Friday, January 9, 2015

January 5th Clay Shoot 2015

I haven't posted anything in almost a month due to the holiday season and frigid temperatures. However, this past Monday, I met up with a good buddy of mine, Matt Reilly, at a local farm pond. Our day consisted of a planned, yet long awaited clay shoot, just the two of us. Taking turns and chatting about different things, the topic mostly being both of our passions, the outdoors.
Photo by Chris Swanson
We got started around 1:30, an hour and a half later than originally planned. Wind gusts up to 20 mph, didn't stop us from disposing of a 135 count box of White Flyer sporting clays and roughly a half dozen boxes of size 7 1/2 shotgun shells.
Photo by Chris Swanson
Photo by Chris Swanson
We hit some and missed some, but nonetheless we emptied the box of old clays. 
Photo by Chris Swanson
We shot the last 6 clays around 4:30 PM,  picked up the empty shells, and all of our trash, to take home and properly dispose of. We love the outdoors, so it's not like either of us to do anything to harm wildlife.
Photo by Chris Swanson

 After we loaded up the thrower, trash, and shotguns, we found ourselves talking for another hour or so, catching up, since we hadn't had an actual conversation in person since probably middle school.

The highlight of the day had nothing to do with shooting at all, actually. To me it was something more valuable than that, spending quality time in the great outdoors with a good friend.
Here's the video I put together January 5th Clay Shoot 2015

As I always say, you don't hear elderly folks reminiscing about the awesome time they played video games or watched TV together when they were younger. Memories are made in the outdoors.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Poplar Added to the Mix

Due to the rain that came in late Monday night and lasted well into Tuesday morning, I had to postpone putting poplar firewood into my solar kiln. When I went out this morning, I noticed that plastic on the roof of my kiln had formed a "bowl" and was holding water as a consequence of the rain. Apparently, I failed to pull the plastic tight when I originally constructed the kiln. Disappointed, I managed to properly fix the roof to hopefully prevent it from holding water in the future.

A few hours ago, I managed to fill the rest of the back rack, with some poplar that I had split during the day on Monday. As a result of the rainfall, the poplar became waterlogged. Hopefully, the kiln will do the trick in drying it out and prevent it from being exposed to the elements.
The back rack is full, as you can see above
Photo by Chris Swanson
Upon adding the split poplar to the mix, I noticed that the white oak is progressing, as far as drying out. Also, I inspected the solar kiln for leaks. Thankfully, there was no way for water to seep in, so that saved me the trouble of having to fix them.

Close up of the white oak
Photo by Chris Swanson

All in all, I believe the kiln is working very efficiently to dry out the firewood. However, the dryer the wood becomes, the slower the drying process becomes. Keep in mind, properly seasoned firewood will retain a percentage of its original moisture. Exaggerated drying of the wood will cause it to burn rather quickly, and hot, and could potentially cause hazards, such as chimney fires. On the contrary, wood that is NOT properly dried out, will cause creosote, in other words, tar from the wood smoke, to build up in the stove pipe and inside the chimney, therefore, increasing the probability of a chimney fire.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Solar Kiln Update

Five days out from the time I first put white oak firewood in my kiln, I checked on it to see the progress, if any. At first glance, I noticed moisture on the inside of the plastic sheeting that covers my kiln, where the sun had drawn out of the split oak. The wood seems to be drying out fairly quick, although the sun isn't as hot at this time of year. Tomorrow I will be adding a mix of poplar, and yellow pine to the kiln for observation.
If you look closely, you can see the moisture droplets on the plastic
Photo by Chris Swanson
I want to see the effectiveness of the kiln, and how efficient it is with different types of firewood. Each type of firewood has a different amount of moisture content to start with so just running the experiment on one certain type of wood, would not produce the results that I'm looking for. However, if you know your wood, you could estimate the amount of time it takes one species of wood to season in comparison to another.
Photo by Chris Swanson
Aside from the sun not producing as much heat during the fall and winter seasons, I believe the kiln is operating proficiently.

