06 December 2008

Got him!

Well, the naysayers are quiet tonight! I get a lot of strange looks and head shaking when the Japanese hunters realize I spend way too much time in the woods, studying tracks, trying to pattern the game, and sitting in my blinds and tree stand. It payed off this afternoon with this monster 9 or 10 year old buck that I was able to locate about 50 meters from where I sat last week. I am sure he is the one I saw on my way out of ther woods last week. Sure as clockwork, he rolled in about 45 minutes before sunset. After 2 long minutes of him freezing behind a clump of small trees, and me frozen behind the bush, he made the mistake of taking a step forward. I had his shoulder in my scope the entire time, waiting for him to give me the clear shot. That 20cm step was all it took. He dropped in his tracks and was dead before I made the slow and cautious 30 meter walk to him.
He got some revenge though, as my lower back is killing me from hoisting him into my "monster kei truck" by myself.
I am off to my buddy's garage to do kaitai (butchering) in a few minutes, after I eat my dinner but I was so excited I had to share the pictures below!

See you in the yama!


03 December 2008

Ma-Jika vs. Nihon-Jika, vs Ezo-Jika

I was recently asked the difference between Ma-Jika and Nihon-Jika. I hope I can clear up the subject. Here goes:
The difference between Ma-Jika and Nihon-Jika, as I understand it from my research is:
Ma-Jika ( literally "original" + "Deer") is the species of deer that populated most of Japan, particularly the main island of Honshu, since ancient times. It was virtually hunted to extinction like most deer species of North America. This species has recovered and it now thriving.
Nihon-Jika ( literally "Japanese" + "Deer") was created when the government feared extinction of the Ma-Jika due to market hunting. Their response was to import deer from Hokkaido and Russia (all of these share a common ancestor, the Ma-Jika) and set them free. These animals thrived in Honshu and became the most prevalent species. For the last 100+ years, these have been the most abundant species and most commonly used as the image of Japanese deer. It is common, in my area, to see both Ma-Jika and Nihon-Jika in the same areas, sometimes in the same groups.
All Japanese deer share a common name of "Shika" or "Deer" in combination with an additional word to distinguish the actual species. Another example is Ezo-Jika (Ezo/Yezo Deer from Hokkaido). They are all called Sika in English, which is probably a bastardization of the Japanese "Shika" which is sometimes Romanized as Sika vice Shika.
The taxonomy of these animals varies depending on the source but the most common convention I can find is that they are all:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Sub-Phylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla (even toed ungulates)
Family: Bovidae
Sub-Family: Cervidae
Genus: Cervis Nippon
Species include: Nippon-Jika are Cervus Nippon-nippon, and Ma-Jika are Cervus Nippon-centralis. Very slight differences. Ezo-Jika are Cervus Nippon-yesoensis. There also several other species/sub-species in Japan and more throughout the Pacific. These include: Cervus Nippon keramae, Cervus Nippon yakushimae, Cervus Nippon pulchellus, in fact there upwards of 16 different variations, depending on the source of the taxonomy research.
All of these species make for excellent table fare, particularly when fol owing standard wisdom in animal selection, harvest methods, butchering technique, and cooking style. Stop by and we would be glad to grill some up for you!
As for size, coloration, habits, and such, the are basically the same. The only difference is the size of the antlers. Both, when full grown, and perfectly formed, are 3 basic points with a 4th brow tine on each side. Ma-jika max out about 35cm, while Nihon-Jika can be as tall as 75cm. Ezo-Jika can exceed 95cm, but are never like the Sika that have been exported and now thrive in New Zealand and other exotic preserves, as these are often inbred with mutated antlers. They still make awesome trophies but I still prefer a finely balanced "All Japanese" Deer!

I hope this helps!

See you in the Yama!

I hope this helps!

02 December 2008

Hunting Season 2008: "the first 2 weeks"

Hello all!

