Tag Archives: Hunting

How to Get the Most Out of a Sportsmen’s Show

26 Feb

This month I had the singular experience of spending 55 hours out of a week in the Portland Expo Center in Oregon. No, I’m okay. Thanks for asking, though.

This was part of an annual trek to Portland for the PNW Sportsmen’s Show. During the five days of this show, the Expo Center houses hundreds upon hundreds of booths advertising guided trips, equipment, books, and about ninety different varieties of beef jerky. To translate into terms this blog has become accustomed to, people go to Sportsmen’s Shows for the same reasons people go to comic conventions:

  • To connect with like-minded people
  • To learn about new developments in the industry
  • To spend $11.99 on a single soft pretzel because the lack of vitamin D is having its way with your good sensibilities

My personal reason for attending was that my dad was running a booth and we agreed five days in this manner was a bit much for one person. Now hear this, I knew what I was getting into. I’ve been to dozens of Sportsmen’s Shows and I spent the full 5 days in the booth last year as well.

The show is massive, friendly, and it offers a diverse amount of booths to cater to every outdoor interest. Hunting, fishing, hiking, you name it. It’s also a lot, and that’s the best way I can put it as someone who can not handle a lot. It’s a lot of sweaty people in one place looking for an excuse to tell you about that kokanee fishing trip they went on last summer.

Thousands of people attend the Sportsmen’s Show in Portland every year, but, sadly, it doesn’t mean that they all have the best experience that they can have. You know what I call that? I mean, familiar, but also – a darn shame.

Let’s fix this.

How to get the Most Out of a Sportsmen’s Show

  1. Get the map at the doorImage result for reading a map gif

What’s that? You have a great sense of direction? That’s the devil talking. How do you think you’re gonna find That One Guide’s booth again once you wander away? Ask different guides in different booths? Haha, sure you will, you awful jerk. Don’t do that. Get the map. Read the map.

Image result for gravity falls snacks thompson gif

  1. Bring snacks

To be fair, this is against the rules. On the record: don’t bring snacks. Bring $36 so you can buy three soft pretzels instead. This has been my official and legal statement.

  1. Pet the dogsImage result for petting dog ghibli gif

People don’t bring their dogs to the show because their dogs ask to come along. They bring their dogs because they love their dogs and want other people to see how lovable said dogs are. Do your civic duty and tell the dogs they’re beautiful. Ask them how they became the best dogs in the world. Share your secrets with them. Just pet the dogs.

Image result for spending money bee and puppycat gif

  1. Buy something

Bring your allowance and treat yourself. You don’t have to buy something at my booth (you should but you don’t have to). Just buy something. There are a lot of deals you won’t be able to get anywhere else, and also – did you pay entry just to window shop? Why???

  1. Watch the jokesImage result for chat noir bad joke gif

Scenario: You walk past a tasteful camouflage display.

Options: A) walk by B) ask staff about their product C) Say “Whoa, didn’t see you there!” D) literally anything except for option C.

Correct Answer: every answer that wasn’t C. Look, you won’t be the first person to tell this kind of a joke. You won’t even be the second, the third, or the ninth. You will be politely smiled at and then promptly cussed out once you walk away. For the love of humanity, keep any and all camo jokes inside your head.

bingo-card

  1. Bingo

In anticipation of spending 10 hours out of each day inside a concrete box, I created a bingo card for use at the show. You can print mine or make your own. It’s a great tool for encourage you to notice and look for specific things.

 

sportsmans-show-bingo-cards

     7. Just have a good time

Everyone is there to enjoy themselves and to meet other people who are enjoying themselves. Keep your cool when it gets crowded, take a chill pill if your favorite vendor runs out of a certain product, and strike up conversations with the people around you. Share your positive thoughts and keep your judgmental ones to yourself.

Unless your positive thought is a camo joke.

In that case, shut your dirty mouth and get right out of my face

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On the Wing

25 Aug

It’s important to start a hunting trip off at least partly on your terms. No one on the trip should feel bullied into anything, or like nothing is in their favor. This, of course, means different things for different people.

If you take my route, you might spend the night before the trip loading an hour and a half of Jim Gaffigan and John Mulaney onto your phone. If you take my father’s, you may purposely download a terrible podcast and insist on listening to it for at least half an hour.

This is how my second turkey hunt with my dad began.

It takes several hours for my dad and I to drive down to our regular hunting grounds every season, and though every trip is different, there are always the same subjects that are brought up on the way down. We always pass the High Desert museum, where I typically recall a memory from my youth, a tidbit about my friend who used to work there, or any museum-related word vomit. It usually is about forty seconds after that when I suggest we skip our destination and head straight for California or Ashland directly below. This trip in particular, I’m sure that on some subliminal level I was aware that I say that every time, but I didn’t become conscious of it until my dad took in a long breath and said slowly, “I’m going to stop driving you in this direction.”

