Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Late December Squirrel Hunt!

Well the weather has been terrible the last three weeks. I haven't been able to get out to do anything. First it was extremely cold and blowing snow, then it was too windy, and now the weather has warmed up and the rains came to melt all the snow and ice. No ice fishing or atleast that is what I thought!

Snow Fog In A Near By Field

I finally gave up on the situation and decided that I would stop complaining and get out today no matter how bad it was. The rain stopped and I decided that I would grab my hat, boots, camera and head out. Then my oldest daughter Mackenzie said she would go with me. It was then I decided that we would grab the guns and do a little walk on the state park land to look for some unsuspecting squirrels! I knew that we probably wouldn't see anything, but what the heck, I sure wasn't going to see anything sitting at home complaining about it!

We got to the state park and got out at the parking area near the ridge that went between the two lakes. What did my wonderous eyes see? Four guys sitting on the sloppy ice doing some ice fishing! Man oh Man! I should have come out this morning, dang it!

Three Of The Four Guys I Saw On The Ice

I yelled to them, "How thick is the ice?" 3" of slop and 4" of solid clear ice! That would have been good enough for me! Well, we were here to hunt, so hunt we did.

I thought this would be a great time to scout for deer as well as looking for some small game. I also thought this would be a great time to let Mackenzie brush up on her field carrying techniques for carrying a long gun.

Mackenzie & The Rossi .22 Single Shot

You can never practice safety too much. Since there was some slippery trails and snow to trudge through, I knew I could use this as a teaching exercise for her, that is why I brought out the break action single shot Rossi I bought her for her birthday a year ago. It was a safe firearm for her to handle and it was light enough for her to carry it safely in the snow and slop. I decided on 'ol grandpap's side by side 16 gauge Stevens shotgun! I love that 'ol gun. It is the same one I took out for a December rabbit hunt last year.

Me & Grandpap's 16 ga Stevens Double Barrel

We made our way down the trail past the ice fisherman and into the woods. Then I allowed Mackenzie to load a single cartridge into the little .22 rifle. I loaded up the side by side and we discussed the proper carry technique for two people walking together. She rememebered her hunter's safety rules just fine. We no more than took 10 steps and two mallards flew right over head! Just my luck I thought, she picked them up immediately. It was nice that we at least saw some game right off the bat. About a minute later we heard voices laughing and carrying on. I knew that who ever this was coming towards us that they had scared off any game that might be in the area. Around the corner came four people hiking, we stopped and greeted them and then went on our way. I could still make a good time of it even if they had been loud coming through the woods. I didn't let on like anything was wrong, I didn't want to spoil it for Mackenzie.

It was hard to walk quietly through the snow and slop. We did the best we could making our way down and around the trails. It wasn't long until we ventured off the path up an oak ridge that boardered the lake. I could see the island where we had built our duck blind this last fall and took a photo of it.

A View Of The Duck Blind From The Back Side Of The Lake

We also saw where a deer had been through the area that morning since the rain had stopped. It looked like it was a big boy by the size of the tracks. We then headed back to the main trail to venture onward. Along the way I taught her the proper technique for falling down a hill while carrying a firearm. It wasn't by design though, I hit a slick spot and slid down safely as she laughed at me! Mackenzie called to me to look at a set of tracks she had found. There was a nice set of deer tracks in the mud and I told her good job at keeping her eyes alert for game signs.

Mackenzie's Deer Tracks She Spotted

We made our way to an area that had a good number of oaks in it and it was there that we found some nice sized squirrel nests. I told her we needed to post up in the area and wait to see if any popped their heads out. I didn't think we would see any but I wanted her to get the feel for sitting still for a while and looking for game.

Mackenzie Keeping A Watchful Eye Out For Squirrels

After about 20 minutes or so, we decided to head back to the parking area. I walked back through the oaks in a little bit different direction to see if we could see any signs of squirrels. It didn't take long until we could see some acorn casings on top of the small piles of snow left in the woods. I knew that they were from squirrels nibbling on the acorns recently. I told her that this was a good squirrel spot, and that we should have been out a lot earlier in the day.

The Single Shot & The Double Barrel

As we made our way back to the truck I heard a squirrel bark off in the distance, I told Mackenzie that he was laughing at us as we walked out! She thought that was funny and laughed at me. As we approached the area where the four guys were fishing at, I told her that we need to make sure that we didn't shoot any game in the direction of where the guys were fishing even though we couldn't see them. She understood why and said that if we saw anything we would have to let it go. As we approached the spot where they were at, we stopped and unloaded the firearms and made our way back to the truck. On our way out of the park we saw six deer off in a field so I stopped to take a couple of picutres.

The Six Deer We Saw On The Way Out

She told me thanks for taking her out hunting and that she had fun, that made my day! It didn't matter that we didn't see any squirrels, all that mattered was that she had fun! What a great day in the field!

Two Happy Hunters!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jake's Hunt Day Three

The last day of our trip to Ohio was upon us and it was time to get up and at'em. I woke the boys up at 5:45am and we were dressed and out the door by 6:30am. The wind was HOWLING like mad! It had to be every bit of 20 mph and gusting at over 30 at times! I almost turned around and headed back in, but I though this would be a good opportunity to teach the boys how to tough it out a little.

Mikey headed to the treestand and I was a little worried that he wouldn't make it since the temp was only 20 degrees plus the wind chill. He assured me he would be ok, but I gave up my fleece balaclava. I knew he would need it. Jake and I headed back to the popup blind and as we arrived I could see something shiny in the distance. This wasn't good, the shiny spot is where the popup blind was supposed to be! As we arrived to the spot we could see all our stuff we left in the blind, but the blind was GONE! We found it blown back into the brush in the fence row! Lucky break for us to find it. I knew that this wind was going to cause us trouble, so I staked down the blind hoping it would stay.

I immediately lit the heater hoping it would stay on with the whipping wind. Jake was cold so he sat down next to the heater and I just waited for daylight. About 20 minutes went by and I knew I should call Mikey on the cellphone to see how he was making it. He was freezing pretty bad, so I told him to get down and come over to the blind and set with us. He got there just before daybreak and spent the rest of the morning with us

Mikey's Treestand Location

The wind was terrible and lifting the blind pulling some of the stakes loose. I kept reanchoring it every little while. Finally around 8:00am I noticed something off in the distance down the fence row. I asked Mikey if that was deer, since he had my binoculars. He checked it out and sure enough it was two deer. I looked through the binoculars and then saw two more pop out of the fence row. They were about 700 yards away! No chance to get a shot at them, but the boys liked seeing something. That kept it interesting for a while.

Jake Looking In The Direction Of The Does

By 8:30am, it was getting worse out, the wind was blowing harder and it was snowing by know. I knew they had enough of it, so I asked them what they wanted to do. They looked at each other and turned to me saying, "lets go in!"

I took down the blind and packed everything back in, knowing that this was probably going to be the last hunt of our trip. The weather was just too bad. Later that afternoon we loaded the truck up to leave and it was around 3:30pm, I told them we could still get a quick evening hunt in if they wanted to. Nothing doing they were ready to leave. I kept telling them that the deer like to move when it is snowing and they might get a good chance at seeing some deer. The wind had died down quite a bit, but they didn't want to try it. I didn't want to force the issue, fearing it might do more harm then good. We left around 4pm and about 10 minutes after we left my brother in law called me telling us that three does just walked past the spot we were sitting at! The boys just looked at me and each other not knowing what to say. All I said was, "You should listen to your dad, I do know a little about deer hunting." Jake looked at me and said, "I just learned a good lesson, don't ever give up."

So if nothing else, he saw deer, had a great time, and learned a good lesson. It was an awesome trip for all three of us, but especially him! One other thing we got to do was shoot a crossbow for the first time. I will post our experience about that on the Hooks and Bullets Blog later this week.

