Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First Ice Fishing Trip!

Well that time of year has arrived, what is it you ask? It is that time of year where you have finished up deer season, waterfowl season has ended and you are patiently waiting for the first good ice of the winter so you can get out and do some hard water fishing! That time has arrived here in Michigan!

Today fellow Up North Journal Pro Staff member Tim Ford called at 8am to give me the weather report and coax me into heading outdoors to hit the ice for the first time. In all reality I really didn't feel like getting out of bed, but I remembered a discussion I had previously with another UNJ staff member last week. That discussion was about us being fortunate enough to have the freedom to get out to hunt or fish while our soldiers fought and died in a foreign land for our freedom to be able to get out and do the things we love!

So I quit whinning about how cold it was and rolled out of bed and made the trip to the lake with my oldest son Mikey. He didn't want to get up either, but I made him! We arrived at the lake at the same time Tim and his kids arrived, so we loaded up the sleds and made our way to the frozen lake surface to spend a little time jigging for frozen fish sticks!

I only had about two hours to spend on the ice so we got busy quick. Mikey and Tim popped some holes and I got my rod ready. While Tim was getting his kids set up, Mikey told me he was going to break out the secret weapon today since we were on a limited time schedule. He broke out the seldom seen "Ice Dance"! I have heard about this secret tactic but I have never witnessed it until today! Mikey assured me that this always works and I was eager to see the dance live and in person. I was fortunate enough to have my camera phone to record the seldom seen event, take a look at the video!

The Elusive Ice Dance

I had my doubts about this crazy tactic actually working, but to my amazement and wonder Mikey actually caught a fish less than two minutes after performing the ritual dance! Fortunately I was rolling video on that event also!

Proof That The Ice Dance Works!

You can see my utter amazement that this crazy stunt actually worked and brought the fish to the hole!

My Amazement Of Seeing The Ice Dance Work!

I wasn't about to perform the ice dance around my fishing hole for fear that I might actually break through with my luck! I decided that I would just fish the old fashioned way and fore go the embarrassment. I did manage to pull a small panfish through the ice before leaving, which turned out to be my only catch of the day but atleast I put one on the ice.

My Big Catch Of The Day!
Tim's daughter and oldest son got cold so he ran them back to the truck to warm up. Mikey and I stayed on the ice for another 45 minutes to try and help Tim's other son Collin try to pull a catch through the frozen ice. As hard as we tried, we couldn't coax one of those little buggers to take the bait. Collin even resorted to doing the "Ice Dance" after watching Mikey give him a few lessons on the correct technique, but even that didnt' work! Actually after Collin did his dance it began to snow, so I think instead of the Ice Dance he did the Snow Dance!

Collin Trying To Put The Whammy On A Fish!

All in all we didn't tear them up by no means, but we sure did have some fun with the kids on the ice and it sure did feel good to get outside and do something, even if it was just a crazy little dance! Glad I made the decision to roll out of bed this morning and join the crew on the ice!

Remember that even a bad day outside is something our troops fighting for our freedoms would love to be a part of instead of being in some of the situations that they are in everyday! Thank and support our Armed Service People who are protecting us and our freedoms! Now go get outside!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Hunt of Unintended Outcomes

For the last week I have had the fortune of duck hunting the Shiawassee Wildlife Area with my son and a few friends. We haven't had much luck in the last three trips out, as a matter of fact there was only one duck shot and that was when we took UNJ Pro Staffer Kevin Hutchings out for his first duck hunt. What a trip that was for him, you should check out his post about that experience! Other than that lone duck, we haven't had any luck what so ever! I don't know if it has to do with the warm weather or the lack of duck movement or what, but we haven't had any luck yet.

The only ducks we are seeing are the locals that have been around all season long and they are extremely wise to what is going on. We need some migration ducks to come down for a visit if you know what I mean! These locals are decoy and call shy, it doesn't matter what you throw at them they are leery of anything that might bring a volley of steel at their tail feathers. I have been out with Chico Lopez one of our UNJ Pro Staffers every time I have been to Shiawassee this fall and have seen him try every trick in the book, so I thought. I have only been hunting waterfowl for three years now and I am still new to this game and try to take every ounce of info thrown my way to learn anything new that I can. When we hit the water for Wednesday morning's hunt, I was in for something new!

It all started with a friend of mine who wanted to start hunting. Keep in mind he is in his 30's, people of that age just don't pick up and start hunting so I jumped at the chance to bring a new hunter in the fold! He wanted to start with duck hunting and I was eager to help with what little I knew. I told Chico we needed to get Jeff out for a hunt since he had only been on one other duck hunt and didn't see anything at all. We set it up for Wednesday morning!

Now I hadn't had the video camera or still camera out for the last two hunts and I wasn't planning on taking it this time either. I've had the whole week off work and I just wanted to hunt. I didn't want to have the added pressure of videoing anything at all! I got all of my gear loaded up the night before and then awoke to the alarm at 2:45 am! Another short night of sleep! I met Jeff at a local parking spot and he looked to be bright eyed and bushy tailed! I thought to myself that, that was entirely way too much enthusiasm for 3:15 am! I really had high hopes of Jeff seeing something this morning to keep his hunting enthusiasm high, nothing worse than to try to get someone interested in hunting and then them not seeing anything their first two times out!

As we headed north for the hour drive to Chico's house, Jeff asked me what he should expect when we got there, I told him it really depended on how many people showed up for the draw and what area we got to pick. Finally getting to Chico's place we loaded everything into his truck and the boat, we then headed to the Dept. of Natural Resources station in St. Charles Michigan. We got there just before the 5am draw, we got our party ticket filled out but there were 23 other groups there also! That meant if we didn't get one of the first couple of draws we would be in trouble! Sure enough we drew 12th, right in the middle! The previous morning we had to take an area where we had to pull our boat over a dike to get to our area. Some places had two dikes you had to pull over! Not my idea of a way to begin a morning with a new hunter.

Sure enough all the easy spots got taken early so we once again took area 13 which we hunted the day before. Not that I mind pulling a dike, but with a new guy you don't know what to expect since he doesn't know what to do. We made our way to the boat launch and put in the canal to head out. Still very much dark we navigated our way down to the dike. There it was in all its high and steep slender. The banks were slick with mud from the nights rain, oh yeah I forgot to mention it was raining that morning also! I knew that this was going to be tougher than yesterday morning's pull. It didn't take long before Jeff had slipped and fallen twice before we got started. I heard what sounded like either his head or arm hit the side of the boat! Ouch!!!! We managed to get the boat over the dike and down the other side. Time to get to our standing flooded corn! Jeff was in amazement of how the area was laid out.

We got to area 13 and I helped Chico put decoys out. Jeff tended the boat while Chico laid out his game plan. After we put out two bags of decoys I asked him did he want the other bag put out since it looked like he was finished with his spread. He told me that "I've got something new for you to learn today" I was immediately intrigued. He took the remainder of the decoys and put them on the opposite side of the strip of corn where we were hunting. Neat idea I thought to myself, this just might work this morning, something just a little different than what the ducks were used to seeing.

It was still drizzling a little when we had finished so I was glad that I had my waterproof coat on, I was going to be really glad later but I didn't know it just yet. Chico and I hid the boat in the corn just down from where we were hunting and as we were walking back to the decoy spread where Jeff was now sitting I managed to catch my foot on something down in the water! SPLASH! Down I went! I immediately put my left hand out to stop myself from completely going under. The water was cold and about thigh deep. I wished I had cinched down my wrist straps before I began my walk but I didn't. I hadn't intended on taking a bath that morning but I did! Luckily only my arms got wet. My coat kept my waders from filling up with water. The only reason my arms got wet was the water rushed up my sleeves and that wouldn't have happened if my wrist straps would have been tightened. Chico didn't laugh, but I knew that he was inside! He asked me if I was ok and did I want to leave? Leave? Hell no! I wasn't going to let this be ruined by some wet arms! I didn't care how cold it was.

