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Blog 2012



Monday, 24 December 2012
Merry Christmas to All! The last week has been interesting, finalizing production details regarding things like waistbands and labels. We have all kept away from The Swamp, the idea being to let the deer settle down after 3 months of pressure. My buddy Tom had prepared a great setup to hunt with his two 14-year old sons. BUT, as the name implies, it is a SWAMP. On Friday morning we got some really heavy rain, and when that happens, The Swamp fills with water. By Saturday morning hunting prospects for Tom and his boys were washed out. In wet years the place has been underwater continuously months at a time. Here’s hoping for snow instead of rain! That could bring us some great nature experiences, hunting opportunities and maybe even a White Christmas!

Monday, 17 December 2012
Something I did not mention when I wrote Saturday’s entry ... as Tom and I were leaving The Swamp, Tom pointed out an enormous dog track. It wasn’t really noteworthy until today. I was back for a short sunrise hunt, and to bait the area for Tom’s boys, who will be visiting soon. (Baiting is legal for deer in New Jersey. I've never tried it, so I am curious to see how it goes.) Standing on our dirt access road in the early light, I was looking North and just waiting for better visibility. It was still probably 5 minutes before shooting light when I glimpsed a LARGE white critter thru an opening in the brush. It was moving with the steady, even gait of a canid with a destination in mind, with its back perfectly level. Because it seemed so large I immediately doubted what I'd seen, but within a second I saw it again, only for a couple tenths of a second, but long enough to remove any doubt about what it looked like. What it was, I can’t say. We do have light-colored coyotes, but this thing seemed white, and much too big to be a ‘yote. Eastern coyotes do get big. A game warden I know in Newfoundland, Canada, shot one that weighed 82 pounds, although I never heard of one anywhere near that size in New Jersey. But I've never seen a loose dog around there either. At The Swamp, it is normal for scavengers to clean things up quick after a deer is field-dressed, and I checked the spot Tom had dressed his stud-of-a-button-buck on Saturday, which was only 30 yards from where I stood. As usual, nothing there but the stomach contents. I've got to get a camera or two going. Maybe I can get a picture of whatever I saw. Probably it was a ‘yote and not as big as I thought. But then, what about that track?

Saturday, 15 December 2012
My buddy Tom was interested in getting a deer in front of his twin sons, 14 years old. He asked me if it would be OK to try to set something up for them at The Swamp, which is fairly close to Tom’s house and convenient. We decided to meet Saturday morning at 6AM, hunt muzzleloader for a couple of hours maybe, then set up a two-person ladder stand so Tom can sit with each of his boys in turn. We walked onto the property in the dark, and I pointed Tom into the woods with the suggestion he just move 75 yards or so off our dirt access road, and keep his eyes open. That area is a very well-used deer travel corridor. I continued on and sat down on some leaves on a little mound. The temperature was a few degrees below freezing. I was wearing WeatherWool Fullweight DRAB on top and bottom. I had nothing over my legs except my DRAB. I was tired this morning, so I wore Summerweight Icebreaker and a 400 gram Woolpower Turtleneck. Normally I would have worn only one base layer in this temperature. But I always feel the chill more when I'm tired. It was good to note that I felt no chill or dampness sitting on the moist ground. The leaves provided some insulation, but it was the WeatherWool that was doing the work! After about 45 minutes I'd seen nothing, and the light was good. The ground was quiet enough that I could stillhunt. I'd barely gone 10 yards when I saw deer coming around a little knoll and onto our dirt access road. They were a bit farther than I wanted to shoot, and we’ve got a good supply of meat already, so I scoped them for practice. To my surprise, they just kept coming around that knoll. There were more than 10 certainly, all skinheads, maybe as many as 15. They just walked down the road, headed toward Tom. A few minutes later, I heard Tom shoot. When I reached him, he was standing over what I took from a distance to be a good-sized doe. When I got closer, I was surprised to see the deer was a young-of-the-year. A very large deer for its age. But even more remarkably, this youngster was rutting!! He had tiny polished nubs on his head, and he smelled rutty, with the dark tarsal glands of a real buck. I saw a spike young-of-the-year in the 1990s in Pennsylvania’s Perry County, but that deer, even tho he had 1-inch (2.5 cm) spikes, was tiny. This deer dressed about 100 pounds. A real nice-sized venison deer. Wow, whatever he’d been eating, it was good for him. Tom had another surprise for me ... his young stud had been traveling in the opposite direction of the big doe group I'd seen. And Tom had seen a couple more deer by the time I reached him. And actually, so had i. Some days the deer move, and some days they don’t. According to Mark Vitt’s USPrimeTimes, today was by far the best morning of the coming week for hunting. Mark’s website (www.USPrimeTimes.com) has real predictive value. I've never met Mark, but we’ve spoken on the phone a couple of times, and had some email. Mark is probably the only person of my acquaintance that is both a serious technoid and a serious outdoorsman. Mark once told me about trailing a cougar for days. Wherever he was when it got dark is where he spent the night. And he did the entire USPrimeTimes website himself, for the fun of it.

Friday, 14 December 2012
Today we received a nice note from our pal Rich Cleveland of North Carolina. Rich is a lover of nature, and of all things natural. And there isn’t much he likes better than sharing his knowledge and experience with others. Rich runs the Earth School in the hills outside Asheville, where he teaches Wilderness Survival, Tracking and Nature Awareness. You can get a better idea of what he is up to by clicking your way to his website, www.LoveTheEarth.com. Rich has had a test pair of our WeatherWool FullWeight Pants in DRAB for a while, and he wore them this hunting season, when he killed a beautiful whitetail buck at only 14 feet. After Rich shot the buck, he wrote me that he could tell it would not get up, and he sat with the buck and stroked his face for 2 minutes while the deer took his last breaths. Rich has done this several times. (I've never even heard such a practice until now!) Here are a couple of sentences in Rich’s own words: "I harvested this fine 9 pt Buck in Western, NC this year wearing my new Weather Wool pants. I chose to sit on the ground that morning in an area that I had scouted. It was during the Rut and he was chasing a doe right behind me. I took him at a distance of 14 feet! It was verrrry cold that morning, but I wasn't...Weather Wool kept me warm and dry! Many thanks Ralph!"


Rich Cleveland in a pair of WeatherWool test pantsRich Cleveland in a pair of early WeatherWool test pants

12 December 2012 (12-12-12!)
Went to bed late but woke up early, and wired. Did some paperwork and got the itch to hit the woods, maybe come up with some more venison. Temperature was just below freezing, but was forecast to rise. And with the rain we’ve had lately, it seemed likely the woods would be very quiet once the morning warmed up. Walking in before sunup, my footsteps sounded like a brass band crunching over the frozen leaves in the dark stillness. I was nice and warm wearing Woolpower 400 gram Turtleneck under a WeatherWool Hooded Jacket. I also wore WeatherWool FullWeight Pants over a pair of briefs. As the woods got light, I saw a bright red fox in the distance, but that was all. By 8AM the temp had risen enough that the forest floor had thawed and I could stillhunt quietly. I spotted another red fox in the distance, this one not nearly as bright as the first. The Swamp does have at least an occasional gray fox -- my trail cam got a picture years ago, but red foxes are plentiful. As I tiptoed along the edge of some ridiculously thick briers, what I believed to be a single large deer jumped up and thumped off, seemingly within about 20 yards of me. But the brush is so thick there I could not see whatever it was. And that, of course, is exactly why deer love to bed there. Not long after, the shadow of a large bird passed over me, and I watched what I thought was a Great Horned Owl land in the top of a tall tree about 70 yards off. I was wearing 15x binoculars, which most would consider too bulky and overpowered for stillhunting a spot where you can rarely see over 100 yards. They are bulky, but I really appreciated getting a good look at that owl. I was surprised he’d landed as close to me as he had, because owls seem extremely shy. And indeed, as I looked him (or her) over, those big horns in perfect silhouette, the owl was staring right back at me. I watched the owl for a while, but I guess he was just settling in for the day because he didn’t move as I eased my way past his tree. Just beyond the owl’s tree was a heron wading in our little pond. The heron saw me, and squawked a bit, but surprsinginly, just as the normally shy owl had done, the heron stayed put as I worked my way around the opposite side of the pond. Usually our herons are very shy, and fly off at the first sight of a human, squawking loudly in what seems like annoyance. Something in the air today must have been different, causing both owl and heron to sit tight. That made me feel like I'd soon encounter a whitetail, but no dice.

10 December 2012
Today we picked up our first bolts of production wool. We need to run a couple of tests to make sure the fabric meets specs, and then we can get busy making some clothing. Finally! It’s been three years ... WOW!

5 December 2012
My truck was back on the road, and I was getting psyched to do some bear hunting. I was particularly motivated by the picture I'd received of my buddy’s young son and the 320-pound blackie he’d taken the previous day! But then Debby reminded me she didn’t like bear meat, and that we had enough bear rugs, bear hides and bear skulls already. Plus I had to admit there is an awful lot of work I could be doing. From the purely logistical point of view also, hunting alone and potentially far from a road, I'd have a real problem on my hands if I did take a bear of any size at all. It’s a strange thing, but something always seems to keep me from the Jersey bears. Last year I had an average size sow if I wanted her ... safety off, crosshairs all lined up for a close, gimme-shot. But she had two cubs and I just didn’t feel right about that. When I talked to Jersey’s bear biologist about 3 weeks ago, he said YOU SHOULD HAVE TAKEN HER. THE CUBS WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE. WE NEED SOWS REMOVED. Yeah, I knew that when I passed the shot. Well, Alex and his buds are talking about Spring Blackie in Northwest Montana. Sounds pretty good to me!

4 December 2012
Tuesday morning and I was still without my truck, but Deadly Dan was keen to hit The Swamp for first light, and he picked me up. It was warm, about 45 degrees, drippy and drizzly and foggy. I was on stand well before shooting light, and it wasn’t long before a couple of antlerless deer showed up. They were legal, but too far. It rained off and on, sometimes pretty heavy, until about 7:30AM. I would have set myself at a spot Alex named Zack’s Stand because that is where his brother killed his first deer. But the big storms we’ve had the last two Halloweens created blowdowns that really reduced the possibilities from Zack’s Stand. I'd taken up a post behind the huge root ball of one of those recent blowdowns. Seven months earlier, I'd taken my first gobbler from that very spot, and I liked it. I'd also seen a nice buck while turkey hunting there. The WeatherWool had me completely comfortable in the rain. About 7:45, a buck, maybe the same one from springtime, magically appeared only 40 yards away. It always amazes me when a deer shows up like that ... How he could have gotten to that spot without me seeing him earlier I do not know. They are good at what they do! Before I could line up on him he stepped behind a screen of brush and began to work a tiny, half-inch (1 cm) think sapling. He found something there he liked quite a bit I guess, because he worked that little tree, only about 30 inches (75 cm) tall, for 10 minutes or so. When he stepped clear of the brush, a 12-gauge slug put him down real quick.

WeatherWool The Swamp Buck Just as He Fell

Some of my friends like to give me grief for almost always shooting for the table. But antlers are fine with me guys!
On the left is the buck just as he fell. A beautiful animal. As always taking him made me feel both sad and grateful.
He dressed out at about 150 pounds (68 kg) or so, and I had him processed mostly into sausage. He was an old, mature buck, probably no longer wearing his best rack, although he did have an 18-inch spread. But, he was still mixing it up -- he had a 3-inch gash on his shoulder, presumably from fighting. He is likely the same large-bodied buck I saw at this spot in spring turkey season, when of course his antlers were small and in velvet.