Me Trying Out A Crossbow For The First Time!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jake's Hunt Day Two Evening Hunt

After an afternoon nap and a quick snack, it was time to get back out to the field for the evening hunt. We made our way back out around 3pm, with a beautiful blue sky, no wind, and around 25 degrees. We sat until around 5:45pm this evening, except for Michael he got cold and headed in at 5pm. I told him that was the prime time to hunt, but I couldn't stop him from heading in.

There wasn't much to report for the evening hunt, we didn't see anything. Actually it was so slow that I had to keep Jake talking to keep him awake. He was sleepy just sitting all evening. But hey what do you expect from a 9 year old! He had his excitement in the morning hunt. So it is off to bed and up early for the final day of his big deer hunting adventure.

Jake's Morning Hunt Day 2

We had high expectations this morning. The wind had died down from last night, but it was still extremely cold! We got the camo on along with the pumpkin colored vests and hit the trail! It was about 6:30am and still really dark, Jake has never been out early in the morning with us in the field before. This was a completely new experience for him. His only experience in the early morning was in the duck boat.

First Light!

Michael helped us get to our spot carrying some of our gear. This morning we had a pop up blind, two seats, a heater, cameras, and the muzzleloader! Michael then headed for the stand about 75 to 100 yards away. Jake didn't have a lot to say this morning, he was just watching the sun rise and mentioned how cool it was to see the sun come up while sitting out deer hunting! I think he's hooked on deer hunting! Just after day break we saw a deer off in the distance near the back barn of a neighboring house. A vehicle pulled into the driveway and spooked it off, it ran back in the field towards us! The doe made it to the fence row we were sitting in and Jake was all excited, he got set up and ready to fire. He asked me, "can I shoot it dad?" I told him no because it was still over 300 yards away from us! The doe jumped the fence and headed away from us, but Jake wasn't discouraged, he said, "That's the way huntin' goes sometimes." He has the right attitude!

Checking Out The Morning View!

It wasn't a half hour later, I had the video camera out and talking with Jake trying to capture some hunting video when he said, "dad don't move there are 5 or 6 deer behind us." I thought to myself, yea right, but then I asked myself why would he say 5 or 6? He must have seen something. So asked him if he was sure. He said, "Yeah, they're still there." So I put the camera away and crouched down on my knees and got him into position. By this time I could see the does he was talking about and they were only about 40 yards away! I let him swing the muzzleloader up over my shoulder for a steady shot and I plugged my ears! The deer jumped the fence behind us and stepped into the field we were hunting. They were angling away from us, but were only about 75 yards away now. I just knew the gun was going to go off at any moment, as I asked him if he could see them in the scope. He said, "Yeah, but I can't get the cross hairs steady on them. I had the scope set at 3x power since anything greater caused Jake to not be able to see in the scope easily. The deer were a little nervous and began to head out across the field. I could see Michael from our position and kept waiting for him to shoot one also, but the sound of a gunshot never came! He told me later he was waiting for Jake to shoot, he wanted his little brother to take one first! By the time he decided to take one, only the little ones were within range. Oh well that is why the call it hunting.

Looking For Deer!

Jake told me that he was sure that we would have been taking some meat home! Then he asked me "dad what do they call it when you get an adrenaline rush?" I told him that was getting excited and it was "buck fever". He said, "Then, I got excited!" Now I know he's hooked on deer hunting! That made my day! He once again said that he thought it was cool to just see the deer. He told me that we can't take home a deer everytime we go out. Like I said he has the right attitude!

Jake In His Hunting Hut

We lasted about 2 and a half hours this morning in about 15 degree temps. Mikey didn't make it quite as long as us, he lasted only about 2 hours before he got cold and headed back to the house. Sitting up in the air will definitely make you get cold faster! They had a great morning and they are still talking about it. I can't wait until the evening hunt!

Where's Mikey? Can You See Him?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Son Jake's First Deer Hunt

Well the big day finally came for Jacob. We left this morning to head to Ohio for his first deer hunt! He was so excited the night before he couldn't sleep. I got home from work and he was still up jabber jawing about the trip! I was almost as excited as he was after listening to him talk that night.

Jake Looks Like "Jimmers" From Escanaba In Da Moonlight

He Is Ready To Hit The Stand!

We then got on the road by 10am and headed south. Now a trip south out of Michigan wouldn't be complete without a stop at Cabela's! We bought Jake a new set of camo pants since he has grown so much since our Ohio turkey hunt last spring. I picked up a few bullets for the muzzleloader and a new Mad Bomber hat. Next stop, Ohio!

We made it to my father in laws house around 3:15pm and I knew we should have already been on stand, but what can ya do, you can only drive so fast. We immediately began to dress head to toe in camo and our required orange garments. Michael decided it was too cold for a quick evening hunt, so he decided to stay inside. After a few quick pictures we were off to the 2 man tree stand!

The Field We Hunted Over, A Nearby Woodlot Is In The Distance

Jake was asking me all kinds of questions and for the most part they were important questions that had to do with deer hunting! I knew that this was going to be a really cold evening and the wind was doing us no favors. It was around 25 degrees and the wind was blowing about 20 mph! It was COLD! Jake was a real trooper! He didn't complain about anything, I think he was warm with excitement! Although his cheeks were pretty rosy! He did tell me his hands were getting cold and tingly, then he said they were getting stiff.

Jake Is Chillin' and Killin'

The view we had of the field was definitely different than what we are used to in Michigan. Open fields are great for seeing a long way, but unfortunatly we didn't see any deer. That didn't deter Jake's enthusiasm though. He was energized and looking the whole time. He was telling me which areas he thought would be the good places to look for deer movement. He was actually right on with what I felt would be a good area also.

Checking His Aim Just In Case He Sees A Big Buck

Another View Of The Field

After almost two hours I knew he was getting pretty cold so I asked him if he wanted to head in, he told me as soon as the sun set he would be ready. Now for a nine year old that is hard core! As time slipped away I knew it was time for him to get in and warm up, so I told him we need to head in, he didn't waste any time climbing down off the stand.

My Little Huntin' Buddy

A Great View To End The Day

For his first deer hunt ever, he was more than pumped up, and was not disappointed in the least that he didn't see a deer. Hhen I asked him if he was upset that we didn't see anything he told me, "no that is part of deer hunting dad!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Afternoon Deer Hunt/Scouting

I hadn't been out since the big Saturday hunt so I decided to head out this afternoon to a place that I've yet to deer hunt. I went over to Seven Lakes State Park where we duck and goose hunted earlier this season. I had seen that nice buck near the boat launch a couple of weeks back so I wanted to see what the area was like around there.

I got a little late of a jump on the hunt not leaving until around 2:30pm, good thing it is only a 10 minute drive. I jumped into my camo and grabbed the shotgun and keys, then it was out the door and into the snow! We have got about 4 inches of snow in the last day so I knew that any tracks I would come across would be fresh. When I got to the park they had the roads plowed but they were still icy and slick, so I dropped the 'ol truck into 4 wheel drive and punched it! YeHaw! With a little slipping and sliding I made my way to the boat launch. They didn't waste any time taking the boat dock out! it was up on land and the lake was already starting to freeze over. As I pulled up I could see a flock of geese on the ice right out in front of our duck and goose blind! You can see the duck blind just to the left of the tree roots sticking up on the shoreline, it is the darker brushy area right on the water's edge.

Notice the ducks just under the small tree branch on the left

Man does that figure! I wouldn't be able to hit them anyways so I don't know why I'm complaining! There must have been over 100 of them with a couple of groups of ducks thrown in for good measure, a few pictures and I was on my way to the woods.

This is the second photo of three that it took to get them all

When I parked there was another truck there already so I knew that at least one person was in the woods. When I looked closer I could see two sets of foot prints in the snow and they went right to the trail I wanted to take! Dog Gone It! Oh well I got out late so first come first serve. I headed down the road to another access point and began my walk in. As I hit the trail I slipped three slugs into the trusty 'ol Remington 870, it sounded good to slide the action close and hear the "CLICK". That means it is show time!

