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January 2019 – Rocks, Fox, Ducks, and Bucks


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#1 Mark Steinmann

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 09:32 AM

My good buddy Jeff is headed to academy in February as his final step to become a Wildlife Manager here in Arizona. We planned a last hurrah trip as we wanted to get out one last time before academy hit. My brother Nathan and I planned to call predators all weekend while Jeff and his buddy Kalyn(also going into academy) pursued archery deer and waterfowl in the area. It was bound to be a fun camp as we would be in some beautiful remote country tent camping for 3 nights. The weather was calling for temps from 24-50 degrees throughout and we had a full moon during the trip. Not just any moon, this was the “Red Wolf Super Moon” and Sunday night there would be a total lunar eclipse. Would that affect the games movement during the day? I guess there was only one way for us to find out.

Jeff and Kalyn headed up Friday at daybreak and fought the muddy roads all the way into our remote camping spot. They almost got stuck in the mud a couple times due to towing a trailer through slop, but they made it nonetheless. Nathan and I headed up early afternoon on Friday and by the time we drove the road it was mostly dry thanks to the good ol’ Arizona sun beating down on it all day! We met up at basecamp and they greeted us with a couple of Mergansers (fish eating duck) they had shot off a water tank. They saw no bucks that first day but were happy to have a new species to fry up for dinner. Nathan and I prepped the area for where our tent would go and to our surprise there was a fresh pile of Fox scat to move. As we started putting up the tent we both couldn’t help but realize there was just about 20 minutes of daylight left…so we grabbed the shotguns and FoxPro and headed just across the road from camp to try to call it in. The area is a Manzanita/Scrub Oak mix with water filled creeks and granite boulders throughout, very thick country. About every 20 yards you walk there is Fox scat, amazing habitat for the Grey Fox! Nathan and I found a couple shooting lanes, posted up by some trees and placed the call and decoy out in front of us. He was watching the creek bottom and I kept tabs on the entrances to the creek right by the call. After a few minutes of bird distress I switched over to cottontail and within 30 seconds Nathan saw a Fox making his way down the creek, very carefully avoiding the water with his paws. As the Fox walked toward Nathan he pulled up his shotgun slowly, centered the bead and sent some BB downrange to claim the first Fox of the trip! What a way to start off the trip. We ate Merganser and Grey Fox backstrap for dinner that night! From what we read most would consider Merganser barely palatable but we were up to try it anyway. Turns out that at least when you pair it with garlic salt and a bubbly oil bath it is extremely tasty! We all settled into camp, enjoyed the fire and prepared our gear for the next day.

Morning came quickly as we all slept great in our warm bags despite the 24 degree temps that night. Jeff and Kalyn headed out to glass for deer and Nathan and I set out the opposite direction in search of Fox and Bobcat in a hike in area we have been planning for quite some time. The plan was to hike along a large mesa and call near the edges for Fox and Bobcat. Then around lunch we would huff it over to the other side and call a drainage all the way back to the truck. There are no roads that get you close to the outer edges so we had high hopes of being the first to send distress calls out to see what may come in. The drive up to the mesa was rough as the recent rains had rutted out the road a bit and once on top we found out we were driving on iced over mud. Hopefully the return trip would be ok in the melted mud that night! As we set out everything went as planned until the ice started melting and we started struggling to walk through the deep mud on top. Due to being slowed down we only made it about 2/3 of the way to the tip of the mesa. So far we were coming up empty handed with seeing predators and not even much sign up on top of the mesa. The wind was also going in a different direction than we had planned so that made it difficult to setup due the terrain.

We started making our way to the drainage at 11am to get into new country and did a stand at a rocky drop we stumbled upon. We managed to call in a Fox late in the stand but as I reached to turn on my Tactacam my shotgun slide made a clacking noise and the Fox froze, staring right at me. It walked into some brush so I raised my gun a bit and then all I saw was the Fox waking away through thick brush past 40 yards, no shot. A bit bummed we stood up and I was telling Nathan what happened when I look up and there was a Javelina standing at 30 yards. He huffed at us a few times and took off, then a female with a yearling came walking through the area as well. I took a bit of video and then we made our way to the edge of the canyon for another stand.

