Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Same Scoop, Different Location

image Almost 2 years ago to the day, we were restarting Outdoors with Dave Richey after it was hit by a nasty combination of bad luck, compromised security and internal error (also known as Operator Error).  We are once again doing a restart.  This time, however, it is on our terms and by our choosing.  Outdoors with Dave Richey is doing a slight name-change and moving to a new CMS (Content Management System) platform. 

Our new name will be Dave Richey Outdoors. Same words, but the the direction is better defined and wider in scope.  As, too, will be our new publication path.

Dave Richey Outdoors will be found around the web on a number of various platforms.  Some offering specific information, others augmented data for supporting our online articles.  While other areas will be more a communal effort using new Social Networking Tools.

Dave Richey and Dave Richey Outdoors is going .. hi-tech!

Over the next few weeks you will see a bit of dust flying around, but you will still be able to tap into Dave’s award winning outdoor writing on a daily basis. You’ll just get to do it on multiple levels, channels and arenas. 

Look for Dave Richey Outdoors on the following platforms:

Many more services and locations will be as time goes on.

Thank you to all of our readers who have faithfully read Outdoors with Dave Richey.  We hope you will continue on with us in our ‘new diggs’. 

We look forward to your next - real soon we hope - visit.

From the woodlot,

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Posted by ofieldstream on 09/16 at 12:34 AM
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Do Anglers Hate Northern Pike?

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It certainly seems that way. Fishermen seemingly go out of their way to avoid fishing lakes that are heavily populated with northern pike.

These fish, like carp and suckers, like Rodney Dangerfield, get very little respect. Which is a pity because these fish are fun to catch.

Mind you, catching little pike of 15 to 20 inches isn’t very exciting. They fight harder once they are in the boat than when they are in the water, and pike slime gets all over everything and then the bugs come visiting.

I’ve been spoiled by big pike. I caught my first biggie when I was 11 years old on the Batchawana River about 40 miles east of the Canadian Soo. The fish was 48 inches long, and weighed 19 pounds on antiquated scales, and even as a little kid, I suspected those scales weighed low. I suspect that big pike weighed 23 or 24 pounds but who cares now?

I’ve fished most of the big-pike waters during my lengthy magazine and newspaper writing career, and can remember once when Babe Winkelman and I were trying to be the first to catch a 30-pounder. We caught 28- and 29-pounders, but we never cracked the 30-pound mark.

Name other big-pike hotspots, and I’ve probably been there. I’ve fished most of Ontario’s great pike waters, and hit those of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec, the Northwest Territories, and several great spots around Michigan.

This state hosts some really big pike. Luck and skill play important roles, and like muskies, it’s important to be there at the right time. When is the right time? That’s easy: when the big pike are biting. Your guess is as good as mine.

Where have I found big pike? It may be helpful to determine what I consider to be a big northern pike. The minimum size in my mind is 15 pounds, and a host of waters are capable and regularly do produce northern pike that size or larger.

Manistee Lake is a big-fish lake, and we’ve caught northerns to almost 20 pounds from it. Squaw and Thunder bays at Alpena produce some fish of this size. Lake St. Helens is another good bet.

Carp Lake in the northern Lower Peninsula can be a good bet although I haven’t heard as much about it as in years past.
Saginaw Bay, especially in Wigwam Bay near Standish, is capable of producing big fish. Tawas Bay delivers some very big fish during open water and through the ice.

The Upper Peninsula has some tremendous spots. The most remote spot is the North Shore of Isle Royale, and it’s best as soon as the season opens in mid-May. Huron Bay near L’Anse is a great spot for some 20 to 30-pound fish. There aren’t many, mind you, but they are caught each year. It could be you. Time on the water, in the right place and at the proper time, is important in any search for big pike.

Big Bay de Noc also produces some trophy northern pike when the water is cold. Any water temperature of 50-55 degrees will keep big fish in the shallows.

Potagannissing Bay on Drummond Island is another overlooked hotspot. Little Bay de Noc, especially from the Escanaba River mouth north to the mouth of the Whitefish River can be dynamite during spring, fall and winter.

An old adage holds true with northern pike. Big lures catch big pike. My favorite fishing lure for jumbo pike is a large Dardevle, and I’ll use any color as long as it is red and white or yellow with five red diamonds. I like lures measuring about eight inches long, and keep the hooks sharp with a file.

These lures sink well, and can be fished fast or slow. Cold weather and cold water slows down a big pike’s metabolism. Fish any lure so it wobbles slowly, and occasionally speed up the retrieve for 10 feet and then slow it back down again.

Look for early weed beds, and fish along the inside edges. If that doesn’t work, fish the outside edges or near fallen trees or drop-offs. Work an area thoroughly, and fish deeper water but don’t overlook the shallows, especially in shallow bays.

A big pike is a handful. They are rough and tough, and although they may come to the boat quite easily, things change when they are 10-15 feet away. It’s then they race off for deep water. Be prepared for these last-ditch efforts to get away. Many big fish are lost at this point if the angler freezes on the reel or the drag is set too tight.

