Friday, October 24, 2008

Lost 'em both

Yep. In one week I lost the prime Sanilac County, Michigan, farm country, big buck growin', corn- and bean-fed deer oasis and then a doe I hit with a homemade arrow launched from my recurve.

It happens. Sometimes you can get quickly branded as a loser for such an act by those of us in the hunting community we label as "outsiders." And sometimes even from those within the circle.

But I'm not going to allow myself to have a self-imposed, ass-kickin' party over it. I tried. In fact, I looked for five hours within every piece of landscape in the tight surrounds behind the St. Clair County homestead and it came up no sale.

However, I did jump a deer hours into the search that fit the description of the doe that would not be steaks, but it didn't look too wounded if indeed that was the deer. So maybe it lives to be hunted another day or it fed some happy coyotes who got to partake in an easy meal.

I guess Mom had the best advice: "Oh well, another one will come along." True.

Then, I was watching a show last night hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy where so-called "hunting greats," such as Bob Foulkrod, Larry Weishuhn and Pat Reeves were engaged in a whitetail challenge to see who could bring home the best buck.

In this battle of the legends, Weishuhn hit a buck and lost it. Hit the buck in nearly the same spot with a rifle that I did with my recurve. He summed up his botched attempt something like this: "It's gonna happen from time to time and it's just a part of deer hunting."

Still doesn't mean we're gonna like it. But like I told a friend in an email, the best way to move on is to move on, which means taking up the captain's chair 25 feet in a tree.

Being it is the week before Halloween, now is not time to be hangin' my head.

I have to be upbeat for this is the time us bowhunters live and breathe: pre-rut and rut.

The temperatures are getting nearly perfect with every morning putting frost on the pumpkin.

No time to be down.

I got another rocket-booster of confidence today shooting the old reliable 1993 Mountaineer bow. It's a wheels-before-the-cams bow yet for the time it was cutting edge with 80-percent letoff.

For me, it's a proven killer. Has packed the freezer multiple times. Had I popped the doe that fateful Monday, Oct. 20, with the compound rather than the recurve it would've been a 70-yard tracking job 'cause the arrow would have went out through the heart. On the recurve shot, I just didn't get enough penetration.

Doesn't mean the recurve is a done deal for me, just for this time in the season I can't afford to have another run off -- especially if it's Mr. Big Buck. So there's where the lesson comes in, no more messing around, the rut is closing in for gosh sakes.

On the property, well people are people. The farmer's daughter (notice how it's always the farmer's daughter?) figured her boss who "helps her out alot" needed the meat to help a sister-in-law who was hurtin' more than me.

Sounded odd to me since any ethical hunter either eats the meat or donates it to someone who can use it. Regardless, I was expendable.

I eventually got a more true to life reason from the farmer himself who spilled the "boss is good to her" bit. And then summarized the whole deal with that I would "have to share the wealth."

Now where have I been hearing this snappy lil' phrase. Lemme think ... hmmmmmm.

Barack Obama, maybe?

I thought, yeah, I'll share the wealth, and immediately went and packed up my ladder stand to go on a better property.

I guess I don't share very well.


Afterward, I knocked on some nearby doors where I got a great place to goose hunt with my son. Might be a one-time only gig.

Then again, it could turn out to be the mother-of-all goose spots. That doesn't sound right ...

Anyway, I'll be going there Sunday, Oct. 26, and probably will do the rest of the deer season near my house on public and private land in St. Clair County.

The spot in Lapeer County where I'll be Sunday might even turn into a deer spot. Never know. I'm going to see if the farmer in charge can put me somewhere Nov. 15, the opening of Michigan's deer gun season, but if not, I'll keep on looking.

There's also going to be week of deer hunting in West Virginia during the Thanksgiving holiday.

So what's there to be down about? Not a damn thing that I can see.

Deer hunt on.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Listen to the guide, not the rocks in your head

OK, so I'm done sightseeing. Something majestic from the animal kingdom needs to go down.

I just witnessed one of the cooliest things ever while bear hunting in Baraga County, Michigan, in the unsurpassed beauty that is the Upper Peninsula. Really, I suppose, that last statement can go unwritten. Everybody that lives there knows it. And everybody that visits there knows it too.

Anyway, my two-day only bear hunt was winding down Oct. 6 when I saw a giant black creature walking in the middle of the river I was hunting above.

At first I thought it just might be the biggest black bear ever seen on the planet when I noticed white antlers jutting off its head.

Then it struck me -- I was in the land where the moose runs loose -- as he started the groaning and grunting of a lovesick rutting bull. I crazily grabbed for the sometimes-working video camera but he had already moved through my view without me getting a single track of footage.

Still I reported on the film how it kept the hunt from being a total bust.

Later, the gigantic one would come back near dark. Beforehand, I thought there was someone running through the woods with an airhorn. Then I realized it was him again.

In the same vein as the "Messing with Sasquatch" commericial, I started calling back to him.

I had him revved to the highest decibels. Then he started thrashing about in the swampy muck and grass below.

Then it struck me, the hell with the bears, if he comes after me I'm toast. The bears I can shoot, but Mr. Moose is heavily protected and I wouldn't even attempt to try and win a defense case with a DNR officer. Plus the locals would want me to hang for downing a crazed moose no matter what the circumstances were.

