Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One more deer (reprisal)

The crumpled doe lying 100 steps away from the ladder stand represented a saving grace to an otherwise uneventful deer season.

Yes, I'll have meat for the freezer and I again ripped down the goose egg from the 2007 season, but the defining buck has eluded me once more.

I've given all since the Michigan shotgun/rifle opener Nov. 15. The tally for times out as of Nov. 27 registers nine. A couple of those notches are all-dayers, too.

I did get a look at Mr. Big on Nov. 15 and even launched a couple Hornady SST slug missiles his way but to no avail. I watched one round kick up dirt under his feet. I needed a couple more yards. He bolted for the neighbor's stand of pines and I believe that's where he's been ever since. Or he was given a ride from the area in the back of someone else's truck.

He ventured from his cover Nov. 18, and I peered through the binos 300 yards away and watched his loopy behavior as he obviously was bitten by the rut.

That remains his last public appearance.

The God of my understanding did treat me decent on the doe. It turned up to be a doe I did not want to cut down only because it had a yearling in tow. However, it was running in the herd of five or six and I couldn't tell it apart. It appears that the little guy -- a button buck -- is doing fine because I see every time I'm out. He crosses the field from one patch of cover to the other and one day a mere 30 yards in front of my ground blind.

Hopefully he can make it until next year when he can sport some real headgear.

So with the cold winds of December now upon us, where does this leave me physically and spiritually?

A big-hearted down but not out, that's where. And like last year, looking for one more deer, maybe two, which is always the siren's call this time of year.

I still have two seasons left that could bring home the buck of a lifetime: muzzleloader (opens Dec. 7) and late archery season. The late archery period potentially could be the best of all since I drew a tag for the Shiawassee National Refuge. Pretty tough to get and from what I've been told Mr. Big Buck thrives there.

But for now I'm in deer meat heaven, complements of my friends at Richmond Meat Packers, who set me up with tasty venison sausage, hunters' sticks and links.

With a little less than a month of the season left, we go on.

And there's more fun to be had. Probably better than what the deer hunting has had to offer.

Pheasant hunting resumed Dec. 1, along with grouse. Seems like bird hunting is where it's at. I'm knocking down something each of the few times I've been out.

So why haven't I been out more? It's a good question and one I've been mulling for some time.

The mystique of Mr. Big Buck, that's why.

Good enough.

(Look for a long-awaited "Youth & You" article at www.macshuntingmag.com from a day in the woods with Mac and Zac on Nov. 26).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Never give up

Getting through a tough deer season requires fortitude and tenacity.

By "tough" I mean shots aren't coming your way or you hit one and lose it.

Hunt enough years and this scenario will play out for you.

I know from my own trial and error of what is now my 14th year in the deer woods.

Depending on what your objective is, whether it be knocking down a fat doe for the freezer or holding out for Mr. Big Buck, you also will need to be flexible.

The hunter who connects while in the throes of a tough season is the guy who has adroitly adjusted his tactics.

This is someone who doesn't care whether it's bow, rifle or muzzleloader. He has confidence to score with any of those weapons.

For me, my objective is both -- a fat doe and a brute. Where I've been hunting in Sanilac County, I've finally moved my stubborn butt off of the ladder stand -- which has been out of bow range from where the deer are moving through a hole between two fence rows.

Last year I watched Mr. Big -- the buck I've been pursuing as previously noted in other blog entries -- walk past the fence row where I'm now stationed.

But this year the deer appear to have changed their movement from field to field. I've made the adjustment and have still been foiled.

The point is I've altered my approaches so I'm moving closer to the first kill of the year. Which also might include moving to other spots around the area and possibly even the state.

Read Mac's "attitude adjusters" to getting through a tough deer season by logging on to www.macshuntingmag.com.

Just like you

I'm just like you ... well, maybe a little.

I hit the deer woods every bow season. Pound the corn rows. Every once and awhile I might take a decent buck.

But nothing that really stands out, or defines my prowess as a bow hunter.

I'm no Bill Winke, Greg Miller or the like, armed with high-caliber whitetail knowlege.

That giant Boone & Crockett buck may never come -- although that won't keep me from trying or believing I'll get there someday.

Often, bragging rights among my fellow deer hunting brethren is enough of a challenge to keep me fueled up. But it seems no matter how well I do, my pal, Walt of Ingham County, Mich., always tops my buck with a better one.

And when another juked deer hunting friend of mine, Mike of Mercer County, Pa., was still alive he too would beat my best efforts.

Nevertheless, I thought I was set up pretty well for the rut this season.

I placed a ladder stand in the vicinity of a nice buck I've been after for two years on the Sanilac County farm I have the awesome privilege to hunt.

On Oct. 25, I glassed seven does munching under a pear tree 250 yards away from where I was perched inside of a fence row.

Realistically, in a perfect world, I should have had permission to hunt over by that food source magnet, but I didn't. Maybe next year.

For the time being, with the initial rut already over, I remain content to stay put.

Moreso after watching the daily traveling patterns of the deer in the area, which puts them out of bow range but in perfect yardage for shotgun and muzzleloader. The gun season starts tomorrow, Nov. 15.

Besides, after re-reading what tends to be my hunting bible this time of year, the November 2005 issue of "Whitetail Strategies" had a piece that justified my setup.

In an article by Winke titled, "The Rut Regulator," he recalls how during one hunt where the brute he was after "covered so much ground ... I could have had a shot at that buck no matter where I was sitting within a 40-acre area."

Which is why I'm thinking where I've placed my ladder stand along this fence row keeps me in business for the rest of the rut. The early trolling stage is pretty much over but he might slink along there once the first shots are fired.

Will this be my year? I guess you'll have to stay posted to find out. With the best time of the year for psycho bow hunters behind us -- the last week of October to the first two weeks of November -- I'm left with the remainder of the rut and the secondary one. Could happen. Also, someone could push the buck I'm hunting bounding across the field during the opening day of firearms season.

I don't know if my boy will really qualify for such a label as "trophy buck." He was an 8-point last year. Nothing of a jaw-dropper, but not bad for a Michigan buck.

Let's face it, our state is tough as far as wall-hangers go. Mucho hunters, in fact, it's often one of the top two for having most hunters in the field.

Along with this we have liberal regulations on bag limits and duration of the various seasons.

Of course, there's a good chance the buck I'm after is already summer sausage.

He could have succumbed during the youth "blankety-blank" season. (Which should be does only.)

I've yet to see him this year and the last time I saw him was Jan. 1, the final day of the late doe season. He was following two slick heads along the fence row where my ladder stand is now set up.

So now you see why I was feeling pretty good for the archery season, which has passed. Despite this, I'm still upbeat for the second half of the deer season.

It could be just a matter of waiting him out and being lucky enough to be on stand when he cruises by.

No better time than the opening day of firearms season.