Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Season capped

Just when you don't expect something to happen, it happens.

And strangely enough, I even had a dream the night before that I would smoke a grouse. Well, that's what happened.

On Dec. 27, I entered into this Lapeer County, Mich., public land hunt very rushed. I had barely an hour for a partridge assault before work.

This usually means trouble, such as a short temper while navigating through multiflora rose, and that is even more trouble, let me tell you. Squawking about among prickly viney green arms that seem to come alive once they grab your vest, can end with a wicked nettle wound to the cheek.

But there was none of that.

A week ago, with me in nearly the same disposition, I found myself wading in chilly swamp waters over my knee-high rubber boots at this same area.

However, I used this experience to my advantage. I bounced north of this impenerable water hazard and came into perfect grouse cover. Just how I planned to do so a week ago.

After I made it through a deep pine woods and once into a power line right-of-way, I got my first flush. But I never saw the bird. It seemed like I had heard two birds though. I held steady. And up the second bird went. Boom!

He was smoked. He did a triple tumble in the air to the ground into the waiting jaws of my trusty canine Henry the springer.

This more than made up for the 0-fer effort on roosters the past weekend at Walt's hunting spot in Ingham County, Mich.

Now I might even have to add this as an honorable mention to my "Top 5 Most Memorable Hunts of 2006" coming out soon online at

Anything from here on out until the end of the season is gravy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Looking for a capper

With barely two weeks left in the Michigan deer and small game season, I'm now in search of putting a cap on a fairly successful season.

A grouse or a ringneck pheasant would do nicely.

So with that in mind, Monday, Dec. 18, I loaded up Henry into my Dodge Ram -- the one with 355,000-plus miles -- and headed to the Lapeer public land spot where I flushed a grouse perfectly during the end of the deer shotgun season. (Now that I'm thinking of it, I wonder if same mileage could be applied to my springer? He's logged plenty in our 13 years of travel over the ridges in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and deep into the Michigan swamps.)

What began as a quest to put some native white meat into the fryer turned into an appreciation day.

Had to after the way the hunt started. Right off the bat, barely five minutes out of the truck, I landed myself into a marsh where the water was knee-high in spots. I immediately fell victim to a soaker. Full-on, swishy-squish from the left big toe up to my knee. Nothing kills a late season bird gig -- or any gig for that matter -- faster than wet feet.

However, with temperatures in the mid-40s, I didn't feel as bad if it had been 20 degrees and proceeded on with what supposed to only be a quick patridge assault before work anyway.

Into the briers and multiflora-rose tangles I went -- right where birdie was on that November day a few weeks back -- but no one was home.

Being I've been in this thankless bird business going on 14 years, I figured he might have moved on the other side of the hill.

Sure enough, I went over the lip of the ridge on the north side of this layout, into the "real" swamp, if you will, and the bird went up -- thhhpppppppphhhhhhhhtt -- behind my left shoulder and, of course, never in view for a shot.

I was fairly psyched. Most of the time, the flushes come at the end of the sweep, sometime hours later. I call it "doing your homework." Which is where you work one side of a hill meticulously, pushing the bird(s) to the other side or where you expect the birds to flush when you come around. That is just how it is done by this team of one hunter and one dog. Works pretty well if the birds are present. And the shot is true ... we won't go there.

But this flush came after only a half hour. Figuring he would be the only show in town for this quick bird attack, I tried to corral him by heading into the direction I thought he went. Yet, it was to no avail.

I tried a couple of other manuevers around the bowl of the swamp and ended up in amazement at how well Henry could still move in and out of the thick bog of swamp grass and fallen timber. My hat went off to him. Literally. I tried to step around a section of shrubs along the water, and a vine reached up and grabbed my boot sending me into the smelly muck. I somehow managed to keep my Browning out of the swill.

A double-soaker! However, this one was above the waist. Henry meandered by a little baffled at why I was on my backside. I hollered at him to "hup" a minute so I could get back into action.

Don't think that would have done me in, it was nearly 3 p.m. and I was already behind schedule to be back at the truck. So up I came like the Swamp Thing, talking to myself -- "I think what we need is more rain," is what I said aloud sarcastically -- or to Henry just so I can claim I'm still sane. But my voice among the slimy stumps seemed to goad a bowhunter into talking.

"See many birds?" he called out.

"Nope," I said tersely. "Not down here."

I then apologized for not seeing him and promptly saved face by immediately withdrawing from the land Henry so fleetingly tip-toed through with grace and guile.

At 13 years old -- I'm not sure what it is in dog years but I know it's easily over 100 years -- he left me beaming with pride. Appreciating another job well done in what I equate to "hunting with my grandfather."

(For more stories like this one, log on to

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


No, this isn't a tell-all on muzzloading as the title may imply.

It's just what has brought me back into the swing of things. I guess I'm not much for rifle/shotgun unless I need to be. So with two in the freezer from bow season, the need was lowered quite a bit. Like the good ole days when I routinely shot a couple with my bow.

So I suppose I've been relaxing and savoring the moment. Especially as the temperatures in southeast and mid-Michigan have ventured into the 20s and teens. Funny how the motivation factor will fall off when that happens.

As I said in a previous blog, I was really hit with a bug -- a mad coughing one at that -- and was really not able to get out much for rifle/shotgun season even if I had wanted to. Three times to be exact. Probably one of my least active gun seasons in the 13 years of hunting whitetails.

Last weekend, Dec. 3, I briefly shedded child-watching duties and hit my friend Art's place in Saginaw County. After securing a decent Christmas tree Art so generously let us cut down on his property, we headed to the back 30. He did a drive on the edge of the swamp in what he said was his "first drive ever."

One scooted between us -- I was situated in my stand -- but I never saw the deer.

Art then headed in to meet another one our friends -- also in on the tree deal -- and left me to the elements. And they were tough on me. I wasn't as prepared for the howling December Michigan wind as I would liked to have been. Although I did have on my lucky polar fleece jacket which has done so much time with me in the "Old Mother Pine Tree" behind my house that it now permanently smells like pine.

The problem, which is usually the case with me, was with my feet. Seems like I never recovered from being stuck on Army field problems at Fort Carson, Colo., when I was in my early 20s. A couple of times we were on manuevers in temperatures well below zero, and I believe I ended up with frostbite.

Anyway, the boots I had on were more conducive to doing drives. But I managed to endure until dark. Lots of things were looking good. Fresh coating of snow. Full moon. Yet, no deer.

I really wanted to unload my "cherry" .45-cal Knight on an unsuspecting deer. In fact, I was on total "if-it's-brown-it's down" status, which generally can be lethal for deer in my vicinity of the woods.

So that's how my first weekend of the muzzleloading season has left me, practically frothing at the mouth for a shot opportunity.

Another motivator, as if I really needed one more, is the coveted "triple" I'm now in line to complete if I score with the smokepole. A triple in the Arnold book is knocking down a deer with a bow, a rifle/shotgun and a muzzleloader in a single season.

I believe I've only completed this rare feat -- for me -- once or twice before.

Hopefully, Art will give me the green light for another trip to his Saginaw County spread for this upcoming weekend. Things should even be better as I loaded the corn feeder when I was there previously. And I plan on being accompanied by John of "Double Bagger" lore (see, who's had a tough time of it -- if you can believe it -- the past two seasons.

We're going to put an end to this Sunday I bet.