Close up of the firewood inside the kiln
Photo by Chris Swanson
As always, I will continue to keep you updated on this experiment as the kiln produces results. If you have any tips or questions, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will respond as soon as possible.

Deer Population Decrease

I've been a deer hunter for several years now. I'm always looking for deer whether I'm hunting or in a car. I could tell you where the deer would be, and the time they would be there. It was always the same spot, year after year. That's not the case this year, something happened, that changed all of that.

The population of Virginia's whitetail deer, has declined a noticeable amount. Just from driving down the road, you can tell that the population is down, by looking for deer that have been hit by automobiles. I've only seen a total of 4 deer hit on the road this year. From Palmyra, all the way to Luray, I only saw one deer. The deer was dead on Route 15. Out of all of the farms we passed on that trip to Luray, there were no deer seen grazing in the cornfields, or other crop fields for that matter. What has happened to the population of the largest wild herbivore in the commonwealth?

Fellow outdoorsmen, and farmers, may have noticed the sparse production of fruits and nuts this past winter. Specifically, the acorns that were produced were diminutive, to say the least. Deer were forced to relocate in search of food. Does did not have the proper nutrition to nourish their fawns. Many deer died off as a result of the shortage, causing an evident retrogression to the population of the whitetail herd.

Another leading factor in the shortage of deer is accredited to the excessive killing of deer. Spotlighting (night time hunting or use of a spotlight, or the headlights of an automobile to take a wild game animal, which is illegal) plays a major role in the population decline. The number of Doe taken has a lot to do with it as well. When killing does, you should kill based on the amount of does seen where you're hunting, in relationship to the number of bucks. Just because you have plenty of doe tags, doesn't necessarily mean you should fill those tags in one place.

Another major cause, in my opinion, one that acknowledged nearly enough, is the use of chemicals such as insecticides on crops. Deer eat vegetation, its an act of nature, one that can't be controlled. Farmers use insecticide to prevent insects from destroying their produce. When the deer eat the sprayed crop, it can cause damage to the deer internally, and can cause death in some. Genetic mutation is another repercussion of the consumed chemicals.

There are two main diseases that kill deer, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and Hemorrhagic Disease (HD). The most important infectious disease in Virginia is HD. Spread by small flies (also known as sand gnats), biting one deer then biting another. As a result of HD, deer suffer from depression, fever, swollen neck, tongue or eyelids, and even difficulty breathing. Infected deer will lose their appetite, and be less active. Due to high fever, deer may be found dead near a water source, in the cool, damp soil. If you suspect a deer to be infected, DO NOT TOUCH IT!

Chronic Wasting Disease is a progressive neurological (brain and nervous system) disease. Symptoms include severe weight loss, deviant behavior, loss of bodily functions, and ultimately death. CWD is spread from direct contact, and through the soil, through saliva, feces, and urine of deer. The soil could be contaminated for several years. It can take up to 5 years before a deer start showing any symptoms of infection.
Deer showing symptoms of CWD
Photo from Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Sunday, December 14, 2014


As I pulled into my driveway tonight, a pair of glowing eyes caught my attention. Immediately, I cut the wheel of my 1988 Chevrolet S10, towards the eyes and turned my high beams on to get a better look. Much to my surprise, it was a rabbit.

To some, they would say, "it's just a rabbit."

To me, it's more than just a rabbit, it's the first rabbit that has been seen on my property in over a year. Ever since the coyotes have started coming around more, the rabbits haven't been out as much.

Seeing this rabbit, gave me a sense of hope. I would love to have the rabbits back on my land like they were several years ago. I wanna be able to look out the window in the evening, and see 7 or 8 at a time.

In my opinion rabbits are one of the most  beautiful, peaceful animals around. They aren't very destructive, although, occasionally they will get into a vegetable garden, but other than that they stay to themselves pretty much.

