Friday, December 10, 2010

My Blog Is Moving!

Ok folks, I just wanted to let everyone know that is following my journal over here that it is now going to be hosted over on our main web page at:  this has all the same stories that I have posted here, but just in a new place.  The title of the journal has changed also, it is:  "Up North Journal Hunting Lodge".

So follow me over to the new page and enjoy the crazy things we do out in the field and on the water.  It has a whole new look and feel to the journal and I'm excited about it.  Stop on by and drop me a line to let me know what you think about the new digs!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Son's First Hunt Of The Year!

I thought about writing this story, but since I shot some video of it what better way to tell you about it than to show you! So here is my son Jake's first hunt of the year! Enjoy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Simple Request For Brady!

Well about three months have passed since my last post. This summer has been busy, yet almost uneventful from an outdoors standpoint. As I sit and type after 36 hours of editing our last episode of Beyond The Wild along with other hunting industry obligations and my regular duties as a dad and husband this week, I long for a day out in the woods! It has been way too long since I spent a day afield sitting listening intently for the sound of approaching unsuspecting game! Do you ever have those days where you sit wishing for something else other than what you've been doing? This week is one of those weeks, that is until I heard a story about a young man named Brady!

Stories like this always bring me to a quick realization that I'm extremely lucky to be alive, let alone to be involved in the outdoors like I am with the Up North Journal crew. The story I'm speaking of is about how Brady touched our team. It all started with our Pro Staff Member Chico Lopez that received a message from someone following him on Facebook. Chico had posted a photo of three arrows that had their new name tags on them for the upcoming season. Some of us like to name our arrows or even shotgun shells before a hunt. Sounds crazy but it's fun and gives us something to chuckle about!

The Named Projectiles

After naming his arrows and posting that photo on Facebook, Chico got the message I spoke about, asking him if he could name an arrow for Brady. It was a simple request and of course Chico said yes not knowing the full meaning of what was being requested of him. Little did he know that Brady passed away last year the day after his fourth birthday due to a battle with the evil disease of cancer. (Be sure to read Chico's story about this by clicking here.)

After the full realization of what was asked of him, Chico called me and gave me the whole story! What could I say except wow and that was a quiet heavy wow! It wasn't one of joy or excitement. It came with a heavy realization that what was being asked was that he carry this young man into the field with him! All of my little problems or worries seemed to fade fast and immediately think how we can bring honor and awareness to Brady. Chico has set the example and I'm following his lead by honoring Brady by putting his name on my first arrow of the season and taking him on my hunt!

Brady's Arrow For My Quiver

Once I placed him in his place of honor on my arrow vane and took the photo of it and placed it on Facebook along with the many other photos that other outdoors men and women had begun post, I then realized that this was a responsibility that I wanted to share with the men and women who follow our team. It made me think not of myself or my seemingly small problems now, instead I thought about what an extreme battle this four year old little man had to endure! It made me think of getting with my kids and planning a few more hunts and fishing trips with them this season instead of worrying about what I was going to do.

When you hear about a story like this, you tend to put your priorities into perspective and that is what gives our lives purpose and meaning! It isn't about how big of a deer we shoot or if we even shoot one or not! It isn't about what kind of bow we shoot, what kind of camo we wear, or if we limit out or not! It is about what you do with the time you have here on earth and how you share your experiences with your wife, husband, kids, friends and mankind!

So when your thinking about heading out this season, take a moment and think about Brady and the battle he fought! Take a moment and share the outdoors with someone new this year, take a child out with you this year and teach them about the great outdoors that God has so graciously given us to enjoy! Name an arrow or shotgun shell in Brady's honor! It isn't by mistake that I put his name on the left side of my arrow, that way when that arrow is nocked I can simply look down and there he is riding along with me on my hunt and guiding my arrow home to it's intended target!

September is "Childhood Cancer Awareness Month" go to the website to learn more about how this disease robs youngsters of their lives. Over 12,000 youngsters are diagnosed with cancer each year. Learn more about how you can bring awareness to this and help stop this disease by following the link above.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2010 Turkey Season Part Two

As you read in my last journal entry, my turkey season was a bust for many reasons this year but that wasn't the end of my season by any stretch of the imagination. I had the pleasure of hunting with my kids for their chance to bag one of the elusive gobblers! Mikey and Mackenzie both drew a late season tag so I knew I had plenty of chances to get back out and fool one of the 'ol boys to walking within range of one of the kids thunder sticks!

Since both of them drew late season tags and that gave us three weeks to get the job done, I knew I would have to rotate their hunts to get them into the field. One additional challenge was that Mikey had a buddy that he wanted to take out hunting with us this year since his friend had never been turkey hunting.