When we arrived at our destination, we touched base with our regular contact and exchanged hellos. He told us to go talk to his grandfather, the true owner of the land that we had hunted on for so many years. We already had permission to hunt, but it wouldn’t hurt to be polite, now would it? It never does.

We found the landowner’s home with the help of his grandson’s directions, “a mobile home with lots of cars around it. It looks like a lot of garbage.” It wasn’t difficult to find. We parked in the drive way and made our way up some very slippery stairs and dad knocked on a rotting door while I shared uncomfortable, extended eye contact with the most eerie housecat I’d ever seen.

He knocked again, after pointing out a puppy in a far-off doghouse. It blinked but made no sound.

He knocked one more time while I eyed a row of curious and rainbow-like chickens sitting on a handrail.

He was not answering. The animals did not welcome us. Moss was probably starting to grow over our bodies as they grew colder with no explanation. I almost definitely saw a ghost.

As we walked away, dad commented on the fact that there was smoke rising from both the chimneys and the landowner probably just didn’t hear us. I suggested that he was casting a spell. Dad nodded solemnly. We weren’t out here to judge, after all, and what we were there for was a little longer coming.

We found a flock of turkeys, which we both did a lot to chase away. After a couple of hours, it was starting to rain and most of the turkeys had figured out what was going on and taken wing.

All except for one. One turkey, sitting on the edge of a cliff on the other side of a muddy-looking ravine, and looking none too worried about why all the others had left.

I mounted my shotgun, held the bead on its head, and pulled the trigger. A burst of feathers flew outwards, but the bird I had hit was sailing straight down.

Right. The cliff.

Gravity. Right.

I heard a splash – but it took place a long while after the bird disappeared.

We hurried to the edge of the cliff and looked down. Dad and I had known the stream was there, but it still managed to surprise. It was thirty feet down with steep mud-and-clay walls around it and the water itself was an opaque brown with streaks of darker brown, constantly moving, constantly splashing, and constantly super, super brown.

Like, you know, a turkey.

Thankfully, Dad found the bird before I did, because I was a couple weeks out on that pursuit. He climbed all the way down the slope, plucked the bird out of the water, and tossed it up onto one of the only ledges in the ditch. He shouted that he was going to climb back up a different way, and I decided it was my turn to go down. I made it to the bird and devised a foolproof way to get back up again, but it required I put all my weight on a tree branch that was actively looking for excuses to join the brown below. It also required I have enough semblance of upper body strength to carry an adult turkey above my head.

That plan was not destined to go well.

My plan B to wind it up like a shot put and toss it. Without the afore-mentioned muscle tone, that obviously didn’t work either. I tried though; I tried until I was covered in the feathers of my turkey and the disapproving stares of the sparrows around me.

Finally I realized I hadn’t seen Dad in a while, and my priorities shifted from ever escaping my muddy hell to yelling his name for a solid five minutes before he peeked over the edge of the surface and I chucked a turkey at him with all of my remaining strength (not a lot).

With both hands free, I was able to more easily climb the walls, an endeavor that made necessary the truly singular pleasure of ripping chunks of stinking, heavy mud out of the vertical ground to create footholds.

Once we were both skyside again, I remember looking down at myself and thinking something along the lines of “ten showers should do it.” Dad and I were the exact shade and stench of the creek, but we had claimed the bird.

As we walked back to the car and discussed all the other birds that we had spooked, we took turns glaring down at the turkey I was dragging through the grass.

People who don’t agree with the act of hunting animals for food often cite that the animals can’t defend themselves, and how would you feel if they treated you as you treat them?

I have never been hunted with a shotgun. I hope to never be.

But today? Today that turkey got its revenge.

If turkey spirits linger before making their way to the happy hunting-free grounds in the sky, this one was splitting a feathered side watching me and dad try to scrape the mud off our hands with any sharp edge we came across on the rainy trek back to the truck.

(I’m sure he ascended before he had to listen to that podcast on the way home)

I may have won the battle, but the turkey won the war.

And for that, the bird has my undying respect.

The Hunt (Or: Did/Did Not Meet Expectations)

2 Nov

I recently returned from a hunting trip on which I did not hunt.

See, everyone has a role on a hunting trip, be it driver, hunter, guide, comic relief, or some combination of two or more of those and other additional choices.

And sometimes, it’s nicer to not be a hunter. Sometimes, like earlier this week, you get to be the person who’s along to make sure everyone is presented with a healthy dose of British humor and makes donuts.

That was my role.

I was proud.

Taking my job seriously, I boarded the car armed with the Cabin Pressure audio drama and Fawlty Towers VHS tapes, two quality British sitcoms with which I was determined to indoctrinate the group before the adventure was over.