Trophy northern pike aren’t easy to find, but make up your mind to fish specifically for them, and experiment with lures and lure colors and retrieval or trolling speeds, and if you fish the key areas outlined above, your chances of hooking up with a big northern pike are good.

Catch yourself a 20-pounder, and email me and tell me they don’t fight. The little tiddlers wiggle around some but fish of 15 to 20 pounds or more will put a capital F on the word Fight.

Check it out this year.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/23 at 07:54 PM
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

What Do You Like To Read?

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I’m an outdoor writer, and if we base that on the large number of writing and photography awards on my walls, a decent one at that. I enjoy writing about all types of fishing and hunting but I always could use a little bit of help from my readers.

Send me an email at < > and tell me what you most like to read. Is it bear hunting, and some of the hair-raising pieces I’ve written about my bear-hunting experiences over the past 38 years?

Or, might it be bow hunting for whitetail deer? It’s my favorite passion, but I also want things to be appealing to you. I realize that it’s impossible to satisfy everyone, but with 55 years of hunting and some 250 ore more deer under my belt, I can write all day about whitetail hunting techniques.

How about salmon fishing? It’s still the big deal on the Great Lakes these days, but all isn’t peachy across the state. The Lake Huron salmon fishery isn’t quite as good as it once was , and this year the action has been good on Lake Michigan. Will it hold up or not? Let’s hope so.

Walleyes have ripped the top off the container holding the biggest angling attraction in the state, and snatched it away from salmon 12-15 years ago. Walleyes are easier to catch, taste wonderful on the table, and they match the moods of those people who don’t care to bounce around on the larger Great Lakes.

Where does duck and goose hunting stand on your list of things to do? Do panfish (bluegills, crappies and sunfish) rate high marks, and how about stream fishing for steelhead?

It seems that steelhead fishing (and catching) has slowed a bit from its manic pace of 15 years ago. Do you still thrill to the cold water tightening your wader-clad legs in the spring and fall, and do you enjoy the frosty nip of steelhead in mid-winter below power dams?

Fall salmon fishing in the rivers can be a hoot, and these tackle-busting fish can stir up a bunch of fun for anglers who learn how to catch them with bait, fly, plug or spinner. Hook a 20-pounder in heavy, fast water, and you are in for a long-distance fight that could cover a quarter-mile of river.

How about hare, rabbit and squirrel hunting? These game animals are what most hunters grew up chasing after. They still rank high marks among hunters.

Let’s face it: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy wing-shooting for ruffed grouse and woodcock. It’s easy to factor ringneck pheasants into that equation too, and to a lesser extent, quail during an open season.

This state needs a mourning dove season again, and even with a season, the nay-sayers would still have plenty of doves cooing during the day, spattering decks with their droppings, and scaring smaller song birds from the feeders. Other states have dove seasons, and their bird populations have not declined or disappeared, and it’s time for Michigan hunters to take some of the birds that we raise.

For a money-strapped DNR, a dove season could help. Studies prove that hunting really doesn’t affect bird numbers in this state, and most states south of Michigan have a season. The idea was soundly trounced in recent years, but perhaps it’s time for the state to study the matter again.

Most of you know I love muskie fishing, and I enjoy writing about this type of fishing—one man, one fish, who will win? In most cases, the muskie almost always wins. It’’s those occasional days when the Muskie Gods smile, and grant us a good battle with a big fish, and that really turns me on. I have never kept a muskie, and don’t plan to start now.

Do you enjoy my occasional rantings about how the Traverse City area is growing too fast? It is expanding in all directions except due north, and one wonders when and where it will stop.

How about my occasional pieces on the ethics of fishing and hunting? We, as anglers and hunters, must impose our personal code of ethics on our outings. We can’t be winking at the fish and game laws, and continue to feel these laws are made for everyone but us. People must study their own brand of ethics, and see if it fits in with those of society.

I spent many years writing outdoor magazine articles, 25 books on fishing and hunting, and 23 years were spent writing about fishing and hunting for a major daily newspaper. Few people would write to the editors and tell them what they wanted. Now, the only boss I have is you folks, and many of you do write. I still would like a sense of direction or I’ll continue to do as I’ve done for nearly six years with this daily weblog.

Which is to write about what I think you would like to read. I try to keep my daily topics timely, but some input is certainly welcome. Which of you is willing to take five minutes to write a note with your thoughts?

Bring ‘em on, and don’t be bashful. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t want to know.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/22 at 05:57 PM
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Monday Is The Target Date

Monday is the target date for the first blog under our new format. What you’ll find over the next month will be somewhat amazing, considering what we’ve had in the past. It’s something I think all Michigan anglers and hunters, and those from other states, will enjoy reading.

There will be a newly designed blog. As time passes, there will be new material on deer hunting. We’ll have someone writing on inland and Great Lakes fishing every week. There will be a fish and wildlife cooking column filled with tasty recipes for the fish and game that sportsmen harvest.

