Thursday, November 29, 2012

First-half report not so good

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

With what I consider to be the first half of the deer season -- archery and regular firearms seasons -- about to come to a close today (Friday, Nov. 30), I'm in the throes of one of my worst years ever.

It was bound to happen.

I've had three straight years of bagging a buck prior to this one.

At least today I got out, stepped away from stand hunting to do a little spot and stalk. I figured with the slight warmup, the ruminants would find little reason to move about unless I could bump into one.

And despite not having the desired results, I truly enjoyed myself, and isn't that what it's all about anyway?

I did want to give the firearms season one more go with the "freezer packer" -- my Mossberg 695 slug gun -- before throwing in the towel

I can say I'm not going to be skunked but with the antlerless deer I tagged, that might not be saying much other than it will be good eating.

Moving quickly into the next train of thought -- the second half of the Michigan deer season -- which is made up mostly of the coveted muzzleloader one -- always holds promise. I shot my best buck ever in 2007 with the help of my friend Walt, who drove him out of the thicket so I could get a clear shot with the .45-caliber Knight inline.

I remember standing on top of a knoll in a cut cornfield with a few inches of snow barely covering my pac boots as I was freezing and shaking so that I could barely put on the 209 primer. And just like a dream I had prior to that day, out came a large-racked deer from below a canopy of intertwining bare trees and the shot was true.

 Then we had to track him four fields over, which is another story in itself.

This year the smoke pole season in the southern zone will run from Dec. 7-Dec. 23, which is a little later than usual in past years. But I welcome it. I like a break in between gun seasons. It offers a chance to try something else for a change, such as breaking out the archery gear again or upland bird hunting.

This 8-point was taken during the 2007 muzzleloader season. Yes, that was a long time ago. But it did happen, and it can happen again. At least I hope so.

MAHFS file photo

In other recent news, there were rather exciting things going on around the state:

*  As of Nov. 20, deer license sales were about 2 percent higher than at the same time in 2011 since the 2012 firearm deer season opened Nov. 15, according to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources news release. It also reported nearly 640,000 hunters had purchased one or more Michigan deer licenses.

* Then, the DNR confirmed the three recent trail camera photos of cougars in the Upper Peninsula
were the real McCoys. The photos were taken in Menominee and Marquette counties by private landowners who wished to remain anonymous. In the two from Menominee, both were taken in October of a cougar wearing a radio collar -- one near Cedar River and one near Menominee just north of the Wisconsin border. According to the DNR news release, the nearest states that put radio collars on cougars are North Dakota and South Dakota. The cougar caught on film in northern Marquette County was taken in November, and it did not have a radio collar.

* A bill was approved Thursday in the Michigan Senate to designate the gray wolf as a game species, which opens the door for a potential hunting season, according to an Associated Press article. Senators passed the measure 23-15. It moves onto the House, which has a similar measure pending.
Our western neighbors -- Wisconsin and Minnesota -- already held fall hunts this year. Michigan is thought to have a close to 700 wolves.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Getting back out there

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

Midseason burn out.

It can happen and it did for this whitetail hunter.

The difference now in my late 40s compared with when I was in my 30s is I recognize it and take a break. Spend some time with family or working out and build up that desire again.

Strangely, the other day I found myself getting geeked while changing the oil to the Jeep in the driveway. In the distance I could hear gun blasts while the chilly north wind sent temperatures plummeting and whipped snow flurries off my face.

I was in hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, I had to work that day so I couldn't hit the woods.

But now the weekend beckons.

I gave plenty for bow and early gun season and just couldn't get the job done on a buck.

Starting Sunday, the final week of the regular firearms season will afford me an opportunity to do so and then usher in the late seasons -- muzzleloading and late doe -- both of which I've enjoyed greatly the past few years.

I guess I should include the late bow season in there as well but I'm apt to hunt that less than the other two previously mentioned. In fact, I'm looking one specific weather condition for archery: after a snowy night with layers of powder pulling down branches and creating a winter wonderland of tunnels. I love stalking deer when the conditions are like that. And it will be with the recurve. But if this occurs during muzzleloader I'd most likely opt for the smoke pole.

The connect percentages aren't good for me sticking one of my combo tags on a buck in these later seasons. I don't know exact figures but I'm sure it would be in single-digit percentages.

It would probably improve to between 20 and 30 percent for dropping a baldie.

But right now I'm pretty set for meat in the freezer so I'm mostly looking for a nice trophy animal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jason and the mighty 9-point

Jason Bosch of Sterling Heights took this nine-point Nov. 16 weeks after having received a kidney transplant from his mother Betty.

MAHFS photo by Mac Arnold

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

After years of being a lone wolf on the opening day of deer firearms season, I got an opportunity to be part of a camp and had a ball.

It also has its benefits, which I'll get to later.

We dropped six deer in two days.

For sure the best deer of the weekend is a story that was definitely spectacular. Something that has been missing lately on this blog ...

Uh, moving along.

Jason Bosch, the son of our group's fearless leader and property owner, George Bosch of Clinton Township, connected on a 200-something pounder nine-point and a real nice doe on the second evening of the season.

That in itself, would be a pretty good story, but wait it gets better.