After expressing my thanks and waiting a few moments out of respect, I registered him by phone call and sent pictures to my Dad, Alex, Zack and Dan. Then I dressed him out and spent an hour or so trying to push a deer in Dan’s direction. It almost worked, but they passed too far, and too fast. Dan said it would be fine to put the buck on the roof of his car, but I've really been missing having Alex in the whitetail woods this year. He’s been busy with work and his new apartment and he’d barely gotten out at all. So I put the arm on him to get over there with his truck. It’s been so dry lately Alex was able to drive within 100 yards of the buck. We had a little photo session and I told Alex and Dan about how the buck showed up and where he worked the sapling and how I'd taken a turkey from the same spot. We told Dan about Zack’s Stand. It was really good for me, sharing like that with my friend and my son. And then Alex and Dan dragged the buck out for me!

WeatherWool test clothes and Ralph with buckThe WeatherWool DRAB is pretty well invisible in the wet, dull woods of December. Gee, this is a good-sized buck for sure, but he looks dainty next to me. I've got to trim down!

3 December 2012
One last -- we hope -- adjustment to the wool. An additional post-production step we decided to test. Next Monday we’ll see the results. Should be a VERY interesting day!!

Today is the opening day of what is called “buck season” in New Jersey. It’s not exactly an accurate name now, because antlerless deer are also legal in so much of the state. But back in the day, when there was little to no archery interest and no doe hunting, the basic firearm hunting license allowed buck hunting for 6 days ... generally beginning the first Monday in December. Buck season isn’t the event it once was because bowhunters have been in the woods for 3 months already. Also, there are more limited firearms seasons that precede buck season. Nevertheless, tradition is still strong and just about everyone who hunts deer in Jersey will be out today. In rural Jersey, schools still close for the buck opener.

Until 1970, buck season was also bear season. But Jersey had few black bear at that point, and the season was closed until 2003. It’s been a political issue since then, and often in the news, even nationally. However, the blackies sort of settled the issue themselves via huge population growth and one serious predatory attack on a camper. (Two guys were sleeping in a tent up at High Point State Park and a bear grabbed one by the leg and pulled him out. But the two men managed to fight the bear off.) So this year we are again having our traditional bear and buck season. I'm personally very partial to bear meat ... or, at least, spring bear meat. And my own plan was to be visit the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and try for a bear but be open to a buck should one present the opportunity. Unfortunately, my truck broke down yesterday and that killed the black bear plan for today! I did visit The Swamp for the sunrise session, but did not see so much as a tail.

As I left, Deadly Dan, a local wild-foods lover who is still new to hunting, had just arrived. Later, Dan told me he saw a group of four bucks for the fourth time, but could not get a shot. Each of the previous times he’d seen them, it was during antlerless seasons (when he saw no antlerless deer).

1 December 2012
Today’s entry will make more sense if you read yesterday’s entry first. --- Saturday (the next) morning I was heading into the woods just after first light. Temperature just a little below freezing, and still crazy noisy. There was just no way to move quietly thru the woods. So I decided to park myself right where I'd been the previous day at sunset. Seemed like a fine spot, even tho I'd seen nothing. I wore a full base layer of 200 gram Woolpower under my FullWeight WeatherWool DRAB. I was planning to hunt dark-to-dark, so even though it was not what I'd call cold, I wore long johns as well as thermal top. Today was the first Saturday of “rifle season” in Pennsylvania, and there are always a LOT of guys in the woods this day, so, for safety’s sake, I decided to wait until just before shooting light before I entered the woods. Although I could see well enough, I flickered a flashlight beam around me to make sure any potential itchy trigger finger that might be somewhere around would see the light before he decided to fire at a sound. The woods seemed to be empty until just before I reached my blowdown from yesterday, when turkeys started erupting from the roost I'd marked last night. There must have been 20 or 30 of them. They just kept flying out of there, and I could see them pretty well as they were skylighted. They were making a HUGE racket. So ... when the heck did they fly up? As far as I am concerned, I had reached that spot yesterday afternoon well before fly-up. AND, I would also have to say I left well after roosting time. It did not seem possible so many turkeys could have flown up to a roost almost within shotgun range of where I was sitting, and me be aware of only one of them. Then I thought about the sound I'd originally figured as a climbing stand. But that didn’t make sense either. So the next 3 hours were spent looking for deer that did not show and wondering about that turkey roost. About 9:30 three antlerless deer came loping by at about 60 or 70 yards. The third one in line stopped behind a tree, but a neck shot put it down. I love hunting with my Dad’s old Marlin model 336 in .30-30. It’s a great shooter, it’s been in the family longer than me, and in a relatively developed area like this, it is a fairly safe rifle to shoot. I'd love to use the Terror, a tremendous custom .300 WSM just gifted me by an old friend, but that would not be as safe as the .30-30. For safety, my first choice would be my slug gun, but it’s a semi-auto, which is not legal for deer hunting in PA. So, I got a real kick out of using Dad’s rifle, but also ... I have an old box of shells Dad bought in the 1960s and when I hunt with the .30-30, I put one of those old rounds in the chamber for the first shot. So, this deer was killed with 40+ year old ammo, and an even older rifle. After I looked over the deer and tagged it, I started getting emails and text messages and maybe a half-hour passed before I was ready to start the field-dressing. As I knelt beside the deer, I heard something, looked up and saw another deer moving nearby. When it stopped, Dad’s .30-30 spoke again. Both deer turned out be button bucks. They were quite large for their age, extremely fat, and I'd hoped they’d be 18-month old does. I do try to avoid shooting buttons, but most of the deer I shoot are antlerless, and in this case, I was able to keep the livers, which I was glad about because Debby has been looking forward to liver and onions. After tagging deer number two, a pair of pileated woodpeckers showed up. I really like those birds, they are so energetic and a little crazy with their strange miss-a-beat way of flying. And they were making that crazy call that sounds like something out of a comedy movie. As I watched the pileateds, I saw a patch of orange in a tree. The binoculars showed me a guy in a climbing stand ... right where I thought I'd heard a climber going up yesterday. So, now I was really confused. He was much closer to where the turkeys had roosted than I had been when they flew down. How did he and I and all those turkeys wind up so close together? After I field-dressed the deer, three local guys showed up, and turned out to be 3 of the 6 brothers of a fellow I know. They were nice enough to drag one of my deer out for me, and carry the bag with the hearts and livers. When we got out of the woods, I thought about the turkey mystery, and assumed one of the brothers must have been the guy in the tree-stand. They’d seen him too, but said they had no idea who he was, and mentioned that he’d climbed down and left the woods when they arrived on the scene. So I guess I will never know how he and I got mixed up with all those turkeys. That’s one of the things I really love about hunting, and actually, about life in general. Things happening that make absolutely no sense to me.

30 November 2012
A close friend of ours bought himself a small general aviation airport back in 2001. Debby and I didn’t know a thing about aviation (and still don’t!), but Billy is a great guy and so we decided to get involved. Besides, Seamans Airport, Northwest of Scranton, PA, owned about 150 acres of forest and field that held good numbers of whitetail. Made sense, if you’re crazy. And we’ve had lots of fun with it, plus we get to do a little hunting there every year. Today I made it there an hour or two before dark, and got into the woods for deer. The temperature was about 40F/5C, and I dressed extremely light ... basically a WeatherWool Hooded Jacket over some summerweight stuff I'd been working in. The air held that November moisture that somehow really seems like hunting weather to me. Really great weather for deer, but the ground was frozen and extremely crunchy. The neighboring farm is owned by a real character of a guy who is the 98-year old co-founder of the airport my buddy bought. We call him Uncle Bill, and he is a real old-time aviator from the barn-storming days. He and his brother, from whose children we bought the airport, taught themselves to fly when they were teenagers. Just practicing with their airplane out on the farm in the 1930s. I have permission to hunt Uncle Bill’s place, and decided that’s where I'd go. Stillhunting was basically impossible, so I just just parked myself on a blowdown and waited. Didn’t see any deer. But about 100 yards off, beyond a thick stand of evergreens, I believed I could hear a guy going up a tree in a climbing stand. But I looked and stared and checked with my binos, and could not spot him ... not even a trace of the mandatory hunter orange. Then I heard a turkey yelp, and thought I heard a turkey going up to roost in that same stand of evergreens, maybe 50 yards from where I thought I'd heard the treestand. So I had a good laugh at myself, mistaking the sound of turkeys for a guy positioning a climber. And I reflected how just a day earlier I had significantly misjudged the direction of the sound made by an approaching deer. It got dark, and I left.

29 November 2012
We’ll be picking up 230 yards of FullWeight LYNX fabric in the next couple of days, then it is time to start making some WeatherWool! Wow, we are psyched!

Visited The Swamp this morning at dawn. Temp about 25F/-4C. I was wearing FullWeight DRAB WeatherWool Pants and Hooded Jacket. For a base layer I wore Icebreaker Summerweight Briefs, Woolpower Summerweight T-Shirt and Woolpower 400 gram Turtleneck with Monkey Paw. I was perfectly comfortable, but would have worn warmer boots and a little more clothing if I'd planned to stay out for long.

Strange ... as soon as I left the truck, I passed 6 Canada geese just sitting in the river looking at me from only 15 yards away. They were in a side-channel of the river with virtually no current, and all of them stayed stock still like deer will do when they think you’ve not seen them. I'd never experienced geese acting that way before tho. Apparently they knew goose season closed a few days ago. We’d had about 3 inches of snow two days ago, and then some warming and freezing. So this morning the woods were horribly noisy with frozen leaves and twigs and crunchy snow and ice everywhere. I typically sit on a stump before good daylight, until the sun is well up and my vision is no longer limited by low light. I like to stillhunt if I can, but that was going to be pretty much impossible until things warmed up a lot. So I decided to go home if I didn’t have a shot within the first 90 minutes or so. I brushed the snow off one of the new blowdowns, which are everywhere after Hurricane Sandy, and it wasn’t 5 minutes before I heard a crunching in the snow. The steps were so deliberate and steady I was sure it was another human, and I strained my eyes for a flash of orange moving on our dirt access road. It was a real surprise when a spike buck popped into view only about 50 or 60 yards in front of me. I'd badly misjudged the source of the noise. The deer was much closer and about 45 degrees to the left of where I'd expected the “human” to be. It’s not normal for me to misjudge the direction of a sound. I believe the lesson here was that I was so sure the sounds were human that I somehow convinced myself they were coming from a place where humans would be making tracks. In any case, the young buck stopped and looked at me for a while, then walked off stiff-legged. Like the geese, this deer seemed also to have read the game laws, as today was Antlerless-only hunting. With 10 more weeks of deer season still to come and a good deal of meat already in the freezer, I probably would have let a spike walk anyway. That was it for the deer ... as I stood up to head for the truck, a bunch of geese flew almost directly overhead, just about tree-level. I was impressed.