We are planning a new deer column that goes beyond just the hunting of these animals. We hope to give sportsmen and other readers a greater insight into these animals and how they live.

My plan is to have something on bears and/or bear hunting in the near future. A historic angling or hunting-related column will provide copy of local and state interest, and presented in a form never seen before on these pages. We’ll also have a new products pages, and much more.

I believe we are going to present a new and different look at fishing and hunting in this state. Kindly take a look on Monday, and let me know what you think. It will contain some ads, which are needed to pay for the increasing rise in cost of posting our outdoor messages. I promise my readers this: There will be no prostituting of content to raise money. Anyone who advertises in these pages know they are only buying advertising space. I won’t sell my soul to gain advertisers.

There also will be an easy way to relay your thoughts and feelings to us, and we need and are asking for your input.

The purpose of this new and expanded website is to provide our readers with the latest information possible. Stay tuned and thanks for your past support.—Dave

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/21 at 06:13 PM
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Updating Continues On This Website

Every website needs an occasional tweak. This one is no different than any other, and an upgrade can’t hurt.

The original site was much like this one but it crashed. The site was down for about two months because the person who hosted the site was in Mexico and wouldn’t respond to my pleas for help.

The next step was a new host, and that has been three years ago. What we are doing now will be to offer my faithful readers something new as well as some of the old. Every website goes through these periodic pauses while someone much wiser than I makes the thing over into the third generation.

This new site, if all goes well, will look much better than it once did. It will contain some new voices besides mine, and this will provide you folks with a new and interesting look at Michigan fishing and hunting. You’ll see something new, changes you probably never thought would happen, as I try to bring more great writing and solid information to my readers.

These changes do not and can not be made in one or two days but by this weekend the site should be mostly complete. It’s my intent to make this site a familiar but more complete and updated one than before. Obviously, my intention is to give you something you can’t get elsewhere.

Stick with me for the rest of the week, and I think you’ll be happy you did. Thanks for your continued support.—Dave

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/20 at 06:48 PM
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Website Coming Soon

An upgrade of this website is currently underway, and we want to keep you informed. The work on this new website upgrade should be completed by this weekend. You’ll notice a great deal of new information, and the bottom line is a greater wealth of fishing and hunting information for Michigan sportsmen.

Hang with me. I think you’ll find the final product will be much to your liking. Thank you for your interest.— Dave

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/19 at 06:45 PM
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Upgrade Is Underway

An upgrade of this website is currently underway, and we want to keep you informed. The work on this new website upgrade should be completed by this weekend. You’ll notice a great deal of new information, and the bottom line is a greater wealth of fishing and hunting information for Michigan sportsmen.

Hang with me. I think you’ll find the final product will be much to your liking. Thank you for your interest.—Dave

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/18 at 06:35 PM
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Feeling Great About Life

Today was a great day to be alive. The air was pleasant at 7 a.m., and it’s that little touch of coolness that brings out strong urges for fall hunting.image

The first of the autumn color will start showing up in another few weeks, and the color spectacle ripens like a tomato on the vine until it splashes forth in full glory. And then, as if a silent reminder to one and all, the color glows briefly, the leaves fall, and we are soon left with many months before fall color graces our lives again.

Today is the kind of day when I remove my Winchester 101 over-under from the gun safe, stroke the fine walnut stock, run a Hoppe’s No. 9 soaked patch through the barrel a few times even though it doesn’t need it. Hoppe’s No. 9, with just one whiff of this famous odor, is enough to bring back a half-century of wing-shooting memories.

I remember my first rooster pheasant exploding in my face from a Genesee County cornfield, and it rose, wings cupping the air, and cackling like some poor demented soul, and my shotgun barrel pushed ahead of the bird. I kept the barrels swinging, and down he came.

Close examination of that pheasant’s feathers, the bone-white ring around its neck, the glistening red head, and oh, those long barred tail feathers. This was a bird as beautiful as an autumn sunset.

Quick to mind came a memory of Fritz, a German shorthair pointer of mine, that was steady to wing and shot, and came with a snuffling nose that could ferret out pheasant scent like a Hoover vacuum chasing dirt. That dog could hunt for me, for the neighbor kids, and if a rooster existed, he could find it, work it into a corner, where the only possible opportunity for escape was to flush.

He and I were a pretty good team. He’d point them, and I’d shoot, and if he was of a mind to do so, he would retrieve. Most times, he’d lead me to the bird, and work off to find another one. My job, apparently because I shot it, was to pick it up. He was too busy hunting to care.

Back to the forefront of my memory was a dandy 8-point buck I shot on Oct. 2 last year. I was hunting from a pit blind, and it was a day much like today. Two bucks showed up, and there was an 8-point and a 10-point, and they began getting pretty wound up. Heads would drop, and together they would come, antlers clashing as they pushed each other back and forth. They kept at it for 15 minutes, and the smaller buck was as strong as the bigger one, and they raged on.