Thankfully it didn't come down to anything so dramatic. He moved down the river, and I hopped on my quad and headed for the truck.

Speaking of bears, or the lack thereof, that was what I had came for all the way up from St. Clair County in the wee hours of the night, sleeping in rest areas, and groggily heading out for a spontaneous two-day hunt.

It became one of those things where the hammer in the head was greater than the experience of the guide, if you know what I'm getting at.

Yes, after trying the guide's way on previous hunts over the past two years, I thought I would see how my baiting and setup would come off. Great move, right?

It wasn't originally going to be this way but when I swung by his rustic motel along Route 28, there was no one home. And me thinking he's already headed out, maybe I can catch him up on the hill, away I went into planning how I could employ my baiting techniques. I had brought along a connoction of generic Lucky Charms, a slab of smoked salmon (not all of it, mind you, save some for the baiter) and sardines in case of such an occasion.

After tooling around in the vicinity that looked familiar from last year's hunt, I realized the trails on a quad in bear country can begin to look the same for the unexperienced or somewhat unexperienced. I suppose I will qualify myself a little since I've been at it three years now.

I thought the spot I chose was a good gig. I was up on a hill overlooking the edge of a cedar swamp, where I positioned the bait in a hastily dug pit covered by three large logs.

But after darkness fell, I was left without witnessing a curious black ghost.

It would only get better the next day.

I caught up with Dan of the Paw Paw Inn and he agreed to set me up on one of his sites.

Here's where the hammer in the head gets completed. We would try to find bait site I had started the night before and see if it got hit.

I had marked it on the sometimes-working GPS, and after packing up the quad with the necessary gear -- treestand, muzzleloader, more bait -- we headed down the rocky roads in search of what I felt would be a direct hit.

Couldn't find it even with it marked.

We were both getting discouraged. Especially Mr. Guide who has mucho years in this business and a high success rate compared to my zero success rate.

He handed down subtle hints -- ones I didn't pick up until later when I was driving home -- such as "I have a bait site right here" and when we checked it, it "hadn't been hit since last night." Meaning the bear knows where it is and tonight could be the night he comes in for dinner. Deaf ears were with this hunter.

For some reason I was just determined to find the site I set up despite causing a ruckus near this formerly hit bait pile.

"I have to help get these other guys set up," Dan told me with a disgusted look on his face.

I apologized and told him to head on out, and he motored away on his white bucket-laden four-wheeler.

Eventually I did find the site and of course it was not hit. At this point -- it was getting on to the 2 o'clock hour -- I figured since I made so much noise off-roading on the quad trying to follow the GPS course, that I better go up the tree I was in the previous night despite the wind being a tad poor.

I endured rain and wind without seeing a living creature until the moose commotion an hour before dark.

It was a double-edged sword. Had I not sat in the stand where I was I never would have taken in the moose scene, however, I might have gotten a shot on a bear at the guide's spot.

According to Mr. Murphy's laws, I imagine if I called Dan he'd say, "That bait got hit the night you were there."

But I won't call because I don't want to know.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Another 90 days of craziness

I "officially" opened Michigan's 2008 archery season today. Oct. 1, baby. Gotta love it.

Thing is, I wasn't even on board to go 100 percent, which I found to be odd. Especially once I was 20 feet in the tree and totally getting into the moment ... the season, a flock of fox sparrows chirping at me and everything else that goes into bow hunting.

I guess it was the impending rain the forecasters had promised. Well, that rain never came, and I was so glad I didn't opt for the sack.

The early season is one I always see as a practice round for later when the rut comes in at the end of October and early November. And for this fuzzbudget, it usually takes that long before everything comes together: all gear is working, wind is being used correctly, stealth entries and departures from hunting areas.

Today was proof practice can make a difference.

I would guess I went up a knotty, crappy popple I used as my practice tree at least five to eight times from July until now. By the time I shimmied the much-smoother maple today, I had it wired. Even surprised myself by not spooking deer hanging in the thicket I was hunting under one hundred yards away.

Which gave way to a look at a yearling barely five yards from the tree that was called in with the Primos bleat can. (If you don't have one of those, I would strongly urge you to do so.) The doe came in on a string despite them -- mamma was with her but wouldn't come closer -- blowing at me, I'm guessing, 10 minutes before she came in for a look.

Pretty powerful lure that is, I would say.

I guess I've matured, wised up or watched too many Primos' "Big Bucks" DVDs, because where as in years past I would've jumped on that yearling, this time I was immediately uninterested in sending a homemade wooden lazer through her vitals.

And she still made me 20-feet high in the maple. It's a new deer we're hunting these days is all I have to say. But had it been a shooter I would have been able to shoot before I was busted.

The main reason why I think I was able to get in so quietly was because I'm now hauling around 10 fewer pounds with Summit's "Open Shot" stand.

I guess some dudes are unloading them -- and in the beginning I could see why -- seem unnerving with no railing behind you as you go up the tree.

All I can say is it's all in the safety strap, my friends.

Made all the difference for me. The Ameristep no frills one I bought five years ago holds you to the tree from above, adding a much-needed feeling of security.

Now I can't wait until I go out again. Less weight, more fun.

Let the 90 days of craziness begin.