Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Folly hunt

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

With one mighty step across the swollen stream, I attempted to reach the other side only to go splash into the drink. And it was a cold one at that.

As I sprung to my feet along the snowy white bank to survey what went wrong, I can assure you I wasn't a happy camper.

I saw the culprit sticking straight up among the ripples of water: a fallen branch.

"Was that what tripped me?" I asked Marysville Dan, who watched the whole event unfold from behind me.

"Yep," he replied.

I knew exactly what happened, that branch came alive, reached up, grabbed the tip of my boot and hauled me down.

But Marysville Dan wouldn't attest to seeing any such act.

It was a mere five minutes into the hunt after dismounting from the truck at the St. Clair County public land.

A wise man would have returned to the vehicle and put on dry gear but I had already slow-poked enough getting ready at the man cave and I didn't want to further ruin Marysville Dan's hunt. After all, it was the last day of the regular firearms season and he was without meat in the freezer.

So I manned up and continued on.

After about five minutes of ducking under low-hanging twigs weighed down from crusted snow, I decided to stop and relieve myself. Then I realized while going I had peed all over the strap of my fanny pack.

It was at that moment I knew I was in the throes of a folly hunt.

They tend to come around once out of every six to 10 outings in the woods.

But rather than get upset or down, I find a folly hunt uplifting -- depending on its severity because there's a difference between a drenched foot and dropping your bow 22 feet out of the tree, or even worse, and that's getting hurt. Eventually I find what comes around goes around and it'll be time for a hunt where everything goes right.

So I'm pumped to get a folly hunt out of the way with the opening of Michigan's muzzleloading season just days away.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Smokin' time

Marysville Dan returns to report he just spotted three deer, one a nice buck, on Thanksgiving Day. Hey, Dan, if you can see the deer, shoot the deer. Evidently, he never heard me say, "Pssssssssssst, shoot them, shoot ... "

MAHFS photo by Mac Arnold

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

A throwback phrase from my Army days seems applicable with the arrival of Michigan's muzzleloading season.

I had contemplated maybe giving the shotgun season one more go Tuesday, Nov. 29, while the family was still out of town, then the skies parted and dumped an all-day rain on the wooded plains.

Think this flooding will even mess with some spots of mine until the ground freezes, which then opens other areas that were once impenetrable because of muck and swampy waters.

There be bucks in those hidden, off-the-beaten-track places. And now is the time to do some nice and easy stalking through thick cover.

Which is why I so like the smokepole season. After being mostly confined to a stand or blind, it's time to get aggressive and go find those deer that once appeared so plentiful only a month ago. Now it seems they're either in freezers or in the next county.

What really happens (yes, many do get shot) to those deer survivors is they find solitude in locations us hunters haven't figured out yet.

Nothing will get your blood pumping faster than to be in total silence just outside a thicket and suddenly see a buck bolt in front of you mere yards away while you try to get a bead on him for a shot.

It's happened to me and I've had some success with it.

So now with this knowledge comes the anticipation of going out to Walt's Washtenaw County killing fields.

Along with passing on tips to Marysville Dan -- a newbie muzzleloader -- who appears destined to end the regular firearms season deerless.

Marysville Dan helps me out quite a bit with my troublesome truck and I really would like to get him a deer.

He will even have use of the Knight .50 cal, which I don't carry much because of its heft, but it does have a scope complete with many bells and whistles. Or he can use the primitive one with cap, patches and round balls.

I prefer the $99 Knight special .45 because it is extremely light, has a longer barrel and also has one of my favorite scopes on it.

It runs from Dec. 2-18 this year.

Should be a good season. Don't miss it but go somewhere I'm not.

Another reason I like this season is because the hunting crowd thins out in the woods again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kid hunts

Ut oh, here comes trouble: Nash, left, and Zac tagged along with me on a deer hunt Sunday, Nov. 20, in St. Clair County.
MAHFS photo by Mac Arnold

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

Taking youngsters into the woods on hunts: There are joys and there are trials.

One thing I was once told by a very wise woman was "don't expect to kill anything when you're out with them."

That alone will lift unrealistic expectations and allow you to enjoy the hunt.

Along with this is the problem of boredom kids will experience if there isn't any action. I encounter this plenty with my 8-year-old son, Zac.