I had the chance on a dozen occasions to shoot the 8-point but kept holding out for the 10-point. The problem was the larger buck was quartering toward me all the time while his sparring partner was quartering-away. Both were wonderful bucks, and the distance was 12-15 yards. I finally gave in to temptation, and when they separated and both stood 10 feet apart, their chests heaving from the exertion, I drew, aimed and shot the big 8-pointer. He ran 40-50 yards before dropping.

Days like today bring back memories of many days spent hunting ducks. Those days with hard stiff winds, lowering skies, and a breeze with a bite to it. The ducks would come like feathered speed demons, screaming in low over the cattails before flaring up, turning into the wind, and pitching into the decoys.

I can remember the days before the point system began. There were ducks a hunter could shoot, and some w couldn’t. We knew how many birds we could take, and we went about our business in a methodical fashion. The shooting was good some days, poor on others, but there were real duck hunters in those potholes. If they worked a bird, and it passed over us, we would let it go and they would do the same for us. Now, it seems that it’s every man for himself and duck hunting is much the poorer for that stupid reasoning.

Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end, but sadly, many of them have. I hunt daily now, not so much to feed my family as I did before, but to experience the glory of the outdoors.

There were fewer anglers and hunters back then, more room to move around in, and sportsmen respected each other. Some of that still exists among the older hunters, but some young hunters need to spend time with an old-timer and learn about peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.

Days like this morning bring a flood of memories. And oddly enough, most of them are absolutely wonderful. It’s not all about fish caught or game killed, but it’s more about just being there to experience the day.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/17 at 06:30 PM
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Important Things In My Life

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What things are important in my life? Good question, but one that can be terribly easy and rather difficult to answer in what space is allotted to this daily blog.

There are the obvious: my family, friends and the outdoors. My wife is a rock that has centered me for many years. My children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are all very important to me for many different reasons..

We own three cars, and the newest one was manufactured in 2003. So, it immediately becomes obvious that my ride doesn’t rate the high marks awarded by other people. I need reliable transportation but fancy is not what spins my tires. I need rides that can carry my rods and reels, wet waders, and on occasion, tow a boat. It needs to be big enough to accomadate a good-sided buck with nice antlers for those times when luck and skill come together. I don’t fancy a fancy car.

Want a gas guzzler? I got one. The Suburban has 26,000 miles on it, and it has a part that needs replacing. The part, plus time and labor, come to more than $1,000. A simple poorly made part that costs as much as my Social Security monthly check provides. Is it any wonder that General Motors and the other American automakers are in financial trouble? It just seems unreasonable to me that such vehicles wear out so quickly, and it costs so much to replace them.

For most people, their home is terribly important, and that importance is doubly true for me. I’m 70 years old, and the toys of my lifetime are numerous. Such as, you ask? Well, I’ve fished and hunted for more than 40 years on a professional level. Having rods and reels for any and all occasions on the North American continent means there are many examples; countless fly and spinning rods, a bunch of bait-casting rods, and perhaps a dozen heavy trolling rods for muskies or Dipsy rods. Stack ‘em all up, and there are a minimum of 50 rods and reels, and even more when we consider the ice fishing rods. I’m not counting the tip-ups.

Reels. There are reels aplenty, and even more of them than rods. Are these rods and reels expensive? No, they are not custom-made nor are they terribly fancy. They are what they are—workhorses that have seen more than their share of use but they are important to me, and a big house is needed to hold all of this gear.

Waders are important for my river fishing and I have three pairs plus some hip boots. Hats are inexpensive items but important to me because my hat collection numbers more than 300 lids, and there is a fishing or hunting story behind each one. Some stories hold far more importance than others but 10 feet from me is a special hat given to me by some Report All Poacher officers. The story is important to all sportsmen in this state but it’s too lengthy to go into here. It’s a story for another day, but I look at hat daily and remember back in the day when the incident could have been a matter of life and death.

Is it worth a lot of money? The answer is no. It’s just a hat with a few words on it, vastly similar to those hats that promote John Deere, fishing lures, firearms, etc. However, to me the hat is priceless. There are good and bad memories associated with that piece of head gear. I’ll have to tell that story some day.

I’ve got me some fishing and hunting books and magazines. Many can be easily replaced and a few cannot. However, books and magazines have been a major part of my life for the past 42 years, and I can’t imagine a life without books. There is always a fishing or hunting book close at hand and a mystery novel on my night stand/

Locked in an impenetrable safe are the firearms of my life, and like many objects in my life, there are one or more stories behind each one. I have a pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 in .264 Winchester Magnum. I bought it in 1963, and once was involved in reloading. I once had perfected three loads—a 77-grain Norma, a .100-grain Nosler and a 160-grain Hornaday—and all three bullets would shoot to the same point of impact at 100 yards. Now, all these years later, this rifle can still shoot straighter than the guy pulling the trigger can hold it. It’s a memorable firearm.