I got my sleeves wrung out somewhat and I managed to find two hand warmer packs that I immediately put into my sleeves to keep my arms from getting too cold. This would test my endurance to see how much I could stand and just how hard core I could manage to muster from within myself. Nothing like a good challenge to see what your made of, I say! Once I got all situated we still had about 10 minutes to shooting light. At about 4 minutes to shooting light I heard the amazing sound of whistling wings overhead and I saw about 50 ducks flying just above us! What an amazing sight to see! Finally what looked to be flight ducks coming in! Nothing like new birds to start the morning, this just might turn out to be a great day after all!

As shooting light came, we noticed more flight birds coming in, groups of 20, 30 and sometimes even more. The cold front that had swung through the north had started to push some new birds down to our area finally. Then it happened! Something I have never seen in my life! I was looking in the early morning light to the North West and noticed a huge black ribbon moving across the sky, it was a wave of around 3000 flight ducks coming into the refuge! Wow can you believe that I told Jeff! He said yeah, but they are not here where we are. What I thought to myself! That is something you don't see every day! Then I had to check myself and remember that this was only his second hunt of any kind and that he couldn't put that into perspective. Chico tried to explain to him that some people hunt for years and never see anything like that! He still couldn't grasp the beauty of it, he will one day though.

A Few Flying Over

As the morning light grew we began to have ducks work our spread only to have two different groups of hunters across from us call to every bird that came near. With the season being so far in now, every bird that heard those calls just flared away as soon as the first note was blown. These guys just don't get it! They weren't reading the birds to see that they were scaring them away! We did manage to have two birds come in close enough to shoot, but by the time we noticed them and swung on them they had started to catch the wind and bug out. I unloaded any ways since I hadn't shot at anything in the last three trips out, man did it feel good!

Cold Front Moving In

After about an hour into the hunt we looked on the horizon to see the front coming in! Maybe this is just what we needed to get the birds moving. The cold rain came with the wind right in our faces! Yeah Baby! This was what we have been waiting for all season! I never thought I would stand in thigh deep water in 45 degree weather with it pouring down rain and blowing directly in my face! But this was fun! I couldn't believe I was actually having fun doing this, even with my arms soaked from the morning dunk in the water. It rained like that for about an hour or so and the birds began to fly a little more. The only problem was the two groups of idiots across from us, but it was still a great morning to be alive in the field! I took it all in and relished every moment of it! I looked over at Jeff at one point and asked him if he was having fun yet and is this what he expected duck hunting to be like? He was cool with it, but I think he thought he would rather be home where it was warm and dry. Chico on the other hand was as happy as a lark! I was half expecting him to be doing back strokes in the water and singing a song of joy all the while!

We stayed out until around 10 or 10:30 then pulled everything in and headed back to the truck. When we got to the dike everything seemed much easier to pull even though the uphill side going back wasn't as steep. I had a renewed since of energy and ambition. This hunt is exactly what I needed to get my blood flowing again. I can't explain what it was or what it did to me, but it was something that showed me I still had it in me to do something hard and still have fun while working hard to accomplish it. When I saw that weather forecast for the morning I thought I was going to be miserable out there but just the opposite happened.

Don't ever anticipate what your hunt is going to be like or expect something out of it. You might just be surprised at what the outcome actually is! It felt good to not have to worry about a camera, it was good to work hard, it was good to test my endurance, it was good to take a new guy out, it was good to experience nature's beauty of birds and weather, but most importantly it was just damn good to get out! Thanks Chico for a great week of hunting and I can't wait until our steelhead fishing trip in the morning! I don't know what to expect but I know it will be worth it!

Thanks for taking the time to read this story of mine, but now go and get outside so you can experience and enjoy what God and nature have to offer!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day Three Of Our Bowhunt, Oh What A Day!

Well this morning we decided to lay low since the temperature was a balmy 20 degrees! Michael was also sick as a dog, so we slept in then had a late breakfast.

Looking Out The North Window

Evening rolled around so Mackenzie and I decided to get our gear on and hit the woods, Michael was still sick so he laid on the couch and slept. We got into the stand by 3:20pm for the evening hunt. The weather warmed up a little to probably around 45 degrees but it was really windy. We couldn't have both the north and south shooting windows open on the tower blind because the wind was coming out of the northeast. I didn't want any scent blowing down out of the south window and across the field.

Waiting Patiently
Nothing was moving at all, and it seemed as if the evening was going to be a bust. Around 5:30pm the little spike came in and browsed around for a while. After a while the little buck seemed to get a little froggy and got spooked off. I couldn't figure out what made him take off until I saw four does coming across the field from the north. I told Mackenzie to get ready this might be her chance.

My Hunting Buddy!

The does came in quick, too quick for her and I to switch spots in the tower blind. We were caught out of position. I told her to stay put and lets switch very slowly so we didn't give our position up to the does. I took a little step then another, then another. Then Mackenzie would take a couple of steps and then I would take a few. It took about 2 or 3 minutes to make the switch. I had her bow in my hands so she wouldn't bump it against anything while switching spots. I knew that this would take some time if we were going to pull this off and that would cause her arms to fatigue so that is why I kept it in my hands until she was ready.

The two older does were really cautious and they spooked off a couple of times, but the fawns kept browsing right in front of us. The older does came back into the clover patch and began to browse again, so I handed her the bow and asked her if she was ready! She nodded yes! Game on!

It seemed like an hour had passed since this all started. It was moving too slow and that is when bad things happen. My heart began to pound in my chest, I was so nervous! I never got like this when I had deer in front of me when I hunt, but it is different when it is your kid and it is happening right in front of you. As she clipped her trigger release on the bow and I finished the hand off to her. It was now all in her hands! I felt like a momma bird who had just thrown her baby out of the nest and said, "Now Fly"!

I whispered to her, "you know where to place the shot right?" She nodded yes, and she drew back silently. The deer never heard her draw, but she said, "I can't see my target area!" She was standing too far back in the blind and couldn't see completely over the edge of the window. The deer were only 12 yards away and we were 13 feet up in the air. So she took one step forward while the bow is still at full draw. I asked her if she could see it now and she nodded yes! I said locate your mark and squeeze off the shot when your ready. The blind began to vibrate, it was Mackenzie shaking! I could see the bow shaking and her legs were shaking and I was shaking for her! The deer suddenly moved forward one step and looked up! Oh no!

Then the year and a half old doe took one step back and lowered her head when I heard THWAP! I saw the arrow hit the doe a little high and back. As she bounded away I saw the arrow sticking about 3/4 of the way in, I thought to myself Oh NO! The doe took about 6 bounding leaps and stopped. She just stood there then she went down! YES!!!! She rolled over and expired! My daughter had just taken her first deer and it was with a bow only one day after her 12th birthday!

Mackenzie and Her First Deer!

And She Took It With A Bow!

As I turned to her I said do you know that you just took your first deer? She asked me, "it is down?" I said, "YES, it is right over there in the field"! She couldn't see it when it ran off because I leaned into the window to watch it as it bounded off. I wanted to make sure I knew where it went incase we had to track it. She really began to shake then! She sat down and began to get all giddy! I exchanged hugs and hi fives with her as we relived the shot. After spending a few minutes watching to see if the doe was breathing, I made my way down with my bow to make sure it had expired. Once I knew it was gone I went back to the blind to get her and the camera.

Mackenzie and Her Doe!
We took plenty of video and photos of the event, then we had the pleasure of making the walk back to the truck to wait on my dad to show up. While taking photos I made sure to blood her, when my dad walked up she asked him if he had anything to wipe her face off. He looked at her and realized what she was talking about. He smiled and gave her a HUGE hug! We drove back to the deer and my dad field dressed it for her. We then brought it back to camp to hang it on the pole and wash it out. We also found out from John who lives up here that she is the first female to take a deer at this club in it's 70 year existance! WAY TO GO GIRL!!!!!

