Thursday, December 22, 2005

Gut check

Haven't had the nerve to write here since the debacle of Sunday, Dec. 18, at Bruce's Farm in Ingham County.

I'm still in shock and in utter disappointment of my airheadedness on the last day of Michigan's muzzleloader season.

Walt and I walked all the way to the back 40 to a thicket off of a sloping cut cornfield where we've jumped many a deer. Walt did the perfect deer drive through the bramble and even gave me a great heads-up with a "here they come." Only it wasn't a they, but a him.

An 8-point to be exact. He didn't even bust out of there carrying the mail, but eased out the back door in a trot. I raised my Knight .50-cal where I placed the crosshairs on his vitals, pulled the trigger, only to hear a pop! instead of a baaa-boooooom!

Misfire? Huh? Noooooooooooooooooooooo ...

After I stood there in disbelief for a few minutes, I realized after talking with Walk that I never had a load in the gun to begin with. I am a buffoon. A blockhead. And it cost me a chariot ride through Rome, where I could have been a conquering hero by scoring a buck on the last possible day with a firearm.

In fact, I realized I had hunted the ENTIRE muzzleloader season without a round in the barrel. What a maroon.

So the last week or so, I've been sulking over it all and the following is a review of the year via Internet correspondence with my Pa. friend Mike, who has been trying to shake me out of my doldrums.

He pointed out how my year was not so bad. After all, by his own admittance, he's yet to take a single deer this year. I will admit a third doe was cut up and put into the freezer during the late firearms season, but I prefer to leave out the details on that one. I have my reasons.

Anyway, here's my response to Mike's suggestion that I had a "great year":

"I would rate it an average year. I've had better. Much better. But I'll take it. I still remember 2000. I was shut out that year. Did shoot one late but never found it, that is, until turkey hunting the following spring of '01. Had I been a tad more diligent would have avoided goose egg, or yearling dropping, if you will. Was nervous about walking around in back property 'cause still fairly new there and got yelled at previous year by neighbor's boyfriend -- white trash -- who is no longer living next door. I would have found that doe had that happened this year.

"Then there was the one-yearling season -- my first ('94) -- where shared the Easton enema shot with you (Went out with Mike when we lived in West Virginia and meant to hit doe with quartering away shot with bow but ended up hitting deer's femoral artery from behind). Only deer taken, but broke my cherry the first year out.

"Did take spring jake this year to break 6-year Michigan turkey slump. Also, nailed long-coveted grouse after 10 years of hunting them -- with Hen (my 12-year-old springer spaniel), which I wanted to do before he died. I suppose one could ask: Is the cup half full or half empty? If I slam a cackling rooster next week would be bird-cycle year.

"Would like to do better next year with bow so don't have to slog around late in season if I choose not to. Kansas bow hunt, here I come. We'll see."

They say writing can help rid your mind of troubling thoughts, and I am feeling a little better. But with it now only two days from Christmas, I have more pressing issues at hand, such as getting my shopping done for my wife. Yikes!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Winding her down

Season appears to be slowly counting down.

Dec. 15. Fifteen more days until the deer can run free without lead, nor wood or carbon shafts whizzing past their tender bodies.


As I wrote in a previously blogging, I thought I had one more deer in me. What I didn't count on was how Michigan's late fall/early winter weather can wear on the determined hunter.

The determined hunter who has already bagged a couple of deer and has gone a week or so eating nothing but venison steaks. The fat boy tends to count himself out before he goes out with negatives. "Eh, what's the use? Deer aren't even around ... Or, cold weather's gonna keep 'em herded up and not moving."

This can be translated to: It's too f--king cold to wait on stand for the furry critters.

The readers can be assured -- that is if there are any -- that this hunter did not succumb to these subconscious thoughts.

Yep, that's right, I was stupid enough to brave the single-digit temperatures while perched 15-feet high in the thick white pine behind my St. Clair County house Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Unfortunately, the only thing moving was my idiot neighbors who were blasting away on both sides of the tree I was in at what seemed to be 15-minute intervals.

I don't know if I'm being inquisitive or paranoid, but I'm beginning to wonder if I'm
a victim of my own foul play related to the day I tuned up my shotgun when I saw a orange soldier venture near my spot at the end of the regular firearms season.

I wonder ...

—— —— ——

Sunday evening, Dec. 11's hunt, was marred by a game hog across the river from where Walt and I conducted a one-man drive -- I was the driver -- through a stand of CCC plantings of pine behind my house. It nearly was successful as the three regular customers to my corn feeder were hiding out there. But they ran out the opposite side from where Walt was waiting armed with his smokepole.

We tried another drive with me walking the edge high above the Pine River, but this time nothing was in the vicinity except a pop-up blind in the clearing across the river.