With that additional challenge I was only able to get Mikey and his friend out once this season. They really didn't seem too fired up to get out that early in the morning and chase birds, I guess I was the same way when I was 15! The morning we did manage to get out, I put them on some toms immediately as usual.

That morning before sunrise I started to work the owl locater call and the gobblers couldn't resist shouting back to me to give up their location! We hurried in and set up on what I thought was a sure bet, but it didn't take long for the old boy to show us who was the king of the woods that morning. As the sun rose and light began to filter through the canopy of leaves I knew that he couldn't be too far away from us. I began to call softly to try and coax him our way. He gobbled and gobbled at us and some other nearby birds that were calling also. As it became time for fly down, I began to search out the trees to see if I could make out a silhouette in the trees.

All of a sudden we heard the obvious noise of a turkey flying down off of the roost. He was now on the ground and only about 40 yards in front of us, only problem was we couldn't see him! I made a few soft clucks and that was the end of our morning! We waited and waited to see if he would show his head but nothing! Not a peep, not a sound, not one glimpse of the old boy! Once again he tucked tail and took off away from us! We did try a few other spots but there was nothing else moving that morning except for a few birds on some land we couldn't hunt.

On the way to the truck we did run across another person out taking a stroll and it was someone that I had bumped into earlier during last year's duck season. The good 'ol boy gave us a tip on where we might find a big tom in a field. I tucked that info back for my daughter's hunt!

On her first hunt we went to our new usual spot where we knew birds would be roosting. We only had about two hours to try and get a bird since it was a school day. Nothing like hunting before school I say! I got down deep in the woods and began to try my locator call and found them roosting in the usual area that morning. This was like clockwork, only problem was that we could never get them to play nice when they hit the ground.

A Wet Forest Floor

This morning would prove to be no different. We heard the bird hit the ground off of the roost and I knew exactly where he was, the problem this morning was the water hole that was between us and him! Oh yeah another little problem was the hen that decided to come through our area and pull him away from us! We heard a lot of birds but never saw one in front of us. But it was a good morning for Mackenzie since this was the first time she had heard a gobbler up close and thundering off of the roost! She told me that she couldn't believe how loud his gobbles sounded! I just wish she could have seen him up close and personal!

I Heard Somthing!

Hunt number two for her was a week later and again on a school day, but never fear we always get her to school on time! We started off again in the same patch of woods, but we only heard a couple of gobbles off in the distance. I thought that this morning was going to be a bust; it didn't take long to change! I saw movement out in front of us at about 50 yards!

Waiting For Mr. Tom

It was a hen putting around through the brush, then I saw a couple more heads and they were all headed our way! She could see them in the brush also, but then they disappeared completely! I thought I heard something to our left so I slowly turned to try and get a look at what it was. Low and behold they had cut around us and were sneaking behind us at about 20 yards! It was four hens moving through and one of them was a smoky grey! I have never seen a smoky grey hen in the wild before so this was a first for me also!

Mackenzie and Her Remington
Youth 870 20ga.

It was getting late so I knew we had to pick up and get to school, so we made our way back to the truck and started heading out. We passed the spot where the hunter I met the other day told me that he had seen a big tom in so as we drove by I noticed a hen in the ditch. I told Mackenzie to check it out and as I drove past her I looked in my rearview mirror and all I could see was a huge tail fan climbing the hill on the side of the road! I stopped immediately and turned around, she asked what was going on and all I told her was that "You're going to be late for school this morning"! I got up the road and parked quickly. We busted out all our gear and hit the nearby tree line to try and cut him off. I knew he was going to be coming our way. We got to the opposite side of the trees and hunkered down near a willow bush. I looked through the bush and all I could see was a tail fan walking dead at us at about 100 yards!

Dead Down Wind Face Paint And The Vest-a-Blind

I set her up into a good shooting position and then scurried down the tree line to set a decoy up to the right of us so it would pull him through us to the decoy for a shot. By the time I got back to her he was now at about 50 – 60 yards away and closing fast. The sun was glistening off of his tail feathers, it was a beautiful sight to behold. I looked at Mackenzie and asked her if she could see him and she told me yes very quietly! Within a few seconds I saw the hen that was with him and she cut in front of us at about 25 yards but she crossed on the opposite side of a huge willow bush. I knew that the tom would follow her on the other side so we couldn't get a clean shot at him. When he stepped behind it, I moved Mackenzie so she could get a good clean shot at him when he stepped out from behind it. This bush was the size of a van! After about 30 seconds I could see him starting to get to the edge of the bush and told her to click the safety off. He was within a step or two of his head clearing the bush for a clean shot when all of a sudden I heard a loud noise over head at tree top level! It was a stinking helicopter buzzing the tree tops!!!!! The tom immediately bolted in the opposite direction and was never seen again!!!!