My dad does a trip like this for hunting kids every year, and this time, our carpool consisted of my dad, my friends Alexa and Paxton (brother and sister), and Elijah, a slightly antagonistic and squeaky-voiced twelve-year-old. Everyone had a tag for a blacktail doe but me.

But that was comfortable with my role.

I promptly pointed out my place in the performance by forcing the entire group to listen to an episode of Cabin Pressure on the three-hour drive to our hunting spot.

When we arrived, we got straight to the hunt – Alexa’s deer was the first we went after.

Along with our core group, we had two guides, one of which we will call “Gus” for my purposes. Gus was an eccentric fellow with a hearing problem and a healthy regard for himself. Neither of those things really seemed to be noteworthy until our third hour of wandering about the property, when six o’clock rolled around. Our group settled down to watch a ridge for signs of life, and Gus took to talking. Loudly.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a hunting trip or not, but a piece of common knowledge for you – when you’re waiting for an animal to walk by, don’t just hang about speaking in loud volumes.

And in the situation you must? Then don’t just hang about saying things like “Not many people are a better shot than me, so I’m just being kind,” when giving people advice, nor “… That would have taken someone of, excuse me, my skill” when telling stories.

(That doesn’t relate to the hunting process, by the way, that’s just etiquette)

Come on son.

Anyhow, after hours of roving around, listening to Elijah talk about how good he was at Temple Run, and looking for a blacktail deer for Alexa, the long-sought animal finally presented itself. It was about 130 yards from where we stood, and my dad began to talk to Alexa about finding a rest and looking for a clear shot.

We all started to get excited for Alexa.

Well, most of us.

At this point, Gus began to look skeptical. After looking extensively at the deer through binoculars and making a grimace or two, he turned and said to my father, (loudly)

“I could make that shot. And you could make that shot. But…”

He shrugged and trailed off.

I took a moment to glare at the back of his head, and I have a feeling that Alexa had a moment of bitterness too, as she silently accepted the challenge. Gus just sort of drifted about as if he’d said nothing at all. In any case, however, Alexa dropped her blacktail deer with a single shot through the heart, and the animal was hollow an hour later.

I never asked, but I wonder how Gus felt about that.

Expectations exceeded.

Speaking of which, when we got back to the cabin, it was time for me to fulfill my role on the adventure.

I finished the donuts the next morning, taking care to make sure everything I touched for the next hour or so was entirely covered in oil. (that wasn’t intentional, it just sort of happened) But as this was my first time making donuts, I have to say, they were really rather not bad.

In fact… they were pretty darn good.

Not to mention entirely gone within four days.

But there was hunting to do on the donut day as well, and this time it was Elijah’s turn.

He’d been slowly psyching himself up for this moment – he made sure to say (several times) how well he’d done cleaning out other people’s animals last year. I had been with him that year, and I must say, I had very different memories of this particular instance.

This was going to be his first deer. Apparently, this was an opportunity that a certain deer just couldn’t pass up, because it was waiting for us not two minutes after we got on the property. We got out of the car, someone handed Elijah a gun, he took the safety off, pulled the trigger and sixty yards away, the doe he was aiming for fell right in its place. It was a great shot, and Elijah was ecstatic.

That was easy. What could go wrong now?

Well, thirty minutes after the high fiving, congratulating, and, altogether, the world’s easiest hunt, Elijah stood over his deer with a knife in his hand, squeaking, “Now I remember why I don’t like deer hunting.”

This happened on our trip last year too, when we asked for his help. You see, Elijah is an unfortunate victim of being both incredibly whiny and revolted by the animal-gutting process.

Obviously, I can’t judge him for that last bit (gutting isn’t really a blast); it was the combination of the two traits that really slowed down the procedure.

I sometimes forget that not everyone was raised the way I was; with a hunter for a father, I saw more than my fair share of this particular task, and it no longer disgusts me.

But I’ve found out: Gutting a deer is not for the squeamish.

In addition: Gutting a deer is not for Elijah.

It’s just that this is not the first deer hunt he’s been on; it’s not even his second. What does he expect the deer to be full of?

As six of us stood around him, urging him on, giving him tips, and ultimately telling him to please hurry up, it occurred to me that my role as official donut-maker and British-sitcom-bringer did not list this as one of my duties.

But again, this happened last year, and I’m sure I could have adjusted my expectations accordingly.

The deer did eventually get packed away, thanks to a lengthy group cheerleading effort.

The rest of the trip was just as successful. We gave some donuts to our nicer guide, made a visit to a dog breeder’s, and Elijah and I discussed [at length] whether or not blood banks would benefit from the Nile turning to blood (his choice of topic – but an interesting one nonetheless).

In a way, all my broader expectations for the trip were met and/or exceeded. Alexa, Elijah, Dad, and Paxton all got their deer, I made donuts that were surprisingly not revolting, and the whole group watched Fawlty Towers on our first night in the cabin.