Then, while we were re-organizing for the next move, we heard bellowed at us, "You two guys on the hill are TRESPASSING."

I railed back, "You wouldn't be saying s--t if I pushed something to you."

Crickets. Well, not really crickets in the dead of December. How about whispers of wind weaving through the boughs of pine?

I thought so.

It is absentee land that I care for as my own. I leave only footprints and gutpiles (of which I'm sure only last a few days at the most because of the marauding coyotes).

In a perfect world, I would have a written permission slip -- probably just like the ones the dirt bikers and quad runners have that use the trail skirting my property to go back to that property -- the same trail I never asked to have -- a mere 50 yards from my kitchen window. As long as that's happening, I'm hunting back there. Period. End of story.

Being the considerate types we are, we ended our drive ... C'mon, you didn't really think we would? We then continued on to flush the swampy island down away from Mr. Pop-up Blind and the thicket near our original starting point. Both movements yielded nothing but fairly fresh tracks and old beds.

The upcoming weekend will mark the end of Michigan's muzzleloading season. With my family traveling to West Virginia for the holidays and leaving me home alone to work, you can bet I'll be somewhere in the woods with my Knight freezing my ass off.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Skimpy deer

Sorry to report but I have nothing more tonight than a no-news blogging.

The past weekend hunts of Dec. 4-5 were uneventful.

On Sunday in Ingham County, Mich., we had the lil' devils moving but they wouldn't come out to play. With temperatures hovering just below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the small herd we were driving chose to stay in the thicket along the hill where it is just a little too much trespassing for our tastes.

Then we -- Walt and I -- moved on to our friend Art's property in Saginaw County where the temperatures seemed even less friendlier. Tracks and deer urine could be seen all around my stand but when primetime hit at approximately 5:30 p.m. we had no movement. Couldn't be sure if the barking dog outside the perimeter on the northside of the swamp had anything to do with it, but certainly didn't help.

Wasn't thinking I would go out Monday evening behind my St. Clair County house, but once the wife got home from work, I was itching to see how the temps would put the chill on the neighbor boy -- I think -- who sounds off during the evening hours with what seems like a volley every 15 minutes. Again, people, this doesn't help things any when you're not seeing any deer.

Dusk drifted in as I sat in the Old Mother Tree of which I've spoken of previously, and I was left holding close to her mighty trunk without any deer coming under to take in her shelter from the wind.

While walking out I found a makeshift blind on the neighbor's property where I cut through -- more things that hamper my huntin', and sleepin' for that matter, as one morn the bastard ripped a round off that nearly rocked me and the missus from our mattress. Well, with this knowledge stored neatly in my vengeful memory banks, I couldn't stand my bulging bladder for another moment and with nowhere else to relieve myself but in the direction I was standing, out came the stream directly into his fine sitting arrangements tucked neatly inside a triangle of stacked logs. And, of course, a couple of the logs became dislodged somehow as I was leaving.

Later, when I retold the story to the wife -- an act she called "juvenile" and I wholeheartedly agreed -- to warn her of a possible query over the footsteps in the snow (something I overlooked) leading to our yard from the site of the urine discharge, I recalled to her how I once had a stand that I fixed up in a tree near there removed to the last board and two nails. I then stated he was lucky I didn't dump in his dirt seat as well.

Anyway, let it snow, let it snow ...

-- -- --

On another front, the Associated Press via -- a preliminary estimate released Wednesday by the state Department of Natural Resources -- reported Michigan hunters killed about 243,000 deer during the past firearm hunting season.

It was a drop of about 8 percent from the estimated 265,000 deer killed during last year’s firearm season. The record for a firearm season is an estimated 351,000 deer taken in 1998, according to the DNR.

This is what we hunters are dealing with this year. The pickins' just keep on shrinking. The time is now for a change in the doe policy with regard to the overabundance of tags, and also being allowed to take two bucks.

Can't shoot something that's not there.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

One more deer

Ah, my dusty, forgotten blog.

Thou art neglected.

Actually, I've been on a glorious two-week, deer hunting sabbatical. Wish I could write how I stacked up the fury giant rats like cordwood, but sadly, no, that's not how it was.

Two does were the tally for my Michigan firearms deer season. And after talking with other fellow hunters around the area, I should be grateful for what I did gun down.

Both kills were neck shots: the first one split the deer's spinal cord via a Hornady SST slug sent by airmail from 150 yards away; the second downed deer was put into animal orbit after its artery was ripped by a .30-06 round from my M-1. A very fun hunt indeed.

I pretty much lucked into the first doe. Seemed to break the ice for the season. Up to that point, the second day of the shotgun season, Nov. 16, knocking down a deer was becoming a unsurmountable feat.

