Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh so close

Two more steps were all I needed for the deer to clear the pine tree, which would have given me a clear shot.

Instead, it whirled in place and bolted the way it came in and never presented an open shot.

Now, mind you, I had a hail Mary moment but for some reason I passed on the opportunity.

On the way into work I went back and forth on whether on not -- being it was the last official day (Dec. 21) to kill a buck with a gun, albeit a primitive one, muzzleloader -- I should have shot.

Once I made it into the office and got a feel for the looser Sunday shift attitude for the night, I knew I made the right decision, especially after re-telling the story of the one that got away to my editor.

" ... had I shot at the running deer through the debris and all, I still might be out there looking for it," I said.

I was greeted by crickets.


But that was the truth. Of course, the deer may have dropped right in its tracks ... here we go again.

The first shot was the one I needed and the whitetail just froze at the wrong spot, which they sure have a knack for doing so.

However, I'm going to keep it positive for I wasn't even going to go with the way the first day of winter hit Michigan. Temperatures with the wind chill were below zero with gusts of 25 to 30 mph at times.

Two more steps. I came that close to adding a third one to the freezer.

I braved the swirling air much like a deer in the pine stands behind my St. Clair County house. And stayed relatively warm for the first hour yet saw little activity other than the fresh tracks I crossed over on the way to the setup.

Then the four deer flew into the woods I was guarding with the one straggler I had sights on behind the pine tree 30 yards away.

The good news is they're hanging back there and I still have archery season to go with three tags left.

Now if Old Man Winter would just yield his icy blast a touch.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In the backstretch

Here we are on the front side of a winter storm that forecasters are saying may dump 10 inches or more of the unnecessary white stuff on the Michigan turf.

This could potentially knock my deer season down for the count.

Unless a slayer of Bambi is knowledgeable in a deer herding location or favorite feeding target, travel becomes difficult on foot and stealthy attacks once the crust forms on the top layer of snow are pretty much out.

The other side to muzzleloading and late archery and doe seasons is getting partners who can man up in such elements.

Certainly I'm not one to pooh-bah solitary gigs, in fact, I was on one today that would have been much more enjoyable had I not shared the public land tract with two rabbit hunters and who knows how many baying beagles.

A mere five minutes away from the truck was when the first howls bellowed from the parking lot and I knew it would be a fruitless day.

But in my somewhat steady stalk around the grape tangles and sapling and pine thickets, I found little in the way of fresh deer tracks so I suppose it mattered little whether the four-legged pests bayed on or not.

I've been held without a shot in the four muzzleloader forays I've indulged on since the season opened Dec. 5. This isn't odd, just the way it can go during the smokepole season. You might kick up a brute or you just take in the December chill while watching the remaining songbirds flutter among branches of white.

Not upsetting in least really, because if the shot does come, it provides great jolts of excitement from the unexpected.

One of the reasons why I continue to roll out of bed much earlier than I would prefer these final weeks of December.

Taking a deer of any caliber, let alone a giant, is quite an accomplishment now.

I've taken both doe and buck in year's past during muzzleloader and it puts a nice capper on the year.

I did have a decent Sanilac County hunt planned for Sunday, Dec. 21, the final day, but it's too early to tell whether the snow will keep me inside the warm confines of the house.

The buddy I would join up with on his farm has food plots and modern stands to sit in so I was rather wanting to give it a go.

Wait and see.

Monday, December 01, 2008

One lowly doe

I'm back from my three-week deer hunting hiatus and sadly can report only scoring on one lowly doe.

But don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to have at least loaded her into the back of the truck.

I was determined to NOT come back from West Virginia without some meat and did what I had to do to make it happen.

Hit an almost certain automatic gold mine on private land I have had the privilege to hunt for the past 15 years.

This great couple sold me my longtime bird-hunting ace in 1993 -- Henry the springer spaniel -- and have let me hunt their beautiful Marion County, W.Va., property ever since.

On Wednesday, Nov. 26, when I first attempted to hunt the holler on this year's deer hunt I ran into another family -- a father and two sons -- who were already hunting it so I had to return on Friday, Nov. 28.

While walking to the back field, I noticed several deer had already beaten me to the spot. I stalked along the edge of the wooded ridge to a sniper's position overlooking the meadow about 200 yards away.

The strategy was simple: glass the area until a half hour before sunset to see if a buck would join the grazing does, and if not, take a doe.

And that's how the deal went down.

I was confident I would have an opportunity such as that one because on Wednesday, while talking to one of the brothers about to make a push, I noted there was a doe in the field in front of us several yards away and right in front of where his dad and sibling were located behind a barn.

"Oh, it's just a doe," he said matter-of-factly.

But I knew the land owner was set on hunters taking does as well as bucks, which appeared these headhunters weren't on track to do.

Emil will be happy to know I didn't let him down.

* * *

As I've been saying for sometime this season, it has the making of a two-doe year, accept it and be happy, so I am.

Made some wicked sausage today, which seemed to please the wife when I told her that that would be dinner for work. She is someone who can appreciate frugalness.

What I can report on my recent travels around Michigan and West Virginia, is I saw no antlered younglings, let alone beasts. Nothing but does and at times, nothing at all. Late into the gun season on public land can yield long dull sits is what I encountered.

Over the years, I have found I usually get two opportunities on bucks, usually during bow, and how I handle those chances determines whether I get horns. And this year, I missed on the six I wasn't originally planning on shooting, and at Shiawassee I just couldn't focus well enough in the waning light to take a shot on what I was sure was a buck, so I passed.

But I should add, I'm not done just yet.

The muzzleloader season awaits, and 2007 produced a giant.

The 8-point of my life so far, one I even dreamt about before the season started. In the dream he came trotting toward me from inside a canopy of tree limbs. So true to life it was I was almost caught off guard when it happened according to script.

Haven't had such a dream this year.

There's still time. Guess I'm going to get off of here and sleep my way into a 10-pointer.

(Watch for pictures of Mac's successful fall turkey hunt at