There is a 3-inch magnum 12 gauge Model 870 that has faced down six wounded black bears with me under difficult conditions. It has taken deer, ducks, geese, wild turkeys and other game.  It looks like I’ve used it to beat fence posts into the ground, and it’s still as reliable now as it was more than 40 years ago. I plurged years ago when several magazine checks showed up in the mail box one day, and I bought a Winchester 101 over-under 12 gauge shotgun. The very first two shots from that shotgun produced a double on bobwhite quail. I’ve had other doubles with it but that first one was memorable because I was hunting with the late and great outdoor writer Charlie Elliott on a big plantation in northern Georgia. He was impressed and I was dumbfounded.

I’m surrounded by photographs of my twin brother George, who died Sept. 10, 2003 from cancer. There are photos of good friends with whom I’ve share many a boat seat, and those photos keep me anchored to the memory of them before they fished or hunting their last time. I think of these folks often because, in their own way, they have played an important role in my life. Good friends, like good fishing and hunting equipment, deserve to be remembered for their great and wonderful contribution to me life.

Money and fancy trapping have never been important to me. I made enough to provide for my family in a less-than-extravagant fashion. We’ve lived, we’ve loved, and we’ve lost family members and friends. Through it all, there has been a lifetime love affair with the outdoors, and having acquired so many wonderful memories is one of the most important things in my life.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/16 at 02:13 PM
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

How To Achieve Greater Archer Success

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Bow hunters are always looking for a shortcut. What can I do to make each trip more successful?

First of all, don’t expect every trip to be successful in terms of killing a deer. It won’t be, and besides, if it was possible, deer hunting would soon become rather boring and tedious.

I’ve come today with a list of things hunters can do to increase their success rate, but I’ll probably forget a few and that will make for another blog on another day.

*Practice shooting every day if possible. Learn your bow, what it will do, and practice often with it. Everything else in these tips will fall apart unless you can hit what you are shooting at.

*Hunting isn’t just from October through November. It should be a year ‘round activity. Of course, you can only shoot in season, but scouting is often overlooked by lazy hunters. Spend time in the field every week, and especially from mid-August through the end of September.

*Pick ground blind areas and tree stand sites with care. Know why deer move to those spots, where they come from and where they are going.

*Don’t go above 15 feet in a tree stand. The downward angles are acute, and missing or wounding a deer become more likely for many people. Those deer shot at nose-bleed elevations on the television could have been shot from 15 feet just effectively.

*Learn how to be scent-free. Above all else, hunt downwind of where deer travel. If the wind switches so you are not downwind of the deer, move before they get your scent. Wear clean, tall rubber boots to hunt in, and stay away from gasoline or cooking odors.

*Sitting still is so crucial, and yet many hunters fidget and wiggle around, making noise and spooking deer. Learn how to focus your mind and body into silence with no movement. Make a movement only when deer are feeding or looking away, and move in slow motion. Herky-jerky movements are easily spotted by nearby deer and they tend to create more noise.

*Learn to see deer. Forget about seeing a calendar photo of a big whitetail buck. Often, bucks are first seen by a flicking tail, moving ear, sunlight off antlers, but often the first sighting is just a piece of the horizontal body outline. Look as deep into cover as possible, and anything that moves in-between will be seen. Learn how to pick apart the cover in search of deer.

*Learn how to get to and from a stand without scaring deer. Each stand should have at least two entrance and exit routes, and mix them up. Go in one way and out another, and try not to use the same stand two days in a row. You must pattern deer; don’t let them pattern you.

*Study deer at every opportunity. Watch and study their actions and body language, and get accustomed to seeing deer at close range. Buck fever is a fear of failing, and the best way to get rid of that problem is to find a place where deer can be studied at close range. The more you see deer, the less often buck fever will set in.

*Pick a spot. Good deer hunters never shoot for the center of mass; instead, they pick an exact and precise place where they wish to hit.

*Always take high-percentage shots. This means taking only broadside or quartering-away shots. Wait for the deer to give you the shot opportunity you want. Don’t take the first shot a buck offers. Allow them to move and turn, and present you with the optimum shot opportunity.

*Always know what other deer in the area are doing. Don’t get so intent on the animal that you forget that other deer may be looking around for danger. Keep track of the deer, and one with its head down and feeding or looking at another deer is preoccupied. If the animal is in the proper position, aim, pick the exact spot, and don’t lift your head until the arrow hits and the Game Tracker string flutters out. Always use a Game Tracker because it will help you recover a wounded deer.

*Listen to your gut instincts. If you have bad feelings about taking a shot, or worry about missing, don’t shoot. Your gut instincts are always right, and if you ignore them, a wounded deer may be the result.

*Use your senses of hearing, seeing, and smelling. Those three senses are what a deer will be using to try to stay alive once hunting season begins.

*Believe in yourself, your bow, and your shooting ability. Confidence is an important part of hunting, and if you feel confident, you will be. If you dither over choosing a spot to hunt, forget it.