I couldn't believe what I had just witnessed!!! I was stomping mad and Mackenzie was laughing and saying that was the coolest thing she had ever seen!!! It put me in my place at that very moment. This was her hunt not mine and what ever happened to make her laugh and happy should have made me feel the same way! Then we both laughed at each other and talked about what had just happened. I looked down at her hands and they were shaking uncontrollably. I asked her if she had an adrenaline rush to which she replied "yeah, that bird really shook me up"! Again we laughed and then returned to the truck and off to school we went. Yes she was late that morning but it was well worth it!

Before we left for school we had an experience that was a great piece of education for Mackenzie. Once we got back to the truck I noticed that there was a DNR truck nearby and there was a CO in the vehicle. He stepped out and approached us to chat. He told Mackenzie don't worry you're not in trouble he just wanted to talk. He asked her how her hunt went and sorry she didn't get a bird. He asked to check her license and explained to her why he was checking it and what he was there for. I thought that was pretty cool to take the time to explain why to her so she understood why he was doing it. He was actually checking the area for a guy he was trying to catch that had been reported to be poaching! We managed to give him some information on a vehicle we had seen in the area. It was a great experience for Mackenzie to see the good side of what Conservation Officers did and why we need them.

Mackenzie and The CO

We planned out our strategy for the next week's hunt and we both thought it was a great plan. We sat up in that same area we almost shot that big tom at, but we moved down the field a little and found an apple tree right next to the edge of the field. The tree had low hanging branches which gave us perfect cover along with the knee high wild grass. She could see right over the top of the grass and with my Quaker Boy Vest-a-blind spread out to cover us both with the guile suit there was no way that a turkey would spot us!

Turkey Ambush Spot

After sun up we could hear the tom on the roost just across the field and the little road we were hunting near. Then he appeared in green field across the road, I watched him with my binoculars for at least a half hour. Then he made his move towards us. He crossed the little road and hit the edge of the field we were covering. We were sitting at the top of a knoll so when he was within range there was no way he would see us until it was too late. Sure enough I could see the tail fan walking through the grass while he was making his way up the hill towards us. Mackenzie also took notice of him quickly and swung around into her shooting stance. His tail fan grew bigger and bigger the closer he got to us. I told her to click the safety off and get ready. All of a sudden his white head appeared in the grass and then at the top of the grass! I told her to peel his skull cap off when she got the bead on his little white dome! I was waiting for the sound of the shotgun going off but all I saw was the bird stop dead in his tracks and looked past us to our right! What was going on? Did our decoys spook him? What made him stop! Just as she was going to shoot, he tucked his head back and disappeared down the hill! Not again I thought. We were whispering and discussing what had just happened when she told me there he is dad! He went down the hill and circled down around it and came up to the right side of it in the opening. Only problem was that he was now about 45 yards away from us! I later found out it was 42 yards with my Leupold range finder. He stopped dead in his tracks and kept looking to our right. I glanced over to the right and there it was! Four sand hill cranes were standing there and he didn't like it! It was an old fashioned western stand off! They took a few steps towards him and he bobbed his head at them. They did it again and he took a step back. They did it again and he tucked tail and ran! That was the end of that hunt!

We didn't laugh at that situation this time. She told me that it was so close she could almost taste the gunpowder! Once was funny but twice was starting to get a little frustrating for me and her. She kept a good attitude about it and said that is why we call it hunting and not killing! She was right! That was the second to last day of her season, so we hit it hard one last time on the last day of season. The only problem was that we put in the time but didn't see one single bird that morning. We heard them plenty though. We heard a gobbler gobbling his fool head off for over an hour that last morning in the field across the road which was private property! There was no way he would leave that field and there was no way to get at him.

Mackenzie And Dad In The Field

We left that morning knowing that we tried everything that I had in my arsenal of tricks to try and woo a lonely tom to within gun range, but this year as I stated in my last journal entry: "Everything I threw at them this year either seemed to not work or if it did, they escaped at the moment of truth! No matter what I did, those Tom's always walked away to live another battle." These birds had the courage to walk in the face of danger and even death only to laugh at us and walk away with the lady or hen of his choice to live another day. That my friends is why I think Benjamin Franklin talked about why the turkey should have been our national symbol instead of the eagle. They have the courage to face death head on to get the ladies of their choice! Oh wily tom you may have out smarted me this year to live another season, but just you wait! I know where you roost and where you travel, I WILL have a new plan laid out for you next season. So when next turkey season rolls around in 2011, GAME ON!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Benjamin Franklin and Turkey Season

When most people hear Benjamin Franklin's name now days they think of the $100 bill with his likeness on it. After this turkey season I will think of Benjamin Franklin talking about why the wild turkey should have been chosen as the American symbol instead of the Bald Eagle in his letter to his daughter.