We chose this next stand as it was a tributary to the main creek and had a good amount of cover and rocks in it. I set out the caller and Nathan watched my backside/downwind area. I began going through the normal sounds for my Bobcat and Fox sequence and finally got to Fox distress about 20 minutes in. After cranking up the volume a bit I sat and waited. Sure enough I caught movement and there was a Fox working its way to the call. As it got behind a Juniper I pulled up the shotgun and settled into the sight. As soon as I saw the Foxes head clear the brush at 20 yards I squeezed the trigger and the Fox dropped out of view in the tall grass. We finally got a Fox down after 6 dry stands! We continued along the drainage and had 2 more dry stands. We had time for about 2 more stands before dark and hustled to an area that looked good on the OnX Maps we were using to navigate.

We neared the area and then slowed down to get our sound lower. As we hit a slight break in the trees there was an elongated meadow that made its way down to the creek, perfect. It was about 30 yards wide and 100 yards long. I had Nathan go just into the tree line on the downwind side of the call and I watched the main meadow. I began the call loud and proud, trying to get the attention of a Fox in the area as there was scat all over this spot. Only 3 minutes in Nathan watched as a Fox walked into view and proceeded to drop scat 30 yards in front of him as it looked right at him. He slowly pulled up the shotgun as the Fox watched, unbothered by the movement. The Fox hit the dirt as fast as Nathan got the bead on him. I bumped up the volume of the call one more notch and then I saw a Fox go through a clearing headed right at Nathan. I let out a loud lip squeak to hopefully inform him of the incoming predator (he didn’t hear it for the record). Good thing he was already on alert from the last Fox as this second one came on the same path. It came into view and was checking out the already shot Fox on the ground when Nathan promptly smacked it with a full load of BB shot as well. A double on Fox was a welcome treat after the rough day of calling we had! We made our way to another spot at last light but had nothing show so we headed towards the truck. It was a fun day doing a big hike in loop and we are glad we took the time to do it and see some new country!

Before getting back to camp we loaded up a bunch of firewood as it was time for dinner and story telling, it just isn’t the same without a blazing fire! As we got back to camp we exchanged stories as we skinned out the Fox and harvested the back straps. Jeff and Kalyn had no luck on the deer that morning and midday they were able to shoot another Merganser to take home with them. In the evening they were able to glass up a couple bucks, one had a very tall and wide rack. None presented a good stalk so they had planned to go after them in the morning. Jeff warmed up the Bear chili that I had prepared and then we ate that with a side of cornbread. Boy did that hit the spot! We made our way to bed eventually and slept great with a full stomach.

Sunday morning Nathan and I decided to hunt off the roads around camp as we have done well there in the past. The other guys headed back after the big buck. The wind ended up being terrible that day for close range hunting. Not a high wind but one of those 3-6mph can’t make up its mind which way to blow winds…very frustrating! We all met up back at camp for lunch around noon. Jeff and Kalyn were able to glass up the big buck but he was 2 miles away and headed up a 700 foot bluff to the mesa above. On their way back Jeff was able to put a stalk on a little meat buck and got to 40 yards. Upon full draw both the spike and doe had stopped but Jeff couldn’t confirm which was which and couldn’t take the shot. As he let down the bow they scurried off and that showed that the deer he was on was in fact the buck. He made a great choice to not shoot since he wasn’t sure. They did get into a covey of Gambles Quail earlier in the day and were able to take 2 birds when they flushed. We all enjoyed some Elk steaks at lunch that were the most tender meat we had eaten. They were from my brother in laws young elk that he took down this past October. Simply amazing and a great treat to a frustrating morning!