There are many other tips, but these are enough to start with. Master these, and we’ll consider a graduate course in the future.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/15 at 06:54 PM
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Knowing Why I Bow-Hunt

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It’s only about six weeks away. That’s when bow season opens, and waiting for Oct. 1 is becoming more difficult as the years go by. I look ahead to the opener with great anticipation and many fond memories.

I savor the cooler air of the autumn woods, and knowing that soon the fall colored leaves will cover the entire woods like a paintbrush, and then they will cover the ground like a blanket. Bow season means different things to different people, and there are many blessings in each season and each day afield.

For me, bow hunting means sitting in a tree stand waiting for a buck. Shoot or don’t shoot—that’s always a decision that only each of us as individuals can make. Chances are I won’t shoot in hopes of making my time in the woods last just that much longer. Over more years than I can remember I’ve hunted an average of 86 days each year for whitetail deer in Michigan and many other states.

So, one asks, what does the upcoming bow season mean to me? It’s a bonanza of fall colors, ranging from gold through orange, purple, red and a brilliant yellow.

It also means the musty smell of the earth getting ready for winter, and the pungent odor of a passing skunk on a foggy night where visibility is minimal. It means sorting out the soft rustle of falling leaves, and identifying that distinctive sound of a deer moving slowly through dried leaves that crunch like old corn flakes underfoot.

It means continuous daily practice shooting at different angles and elevations with my bow, and taking test shots from elevated stands and at ground level. It’s hard to count the hours spent shooting from a cramped, sitting position to simulate an actual hunting situation. This is a big part of bow hunting, too.

It means fine tuning my bow and arrows for peak efficiency long before the season opener, unpacking, checking and repacking my backpack to make certain everything I may need is there, such as my compass, drag rope, knife, walkie-talkie or a cell phone, flashlight, extra broadheads and a spare spool of Game Tracker line.

It’s said that hunting is 90 percent anticipation and 10 percent participation, and getting ready for the hunt is a major part of our anticipatory sport.

Bow season means more opportunities to watch deer and to judge their reactions to foreign odors, movement and sounds. It means watching bucks, does and fawns at various distances while they eat and travel. It means learning what movements or sounds should not be made while drawing a bow to avoid scaring deer.

October is a month of ecstasy, and obviously something I look forward to with a great deal of fondness. My senses are heightened by being outside after one of the world’s most wary game animals, and I live for this month and worship at the altar of bow hunting.

You see, I bow hunt for many reasons, and killing a deer isn’t the big one. I love venison and shoot deer every year, but the thoughts of tender venison chops and steaks isn’t the only reason I hunt. It’s just one part, albeit a big part, of the overall package. I pass up numerous small bucks each year, and would rather the little guys grow. I can always shoot a doe for meat while hoping and waiting for a big buck to show. Some years a good buck will show, and other years I see them but can’t get a shot. It happens!

I hunt October whitetails to avoid the people pressure of other fishing and hunting seasons, and I hunt because it makes me feel good. October is the loveliest of all months, and the chance to hunt deer during the year’s most perfect month, is a major reason why deer hunting is so important to me.

The hunt and the month just feels perfect to me. It’s a shame we must wade through August and September to get there, and doing so only heightens our anticipation level. You’ll have to forgive me, but just thinking about the archery season has me so geeked up it’s probably a good thing I’m in my office chair rather than a tree stand.

I dread the day when deeply felt anticipation is no longer there. That’s the day I’ll know my race has been run, and it’s time to cash in my chips. That is indeed a sad and sobering thought, but like it or not, it is as inevitable as the changing of the seasons.

Which is why it is so important to live and love every day for what the outdoors blesses us with, and for the wisdom to know what bountiful treasures we have and to use them wisely.

Possessing that bit of knowledge is a gift: share it with a loved one, especially a child.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/14 at 04:58 PM
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Greeting The Dawn In The Deer Woods

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Anyone who greets the dawn in the field is getting a good jump on the day, regardless of the season, and will most likely find game animals and birds moving about. Do it just right, and it can be a great kick-off to your preseason deer scouting.

I visited one of my hunting spots two days ago, and there was a comfortable feel to the air, not too cool but certainly not warm. It felt good to be a bit chilly, and I walked to a high hill where I could watch for whitetails without being spotted or winded.

The sun was still blushing the eastern horizon when a doe with two spotted fawns wandered by, stopping here and there to nibble on alfalfa. They walked along the edge of a nearby green field, and sniffed at some new green growth, apparently to see if it was ripe enough to eat.

Two bucks, both fuzzy-antlered with velvet, cut the corner of a fallow field, dipped down into a gully, came out the other end and disappeared into the woods. They were quickly followed by a spikehorn that had got sidetracked, and was now playing catch-up with his buddies.