Benjamin Franklin

Why you ask? His two reasons were that the turkey was a true native of America and very courageous. I think of the turkey as looking like it is vulnerable but always in control of the situation. Just when you think you've got him dead to rights, he manages to elude your best tactical set up. He always seems to win no matter how the cards are stacked against him! Lastly at the end of the season he always seems to be the last one standing after the battle has been waged and he also always gets the ladies at the end of the day!

That is why I will think of Benjamin Franklin when I see a wild turkey strutting his stuff as I start to scout for next season's hunt! Everything I threw at them this year either seemed to not work or if it did, they escaped at the moment of truth! No matter what I did, those Tom's always walked away to live another battle.

My season didn't start out as planned. I should've scouted the month before my hunt, but as fate would have it I wasn't able to get out once! Instead I was left scrambling trying to get an Episode of Beyond The Wild edited. Every time I should have been out something came up for me to tend to that kept me from hitting the woods trying to learn their patterns. That is what happens when your trying to run a team of outdoors men and keep them on task to get the show on the air.

After scouting hard last season, I had a couple of places nailed down to hunt and I thought I would rely on my go to spot to hunt this year. Once again when that opening morning of my hunt came, I learned that my go to spot had been gone to by some other hunters! What to do, it seemed like this season was doomed to be a failure even before it began! I decided to try another spot I had scouted last season in hopes that it wouldn't be over run with hunters. Finally I caught a break!

I had my cameraman in tow with me on that Monday morning not knowing what to expect to see or hear. After donning my new war paint from Dead Down Wind, we parked and hit the wood lot and I hit my owl hooter call. Immediately I heard a Tom off to my left a couple hundred yards in, then one to the right bellowed at about 400 yards! My cameraman called right and I called left since he sounded closer. We scooted in to within about a 100 yards and set up quickly. I settled in and gave a soft call.....nothing! I waited about 15 to 20 minutes and called again....nothing! This went on for about an hour. Finally we gave up not seeing or hearing anything. On my way home I did drive by my first spot and set up for about an hour with no luck what so ever. So much for day one! But I will say this, that camo paint from DDW is simply awesome! It goes on very easy and comes off just as easy with only soap and water! No scrubbing and tearing your skin apart. I've always had problems with the grease paints breaking my skin out and not coming off without sand paper. But this stuff is well worth trying out!

Dead Down Wind Face Camo Paint

On day two my cameraman and I went back to where we started but came in what I called the back door. As we approached the back side of the wood lot we were going to hunt, I blasted on my owl call and immediately got a response! Problem was it was only about a 100 yards away! We sneaked in as quickly and quietly as possible only pushing into the woods about 20 yards or so. I knew we were close to the perched Tom, so I played it cool for a few moments. As light began to break on the horizon I began to call softly. The Tom screamed out a loud gobble! I thought to myself this guy is on top of us! I began to scan the tree tops for movement and there he was! Only about 50 yards away in a tree that didn't quite have full leaves yet I could see a dark ball moving around. He kept gobbling and then I saw him fan out on the limb! He shook his wings and feathers, probably to throw off any water on him before he flew down. My cameraman was right behind me and I told him if this doesn't get your blood pumping nothing will! He was rolling tape and got all the Tom's sweet renditions of I'm Gobbling For You on video tape! It was simply awesome to be that close and see him on the roost. But that was also a bad thing, because when he pitched down on the ground he went in the opposite direction never to be seen again! Or so I thought for a moment! I knew exactly where he was headed and told Art that we needed to pick up and run to another wood lot and set up. We hit the trail running and got into the next section of woods just before 'Ol Tommy Boy made his arrival. I made a soft call and he gobbled a song of "Fat Man in a Little Feather Coat" to announce his position! Game On Again! But as fate would have it again he played with us a while and then headed back in the opposite direction, never showing himself to us to even get a glimpse of him on the ground. It was a disappointing yet also satisfying day in the woods.

Itchy Trigger Finger

Day three of my hunt I grabbed my oldest son Mikey to run camera for me. His school starts at 9:30am on Wednesdays so I knew I had about 2 ½ hours to hit the woods. We got to the same spot a half hour before day break and I used my locator call again with no luck! We sat and watched the sunrise waiting for a distant gobble to go and chase only to hear song birds waking up. I set up in the wood lot hoping that a straggler Tom would come by in the short time I had to stay out. Day three ended just as my first one did. Not seeing anything, but worse yet not hearing anything. My confidence from the previous day's hunt was now gone.