Happy Birthday Mackenzie!

I'm one proud dad right now!

Bow Hunting With The Kids Day One & Two

Our much anticipated bow season trip to the north has finally arrived. We planned a five day trip to hang in the north woods to hunt the elusive whitetail deer. I brought Mikey and my daughter Mackenzie up for the hunt, this would be Mackenzie's first big hunt to hang out with dad.

We arrived in camp on Thursday afternoon during the second full week of archery season just in time to get ready for the evening hunt. We got our gear on and made our way to the stands. I dropped Mikey off at his raised tower blind, then Mackenzie and I made our way back to the tower we were going to hunt out of.

She was full of questions on the walk out which made me realize I needed to explain things that I and Mikey both take for granted. This was her second time out with a bow in her hands, but it was her first "real" hunt. It was great to hear all of the inquizative questions about what and why we were doing things. We made our way quietly to the tower and began our climb up.

One View From The Stand

Once settled in we got our game on and began our sit. The first two hours were uneventful, then around 5pm we saw movement! It was two big bucks out in the field about 200 yards out. They cautiously made their way down to about 100 yards, when they began to sniff and curl their noses and lips in the air. At the same time we noticed a couple does at the opposite end of the field we were hunting. It reminded me of the blog that Dan Block wrote last week about bucks coming out and checking fields with does to see if they are receptive. That is just what these bucks looked like they were doing. They kept looking down towards the does and kept sniffing, after about five minutes of this they casually walked back into the tree line and disappeared! Both were nice big bucks that looked like 8pts best I could tell. They both had antlers outside their ears, which got my attention right away!

Mackenzie Checking Her Gear

We saw one lone buck that was not quite as big as the first two but was still a nice buck later that evening, he to didn't venture close enough to consider a shot. During the waining light the does began to fill the field all around us! Macknezie told me that she couldn't believe how close they were to us and how many of them were out there! I could see the excitement in her eyes! This alone made me happy to see her having a great time! We only had one doe that came in close enough to shoot, but she had two fawns with her so I told Mackenzie to let her pass. As darkenss fell, the field was full of deer. We had to wait until they left out of the field before we climbed down so we didn't alert them to our presence.

We found out that Mikey had shot a doe that evening but we had a hard time finding a lot of blood. We decided to track it the next morning since it was going to be below freezing for the night. From listening to his acount of the shot, it sounded like he hit the deer good enough to put it down, we just had to find it. All in all day one was a huge success in my eyes!

The next morning was very slow, but I did have an opportunity for a shot. There was a heavy frost that morning and Mackenzie and I left our bows in the tower blind. Just at daybreak I saw a deer making it's way towards us right down the middle of the field. It came within 15 yards of us and by now it was light enough to see that it was a nice big 6 point with the antlers outside of his ears! He was browsing in front of us and finally got broadside to us! I drew my bow and it CREAKED! The cold caused it to creak when I drew back and that was all it took for the buck to bound away three or four leaps! He looked around, flicked his tail a couple of times and then casually walked away back into the brush. Other than that we only saw two other deer that morning. It taught me a lesson, if you leave your gear out in the cold, make sure you exercise it several times before setting up in the stand.

We went out after the morning hunt to look for Mikey's doe with no luck. We had four of us out looking for over three hours. We found blood for the first 100 yards but then nothing. The other guy who helped us search told Mikey that he saw enough evidence to know that the doe was piled up somewhere dead. It just didn't leave enough sign to be found. He told Mikey that he would find it next week and let him know where it was at. There isn't many deer that John doesn't find, he just waits to see the birds circling to find the carcases.

Little Spike In The Field

The evening hunt wasn't much better. We only saw 9 deer, only one baby spike coming close enough to generate any excitement. I did see one big buck, he was too far off to see exactly how big his rack was, but from the distance I saw him from I could tell he had a nice set of antlers on him. We did hear some coyotes off in the distance that drew Mackenzie's attention. She asked what they were and when I told her that they were coyotes, she asked if they were close to us and if they could climb up and get us! I told her that she need not worry, they were far away and couldn't climb up!

The Birthday Girl

One last thing I should mention is that this was her 12th birthday today! Not only did I take her deer hunting, but I also made a birthday cake in the evening for her! Not too many kids can say that their dad takes them deer hunting and makes them a birthday cake! There better not be any Betty Crocker Jokes! Call me Chef Boy-R-Dee!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jake’s First Big Boy Hunt

My youngest boy Jacob finally turned 10 last April, so he is now old enough to hunt here in Michigan. We've had him out during spring turkey season and on a squirrel hunt this fall, but he has yet to go on what he called a "Big Boy Hunt", that is what he calls it when I go out with all the guys on a group hunt. He has always wanted to be one of the gang so we planned ahead and thanks to Up North Journal Staff Member Chico Lopez, he helped put together a hunt to take a group of 6 out for the duck opener.

As the days approached his anticipation grew, I could see it in his eyes and I just knew this was going to be a hunt he would always remember! Then came the word that where we were going we would have to be on the water at midnight! Yes I said, MIDNIGHT! This spot that Chico picked for us to go was a hot spot that always filled up early, so we had to be first at the launch to get the prime spot or even a spot at all. I explained to Jake that we would have to sleep in the boat and that it would be near freezing conditions, he was still game for the trip, although I knew he didn't fully understand. I made sure that he had plenty of layered clothing along with the Mr. Buddy propane heater to keep him warm.

Randy Duncan a friend of the UNJ team got to the house around 10pm and we loaded the boat and truck, then we made the trip north! We got to Chico's house and had to wait on Dave Hagen to get out of work, we made it away from Chico's house by 11:45pm or so. As we arrived at the boat launch we saw only one other truck putting a boat in, so we were second in line to put our boats in. This was going to be an all new experience for us! I followed Chico, Dave, and Mikey who were all in Chico's boat to the spot we were going to set up at. It took about 10 minutes to get to the area Chico said would put on a good show for us all.

As we sat and Chico told us just how we would be setting up that morning. We took my boat first and pushed it into the cattail reeds parallel to the water's edge. Next was Chico's boat, we slipped it right in behind mine to form a line for all six of us to get some safe shooting at ducks we would be targeting. We were about 2 feet deep in the reeds looking out over the water so we took the reeds in front of us and bent them over so they formed a wall about two feet high in front of us as we sat looking out from the boats. Then we pulled the reeds behind us towards the boat so they would provide cover from the back just in case any waterfowl came in from the backside. These reeds were about 12 feet tall and provided excellent cover as you can see from the photos. Mikey is in the water in front of my boat with Chico standing next to my video camera, then Jake is to the left of him standing up. Imagine sitting behind the wall in front of them, there was no way anything in front was going to see us!

Our Set Up In The Cattail Reeds, Can You See Us?

We got the boats into place by around 1:30am, then Chico had a surprise for us! He broke out the grill! Yes I said, GRILL! He made hotdogs for all six of us, I brought the pop and chips, so we had a nice little feast to tide us over till the shooting started some 5 hours away!

The Offical Snack and Drink Of Team UNJ!

After the midnight snack, breakfast, or whatever you want to call it we settled in for the long wait till 7:10am legal shooting time! The jokes started flying and Jake joined right in the fun. For a 10 year old he can be pretty funny! Dave took the brunt of most of Jake's potshots! I think he was repaying him for flagging away his first goose a month ago. Around 3:30am the boys fell silent and the cold started to settle in, it was around 35 degrees! Jake climbed up on the casting deck of the boat and I fired up the propane heater for him to stay warm. It didn't take long for him to fall asleep. Randy and I small talked back and forth for the next couple of hours or so. Mikey tried to take a sharpie marker to Dave's face as he slept, but Dave had a camo face mask on so Mikey couldn't deliver any damage to Dave's mug! Chico began to cut about 2 cords of wood with his snoring, I could hear him from the opposite end of my boat some 25 feet away!