Our house is notched inside a woods so just being outdoors or with Dad apparently isn't enough to entertain him now because he's running in and out of trees every day as it is.

So I'm in a constant battle against these conflicting elements.

But Sunday, Nov. 20, I did find Zac's best friend Nash was more into hunting and would probably sit still enough for us to possibly get a shot.

I may just see if Nash wants to go again while the family is out of town over the Thanksgiving holiday and see how he does WITHOUT the antics of his entertainer friend.

On the Sunday hunt, we were joined by Marysville Dan who I posted up on the eastern end of the public land tract with the plan that our contingent would slowly work our way over to him and possibly push a deer his way.

After seeing what I was up against, I decided it would be best if we parked it outside a clear cut that had rubs on the outside of it so we wouldn't mess up Dan's hunt.

I believe this was the right thing to do because just at dusk Dan had a shot at "either a 5- or 6-point."

He was pretty sure he missed but I insisted we look the next day just to make sure since he didn't have a light (which is under Rule No. 1 for evening hunts).

So we joined up at mid-morning, Monday, Nov. 21, and actually had a decent hunt despite Dan not being able to pinpoint his exact location of the night before until hours later.

Before so, we sat up on a ridge at the spot I call "the ravine" and we had time to shoot the breeze while being set up nicely in case a shot was presented as a whitetail meandered along the small creek. Despite a stiff east-northeast wind, the yellow sunlight warmed the woods enough for us sit comfortably in the crisp fall weather.

And as I said in a previous post, this is one of the benefits of the gun season, being able to spend time with friends and family in the great outdoors.

Now if only those kids would sit still and Dan could shoot straighter we'd be all set.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Embracing the arrival of deer firearms season

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

Why must the opening day of the deer firearms season be so anti-climatic?

At least for me it usually is.

And it was again this year. I tossed and turned the whole night before Tuesday, Nov. 15, finally giving up on sleep as the nervous excitement was just too tough to overcome.

I took the first two days off, which is what I like to do, but I can't remember when the last time I took a deer, let alone a buck on either of these days.

It was like I was saying to a friend Wednesday night: It's never a day when you have big plans that you score -- it's always after a last-minute decision to hit the woods or you're hemming and hawing on whether to go and then the floodgates spill open to fill your truck bed with deer.

I bounced around the past two days on public land in St. Clair and Lapeer counties and only saw a solitary antlerless deer, which was likely a button buck and in the same area where I shot the buck during bow season. And the only way I was going to repeat that exhausting drag again is for something pretty nice. Trophy nice.

Yet it is fun when the gun season rolls around because it seems like that is when this lone wolf hunter hooks up with other buds for hunts. The camaraderie is always welcomed midway to late in the season.

This Thanksgiving I will team up with my pal Walt for a gig near his house. Over the years we've had some amazing luck on turkey day. We're hoping we can conjure up some more of it this year.

And another cool hunt I have planned is going out Sunday with my son Zackie and his best friend Nash.

I was fairly resigned to let 8-year-old Zackie come into the great outdoors on his own. But the other day, when I was headed out for an archery hunt with all the garb on and the Martin bow in hand, I noticed Nash was enthusiastically asking if I was going hunting.

So today, I asked if he would like to go out sometime and was predicting his parents would say no. Instead his mother was extremely grateful because she has a long line of hunters in her family but no one at the present time to take him out.

Whoa. How cool is that?

Plus it'll give Zackie a little jump start to come out as well.

Long live the gun season.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A little perspective

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

After my last post debating whether the first week of November is truly the best one in which to bag a trophy buck, I only got out for one solid day over my weekend, which falls on Sunday and Monday.

On Sunday, Nov. 6, I went back to the public land spot where I found success back in October for a three-hour evening sit in the stand. And Monday, Nov. 7, was a mere 40-minute hunt as the sun set near my house on private land. Didn't see a deer then either but don't let that short hunt fool you, I've connected before in such a same manner.

But these quick jaunts are usually suited better for longer shots that can come during the gun season.

Speaking of which, at this point on the eve of Veterans' Day, I'm resigned to wait for the excitement sparked by the opening day of gun season, Nov. 15, and the next day, Nov. 16.

