Thursday, October 29, 2009

`Hey, he's not half bad'

Mac Arnold shot his first buck in three years with a bow on St. Clair County public land Oct. 26.

I just knew I had to get out into the woods the first chance I got with the rut starting to kick in.

And despite having worked the night before and only having about three hours of sleep, I was up at 6 a.m. and scrounging around for my gear.

What really got me thinking was how a friend of mine, John Breck, had knocked down a doe and possibly a nice 8-pointer who wouldn't leave his damsel in distress the past evening of Oct. 25.

The other thing that had me cranked up was how many deer I was seeing over the past couple nights while driving home from my job in Mount Clemens. Every night, and not just deer, but big ones -- both doe and buck.

With money tight and not wanting to gas up the truck, I decided the place to go would either be behind the St. Clair County homestead or across the street in the public land.

As always with this dilemma, the wind would make the decision for me. And since it was coming from the south-southeast, public land it would be, which was fine because that was really where I have been seeing most of the deer when out on stand watch.

I was en route to the location about 7:15 a.m., which by most experts is considered way too late but is actually the time frame I prefer -- just before sunrise. I think it can be more damaging to go crashing through the woods in the dark than to be a little more stealth when you can see, whether you have a big-ass headlamp on or not.

As you'll see, it really doesn't matter -- at least with me if I'm in an hour before sunrise or right at sunrise, especially when the rut kicks in.

I was in the stand and hunting by 7:54 a.m., which was right around the time of sunrise for Oct. 26. Shortly after 8 a.m., I watched three deer move 100 yards to the north and head into the thicket where I hunt this patch of public land. I get about 50 to 75 yards off of it and lightly grunt with cotton balls and fake scrapes made up with scents from Bob Kirschner, a Pa. deer guru. (The stuff works.)

After those deer passed, the action slowed.

I turned my attention to finding out how John was doing with his buck search via texts.

He was on a blood trail but it was beginning to peter out. But he at least had the doe.

I was going to leave at 10:54 a.m. and make it exactly a three-hour hunt.

And as it often happens, I was just about to drop down from my climber perched 20 feet in the air and there was a buck! He was right in my wheelhouse, and I didn't have the bow unhooked. I was totally caught with my pants down.

I grunted and grunted and didn't expect to get another chance at him when he broke back into my direction.

Then ... I got the shakes. I couldn't figure out what the heck happening ... buck fever on this guy? C'mon, he's a mere forkhorn or less. I thought I was calmed enough to hit him but the first shot I yanked on the release. Thunk! Into the leaves. But he didn't figure out what was up -- carbon from above.

Zinger No. 2 -- went just under him.

Again, I was willing to quit from pure personal embarrassment but then he circled back around and zinger No. 3? Crack! I hit a branch somewhere. At least this was more of a legitimate botch.

No way would I get another opportunity. Plus, I was down to my last arrow. Yet, he came back and stuck his nose into the scent I had out but he was partially obscured by a overhanging maple branch that still held its leaves.

I had already lowered my draw once and my arms were burning. I saw an opening and on the hardest shot of the four. Down he went from the famed shoulder blaster hit.

He wasn't a hulk or anything but after he was down I saw he was bigger than I thought.

"Hey, he's not half bad," I muttered to myself.

The buck turned out to be a wanna-be 8-point but only two points made it on the right side, so he was a 6-point.

I guess there's truth in the Thomas Edison saying, "Ninety-nine percent persistence and one percent inspiration."

OK, so I altered it a bit. Still fits this situation though, and believe me, I'm hitting the backyard range extra hard for next time.

(For more hunting experiences and stories, log on to

Friday, October 23, 2009

Just like the shows ... almost

Everything was perfect for a waterfowl hunt in the swamp.

Steady rain with a swirling wind and low ceiling to keep the birds in range.

Dekes set out in front of tall reeds and me slumped in the curve of a fallen tree.

And every call in the repertoire at my disposal: mallard, goose and woody.

Yet, when one of my shots was finally true, the Lab did not jump into the water, marking the fall and making the retrieve.

Hey, what is going on here?

OK, so I knew he wouldn't be up for that part. The best thing Rusty had going for him was the way his orange coat blended in with the grasses along the water. So it didn't matter much if wouldn't sit still.

I did mark the bird's fall and checked the surrounding area for an hour. No luck.

I was hoping the young pup would at least stumble upon the bird if I did not.

The worst part is the area to be reconned was directly on top of a beaver dam, making it damn near impossible to walk over. I must have ended on my backside at least five times.

But the search in the foggy darkness continued.

The bird went down much like the one last year with his head down and tail smoking like he was Snoopy after he takes a hit from the Red Baron.

Meaning, he is out of the cockpit and on the loose in the six-foot-high marsh grasses.

Without a top-notch, hard-core water dog, the goose will not be snared.

One of the high points, along with the great bird action, is I out-called one of those overpriced flute calls from the party on the other side of the swamp with my 25-year-old wooden OLT call that cost under $20.

Not once, but twice.

And the same with the duck call. But on that bird, I had to play the safety game.

To refresh any readers with what this is: It's when you go to pull the trigger and the safety is on and then you have to stop and take it off. Usually, by the time you get it figured out, the bird or game animal is out of range and you blew the shot.

Despite how this hunt ended, I'm not down.

I know that the past two weeks of rotten luck will turn around.

Maybe in a big way.

With a nice buck during the bow season?

A limit of ducks or geese some hunt?

Or a dog that has the light go on and figures out we're hunting, not just following the master through the woods.