27 November 2012
Did some more bear scouting today. Had the muzzleloader along for the exercise, but I was really just looking for a place for next week’s bear season. My buddy Joe, a very heavy-duty outdoorsman who has taken bear each of New Jersey’s last two seasons, put it very clearly: Bad acorn year. Go to the (Delaware) River, find corn, find bears. Well, there are hundreds of acres of standing corn in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. It’s all federal land, and pretty much all of it is open to hunting. It was a real pleasure being out there in the heavy, wet falling snow. There is something about a day like this, no wind at all, air very heavy, temperature about 35F/2C. The quiet is amazing. It seems actually possible to hear the falling snow. Strange tho, I was out there a few hours, walked probably three miles at least, posted up in a likely spot. With all that corn, I did not see a deer. But one nice thing ... with all that land for hunters to spread out in, the only other hunter I saw was out on an island in the Delaware River. I did find some bear sign, but nothing like what I was hoping for. One interesting thing with the WeatherWool. I came to a nice-looking little knoll in the forest, and scraped the snow off the top of the pine needles with my boot. Then I just sat down on the ground for an hour or so, and never did feel any dampness. I was dressed pretty light, FullWeight WeatherWool DRAB Pants and Hooded Jacket, plus a little base layer on top and only Icebreaker Summerweight Briefs on bottom. It was great the wool kept me so comfortable, and if I'd had someplace comfortable to put my head, I would have taken a nap. My drive home took me right past my little swamp spot, so I stopped off for some stillhunting, as conditions were pretty much perfect. I hadn’t even covered 100 yards when I cut fresh tracks and followed them. The track meandered tho and I lost it in the brush. But another 100 yards and a clumsily snapped stick popped up six deer, one of them a huge doe. But with all the brush I had no shot, even though they were well within range. Not long after, I spotted two more, but they’d seen me first and were running. I had to wonder why The Swamp had so many more deer, apparently, than the DWGNRA. There is no agriculture around the swamp ... just natural feed. The DWGNRA had all that corn. So where were the deer?

26 November 2012
Did some bear-season scouting and a little deer hunting today in New Jersey’s Stokes State Forest. Dark, muddy swamps choked with almost-impenetrable stands of rhododendron that limited visibility to under 10 yards. Considering these swamps are hard up against low oak ridges, the area really looks like bear-heaven. And two years ago it was. But two years ago those oak ridges were loaded with acorns. This year, the acorn crop failed and the bear sign was only a TINY fraction of what we saw in 2010. The New Jersey bear biologist told me the other day the bears are still there. And he would know. But it sure didn’t seem like it! Didn’t see any deer either, actually. The biologist told me the best bet for bear would be the far side of the swamps, but he warned getting there would be a real slog. He was right about that! I was wearing WeatherWool as usual. Quite comfortable in mild conditions (38F/4C to 50F/10C).

Thanksgiving Day, 22 November 2012
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!! And WOW, there is a lot to be Thankful for ... hope you don’t mind me saying.

Headed off to The Swamp this morning for the dawn flights. Duck and goose seasons are open now in North Jersey, and there is not much better on the table than wild duck. Plus, I've been feeling guilty about not hunting my old hound enough. She’s a great family dog, but hunting and varmint control have been bred into her Large Munsterlander bloodlines for centuries, and those instincts are strong within her. The only waterfowl we saw were far out of range, but the sound of geese in particular never fails to get Camo riled up. Usually we just walk around The Swamp together and don’t make a real waterfowler’s expedition out of it. Some years there are ducks and geese like crazy, and a good wingshooter could limit out easily just pass-shooting. But today we didn’t see much. And surprisingly, no squirrels even. The temperature was about 25F/-4C, with no wind. It was good to see the old pup (she’s almost 12) go swimming just for the love of the water. Large Munsterlanders are fine waterfowlers in mild conditions, and geese really turn her crank. BUT, the LMs do not have oily coats, nor do they have the thick skin of a true cold-water dog. So you can’t ask them to do much waterfowling in severe conditions. But today Camo didn’t seem to have any issues. We did roust a trespasser who was xbowhunting our place. He claimed he’d looked for private property signs but did not see any, even though there are plenty. Why these guys always feel like they need to lie gratuitously I don’t know. I reminded him that in Jersey, trespassing is illegal even if the land is not posted. Then I wished him a Happy Thanksgiving and continued on my way.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Hiked about 3.5 miles (5.6k) this afternoon. Temp was about 50F/10C, with no wind and about 40% humidity. I threw on a FullWeight WeatherWool All-Around Jac over a short-sleeve cotton T-Shirt. I knew I wouldn’t need the Jac, and I really would have been OK in just the short-sleeve T. But I wanted to see how the Jac would feel. And it felt great!

On the down-side, our fabric is not going to be ready for another few days.

Saturday, 17 November 2012
Went “down the shore” early today to look around a little and check on my boat. I keep an old Pro-Line Cuddy at a marina on Barnegat Bay in Waretown, New Jersey. Waretown is directly West -- straight across Barnegat -- from Old Barney the Lighthouse, and Long Beach Island, which was hit very hard by Hurricane Sandy. The barrier islands took the worst of it in this part of Jersey. But the storm surge was still something like 8 feet on the mainland side of the bay. Many lives were lost, and some people are still unaccounted for and presumed dead. All the buildings near the water were flooded, with significant damage to structure and contents. Boats had been tossed all over, particularly the boats that had already been pulled out of the water. Some boats wound up miles from where they should have been, and no doubt some owners will never find out what happened to their boats. My cousin’s house was destroyed, and my uncle’s house badly damaged, but they were all well clear of the area in advance of the storm.

This morning was splendid down the shore, sunny and clear with little wind. It was startling to see the all the debris, and talk with some of the still-shocked residents, on such a beautiful morning. Temp in the high 30s at 7AM, and still very slippery frost on the wooden finger-dock beside my slip. Somehow, I got really lucky. I found my boat right where I left her a few days before the storm. She was sitting pretty, almost as if nothing had happened. The bow lines had snapped, but the stern lines held her in place, and the engine started right up. I took her out for a little ride on the bay, but just did not feel right about it. There was too much pain in the area to enjoy being on the water. Plus the plain fact of it was that the Barnegat I knew is not the same, and the channels and sand bars were probably changed drastically by the storm.

I asked the guys at the marina to pull the boat for winter storage. Five months from now she goes back in the water.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Went out with my buddy Dan for a short muzzleloader hunt this morning. Temperature was about 42F/5C and rain was falling when we left the truck at 7AM. For a base layer I had typical cotton briefs (should have worn Woolpower or Icebreaker wool briefs!) and Icebreaker’s 150 gram summerweight merino Atlas Shirt. Outer layer of WeatherWool FullWeight Pants and WeatherWool All-Around Jac. I was also wearing a WeatherWool Boonie Hat and had the Hood of the All-Around Jac up over the Boonie. For about an hour it was raining pretty good. For the 90 minutes after that it was raining hard, then it stopped. Under the Boonie Hat, my head was completely dry, not a bit of moisture made it thru the Hood and Boonie. The rest of me got a little damp, but definitely not wet. That’s a great thing about wool, it gets wet, but doesn’t really feel wet, and does not pull the heat out of your body. My pants were a little wet here and there, but as I was stillhunting (sneaking) the whole time, very little water actually fell on the pants. Pretty much all the rain fell on my head, where it just rolled off, or on my shoulders and back and some on my arms. By the time it stopped raining, the wool had proved itself as rain gear. I'm not sure it would have mattered if I'd stayed out in the rain all day ... it would have been about the same I think. Feeling somewhat damp, but not wet or cold and, most important, not chilled or uncomfortable. Raining like that, I would have felt a little damp even if in a true rain suit. Also, the temperature, with all that moisture, was plenty low enough to get cold. And still hunting the whole time, until 11AM, I was moving far too slowly to generate any heat of my own. So there was plenty of opportunity to get chilled, but the only place I noticed that was my hands. I did wear some light ragg wool gloves for a short time, but mostly I just left the gloves in my pockets, which wasn’t smart but I don’t like covering my hands. That’s something I need to get over, if only because my skin is light and can really stand out in a forest. Just for good measure, I kept on the same clothes when we stopped for lunch and for a couple of hours after I got home. The WeatherWool dried out nice, and I was comfortable the whole time. Really could not have asked for more. Next time I do a rain-outing I'll wear wool briefs and a Woolpower layer on top. The Terry-Cloth loops of the Woolpower would have been better than the flat-weave of the Icebreaker in the wet conditions. One other thing ... we’ve been thinking about adding flaps over the zippers on the pockets of our Hooded Jackets and Jacs, and this outing confirmed that plan because the rain actually ran down the sides of the All-Around Jac and into my pocket and drowned my cell phone. But the main thing ... the WeatherWool was all I could have hoped for in the rain. Oh --- the deer had the sense to lay low while it was raining, and, much to my surprise, we didn’t see any even after the rain stopped.

Saturday, 10 November 2012
We got our electric back yesterday, and things are pretty much back to normal. We have a pretty serious collection of extension cords, power strips, candles and oil lamps stowed away for next time. Let’s hope these week-long power outages are not a regular thing!

Friday, 9 November 2012
Utility Services Workers have come from many different parts of the USA and Canada to work on our power lines here in the Northeast. Today I talked to power crews from Texas and Georgia. These guys were a long way from home and working some long hours. A guy from Georgia told me he wasn’t really interested in the overtime -- he came because he wanted to help. Debby and I drove home from Wyoming last week, and in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, we saw convoys of utility crews driving East on Interstate 80. I hope Jersey treated these crews right. OUR GRATITUDE TO ALL OF THEM!!

We are still OUT of power and telephone is kind of shaky, but doing just fine. Thanks to everyone for the good wishes. It’s no big deal ... not much more than an annoyance really. Amazingly, we got a very early snowstorm Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Here in South Orange, NJ, we got about 6 inches of the wettest and heaviest snow, which brought down a bunch more trees and branches, and doubled the number of people without power. Snow in early November is very rare here, although last year we had the same sort of storm in late October, which is even rarer! We should be getting 500 yards of production fabric within a week. Now THAT will be something!

Saturday, 3 November 2012
Sorry we’ve been off the air for a bit. We have some good things going on and we are getting close. Right now, we are a little off stride due to Hurricane Sandy. House took a tree on the roof, but nobody here was hurt, so it’s nothing more than an inconvenience. Hope we get the power restored soon!! But doing without helps us to appreciate what we usually take for granted. Always a good thing. Alex Outdoors (which is also us) still has a lot of wool. If anybody got whacked by the storm and needs some warm layers, please call and we should be able to get something going.

Monday, 15 October 2012
Today we met with our hat makers and made some good progress. As soon as we get our next batch of wool, hopefully the end of this month, we’ll be making some hats! Was out in the weather a little bit over the weekend, but nothing to press the envelope. Temperature Saturday morning for Pennsylvania muzzleloader was about 20F/-7C, and the day warmed up substantially before long. I wore WeatherWool FullWeight Pants in DRAB and the All-Around Jac in LYNX. Tried a 200 gram layer of Woolpower on top and Woolpower summer briefs as a base layer. The WeatherWool was just the ticket.

Thursday, 11 October 2012
Sorry to have been off the air for 10 days! Our trip to Wyoming was great and WeatherWool performance met or exceeded our specs. Temperatures ranged from 70F/21C down to 20F/-7C. The high plains South of Casper served up a real variety of weather. We had wind and calm, sun and clouds, bare ground, 5 inches (13 cm) of snow and a little bit of rain. I wore one layer of WeatherWool over one summerweight base layer of Icebreaker (Atlas Shirt and briefs) and was perfectly comfortable in all conditions. We have designed our FullWeight fabric to provide a 50 degree Fahrenheit range of comfort with one outfit of WeatherWool, and that has been achieved. We wore FullWeight Pants, Bibs, Hooded Jackets and All-Around Jac. At times, Alex wore a MidWeight test Hooded Jackets as well. The LYNX camo was really great in sage, grass and snow, and the DRAB worked very well too.

