James Squires

An outdoor journal

Goals and 2014 Season Wrap Up

January 12, 2015

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If I had kept my 2014 whitetail season up to date here on my blog, I think I would have bored just about everyone. Other than November 15, which I will get into later, it was one of the slower seasons I can recall. Or is my personal goal clouding the results of my season? That is something I am grappling with. For the first time in 10 years I did not harvest a buck. It was not for lack of opportunity, I had plenty, and I was blessed to watch and pass some bucks that I am sure some hunters would have taken in a heartbeat. But I have a goal.

It may surprise some of my friends to know that I do not have a single buck taken with a bow, in the record book. The club that most bowhunters associate with as THE record book is the Pope and Young club. I won't get into all of the details, but they measure in inches of antler, the minimum entry to get in the book is 125". I have a collection of bucks that miss the record by heartbreaking margins, it isn't even funny. I have been serious about this goal for the better part of the last 10 years. This year it was record book or bust. Well, you guessed it. Bust!

What I believe was my one opportunity at this class of animal came on November 15. I was at the tail end of my rut vacation and I had not even seen a buck that I thought might reach my goal let alone get a shot opportunity. For those non-hunters reading this, as a bowhunter it is fairly common to see deer and not have an opportunity at a harvest. This is an up close and personal endeavor.

At about 11:00am, when I was contemplating climbing down from my already 5 hour sit, in walks one of the better bucks I have ever seen while hunting. I had to call to him several times to entice him to come my way. The last call was a desperation "snort wheeze" that I literally did with just my mouth. (google snort wheeze and you might get a chuckle imagining what I was doing in my stand) The call finally turned him and he decided to come investigate my area. I thought for sure it was going to happen. I had one marginal shot opportunity at 40 yards, but he appeared to still be trying to figure out how to work his way through a deadfall and get close to me, so I waited for a better opportunity. At a couple yards shy of an ethical shot, a fawn up on the hill behind me spooked, likely from seeing me move for the shot, and the buck caught notice of this. As old mature bucks are apt to do, he slowly turned and walked out of my life, closing the one opportunity I had.

In summary, 2014 was not my year to achieve my goal, and it is frustrating. I did harvest a doe with my bow, and for that I am very thankful. My family uses the meat, and I do still enjoy the harvest. But there is that goal, gnawing away at me. I am a driven person, and not achieving a goal that I have worked so long for is tough, but it also keeps the fire going. Maybe more troublesome is the fact that I cannot even get another opportunity until September 12 of this year, 2015. You can bet that I am already strategizing, where will I spend my efforts, and how can I put myself in a position to achieve that goal.

Targeting Big Trout

April 29, 2014

Recently, I have been more focused on targeting bigger trout. To me, a "big" spring stream brown is in the >20" category. I have yet to catch one. I suppose the transition to focusing on bigger trout is natural given my history with targeting mature whitetails. I find the two sports correlating more and more. With bigger trout I am reading the water with more care, and my tactics and strategies are shifting to be more precise and well, targeted.


As I still have yet to catch one of these brown beasts, my fly and streamer patterns are constantly shifting. I am looking for a pattern that elicits that strike in a deep pool. This is my latest pattern, a grey leech or "turkey leech" that I tied in a size 8 Tiemco 300. The guys at Tight Lines suggest that it only be tied with wild Turkey feathers. I happened to have a bag of great feathers from a jake Turkey that I killed a year or two ago. I am hoping the rain here subsides so that I can get out and run these streamers through a few big holes this weekend.

Grey Leech Fly Pattern

Switching Form

January 30, 2014

Mechanical Release vs Finger Tab

The photo may be a bit confusing, but not as confused as my muscle memory. What you are looking at is a mechanical release for a bow and my finger tab, also for a bow. For over 20 years I have shot my compound bows with my fingers, only using a simple cow hair and leather tab. When my father introduced me to bowhunting everyone shot fingers. I believe mechanical releases were around then, but they were not the norm.

I've always stuck with finger shooting. Something about it felt pure, and I wasn't having much of a problem being consistent on taking whitetails. Though, back in my mind I always told myself that if I ever intended on going on a western hunt, that I would switch to a release to increase my effectiveness and range. I am comfortable out to about 25 yards on whitetail shooting fingers. The mistakes seem to start around the 30 yard range. I am the only person among my friends that still shoots with fingers.