The wind was blowing out of the west and I knew that it wouldn't be good for me to use that trail but I had no choice. The snow was still coming down, but now it was a little finer snow and it was almost like sleet. With all the gear on it wasn't too bad cold out, but I walked slowly as not to break a sweat. The snow packed easily as I walked so I virtually made no sound walking in. All I could hear was my breath. I could see some older tracks in the snow, which looked like they were from the night before so I pressed on ward.

It was neat walking in an area I have never been before, I was like a kid in a candy store. I was taking it all in looking for any sign of an area that might hold deer or even a squirrel for a later small game hunt. The only problem was I wasn't seeing any tracks or any good spots to sit. The trail became really brushy really quick. But I could see a nice opening ahead so I kept moving towards it.

As I reached the opening it dawned on me that it was a power line right of way. I've seen these before and they give a good long look at a possible place for deer to cross from one wood lot to antoher. I walked right out into the middle of it and looked right, nothing, then I looked left! I saw something, but the problem was that it was pumpkin orange! It was another hunter and it looked like he had the same idea I did. As I watched and looked closer, it appeared that he was squirrel hunting. He kept looking upward into a huge oak tree. The last time I checked deer didn't climb trees.

I walked back out to the trail an tried to slip past him so I wouldn't disturb his hunting. I almost got by him when he noticed me, so I just raised my hand to wave at him and he returned the wave. By now I had walked for about a half hour and was starting to warm up a little. I knew I needed to find a place to sit and post up for a while. The trail turned and went down into a depression with a small creek at the bottom of it. On the other side was a ridge that looked somewhat open, that was going to be my resting spot.

Spot over looking the creek

I crossed the creek and found a nice tree to post up on up on the opposite ridge line. I could see the lake we goose and duck hunted earlier this year from that position. By now the snow had stopped and it was actually quite nice out. I took a few photos from here and rested a while. I was hoping a deer might come out and cross my path, it looked like prime deer woods to me. After about 20 minutes I thought I would walk another 10 to 15 minutes or so down the trail to explore some more.

Cool photo of the snow

As I walked down the trail I noticed that the old foot prints had disappeared completely. I was all by myself on the far end of the lake. This was going to be good I thought to myslef. I approached a nice stand of large pines and thought this would be my turn around point to get back to the truck before dark. It also looked good for deer but nothing showed any signs of deer or any other animal for that matter. Maybe it was the snow we have been getting for the last 24 hours that has made virtually every animal there disappear. After taking a few minutes to rest and take a photo of myself I turned back to head in the direction I had came.

Hey it's me out in the pine grove

As I approached the spot where I posted up at, all of a sudden I hear a loud BOOM! Someone has just shot! I tried to think of what it might be. It came from the area I wanted to explore first but the other guys had went in that way. Great I'm thinking to myself, this is probably the deer I saw at the boat launch that day and they just shot it. That is what I thought anyway. I kept walking and it wasn't another minute or two until another BOOM! Ok now this is making me think now. Did they just finish off the deer or are they squirrel hunting? It really didn't matter either way, so I kept walking.

As I came back up to the area by the power line I noticed another hunter in a different spot and it wasn't the same guy I saw the first time. As I walked back to where I saw the first guy I saw another hunter on the power line. They must be hunting together I thought to myself, so I kept moving down the trail so I wouldn't disturb their hunt. Maybe it was the two guys who went in on the trail I wanted to use originally. As I made my way back down the path I noticed a fresh set of foot prints and they were walking back to the vehicles. Ok now I'm really confused! Thinking to myself, there are too many pumpkins walking around here to be safe, I need to get back out of the woods and head home. It was getting late anyways, so I made it back to the parking area only to see that the truck I saw first had left and another vehicle had pulled in.

As I got back to the truck I noticed that the geese and ducks had taken off. I looked around the lake and didn't see them, they must have went to their nightly roosting spot. While I was looking around the lake I noticed the pine grove I stopped at and turned around. It wasn't as far around the lake as I thought it was when I decided to head back. I thought I was almost half way around the lake, only to find out that it wasn't even close. It is deceiving when your slowly walking through a new area as to how much ground you actually cover. Oh well that leaves more new ground to cover the next time I'm out there. I can't wait!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Up North Journal Team Hunts Together!

We finally did it! We got five of the six pro staffers for the Up North Journal team together for their first hunt all together. I've hunted with Kevin for years and I've hunted and fished with Chuck for over a year now. But I have never had the chance to hunt or fish with Tim yet, that is until today. Not only that but we were all together along with Mikey for this hunt.

We planned this for about a week now, and it all came together this morning. I had Tim and Chuck meet me at our local breakfast establishment down the road from my house at 5am. That is Micky D's for those of you new to the blog! The 4am wake up call came WAY TOO EARLY for me this morning, since I didn't get to sleep until around 1:30am! I rolled out of bed after Mikey had already got up and around. It didn't take long to get things in order and make our way out the door. I was excited this morning about all of us out for a morning deer hunt, but I was also excited about getting my morning cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich! That is the only way to start any hunt off right.

We pulled in and ordered our food and as I was paying I noticed a BIG grey pickup parking off to the side, Tim was here 15 minutes early! As we ate and Tim loaded into our truck, Chuck made his usual early appearence. He had to get his morning fuel from the golden arches as well, then he loaded his gear into the truck. With the bed of my truck full along with the cab and our bellies, we made our way south to the hunting area to meet Kevin.

The conversation quickly turned to gun ownership and 2nd amendment rights on the way down, that was encouraging to hear. Not that I have to worry about these two guys views, but it is nice to be able to discuss these things without getting blasted by someone like I do at work! As we arrived to the parking area, I passed it to show Chuck the spot down the road where he would be sitting this morning. We made our way to the little honey hole he was going to sit at and quickly turned around and drove back to the parking area. As we approached it, there was a vehicle coming into it, it was Kevin so I made a swerving gesture with my truck to let him know I was there, as if I had to.

We all piled out of the vehicles and exchanged hunting pleasentries such as grunts and groans towards each other! It was too cold out to talk too much, we all had getting our gear on , on our minds since it was a balmy 18 degrees out this morning! It was darn cold let me tell you. The finger nail shaped moon slice was peering through a good amount of cloud cover and the bitting cold was blowing up my back as I pulled on my camo bibs. I slipped my boots on along with my new parka camo coat and fleece head cover, boy was that nice and warm! It was going to be needed this morning. I finished by putting my Mossy Oak Blaze Orange Break Up vest on so I would be able to be picked out against the newly fallen 2 inches of snow. No need in getting myself shot on the state land, I always worry about that since it is public land and we've had a hunter killed this week in the state already.

We got the firearms out and I let Chuck use my Remington 870 Express 12 gauge and a box of slugs. Then Kevin took him down the road to his spot for his morning frost bite session in the woods. I finished up getting my muzzleloader set and Tim was borrowing Kevin's muzzleloader as well. Mikey wouldn't part with his goose gun and a box of slugs. I tried to get him to bring the other Remington muzzleloader this morning but no doing. Far be it that he take some solid advice from dear old dad!

We hussled down the foot path that led back to our hunting area. I knew that Kevin would soon be behind us on his way from getting Chuck settled in. As we approached the ridge where I would sit Tim at, I explained the lay of the land and where everyone would be, so he would be sure what direction was safe to shoot. I told him that I would be back around 10am and exchanged good luck offerings as we parted. Mikey followed me along the ridge to the area I was going to drop him off at and I noticed a flashlight cutting across the swamp to the East of the ridge, I knew that was Kevin so I flashed my light on and off towards that direction to signal him that we were well ahead of him and on our way.