See, Jason, 32, received a kidney transplant Sept. 26 from his mother Betty and is only now getting his strength back. His kidneys failed gradually over the years because of a birth defect.

When the action went down as dusk slowly approached at the Sanilac County, Mich., farm, Jason was able to peek through a small window of branches from his blind at the buck moving 100 yards out. On the first shot, his 12-gauge kicked up and bucked into his chin, so he knew he missed but was confident the second shot was true yet the brute acted strangely like a deer not hit.

Then the doe made its appearance. Already slightly perturbed at missing the buck, Jason was even more determined for the next go around.

"I said, 'I'm not gonna miss two freaking deer in one night,' " he recalled.

And sure enough, down she went.

After getting out of the stand and having some assistance from another hunter Paul, they both confirmed there was no blood or hair and began to deal with the doe.

Later, George was surprised at the headquarters -- the trailer in the center of camp -- that his son, a reputed awesome shot, hadn't brought down the monster.

"This kid just doesn't miss, I can't believe it," he said.

But hold on a minute, the story doesn't end here.

On Saturday, Nov. 17, we got into our positions around the farm and hoped for more action on the third day.

The day proved to be quite slower than the previous two with maybe the echo of 10 shots from the surrounding farms and none from ours.

I was planning to get down around 10:30 a.m. when at 9:52 I received a text from George, saying, "Got it."

I'm thinking at this point, "it"? Really? (There is a absolute wall-hanger running around the property that everyone is hoping to tag and make history.)

I wasn't even sure I had heard a shot.

So I responded I would check him out after I got down out of the blind at 10:30.

As it turns out, when George went to leave he turned around to climb down and caught a glimpse of a deer's white belly. When he walked over, lo and behold, it was Jason's buck from night before.

He had hit him a little back in the liver.

So it was good they didn't really investigate the scene hard on the night of the shot because he might have gotten up and headed over to the neighboring farm and possibly beyond.

Liver shots require a little more time of waiting before a deer will expire.

There was evidence the deer had moved from the open field and tried to hide better in the bordering woods, probably when the two hunters had initially looked for blood and hair. The buck had likely heard their impending footsteps.

The benefit of other than being included in this great event on what is one of  most time-honored  traditions here in Michigan was both Jason and George looked at me and asked, "You want him?" Minus the horns obviously, and knowing the lame season I was having at this point.

I was stunned and wondering if they were half serious or what.

"We just want to be helpful," they told me.

George had taken a buck as well the previous night to go with Jason's doe, and they were loaded to the gills with venison.

So the moral of the story for this grizzled whitetail stalker is sometimes it pays to be a self-taught deer processor.

Which is a skill that comes from only one thing: having experience from cutting up a few of my own deer. So even though this year hasn't been the greatest in the hardwoods for me, I took advantage of other know-how I learned in the hunting game.

With November being the month for gratitude, that's what I am, grateful a bountiful supply of succulent venison.

But surely Jason is grateful for much more this Thanksgiving season -- the gift of life with a donated kidney from his mother Betty and more time with wife Jennifer and their two-year-old daughter Farrah Grace.

And, yes, for more time in the field deer hunting.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A short anecdote

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

Here's a short anecdote that seems fitting for the way my fall hunting season is going:

There was some buzz recently in The Macomb Daily sports department about the latest Denzel Washington flick "Flight."

I butted in and said the movie seemed "repetitive" because the movie he just did two years ago "Unstoppable" mirrored a similar plot.

"He stopped a train in that one and now he's moved onto stopping a jet plane," I said cynically.

Both Chuck and Mandy chimed in.

"Kinda like Mac Arnold hunting stories where he goes into woods and then comes out empty handed over and over again."

 I laughed but I'm crying on the inside.

Of course, none of that changed today or this past weekend.

It was just another day of merely dragging my beaten down body out of the woods instead of a deer. (I'm nursing a sore back.)

Man, it was cold today (Tuesday, Nov. 6). I did a three-hour sit with a slight SSE wind and temperatures hovering at 30 degrees on the Sanilac County farm I've been blessed to hunt this season.

I did see a deer for the first time while on the stand in a week. Sadly, I dismissed a slight crack behind me because there had been a squirrel raising havoc behind me, in front of me, below me ...

Anyway, I decided to hit the grunt call and away she pranced, a doe, not a squirrel. Oops.

I'm hardly a prognosticator of  weather at the level of the Farmer's Almanac or The Weather Channel, but I'm going out on a leg and saying we will likely have snow by Michigan's Nov. 15 regular firearms opener.

Which reminds me of one of the last opening days I had at the old family property Arnold Airport in Croswell back in the late 1990s. I shared this great hunt with a buddy of mine, who also served in the Army about the same time I did.

It was his knowledge of survival skills that took me by surprise during that hunt. A hunt that turned snowy and in a hurry. If I remember right, we had 7 inches of snow on the ground by the time we packed up and headed home.

Where the hunt went backwoods was after I discovered my pal had forgot his hunting boots and was holding watch on the east side of the property in his high tops.

After not hearing from him in a couple of hours, I turned the corner only to see a wisp of smoke coming from the fenceline.

Puzzled, I went up to investigate only to find him leaning back on a log with his feet up against a fire and his high tops perched upside down on a makeshift drying rack.

No wonder I wasn't seeing anything.