We all headed our separate ways and would once again meet up after dark. Nathan and I had seen a buck fairly close to the road where I got my Mountain Lion 2 years ago so the other guys headed there to see if they could turn him up. Nathan and I headed down a new stretch of road that went into broken country. It ended up being way bigger canyons than either of us thought they would be but we called it anyway. The flip flopping wind continued that evening. We made some great looking stands on fresh sign but they simply didn’t produce for us. Gorgeous views of some extremely rough country were seen but we headed back to see if the guys had any better luck than us. Jeff and Kalyn ended up getting another stock on those deer we saw that morning but couldn’t get a shot at the buck. They did end up swinging by a tank and shot a Widgeon (small duck) to take home as a prize so they were stoked about that. We all enjoyed cheddar bratwurst with ranch beans for dinner and then hung out by the fire until around 9:30.

At that point the lunar eclipse was about half way and Nathan and I headed out in search of some night time Coyotes. We strapped on the red lights and made our way to some flat country just a few miles away. We ended up hunting all the way through the total eclipse and called in 3 Grey Fox, no Coyotes showed during our 5 stands. It was 11:30 and the moon was back to its full glow so we headed back to camp to grab some shut-eye in prep for our last morning hunt of the trip.

Well, the final morning had come and we were all eager to get back to it. Jeff and Kalyn headed out in search of some more ducks and Nathan and I headed down a rough road in attempts to call some Fox out of the side cuts on the flats a ways from camp. We neared the first start of a canyon before first light and we scurried off to find a place to setup. I wanted to get on stand and start the call right at first light in hopes of catching a Fox before it bedded down for the morning. With all the activity at night we figured the first stand was our highest chance of success this day.

We found a nice area that had shooting lanes through the Junipers out to 60 yards and setup facing toward the start of the canyon. Nathan was directly down wind and I watched the FoxPro. First some rabbit distress and then led into Grey Fox distress. Around 7 minutes into the stand the largest Fox of the trip made his way toward Nathan. It came directly from the truck which we found out later that it left us a present right up against my rear tire. As it walked in front of Nathan at 30 yards it stopped and stared toward the call. He raised up his shotgun and let that Winchester Varmint X do its thing. The fifth Fox of the trip hit the ground and we wrapped up the stand and took some really nice pictures with the blaze orange sunrise that Arizona is famous for! We did 3 more stands but during the 2nd stand of the day the wind picked up and some heavy looking clouds started rolling through, threatening to snow. We called through a bit of ice pellet type snow and then decided we might as well make our way towards camp and hope that during the 45 minutes of travel it blows on through. Lucky enough for us it did and we found ourselves looking for 1 last stand to try.

Only a mile from camp we found a big turn in the canyon and the land presented us with an area to call. We parked the truck and made our way up against the base of the large canyon side. We setup on the edge that was sheltered from the 15mph wind and began the call. First bird distress, then rabbit wails. During the rabbit cries I noticed a bunch of small birds get flushed out of the side hill and my vision was locked into the surrounding clearings, but no movement. I started Grey Fox distress loud and proud after going silent with the rabbit, a tip that Ed Weddle offered up to me a couple years back. Sure enough that Fox couldn’t handle it and I watched as it came screaming into the call at hyper speed. I pulled up my shotgun and squeezed off a round right as it cleared a bush but to my surprise (and the Foxes as well) my shot hit just inches in front of his face! The Fox slammed on the breaks and took off to my left into the thick wash. I racked another shell into the chamber and timed my shot for when I though the Fox would hit the 2 foot clearing that I had to shoot through. The Fox ran through right as I shot but I couldn’t tell if I had hit it! Did I just miss and ruin our 100% call and kill ratio for the trip?! A few seconds went by and then I saw the Fox flailing in the brush another 10 yards from the wash, I must’ve hit it! I quickly hit it with the final blow and that finished out our trip with the 6th Grey Fox!