By now I was starting to sweat a little and I began to unzip my layers so I wouldn't work up a wet base layer to get me cold later. 18 degrees in a wet hunting suit is not good! After another 15 minute walk I had Mikey at his spot. He wouldn't go in by himself, so I had to walk in 50 yards to help him find the tree. I don't think he is quit ready to make those walks in the dark by himself just yet! It can still be a little spooky. I told him that I was going just to the top of the next ridge and would be back to pick him up in a couple of hours. Our cell phones had good signals so we stayed in touch every hour so.

I made my way down the trail and to the next ridge to over look a swamp, it was starting to break daylight just the very least bit on the horizon. I new I had to make my stand quick. I brought my little turkey seat with me so I wouldn't have to sit in the snow. I found a nice big pine tree about 60 to 70 yards off the trail on the ridge, so I cleared out the ground next to the tree and plopped down. As day broke I noticed that the swamp was a little more dense than I thought, there was quite a bit of wirey brush in front of me. I knew this wasn't good since I was using a muzzleoader. Any shot would be tough in that kind of cover, so I picked up and found another suitable tree about 200 yards down further off the trail. This was perfect, I could see about 200 yards in each direction.

By now I was sweating pretty good and I knew that I had to unzip my layers a little more or I would be in trouble. I had no more than set down good for about 5 minutes when I noticed movement in front of me across the swamp! I pulled up my binoculars and began to glass the opposite tree line and saw a flash of blaze orange! It was another hunter walking along the edge of the swamp. I pulled the front of my vest together so he would be sure to see my orange as well. He walked around for a minute or so and then disappeared. I don't know if he sat down or walked away, so I was extremely cautious of where I last saw him.

It didn't take long until the birds started flying and singing. I had a redheaded woodpecker in the tree above me! He was playing his tapity tap tap routine on the tree and I could feel the vibration of his jackhammering tingling in my back as I sat agianst the tree. The time passed quickly and when I first looked to see what time it was, it was already 8am. I called Mikey and he wasn't seeing much either, except for an owl that was in the tree next to where he was sitting.

As the sun rose it finally started to break through the forest canopy and shine against the limbs of trees whose leaves had all left them exposed to the cold morning air. It felt good to feel the sun shine against me, it made me shiver just a little when it hit my face. Maybe it wasn't the sun on me that made me shiver, it was probably the cold breeze that was creeping through to the damp base layer beneath my coat and bibs. My toes were now beginning to ache a little. Oh no, I've had this feeling before! I knew it wouldn't be long and I would have to move to keep warm. Even thought the sun was out now, it was still bitter cold. This is why it is better to walk in with a few clothes on and then bundle up after you get to your stand. This way you won't break a sweat and get damp.

I began to wiggle my feet and toes in my boots to keep the blood flowing through them. It also relieved the aching feeling in them. My hands were another story though. I didn't have very thick gloves on, I used a thin neoprene style glove so I could grip the muzzleloader tightly. My fingers were now beginning to ache also. I pulled my hands inside my sleves and laid the firearm across my lap. This worked well, my fingers managed to stay limber and pain free for the rest of the morning. By now it was 9am and I called Mikey again, his first words were: "I'm not seeing anything and I'm cold!" Ok bud I told him, I will stalk hunt my way back to you and I will be there in about 15 minutes I told him.

I got up slowly and quietly made my way back to where he was at. He met me on the trail and we walked back up to where Tim was setting. I wondered how he did this morning as we walked towards his area. I had heard about four or five shots this morning, but none were in his direction or any of the other two guys directions either. We picked up Tim and decided I would call Kevin and see if he had his cell phone with him to check in. He answered and told me to meet him at the trail crossing where there is a downed log we sit on for a meeting place. We made our way to the log to meet him and as I sat down, I looked over my shoulder towards the nearby swamp and I saw two flags waving good bye at me! I told Tim and Mikey, "Deer, Deer"! I watched two deer wave their tail flags at us and make their way across the swamp and out of site. I saw their bodies only, I assume they were does, but there might have been a buck in there who knows.

Kevin made his way to the crossing and he debriefed us on his morning activity, we then headed back towards the trucks and Chuck. We made it to the parking area and called Chuck to let him know that we were back. He then got his gear together and Kevin went down to pick him up as well. We all spent another 30 minutes at the trucks talking about the morning's hunt and what we were going to do for the rest of the day. For our first offical "Up North Journal" outing it turned out to be pretty adventurous. We didn't bring anyting home to put in the freezer, but we did bring some memories home with us to remember forever. I can't wait to get back out with all of them again!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deer Season Day Two

Well another morning is upon us and it is time to get up and hit the woods. 5am is here and breakfast is ready! Everyone gobbles down the food and very little talking is going on this morning. Everyone is serious and down to business today, with only one deer taken I think everyone is in a hurry to get out early today.

We get our stuff together and head out about a half hour earlier than yesterday. I once again took the camera with me and set down in the swamp blind hoping to see some movement. Mikey set back up in the same blind as the morning before and my dad went to a different field to hunt this morning hoping to change his luck.

View Out of Swamp Blind

I for one didn't have any luck this morning. All I saw was the typical squirrel fight that I watched the previous evening! They once again fought over the little area they were feeding in and gathering their winter supplies! I did see some movement way out in the distance in a small opening through some brush. I kept trying to see with my binoculars what it was and finally I spotted the movement. It was three turkeys sitting on a log, every now and then they would ruffle their feathers and that is what was catching my eye. I had high hopes of seeing something this morning since the weather had changed. It was cold and there was a trace amount of snow on the ground that had fallen during the night. It was really cloudy and the wind was pretty calm out. These conditions should have provided some movement by the deer, but I didn't see any!

Mikey saw a few deer filtering through his field that morning, but no shooters. My dad on the other hand was lucky enough to see a nice seven point buck and took it. He was actually catching a quick nap around 7:30am and woke up to see this buck on the move across the field he was hunting. He grunted at him to get the buck to stop for a split second, as he did he brought his gun up to shoot and the scope lense was fogged up. The buck was on the move again, he wiped the lense off and grunted one more time at him. The buck stopped broad side at about 75 yards, BOOM! Over he went!

Dad's 7 Point Buck!

This was the second buck taken out of the 14 hunters we had in the woods this weekend. We did have another buck taken later that morning by one of our guys, it was another six point. One of the ladies hunting with us threw a shot at a BIG boy, she said it was at least an eight point maybe bigger, but she missed it. So we now had three bucks on the pole. Things were starting to look better.

Camp Buck Pole

After we brought my dad's buck back in and hung it on the pole it was time for a quick lunch and then it was back to the woods for the evening hunt. Mikey and I now had the chance to take one more buck on my dads membership, they are allowed two a year per the club rules. We wanted to get in early since this was going to be our last hunt for the weekend, work and school were calling us home.

We got in the woods around 1:15pm and I set Mikey up in a new field and raised blind. It was near where my dad shot his deer earlier in the day. I set up in the blind my dad hunted that morning hoping another big buck would step out. It wasn't 15 minutes after I got into the blind until I saw movement behind me. It was a small spike horn buck working his way towardst the field, as I turned around I noticed a nice doe browsing the edge of the field off to my right. They both browsed around for a while and then casually walked out of sight.

I was starting to get chilled somewhat so I lit my heater to try to stay somewhat warm, the temperature was dropping and it was already cold out. It was about 3:30pm and all of a sudden the deer started coming out of the woodwork! There were three groups of does with their young ones with them that started to browse the field. All three groups came from different directions, I had eleven deer in front of me. A couple of them came within 10 yards of the ground blind I was in. They never knew I was there.

A Few Does In Front Of Me

Around 4pm or so, it began to snow extremely hard. The flakes were the size of half dollars and it was almost a white out! The deer didn't seem to mind at all, they just kept browsing around. It was almost like they knew the snow was coming and they needed to feed before the storm hit, although it wasn't much of a storm it quit after about a half hour or so but it made everything white!