This was a comfortable thought as we were driving back home.

The rain that had so nicely been holding back for the past few days began to fall down on the windshield.

My dad reached into the console, pulled out a donut from a Ziploc bag, and indulged in a heavenly bite.

Elijah called out from the backseat, “Can we listen to more Cabin Pressure?”

And my work was done.

The Hunt (Or: That One Time I Got my Dad to Make a Geeky Reference)

3 Sep

I’ve just gotten back from my first bowhunting trip.

In related news, I will now only be responding to the name Katniss.

No, actually, that is definitely not true. But I did go bowhunting for the first time ever. So of course, it must be story time.

This story starts last Friday, when Mum, Dad, and my compound bow and I got in a car and drove south for longer than I’ve ever wanted to.

Five hours after we set out, we arrived in southern Oregon, and we visited the couple whose property we were hunting on. We kicked around outside the house, waiting for our hosts. My dad noticed some oddly featured wooden heads poking out of the couple’s garden. Recognizing a chance to amuse himself, he called Sam, one of our travelling buddies who came in another vehicle, over to his side and asked, “What do you think about these?” Sam obliged my dad with a few lines about the possibility of the heads being full bodies buried very deeply.

Then he continued, “you know, cos we’re probably Orcs to them. We come with fire, we come with axes,” he slipped into a British accent, “Gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning…”

My parents, though not really geeks, definitely know a geeky reference when they hear one. I grinned and gave dad a knowing look.

See, on the drive over, we had been discussing our travelling partners: Rod, my dad’s New Zealand hunting buddy, and Sam, my dad’s producer, and, as we found out not long after we met him, a Lord of the Rings fanboy.

(And no. I would not let that fact go to waste.)

Five hours in a car provides you with more than enough time to explore the strange inner workings of the human mind, so it’s perfectly normal that I gave dad some odd advice for our upcoming adventure. I told him I had a buzzword for him to say when Sam was around. “If you say this, he will love you forever. Well, he may already love you, but this will help.”

“Okay, okay,” Dad humored me. “What was it again?”

“Mash ‘em, boil ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew.”

“Mash ‘em, boil ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew,” he repeated.

“Yes! And it would be best if you could say this when potatoes are nearby or something. Taters. Call them taters, and then say your line.”

“Okay.”

My dad’s a good guy.

His challenge accepted, I spent the rest of the trip trying to give dad meaningful looks whenever I thought he could say his line. Things got in the way pretty quick, though.

On this adventure, we stayed in a warm little house with no shortage of cozy blankets, DVDs, or Ritz crackers. My bed was right by the front door, and, to my delight, a convenient distance from the TV.

One thing you could not miss about the cabin was that it was incredibly charming, a word which here means, “lacking in indoor plumbing and had mousetraps littered around in a somewhat threatening manner.”

Okay, I thought to myself as I walked in. That’s fine. I’m adaptable.

When I first marked the startling lack of running water, I asked our guide where the restroom was and crossed my fingers that it was anything but a bush on the side of the house.

I was led to the backyard and directed to an outhouse.

Good, I thought. I thanked the guide and silently reminded myself how adaptable I was.

Just for the record, it’s easy to think that you’re adaptable until you lock yourself in a bathroom with a bat whom you have just awoken. We have to learn lessons somehow.

The next morning at 7:00, we set out on my hunt.

As we were stalking around in the forest with my bow, I figured it was a good time to pretend I was Katniss. This didn’t last very long, because judging by the way I stomped down the path in my massive hiking boots, I was a bit too Peeta-like. I briefly considered Legolas, but if that were the case, my hair would have turned out much better than it had that morning.

Actually, come to think of it, as far as my hair was concerned, Merida would have been a far better comparison.

But anyway, it was hard to concentrate on make-believe between the nervousness of my first bow hunt, the prayers for an animal to show up, and the constant mental singing from the song stuck in my head (Want to get it stuck in your head too?).

It was a very long hike. Thank goodness for my lungs, Rod stopped every five minutes to haul out his binoculars and stare with intensity at nothing in particular. Sam would trot up next to him and ask, “What do your Elf eyes see?” (The reference was lost on him, but it was still not wasted)

Eventually, those Elf eyes spotted a Corsican ram, standing thirty-two yards away. I thanked the Lord, drew my bow, and, by some miracle, we were cleaning out the animal thirty minutes later.

(I didn’t shoot the animal through the eye socket, though. Katniss still has much to teach me.)

When we got back, we told my mum the news in between desperate gasps for air ( thank you, half-hour, uphill hike), and then Rod fixed us a fabulous breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns.

Hashbrowns.

You know,

My dad saw his chance. He grabbed his plate and sprang into action. “Mash ‘em…” he said. “Boil ‘em…”

Sam beamed. “Stick ‘em in a stew!”