Gun Barrel Waiting To Thunder!

Day 4, 5 and 6 of my 7 day season were busts. Day 4 and 5 were torrential down pours and I had no cameraman to run with me even if the rain wasn't around. Day 6 was almost like we were in a wind tunnel to test for aerodynamics and wind shear! So needless to say I stayed home knowing that I still had Sunday to get the job done.

Tools of the Trade

Day seven, the last day of my week long season started with one of our Up North Journal staffers coming down to run camera for me on this last day. Dave and I headed back to the last spot I had seen or heard Tom's at. Once we left the truck we heard gobbling in every direction! This was going to be a good morning I thought to myself. Dave wanted to head in the opposite direction towards the closest Tom sounding off. I told him that where that bird was, was private property and that there was no way we could even get close to him. He reluctantly listened to me and we headed in the woods. I hit my locator call and got two responses immediately within a 100 yards or so. One to the left and one to the right. We also heard a bunch of hens cackling to the right with another Tom sounding off in the distance! This was going to get good quick!

I told Dave we were going to set up on the Tom to the left and he wanted to go to the right with the other nearby bird. My thinking was that the bird to the right was going to head to the hens which were further in to the right. This meant that we would have to get between him and the hens to cut him off. That was too risky so I chose the Tom on the left since he would come right through us to get to the hens on the opposite side of us. At least that was my thinking, yeah right! We set up and I gave a couple of soft calls and the old boy bellowed off the roost! After a few minutes I saw him pitch down to the ground to the left of the direction we were looking, great I can get a perfect shot at him as he walks past us since I'm a right handed shooter. I told Dave to get the camera ready and rolling. He was kneeling on the ground behind the huge oak tree I was leaning against. I caught movement to my left and there he was a beautiful white head bobbing in the undergrowth. He was about 30 yards out, when he hit an opening and I clucked once on my mouth call. He snapped his head around and puffed up! My bead was on his head and he was walking my way. I asked Dave can you see him. He told me, "Don't move we have a huge Tom strutting right behind me at about 20 yards!" What!!!! I can't believe this. I've got a bird staring down my gun barrel and now there is one behind me messing with me! Dave couldn't move for fear of getting busted by the bird behind us. I watched the Tom to my left start to head towards the other strutting Tom which now had a hen with him! Once I had the chance I rolled around on the ground being blocked by the huge oak tree and got to a position to see the other Tom and hen. I could have shot him left handed at about 20 yards but Dave was still pinned down. I then saw the bird turn and start to walk behind a tree, so I told Dave, "When I tell you to I want you to turn the camera and yourself as quickly as you can and get on that bird because when he comes out from behind that tree I'm going to take his head off!" I said go and Dave did just as I told him and I brought the gun up. The Tom just started to peak out from behind the tree and then turned and walked dead away from us never presenting me with a shot! He also took the other Tom and hen with him as well!

I told Dave to get up and let's go. He asked me to where? I knew that they were going to head the same direction as that Tom did on day two, so we started heading towards that other wood lot. Just as we got to within a couple hundred yards of it. I could see a truck parked in a nearby parking area. I had seen this truck before and knew that this guy was hunting turkeys as well. I simply turned and walked away not knowing where he was hunting at. I didn't want to ruin his hunt or walk in blind and possibly getting shot myself. It was hard to walk away knowing that this was how my season was going to end! But I knew that I could have shot either one of those Tom's that morning, but I wanted to get them on video for the show and I knew that wouldn't happen if I shot them without Dave being on them. If I let them walk, there was a strong chance one of my kids would get a crack at them the following three weeks they had to hunt, so with that we went home.

Quaker Boy's Guille Suit/Turkey Vest

Provide Great Concealment

With the way my week had went and what was about to happen over the next three weeks with my kids hunting, you will understand why I have given turkeys a new level of respect! In my next blog I will cover what happened during the late season hunts with my kids. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spring Cleaning!

It's been a while since my last post back in March, that is partly to do with just how busy I have been lately. The Michigan UNJ crew along with myself have been on the road hitting it hard trying to lay down some video on some trips for upcoming shows. I thought I would do a little spring cleaning and report on my recent trips I've been on.

Starting in Early April just after my youngest boy's first coon hunt, Chico and I made another trip north to hunt the elusive "Devil Dogs" or coyotes! We took Jake with us so he could experience what he refers to as "Big Boy Hunts" and he was more than ready to go after that night coon hunt from a few weeks earlier! We had one day to get the job done which really didn't leave us much time to layout a plan. We got to the hunting lodge well before daylight and got all our gear ready and hit the woods running to an area a buddy of mine told me he had heard yotes a few days before.