Everyone woke up around 5:30am to the sound of hundreds of geese flying overhead, all you could see was stars and the moon, but you could hear the geese and their wing beats on the silent predawn sky! Jake told me that he had never heard anything quite like that and that it was pretty cool! As the morning light began to break you could start to see the flights of geese silhouetted against the purple sky and smaller dots which were ducks making their way to the marsh. By 6:30am we were all wide awake and in position to start pouring the steel to the unsuspecting fowl in front of us. We had ducks flying in and dumping into our spread before legal shooting time, Jake told me that he couldn't believe that they were that close to us! I told him if you think this is good, just wait until the shooting starts!

Jake In The Marsh!

7:10am was signaled by the first shot of the morning from someone across the marsh! The shooting was non-stop and I mean NON-STOP for the next 45 minutes! It sounded like a war zone, and the ducks and geese were coming from all directions! Just as the shooting started we had a lone duck land just outside edge of the decoys, so we let Jake take his first bird. He drew down and took it clean! Everyone on the boat give him an ataboy! After that I told him that we needed to take them on the wing. When we got his bird back to the boat we realized that it was a Merganser, we all wished it would have been another species, but Jake was happy and that is all that mattered!

Jake Posing With His First Bird!

Another Pose With His Bird!

The shooting was hot for the first half hour or so, with all of us getting some shooting in. Most of the birds were Blue and Green Wing Teal. Randy Duncan took a nice hen Gadwall, which we didn't know at the time was his first duck!

Mikey Fetching Ducks!

We had birds coming from all directions and a lot of them came from behind overhead which caught us all by surprise! After about the first 15 minutes of shooting Jake turned to me and said, "Man my shoulder is getting sore, but this sure is fun" as he smiled at me and loaded another shell into his gun after shooting at a passing bird! That made my morning! He was using a Youth Remington 870 20ga with 3" magnum #4 steel loads. You cannot find much variety in 20ga steel shot around our area.

Looking Down Shooter's Row!

After the first hour or so, things started to settle down and the shooting became sparse. With all the shooting going on we only took about 10 ducks that morning, but we had a blast! By 12 noon the birds had pretty much quit flying, so we loaded up our decoys and headed back to the truck. When we got back to the launch, I went to the truck to put a few items in and move to the water to get my boat. Something caught my eye and I wondered why my back window was frosted over, that is when I realized it was BROKE! I went to the rear of the truck and saw three distinct hits from bird shot! Someone shot my truck! Looking everything over, we only found three hits on the truck, two on the rear window and one just above the window on the cab of the truck which left a dent and chipped the paint. Someone lobbed a shot towards the parking area and my truck took the hit. Thank goodness no one else's truck got hit. I called the police and filed a report, now I have to get the window replaced this week before I head north for bow hunting.

My Shot Up Rear Window

With the window incident putting a damper on the day, I still consider it a success since we got Jake out for his first "Big Boy Hunt"! He had fun, we had fun, and no one got hurt, so in my eyes the window was just something that shouldn't have happened and I won't let that ruin my first "Big Boy Hunt" with my son!

This Is What Hunting Is All About People!

I can't wait till the next one! A BIG thank you for Chico and Dave for inviting us up for opening day, breakfast, and a great time! That was the UNJ crew's opening day Big Boy Hunt!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Food For Thought!

"A hunt based on only trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be...time to commune with your inner soul as you share the outdoors with the birds, animals, and fish that live there." - Fred Bear


Al Baggett from Benefit 4 Kids, who happens to be a good friend of mine posted this quote this week on facebook. I found it to have a tremendous amount of meaning to me! The quote says it all, enough said!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Opening Day Of Archery Season

Opening day of Michigan Archery Deer Season came way too early for my liking this year. With too many things to do and way too many projects going on, the opener came faster than expected. I never got a chance to set a treestand in the early season nor did I get the time I needed to tune everything the way I would have liked.

I know it sounds like excuses, but walk a mile in my shoes and you will understand the pressure I've been under lately. Wednesday evening at work was a real killer and the next morning was on my mind heavily. I hustled out of work at midnight only to get home and finish getting all my gear together for the next morning's opener. I finally got into bed around 1am and fell asleep quickly, then the 5:30am wake up alarm rang after what only seemed like an hour of sleep. I got up right away knowing fellow UNJ staffer Matt Woodbury would be heading to my house by 6am. I was actually more prepared than I thought by the time he arrived.

I walked out to my truck only to be greeted by a heavy frost and cold air! Hey it is only October 1st! What gives? It was almost a record setting low for the night, I thought this might get the deer to stirring at day break. With my cup of coffee in hand I started the truck and ran the defroster along with my wipers and windshield washer fluid to clean off the windshield. Matt was ready to rock, so I followed him to our little private spot to see if we could muster some luck on opening day.

After pulling in the driveway to the landowners home, I began to strip down and suit up in my Scent-Lok and then spray down with a little Dead Down Wind that Matt had brought. I grabbed my pop up blind, camera, tripod, bow, and seat (well Matt carried my seat) then it was down the trail! My attitude had changed into a better mind set once we began to head to the deer woods. It is amazing what the outdoors can do for a person's soul!

My Morning View!

Matt dropped me off at my food plot and I began to pop up the blind I had brought, down deep I knew that it was going to be a crap shoot for the morning hunt since I hadn't scouted properly! I settled down into the cold darkness and began to nock an arrow, then set up my video camera for any possible action. As I was getting my arrow ready to knock I looked at the three offerings I brought with me, you see the day before I named my arrows! I labeled them on the cock feather with a sharpie! First was "Killer", second was "Back Straps", and last of all was "Heart Stopper". I blindly grabbed "Back Straps", great choice I thought. Maybe that was going to be an omen!

Back Straps!

The daylight began to creep over the horizon and the woods began to wake up, only there were no deer to be seen. I sure hope Matt was seeing more than me. I did manage to see one lone goose flying around the area three times looking and honking at something. After a couple hours of not seeing anything I got bored so I grabbed my I Phone and began to surf the web a little. I hit facebook and noticed that one of the guys on there from my home area had lost a dear friend over night in a horrible accident. It was then that my attitude once again changed!

After getting happy about being out in the woods I got bored because I wasn't seeing anything. After reading that post about someone losing a friend, I realized just how lucky I was to be sitting in a blind on the opening day of bow season! What more could I ask for? I was enjoying yet another opening day and watching the woods wake up! Even though I didn't see any deer I'm sure glad I went out to experience yet another opening day. We never know how many days we have left in God's beautiful creation so every day we spend out in it consider yourself one lucky person! You never know when it might be your last!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jacob’s First Squirrel Hunt

Since the kids are starting to grow up and as fall approaches my hunting season seems to become more absent as the years go by. This year is no exception to the rule. Here in Michigan the early goose season is immediately followed by the opener of small game season then early doe season along with the youth waterfowl weekend hunt all in about two weeks time.

The opening of these four seasons along with the fact that I now have three kids of hunting age has resulted in very little sleep and almost no hunting for me! You know what? I wouldn't have it any other way! This weekend was a tough decision to make for myself along with my two boys. We had to decide what we were going to tackle this weekend and try to make the most of if along with keeping all of us happy, well keeping the boys happy at least.

Jake Looking For Limb Bacon!

We or should I say they decided to opt for the waterfowl hunt on Saturday morning. The plan was to get both boys our for the youth waterfowl weekend which would be Jake's first waterfowl hunt over water. Now the problem was that where we were going to hunt was a marsh that was too deep for Jake to get into even with waders. Mike really wanted to go so I told him to go with my buddies and that I would take Jake out for his first ever small game hunt. Jake was cool with that since all he wanted to do was get out and harvest something since he was now old enough to hunt.

