is nothing cooler than showing wildlife to your family! With high-end optics, you can sit back without worrying about spooking game and still give them a close-up view. While we were glassing the boys were throwing rocks, investigating a pack rat midden, and generally having a great time in the desert.

 Headin' to our glassing spot.

 Erik's youngest son Rafe checking out the sheep.

 My mom using my Outdoorsmans Dual Mount. It allows you to point your binoculars and spotting scope to the same spot, which means you don't have to replace your binoculars with your spotting scope every time you need a closer look. It only weighs 19 ounces and is one of the handiest pieces of gear I have.

 A couple who glasses together stays together!

 The Swarovski STM 80 with 20-60 eyepiece gives the best combination of quality and weight in a spotting scope.

 Three miles is a long way!

 Rafe having fun in the desert!

 Erik showing the sheep to Mom and Teague.


For more great photos and information about this hunt, check out Jay Scott Outdoors.

AZ Desert Bighorn Sheep - Scouting Part 3

I started my second weekend of scouting for my brother's desert sheep hunt by joining up with Jay Scott. In addition to being a friend, Jay and I worked together at Western Hunter Magazine. He has committed to helping my brother for the first 10 days of the hunt and will be posting about it on his blog at Jay Scott Outdoors.

Jay has hunted and guided to some of the biggest deer and elk in AZ, CO, and Mexico. A few years ago he caught the sheep bug and he has put the same dedication and focus into sheep hunting as he has to hunting mule deer, coues deer, and elk.

In just one day with Jay, we (I use that term loosely) found 8 rams and 6 ewes. Actually, Jay found them all and had to point them out to me. He was using the Kowa High Lander 30x80 binoculars and all but one group were about three miles away. One of the close rams had a really long left horn, but wasn't terribly massive. None of the others fell in the "shooter" category. Nonetheless, we had an awesome day!

As you can tell from the photos, Jay uses Swarovski for all his other optics needs and wears KUIU clothing. He is very particular about his gear and knows that his success often is based on how well his gear performs.

 Jay checking out some close country with the Swarovski CL 8x30 binoculars.

 Jay taking a little longer look with his Swarovski EL 10x42 binoculars.


 Jay using the Kowas for some longrange glassing.

 Digiscoping a band of sheep three miles away.

 The desert is a beautiful place if you take the time to look for it!

 Saguaro spines!

 The Swarovski CL 8x30 binoculars are a perfect compliment to the 15x56s. I hook the CLs to a carabiner on the shoulder strap of my pack via the wrist strap for use while hiking, and then break out the 15s and a tripod for serious glassing.

One of Jay's only vices (besides hunting) - Red Vines!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

AZ Desert Bighorn Sheep - Scouting Part 2

On the second day I joined my brother Erik to scout for his upcoming desert bighorn hunt, we rode our ATVs to the edge of the wilderness area, and then hiked in to a glassing point. We didn't find any sheep that day, but saw a ton of great country and learned how to access it. One of the main goals of scouting is just that - learn the country so you know how long it takes to get into different places, and what you'll see once you get there.

Swarovski 15s and a map - you won't find Erik without either until he kills his ram!

 Sheep beds on a high mesa.

 Cholla and black rocks make up much of the unit.

 Digiscoping is a great way to document any sheep you find, and works best with high-end spotting scopes like the Swarovski ATM 80mm HD.

 No sheep this day, but a good chance to practice digiscoping - both photos and video.

 Desert beauty in the form of barrel cactus, cholla, and saguaro, along with a palo verde tree.

 It's a crazy landscape where cactus grow out of rocks.

Does the mark in the saguaro look familiar? Maybe like the outline of a ram's horn?
Sometimes rams take out their aggression on saguaros instead of each other...

It's rough, big country!

For more great photos and information about this hunt, also check out Jay Scott Outdoors.

Monday, November 28, 2011

AZ Desert Bighorn Sheep - Scouting Part 1

My brother, Erik Swanson, was the lucky recipient of one of the 83 Arizona desert bighorn sheep permits for 2011. He had been applying for nearly 20 years when he finally drew. The unit he drew in western Arizona has only one tag. Yep, he'll be the only guy hunting sheep in his unit, and the hunt lasts 31 days! It starts on December 1st.

He has spent a ton of time scouting throughout the ultra-hot summer months, and through the fall. The AZ Game and Fish Department has been very helpful, and in addition to sweating his butt off in the field, he's spent countless hours on the phone talking to all sorts of sheep gurus and friends. They have helped with everything from binoculars to actual sheep sightings. In addition to AZGFD, a few of his main sources of help have been Jay Scott, Pete Cimellaro, Cody Nelson from the Outdoorsmans, and me!

That's right, I've been lucky enough to spend the last three weekends scouting with him, and I helped him line up some premier optics to use during the hunt. I also get to join him for at least the first four days of the hunt. I have been photographing all our time in the desert and will post pictures and stories throughout the process as much as I can.

