Sunday, July 8, 2012

What's Next

One of the wiser things I've done in my life was time my five years in Japan with my hunting draws in the U.S.  When I came to Japan I had 3-8 bonus/preference points in most states for most species that had application processes to hunt.  Those points give me extra chances in the 'hat' every year.  I apply for hunts in specific units with specific dates and the more advantageous the dates and bigger the animals, the harder it is to draw the unit.  But after five additional years of application, I now have 8-13 points for most species in most states.  This process costs me somewhere around $1200/year.  That's the nonrefundable part.  But I usually outlay about $14,000, which the states hold onto for two months until they hold their drawings.  Then when I am unsuccessful I get a refund.  But having some liquidity is necessary every spring.

Well this year the stars aligned for me.  I did a lot of stats research and tried to put my name in the most advantageous hats so I could get some tags (as opposed to the last five years when I would only put my name in the best hats because drawing multiple tags would spell trouble for my job).  The drawings kicked off in March and I was surprised not to get as single tag (of seven applications) in New Mexico.  Next up was Idaho where I had applied for the mountain goat unit with the best odds in the state (last year was 1:4).  I drew it.  I think the odds were 1:6.  That tag is once-in-a-lifetime and in an incredibly remote area.  Remember where I killed my Idaho elk last year?  Same area.  Problem is that goats inhabit the ugliest parts of the roughest mountains.  And my unit is huge.  I want to find the biggest billy in the unit, but that could take me weeks of hiking to visit all the goat habitat and check out all the goats.  I could shortcut some of the time needed by flying the unit, which I may do, but that will cost a minimum of $600, so there's that.  I won't get a record-book goat out of this unit (feed isn't good enough), but I hope to get a really nice hairy coat to tan and put on my bed. For that I will have to kill my goat later in the season.  My official season goes from August 30-November 8th, but I will shoot (ha!) for sometime in early October to get an early stage winter coat.  November would obviously be better, but it's very likely the mountains will be covered in snow by then and unless I have my goat patterned and pinpointed, I don't want to risk having to find a white goat against a snowy backdrop.

Next was Nevada.  Nevada has big animals.  It's one of the most popular states to apply for because they manage their game populations very well.  Unfortunately it's a $242 nonrefundable fee to enter the draws every year.  But this year, for the first time, I drew.  An August antelope tag with decent potential to kill a record book animal and a late October mule deer tag, which is a backpacking hunt.

Last was Washington.  I was holding out hope of getting an elk tag, but there were about 1100 people applying for the 45 tags in that unit (though with my 8 bonus points I had 64 entries in the hat) so the odds were still way against me.  Well, I not only drew that elk tag, but I got a huge surprise by drawing the sheep tag I'd put in for against 1:3700 odds.  The world record California Bighorn was killed out of this unit two years ago and there's rumored to be another big one in the unit this year that could challenge that record.  This is a huge deal.  That hunt begins September 15th and lasts three weeks, though hopefully we'll have the ram pinpointed by opening day and it won't take too long to get him down.

Here's the tentative schedule:

August 4: arrive back in the U.S.
August 6-8: go sheep scouting
August 11-13: bring the Zamami-son homestay students - who are staying in WA this summer - back to my house for the weekend
August 15: go to NV early to scout then hunt antlope
Antelope Hunt Ends; go to WA immediately to begin sheep scouting
Sept. 15: sheep season opens
Sheep Hunt Ends: go to ID for mountain goat scouting and elk hunting
October 20th: go back to WA for the elk hunt
October 27th: WA elk hunt opens
Elk Hunt Ends: go back to ID for deer hunt
November 1-18: late season ID deer

Nevada deer has been removed from the list because it overlaps with the WA elk hunt so I will return the tag to get my points back.  I will hope to draw the NV deer tag next year when I probably won't have five other awesome tags to my name.

There's some pretty interesting ideas for December, too, but I will hold off on announcing those until they solidify further.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sabani 2012

I leave Japan a month from today and as you've noticed from my lack of blog posts, I'm busy.  Every night is filled with things that need to be done before I leave (complicated a lot by the elaborate presents I am giving to ~150 people) and the blog has fallen by the wayside.  Certainly not for lack of content, just too much on my plate.  Okay, so Sabani..

[Team Shimawarabi (my team) before the start]

[Eventual second-place, Team Kaisou.  I'd marry any of these girls if they'd have me.]

Just like last year, I hopped a boat ride before the start over to a small island that has a lighthouse.  This island serves as a 'corner' after the first straightaway, so the teams cut very close to it.  My goal was to get a picture of the string of boats (Zamami-maru leading) with the sun out and the coral and beautiful blue and turquoise waters showing.  Last year I went up to the lighthouse but I was too high so I didn't get the shot I was after.  But this year I went over a full hour beforehand and climbed up some cliffs and through some brush to get to the perfect viewpoint.  Then I waited 45 minutes for the race to start, anxiously watching the coming clouds.

[I had to jump out of the boat and swim through that water to reach shore, then climb those cliffs to get here]

[My view of the start.  Waiting..  waiting...]

[and here's the shot]

[a couple minutes later my team (above) passes through the narrows, about 8th back]

[the school team, who eventually finished in twelfth, is second-back in this shot]

After getting the shots I wanted I carefully but quickly descended the cliffs and then went over to the edge of the coral and jumped in, then swam out into the current for the support boat to pick me up.  I photographed for the next hour.

[Team Uminaivy, Zamami's women's team (finished eighth)]

[after I've been switched in, I'm second back]

[I'm the guy who looks like he's ready to cross the Sahara]

[finished in sixth place overall, 31 seconds out of the top three for our class]

[31 seconds from winning one of these]

[winner Zamami-maru and those wonderful Kaisou ladies, who finished just five minutes back and never traded out any of their members during the 3:40 race.  Even Zamami-maru concurred that they are the better team]

[the championship trophy]