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!"