A Little Snow On Day Two

They hung around for a good while, then around 5:30pm they had left but there were a few other does that came in when all of a sudden in the dim light I could see a huge bodied deer step onto the playing field! I could see the shimmer of horns in the low light! OH BOY here we go, I'm thinking to myself. I grab my binoculars to get a good look at him, but it was only a spike horn, but he was a huge spike with long tines! He commanded the field as soon as he hit it. He ran every doe out of that field, he wanted no other deer near him! I was thinking to myself, ok you bully, I hope a big boy steps out to kick your butt! Then I would have a chance to shoot one. No luck though he was the last deer I would see that evening. I saw 17 deer that evening, not a bad afternoon in the woods.

I think Mikey saw 11 different deer from his stand that evening. We did have another buck taken that evening. The lady who missed the big deer earlier that morning shot a huge eight point buck in the same stand that evening. So after two days and 14 hunters we had four bucks on the buck pole. It was a little slow for the first two days, but at least we got to hit the woods and have some fun. I'm hoping to get back out here locally this week to see what I can find. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with us.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Opening Day Of Deer Season

Well another year has come and gone since last firearm deer season. It is time to stash the bows away for a couple of weeks and head into the gun blinds for the 2008 firearm deer season here in Michigan. The usual sights of heavy freeway traffic, busy outdoors stores, and pickup trucks beds filled with firewood, atv's, and hunter's organge hanging in the backseats can be seen as you head north. Hunting season is HERE! We arrived at camp the afternoon before the opener and all the familiar faces were here, there were a few misisng but their arrival is expected before sunrise. After a awesome steak and potatoes dinner, it is off to bed. Mikey claimed the bottom bunk again this year. I get stuck sharing the double bed with my dad. The top bunk is full of crap! It has all of our odd ball hunting clothes, extra sleeping bags, a turkey decoy, and a pole saw on it! Don't ask why, it's just there! So now that the alarm is set it is off to dream land to dream of big bucks and a full buck pole.

The alarm rings at 5am! We all roll out and head to the dinning room. Breakfast is almost done and smells awesome. The cooks have put on the spread again as usual. All of us hunters grab a hot cup of coffee and watch the weather channel while we wait for breakfast to be put on the table. The morning discussion turns to how the weather is going to effect the morning hunt. The next topic of discussion is where everyone is going to hunt. Like we really need to discuss this at all, everyone goes back to the same 'ol blinds every year anyway. Then it is off to the breakfast table. Here there is little talking going on, everyone is rushing to get fed so they can get out to their blinds.

Mikey and I finish up, dad has already left, and we get our gear and head out the door. While I'm grabbing my gear out of the trailer, one of the older guys stops us to ask if we have any extra .30-06 shells! He has misplaced his and needs some asap! We get him a box of ours and then we are off.

Mikey and I outside the Lodge

The morning is cool and overcast, even though you can see a faint glimpse of the moon over head. The wind is light as Mikey and I make our trek out to the blind. The talk is minimal as we head down the two track towards the tower blind. Mikey is excited, I can tell by the anticipation in his voice. We finally get to the tower blind and I send him up the stair way after a few quick intructions. As he climbes up I set out his scent wicks. It isn't the easiest thing to do in the dark. I had to load them up with the buck lure, and a little got on my hand, man does that stink!!! I hung them up and started for my blind. I'm hunting with my camera this morning, since we are only allowed two guns in the woods at a time, club rules.

As I walk across the field to the two track, I noticed something ahead of me on the ground. It was white and moving. I've seen this before! It's a skunk! I make my way around the little bugger as he waddles out of the field. After safely passing him it is onto the two track. The woods are not exactly dark, so I don't need a flashlight to find my way. I find my turn off and head towards a new blind that I will be at for this morning. I put out my scent wicks as I got to my area and then I climbed up to the new raised blind. It was a little small, but it was nice. Actually this blind was left behind from a previous member and it was exactly like the one I was looking at, at Gander Mountain a couple of years ago. I got the windows opened and then I got all my gear situated. Just as light was breaking I saw a deer off to my left. I looked through my binoculars and saw that it was a small buck, a little spike horn. It was begining to lighten up some so I thought about grabbing the video camera. Dead battery! No problem I have two more, but the next one was dead also! The third one had some juice left in it but not much. Poor planning on my part!

My Dad and I outside the Lodge

While the little buck was still in the field I watched another deer pass across the far end of the field to my right, it was a doe. She disappeared into the swamp out in front of me. The buck browsed the field for about 20 more minutes and then headed into the same swamp in front of me. About a half hour later a doe and two little ones came out from in front of me and the spike horn was right behind them. He had his nose to the ground and made his way to the back side of the doe! She was having none of it! He chased her around and around the field for about 15 minutes. It was like watching a guy trying to pick up a girl at the bar and getting shot down over and over. I will say this, he was persistant! That was all I saw this morning. Mikey saw a lone doe feed across in front of him. Like I said it was a slow morning.

The highlight of my morning was just after I watched the deer chasing in front of me I tried to light my heater! It wouldn't light! The propane bottle was about half full on the little burner, so I swapped it out for a new one, still no fire! So I figured that the valve must be stuck, so I began to pull the valve apart and see if I could find out what the problem was. I found out how the valve worked after pulling it apart and I made darn sure that I didn't break any of the plastic pieces. Last thing I wanted was to tear up something and have absoloutly no hope of heat! I put it back together after blowing it out, still no fire! So I pull it back apart again to see if I missed something and as I put it back together this time I could hear the valve clicking! I think I've got it! So I put it back together and turn the valve, I can hear the propane hissing! I strike the match and FIRE! It wasn't like I was going to freeze to death, but it sure was good to have a little warmth.
After lunch and a nap back at camp we all headed back in to the stands. My dad sat with Mikey this evening in the little trailer blind we have in the field where I sat in the new tower blind this morning. I went to the swamp blind to try and change my luck. I figured that since the deer were not moving, they would be filtering through the swamps for cover. As I made my way over to my spot I found a new rub line! Two of the rubs were extremely fresh and big! This gave me some encouragment and hope for the evening hunt.

My Dad and Mikey outside the Lodge

I made it into the blind and got my scent wicks set out. When I got in the blind I was sweating like crazy! I had too many clothes on for the walk in. I immediately stripped down to my base layer and fired up the heater! This blind's heater has a large propane tank on it so I don't have to worry about that one running out! I got it nice and toasty in there and after about an hour I got dried out. Now it was time to hunt!

The swamp is dense and dark! It is hard to see but the deer filter through here all the time. Around 3pm I saw movement way out in front of me, I immediately grabbed the rifle and tried to pick up the movement again. It was a large bodied deer slipping through the dense cover. I kept waiting to see him come out the other side but it never came out, but then I noticed more movement and I could see a deer body through two trees. I put the scope on it and saw the head only through the dense cover. It was a doe. I watched as it slipped through the cover and that is when I saw the other one also. I still couldn't make out what it was though. Wishful thinking, I can only hope that it was a buck! They finally slipped out of sight, but at least that got the blood pumping! About an hour later I was reaching for the radio to call Mikey to check in, we do that every hour on the hour, when I started to turn the radio on I saw a deer right in front of me! It was about 15 yards away, a nice big doe just filtering through. Then came another one! I watched them for about three or four minutes then I noticed a small yearling doe coming through. They all slipped through the dense cover and out of sight. It was beginning to get dark, but I need to wait a while longer to meet up at Mikey's blind. It would be much lighter out in the field than where I was. I waited until I could barely see anything, then I made my way out. As I reached the edge of the field I busted out three deer! There was still a little light left, so I waited at the edge of the field for another 5 minutes or so. Then I made my way up to the blind they were in. Just as I got to where I could see the blind, I noticed that my dad was already out closing the windows and Mikey was wrapping up everything inside. I later find out that they saw about 11 deer and one of them was a nice 5 point! Just one point short of being a shooter!

