Friday, December 30, 2011

Was that it?

Here I am checking the bait I spread around at the Sanilac County, Mich., hunting spot to see if it had drawn in any customers of the whitetail variety.

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

So did the three missile launchers, plus the two closer shots, I sent zinging toward the four does Thursday, Dec. 29, constitute the end of my 2011 Michigan deer season?

I'm hoping not.

After four or five outings at the Sanilac County dairy farm I've been able to hunt this month during the late firearms season, I finally had some customers prance out onto the barley field near the woods where I'm set up.

Right as the final moments of legal shooting time were ticking down, I opened my eyes wide to make sure what I saw was real: yes, there were deer grazing on the other side of the field.

The recent downfall of slushy snow made them appear like spaceships over a barren moonscape, just the way I like it.

Unfortunately they were on the outer fringes of the Mossberg 695's effective range. There were probably just inside 200 yards. When I went over to investigate where I shot, I quit counting at 180 steps and still had a few more yards to go.

The one doe hit the deck after the first shot and I thought I had connected. But the investigation proved otherwise.

What the Hail Marys did do was get them moving and closer into range, which was another aspect to my tactics.

On the final two blasts, the whitetails were starting and stopping across the grassy plain on the downward side of the slight slope in the middle of the field. They were within the 150-yard range, but in retrospect, I was only getting partial silhouettes.

As usual, the misses haunted me all night and into the next day and allowed the butt-kicking machine to go on. But what I did like is how I was aggressive in clicking off the shots and even popped through a window in the blind to brace the slug gun against a tree for stronger support.

Marysville Dan texted me after I gave him the sorry blow-by-blow report and said "fun."

But for me, "fun" includes also gutting, dragging and loading a fat doe into the back of the pickup truck.

With only two days remaining, I have written off all workouts and/or runs and will primarily hunt.

I will go down fighting to the end.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crunch time

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

Can't believe the month of December is already halfway over.

Won't be long and Mac's Top Hunts of 2011 will make the scene.

Most likely, it will be a top hunt.

This season appears to be another one-deer year.

Oh well, I have plenty of venison. I just like to notch multiple deer years.

In fact, I was thinking for it being near the end of the season, I'm feeling pretty frisky. In my younger years, I would be fairly burnt out by now and more apt to sleep rather than hit the woods, citing few deer being seen in the woods as an excuse.

Which does seem to be the case. But if you can find a good food source and get the right day, they will come.

One of the best days to go out in late season is on very cold day with the sun peeking out in the middle of afternoon. The deer will be more likely to move during the day -- outside of their more nocturnal ways -- I have found over the years.

Which is why I tend to lean more on midday to evening hunts this time of year.

Another thing keeping me in the game is in December I have permission to hunt a dairy farm in Sanilac County. Of course it's not the good side of the farm but it still has potential.

So I plan on putting the foot back on the pedal until Jan. 1 and trying to take a nice doe.

(Look for Mac's Top Hunts of 2011 coming in January on

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Two quick points

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

I just wanted to weigh in on the Michigan hunter, Jeff Kerr, who shot a buck that would be considered a "once-in-a-lifetime" deer for any hunter, according to a Associated Press report last week.

The 13-point buck was taken illegally because Kerr failed to get a hunting license before he went hunting the day he shot it.

In turn, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources seized the antlers and the venison, and now Kerr faces fines and a suspension of his hunting privileges.

My take is it's just plain silly for Kerr to have not gotten a license before he headed up to his grandmother's land in Lapeer County.

Everything I'm about is being ready for the moment a buck of that caliber steps out in front me -- from having the right gear to making the shot AND having the proper license.

Because I'm so grandiose, I wouldn't want to blow such an opportunity to be a star of print, stage and screen by letting it get taken away from me.

According to Kerr, the antlers would have scored a total of 182 points.

Whoa. Where's that baby in my hunting area? I do hunt Lapeer County occasionally. Maybe I need to find a better spot on private land.


I also heard of a fistfight between hunters taking place on Oakland County public land over a hunting spot that happened in November.

It was a friend's brother-in-law.

Again, just plain idiotic.

I know we're zealots at times over taking home our prized venison and trophies but that's just taking it way too far.

And the one hunter -- the brother-in-law -- had his 12-year-old son with him. So now what will the youngster think about the hunting way of life?

To his credit, the Dad was trying to defend himself and the other guy was a frequent trespasser in getting to the spot. In addition he started swinging first. In the end the father ended up with his face blackened from a kick after he let up on the maniacal intruder, saying "it's just not worth it, let's stop." Then after he walked out with the DNR officer and left his $1,200 Mathews bow still tied to the tree in momentary lapse in judgment, he came back the next morning and found it was wrapped around the tree a few times.

I had a situation this gun season that could have set me off on St. Clair County public land while I was out with my son Zac and his friend Nash. We evidently were headed toward someone's sector and this mature person fired a warning round straight out in front of us. I just had us quickly turn on our heels and head in the opposite direction, therefore avoiding a stupid confrontation that could have turned dangerous.