I took Mike up to Birch Run to meet fellow UNJ field staffer Chico Lopez who was going to take Mike out and meet up with Dave to hit the marsh that was a 4am wake-up call! I drove the half hour back home and got another 45 minutes of sleep before waking Jake up to hit the wood lot. It didn't take him long to get his gear together and pop into the truck. I managed to climb into the truck and get it pointed in the right direction. As we drove over to the state park Jake was a chatter box. He wanted to know exactly what to expect for the morning's hunt. I reassured him that all would work out and that I would take him to my new found location where the tree rats hang out.

As we wheeled into the park I was amazed that we were the only ones there! This was going to be great, it was 39 degrees, no wind, and the sun was starting to break the horizon! Perfect! We unloaded at the parking area and I loaded Jake's .22 mag bolt action Marlin rifle that he borrowed from Mike. I then loaded the little Winchester .22 mag lever action that I was going to carry. I made sure that the power was turned down on the rifle that Jake was going to use since he always seems to have a problem looking through a scope this scope was a Bushnell Banner series which worked well for him.

Once we got started down the trail into the wood lot I made Jake take the lead to see just how much he had remembered from Hunter's Safety, it didn't take long for me to see that he remembered all the safety lessons about carrying in the field. I watched him make the necessary carry switches depending on what obstacles he encountered. Don't tell me that a 10 year old doesn't understand firearm safety! As we made our way quietly through the woods, we would stop about every 20 or 30 yards to listen for sound and scan the tree tops for any movement. The woods were becoming alive and I could see the curiosity in Jake's eyes as he had that look on his face of "What was that sound?" I would ask him, "What do you think that was making that sound?" He would give me an answer and if he was right I would give him an ataboy! If not, I would try to let him figure it out without giving it away.

Walking through the wood lot, I would notice odd little things or features that I would point out to him for a later lesson on navigation through the woods. We finally settled up on a spot near where I had seen and heard some squirrels on opening day. We posted up and sat for about 30 minutes listening to the nearby sound of a squirrel going through its morning ritual of having breakfast. Not seeing anything though, Jake asked if we could move into the same location where I sat on opening day. We quietly made our way up a ridge into the exact spot I had been sitting when we heard the chatter of a squirrel in a nearby tree. Jake told me that he thought it was up a tree just in front of us so we both started scanning the canopy for movement. It took about 15 minutes and Jake spotted him first! I told him to get the scope on him and settle in for a shot. It took about a minute for the critter to settle down for a shot from the 'ol Jakester!

He drew down on it and popped off a shot, immediately the squirrel scurried behind the tree and started chattering at him. I told Jake to get ready and wait, he might come back out again. The problem was that Jake was free handing the shot. I told him to rest up against the nearby tree to steady his shot. The squirrel came down the tree and hit the ground eventually popping up on a little stick looking at us. Jake took careful aim and BANG! Down he went! Jake looked at me with a big grin and said, "I got him dad, I got him!" I noticed that the squirrel began to move and I was afraid he would run off so I put another round in him. Jake went over to pick him up and he began to move again, so Jake pulled up and touched the trigger one more time.

Jake's First Squirrel!

As he brought that squirrel back to me with that big grin on his face I was one proud dad! My boy has now become a hunter! After posing for a few photos, Jake was eager to get back to the hunt. We got a game plan together and did another push up towards a different ridge. Once we reached the top we heard more chatter. Jake saw movement in a tree up ahead and wanted to put a stalk on him. We quietly moved into position to a nearby tree for cover. Jake began to scan the tree tops again and found the movement, but this time it was WAY up top! He couldn't get into position to take a good shot so we waited. Finally he got to where he could see the squirrel and tried to put a shot on him. He missed, but the squirrel leaped down to the next limb in plain sight. I wasn't going to let him get away so I put the cross hairs on him and squeezed off a round that brought him to the ground with a dull thud! Jake looked at me and said, "You got him dad!" I couldn't have done it without you making him jump to that other limb, that is what I call team work I told him.

Number Two In The Bag!

It was getting late and I could tell Jake was getting tired so we made our way back to the truck to wrap up his first small game hunt. While on the way back to the truck I asked him if he know how to get back to the truck? He told me no, he didn't know where we were. While looping back through the wood lot I began to show him the odd little features that we saw on our way in. He picked up pretty quick on the direction we needed to head and I let him lead the way back out to the parking area. Without the aid of a trail he picked out the directions we needed to travel and he got us back to where we needed to be. He learned a little more than just how to hunt this morning. I remember getting lost in the woods with my dad a few times and I wanted to make sure that Jake knew how to keep his wits about him even in a small wood lot.

He was excited and tired from the day's hunt. As we made our way home he made the round of phone calls to let all the grandparents and family know that he bagged his first game from the woods! He told the story over and over with more enthusiasm each time he repeated it. I may have missed out on my early doe hunt today, but it was worth it! I got to spend time with my boy in the woods and watch him harvest his first game in the field! I wouldn't have it any other way!

On another note, he told me he wanted to make squirrel stew with his game. I asked him did he know how to make it and he told me he was going to use the recipe from Bob Rich from the "BR Shooting Journal", I can't wait to try it!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Michigan Squirrel Season Opening Day

I haven't hunted squirrels by myself in probably over 20 years. Opening day was coming, the kids were in school and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get out by myself and do a little hunting without worrying about the cameras. The night before opening day I was to say the least a little excited.

Morning came and my wife informed me that I had to take the two oldest kids to school. Dog gone it! I just knew something was going to screw up my plans. Well I got my stuff together anyway and figured I could still make it to the woods about a half hour later than I wanted too. I got my turkey vest out and put my Thermacell in the pouch along with a box of .22 mag cartridges. I told my daughter to grab my vest and put it in the truck while I put my boots on, BIG MISTAKE! We left for school and then I headed to the state park after dropping them off.

While driving near the park I watched four deer cross the road in front of me, I thought this is a good sign to see game moving. It was bright and sunny with the sun just over the horizon. The air was crisp and cool with dew still on the grassy surfaces. This was a perfect morning to be in the woods. As I pulled into the entrance to the park three more deer crossed in front of my truck! I passed the guard shack and noticed one truck parked in the little lot near the booth. I thought I would drive back to hit the oak ridge near the big lake. As I came to the intersection, the road leading to the lake had the gate shut! I couldn't believe it, it should have been open for the goose hunters! I turned and drove to the other small lake near the campgrounds. That gate was also locked and the hunter parking area still had the rocks in front of the entrance, but there was a vehicle parked on the side of the road. It had to be another hunter in the wood lot already in the woods, so I turned and headed back to the small parking area by the guard shack.

I wasn't going to let a few little problems keep me out of the woods on such a great day. I parked and got out of the truck, grabbed the .22 mag rifle and slipped the clip with 5 rounds into the gun. I then went to grab the turkey vest and that is when I noticed that my daughter had forgot to put my vest in the truck like I asked her! Still determined to hit the woods, I told myself that I would have to just put up with the mosquitoes! I locked the doors on the truck and hit the trail leading into the woods.

I started towards the trail and couldn't have taken more than 10 steps into the woods when I heard a whistle from someone. I looked ahead and to my right and saw hunter's orange! MAN! I just can't win! This guy was no more than 50 yards from the parking area! I turned around and headed towards a field that paralleled him. I had walked about a quarter mile in waist high grass getting soaking wet when I saw a squirrel busting across a nearby tree top. I slithered into the woods near where I saw him and hunkered down next to a tree. I started looking around and noticed that I was surrounded by quite a few huge oak trees. This looked good!

As I sat down the mosquitoes began to buzz, but I was determined! It was about 10 minutes later when the woods became alive with chatter and noises. The squirrels began to bark back and forth, then I could hear them chewing on acorns and the scraps were hitting the forest floor. I just knew that I was going to get a crack at a few of them. The problem was that it was still so green and the canopy was so thick I couldn't see anything. It was still nice to just sit and listen to them, hoping to get a glimpse of them.

