Every Friday evening, the archery range greets my friends and I with open arms. We set up our targets and we shoot. While a simple task, it is so much fun honing our skills for the upcoming deer season. We also talk about scouting, our gear, life in general and we have a great time. Brett was fortunate enough to get this small deer target for Father's Day. We were all excited to practice with it because it gives us a 3D experience, plus with it being a smaller target we have to concentrate to hit it perfectly. As you can see, we need some practice past 60 yards, but for the first day this was fun. We all have goals set and mine is to be able to get inside the kill zone at 80 yards. My FMJs are all in there at 60, but I want better for myself. Tomorrow evening should be great fun!
We recently learned that the some of the area I used to hunt here in SoCal, that was closed by wildfires in 2009, has reopened. Not only am I excited to get back in there, but I am positive we will see animals. There will be fresh vegetation, the area hasn't been hunted in 3 years and there have already been reports of nice bucks in the area. I am also thrilled to be able to share the experience with Brett and Brandon. We are headed out this weekend to scout the area, do plenty of glassing, and burn some boot rubber. I'll report on it next week for sure!
Before the scouting and archery practice, I have had to get my body into shape, both mentally and physically. Training has been a key factor for me this year. I am not getting any younger and 12 years of playing rugby has wreaked havoc on parts of my body, like my neck and knees. Still, I don't allow that to get me down. I have been exercising as much as I can. I have been hitting some of the local trails near me that most would overlook, but they are great for training. They are also great for spotting wildlife. When you train, don't focus solely on training. Look around you and soak up what God has laid out. Earth is a canvas of wonderful color, beauty and life. Every time I head out, I see some new, some old and always enjoy it. Between the coyotes, hawks, owls, alligator lizards, rabbits and butterflies, I have a great time knowing viewing an abundance of wildlife. Even if it is only a mile from the beach!
Not only have I been training for hunting in California, but my true focus has been on elk hunting in Colorado in September. I have been running and also loading up my pack with sand to give me something to work hard at lugging around. Right now I have 100 lbs. of sand in the pack. Once I add water, the weight of the pack and other small items I am then up to 110+ lbs. My goal has been 120 lbs. by September and I am almost at my goal! Tuesday night I hit the trails and let me tell you, this IS NOT easy even at sea level. So what did I do? I pushed harder and went further! Instead of the normal 2-2.5 miles I walked an extra circuit. I hiked the 3.25 miles with the weight on my back and even encountered some new folks on the trail. One lady was all talkative when she saw how hard I was working. That is until she asked what I was training for. I told her and she shut right up. Oh well, you can't make everyone happy! Then I ran into another guy who insisted on asking me questions. He and his buddy reeked of Mary Jane and I had to stop him from talking just so I could keep going. I was afraid my knees would give out if I stayed there any longer. That last mile was one of the toughest hikes I have ever completed. All I can say is damn, my knees, back and shoulders hurt, even after a couple days. Don't let the smile in the photo fool you, I was hurting!
Supplements to aid in my training have started to take hold, too. I have been testing out BuckPower (Antler Velvet) through Bob Ray at CarboMask. The stuff is great for your joints! My hips have been taking a beating from the excess weight of my pack and the BuckPower certainly helps. When I stopped taking it my hips hurt... bad! I also started up drinking the Wilderness Athlete Hydate & Recover formula. I used a similar product when I was in college and I loved it. The H&R tastes very much like it and I hope it provides the same results to my muscles. I've only used it one day, but you can bet I'll be drinking it before, after and during each workout session from now on to see how well it works.
This weekend should prove to be a test of our orienteering, scouting and fitness as we head into the forest to scout. All three of us are ready to hit the trails, make some new ones and start locating deer and bear. Get out and scout, practice with your gear and most of all have fun!