We made our way back to camp to exchange stories for the final time. We all had a laugh with the last Fox story and they made remarks on how big our first Fox was from that morning. I started skinning the Foxes while Jeff explained their morning experience. They snuck into a water tank and found about 12 Mallards swimming around. Kalyn snuck around the dam and popped up in hopes of scattering the ducks toward Jeff. Well those suckers took off in all directions and they made contact with just 1 bird but it was only enough to knock some feathers off and all the birds made it out alive. So close, but it just wasn’t in the cards on that one.

We all had an amazing time at one of our favorite camping and hunting areas in the great state of Arizona. We said our goodbyes and Jeff and Kalyn headed out while Nathan and I finished skinning the Fox from that morning and packing up camp. A great trip that was a heck of a send off for two fine men chasing their dreams to be Wildlife Managers!

As always, thanks for reading!
- Mark73774dcbaa729e43cb1777f0af1356c4.jpgd73909b665395a567de773f4df5646f7.jpgb430de072141125f24e1e3612434f645.jpga982abe231dd192e10098a33421492c2.jpg4a434e571d5e33a99f9a774399d646b8.jpg8820d92ba89b39f005968b9e5c62bc0e.jpg63836fa0504ed43c865cb9c8664cbb77.jpga3332f0c3df0b5f0ea0b8f9d1168e4c4.jpge9d53492abd29d47206d82cd42969cca.jpgbc22768a5406042c90fb934a7a3fdd63.jpghttps://uploads.tapa...ea18c65f7ec.jpg

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#2 Mark Steinmann

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 09:35 AM

Last few bird pictures. 726a78d6de95da23f7a1a0d077db1529.jpgb017f5cbfc4114ab75b7da9867ccc8d7.jpg

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#3 glenway

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 03:24 PM

Hunting under that moon is sure to be memorable. 

 

Merganser, huh?  Heard they're fishy.  

 

At 30 yards, how would you describe the pelt damage with those shells?  Sound like you guys make very effective teams.  Great stuff!



#4 hassell

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 04:53 PM

Great write up and pic's, merganser Hmmm! You guy's will eat anything !! Thank's for sharing.



#5 C2C

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 04:58 PM

Great writeup Mark and the pics arent bad either .. lol ..looks like you had a great and memorable trip



#6 youngdon

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 05:29 PM

Another good trip, and great write up. Those are some big fox !

 

I'll third the thoughts on the merganser......


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Never kick a dead coyote, especially one that ain't dead when your gun is still in the kitchen. Just ask your favorite Yooper what will happen. But if its a bobcat in a 330 coni and you think he's dead,,,,,Think again.. And we know you were wearing less than your PJ's on the last one you shot !

                                                       

                                                         

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#7 Mark Steinmann

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 06:37 PM

Haha lots of comments on the Merganser. Don't hate on them until you try it..... The 1 time we cooked them for dinner on Friday they weren't bad at all! Barely a hint of fishy taste at all....like hard to tell unless you were looking for it (like we were). I'm waiting to hear back from my buddy once he cooks it up for his family.

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#8 Mark Steinmann

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 06:40 PM

Hunting under that moon is sure to be memorable.

Merganser, huh? Heard they're fishy.

At 30 yards, how would you describe the pelt damage with those shells? Sound like you guys make very effective teams. Great stuff!

So all our shots were from 20-35 yards and the most BB holes in a Fox was about 10-12. After skinning them and flipping them fur side out you couldn't even tell it had been shot. I'm totally happy with that round, short and long range. From Fox up to Coyote.

That was an impressive moon and it was cool to see the darkness come and go as the eclipse happened!

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#9 Jerseyrifle

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 06:46 PM

Thanks for the read, Mark!
I'll be coming out to Mesa, Az. now!

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#10 Mark Steinmann

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 10:59 PM

Thanks for the read, Mark!
I'll be coming out to Mesa, Az. now!

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Yes sir! Come on out and get in on some action in AZ!

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