About a half hour passed when I began to hear some shooting to the south of me. It wasn't long until I could see orange coming at me. This guy must not have seen me until the last minute because he came within about 20 yards of me before he acknowledged me. I got up and chatted with him for a few minutes and learned that he already had three in his bag! Then I saw more orange coming our way, he told me that it was his friend. They left and I walked back near where I was at before they came in, I began to hear something overhead so I studied the canopy again for about 10 minutes with no luck. About that same time I saw more orange coming my way. I thought can this get any worse?

As I was watching this other guy come near me, I heard a gun blast about 50 yards behind me! It scared the day lights out of me! I never saw anyone behind me or any orange flashes in the surrounding woods. It was then that I said enough is enough! I started heading out!

As I broke back into the field, I noticed a downed tree and a squirrel had jumped up on it! I drew down on it and flicked the safety off. I put the crosshairs on the side of the squirrel and squeezed the trigger, SNAP! What the heck? I racked another shell into the chamber, but by that time the critter had moved on! I looked for the ejected cartridge but couldn't locate it since I was in waist high grass, even after getting down on all fours plowing through the weeds. I'm assuming it was a bad primer in the round since we have never had any issues with that firearm.

Soaking wet I made my way back to the truck and headed home! With all the bad luck that morning, I still had a great time spending some time out in the woods by myself listening to the woods come alive! I wouldn't have had it any other way!

Early Goose Season Take Two

If you've been following the website lately, you've noticed that we have added a few field staff members to our team. One of those members is Chico Lopez, who I was fortunate enough to spend five days in the goose field with this early season. Chico along with his friends Dave and Art were nice enough to invite Mikey and I along for almost a week's worth of fun!
Day two of the season started out EARLY, like 3 am early! Mike and I made our way up to Saginaw in the Mid Michigan area to hook up with our new found friends. As we got to the field, I was once again relegated to lawn mowing duty! Actually I found this to be a good way to help the time pass until shooting light. I don't know the first thing about setting up decoys so it makes me feel useful at least by gathering the vegetation to cover the blinds.

Mike's Banded Bird

It wasn't a gang buster day by no means, but we did get to see some flocks come our way, and one of those groups was a smaller group of four birds that made the mistake of flying in our "No Fly Zone". Two of the birds didn't make it out to tell the others. Mike downed one of the birds and it happened to be a banded goose! It was his first band ever! We shared in his joy of obtaining his first piece of jewelry for his lanyard. Dave took the other bird that was harvested that morning.

I didn't get to hunt the next day with them since work forced me to miss the hunting trip back north. Mike made it and they took 12 birds that evening! The following morning I managed to wake again at 3 am and get the boys up for the trip north once again. Jake, my youngest boy was in tow this morning for his first goose hunt ever! He was wide awake and pumped to hit the fields. Once we got their he pitched right in and helped get the gear into the field and brush up the blinds. Chico's buddy Art brought us out breakfast that he made that morning. Much to our delight we had breakfast tacos that were still warm! What a way to begin the morning.

The Saginaw Goose Connection!
Art, Mike, Chico, Dave

The action was slow this day also, but we did get a single flyer to come in and we thought we were going to get to see Jake take a shot at his first bird. As the bird came in close, Dave began to flag for some odd reason and the bird took off! We hammered him pretty good all day for that one! To this day we still give him grief, but hey that is what friends are for, right?

The next day I invited the boys to come down and hit one of the fields I had permission to hunt. This time they had to get up the extra hour early to make the trip down here! We hit the field and got set up early. I once again had the camera in hand and managed to get a flight of 12 birds coming in flying in formation to their demise! The boys unloaded on them and took 5 birds! After that I said, enough! I'm putting the gun in my hands. Two more flights came in and I managed to rip off a couple of shots and down a bird, but once Mike went after it the bird took flight again and was never seen again as it flew out of sight!
We gave Dan DeFauw a call early that morning and got him to come out to the field and run camera for us. We had one more chance at a group of birds, but when the shooting started Art forgot to reload his gun from the previous round. His birds managed to get away! After that we got to hear Chico bust out in song with a rendition of "I ain't got no shells in my gun"! We took home 7 birds that morning so it was another productive day.

Seven More Birds In The Freezer!
Mike, Chico, Art

The next day we scouted some new fields in the morning and then hunted back in Saginaw for that evening. We took UNJ staffer Chuck Parr with us to run camera for the hunt, but we didn't get to fire a single shot that evening. What would be my last early season hunt began the next morning with the boys coming back down to one of my fields.

We drug out Dan DeFauw again to run camera for us. We got set up in the middle of a alfalfa field that was bright green! The morning was extremely slow until Dan saw three birds coming in silent! Mike coaxed them in with his Lynch Mob call for them to meet their eminent doom! All Three birds went down to our four guns blazing! As the boys went to retrieve the birds one took flight again and made it out to live another day. With the morning being slow, we eventually decided to pack up. As I unloaded my shotgun, two birds came in overhead and high. We all dove into our blinds and reloaded as we watched them lock up and start to land. The bird to my left got popped by someone and then I drew down on the right side bird. I shot and Chico shot with the bird falling to the ground. I claimed the kill, but I know I had his help at downing the bird. We each got to take a bird home that day with 4 in the bag!

The Big Green Field!

It was a great way to start the hunting season, but I was also tired and worn out. I've never hunted so hard and had so little sleep in a week's time. Glad I get a little time to rest before bow season starts!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Early Goose Season 2009 Opening Day

This being my third year of waterfowl hunting thanks to my son Michael, I figured that I should probably try my hand at field goose hunting for the early season this year. Since we have made a few new friends that happen to waterfowl hunt, we hooked up with them and gave it a run!

Opening day we met up with Mossy Oak Pro Staff member John McNamara and a friend of his to hit the goose fields. I was excited to try my hand at videotaping Mikey's hunt to see what I could capture on tape. This was a completely new experience for me since I had never stepped into a goose field at all. They designated me as the lawn mower which I didn't mind, I had to gather up enough brush to camouflage four ground blinds.

With that task finished we hunkered down to get ready for the arrival of the flocks. I was amazed at just how fast and how many birds came in after day break. It didn't take long for the shooting to start and the excitement to begin! The first group came in and the three of them took seven birds! I was running two cameras and captured it all on video! What a rush to see the geese come in so low and noisy! Once the shooting stopped the three of them hit the fields running after their game! As they were in the fields more started to fly in. Back into the blinds they jumped!

Opening Day Harvest

Once again another round of shooting and seven more fell! The limit was 5 for each person so that was it for the harvest! As we gathered up our belongings and the birds, a neighbor lady came running into the field screaming and crying! We were upsetting her because we shot "her birds"! Oh boy here we go! After the boohooing and crying stopped she told us we couldn't hunt there anymore and she would see to it that we didn't, sure enough she had enough pull with the farmer that John lost that field. She actually told us she was an activist! Can you say hunter harassment! John didn't want to push the issue since the farmer had other fields he was allowing him to hunt.

This crap really upsets me, they squawk and we get shut down because the farmer doesn't want to deal with it. Come on guys! The farmers that want to continue to hunt, lease, allow people to hunt, etc… have to start standing up for their rights as well as the people he lets on his property! If you've been following my blogs and podcast you know how I feel on the issue. Since I was a guest on the hunt, I didn't say much!

Other than that though, the hunt was awesome and I was hooked even though I didn't carry a gun into the fields!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Watching Him Grow Up

This last week was the hardest, wildest and most fun week I've had hunting in a long time! We hooked up with some new friends and a new UNJ Field Staff Member (Chris "Chico" Lopez) on a wild week of Michigan Early Season Goose Hunting.

Mikey And His Opening Day Birds

Mikey and I started the week off by going with Mossy Oak Pro Staff Member John McNamara to one of his fields for opening day, then it was off to the crew from the north that I mentioned earlier. What was so unique about these hunts was how I watched Mikey grow right before my very eyes!