Monday, 1 October 2012
Yikes, is there a better month than October? Here in Jersey, anyway, I think the answer has to be NO! Weather is great, the pace of everything in nature is quickening. Woods and waters are full of critters preparing for the coming freeze. And the colors on the trees! We’ve got a lot of Maples and of course they are great. Sweet Gum is probably my favorite tho.

Yesterday my boys Alex and Zack loaded up the truck and headed off for Casper, Wyoming, with their buddy Rich. Watching 1900 miles of the USA roll by is gonna be great for them. I'm flying out early tomorrow for Denver, then I will drive to Casper to meet up with the boys and hopefully some speedgoats too! We’ll be testing our WeatherWool clothing and taking some pictures and with any luck bringing home some of that incredibly lean antelope meat. And Zack is going to be looking for work in the energy sector.

Because of the trip, I'll be off the blog until around October 10th. I hope you all get a great start on this great month!

PS -- Most of those chestnuts (see below) did not have mature nuts inside them. But some did, and we ate them yesterday. They were excellent. It’s sad but inspirational to think Appalachia used to ship (literally) boxcars full of them. And the chestnut lumber was also maybe the best of North America’s hardwood. Susan Freinkel published American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree in 2007. And there have been some great developments since then. If you like trees or American History, it’s worth the read for sure. More importantly, if you are interested in the effort to restore our Perfect Tree, please click over to The American Chestnut Foundation.

Saturday, 29 September 2012
Today we took a quick trip to a local woodland to get some pictures of the new WeatherWool garments we picked up from the tailor yesterday. It was great to put them on. Even tho the LYNX is Fullweight wool, we were perfectly comfortable in the late September weather, with temperatures just a little below room temperature. The wool was very very nice on the skin. This wool is not going to irritate anyone’s skin.

Below, the boys are wearing Pants and Hooded Jackets and I'm wearing Bibs and the All-Around Jac.

Some early WeatherWool items

In the below pic, I'm wearing the Bibs and a WeatherWool MidWeight Hooded Jacket in DRAB. My preference is to mix light and dark patterns in order to break up the silhouette, and I'll be wearing LYNX and DRAB together routinely this year. The boys are leaving in the morning for Wyoming, along with all these clothes. I will meet them in Casper on Tuesday, and we’ll see if we can find some speedgoats out on the plains.

WeatherWool Development testing of color

Friday, 28 September 2012
We spent some time with our tailors today. We picked up 3 Hooded Jackets, 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of Bibs and 1 All-Around Jac/Shirt, all in our FullWeight Wool, in our own LYNX camo pattern. The wool is remarkably soft on the skin. As comfortable as fine cotton. Everybody is going to love this wool. The garments themselves are getting closer and closer to where we want to be. We’ll be making some more minor changes. BUT ... on Sunday we leave for a week of antelope hunting in Wyoming. Of course we’ll be wearing WeatherWool items, including the new pieces in LYNX. We’ll also be wearing FullWeight DRAB. And just for the fun of it we had the tailors make a Hooded Jacket in Very MidWeight DRAB wool. This batch of wool came out lighter than we had intended, but we have it, so we’d may as well test it in the field. We think this “mistake” batch of wool is quite likely to lead us to produce a 3rd weight of wool -- Summerweight -- in addition to the FullWeight and MidWeight we’ve been working on all along.

We’ll try to get some pictures of the new LYNX pieces up here tomorrow.

Almost forgot ... a few years ago we planted some 15/16 American Chestnut trees at my buddy’s place in Northeast Pennsylvania. One of the trees is doing pretty well. These 1/16 Chinese Chestnut trees are immune to the blight that all but eliminated the true American Chestnuts. These American/Chinese crosses produce great nuts, but the trees themselves are nothing compared to the original 100+ foot (30+ meters) American giants with the fabulous lumber. But they are a nice step on the way back. Also, I've read that workers at the State University of New York College of Forestry at Syracuse University seem to have finally conferred blight immunity to true American Chestnut trees. So ... just maybe ... we’ll see our almost unbelievably great chestnut trees spreading across the Eastern States again. Here are a couple of pictures from our nut crop this year. Click either pic to enlarge.


Cultivated Chestnuts

Cultivated Chestnuts

Wednesday, 26 September 2012
Just got back from a week out of town on family business. Back to work!

Thursday, 20 September 2012
Did about 3 miles in the South Mountain Reservation today with Debby and the hound. Great weather, fall is coming, no doubt about that. Saw a few deer. Some of the fawns have lost their spots ... which the biologists say means they are no longer considered fawns. Heading down to Florida for a week to take care of things for my Mom and Dad, so I'll be off the air for 8 or 10 days.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Our garment labels came in today. It’s great to see “WeatherWool ... made in the USA”!

Monday, 17 September 2012
OK ... no PROPERTY OF: labels, at least for a while. Had a great day out on Barnegat today. Got some fish for the freezer. Need to get out in the woods again. Buddy Tom and Cousin Tony already got themselves some venison.

Saturday, 15 September 2012
Today we are reviewing materials for construction of our pockets and waistbands. Should we sew a PROPERTY OF: label into our garments so people can write their names? This could serve to reduce confusion and theft. (Top-end woolens are stolen and re-sold, but what’s to stop a thief from simply removing the PROPERTY OF: label?) These labels would detract slightly from performance (moisture and maybe noise). Plus they’d be an added cost. I'm leaning against.

But here is definitely a nice piece of news .... the first buck rub I've noticed this year! The dog isn’t interested, but I am.

Friday, 14 September 2012
Hit The Swamp at dawn with the xbow. Today I decided to stay put for a change. I had lot of work to do and so only about 90 minutes for hunting. There is a great spot that has a lot of deer activity, and I parked myself in the space formed when a large tree split in two with each half going all the way down to the ground. The space between the two halves formed a nice natural blind. In the 90 minutes I stood there, I saw probably a dozen mice, which is somewhat strange, and about 20 squirrels, which is not strange. At the end of my 90 minutes, I decided to ease my way back to the truck, instead of just dropping my guard and simply walking out. Forty yards from the blowdown I spotted the only deer of the morning as it passed thru a shaft of sunlight about 80 yards off, heading away from me. No worries, we still have 5+ months of deer season in front of us!

Almost forgot ... temp was about 60F/16C. Perfectly comfortable in the same WeatherWool I wore last winter, but today I just wore light cotton base layer instead of a complete wool base layer like I would in freezing temps.

Thursday, 13 September 2012
If Friday the 13th is bad luck, maybe Thursday the 13th is GOOD?

A beautiful day out on New Jersey's Barnegat Bay. Cool morning, little wind. Fished a couple of hours and caught about 30, mostly puffers (locally known as blowfish or ‘chicken leg of the sea’) and porgies (scup) with a few spot and black sea bass also. All excellent eating fish, about a half-pound to a pound each. They were biting good. Once the sun got strong I switched over to treading clams. A lot of our northern waters are rich in a variety of shellfish. Barnegat has a lot of hard clams (quahogs), plus bay scallops. And increasing numbers of razor clams. All great on the table. Treading clams (finding them by feel with your feet) in the shallows is one of the most peaceful things you can do. Except every once in a while you will put your foot down on a blue-claw crab, which can give a pretty good nip. Sound can easily carry hundreds of yards on the clam flats, and on prime summer Saturdays there may be dozens of clammers visible, and I always chuckle at the occasional yelp of someone who's found a blue-claw the hard way! On this great day there were the usual working gulls, some pelicans, schools of mullet frequently leaping out of the water to escape an unseen predator. I wondered what was after the mullet, and soon had a prime suspect. In the two hours or so that I was clamming, I saw 6 or 7 smooth dogfish, also known as sand sharks. These sharks are about two feet long (60 cm), and can be very abundant at times, although I'd never seen them before while clamming. My clam probe has 6-inch, relatively sharp teeth, and I used the probe to harpoon one of the sharks. Some claim the dogfish is the fish most often used in England for fish and chips. I actually don't use the probe very much for finding clams, more for balance or to anchor my clam basket. But it is handy to have. Because the meat is white and delicate and boneless, the dogfish are particularly good to serve to people who are not really used to fish. Late summer on the bay is something special. Came home with 100 clams or so, plus six good-sized bay scallops. All in all a pretty great haul of Nature's bounty. I also saw a diamond-back terrapin, which I have not seen in about 15 years. Back in 1990 or so, the bay was full of them. Why the numbers have dropped so drastically I don't know. But my guess is that a lot of critters are simply really cyclical in numbers

We are thinking seriously of moving out West, but I'm having a hard time with the idea of moving away from the ocean. Days like this one don't make that decision any easier!

Monday, 10 September 2012
It REALLY feels like the end of summer now. Yesterday was gorgeous weather in Northern Jersey ... temps in the low 80s (28C) and humidity down. Got some rain and wind overnight, then clearing skies brought a nice drop in temperatures down to about 56F/13C. Really a nice morning to be in the deer woods! Today turned out to be a day to see predators.

Got out with the xbow again ... not feeling as uncomfortable with it as on Saturday. Forgot the binos, so I had to do more staring into the bushes than usual. Spent a couple of minutes looking into a likely spot, and saw nothing. I turned to move on and was surprised to see what I think was a mink loping off only about 20 yards away. Seemed a little bit dark for a mink tho, but I don’t know what else it could have been. Tiptoed along for another hour and caught some movement off to my right. For an instant I thought it was 2 deer, but as I watched the movement progress through the underbrush, the critters topped a little rise and I could see two coyotes in the classic coyote-gray color. Well, everybody knows if there are yotes hunting in an area, there won’t be any deer around. So I relaxed some and decided to walk normally for a hundred yards or so, and then sit on the big blowdown where I shot a turkey in May. MISTAKE! I didn’t take but 3 steps before a deer busted off in front of me, probably less than 150 yards from where the yotes had been. I only had about 5 minutes of sitting in me tho, and I was moving again. Very careful and quiet and about 300 yards along a deer jumped out of its bed in the THICK weeds only 20 yards in front of me. In very easy range of the xbow, but the deer’s bedding area was so thick I had no thought of a shot. Couldn’t even tell if it was a buck or doe. Probably a buck, judging by its size, and the fact it was bedded alone. Well, at least I was doing a half-decent job of being quiet ...

We got some good comments, questions and suggestions in the last couple of days. Mostly from the USA, but also from Sweden, where they have some great outdoors and outdoor traditions. Our sister company Alex Outdoors carries an extensive inventory of Woolpower’s merino wool base layers, which are Swedish, and which we believe to be the best cold-weather base layers available. Thanks to everyone for your input!!

Saturday, 8 September 2012
Another season begins ... Took the new xbow out to The Swamp maybe 15 minutes after first light. I'd really wanted to get there at least a half-hour earlier, but I stayed up late and then overslept a little. Should have set the alarm, but not a big deal. Yesterday temps hit 100 degrees in the sun here in Northern New Jersey. Not my idea of deer season! This morning was about 73, according to my truck, and the humidity was higher than that. Wearing the same WeatherWool Hooded Jacket and Pants I wore last winter, I was actually pretty comfortable stillhunting. I wasn’t but 200 yards from the truck, just heading up the overgrown 2-track that leads to our place, when I saw the orange-brown of a whitetail summer coat. Gee, I wasn’t quite even in hunt-mode yet. There were three deer feeding about 75 yards off, and though I could only see patches of them due to thick vegetation, the binos soon told me they were all antlerless, and therefore legal.