The Lodge In Northern Michigan

After setting up and calling for a while, then moving to a few different places and doing the same with no luck we decided to head back to the lodge for a little relaxing and getting a snack. Jake decided he wanted to wet a line in the lake to see if he could catch a fish or two but that was as successful as our morning hunt. We got ready for the evening hunt and made our way to a ridge line that my friend told me he had seen some yotes near recently. Chico split off from Jake and I and made his way down the ridge. After about a half hour to 45 minutes we moved across the two track to another ridge line. Just before we got to our destination we heard a pack of about 5 or 6 yotes break loose! All three of us hustled into position and Chico began to call back to them with the new Quaker Boy Chompers we had just gotten.

The pack responded back right away! Jakes eyes got big and he was ready to get the drop on one! Light was fading fast, but the pack was getting closer. Chico called again as light was almost gone with the yotes responding immediately only about 100 yards away! We couldn't see them yet and what little daylight we had was now gone and there wasn't any chance of seeing through the scope on the rifle. We did what we could but we just couldn't connect with them this time! This would be the last time we would get out to chase the Devil Dogs!

Our next adventure was a trip to Saginaw Bay to do a little perch fishing with part of the UNJ Michigan crew! Art, Chico, Kevin, Mikey and myself headed up to the cuts to get a little fish dinner one early morning in April. We stopped and got some bait on the way along with letting Mikey try his hand at milking a rather large cow at a local cheese factory! Don't ask!

Mikey Milking A Large Plastic Cow!

It was a cold moring with a few snow flurries flying about, but there were a lot of eager fisherman trying to do the same as us. We did manage to catch a few for dinner but we didn't slay them by any stretch of the immagination. It was a good time to be out and hang with the crew!

Mikey And I Doing A Little Perch Fishing

Next item of business for us was a few events that we attended. The first was the Turkey Extravaganza at Cabela's for Mossy Oak with a few good friends, then we had a meeting at Spot Shooter Archery in Holly Michigan to meet with PSE and shoot a few of their new bows in the 2010 lineup!

Me Working At Cabela's For Mossy Oak

I ordered mine and simply love it! The PSE Vendetta is the perfect fit for me and I can't wait to get behind it in the treestand this fall!

The New PSE Vendetta!

Our first big spring trip of the season was next in order! Trout Boot Camp 2010! Chico and Art warned me that this was going to be different from anything I have ever experienced and they were right. We spent our evenings at the little cabin in the woods with no electricity, running water, etc... It was rustic and that is the way I like it! We had some fun shooting our new bows and shooting some clays with the shotguns the day before the Michigan Trout Opener. We also had a tremendous amount of food that kept us fueled for what was ahead!

Art & Dave Hanging Out At Trout Camp!

Opening day came at Midnight Friday night! We spent a couple of hours fishing some deep holes on a nearby stream to try and hook into a big 'ol brown trout. Dave Hagen who was also with us was the only one who managed to catch anything that night. We hustled back to the cabin to grab about three hours sleep, then it was off for the morning to hit the streams with the spinning rods!

Fuel For The Hike On The Trout Stream!

We got to the parking area and then took a Boot Camp hike through the woods up and down hills through brush etc... to get started! I was WAY over dressed for this hike! I was wore out before we got started but once we got there to start, boy was it worth it! What beautiful scenery, I was in awe of what I was experiencing. I simply sat back and watched, listened and tried to take in as much information as I could that the boys were telling me. I tried my hand at it with little luck. It was then that I knew I might not catch one of these beautiful fish the entire weekend, it was WORK!

Mikey's First Brook Trout!

After a few trout being caught, the morning soon passed us by and it was time to head back to camp for lunch. After another tremendous meal by our camp cook Cy, we took back off to finish our day on what the boys refer to as the "Drop Zone" I found out why it was called that! The parking area was at the top of about a 150 - 200 yard drop almost straight down to the stream! I didn't worry about getting down there, I worried about how to get back up!

One Of Our Many Views

Once on the stream I knew why we came here! It was as if no one had ever been there before, not one thing to show that any human had ever stepped into that stream! The hard to reach places and out of the way places are the best places to hunt and fish and this was one of them! Mikey landed his first fish of the trip within a few minutes. It was a little 4 inch brook trout! It didn't take long for the rest of the crew to start catching a few fish either, except me! After about two hours of frustration, Chico told me that it was my gear I was using so I gave his a try. I noticed the difference immediately! Don't let anyone tell you that a good rod and reel doesn't make a difference, it does! I could cast exactly where I wanted to and the retreival on the reel was lightning quick!