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Evening Hunt

I ventured into the woods of predominantly hardwoods, a little after 4:00P.M., hoping that some of the bucks that I've been seeing on my trail camera, would show themselves. Throughout the day I noticed the movement of the birds and thought maybe the deer would be moving as well. As I sat down on the chilled, metal seat of my treestand, I heard some movement. As always, it was nothing more than a gray squirrel scurrying through the crisp fall leaves in search of food.
As the sun began to set, and with the temperature dropping, the squirrels rushed to find their meal for the night. Suddenly, I was distracted by the sound of hounds. I couldn't tell whether they were heading my way or not, so I patiently waited and listened.
Photo by Chris Swanson

Photo by Chris Swanson
Darkness didn't hesitate to move in, and by then my feet were getting cold. The rustling of leaves had remained throughout the evening, as a gray squirrel, at the base of an old hickory tree, searched for what's left of the hickory nuts. It was ten minutes after five, and still no sign of a white-tail. I assumed they were bedded down in the pine thicket that borders my land, so I patiently waited out the last few legal hunting minutes of the evening.
No luck getting a buck, but I did have some luck scouting squirrels, for a long awaited squirrel hunt sometime in the next week.

Technology's Toll on the Outdoors

In a recent conversation with a good friend of mine, Matt Reilly, Writer of Adventures Afield, a serious topic was brought up. He mentioned that the number of outdoor columns is on a decline. It was that moment when I began to ponder the issue. As the conversation proceeded, my opinion on the subject started becoming clearer, there are less outdoor columns because there are less people in the outdoors.
Due to the increase of technology, there are less people in the outdoors. People would rather play video games or watch television, than go see what the outdoors has to offer. Personally, I believe parents and other family members have a role in the declination of the population of the outdoor world. Less parents are introducing their kids to hunting, fishing, camping, or hiking. Family members also aren't in much of a hurry, to take the young ones out either, which I believe to be very detrimental to the outdoor "industry." Instead of getting Red Rider BB guns, or a Zebco rod and reel, children are receiving iPads, iPhones or even an XBOX ONE. How could that possibly be more beneficial to a child than being outdoors, learning about life, from life itself. Don't get me wrong, there are educational apps, that are helpful in the learning process for children. How ever, the outdoors is an essential part of our everyday life.
The best pictures are taken outside. Wouldn't you want look at the colorful autumn leaves behind a picture of someone you love rather than just a plain wall? I thought so. Even if you don't want to hunt, you can always photograph the animals. Filming is a huge part of the outdoor industry.
  Social media is also a factor in the decline of outdoorsmen and women. People are so interested in finding out who's going where, or what he/she is wearing, or who they're with, that they have no perception of the outdoor life. Social media does indeed have its benefits but you don't need to sell your soul to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It can be used to share your outdoor adventures with friends and family, and assisting in introducing more people to the outdoors.
Go outside, go for a walk, and take some pictures of nature and share them with friends and family. Make memories, learn from your outdoor adventures. Enjoy the outdoors! We need to embrace it not destroy it. Get out there and breath in the fresh air. When you're young, everyone is strongly influenced by their peers. So for each kid that we get in the outdoors, there is another one that isn't far behind. The world needs more hunter, fisherman, campers and hikers. If done ethically, they are beneficial to our ecosystem. Hunting and fishing, help to keep the population of the specific species at a good level so that they don't become overpopulated. When one species becomes overpopulated, then there is a problem. Diseases are spread, and I'm not talking about the "common cold." I'm referring to a number of diseases that can wipe out an entire species in a short amount of time. Camping and hiking, allow you to see the outdoors for what it really is. Suppose you have to go out in the woods one day to find your pet, and suddenly you're lost in a thick stand of pines and cant get out. How are you going to survive until someone finds you, if you don't know how? People are so quick to vituperate the outdoors, when they are uneducated as to what the outdoors is all about.

The outdoors offers an endless education. There is always something that you can learn just from being out and exploring. Whether it be hunting, fishing, camping, or hiking, there are things to learn and memories to make. No one can ever know it all.
Do yourself a favor, get outdoors. At least give it a shot, you've got nothing to lose. If you're already part of the outdoors, introduce some more people to it, you wont regret it.