People are often surprised to learn Jersey is a super state for a venison hunter. Our deer don’t have much size, but we have a lot of deer and a lot of hunting opportunity. Now that the season has opened at The Swamp, there is no limit on antlerless deer until the deer seasons close February 16, 2013. As for bucks, the annual limits are 3 with bow, 2 with shotgun and 1 with muzzleloader. But these deer are tough to hunt, as they would soon remind me! Bucks are legal in this early season, but only if you take an antlerless deer first.

One of the deer started moving across the front of me, toward the right. I moved to intercept it, and stopped when I came to what I thought was a good spot. Staring through the thick undergrowth -- it is a swamp, after all -- I could see no sign of a deer, but it had to be in there somewhere. My mistake was the deer had moved somewhat quicker than I thought, and was beyond the spot I was studying. I sensed movement on my right, and saw a tail bounce off only about 30 yards away, not in all-out flight, but obviously spooked by me. How the deer got to that point I do not know. It made almost no sound however, and so I still had two relaxed deer not far away, and I shifted my attention back to them. I considered myself lucky the spooked deer had not snorted. But in retrospect I should have considered that a clue and acted on it!! Trying to close on the other deer took a few minutes. I got within about 50 yards, but even with a gun there would have been no shot -- just too thick. Unbeknownst to me, the first, semi-spooked deer was tiptoeing its way back to me from the rear. I don’t know what it is, but lately the deer seem to have become more curious than they used to be in situations where they have not gotten your scent. Anyhow, I had no idea this deer was around until it snorted right up close behind me, which of course spooked me and I assumed the two deer I'd been focused on. But I guess these deer must have been chewing when their buddy snorted, because they made no sign of alarm. After a while they seemed to have decided to angle across the front of me toward my left, still feeding but now with a direction. I saw a spot where I thought I'd be in position for a shot, and when I got there I'd lost track of the deer. When I located them again, they were only 25 yards away, well within range but with some thick weeds between us and I wouldn’t have tried anything regardless of weapon. As I searched for some kind of shooting lane, the lead doe spotted me, and they bounded off. And that was that!

I hunted another hour, and did get within about 50 yards of another single deer, but it detected me first and all I could really see was the tail going off.

One more thing happened that was pretty cool. I was close to our little pond, and saw a Great Blue Heron fly from the river over to the pond, which is not unusual. But the heron gave me a very good look at its approach to the pond, which surprised me because it must have seen me, but still flew to the pond, even tho I was within 30 yards of the shoreline and the herons are normally extremely shy of people. Rather than fly over the trees and land near the shoreline via the open expanse of the pond, the heron chose to pick its way through the trees, which it did not do cleanly. Its wings clipped quite a few small branches along the way. It seemed as if that would be a good way to get injured, but I guess the heron knows what it is doing. As I wondered about that, I heard a heron squawk, which made no sense because, as far as I was concerned anyway, the heron should not have landed if there was something to make it squawk. It had already seen me, so squawking now seemed kind of belated. There is a small sort of alley through the trees that leads to the shoreline of the pond. It starts at ground level and is probably 5 or 6 feet high and maybe 10 feet across, sort of like a tunnel. I was standing at one end of it, less than 30 yards from the pond, when I saw a heron lift off from the shoreline, swing across and then fly through the tunnel almost straight to me. Once the heron entered the tunnel, it was committed, and had no choice but to land or continue flying right past me. The bird came within about 10 feet of me before it reached the end of the tunnel and veered off and up. I don’t think I will be getting that close to a heron again anytime soon. But that still did not answer the question of the mistimed squawk. So I worked around the finger of trees and eased my way along the side of the pond so I had a better look at where the heron had taken off from. And to my surprise, what I assume to be the first heron I'd seen was standing there. At this point the heron saw me, squawked, and took off, in typical heron fashion. So I think what must have happened was the first heron I saw knew the other heron was at our pound, and had decided to roust that second heron, and it had enough of a grudge against the other heron that it was not going to let the near presence of a human stop it from chasing off the other bird. But I know nothing of heron behavior, so that could be all wrong!

Thursday, 6 September 2012
Decided to dust off my old Hoyt compound and maybe do some bowhunting. For many years I've done almost all still-hunting for deer. Not that I'm any good at it, but it’s just what I enjoy. I wanted to get an arrow rest that would hold a nocked arrow more securely than what I'd been using, so I brought my old bow to the archery shop. They said the limbs had small cracks that made it somewhat unsafe to shoot. I did once have a bow snap when I was shooting, and definitely do not want to have that happen again. Being that the deer season is almost here, I decided to try a crossbow. Wow, it is easy to see why the vertical bow guys feel the crossbow is a different animal. Out to 30 and even 40 yards the crossbow is very accurate with zero practice. It’s loud tho. The chances of me tiptoeing within 30 yards of a whitetail at The Swamp, where they are hunted 5 months per year and poached the other 7, are not high. But it will still be fun to get out there. And actually one of my buddies did take a big doe last year while stillhunting with his bow. He initially had not intended to stillhunt. He’d left his elevated stand and was heading out to his truck when he saw some deer moving, and he managed to intercept them and make a good shot.


WeatherWool Mouton (Super Shearling) SkinsThese are Mouton Skins ... basically, the HIGHEST grade of Shearling

Also, regarding the shearling (first mentioned yesterday), we’re thinking about a heavy jacket and/or coat, a long, SERIOUS vest, and bomber-style hats. American-sourced shearling is virtually all lamb, because Americans don’t normally eat mutton, only lamb. This actually works in our favor, because the young sheep have a finer, softer fleece until after their first shearing. It’s available in a few colors and grades, but it’s all pretty great. You can click the picture or this sentence to enlarge. We’d love to get any input on the shearling idea, of course!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012
Who remembers the shearling jackets that were so popular in the 1980s? They are made from the tanned hides of sheep or lamb skins. The fleece is sheared to a uniform length, about 1/2 inch, and the jackets are sewn with the leather on the outside and the fleece on the inside. They are extremely warm and very tight against the wind. We’ve gotten some sample sheepskins to work with, and we really, really like them. Soft, warm, beautiful! We’re looking at making a shearling jacket with our wool on the outside. We’ll probably make at least a couple of sample jackets. This would be an ultra-warm and luxurious piece.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012
Details ... getting zippers and buttons right. It is kind of amazing, but there are probably 1000 different ways to do zippers!! We're going with nylon because it is tough and quiet and not affected by cold. We're using #5 and #10 zippers because the teeth are large and less likely to foul with debris. We'll have 2-way zippers in a lot of places. We’re even going with 2-way zippers on some of our pockets. For example, our Hooded Jackets will have very large cargo pockets, with large openings. We couldn’t decide if we wanted the pockets to open when the rider is pulled toward the front or toward the back of the garment. Using a 2-way zipper will let the wearer decide which way to go. We will generally use locking pulls (meaning the zipper rider cannot move unless the pull is perpendicular to the zipper). I'm getting off easy here, and Debby has dived into the details!

Saturday, 1 September 2012
Yikes ... September! Is everybody ready for fall?

Friday, 31 August 2012
We spent some time with our designers in Pennsylvania, working on Bibs. But we’d like to hear from you regarding design. We’re trying to decide if we can do without a long front zipper, and have just a short zipper that runs basically from the beltline down. That would enable a good-sized kangaroo pocket on the front of the Bib. As always, all input is welcome!!

Sunday, 26 August 2012
Our next run of fabric will be almost 500 yards of FullWeight ... half in LYNX and half in DRAB. Turns out we DO know someone who landed a Northeast Moose Tag this year. Our buddy Fred Leone is hoping his wife will fill their tag, and their freezer! And I should have posted a couple of weeks ago, but I forgot. We had five whitetail bucks in our suburban front yard a couple of weeks ago. Suburban deer are commonplace nowadays, I know, but we live only about 10 miles from midtown Manhattan. And one of those bucks had some pretty serious headgear!

Thursday, 23 August 2012
Sorry to have been off the air for two weeks! Had a few things going on, traveling, family ... We’re weaving yet another batch of wool but adding some more finishing treatments which we sure hope will enable shrink-resistant washing. We also connected with a great hat maker who has been doing his thing within a few miles of our home since 1950! (Yes, he’s in his mid-80s now!)

Wednesday, 8 August 2012
We’re making some more test garments so we can get out with our new LYNX pattern. We are still tweaking the actual fabric, but we like the pattern a lot. So we’ll get some demonstration clothing sewn up so we can wear LYNX in Wyoming (antelope hunt) at the beginning of October. We’ll have some DRAB with us too.

Thursday, 2 August 2012
The Vermont Moose Lottery draw results were posted today. Nobody I know was drawn. A lot of folks are not aware the Northeast States of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have some great moose hunting, if you can get a tag, which can be pretty tough. However, my family has drawn 6 tags so far. If you’d like to read about our 2009 moose outing in New Hampshire, please click here.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012
Wow, time flies. AUGUST! We are a little disappointed we need to do some more shrink resistance work. This latest batch of wool is very close, but not where we expected it to be. Every step closer is good news tho! These delays are frustrating to us and we apologize to everyone waiting for wool. But we don’t want to ship until we have it right. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, 26 July 2012
We have been washing our different wool blends and testing for feel and shrinkage.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Debby and I were in NYC today, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center for the Textile Show. Big show, a lot to see. We met some interesting people, got some good advice and will most likely be working with one of two of them. It was remarkable to see to what extent the garment industry relies on synthetics. And it was striking to see how many non-American companies had booths -- particularly given that the Javits Center is in the heart of America’s garment district. And most of the companies that were American did not have any American-made products. This is pretty much what we expected, but it was still a little bit of a surprise to actually see.

Thursday, 19 July 2012
Not a wool-related post ... We had a really serious thunderstorm last night. It reminded me of a few years ago, when a the home of a friend and neighbor was struck by lightning. My friend’s house is across the street, about 50 yards from mine. Alex and I were sitting in our office, on the street side of the house. There was an extremely bright flash of lightning, and the thunderclap was so powerful it felt as if something very large had struck the house. We were surprised the windows did not blow out. We looked around outside, and did not see a problem at first. But the Mike came running out of his house yelling FIRE! The lightning had generated so much heat it ignited his shingle roof as like a match ignites gasoline. This morning Debby and I were out walking and I noticed a tree that had been struck by lightning the night before. The lightning ripped a strip out of the trunk of the tree. The strip was about 40-50 feet long, and about 4-6 inches wide and 2-4 inches thick. The rest of the tree looked OK. Wow, I WILL take shelter when lightning is about. The pictures below show the tree with the strip blasted out of it, and the pieces themselves. The distant piece is probably 40 or 50 feet from the tree. It had to have been thrown there by the lightning ... at least, I don’t see how it could have fallen where it was. Click the pictures to enlarge. Even when there is no lightning, a good wind storm can be pretty dangerous too. A few years ago when I was hiking in the same South Mountain Reservation with my dog, a good size tree fell only 30 or so yards from us. I walked over to get a better look at what had happened, and a second tree fell right next to me.


Lightning Peeled Bark off a tree
Lightning peeled the below strips right off the tree shown above!

Lightning Peeled this bark off a tree

Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Time to start the 2nd round of testing with our most recent batches of wool. So far, so good.

Thursday, 12 July 2012
Our latest batch of MidWeight Wool is lighter than I expected. I mentioned that it was almost like a summerweight, and Lew, along with a very thoughtful and helpful gent from Montana named Michael both immediately and enthusiastically endorsed the idea. So now we are very seriously thinking about Summerweight Wool. Matthew and Lew both do significant early season elk hunting in the Rockies where it is often quite warm but nevertheless ... they are “out there” where warm and sunny can become a distant memory in a hurry. We would love to get some more input on this. Thanks.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Gaiters! Yes, we plan to make gaiters. A couple of people this week contacted us about how great wool gaiters are. We will be making them. Thanks for the input.