Hunting season snuck up on me this year! I was spending a lot of time with our move into our new house, and several trips to the states, so I was not as ready for the season as I would have liked to be. "All is well that ends well" is a quote that definitely describes the first 2 weeks of this hunting season:

13 Nov: took a power walk in the woods to check my still five different hunting blinds from last year, cleared the dry leaves and trimmed a few branches, and fortunately saw a lot of fresh tracks. Scouted an area I have been meaning to set my tree stand in, and made a plan to hang it on the 14th.

14 Nov: went with the wife and daughter to hang my stand and realized that there was a major horse riding event on opening day just 150 meters from my stand! Normally I hunt on the weekdays so the horse stable is closed. Looks like no tree stand for opening day!

15 Nov: Opening day came and went with me only getting 2 hours in the afternoon in my blind.

16 Nov: 3:30pm a nice 5 1/2 year old "Ma-Jika" (Original Japanese Sika Deer) made the fatal mistake of strolling across the creek about 40 meters east of my stand. One slow and easy shot stopped him in his tracks! Fresh meat in the freezer!

17 Nov: 4:00pm I spotted a monster Nihon Jika (modern Japanese Sika Deer) about 85 meters west of my stand. With the sun setting behind him I kept losing him in the glare and he appeared to turn around and walk away. About 10 minutes later he reappeared on the top of the slope almost directly across the creek from my stand! I instantly recognized him as one of the two brothers that had eluded me all last season! After a few anxious moments and several false starts toward the creek, he made the mistake of thinking it was all clear...1 carefully placed hydra-shok hollow point ended his journey. Now the hard part began..after field dressing him, and saving the heart in a bag for the BBQ later, I needed to call one of my hunting buddies to drag him up out of the creek bed. I sat in the dark for about an hour before my friend to arrive then we did the double drag up the hill and another 150 meters to the nearest trail my mini kei truck can negotiate. This was a very late night with us not finishing kaitai (butchering) this huge deer and packing the meat for freezing nut it was well worth it! Since I took a high neck shot, not a scrap of meat was wasted! BTW, he will make a nice trophy as soon as I finish my garage!

18 Nov: The family and I traveled to all our neighbors' homes delivering fresh venison to all! Everyone was please with our gift, but I was but I was the happiest seeing all this meet help out so many people!

19 Nov: Another afternoon in the lowest blind along the creek, less than 200 meters below where I took the huge buck 2 days earlier, a huge buck appeared from my blind spot on the left and had already crossed the creek and was on my side! A closer look indicated that he was definitely a shooter about 4 1/2 years old so I loaded a round in the chamber and shouldered my gun. After about 5 minutes of him meandering around behind some thick brush, he started toward the scrub oak stand behind me and stepped into a shooting lane I had cleared 2 years back. Big mistake! He joined his older brother in my freezer. The perfect broadside shot exploded his heart but ruined very little meat, ribs on one side and a small piece of shoulder on the other.

20-28 Nov: 2 dozen hours in the woods and only spotted a dozen deer. Since it is either sex season, any of them could have been shot but I do not want to waste any meat, and am very cautious about killing a doe that may have a fawn with her.

29 Nov: Hunted with the local hunting association for one of 5 group hunts we will have this year. 18 members, 4 missed shots by other hunters, and I closed the day with a single neck shot and put a nice 4 1/2 year old Ma-Jika on the butcher block. After the meat was divided up everyone got a few kilos, that's it.

30 Nov: I thought I had figured out the pattern of a big buck that has been spotted several times in a lower area of our range, between t creek beds. I sat in my stand until sunset and saw absolutely no animals except one crow headed home. I packed my gear and trekked back to my truck. While I was driving home, on a tiny trail about 150 meters from my stand location, a horse jumped in front of my truck and then jumped into the brush! Well, that's my story!!! Actually, it was a huge bodied, heavy racked buck with a super dark coat. He scared the life out of me! I set my mind on it and I will be hunting for him specifically until the last day of the season! It is an obsession!

I'll keep you posted!

See you in the Yama!