Since I shot that seven-point a little under a month ago Oct. 16, I haven't seen a single deer. Which is about how the season went last year -- I saw one buck and shot him.

I'll likely be on public land in both St. Clair and Lapeer counties for the opener.

Which is a good thing and also a bad thing.

Good thing because lots of hunters move the deer; bad thing because with all the hunters set up behind what appears to be every tree in the woods it seems like you're always stepping on someone's toes.

And first-day gun hunters are hungry and often ornery.

A run-in can leave a bad taste in your mouth so it's best to give everyone a wide berth until the orange-suited images disappear from the radar screen.

Usually I've already connected during the bow season so I'm easy.

Another reason to be happy for the advent of gun season is the Department of Natural Resources will set up a more convenient and closer check station in proximity of my house.

Why is this good?

So I can get the heads of Dwiddle-Dee and Dwiddle-Dum out of my shed -- which reeks to high heaven right now -- by taking them to be aged by an officer and then pick up a hunter's cooperative patch.

Afterward, I'll likely let the Ron the Taxidermist in Columbus Township work on the seven, but I'll finish the job on the three-pointer that did in my Jeep.

What's funny is the more I look at the seven the better he gets. He's not a monster by any means and would get scoffed at in a managed ranch setting in Kansas. But for public land around here, most of us would have locked and loaded on him, or in this case, drawn and released.

That is why I rather enjoyed one of the 32 nuggets in the November issue of "Outdoor Life" I ran across today while I was in the library, which was directed at realistic hunting expectations. This item was in an article titled, "No excuses this year: The rut comes once a year. Here are 32 ways to not mess it up."

To paraphrase, No. 30 said what might be a trophy in one area might not be somewhere else.

But I'm not gonna let this keep me from believing the long-coveted 12-point monster will be jumping out in front of my position Nov. 15.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Now is the time?

I call this photo, "Looking 23-feet down at the end of an arrow." Just to the right of that first maple tree is where I shot the 7-point on Oct. 16.

MAHFS photo by Mac Arnold

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

When I turn the calendar over to November, it's always with nervous excitement.

There also is some apprehension.

The first week in November is considered the best week of the rut, the deer's breeding cycle.

If a deer hunter is going to make it happen and shoot the brute buck of his or her life, this is one of the prime times to get the job done.

I often feel I've blown it if I don't end up with Mr. Big on the buck pole after the week has come and gone.

But really this is just a bogus thought that dances around inside my head to create chaos. I now banish this thought from my mind forever ... (yeah, right).

OK, if I was to look at the record, the ledger would come up with only a handful of bucks being taken during this week. And they were not brutes, nor in recent times.

The best deer I've ever taken was during the end of Michigan's muzzleloader season in mid-December in 2007. He was a nice 8-point with a 19-inch spread. Really I can't take all of the credit because it came at the end of one of our patented one-man drives I do with my pal Walt.

But, yes, I did make the shot with the .45 cal when the buck stood up and started moving through the thick undergrowth of briers and saplings along one of the small patches of woods on the dairy farm we used to hunt in Ingham County.

So there's another one that wasn't taken during the first week of November.

I've just returned to work after a deer hunting sabbatical. This year I chose to take the Halloween week off. I often bounce back and forth between the two weeks.

In my opinion, this is the better week here in Michigan. However, I saw nothing but turkeys and squirrel hunters at the spots around my St. Clair County home in the six out of nine days I went out.

I would have ventured more from the comfort zone but the Jeep was in the shop getting repaired for damage from the buck I slammed into on I-94 two weeks ago. (See a previous post.) And two days into the vacation, the oft unpredictable "Blue Bomb" -- the affectionate term I've slapped on my 1997 Dodge Ram -- blew a transmission leak and was also deadlined. I have racked up more than 500K in mileage on this beast and the rods inside the tranny were rotted.

Well enough of my sordid tale.

Will this famed first week of November deliver as advertised? Probably not for me. Sorry for the negativity, folks, but again, what's the record say?

And the laugher is that this year I killed a buck the earliest into a season I can ever remember, which was on Oct 16.

So it's nice to go into this week without any pressure or expectations. Maybe I won't even go out.

Don't bet on it.