We got back to camp and settled in for dinner and a little football on tv. Some of the guys were spending the evening at the card table playing euchre. For those of you who have never heard of that card game, it is an old favorite at deer camp here in Michigan.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Waterfowl Weekend

Well after I arrived back home Thursday night from my two day bow hunt, I decided that I wan't done hunting yet! My kids had Friday off of school and Mikey wanted to hit the water for a waterfowl hunt. My youngest boy Jacob hasn't been afield with us yet this year and he was itching to get out also.

We planned a quick trip for Friday morning to head to a nearby State Park and hunt the big lake we had hunted a couple of time already this year. Up North Journal Pro Staffer Chuck Parr and my son Mikey found an old duck blind on the island on the lake earlier this season, so that is where we headed. Little Jake thought we got up too early, 4:45am! He wasn't used to getting up at that time, but it didn't take long for him to get into the mood to get on the water. After a quick drive to the lake, we got the gear in the boat and put in at the launch. It was a windy and damp morning with a good amount of cloud cover. You couldn't see any stars out.

After a 5 minute trip across the water we arrived at the island and made our way out of the boat and onto shore. Jake only had hunting boots on, so I carried him to shore. Mikey began to quickly get his decoy spread set out and made quick work of it. In less than an hour he had a nice little spread set up for us. Usually it takes him and Pro Staffer Chuck Parr a good hour and a half to set up the spread.

Jake was getting a little edgy and ready for morning light. Then the clouds began to move out and the stars were shinning, also the morning light was breaking over the eastern horizon, it was almost shooting light. When the time arrived we loaded up and began to look to the skies for birds. The problem was we kept looking and kept looking. We only saw a few ducks flying that morning and they were all extremely high up. It looks as if the local ducks are wise to the schemes we hunters are putting out. It wasn't long until Jake got bored and began to play in the dirt. Actually I was getting bored myself and thought about joining him in the fun!

At about 9am we decided that there wasn't going to be anything to shoot at, so we began to work on brushing up the blind for the next mornings hunt. We put a good hour in, placing branches and leaves on the blind to make it look more full. We were going to bring a friend out the next morning to try his hand at hunting with us. After the blind work was completed we started to pack up the decoys and head in. But as usual, as soon as we started to pack up, a flight of geese came our way. Mikey was in the water picking up decoys and I told him to start calling. The flight was getting closer and headed our way. I got into shooting position and waited for the right moment. They seemed as if they were going to flare at the last moment so I pulled up and dropped three shots at them. Miss, Miss, Miss. Again as usual I wiff on them. Mikey is yelling at me, wondering why I shot so early. "You never wait" he tells me! He's right though, I get way to trigger happy when they come in. Oh well, I had fun letting the steel fly! We then packed it in and headed over to the taxidermist's house to pick up his Widgeon that he had mounted. It turned out beautiful. Here is a photo of it:

The next morning came early again as usual, 4:30am this time! We loaded up and met my friend from work at the local Micky D's down the road. Of course I had to pick up my morning breakfast sandwich and coffee. It wouldn't be a hunting trip without it. My friend asked me why we had to get out so early since it didn't get light until almost 7am? I told him it takes a while to put decoys out, as he would soon learn.

We arrived at the boat lauch and to my surprise Pro Staffer Chuck Parr wasn't there yet! This is the first time ever, that we arrived before he did. I later learn that his local Mikey D's was closed and he wasn't happy about it! So do to technical difficulties beyond his control we arrived first this morning! I guarantee that won't happen again. He is always early.

This morning we had to make two trips to the island since we had four hunters, there was no way all that gear and four guys were going to fit into my boat. So I took out Mikey and Chuck first along with all the decoys, so they could start setting up the spread while I went back to pick up Randy and the rest of the gear. We unloaded the decoys and they got busy and I made my return trip to the boat launch. I grabbed Randy and we headed back out. The two boys were busy spreading the decoys as we pulled up. I unloaded and got the blind ready as Randy watched in amazement. He couldn't believe the spread the guys were putting out!

It was starting to near shooting time and I had to rush the guys to finish up the decoys, then we loaded up as shooting light arrived! This morning was different that the previous day. It was blowing, cold, spitting drizzle, and plain old nasty out! This should be a great morning! Then it began to sleet, which then turned to SNOW! But the problem was that there were no ducks or geese flying! We saw a few singles and doubles, but they were extremely high up again, just as the day before.

A couple of hours passed as we sat and talked about hunting, work, and families. We then had three geese drop on the opposite shore and hang out for a while. Mikey was determined that he could call them over to us, so he began to cluck ocassionally at them. Within a half hour or so, they took flight and flew straight for us. It worked! They came in broadside at 25 yards, Mikey called "Take 'em!" We proceeded to dump 12 rounds of steel at them! They kept on flying away from us as if nothing happened! Randy slowly turned towards me then asked, "What just happened?" I looked at him and said, "We missed! That's the way we roll!" We all just sat and laughed at each other in amazement that no one touched any of those geese. Now of course Mikey will tell you that he hit one twice, but there is no proof of it. That is what he always tells us when he misses.

We sat around for another hour with no luck, so we started to pack it in and again as usual, when we were loading up, the geese come flying in! We couldn't react fast enough to get a shot off, but it was nice to at least see something. Afterwards we talked with Randy and he is eager to try it again as soon as possible. Something must have went right for us, we now have another waterfowl hunter in the fold. It isn't always about taking game, it is about the experience! If we can remember that, we will be hooked on hunting for the rest of our lives!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Post Election Bow Hunt Day Two

The alarm rang at 5:3oam again this morning, I wasn't as eager to get up this morning as I was yesterday! After a quick bowl of cereal and suiting up, it was time to head out. I dropped my dad off at his spot and then went to park the vehicle at the usual place. When I got out and shut the door to the car, I began to get into hunting mode.

It is truly amazing how the mind will change gears so quickly. It was like I had flipped a switch and now a renewed hope had entered my mind. I think nature brings that out in us, no matter what our mood is before we enter the outdoors. Mother Nature has a way of bringing out the best in us.

I start back down the two track and through the swamp towards the tower stand. It is still dark out and the air is cool this morning, but the stars are twinkling brightly. It looks like it is going to be another great day afield. I arrive at the stand and make the climb up the stairs and into the blind. I find the chair in the dark and remember that I had left the shooting panels open from last nights hunt. I find everything just as I had left it from the previous day's hunt.

As I sit in the morning darkness, I can feel the damp cool air wrap its arms around me and begin to pull the warmth out of me. You know when its happening, because you get that little tingly feeling and the small shaking in your muscles begin. I move around a little to try and stir up some warm beneath my clothing. Finally I can see day starting to arrive over the horizon and it isn't long until I see a few deer filter through the field.

The small bucks again make their appearance in the field. Nothing to get too excited over this time since I watched them all day the day before. I do see a lone doe coming through the field browsing towards me. I think to myself, "Do I want to take a doe today or not?" I keep asking myself this question as it walks closer to me. I watch her for about a half hour and she is coming into shooting range. It was then that I decided to make an attempt at her since she had no young deer with her. I won't take a doe that has young deer with her, that would do nothing more than make sure that the young ones won't survive the winter.

I slowly raised into shooting position but she was quartering towards me, so I waited a moment longer. She finally turned broadside at 15 yards, it was the perfect opportunity. I drew back and raised my bow at the same time with as much stealth as I could muster. She didn't notice, this is going to go down perfectly. I made sure my stance was good and that I had hit all my anchor points. The pin on my sight was placed right over her vital area. Without even realizing it, I squeezed the trigger release and let the arrow fly. I watched the arrow enter the left side of her into the lung area. A nice shot! I watched her kick and run towards the swamp! No, I thought to myself, do not run into THAT swamp! She went over the little rise between me and the swamp and disappeared. That particular swamp is dense and very very wet.

