Archive | April 2014

Hunting Practice

This past weekend I went to my very first 3D Archery shoot! Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Longbow Association, this event was exclusively for traditional archers, those that shoot longbows or traditional-style recurves as opposed to modern compound bows.

3D archery is lots of fun, especially if you are interested in the poetry of traditional archery. A 3D course is a hike through the woods with your bow and arrows, stopping to shoot at model game. Mostly the targets are deer, elk, turkeys, and the like, but you can get more exotic targets as well – I’ve seen a stegosaurus, and even a zombie!

This arrow hit a sapling just in front of the target and stuck there! That’s something that just doesn’t happen on the range!

The idea of a 3D shoot is basically hunting practice. When you shoot on a range, you are shooting at clearly marked targets at a fixed, known distance. Hunting game is not really so straightforward. There is no convenient sign on a deer saying “I am 20 yards away from you, and here is a big target painted over my heart!” Your quarry might be slightly uphill or downhill from you. The wind may be blowing. There may be a tree or branch between you and it. 3D archery approximates some of these conditions. The targets also have circles showing the vital areas on the animal, so you can see whether your shot would have been a good hunting hit when you retrieve your arrows.

I have only been shooting seriously for about 4 months, so I definitely have a lot of work to do before I’m good enough to consider hunting. Nevertheless, I was exceedingly proud of my performance over the 2 days of the shoot. I learned a ton about how things like slope affect the aim of a shot, and got some practice gauging distance and aiming accordingly. By the end of the weekend I had even made some good hunting shots on my first arrow at a given target. I think that’s pretty darned good for a beginner! Not to mention, I had a fantastic time while I was at it. I’m looking forward to lots more 3D shoots this summer!

Busy spring!

What a busy spring it’s been so far! It seems to be making up for lost time in light of its late arrival, and we are certainly not complaining. So much has happened in the last two weeks! My Muscovy hen is sitting on a dozen eggs, and two of the chickens are on nests of their own. I’ve sequestered them in one of the barn stalls, so they won’t be disturbed. We also ordered some new rare breeds from a hatchery, and those chicks arrived last Monday. They’re currently in my father-in-law’s basement until they feather out and it gets warm enough for them to move to the small coop at his house. Then when they are bigger, we will integrate them into our respective flocks.

I also found a great deal on some adult Muscovy duck hens, and picked up four new ladies. I’ve been wanting to add some color to my duck flock, and these fit the bill. Currently I have a white drake, one white hen, and one black-and-white magpie hen. Having some new colored hens, unrelated to the ducklings that will hatch next month, means I don’t have to keep any of my drake’s offspring in order to have more ducks in the barnyard. I like that a lot! These ladies are just about a year old, the same as my little magpie, and among them we’re getting five eggs almost every day! (Especially impressive since the sixth hen is sitting on a nest instead of laying!)

There hasn’t been any luck in the turkey department just yet. I’m not too worried, though. I can try to find some started birds later on in the summer, and try to finish them out for Thanksgiving. There is more news to come in the next few weeks though!

Spring on the Farm

Winter has abruptly left us and spring is finally free to arrive! For me the most tangible evidence is in the huge influx of eggs we’ve been getting from our poultry as the days lengthen. We have big plans for the farm this year. A lot of things were put on hold last year because the potential existed that we might need to move in mid-summer. That precluded things like a big garden, or a large hatch of ducks or turkeys, among other things.

This year, though, we know we’re not going anywhere, and that means that we have endless options! Right now I’m working on getting one of my two Muscovy duck hens to set. I’ll be putting some eggs under a couple of my chickens as well, if they’ll cooperate. I’m also scouring the local advertisements for some turkey poults and a couple of piglets to raise for pork. That last is very exciting, as it will be our first foray into raising meat other than poultry. With chickens, turkeys, and pork products of our own in the freezer, that means the only meat we’ll need to buy from another source is our beef. That thought is incredibly liberating.

Unfortunately since we got rid of our trio of breeding turkeys last year, thinking we might have to move, we’re starting from scratch in the turkey department. Last time we had Bourbon Reds, a heritage breed with lovely brown and white plumage. They got very large and were very delicious, although our Tom did develop quite an attitude. This year I’d love to get more Bourbon Reds, or perhaps some Narragansetts, which are very striking in a barred pattern.

Our original batch of juvenile Bourbon Red turkeys (and their Lavender cross sidekick)

Our original batch of juvenile Bourbon Red turkeys (and their Lavender cross sidekick)

There are plans for the garden as well, although it will be more modest than our first attempt when we moved into this house. I do want to take another shot at pumpkins, and I’ll be planting garlic in the fall.  Our previous crop of garlic was one of my rare successes when it comes to flora (as opposed to fauna). We’ll have some tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions, lettuces and other greens, and of course the herb garden – another area of unexpected success, at least as long as they can remain outdoors in the summer. I have, however, managed to keep my bay tree alive all winter for two years now, and I’m pretty proud of myself for that! I’m looking forward to finding out what new and unexpected accomplishments this year has in store for me, and I hope if you’re reading this, you are too!