The sun was rising above the horizon when I spotted a veritable gold-mine of turkey gobblers. Twelve gobblers were moving like a combat platoon, and they came across the top of the hill and crossed within 20 yards of me. I was sitting on the ground, knees up and Swarovski binoculars to my eyes. I had to lower the binoculars to better see the gobblers.

One bird had an honest 12-inch beard, and two had 10-inch beards, two had 7 1/2 to 8-inch beards, and the others were jakes. The sunlight glistened off their feathers, turning the colors from russet to gold to black and back again. They didn’t know I was there, and they passed by and headed down into an open field where they would be out of sight of a nearby road.

I caught a glimpse of some animal moving through the timber, and never could see it well, but it appeared to be a coyote heading for a place to lay up for the day.

I didn’t spend much over an hour sitting, and it become apparent the critters were done moving. I walked the edge of an alfalfa field where mud remained from an earlier rain, and checked for tracks.

One big splay-hoofed deer track was visible, and it looked two-thirds larger than any other deer track I saw. Buck or doe? Hooves splay out in mud, and that could account for some of the size, but it could have been a deer of either sex. I knew of one very large doe in that area last year, and had heard reports of a good buck as well. It’s always easier to think of it being a buck than a large doe.

I used to hunt with a man who claimed he could tell the difference between a buck and doe track with 100 percent certainty, and under certain circumstances, I believe I can too. But, tracks in mud never seem to offer quite enough clues to its sex, and I need something more to go on than a widened track in soft mud.

Was today a scouting day? Absolutely. I could determine where the bucks entered the woodlot in the morning, and with a westerly breeze, even picked out a perfect tree. I’ll have to watch in the morning more often, and then get serious about a stand once I know the bucks are using the same trail every morning.

I learned years ago, when hunting bucks in southern counties, that farmland deer will travel one of two or three trails in a given area. We sometimes had to flip a coin to determine which of two trails to choose from, and often the coin would lie to us. So much for gambling.

Preseason scouting doesn’t need to be a major investment in time nor does it have to be done every day, but hunters should spend time scouting three or four times a week whenever possible.

It’s not only an important part of deer hunting, but it can be fun. My wife used to sit in a stand before the bow season opener, watch the deer and videotape them. By early September, she would have the buck of her choice on tape, and she would later lay claim to it with a well-placed arrow.

She always shot the buck she videotaped, and that proves that preseason scouting, from the spring on, does work. And, it’s fun.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/13 at 06:06 PM
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Arguing With A Surly Reader

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A friend stopped by the other day with a friend. The other gent wanted to meet me, and have a discussion about steelhead fishing.

It began mildly enough when we shook hands, and we made small talk for a few minutes. Then, in a burst of what seemed like pent-up anger, he questioned me about my steelhead fishing.

“You’ve written that you have caught 100 steelhead in one day, and another time you wrote that you’d probably landed nearly 10,000 steelhead in your life,” he said. “I think both statements are a crock. No one can catch that many steelhead these days.”

Mind you, this dude was a guest in my home. I didn’t take too kindly to his ranting insults, and his thoughts that I might be lying.

I agree that he was probably right. It would be most difficult, if not impossible, these days to catch 1,000 steelhead in a lifetime. I also added that he must have missed something from both stories he had read. I learned long ago that people read what they want to read into a story, and then want to argue their mistakes.

“First of all, Bud, I wrote that two of us caught 100 steelhead in one day, and will gladly introduce you to the other man, who has a much shorter fuse than mine,” I said in an even voice. “ Call him or me a liar, and you’ll find a rocky time facing you.”

“But ... but,” he stammered. And I then told him it’s not polite to interrupt someone when they are speaking. He quickly shut up.

I explained that the 100-fish day happened over 25 years ago, on a cold and snowy day with lots of wind, and most steelhead fishermen were home or at work. We happened to find a big school of fish, and it seemed as it they hadn’t eaten in a month. Every orange-colored fly we pitched to them resulted in a strike.

We quit fishing once with nearly 60 fish that we had caught and released unharmed. We went for breakfast, checked another stream, and headed back to the hotspot for a second round. We were up to about 85 fish when my buddy fell in the bitterly cold water, got soaking wet and headed for the car and some welcome heat.

I envied him but there were more fish to catch.

I stuck with it, caught what it took to hit 100 fish, and kept only one small male steelie that had inhaled a fly through his mouth and into his gills. The fish was bleeding heavily and would die so I kept it. My hand on 10 Bibles on that one.

And then, the case of approximately 10,000 steelhead. I’m 70 now, and began steelhead fishing at age 11. By the time I was 15, I was catching between 100 and 200 steelies each year, and that was from the Sturgeon River between Indian River and Wolverine. Mind you, that was back in the early to mid-1950s.

By the time I was 18 in 1957, I was fishing even more often, and the fish numbers shot up to about 300 steelhead per year. Some of those fish were caught during a “temperature run” caused by Burt Lake fish seeking comfort in the cold river water. Competition? There wasn’t any.