I looked to the ground to see if the arrow was there and it was, a pass through shot! I felt better now that I knew i double lunged her. I waited for an hour to pass before I went to look for her. When I got down to the ground and went to the rise where I last saw her, I found a nice line of blood on the ground, this was a fatal hit. I followed the blood for about 40 to 50 yards and then it stopped at the watery swamps edge! My heart sank inside me, this was my Colorado trip all over again! Where I stood at the edge was a fist sized area of blood with bright red frothy bubbles in it. I knew that this was a good lung hit, but where was she? The water got deep quick and this swamp was full of small willow type branches. You couldn't see more than 20 yards in any direction. I grabbed my field glasses and began to glass as far as I could see, with no luck. I didn't dare go any deeper into the water, I only had knee boots and I was already getting in deep. I circled around trying to get a better look into the swamp, but it wasn't meant to be. I had to face the fact that I had lost her. This begins to wear on a man's soul, this is the fourth time that this has happened to me. I know that I made a great shot, but we cannot control which direction and how far the deer will run. This is a fate that I have to accept and not let it deter me from hunting even though I can't stand myself for putting myself in this position.

I had seen 15 different deer this morning, and heard the turkey again coming off roost along with the coyotes again. The coyotes this morning were a lot closer than the previous morning, they must be working the other swamp behind me. Despite the lost doe, I'm having success and seeing and hearing game everytime out in the field.

The afternoon hunt came quickly as we had to pack up everything so we could leave as soon as we left the woods. My dad hunted closer to me this evening in hopes that a change in stands would change his luck. It did change for him. He saw a nice six point buck, but decided to let it walk. He had ample opportunity to take it but he was looking for something a little bigger. I on the other hand saw the usual small bucks and a good number of does. I watched 20 deer this evening browsing the field from one end to the other. I also had the opportunity to hear the turkey roost again behind me. As they were making their usual crashing noises as they roosted, I noticed that there was something coming into the field from the direction the noise came. It was four turkey coming my way. I watched them walk within 20 yards of my stand, I could see that each of them had small beards protruding from their chests. The four jakes were cautious as they made their way across the field in single file and down the two track between the two swamps.

We had made plans to leave just at dusk, so I had to climb down while deer were still in the field. I hate to do that since it gives away your location to the deer giving them another edge against you. There were 12 different deer from one end of the field to the other, it didn't take long for them to see me and flee.

When you know that it is the last day of the hunt and it is time to leave, you really don't care if you spook the deer. It is like leaving an old friend behind. You don't want to go but you know you have to, and you wonder when you will get back to see him again. Fortunately I have made plans to visit again this coming week during the firearms deer season. We will once again greet each other and enter my sanctuary of peace, solitude and soul cleansing. On that November 15th morning at day break we will once again shake hands and hunt together!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Post Election Bow Hunt Day One

With the outcome of the election in jepordy, I knew that I would need some time away from work and soceity in general. So I planned a two day post election bow hunt with my dad. We hadn't had the opportunity to hit the woods together since last firearms deer season. I knew it would do him and me both some good, for different reasons for each of us. He made his way up to camp the day of the election to get everything ready and do an evening hunt before I arrived. I left right after work that evening right after the election. It was then that I was glad we had planned this trip. I had to get away for awhile. What better way to clear your head and get your thoughts back in order, than to hit the woods.

I arrived at camp at about 4am and proceeded to wake him up, he had fallen asleep on the couch with the tv on! I made a make shift bed on the other couch and managed to grab an hour of sleep. 5:30am rolled around way too early after that late night trip, but it was time to get up and hit the woods!

I was eager to make my way back to my stand to see what I could see. It was a beautiful predawn morning. It was warm and very little breeze blowing. We drove back down the two track to a parking spot and both of us grabbed our gear and wished each other good luck. It was time to get serious! I slipped through the woods and trails back to the field I was going to hunt.

As I walked down the trail through the swamp I could see the field opening ahead. I was in my sanctuary! This is my peace, my solitude, my metal medicine, and soul cleansing place to spend

two days! I made my way to the 13 ft. high raised shooting enclosure. I climbed the stairs and opened the door. It was just as I had remembered it. Cluttered with last years hunting supplies, a swivil chair and my dad's buck grunt call laying on the shelve and a propane heater over in the corner. I quickly turned the flashlight off and put my day pack on the floor and my bow in a another nearby corner. I fumbled in the darkness to find the hasp that kept the folding wall panels in place. Once I found them, I opened the hasp and lowered the panel down and out of the way to provide a nice 2 ft. by 3 ft. opening to shoot through. I then made my way to the opposite wall to do the same. I could see day starting to break over the southeastern horizon. It was time! I settled into my truck seat, yes I said truck seat. We took some old soft cloth truck seats with folding arm rests on them and attatched them to an office chair swivil base! They are awesome. They even have the little lever that allows them to fold back to snooze in! Once settled in I grabbed my new Bowtech Genreal bow and took the quiver off of it to drop some weight off the bow. I snapped one of the carbon arrows off of it and nocked it to the bow string. Now it is time to turn the senses on high alert! It was time to HUNT!

This is the connection to our past and to our inner selves to see what we are truly made of. Hunting tests men's souls, their patience, and their stamina. Can you sit still long enough to allow a whitetail buck to travel close enough that you can hear him breathing, close enough to see the grass he is munching on work down his throat when he swallows, close enough to see the fly buzzing his ear as he flicks his ears to drive it away. Now that he is that close can you move slowly enough to get into a position to take a shot without being detected? Now that your in that position, do you have what it takes to pull the trigger release to take the life of that animal? That is the real question! Can you do it, can you take the life of an animal to sustain your own life? It isn't the taking of a life that makes you a man, what makes you a man is do you have what it takes to survive? I think that is one of the reasons we hunt. We want to know about our connection to our past. Our fore fathers had to do this to survive, we do it maybe to try to connect to that past, to see if we have what it takes to survive given the chance we had to.

Now I realize your going to say, our fore fathers didn't have enclosed tower blinds and truck seat swivil chairs to use when they were hunting or trying to survive. Well I do like a little comfort when I hunt and this is the only place I hunt that I use comfort like this. Most of the time I do sit out in the elements or stalk hunt, so for this hunting trip I'm just trying to connect back to nature and clear my head. Now back to the story!

Day light is starting to break over the trees on the horizon. The light blue glow of morning light is illuminating the dark skies and the stars are starting to fade away as the blue light washes the darkness away. On the other side of the swamp behind me I hear a pack of coyotes sound off! This is always an adrenaline rush that makes your whole body tingle with excitement, it has been a while since I've heard a pack go off like that. It immediately brings the hair on the back of my neck stand at attention! A few minutes later I can hear a nearby flock of turkeys coming off roost. This sounds like a truck crashing through the tree tops! Where are these birds during the spring turkey season? This goes on for about 5 minutes and I'm thinking to myself, so much for my quiet morning, but eventually they settle down. By now the skies are brightening up nicely and I can start to see things off in the distance. As I look to my left I can see something white flickering in the field! Is that a deer's tail? I slowly lift my binoculars to my eyes and try to focus in the early morning light. What I thought was a deer's tail is a skunk! Yikes, I will be keeping my eye on this little guy! He eventually saunters out of the field to never be seen again. I look back down in the field near my stand and I see a deer has come in close to me without me detecting him. It is a little four point buck! I watch him munch on clover for a few minutes and then he picks his head up and looks intently in the opposite direction. I glance that way to see what has caught his eye. It is another deer walking our way. I glass in his direction and see that it is a small spike horn buck. He never breaks stride as he walks towards the four point. The little fork horn near me is still has his eyes glued to the spike horn. Then he takes a couple of steps in his direction and his ears go flat to his neck and the hair on his back begins to bristle! Oh man here we go, I'm thinking! I'm going to see them go at it! Meanwhile the spike horn has never broke stride and is still walking directly towards the four point. As he approaches he drops his head and lunges towards the fork horn. Once ready for a fight with ears pinned back and hair standing on end, the little fork horn tucks tail and runs! What a chicken I'm thinking as I'm laughing to myself! With victory secured the spike horn takes over the spot in the field where the four point once stood, almost like a bully on the block!

