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!