Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rabbit sloggin'

Memphis firefighters Marty Cook and Todd Kania (in orange vest) hold up rabbits after claiming third place and the heaviest rabbit at the 2012 Rabbit Roundup in Richmond.

MAHFS photo by Mac Arnold

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

Marysville Dan, along with his 14-year-old son Andrew, and I slogged through the wintry mix during the third annual Killer B's Rabbit Roundup in Richmond on Saturday, Jan. 28, but the only rabbit we tasted was from the Francis' mystery chili back at the homestead.

I knew 10 minutes into the hunt I wasn't dressed properly but there was no quit in me and I gutted it out well knowing the first-place prize likely wasn't in our future since we got a later start than everyone else.

About an hour into the hunt I jumped a furry bunny, in fact, right under my feet practically, but rushed the first shot from the Browning 12-gauge over/under and missed again as my footing gave way on a slick fallen sapling beneath the snow.

Then a half hour later, I heard a shot ring out from Marysville Dan and his son's direction. I was hoping he at least would break our luckless fortune at that point.

But a text 10 minutes later confirmed my suspicions that our game bags would still be empty.

I had been trailing the rabbit's tracks I shot at and was feeling much like Elmer Fudd, "Shushhhh, be veweey quiet, I'm wabbit hunting," and was having just as much luck.

As usual, Rusty, my mixed Lab, was merely tagging along for morale support and was doing little other than occasionally getting on the trail and heading somewhat in the rabbit's direction.

The blowing snow was turning into blowing sleet and rain after two hours. I knew at that point we had to abort driving to another spot from the Lapeer State Game Area where we were at and just hunt on.

There could have been worst places to be so I remained optimistic while taking a break leaning back on a small maple on top of a giant oak that had dropped next to it. I was trying out some advice from a rabbit hunting pal of mine in West Virginia. Butch told me during our hunt of long ago to try stationing yourself on higher ground and wait to see if the cottontail would creep past your setup.

Of course, Butch had a team of beagles that ran like thoroughbreds through the multiflora rose and brambles.

After there was no sign of "Hoppy," I continued on after the short break to make sure we could get back by the 2 p.m. deadline.

Marysville Dan and his son met me at the truck right on cue. Despite no rabbits bagged, it was a successful hunt: we had fun, we had some action and everybody made it back in good shape, even Rusty.

Congratulations goes out to the first-place team of Kurt Esper and Marv Smith, who took in a cool $110; second place went to Kyle Jaynes and Pete Weirmier, $65; and third place to the famous Memphis firefighter combo of Marty Cook and Todd Kania, $40. Cook and Kania also fattened their purse with the heaviest rabbit and added $110 to their take.

And last but not least, the Killer B's baseball team made $310 in donations for its upcoming 2012 season.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Deer survey and coyotes

I told Marysville Dan I was all business for our Jan. 22 coyote hunt in St. Clair County, Mich., hence the camo paint. He seemed a little surprised.

MAHFS Photo by Danny Weant

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

No lead slingin' or radical thoughts in this post.

This one is more of the bland variety. So I apologize if this doesn't lift you out of your chair in amazement. Kinda how it is for me after the three-month deer season, which I think could be longer, but we'll get to that later.

The aftermath of these 90 days finds me recuperating and trying to catch up on sleep for the glorious spring gobbler season in May, when I hope to be blasting lead, er, Hevishot, at a plump tom.

I know one thing: I will definitely be bringing my "A" game to this year's festivities in what I would like to say is a calling out to my critics. I consider spring turkey to be one of my better seasons.

But the truth of the matter is hunting is a non-competitive affair for me really ever since my friend Mike P. died in 2006. It is strictly a Mac vs. himself and Mac vs. nature thing now. And over the past two springs it's been: Turkeys 2, Mac 0. So I figure I'm due.

Speaking of whitetails, I got the Michigan Department of Natural Resources deer hunting survey in the mail the other day.

This year it was easier to do than in past ones because I took fairly detailed records of each hunt -- where, when and what happened.

Made it out a total of 30 days specifically for deer from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1 -- 17 on public land and 13 on private land. And of those 30 days I took two deer -- one buck and one doe.

Overall, I noted I was "somewhat dissatisfied" with my hunting experience. Maybe that would surprise some people since I was successful, and I am grateful for what I shot, but I think it could be better.

Some of it is me, and I could likely improve the action by getting out more. That might be why I didn't see as many deer as I used to. Not as frisky as I once was and I require more sleep in my old age during the work week.

I suggested on the form a couple of things: extend the doe season into mid-January and possibly even until the end of January, and open the regular firearms season on the second Saturday in November so working people can have three weekends to get out into the woods.