I then turn to look back into the opposite side of the field and I see something in the middle of it. I can't quite make out what it is, it looks like a coyote! I glass the field and to my amazement I see a bobcat! This is only the second one I have ever seen! I'm watching him through the binoculars while he is tending to his business at hand, he eventually makes his way across the field and out of sight.

I spend the next two hours in stand watching while three other small bucks make their way past me while they are on their morning routine. One of which is another four point and the other two are small spike horns. I'm thinking to myself, this is a nice way to start the hunt off! I'm seeing deer and they are all bucks, not to mention all the other game I'm seeing. All is well in my sanctuary this morning.

I make my way out of the blind and head back to the parking spot where my dad and I left the vehicle. As I arrive I can see my dad has beaten me back to the parking area. I have to give him the morning debriefing as to what I had seen. I had much more to report than he did. He only saw a few does feeding through the field he was hunting. We made our way back to camp and headed up to the corner store to buy some sandwiches for lunch that day, after a quick trip out of camp and back again, I ate lunch and proceeded to catch up on the sleep I missed out on that morning as I drove up to camp.

After a couple more hours of sleep it was time to hit the woods again for the afternoon hunt. My dad decided to make his way to the opposite end of the property to try his luck at another spot. After dropping him off I made my way back to my morning stand to see if I could maintain my luck at seeing deer. As I walked in, I had to make sure I had my Mossy Oak camo suit loosely fitted to me, it was starting to get hot! The last thing I wanted to do is break a sweat while walking in. I took my time and managed to make it without stinking up the joint, glad I was wearing my Scent-Lok suit.

It didn't take long for the deer to start filtering into the field for the evening dinner rush! I watched deer from one end of the field to the other for almost three straight hours. The five small bucks I saw earlier in the day made their way back to the field once again along with several does and their young. As I watched them it didn't take long for time to pass quickly. I started to notice that the sun was setting fast on the horizon and there were still 12 deer in the field from one end to the other. I didn't want to get down and spook them, since it would give away my location. I figured that I would wait it out and walk out after dark. Then I saw three other deer enter the far end of the field. Before I could get the binoculars on them, I heard it! Grunt, Grunt, Grunt!!!!! This was the big boy! He was over 200 yards away and I could hear him grunting at those two other deer. He was chasing them towards me and as I looked through the field glasses all I could see was a huge body and a huge rack on his head! This was it, but light was dropping fast! I got into shooting position in hope that he would come my way before there was no light. He cut the distance down to about 60 yards and he stopped right in front of me along with the two deer he was chasing. It was then I could see they were two smaller bucks that he was challenging. He dropped his head and grunted again at them, as if to say OK who wants a piece of me? I'm thinking to myself, I do! One of the other bucks circled him and walked right towards me, which made the big boy turn! Here is my chance, I'm thinking to myself. He stopped broad side at 2o yards and all I can see now is a silouette of him! I pull back and look through the peep sight and see NOTHING! The light has faded away and I can't see a thing! This is the buck of a lifetime and I can't do a thing about it! As I sit and wait it out I'm thinking why does this have to happen, then I realize that is how big bucks get to be big bucks, they come out when the light is low.

I couldn't ask for more for my first day out! I see all kinds of game and not to mention the buck of a lifetime. This is all good food for the spirit, my mind is starting to sweep out the clutter and I can start to focus on the connection that binds all mens souls, this is what truly makes us men. Nature is calling and it is calling you and me and I have just answered the call for the first time since I got back from Colorado! Man does it feel good to be back out in nature!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Weekend Goose and Duck Hunt

What better way to spend the last weekend of October than to spend it on the water with my son and friend Chuck Parr. We hit it hard on Friday evening, after taking the day off work. We wnet to Lake Ponemah for an evening hunt. We made it out to the small island and I set up the blind while the boys put the decoys out.

After we got everything ready, we were talking instead of paying attention and a nice drake mallard buzzed by our blind, we all watched and pointed! That was it until almost last light, when a flight of geese came across the tree tops and Michael was hammering the goose calls. There was a family group that broke off and flew our way! Then the steel started flying! Chuck dropped one of them! This was his first goose. That was it for the evening.

Saturday morning we headed to Seven Lakes State Park to do a morning hunt. We went to the Island to setup and get going. I worked on the blind again as the two decoy pros began to set the spread up. It was pretty cool watching those two go to work in the pre dawn darkness. They knew just where to put the decoys out, and it wasn't long until daylight broke and the shooting started. We had two mallards buzz by just out of range. We kept our eyes peeled and it wasn't long until they came back into the spread. We had to jump them off the water to get them going. Mikey took the drake and Chuck took the hen. I put the gun mounted camera on it today to try and capture some video of some shooting. We threw a lot of steel, but we couldn't take any more ducks or geese but we did get some great footage of the shooting and missing.

Sunday morning we had the opportunity to get back out for a couple of good hours of hunting before church began. We motored our way back over to the island again in the darkness of the morning. The boys began their task of setting out the nearly six dozen decoys in their proper place. That in and of itself is a chore that just amazes me how long it takes. After an hour and a half of placing the decoys, they were finished and they found me asleep in the duck blind! Hey you catch a nap when you can! This morning shooting light was at 7:29am and we loaded up promptly. Within a couple of minutes we had a small group of four or five ducks coming in to our right. The cupped up and started to land. Mikey jumps up and yells take'em! The shooting commenced and we dropped one! Another one glided to the left and plopped over by the near shore. Mikey had taken the one that dropped in front of us, so he rushed out to grab it off the water. When he returned he showed us a beautiful drake Widgeon! It was truly a magnificent bird! As we sat in the blind commenting on how great the bird looked, he decided that he would get it mounted! A while later in the morning we had another small group of ducks fly by at about 30 to 40 yards out. We again poured the steel to the air! I took careful aim at one of the ducks flying off and pulled the trigger, and down it went. It was a hen black duck, my first duck of the year! I had to take the boat out to get this one since it was too far out to retrieve, I got out about half way to the bird and a flight of about 50 ducks broke over the near shore tree line! I couldn't believe it! I knew that I had screwed up BIG TIME! The guys called, with no luck. The birds flew by out of range! They razzed me pretty good when I got back to the blind. That was about it for the day.

We saw a couple of good flights of geese and actually got some shots off, but we didn't drop any more birds that day. We even made it to church on time that morning, just as they were begining to start the service. Our pastor looked at Mikey and me (the wife and three other kids were up north) and said, "You were out on the water this morning weren't you?" We just smiled and said yeah!!! He looked at both of us and said good job!!!! He understands, he is a hunter and fisherman also!

4th Bow Hunt of the Season

I had a chance to get out last week to the place my buddy Matt has allowed me to hunt he was with me this morning. It was good to get back into the tree stand. I set up just down the fence row from Matt. As day broke I saw 18 turkeys in the field behind me. I also saw a flight of geese fly over head again this morning. I think I need to goose hunt here instead of deer hunt.

This morning I tried to use the camera mount from Elusive Wildlife Technologies. I put it on in the dark at the vehicle before we walked out. When I got to the stand to set up, I got everything put into place and reached for my bow. It was then that I realized that the camera blocked my access to the grip! I knew that this was not going to work. I immediately took it off and put the camera away. I will have to do some work on this to try and figure out a way to make it work.

No deer today, Matt saw three doe this morning. I have yet to see a deer on the property. I know they are there though. We walked the far property line after the morning hunt and found three new rubs. They were definetly fresh rubs. I guess that is why they call it hunting, you have to hunt them, they just don't come walking by on a regualr basis. I guess I will have to keep saying "Next Time".