Mikey On Opening Day With A Few Of Our Friends

Sure I had fun running the camera and capturing video of our hunt and I had fun taking a few shots along with bagging my first goose, but the real excitement was watching Mikey do his thing. I have never seen him work so hard to obtain a goal that he coveted so much. He was in a zone all his own this week, working at getting the goose trailer ready to haul the gear out, making sure we had all the gear we needed and taking charge in the field with the calling. It was like watching an adult growing into his own out there. He worked well with all the guys in the field and when it came to the teasing and ribbing, he was right there giving it back along with taking it like one of the guys should!

Mikey Practicing His Calling In The Field

When the hunt was over, he was right there cleaning up and making sure everything was put away properly, not to mention he took care of all the game we harvested! The field dressing and cleaning of the meat was all his doing, making sure nothing was spoiled or wasted. I can't wait until he makes his goose jerky that he has been talking about!

Mikey With Art And Chico Gathering Up Birds

What I witnessed this week was a 15 year old boy becoming a man and taking charge of the situation. If he had his drivers license he could have done this without me and that is when I knew he was growing up and becoming his own person. He doesn't need me to tell him what to do anymore when it comes to the field, I can't wait to see him pass that tradition along to his kids one day! One down and three more kids to go. My job as an outdoors men father is 25% complete! I don't want it to go by too fast, but it sure is fun watching it happen! It makes all those troublesome times seem so far away now and it was all worth it!

A Morning Harvest With The Boys From Saginaw

I will post later on how our whirlwind week went later. I thought this post was more important than what we took from the field, so look forward to the posts of our 7 day adventure.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Turkey Season Recap!

Ok, I know I haven't exactly kept up with blogging my outdoor adventures as of late, well for the last 6 months for that matter! So it is now time to recap my adventures into the wild!

Turkey season came quickly this year and passed quickly as it always does. But I did have a great time and opportunity to show a couple of new hunters how to chase the wiley birds known as thunder chickens. My first trip to the field this spring was with a new friend of mine who eventually became one of the field staffers for the UNJ team, we call him Red but his name is Dan DeFauw. Red lives in the same little community that I'm from and he wanted to learn how to chase the birds this year and I told him I would teach him what I know.

I did quite a bit of preseason scouting to pattern a couple of different flocks of birds since I had a couple of first timers along with my three kids to take also. After about a month of hard scouting I knew where I was going to take Red for his first hunt. It was on a Saturday morning and everything looked as if it was going to be a great day afield. Just as light was breaking the wind kicked up and the clouds rolled in! After three set ups and not even hearing a bird we decided to call it a day and spend the rest of it scouting for the next morning.

We followed the advice of a DNR officer we met up with and searched a nearby field to see what we could find. Looking things over we found an area that would provide good concealment along with what looked like a great spot for turkeys to frequent. We decided that this would indeed be the spot for the next mornings hunt. That next morning we rode to the parking area near where we were going to set up, as soon as we got out of the truck we heard them gobbling off the roost. Red's eyes got big and he said, did you hear that? We kicked it into high gear and hit the field to set up on them. They were still on the roost quite a ways off, so we huriedly set up on them and hunkered down for the show.

I was running the video camera and calling at the same time, try that in the field! I started calling softly and didn't get too much of a response, then I heard the birds pitch down on the ground and the hens started cackling! I heard the gobblers sounding off for them, it was then that I knew that they were henned up and the only shot was to call in the hens to us. If they would come the toms would follow. I started cutting off the hens as soon as I heard them cluck or cackle. It didn't take long until one hen came charging into the field to find us. She came within about 15 feet of our setup! She looked but couldn't find out where the sound was coming from and she exited the field on the other end as I could still hear the other hens going off.
I started cutting them off as well, another hen came charging in looking for us and she walked within 10 feet of where Red was sitting! Then came two more hens out! They didn't come over to our area though, they stayed about 60 yards out and we later found out why! 4 or 5 huge toms came charging into the field to start the show! They also locked up about 60 yards out. I figured that they werer goint to stay away and the only thing we would be shooting was video of them heading out.

I noticed that one tom started to break off from the others, so I called softly to him to see if he would come our way, sure enough here he came! Not only that, but the others did also. They walked right past Red within 30 yards what looked to me like single file. He never shot! I couldn't figure out why, later he told me that they were crossing in front of each other and he didn't have a clear shot at just one bird. They got right in front of me and something told them that they were in trouble so they turned and walked right back past him. He put the bead on the last one in line and pulled the trigger! BOOM!!!! Down he went!

Red & Me With His Bird!

The other turkeys scattered off and Red went out to claim his prize, a nice Double Bearded Tom! 9 3/4" and 9 5/8" beards! 3/4" and 7/8" spurs also. It was a pretty cool deal to be able to call that bird in for him! We caught it all on video also. You can see the footage of that hunt in our first episode of our new show called Beyond The Wild at: .
I also got to take fellow UNJ staffer Chuck Parr out on his first turkey excursion. We almost pulled off the deal, but it wasn't to be. We set up in an area that was holding some birds and I got on some hot toms right at day break. We set up and before I knew it we were too close and they were on the ground right across a small watering hole from us. Two nice big toms with ground dragging beards! They couldn't figure out how to get around or over the water to where we were calling from. They eventually bugged out and we never saw them again.

I got to hit the field with my oldest daughter and youngest son this turkey season also. We never saw any birds but we did hear some and they got to see some deer up close and personal so they really enjoyed their own personal hunts as well. I managed to get one day of turkey hunting in for myself, but all in all I had an awesome time this season with my kids and two first time turkey hunters as well! It was a great time this spring chasing the birds!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Houghton Lake Trip Day Three

The final morning arrived without us freezing to death. Jake was sweating to death in the top bunk so I moved him down to my bunk and I began to cook the breakfast for a king again. We ate and I began to get our gear together for the trip home. We still hadn't caught any fish, but we weren't giving up just yet.

Me Cooking Again! Camp Cook For The Weekend!

The day was really windy again, but at least the snow had stopped. It was a bright and sunny day with a stiff blowing breeze. Michael kept bait on the tip ups while we got packed up and ready to go. Jake and I began to make trips back to the shore with all of our gear put in the trailer on the atv. After about five trips we had almost everything back on shore at the truck.

Looking Down An Ice Hole In The Shanty

We still hadn't got any fish when all of a sudden a flag on the tip up went off. Mikey ran out and checked it. Nothing on it but the bait had been cut in half! Finally a fish had bitten one of our lines! We had watched a couple of other shantys that weekend catch a few fish but nothing to write home about. But we finally had something to tell, at least something had hit one of our lines. That whole weekend we had thrown every lure at them that we had along with the kitchen sink! I knew the fish were there, but the weather had them all messed up.

One Of The Smaller Ice Houses In Shanty Town

We didn't catch anything but I didn't go for the fish, I went for the experience of sleeping out on the ice! The fish would have been icing on the cake! We got all of our gear out and loaded back into the truck and trailer so we could head home. Before we left we gave Dave and Chip a tip of $20 each. They looked at us like we were crazy, they told us no one has ever tipped them before! I couldn't believe that! These two guys were very helpful to us and when ever we needed anything they brought it to us. I couldn't have left there without showing them our appreciation. If you ever have someone helping you like that on a trip, take the time to tip them even if it is a small amount. Something like that goes a long ways. They told us to come back this summer and they would take us out on the lake and put us on some fish! I think we will take them up on that one!

Before we made it to the freeway to head home, Chuck and Mikey persuaded me to stop again at Jay's Sporting Goods store. It really didn't take too much talking to get me to stop there again for them. We had a wonderful time there and I would do it again next year. I'm looking forward to taking more people up with us next year and trying it again. If you would like to reserve a shanty or even a sleeper shanty at Houghton Lake, be sure to check out Lyman's on the Lake website for futehr information! Thanks Lyman for all of your help!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Houghton Lake Trip Day Two

Morning came early and cold! At least Chuck and I were cold, the boys fared pretty well sleeping on the top bunk, heat rises! I got up and began to cook some breakfast on the camp stove. It wasn't long until the shanty smelled of bacon, sausage and eggs! A breakfast fit for a king! We all ate our fair share of good food that morning! Hey if you not catching any fish, you might as well eat good I say! By the time we got up and around andthe breakfast dishes done, the weather had changed drastically!