Monday, 9 July 2012
Please click for a picture of our new LYNX Camo pattern. I believe this will work extremely well in the woods but also, I am told by several experts (the ladies of the house and some friends) that a person wearing LYNX at the mall would not be flagged as wearing camo. And dual-use was one of the things we really want, as so many people are asking for it.

Sunday, 8 July 2012
A couple of days ago we got two new bolts of wool. About 35 yards of each. The FullWeight wool was in our LYNX pattern, and the MidWeight wool in DRAB. The LYNX is lighter in color than I had in mind, but I still like it a lot. We are washing the fabrics to test their shrink resistance. We’ll should know tomorrow whether or not they shrink within acceptable limits!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012
It was so hot down in SC that the folks at Bostick Plantation suggested we not come. They said the pigs had gone nocturnal and we'd be melting in the blinds with little to no chance of seeing any porkers.

Saturday, 30 June 2012
Sorry to have been off the air for a while. We will begin another round of testing of both our FullWeight and MidWeight wool in a few days. In the meanwhile, I plan to be down in South Carolina looking for some hogs. Temperatures are forecast to be near 100F/38C, so it won’t be a place for FullWeight wool. But I probably will be wearing wool base layers. A local friend of mine has made some of his own prosciutto, the Italian-style cured ham, and it was fabulous. If we can bring home some hams ... My buddy also showed me how to cure bacon. We sugar-cured it with our home-made maple syrup, then smoked it and ... WOW ... I have always liked bacon but that stuff was awesome! We’ll get back home around July 6th. Have a great FOURTH OF JULY!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Debby and I met with some of the team yesterday and made some really nice improvements to the design of our Bibs and Hooded Sweatshirts. Summer started today ... with a vengeance. It must have been 100F/38C in the sunny spots this afternoon.

Monday, 18 June 2012
Alex and I were at The Swamp over the weekend. Alex was tuning up for his hog hunt in two weeks, and I wanted to drop some trees that were overgrowing the shooting range. There is a spot along the bank of the Rockaway River, which is one boundary of our property, where snapping turtles lay eggs mid to late spring, every year. The picture at left shows some of the eggshells. One of the shells looks like the number 7, at the right of the picture, under the tip of the blade of grass. There are actually a few of the eggshells in the picture. And it seems the nest raiders dig them up, every year. I don’t know ... maybe there are still some eggs buried under there. There are plenty of snappers around, so I guess enough of the eggs make it. The turtles bury their eggs in the sandy river bank right at this spot, every year. And the nest-raiders, which I think are mainly raccoons and skunks, know all about it. I don’t remember ever seeing eggshells appear here in late summer, when the young snappers should hatch. Every year it’s pretty easy to see the nest has been raided. If the coon and skunk aren't enough, there are a lot of otters around, plus mink, possum, fox and coyote.


Turtle Eggs and Poison Ivy on the Banks of New Jersey's Rockaway RiverAbove, Snapping Turtle Eggs on the Bank of the Rockaway River.
Below ... Poison Ivy is the dominant life form at The Swamp.
Poison Ivy near the Rockaway River at WeatherWool's "The Swamp" Spot


In the pic at right, I'm pointing down at a bunch of poison ivy. One thing about a swamp ... a LOT of stuff is alive there. And our little swamp has a tremendous variety of life. But without a doubt, poison ivy is the dominant life form. The majority of the plants I'm standing among are poison ivy vines looking for a tree, and most of the pin oaks, which are the dominant tree there, are covered in poison ivy from the ground up. Some of the vines are thicker than my arm. Some of the young trees behind me are supporting ivy vines. But poison ivy can grow about three feet tall on its own. And so not only the trees, but the forest floor and the openings are all choked with poison ivy. The temp was near 90F/32C when this pic was taken. And WeatherWool wasn't really what I wanted to wear, but the drab does blend well into the bright green, and you'd better cover up if you are going to wade thru an ocean of poison ivy. I've read poison ivy is good browse for deer, and that a lot of birds consume the berries. Any critter that can eat poison ivy will make a good living at The Swamp!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012
Just back in the office after a week in Rio de Janeiro. They've got some great stuff going down there. Wonderful to see! Today we received two more pre-orders for WeatherWool® outfits, even tho we have not yet even set our prices. We are making steady progress and Many Thanks to all of you who have expressed good wishes and confidence and even placed pre-orders.

Monday, 4 June 2012
Thanks Again to all the folks who have been giving us ideas. In particular it is great to hear from non-hunters and women. The great majority of our experience has been with the hunting market (95% men), so the different perspectives are really valued and appreciated!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Yesterday was Memorial Day. My Dad, 89, was a diver in World War II, and we had a good talk. Dad also spoke with my Godfather Ray, 91, who is his last surviving friend from his years in the Pacific Theater. If Dad comes up North for the summer, I'm hoping we can visit the World War II Memorial in DC.

Thursday, 24 May 2012
We are back in the office after a few days on the road. Progress continues on all fronts.

Sunday, 20 May 2012
The last few days have seen some good stuff going! The team at Mathews bows liked the look of our preliminary version of their Lost Camo. We have another version of our All-Around Shirt done, and this one is very close to final. We're still playing around a little with the exact design of the front cargo pockets. And we have not made up our minds about exactly how we want the collar to work when it is flipped up for extra protection. We’ve shipped a really sweet version of our All-Around Shirt out to Colorado so Lew can get out there in the Rockies with it and let us know how it works for him and his longbow.

Monday, 14 May 2012
Out in the Jersey swamps before dawn, looking for a gobbler. Humid, almost room temperature. Wearing WeatherWool over light cotton base, and perfectly comfortable. Mosquitoes are beginning to make their presence known. They are NOTHING like they can get, but there were enough of them that nobody wouldn't notice! It was interesting watching the skeeters. My hands were covered with gloves, for camo purposes. On my left hand I wore the Manzella Full-Fingered Ragg Gloves that we sell at Alex Outdoors. My right hand had a thin cotton camo glove. Almost all of the mosquitoes landed on my hands. They few mosquitoes that did land on the WeatherWool could not bite, and pretty quickly moved on. The mosquitoes mostly landed on my right hand. I am guessing it is because the glove was thinnest there, and they could most easily sense my hand beneath the fabric? They had no problem drilling thru the cotton glove. A couple of different gobblers answered my calling, but never came within sight. A nice buck browsed his way past me at about 40 yards, and I used my box call to make a loud gobble which I was happy to see he ignored.

Friday, 11 May 2012
More meetings with suppliers and our sewing and patterning team. Great progress. We are getting so close to where we need to be!!

Thursday, 10 May 2012
Turkey hunting again. A WeatherWool gobbler!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Turkey hunting this morning. Called in a big, beautiful ... possum.

Sunday, 6 May 2012
Wow, sorry it’s been over a week since the last update. Our wool has been working great in the turkey woods these past few days. Pretty light duty, tho, with temps well above freezing and never getting warm either. The Drab color works great in the green spring woods.

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been developing our products for over 2 years now. Would never have believed it would take so long. But getting things right is the priority. We’ve made a few more changes to the design of our pants, and we like the results a lot. We expect to see some machine-washable wool in our own Lynx pattern shortly. Work proceeds on weaving Mathews Lost Camo into our own wool. Strikeoffs of the Lost Camo should be available within about a week.

Saturday, 28 April 2012
WeatherWool development continues on several fronts. And there is a sequel to Dan’s first turkey hunt. Hard to believe, but it gets better!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012
We bought another 5300 pounds of wool today. More on that soon. Of more general interest is this morning's turkey outing. I'm no kind of turkey hunter. I've played at it a little over the years, but never came anywhere near pulling the trigger. But me and my buddy Dan, who is very new to hunting, decided to visit The Swamp, where we’ve got plenty of birds .... at least, in deer season. I've written elsewhere about Dan's first-ever hunt, which was for deer last fall. Dan loves gathering wild foods, and so his approach to turkey was pretty much the same as with deer. He was really hoping to bring home some dinner. For a short story on his first turkey hunt, please click here. I have to give Dan a lot of credit for staying steady and doing what he needed to do when he got the chance! And I give him a lot of credit for his respect for the animals and love of nature. And it’s hard to picture anybody getting a bigger kick out of the hunt, or having a keener appreciation of how fortunate he’s been. Here's a picture of Dan on his first morning in Jersey’s turkey woods! Dan's gobbler weighed 18 pounds (8.2 kg), with an 8-inch (20 cm) beard.

Sunday, 22 April 2012
It's really great that we are getting daily encouragement and indications of interest. Thanks Again to everyone who has contacted us. One thing that's come up a few times, and we still haven’t made up our own minds: Should we offer WeatherWool in a basic brown/tan/camel solid color? It's a great and popular color that will work well in any social setting and serves deer and cougar extremely well in the wild. Our biggest concern is making a garment that might cause a person in the woods to be mistaken for a deer, which could lead to real trouble. Please, we would really like to hear your thoughts on this subject. Thanks.

Thursday, 19 April 2012
WeatherWool has made a lot of progress in the last week. So much so that we have decided it is time for Alex Outdoors, our sister company, to sell off its remaining inventory of King of the Mountain woolens. Alex Outdoors still has the largest inventory of KOM wool. Please click over to take a look. We are announcing the clearance prices (25% of retail) initially only to those we already know, and to people who might visit our websites. In a week or two we will publicize the clearance prices much more widely. So if you want some KOM, now is a great time to get it. UPDATE: People were getting the wrong idea about the Clearance Sale, so we ended it as of 15 August.

Monday, 16 April 2012
We were delighted to host at our home Gabriel Brånby, the CEO of Gransfors Bruks. Gransfors is the parent company of Woolpower, the maker of the merino wool base layers that we believe are the best on the market. We recommend Woolpower as the base layer for WeatherWool. And we are especially pleased to learn that Woolpower is introducing summer weight wool. Perfect for situations where you don’t necessarily need the warmth of wool, but don’t want to risk getting in trouble if warm weather turns nasty. Gransfors also makes the world's finest axes. Speak with anyone who knows axes or log building tools and Gransfors is always the standard of excellence. We’ve enjoyed handling these axes as well as Woolpower at Alex Outdoors, and Gabriel invited Debby and me to Sweden this summer to take their Basic Blacksmithing course. An offer we can’t refuse! Below is a picture of Gabriel, me and Alex and a nice pile of firewood.


Ax Men ... Gabriel Branby of Gransfors Bruk Axes, Ralph and Alex of AlexOutdoors, SwedishAx, AxesAxes and, by far the most important to us ... WeatherWoolGabriel Branby, the owner of Gransfors Bruk, a buddy of ours, at our home.

Wednesday, 12 April 2012
We’ve sold a few pieces of our test garments (available pieces listed on the Products page). The “first dollar tacked up on the wall” is a milestone for any business. We continue work on our Lynx camo pattern and we should soon have sample fabric shortly. We should see the first results of our experiments with Mathews Lost Camo soon. There are a lot of things happening.

Friday, 30 March 2012
A big step in the last couple of days. A couple of tweaks to our preparations have yielded fabric that is resisting shrinkage after a trip through the wash machine. YESSIR!