Day started with a howling wind. I was almost not even going to bother except my climber was still out on the edge of the Ingham County field I've been blessed to hunt this year. This turbine blast from the east came on the heels of one of my most miserable days in the field. A cold rain greeted us midday on the opener, Nov. 15, and continued until darkness, but without me.

One of the rival hunters that prowls the same property as Walt and I, actually saved us from ourselves. At around 3 p.m., he drove right out in the middle of the soaked field to recover his nice 7-pointer. That was the clincher for us, we looked at each other through the sheets of rain and said, "We are so outta here." And up to that point, we had said we would tough it out. Walt and I had somewhat differing opinions on our take of the weather situation that day, and he has promised to enter it as a guest commentary on this blog at a later date. We look forward to the challenge.

For those wondering on what my take was, I'm unabashed in saying it was NOT a good day.

Anyway, back to the successful hunt. After getting out to the field, I started thinking the wind might just be a friend rather than a foe in jumping a buck. I took a perch in one of the fixed stands bordering the main cut cornfield we hunt. Half an hour later, here come four deer in marching order. Pretty much out in the hinterland but I thought I would launch one out there anyway. BOOM! And strangely enough, the formation turned and ran right toward me. I picked off the biggest of the bunch at 163 steps, which comes to 154 yards by my yardage guess-timator.

The M-1 hunt was in Saginaw County on my friend Art's property. There I set up a fixed Loc-on to an ancient scrub Oak at the crossing of a woods and an open field. We emplaced a simple CVC corn feeder within bow range. After hearing from Art and Jen how the deer weren't hitting it, I was impressed while walking in when I saw a white flag bounding away near the feeder. I figured it was just a matter of time until the deer would begin filtering out from the woods on a line to the easy meal. I really couldn't see the aperture at the moment of truth, so I went the Kentucky, er, West Virginia -- since I actually lived there -- windage route. BOOM! But instead of a dropped deer, away it walked. I was a tad baffled but the deer continued to mill about. So, when armed with a semi-automatic, there's only way to go, and that's with more rounds downrange except that the blasted ex-military relic jammed on me. After years of having the same type of thing happen on the weapons range with a M-16, imagine that? the M-1 jams.

I took the necessary corrective action and finally managed to get another round into the chamber, all the while without falling out of the stand. But the little critters decided something was up and stopped posing for me broadside. Damn! Freakin' piece of military $%%!!!!@@@*** ...

About 10 minutes later, Walt and Art came over for the report but all I could say was I didn't think I made a hit. Neither did Walt, but that didn't stop Art from going back and getting his truck and devoted nose soldier, Ursula.

"I don't know why he's getting happy with the truck and all," I mentioned to Walt while walking back to get our flashlights, "think the thing woulda dropped right there with it being a .06 round."

Probably wasn't five minutes after we got back at the site, when Walt said, "I've got blood." And boy did he. Away went the four-legged canine on the trail with us tagging behind.

Seemed like we hiked miles in the dark but really was about 50 yards, and there she was on the edge of hill going back into the swamp.

Man, it's nice when a plan comes together.


I was also vigilant in my watch behind the house in St. Clair County. Taking the crow's nest in the pine tree I dub "Old Mother Tree" in the "Cathedral" of pines going back to the ravine that overlooks the Pine River, I made a rare miss the Friday evening of Nov. 25.

My kill percentage around the house is fairly high. By using the "one shot, one kill" phrase attached to being a TOW gunner when I was in the infantry back in the early '80s, it keeps snoopy neighbors from getting up ... in arms. Heh, heh.

The snow was on and at 5:30 p.m. with dusk silencing the day, a formation of three deer went under the "Old Mother," and I prepared for a shot. Unfortunately, I did not have as good a shot as I did two years ago, when I had a clear opening on the 5-point I slammmed in the liver with a Breinke slug from my smoothbore Mossberg 835. This time I was forced to use West Virginia windage through one of the old mother's prickly arms, and I still don't know whether I shot under, over or behind the deer. My thinking was low and behind since that's where it hit my plastic bucket target at the backyard range the next day.

And what a perfect opportunity to sight-in it was that Saturday since I was relegated to child-watching duty. Especially after seeing a neighbor heading back to my stomping grounds about an hour before.

Why a little lead might have gotten the little darlings moving for him ... yeah, right out of Dodge. Here I feed the things year-round and now Mr. Neighbor comes after laying out carrots and apples on a one-time basis. Nope. My deer. Go away!

I've since put in my second day of work after frolicking in the deer woods and will slowly build up motivation for the upcoming two-week muzzleloader season. I logged two more hunts in the old mother after the miss and two days across the street in the overhunted state land before my return. The whole time thinking: I've got one more deer in me.

Yes, I do think so. Give me some more time, and with the whole month of December still ahead, I have plenty.