Two weeks ago I made the switch to a mechanical release. Nothing is comfortable yet. I am planning on a 2014 Elk hunt with archery tackle and getting started with a new setup in January gives me almost nine months of preparation. The most difficult part about switching isn't the "trigger" surprisingly, but rather my anchor point. Years of muscle memory have engrained a second-nature form that will be difficult to break. I am back to the basics, with simple draw, anchor and let down drills in my bedroom at night. Lots of research on proper form with a mechanical release, back tension shooting, the works. As everyone knows, I am a tinkerer, so it is fun yet frustrating at the same time.

I won't ever give up shooting with my fingers completely. It's where I started and it will likely be where I end. But before I go backwards to a simpler approach I am going to catch up to the present and have some fun with the current bowhunting tech.

Reloading Berger VLD Bullets

January 5, 2014

My simple New Years resolution is to record myself from time to time when I am tinkering with something that others could learn from. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I do watch quite a bit of educational content on YouTube, related to my interests, so it is time to give back

My current winter project is working up a new long range hunting load for my Sako 75 chambered in the venerable .30-06. My projectile selection for this load is the 185 grain Berger VLD hunting bullet. Berger and long range hunting has been synonymous for quite some time, but it is new to me and the VLD bullets require some further reloading knowledge and tooling that I took some time collecting. This is my first go at reloading the VLD.

It is definitely not natural to record yourself while you are trying to accomplish something and furthermore describe something technical you are working on. I try to get everything done in one take to save myself a lot of post-edit time. I have already noticed how many "uhms, and ahs" I actually use, it is quite annoying to watch. I am sure I will improve.

First Muskellunge

July 29, 2013

I paid my dues for my first muskellunge. I made as many trips as I could in June and had nothing to show for it except a single lazy follow. By the way, I've come to learn that as a musky fisherman you count them following your lure almost as much as you would count them in your net; because they are hard to catch!

On Saturday, July 6, the moon phase was setup to be a perfect fishing day. The weather was a bit rocky with hard winds in the morning but I was going to put in as close to a full day as I could on the water. The morning trip out was fairly action packed with two musky follows from smaller fish. I made a couple passes at them later but could not raise them. Drifting over some deeper 30 foot water near a nice piece of structure I noticed the unmistakable outline of a big musky on my fish finder, she was floating just 5 feet up off the bottom. I circled and threw some deep diving lures her way but received no response. I marked the spot for later and ended my morning run a bit frustrated but encouraged by more follows.

That evening I came out to a busy lake as the weather conditions had improved. My first trip was to the shore where I had the two morning follows. I did not raise either of those fish and decided to move to the spot I had marked the deep fish in the morning. My intuition told me that she may have moved up shallower on the structure near the weed line from the cooler morning location. As I scanned the deeper water I no longer saw the fish on my screen. I proceeded to work the deep weed line over the structure that stuck out a couple hundred yards from the shore. It didn't take many casts (3 to be exact) and I had a fish on. I set the hook hard and it shook it's head hard, the battle was on. Despite what people might think, you do not typically fight with a Musky much longer than a couple minutes. The gear we fish them with is heavy duty and is up to the task of bringing them in. Netting this big fish by myself on the other hand was not a trivial operation. With my rod doubled over in my right hand, I used the giant sized net in my left to attempt to net her. I think I probably took half a dozen passes at the fish with the net before I got her. Every time she saw the net she took a deep dive under the boat and I would have to set the net down again to battle her back up. At one point she spun around my trolling motor up front and I thought she was lost, luckily she got herself free and I netted her shortly after that.

As I netted the fish another musky fisherman pulled up to my boat to ask if I needed a hand, and I did. It was nice to have someone hold the net as I removed the hooks, but even better to hand him my camera for a few hero shots before returning her to the depths. Always catch and release for the future generations, these sea dragons take years to grow this big. However, before returning the fish to the water I did take a quick measurement. There is a bit of controversy over the fact that I did not pinch the tail (which you should do to get the extra length) but it measured at 49 1/2 " without the tail pinch. So I'll let the readers decide if it's a 50" fish or not.


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