Monday, 26 March 2012
A fine gentleman from North Dakota has been getting wool from us for a few years. He’s heading off to Zimbabwe in a few weeks, and our drab wool is just the ticket for Zim, where camo is not permitted. It will be really cool having some of our stuff on a hunt in Africa, even if it’s not yet our true production fabric!

We’ve been getting some really thoughtful input from numerous people and we REALLY appreciate it! THANKS AGAIN TO EVERYONE.

Thursday, 22 March 2012
We’ve been finalizing designs on our MidWeight Pants and All-Around Shirts, and we are working on two different ways to provide shrink-resistance. We’ll see which method works best! Also, we’ve lately been speaking with people from Mathews, Inc., the bowmakers. We’re trying to see if it is possible and sensible to make some clothing with their Lost Camo patterns. We would definitely like to know what people think on that score!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012
We received the strikeoffs of our first camo pattern. Strikeoffs show the camo pattern, but not (in this case) the colors of the camo. And as we are just developing the pattern, the strikeoffs were not made with our own premium wool. But, we like a lot what we see. We’ll be able to show some pictures soon, I hope.

Friday, 9 March 2012
We are getting ideas and suggestions from visitors to this website, and that is just GREAT! Thank You Very Much. Every idea will be carefully considered and acknowledged. If you don’t hear back from us, it means we somehow did not get your note or phone call.

Sunday, 4 March 2012
Wanted to get out with our wool, but right now all of it is off being tested by other people! We’ll soon have some of our second batch of fabric and first camo pattern to try, but we seem to be running out of winter in a hurry here in Jersey.

Thursday, 1 March 2012
Nice progress in the last week. Good feedback from Gus Congemi and his bunch. Thanks Gus! The first strikeoffs of our original camo pattern should be here in a few days. Hope we can get some pix up within the next week.

Thursday, 23 February 2012
The 2nd generation of our All-Around Shirt is under way. This version will have about a dozen design improvements. I'll be traveling the next few days and won’t be writing again here until about the 29th.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012
The last few days we did get out there some more in the weather, and had no issues, but nothing new either. The main thing was some nice progress on our first original camo pattern. At this point all we can reveal is that it is based on a very natural pattern.

We are working on our next test batch of wool. We’ll be making this batch with a slightly different weave that will be a little bit tighter and smoother on the face, which will resist briers better. And this batch will be made in our own camo pattern!

Thursday, 16 February 2012
Today we had some rain, which I've been waiting for. It was 40F/5C with no wind and a steady, light rain. Took the dog out for a little hike. We walked about 70 minutes. I wore my WeatherWool MidWeight Pants over some standard briefs and my WeatherWool All-Around Shirt over 200 gram Woolpower Crewneck. By the end of the walk it did not seem the rain had reached me, but I had some things to work out and was walking on the fast side and not paying attention so much to the wool. Probably if I had noticed the rain, that would have been a bad sign tho. As it was, one thing I did really notice was that patch of polyester across the back of the neck and shoulders. We’d intended to use some different poly, but the stuff that got put into the prototype shirt just does not breathe, and I generated significant moisture from that one small area. The next shirts we make we’ll use a patch of wool there.

Most people do not really plan to use wool for rain gear, and probably would have considered today's results outstanding. But we want to make wool that actually is pretty decent rain gear. So altho today was good, I need more rain! Next time out I might wear a short-sleeve base layer, just for the contrast between the upper and lower arm. Here’s a link to a story about hunting in Pennsylvania. The last paragraph describes a day spent hunting in the rain wearing only wool, and staying dry.

Also, this week we’ve continued work on camo patterns. More on that when we are farther along!

I'll be off the air the next few days, seeing some of the old gang for the weekend.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012
This week we’ve been pushing on some new design features, mostly for the All-Around Shirt/Jac. We’re also getting our first original camo pattern under way. Lastly, we just shipped a few test pieces of WeatherWool® gear to well-known archer Gus Congemi. We’ve known Gus for a couple of years and when we found out he’s taking a few guys to Colorado for cougar and bison, we asked him to take some WeatherWool too. Gus expects some cold and snow, so he should have some good information for us when he gets back.

Sunday, 12 February 2012
Coolest morning since our test WeatherWool garments arrived. Temp was about 25F/-4C with a steady breeze of 10-15 mph (16-24 kph) when I went out hiking. Wore a 200 gram Woolpower crewneck under my test All-Around Shirt/Jac and regular old cotton sweats. My WeatherWool pants were out on the porch because I got them pretty muddy yesterday, and I didn't want to get dressed in the cold. Besides, I wanted to feel the contrast between wool and top and cotton over my legs. And I did! The wind pushed right thru the cotton, but I was moving pretty good and it wasn't an issue ... just a contrast. I barely felt the wind on top. And this was just about where I wanted things to be. I've worn the WeatherWool All-Around Shirt/Jac indoors, over summerweight Icebreaker, all day long at 70 degrees or so. And so I've had almost a 50-degree comfort range with the same pretty light outfit, which is a LOT, and is what I was looking for Throw in today's wind, and I'm definitely happy with the range of temperatures the wool shrugs off. Very happy.

Saturday, 11 February 2012
The last morning of Jersey’s Firearms Deer Season. (Jersey has a LOT of deer hunting opportunity!) More or less perfect weather. Temp just over freezing, slight wind, pretty good snow falling with just about a half-inch already on the ground at first light. My buddy Barnes, a brand-new hunter, was along, hoping for his 2nd whitetail. I was wearing WeatherWool test MidWeight Pants over a typical pair of briefs and WeatherWool test All-Around Shirt over a 200 gram Woolpower crewneck. After about 3 hours of steady sticky snow, it changed over to rain for a couple of hours, and then stopped. The wool was completely unaffected by the precip. There was no question in my mind snow would be a non-factor. But the rain was a question mark. This wasn't enough rain for a hard test, but still, so far, so good. Also, while it wasn't cold, wet snow and rain with temps just above freezing are a recipe for disaster if you are wearing the wrong stuff. But this is perfect wool weather!

As for the deer, we focused hard for about 6 hours, and did not see so much as a tail. Barnes saw some turkeys fly down from the roost, which he had not seen before. I played tag and got a few pics of a flock of jakes. And I was lucky enough to see a mink. Actually, I think I saw the same mink twice. Once he was heading East, jogging along the bank of the Rockaway River, then about 2 hours later and several hundred yards upstream, I saw what I guess was the same mink jogging in the opposite direction. I guess he was just making his rounds. The 2nd time I saw him, he came by me at about 15 yards, in the open, completely oblivious. That's the best look I've ever had at a mink.

So I finished my deer season with 5 does. We bought a half a pig also. Along with some fish and some of Alex's 2010 Maine moose, we’ve got enough meat for the 7 months until deer season starts again. This year I only saw one buck, and I let him walk. He was a decent-sized deer, but he had only a single 3-point antler. He walked by me broadside at about 50 yards. He had no idea I was there. I put the scope on him, just for practice as I often do even when I don’t intend to shoot. This little buck looked like he’d just taken on The Champ, and was lucky to get out alive. I couldn't help but smile.

Friday, 10 February 2012
Spent the morning at the drawing board, working on some final design changes for our All-Around Shirt. We are getting close! We were contacted by a couple of people looking for product -- MidWeight Bibs and a Pullover Hooded Jacket. We have both of these in the works already. A fellow at the SCI Show really wanted to buy the prototype Hooded Jacket, but there were a couple of things we were unhappy with, and we just couldn't sell it to him like it was.

Round about 2PM I escaped to The Swamp to look for some venison. Temperature about 40F/5C. I already knew my MidWeight Pants and All-Around Shirt would be perfectly comfortable in these conditions. It wasn't long before I spotted a flock of hen turkeys ... about 15 of them. Hopefully they will stick around another couple of months, until turkey season. If the hens stay, the gobblers will too. Checked on the corn I put out yesterday, and near as I could tell, it wasn't touched. It even seemed a couple of deer had walked right thru an area where the corn was scattered, and, judging by the tracks, never broke stride. This winter has been crazy warm, and I guess the deer really aren't looking for food all that hard?

As usual, there were plenty of ducks and geese and squirrels, but it took me a while to find deer, despite a lot of fresh tracks around. And unfortunately for me, the deer found me first. Quartering across a steady breeze, and easing my way across soft, moist earth without making a sound, there was no way they heard or scented me. But nevertheless, maybe 70 yards away, 3 or 4 deer were ripping thru the brush, and all I could really see were the flags. They must have bolted at the mere sight of me, and they really could not have seen much, given that I was going awful slow, and using cover, to boot. Got to hand it to those whitetails.

And that was about it ... getting late. I eased my way out of the woods, not expecting to see deer, and I didn't. But I did find another deer skull. This time it was from a female fawn.

Tomorrow is the last day of Jersey’s extended firearm season for deer. Barnes is keen for one last chance at his 2nd deer.

Thursday, 9 February 2012
Hunted today at The Swamp with Dan, my new local hunting buddy who just began hunting this year. One of Alex's buddies gave him a bag of corn, and Alex was planning to put out the corn along under a couple of trailcams. But baiting is legal here in NJ, altho Alex and I have virtually 0 experience with it. So I decided to put out some corn for the last couple of days of deer season, just to see what might happen.

I believe it was back in about 1998 that Jersey legalized baiting for deer. But having never baited deer, I was not real comfortable with it. So ... I put out some bait and set up a trailcam, just to see what would happen. It might even have been the first year we bought The Swamp. Anyway, I only hunted over the corn a couple of hours, and saw nothing. But the trailcam story was interesting. Over a couple of months, there were dozens and dozens of pictures of deer, but NOT A SINGLE ONE taken during the day. Daytime pictures showed lots of critters, including a flock of probably 50 crows. But no deer. The deer at The Swamp are hunted hard during the deer season, and poached year round. So I guess they know the baiting game. But, that first experience with corn was a long time ago. So, I set some corn out in front of Zack's Stand, so named because that's where my younger son killed his first deer.

When Dan and I walked in, the temp was about 28, and I wore the same WeatherWool All-Around Shirt over 200 gram Woolpower and WeatherWool MidWeight Pants over briefs, and was totally comfortable. As I approached Zack's Stand, I heard some turkeys at their morning chatter. I thought they were on the corn, but we’d had about an inch of snow overnight, and the turkeys, although they flew down right near the corn, did not seem aware of it. It hadn't been touched overnight. I sat Zack's Stand for an hour, and saw nothing. Then heard a bit of a commotion behind me. There was only about 10 yards between me and the Rockaway River, and that space is THICK with briers. I turned around, not knowing what to expect, and was surprised to see a deer through the brush. It was a doe, and limping badly, a good deer to take, but the briers prevented any shot. I watched her limp off, and not long after, Dan called to see what was up. I told him I could track the doe and there was a good chance she'd give him a shot. Circling around the briers, I was surprised to see 5 or 6 fresh deer beds in the snow. The group must have moved off as I'd approached Zack's Stand, but I guess the injured doe decided to stay put, and finally got too nervous after I sat there for an hour! The tracking plan worked pretty well, with the doe giving Dan a nice broadside look at about 50 yards. Problem was, the doe was directly between Dan and me, and so he could not shoot. I was oblivious ... never saw the deer, or even Dan, until he told me later what had happened. Dan told me my WeatherWool in our drab color was invisible. The only thing he could really see was my blaze orange hat. Blaze can be awfully important. Click here for some of my yakking on that subject.