I'm sure one complaint against this would be the reason I'm not seeing as many deer is because of the early and late firearms season for does. What I'm suggesting is not longer seasons necessarily on public land but on the private land where farmers see herds of 10 and 20 at a time. Possibly the later January season could be a late muzzleloader one. Sounds fun already.

One suggestion I didn't put on the survey but I could go along with is a one-buck limit with a restriction of three points to a side. Obviously I'm a lay person, one with his feet on the ground only, but it seems like this would help increase the number of bucks seen during the season and the size of them.

Those are a few of the ideas I was kicking around after filling out the questionnaire.

I always send in my form with the best answers possible because I want the biologists and policy makers to get the information they need to make informed decisions.

Now, if you send the survey in before the third week of February, there are drawings for a bow, a rifle or a muzzleloader.

That sounds like even more fun.


On the coyote front, I'm still without a pelt. But this season I've been out more than ever before for the wily critters.

Even though I still have a goose egg to my name I'm not discouraged. A lot of it is testament to how tough a predator they are to fool.

Or maybe they aren't as thick around where I hunt as I thought they were. But I definitely heard them howling and yipping at two of my spots.

From what I've read, this is when their breeding season is in full swing, so most of the distress calls aren't as effective as the mating ones. I've been throwing the kitchen sink at them so far.

But I'm starting to wonder if it'll be one of those things when I'm not really trying for them, such as during the deer archery season, when I'm finally successful.

Regardless, I'm out there with the wind in my face and having a ball.


Another awesome gig I've been forming an exploratory committee for is Colorado elk.

That would really be something if we could get it to see fruition let alone drag a bull off the mountain.

I've always had regrets over being an infantryman stationed at Fort Carson in the early '80s and not taking advantage of the practically free access to great hunting there.

Being a barracks rat doesn't lend itself well to making great memories.

Let's saddle up and see what happens.

Friday, January 06, 2012

The blind lives

Here's the doe I took Jan. 1 in Sanilac County, Mich.
MAHFS photo by Marysville Dan

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS editor

Unbelievably the blind I inherited from a friend came alive Jan. 1 and started to tumble across the farmer's field I hunt on in Sanilac County, Mich., as if it grew legs.

Wouldn't have been that big of a deal except I landed funny on my right shoulder when I snared it like a defensive back barely tripping up a receiver. After picking myself up, immediately I felt pain shoot throughout my arm.

So now the good shoulder is ailing. Just great.

It's only fitting as the 2011 deer season fades from the radar that I'm on the injured reserve list.

Well, it wasn't for long. I've already been coyote hunting twice since Jan. 1 and I have two other gigs planned -- another coyote and one for rabbit -- this weekend.

The story behind this blind is something. It's like that movie where the car tries to run over people.

Back in muzzleloader season, the blind so confounded Walt that "he threatened to light it on fire" when I asked if he was possibly bending the metal inside it.

The darkened December woods echoed as I roared with laughter.

It was cold, and the thing just wouldn't twist right to fit in the pack it came in. Another funny aspect was how I started thinking about it and said he could've just left it up since he was just going to "toss it in the garbage."

"Oh, now you tell me," he said in a disgusted tone.

I figured in the light the next day at the house I could re-bend it and get it to hold sturdy with stakes.

I was right.

When I mentioned so on Facebook, Walt wished me well with it as if he knew something I didn't.

And it worked great all the way through the late deer firearms season, which resulted in a downed doe Jan. 1.

But little did I know it was conspiring an escape and a double-crossing.

As Marysville Dan and I began trudging 300 yards across the squishy barley field, the wind began howling as predicted, making it an arduous haul with the blind -- which would NOT fold at all at this point -- two folding chairs, packs, shotguns and a doe.

Dan was being strangled by the one chair draped around his neck (another point made by Walt as we originally slogged across the field -- that the straps were too short in these dumb fold-up chairs).

So I took both of the chairs along with the blind and went up ahead toward the truck.

I was never so relieved to finally see the blue bomb.

Dropped the blind and my pack on top of it to keep it from blowing away while I started loading up the gear but the blind had other ideas. One of the 40 mph gusts whipped around the truck and away it went with me hot on its trail.

It's alive! And it didn't go a mere 10 yards, try 50 at least.

I had another friend say I should have just let the blind claim its freedom.

Despite me agreeing in part with that assessment, I have other plans for it but I'm wondering if it's wise.

With spring gobbler coming in May, the blind would be nice to have for bow hunting toms. Another goal of mine is to take a bird with either a compound or a recurve.

So far though the only blind I've been using for coyotes is the tried-and-true pyramid one I've had since 1994.

Much easier to deal with even though it's on its last legs, so to speak.

And besides the "living" blind is still in the back of the truck in its unfolded glory.