And to boot, I never saw any blaze orange anywhere from the direction of the shot.

We ended up having an enjoyable afterward and that's what it's all about people.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A rainy Sunday night

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

"Well, we got to hunt, eat deer burritos and watch football, so it wasn't all bad," said my pal Walt of Ingham County in a text.

I agreed, but I added, "I just wished for a better ending."

As light was fading Sunday, Dec. 4, I was provided a decent shot on a large deer at the Washtenaw property we were hunting on.

This was 10 minutes after five or six does came through just 50 yards in front of the stand and gave Walt a shot opportunity. He was pretty sure he missed. (Later confirmed.)

My shot was a little longer at 100 yards that I had to weave through trees. But the deer entered the cross hairs of the scope and I felt good after I pulled the trigger.

Boom! Once the smoke cleared, we saw the deer scatter but the one on the radar merely sauntered a few steps into the swamp.

Usually the swamp at this time of year in December is a crunchy mix of frozen yellow grass and reeds bent over with deer trails running all through them.

However, this year because of all the rain we have been having in Michigan, it was knee high in chilly water and practically impossible to navigate. There were two trails straight in front of where the whitetail was positioned and either seemed a likely route for a mortally hit deer.

I took to one of the trails with the LED headlamp on now that darkness had come and ventured in.

An hour and a half later and after a nice swim, I made it to the other side. No deer.

Walt took the outer edge search and also came back empty-handed.

We both circled back to the scene of the crime: hair and a slight tinge of blood was spattered on the wet grass, which was getting even more saturated because the off-and-on rain was back on again.

At that point we decided to resume the search the next morning when we could see more easily.

After stuffing our guts with spicy deer burritos, watching the Lions lose again and a bit of sleep, we picked up the search where we left off the night before and to what else? More rain.

Just couldn't catch a break.

This time I took the other route inside the swamp and despite getting another double-boot soaker, managed to not take a swim. But I would've gladly swam a backstroke through this stinky bog had I found that damn deer.

Another hour and a half passed, and we had to admit defeat. I grumped back to the Jeep, not really hearing what Walt had to say about directions to the highway, and told him, "I'll just use the GPS."

I was down but decided to do what I know best cures a failed hunt: get back out there and try again.

So yesterday, Dec. 6, I made my presence again at the Sanilac dairy farm I've gain permission over the past two years to hunt the late seasons -- muzzleloader and firearms for does. After talking to the farmer and getting the green light to walk across his barley field to the ambush point in a small lot of trees and then encountering a weird passerby who asked me from his truck while I was unloading if "I had anything going on," I found myself perched on a fallen birch tree ready to pounce once again.

I mulled the deer search of the previous two days and who the likely culprit might have been asking me if "I had anything going on" -- the actual landowner or the leasee? And then figured that was my last hunt there when I asked him if he was a helper on the farm.

"You could say that I guess," as he slowly pulled away.

Then I let up on myself, and decided I couldn't hear him and it was a weird question to begin with, "have I got anything going on?" Yeah, I'm gonna go see if I can blast a hole in a deer with this .45-caliber muzzleloader, that's what the hell I got going on.

Geez, some people. Hey, don't let the orange vest fool you or anything. I realize people should know who's hunting where, but how about: "Do you have permission to hunt here?" That would have seemed to have worked better. Maybe ...

And then I thought the dairy farmer seems to like me so I'm probably spinning a bunch of crap around my noggin like a rock polisher for nothing.

But some good came out of all these mind games as the north wind swept around my face and neck.

I thought ... hey, maybe I only grazed that deer and the reason he wasn't found is because he wasn't dead.

Now that's an ending I can put to rest. I mean after all, I have practically another month of hunting left.

Turn off the head noise, please.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Midseason review upcoming

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

This is fairly funny, if not bizarre.

Last night I had a dream that told me I should do a follow-up on the predictions I had made for this season's rut and what days would be best to hit the woods.

The thing is, my season here in Michigan was over before it started.

After cutting up a buck I blasted into after it mysteriously appeared out of the mist in front of my Jeep on I-94, two days later I zinged an arrow into a 7-point on Oct. 16.

The freezer is at a maximum level.

This doesn't mean I packed away the bow and firearms just yet.

I'm still out there on my days off or when the opportunity arises, mainly trying to help friends bag a whitetail, which is what I'll be doing today in Washtenaw County.

I suppose I've downshifted somewhat now that we're into December. But where at one time I used to shun the late season, I now embrace it, and I find satisfaction in going until the last drop of light falls on Jan. 1.

I would still like to take a nice doe, preferably with the smokepole, but if with the shotgun by the end of the month then so be it. I won't get that choosy.

So look for a more in depth midseason report on, another one of the entities I write for, later in the week.