This was the last day in the 2011-2012 deer season for Dan, so he was really keen for some more meat. He spent an hour or two sneaking around real slow and quiet and careful. Several decades ago, the Army Corps of Engineers dug some drainage ditches, and piled up dirt along the sides of them. On this day The Swamp was relatively dry, with the river and the ditch water levels down. Dan eased along the edge of a ditch, and peeked over the top of the berm. He was scanning the woods on the other side of the berm when he was startled by a deer jumping up and running off right under his nose! A great job of sneaking, to get within a few yards of a bedded whitetail. This same deer taught Dan another lesson 15 minutes later, when he had mentally more or less finished his hunt, he bumped the deer again at close range. Yep, whitetails don’t normally run far at all if they do not have to!

Back to real work when I got home. We’re making 14 design changes to the All-Around Shirt. It’s a tremendous shirt/jac already, and it’s tested great, but it will be a lot nicer once these change get made.

While writing this, I got an email from Barnes, my other new-to-hunting bud ... he is keen to get out on Saturday, which will be the last day of NJ’s gun seasons.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012
We spent last week at the Safari Club Convention Show in Las Vegas. Wow, that was a great and busy week. Thanks to every one of the hundreds of people who visited our booth. We are considering your ideas and suggestions, and we’re ramping up and further testing our products. Special THANK YOU to all the people who purchased our garments at auction! You are the very first buyers of WeatherWool. We’re very happy that professional outdoorsmen from Sitka, Alaska were among the auction winners.

Here in New Jersey we’re finally going to get a little bit of winter weather, with temps of about 20F/-7C and some rain and sleet forecast in the next couple of days. So far, our first test batches of wool have performed great in all the conditions we’ve tried them, but we need some real weather!

We returned home from Vegas on Sunday, and had the wool out in the woods again on Monday and Tuesday, but nothing new to report, as the weather conditions had already been encountered and described on previous days. Monday morning was a little interesting, tho. I'd been up late Sunday night (lifelong Giants fan!) and was a bit late heading out to The Swamp. The temperature was about 29F/-2C, and I only had about 2.5 hours to hunt, so I grabbed the shirts I'd been wearing the day before and threw my WeatherWool All-Around Shirt over them. My base layer was a fairly heavy short-sleeve popcorn cotton Henley that is very comfortable, and cheap compared to quality wool. Over that I wore a Hurricane style shirt, which has a fairly rugged cotton exterior and cotton flannel lining. I thought this would be as warm as one 200 gram long-sleeve Woolpower crewneck, but I was wrong. Not that I was cold, but I could feel a chill on my upper body, which I did not expect! I did not feel any chill in nearly identical conditions when I wore the Woolpower, which had a lot less bulk. Also, my legs felt no chill, even tho I wore only briefs under my WeatherWool MidWeight Pants.

We’re implementing the design changes to the All-Around Shirt as discussed with so many at SCI. Two-way zipper, zippered cargo pockets, wool lining in select spots. We are getting close to true production. Thank You for your help!!

Wednesday afternoon seemed like it should have been perfect for deer hunting. Temp around 38F/3C, air soft and still and moist, snow on the way. And it did start to fall around 4PM, but it did not bring the deer out, near as I could tell. Found another buck skeleton, a decent (for around here) 6-point. Another one of the local bucks with no brow tines. I don’t know how common it is for whitetail bucks to lack brow tines, but it is very common here, maybe half the bucks. And I also saw two foxes, about a half-mile apart. But zilch on live deer. Wore 200 gram long-sleeve crewneck from Woolpower under my WeatherWool All-Around Shirt, and plain old briefs under my WeatherWool MidWeight Pants. Perfectly comfortable. Snow and wool is a great combination.

Monday, 30 January 2012
Temp about 30F (-1C) again, like Saturday. But today we had some pretty gusty winds. Not good for hunting, as the winds alternated between West, South and North. I was nice and comfortable wearing my MidWeight Pants over regular old briefs, plus a 200 gram Woolpower Crewneck under my All-Around Shirt. I was out for 2 hours starting at sunup because I was pretty short on time. The ground was frozen and noisy, so, just for fun I posted up on the spot where my new deer-hunting buddies both killed their first deer this year. But I didn't see any deer. Plenty of squirrels and geese, and some mallards. Anyhow, the wool was great again, and the wind didn't bother me, at least not so far as comfort went.

First thing tomorrow morning, Debby and I will be heading to Vegas for the Safari Club Convention, where we will introduce WeatherWool®(r) publicly. Please stop by our Booths 3109 and 3111! We really would love to hear your thoughts.

We’ll be in Vegas until Sunday, so I don’t expect to be updating this blog until after the Super Bowl.

Sunday, 29 January 2012
Temp about 44F (7C), humidity pretty high, no wind. Took the hound out to do a loop in a local park known as The Reservation. Wore my MidWeight Pants and All-Around Shirt over a short-sleeve cotton T and cotton briefs. For me, hiking, this was a warm outfit. I'm pretty cold-tolerant, so what I wondered was whether I'd overheat. I would have been sweating if I'd pushed it, but I took it easy. My dog is 11, and needed major surgery less than 2 weeks ago. The vet had given the all-clear, and Camo seemed fine. Certainly she had a lot more in the tank than me! Great to see. I had no problem with sweating EXCEPT for the area around the back of my neck. This part of the shirt had been lined by mistake with some noisy synthetic stuff that we had already rejected because of the noise. What I did not realize until this walk was this material also does not breathe. Because our wool is so soft on the skin, we will probably line the neck area with a 2nd layer of wool.

Saturday, 28 January 2012
At 6AM the temperature was about 30F (-1C), with no wind. Put on my WeatherWool® MidWeight Pants over a pair of Icebreaker Wool Briefs and my WeatherWool® All-Around Shirt over a 200 gram Woolpower Crewneck, and headed for The Swamp. Got there just at sunup. A little late, really.

The ground was still pretty quiet from the recent rain, so instead of sitting and waiting for bright daylight, as I usually would, I just started tiptoeing right off. I love how quiet wool is when I move, and no doubt that is one reason why I have always worn it. There were plenty of squirrels around and geese flying overhead, but no deer for about 45 minutes, when I spotted a deer's back leg about 60 yards ahead. This deer surprised me some because it was the wrong color! Instead of that dark, dull brown gray, this deer still had color that was more like what I think of as summer-orange. Considering we’ve had virtually no snow this winter, the summer-color was not such a disadvantage. Or maybe it was, as I saw the deer thru a patch of thick stuff. A few years earlier in this same spot I'd killed a deer in January in deep snow still in the summer-orange coat. Anyhow, I figured this doe was mine. If she just fed her way a few steps left or right ... but she did not. When I first saw the leg, I thought it might have been a buck, because I glassed the area and did not see any other deer. The doe was feeding behind the brush, apparently completely at ease, and I was ready. But suddenly, with none of the usual signs of nervousness, she just flat-out bolted from the area, with two yearlings trailing behind. I wasn't very surprised there were other deer with her, even tho I'd looked for them. I'm always impressed how hard it is to see deer!

I did hunt a little more, but mostly just enjoyed a splendid morning. There were plenty of geese around, maybe I should have brought the dog and scattergun instead. But these local, non-migratory geese are not really the most appealing critters. I'll have to find some way to make them into prime table fare, because they are available, and they are hefty. And they really get the dog cranked up.

As for the wool, I was perfectly comfortable, even though I was dressed pretty light and moving far too slowly to generate any of my own heat. Also, while waiting for the deer to clear the brush, I'd knelt in a shallow puddle. Once I'd risen out of the water, I no longer felt the wet, and the mud later dried and fell off. And again, the wool was very smooth against the skin. So, another real nice showing!!

In the afternoon we headed to the South Mountain Reservation for a few pictures. Click on a pic for an enlargement. We like the way the drab color blends into the woods but will also work fine in any social setting.

Pic of WeatherWool Prototypes
Pic of WeatherWool Prototypes
Shown above are a couple of pictures of WeatherWool Prototypes

Friday, 27 January 2012
Our first WeatherWool® test clothes have just arrived!! For the very first items, they are looking good! Our first run of wool was dyed in a custom color of our own we’ve named drab … a very dark green/gray/brown/black that we expect to work well in the woods and on the streets. We’ll be adding other solid colors, camo patterns and even some plaids and checks. The wool itself is more difficult to develop and test. We’d wanted two weights of wool, one heavy and one light. These first test batches were sort of clustered in the middle range. The lighter weight wool that we used for the MidWeight Pants was a bit heavier than we’d expected, and the heavier wool, used for the All-Around Shirt, was lighter than we expected.

So we’ve got an All-Around Shirt for Alex and another for me, and a pair of MidWeight Pants for me. No pants for Alex yet. It’s already mid-afternoon Friday so we throw the clothes on quick and point the truck for The Swamp, hoping to find some deer. When we get there we realize we’ve forgotten binoculars (no big deal) and grabbed the wrong gun case. So we have my shotgun and my muzzleloader, but not Alex's slug gun. Fortunately, during the season I keep my muzzleloader charged, and we found one 209 primer cap. So, Alex hunted with my Browning Deer Stalker Slug Gun, and the muzzleloader for me … a genuine one-shot hunt in the offing. As it turned out, it didn't matter because I didn't see any deer, and I was really focused on the clothes anyway. Alex did see deer twice, but they saw him first and flagged off.

The weather was ridiculously warm for late January, but we have hardly had any winter weather so far this season. The temperature was in the upper 50s Fahrenheit (about 14C), and there was a steady breeze from the West.

Because it was so warm, I skipped long johns and wore a short-sleeve summer-weight wool Atlas (T-shirt) from Icebreaker as my base layer on top. The WeatherWool was soft and comfortable on my arms and legs. YESSIR! We are really intent on avoiding scratchy stuff, even for our outerwear, and our first batch of WeatherWool certainly passed that test.

I stillhunted for a couple of hours, and never had the feeling I was near any deer, tho obviously that doesn't mean much. The wool was quiet as a church mouse, which of course was expected. The wool seemed pretty tough. Because I wanted to test the wool, I pushed through some briers I ordinarily would have avoided . Definitely got stuck a number of times – can’t expect one layer of wool to prevent that, but the wool wasn't any the worse for wear after about 100 yards of stickers.

The deer love to lay up in these briers … in some spots they are so thick that you can’t see 10 yards. And it was in the briers I found an very interesting little area. There was a small clearing – maybe 10 or 12 feet diameter, with an 18-inch pin oak in the middle. A nice oasis in the midst of the briers. Scattered around the clearing were the bones of a buck that had died probably in 2008 or 2009. The skull still had two antlers, but one of them was chewed down to only a few inches. While I looked over the remains of the buck, I was surprised to find a nice shed antler, probably from last year, as it hadn't been chewed much. I picked up the shed, looked around a little more, and found a fox skull! I guess this would be a great spot for a treestand!!

Here are the trophies from WeatherWool’s first day in the woods, along with a few bits of raw wool, all sitting on top of a swatch from our first batch of fabric.

Souvenirs from the first day afield in WeatherWoolSouvenirs from the first day afield in WeatherWool

After clearing the briers I saw a flash of white, then a big flash of white, then I realized a couple of turkeys were having a mild disagreement which they were resolving by way of a non-serious fight. I always like having turkeys nearby when I hunt deer, because it seems like turkeys increase my chances of seeing deer. I haven’t read anywhere whether this is true or not, but I have the idea turkeys put deer at ease. Anyway, I moved in on the turkeys a little, but couldn't get much closer because the swamp was somewhat flooded and they were on the other side of some deep water.

As the sun went down I met up with Alex and compared notes. All in all we were very happy with WeatherWool’s first day in the woods!!!