Breakfast On The Stove

By 9 or 10 am the snow began to come down heavily and the wind was something fierce! By noon it was a complete white out! The snow was coming down and blowing so hard you could barely see the near shore to the south some 300 to 400 feet away! The north shoreline was completely gone! You couldn't tell where the ice ended and the sky began! It came down like this for the entire day! We did go to shore once during the day to see what was going on at the bait shop, Lyman's. Chip and Dave were there working along with Lyman Foster the owner. We sat and talked a while about the bait shop and the fishing there. They apologized about us not catching any fish, I told them they couldn't control the weather, but they felt bad that we weren't catching anything. I told them it was all about the experience any ways! Chip and Dave had caught a few fish for a tv crew that was coming up to do a story, since the crew had left they gave us the fish to eat that night! I thought that was pretty cool of those guys. Only problem was that we didn't have any cooking oil, so I went to town and bought a bottle.

I thought we were going to have a good ol fish fry that evening. Fellow Up North Journal Pro Staffer Jim Stephan came up with his wife and another couple to fish for the day. They weren't catching anything either, so we invited them to join us for a fish dinner. Time slipped by quickly and they headed to shore for the evening so we didn't cook the fish up.

During the day it was extremely hard to keep the tip up holes cleaned and free of ice. It was an every 15 minute job to go and clean holes. One fisherman nearby drilled a hole with his power auger down about half way through the 22 inch thick ice and left his auger standing in the hole. It didn't take long for it to freeze in the hole. Mikey was kind enough to head to shore on the atv and grab an ice spud for the couple. They freed up the auger and then Mikey gave them both a ride back to shore. The couple gave him $10 and their leftover bait to use. It pays to be a good Samaritan!

Ice Build Up On The Tip Ups

As I mentioned the ice was about 22 inches thick, there were vehicles all over the ice. You could hear the ice crack everytime a truck drove past the shanty. It got my attention on more than one occassion. Before evening set in we asked Dave from Lyman's for a shovel to bank in the shanty. He brought one out for us on one of his shuttle runs. We took the snow around the shanty and filled in around the shanty to keep the wind from blowing in that night. It made a huge difference in how warm it was.

Looking Out Our Window At A Car On The Ice

Evening set in and the winds died down a little but the snow continued to fall that evening. We must have gotten about 6 inches of fresh snow. The snowmobile riders loved it, they were zipping all over the lake that evening. It sounded like a bee hive around there. We all bundled up and turned in for the evening by around 9pm that night. We slept much warmer that evening. Although Jake woke up burning up. He was in his underware and no sleeping bag! Remember heat rises. I thought I was going to have to flip him over like a piece of bacon, but we made it through the night.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Houghton Lake Trip Day One

After months of planning the day finally came to head out on our first Up North Journal Team weekend outing. Somehow I let fellow Pro Staffer Chuck Parr talk me into sleeping on the ice out on Houghton Lake in the middle of Michigan's winter season. Chuck did this same trip last year and told me how much fun I would have and that I had to go this year and have a great time. So I let him plan this years trip and told him I would go along for the ride.
Chuck talked with Lyman's on the Lake about securing a sleeper shanty for the entire weekend. With Lyman's help we set up the date and began to make plans for the trip. We headed out on Friday morning at about 7:30am. It was Chuck, Mikey, Jake and myself with a truck and trailer full of fishing and camping supplies for three days of Michigan winter fun! We made our first real stop at Jay's Sporting Goods in Clare Michigan. We couldn't pass through Clare without stopping at Jay's. We bought a few more provisions for the trip and I had to finally pull Mikey and Chuck out of the store so we could be on our way.
Another hour on the road and we were pulling into Houghton Lake. We first had to stop at the local Wally World store to buy our food for the weekend. A basket full of hotdogs, beans, bacon, sausage, eggs and SPAM!!!! Yes I said, SPAM!!! and we were on our way to the ice! As we pulled up to Lyman's I could see shanty town out on the ice about 300 to 400 yards off shore. It was a beautiful clear blue sky day and the temps weren't too bad either. I thought to myself this is going to be fun! Chuck went in and took care of the reservations and I began to unload the trailer to get the atv out and hook up the small trailer to it. Then Chuck came back and one of the guys from Lyman's came out on a 6 wheeled atv with a huge trailer. We piled most of our gear onto his trailer and the rest in my little trailer. The boys and Chuck piled onto the trailer with all of our gear and I drove our atv out behind the 6 wheeled buggy onto the ice to our home for the weekend.

Mikey & Chuck Getting Ready For A Weekend Of Ice Fishing

As we pulled up I saw this huge box on the ice that we would call home for the weekend. It was about 8 x 20 and sitting right on the outter edge of shanty town. There must have been about 20 - 25 shanties out there and ours was the biggest! We unloaded our gear to the inside of the big box and then the guy (Dave) from Lyman's yelled to another guy on the ice to come over and help. This was the other helper from Lyman's. This second guy (Chip) grabbed a power ice auger off of the atv and went into the shanty and drilled four holes for us to fish through. Now we were all set to fish!

As we began to get our gear in order, we heard a snowmobile come to a stop just outside our door. Then there was a knock on the door with a voice saying, "DNR officer"! What did we do, I thought to myself. I opened the door and there stood an officer in his snowmobile suit and helmet. He asked us if we just arrived and how long we would be there. We told him and we began to pull out our fishing licneses. He told us no need to show him, that he just wanted us to know that he was on the ice if we needed his assistance. I told him that the atv had the appropriate stickers on it and he said, no worry on that either. He also commended us on bringing the boys out to enjoy the fishing as well. I was pleased at his attitude towards us, this was my first experience with a CO in the thirty plus years I have been participating in the outdoors.

After he left, it was then that I realized that I had forgotten that I needed a helmet for the atv out on the lake. I told Chuck I was headed back to town to purchase a couple of helmets for the atv. I couldn't believe I was so stupid and not remembering the helmet laws in Michigan.

After I got back from town, we watched a few nearby people pull out a few small pike from the ice on their tip ups. We got our power auger out and drilled 6 holes and put out some of our own tip ups then, we dropped two lines inside the shanty. We spent the rest of the day trying to catch some pike. We discussed venturing out to a different location to locate some fish, but we decided to wait until the next day to do this since it was getting late in the day.

Me Cooking Up Some Lunch In The Shanty

I fired up the stove and cooked some hot dogs and beans for lunch. The boys thought that this was pretty cool to cook inside of the shanty! I spent the next couple of hours reading a book that I had bought at Jay's on the way up. Nothing like sitting beside the heater fishing and reading a good book to pass the time.

As night began to set in, I new it was time to start thinking about dinner. I fired up the stove again and fried up a can of SPAM for all of us. SPAM sandwiches for the crew! The boys had never had a SPAM experience before, so this was their first time eating it. They thought it was SPAMtastic, Mikey said it was SPAMlicious! So with the SPAM and beans we were set for the night. We fished into the night until we all got tired. I think it was around 8pm when we began to turn in for the evening. We pulled the lines in except for Michael who kept fishing for another hour or so.

Jake Jiggin' For Some Pike!

I put Jake in the bunk above me and we turned up the heater for the evening. What we didn't realize was that the shanty was sitting up off of the ice about 8 inches. The wind blew underneath it and up into the ice fishing holes in the shanty. By about 4am it was getting pretty cold inside the shanty. I had to make sure and tuck in nice and tight to make it through the night. Mikey and Jake did ok since they were on the top two bunks, but Chuck and I didn't fare so well. We would change that the next day!