Another Awesome View Of The Trout Stream

Within about 20 minutes I had my first trout! It was a thrill that I won't ever forget, I will always remember just how beautiful a place it truly was along with all the hard work that went into catching that first fish! What a rewarding experience! That was the only fish I caught that weekend, but I'm now hooked on it! I never was much into fishing but I did do it occasionally to satisfy the kids on a warm weekend day. Now I'm looking forward to the next trip on the trout stream!

My First Brown Trout!

Mikey's First Brown Trout!

It only took a week to get back out to the next stream. Chico and Art took me to a little stream in the middle of Michigan to chase the brown's again! This time I had quite a bit more luck on my side. We managed to land about 30 of them with most being under sized but boy was it fun to catch them! We did put a few in the creel for a later meal, but nearly all went back in including the biggest catch for me!

A Great View Of Weekend Two's Stream

I managed to land a nice 11 to 12 inch brown trout and I was pretty excited about it. I took it over to Art who had the creel which had measurements laid out on the outside of it. I wanted to see just how big it was and as I was getting ready to lay it on the side of the creel, the fish flipped and flopped right out of my hands and back into the water! I looked at my empty hands and simply laughed "Oh well, I guess I'm catching and releasing today"! It was simply another great morning spent with friends on the streams of Michigan and I can't wait to get back out again!

Out On Another Of
Michigan's Wonderful Streams

The last part of spring cleaning has to do with Turkey Season here in Michigan. As I write this, we are smack dab in the middle of it and I will post more as it becomes available. Keep your fingers crossed for me as I chase the elusive Tom's in Michigans woods! Shoot Straight and Be Safe!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Afraid Of The Dark?

Sound of the phone ringing, "Hello", Hey Mike this is Trieger (the guy we raccoon hunted with in November). "Hey man what's up,?", I answered back. Just wanted to know if you wanted to get Jacob out for a coon hunt this weekend? "Heck ya, man just let me know when and where."

That was all it took to get Jacob my youngest boy who is 10, out for his first night coon hunt with dogs! After I hung up the phone I asked Jake if he wanted to run with the dogs on Friday night and chase raccoons? The first word out of his mouth was "Awesome!" I took that as a yes! I got with my boss and took Friday night off of work so I could take Jake out for the most excitement any 10 year old boy should be allowed to have after dark!

Friday night came with a cold nip in the air. It was sunny for the day but the temps were only around 40 degrees and with clear skies it was supposed to drop down near 20 by the middle of the night. With a chilly forecast, we took extra layers to stay warm in case we needed them. I got Mikey, Jake and the camera gear ready to roll and we headed over to meet Doug McDonald and Mike Trieger over at Doug's house.

When we arrived, Doug and Mike had the blue tic hounds already loaded into the dog box on Mike's truck. Before we left Mike showed us some photos of past hunts he had success on along with a few of his animal mounts from some previous trapping he had done. That got Jake fired up and ready to hit the woods! By now the sun had set and it was dark! Time to hit the road!

Michael & Jake In The Dark

Jake was wide eyed with excitement and had a 100 questions to go along with his enthusiasm. Mike and Doug answered all of Jake's questions throughout the night with no hesitation. They made this hunt all about him having fun! We got to our first destination and got the dogs out of the box and ready to roll! Jake was anxious to see what was about to happen, when the dogs started off and began to sound off, all Jake could say was "Man that is cool!"

The dogs began to head off and crisscross the field near the woods we were heading to, after a few minutes we had to coax them towards the wood lot. After that it was game on! The dogs quickly treed a coon and we were off to see what was awaiting us. Jake was asking if he could shoot the coon if we found one, I told him that he was going to shoot all of them if we found any. We got to the tree where the dogs were and found them to be jumping up the side of the tree like their feet were on hot coals! After about 10 minutes of looking and shinning lights we found out that it was a den tree. The coon had made it's way into the hole where a limb had once been only to leave us looking and searching for the elusive ring tail!
We took the dogs back near the area where we first started which had a creek flowing through a drainage ditch. We had heard a coon chattering when we first walked near the area, so Doug and Mike turned the dogs loose near the water and within minutes they had another coon treed! As we approached we could see the dark silhouette in the tree due to the bright nearly full moon shining down on us. As soon as they lit the tree up the coon couldn't hide, he was in plain sight!