In addition, since our good friend Jay Scott has been kind enough to lend his expertise, he'll be posting a bunch on his blog at Jay Scott Outdoors. Check both of our blogs for tons of great sheep hunting action!

Here are a few photos from my first day scouting with Erik:

 Moonset at sunrise.

Glassing with Swarovski 15x56 SLC binoculars.

 Swarovski El Swarovision 10x42 binoculars with the new UTA binocular mount atop an Outdoorsmans Pan Head and Tripod.

 Quality optics are key to finding sheep.

  In addition to the optics, you must have a sturdy tripod!

 Wilderness Athlete bars will be a mainstay throughout the scouting and hunting!

 During one of Erik's many scouting days in the summer, he rimmed out to this chute and decided to plunge into the sand below with a full pack. Much to his right foot's chagrin, there was no sand and the height was about twice what he thought it was. The elephant-foot brace we wore for a month and the continual pain in his foot are both reminders to just walk around and find another way down. After going back later, he found that if he had walked another 50 yards or so, he could have strolled gently down a gradual rock face.

 In the heat of the summer, sheep often bed in small caves along sheer rock cliffs.

Sheep country is rough and rugged!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Monster 200" Ohio Whitetail

Yesterday I talked to my friend Matt, you know Matt from Ohio, on his way out for his evening hunt. He owns Ohio Homes and Acres and specializes in selling hunting land. When he was out with me in January hunting javelina and mule deer, he injured his hand (see the post here). That injury masked a problem with his elbow that required surgery a couple months ago. Because of his elbow surgery, he could not hunt with a compound bow, his preferred method, so he picked up a crossbow.

He grew up hunting the urban/suburban areas near Columbus, OH, and has made it an art form. He told me that he was definitely hunting yesterday because the wind was "almost wrong for me and almost right for the deer." He has found over the years that that's the best time to kill big bucks. Oh, how right he is!

He had been watching a nice nine-point all year and elected to pass him a few times in hopes of shooting a monster. His dreams came true as a huge 18-point, nearly 200" buck, stepped in front of him. Matt kept his composure and made a great 27-yard shot with his Excaliber crossbow. Luckily, he also got some great photos on his Moultrie game camera.

Here is the text from Matt's email:

I have had a trying and turbulent year to say the least. I have had two surgeries with the last one repairing the Ulnar nerve in my elbow. It has also left me unable to shoot my compound bow for the rest of the season, which has been discouraging.

With the great help of my wife I have recovered enough to get out there! With the help of Jeff Baker and Steve Esker I was successful while out there!

Once Steve heard of me loosing function in my left hand and the surgery, he immediately called and offered his Excaliber crossbow to use. I have known him only a SHORT time (met in August). Who does this kind of thing? Hunter's are awesome; his brother Scott and friends were all there to help me celibrate tonight.

Jeff Baker and I have hunted together for 26 years +/-; he has been a great mentor and friend. He was killing big deer before it was popular! He immediately came and got me while still in a cast and drug me out to the woods to set up an elevated blind. It sits below the lock-on I intended to use before I learned of my fate this fall.

Seven weeks of trail cam pics with no giants, but we all knew one was here. Tonight I had a wind that was almost wrong for me and almost right for him, my favorite wind to hunt. With the next two days with wind just wrong I knew tonight was my night. After a parade of pedestrians and dogs the woods started to settle. A few minutes later this bruiser gave me a 27-yard shot that I gladly took. Everything played out perfectly and I am now knocking on the door of the 200 club!!

Exhausted, more later, thanks to all that helped!!

Congrats Matt!! Thanks for sharing it with me and letting me post it here...

Matt Sheterom's 18-point, 200" (est.) Ohio Whitetail

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hunt Photography Article

I just received my copy of the Nov/Dec 2011 (#54) issue of Successful Hunter magazine. On page 6, Editor Lee Hoots wrote about digital photography and included me! He outlined my hunt photography offerings, and then gave a bunch of great photography tips for hunters. Check out the magazine, and also check out my Hunt Photography page for more information and a couple sample coffee table books... thanks Lee!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Unhuntable Moose

Back in 1978, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife) reintroduced Shiras moose into northern Colorado, and after supplemental releases across the state and satisfactory population growth, the Department started issuing hunting licenses.

While in college, I worked for the USFS in northern Colorado and routinely saw moose throughout the Laramie River Valley and Rawah Wilderness. However, prior to that I hunted and fished throughout the upper Poudre Canyon area and never saw any moose.

Last week, as I drove back to Ft. Collins from Steamboat, I spotted a nice bull just off the highway on the top of Cameron Pass. There is no hunting within a 1/4 mile of Highway 14, so as long as he stays close to the road without being hit by a vehicle, he'll live a long, healthy life.

One of these days I hope to draw a tag for either the area I first grew up hunting, or the Rawahs where I worked for the USFS. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy watching and photographing any moose I find...  hope you enjoy the photos!