I got the .17 HMR Ruger rifle ready for him and turned on the illuminated cross hair scope so he could get a perfect bead on the little bandit! Once Doug had pulled the dogs back from the tree it only took a few seconds for us to hear, CRACK! The .17 sounded off and it was a near miss! Jake got up next to a small tree to steady his aim and with a flick of the bolt he had another round loaded and ready to go, CRACK! A solid hit and the coon came tumbling down to the ground! A smile came to his 10 year old face and with that thud of the coon hitting the ground came a round of high fives to the young hunter! He looked at me and said, "Now what?" I told him, "Now you have to pick it up and carry it back to the truck!" He loaded up his coon and carried it back out to the truck! Mike and Doug loaded up the dogs and we headed to the next stop.
We hit the next field and woodlot we were going to hunt and the dogs hit the ground running. It only took about 2 minutes and we heard the certainty barking of the dogs on a treed coon. We made our way to the edge of the woodlot where they had the varmint up a tree, all we could see was water and lots of it! Doug and Mike started out into the water and I could tell it was deep. There was no way that Jake's boots were going to be tall enough to keep the water out. It was almost over the boots of Doug and Mike. I handed the rifle to Mikey and told him that I would stay with Jake and he could go in and shoot the coon.

Just as Michael was walking into the water we heard the flapping of wings. All of a sudden in the darkness came a huge bird at our heads! Just as it got within a few yards of us it honked! It was a goose that was perched in a tree that got spooked off! When it flew over our heads in the darkness it was about 10 feet in the air! The tree the coon was in was about 50 yards off of the field down into the woods so I could see where they were shinning the light into the trees. I rolled the camera and caught the action on tape from a safe and dry distance! Right after the shot rang out and as the coon hit the water with a loud splash, we heard more wing beats coming our way! Only this time it was a huge turkey flying out of the trees to a safer and a less noisy area for the night! Once the guys made their way out of the water, the dogs were loaded up one more time to head to the last stop of the evening.

Michael With Two of The Coons

By now it was well past midnight and the moon was high in the sky. We arrived at the last hunting spot of the night and got the dogs ready for the walk across the field to the woodlot. About halfway across the wheat field we noticed something black and round walking through the field to our left. Thinking it might be a coon out wondering for a late night snack, Doug turned his spotlight on to check it out. First thing we all saw was a white racing stripe down the critter's backside! We immediately changed our direction and took the long way to the woodlot, which meant that we had to cross a deep ditch to get to the woods. The little stink bomb had our way to the foot bridge cut off!

Once the dogs were turned loose it didn't take long again for them to run a coon up a tree. We arrived at the tree with the dogs barking and jumping about to find a nice coon perched on a limb. Once the lights brightened up the treetops, Jake took careful aim and brought down his second coon of the evening. Doug asked if we wanted to see if we could tree one more for the evening for Jake and who was I to argue? Mike took the critter that Jake had just shot out to the edge of the woods at the wheat field so we could pick it up later. The dogs were again sent on their way to chase another unsuspecting bandit.

The last chase kind of threw us off somewhat. We arrived at the tree to see the dogs jumping around with all kinds of energy. Doug and Mike shinned their lights into the treetops and after about 10 - 15 minutes of looking there was no coon to be found. What Mike noticed was some freshly broken branches which he said meant that the coon either jumped to the ground and gave the dogs the slip or it may have jumped to another tree and took off.

Jake With Two of His Three Bandits Of The Evening

They pulled the dogs off of the tree and we began what we thought was our walk out, when one of the dogs began to bark loudly at a tree about 10 feet away just as we began to head out. Doug turned the dog loose and it locked onto that tree hard! Jake said maybe there is a coon up there! They threw the lights on and sure enough that coon jumped trees and was up there waiting on Jake to take his last coon of the evening! CRACK! Down it came with a loud thud! That round of high fives came again and we grabbed the two coons that were just taken and headed back to the truck.

The Four Critters

With the coons and dogs all loaded up, we headed back to where we started the evening. We got the dogs put in their kennels and the coons back into the garage when Jake asked, "Are we going to skin the coons?" Mike and Doug looked at him and asked, "Do you want to skin them?" I'm thinking to myself, "Does he want to skin them? Is his name Jake?" Of course he said yes! Mike gave Jake a course on how to skin a coon, then he let Jake take his turn at skinning a coon out, while I sat and watched the process. That is how Jake finished up his first night coon hunt! For a ten year old boy, who is afraid of the dark at times, he sure did have fun running around in the woods in the dark all night! I think he looks at the dark in a different light now!

The Boys And Their Coons

I would like to thank Doug McDonald and Mike Trieger for not only taking the time to invite us out, but to make sure that a 10 year old boy had the time of his life! They also took the time to show him how to skin out the animals after they spent 5 hours with us running through the woods! How many guys do you know would sit in a garage for an hour at 2 in the morning helping to teach a youngster how to skin an animal? That is what makes these two outdoors men so special! If everyone of us outdoors men would take the time to spend with our young and up and coming hunters, we would never run out of hunters! Thanks again Doug and Mike for a tremendous evening!