By my mid-20s, I was fishing steelhead along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Favorite streams were the Betsie, Little Manistee and Platte rivers, and those rivers held lots of fish and very few fishermen.

It was really amazing, and seldom would I keep a fish. I would have six or eight 30-fish days each year, and always put the fish back. A quick, hard fight, and a swift release and no harm to the fish.

I began guiding salmon fishermen in 1967 when the spawning runs first began, and my clients cared nothing about steelhead. Everyone wanted salmon, so I’d give them lessons and once they learned how to cast, I’d “go check for other hotspots.” I always carried my Black Beauty fly rod, and I always looked for steelhead holding downstream of spawning salmon where they gobbled free-drifting salmon eggs.

Those fish were always caught and released, and I’d return often to check on my people and lead them to new batches of salmon. I guided for 10 years, spring and fall, and not once did my clients go home without a limit of fish. Not only was I the first fly-fishing wading guide in the state for anadromous browns, salmon and steelhead, but I pioneered this fishing and developed many of the tactics in common use today.

Whenever I had a free day, I would check rivers to keep track of the runs, and the best way to do that was to fish. There were countless days, especially in November and December when the rivers were full of steelhead and everyone else was deer hunting.

I could easily say I personally landed 400 to 500 steelhead each year during my guiding years, which would mean 4,000 to 5,000 fish during those 10 years. One also must remember the limit back then was five fish daily, and seldom would I not catch my limit. Again, perhaps 99 percent of those fish were released.

One also must remember that the big push by the Michigan Steelheaders really didn’t get underway until the mid-1970s. Back then, people who had caught three or four steelhead in a lifetime were introducing their friends to the sport.

High steelhead numbers held through the early 1980s, and although I no longer was guiding, I was still fishing hard in the spring and fall. It was great: I’d fish for steelhead in the morning, and bow hunt for whitetails in the afternoon and early evening. It was great fun.

Do I know precisely how many steelhead I’ve landed? I had caught over 8,000 steelhead by 1976 when I quit guiding. I know I’ve caught well over 2,000 fish since then, and if it hasn’t reached 10,000 by now, I’d be surprised.

I’d consider myself a fish hog and poacher if I’d kept everything I caught, but nearly all fish were released after a fast, spirited fight. Most spring steelhead are soft-fleshed and not tasty, and they don’t freeze well. I only fished for male steelies in the spring, and never bothered fishing for the females. I avoided hooking the hens.

Nowadays, with my vision problems, I don’t fish steelies as hard or nearly as often as I once did, and that is a good thing. Bowlers become expert by rolling 20 games or more each week, and steelhead fishermen become better anglers by fishing daily.

I courteously ushered the head-shaking gent to the door and on his way. I don’t know whether he believed any of this or not, and it really didn’t matter if he did or didn’t. All I know is that for many years the numbers of river steelhead far outnumbered the anglers who were qualified to fish for and catch them.

Those who could, did. Those who couldn’t, bad-mouthed the hot sticks. There’s nothing new about jealous and ill-tempered anglers.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/12 at 05:35 PM
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Idle Mid-Summer Thoughts

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You know it’s summer when the croaking sound of flying sandhill cranes waken you at daybreak. These big birds are noisy, and I know one woman who is deathly frightened of them, but why is anyone’s guess.

As soon as a sandhiil crane sees a human, they lift off the ground in ungainly flight, croaking like a bull frog with a sore throat. I’ve never been able to get within 100 yards before they fly off.

*My first thought was: they are legal game birds in some states. Why not in Michigan, but I imagine that answering that question would also answer the question of why people are so dead-set against hunting mourning doves.

*I wonder why people get so worked up about fishing for Chinook salmon at depths of 100 feet or more. It’s just plain hard work to fish them when the warm water piles onshore, drives the thermocline deep, and the alewives and salmon head down with the cooler water. The answer, I suppose, is that everyone would rather fish them in shallow water but in really hot weather, if people really want to fish for salmon, they must go deep to do it.

*One thought going through my mind is that more and more black bears are being seen within 30 miles of Traverse City, and more than one or two have been reported north of South Airport Road and northwest of Traverse City in Leelanau County. Benzie County has its fair share of bruins, and Kalkaska County has always had bears. The Cadillac area has a large number of bruins. I like the idea of bears near Traverse City although I suspect my acceptance is not universally agreed to by many residents. A bear was seen within six blocks of Munson Hospital two or three weeks ago.

*A friend just west of Grawn tells me about a big bear that seems to be traveling through a fairly small area. It’s a big animal at 350-400 pounds if the stories can be believed, but it’s living in close proximity to a bunch of people. Folks see the bear crossing the roads, but it seems well behaved and isn’t raiding bird feeders or garbage cans. A number of bruins are being seen near Mayfield and Kingsley as well. That’s cool!

*More and more people are using trail timers. I’ve got a Bushnell model, and it is producing photos of does, fawns and the occasional small buck. This is every bit as exciting as actually watching them from a tree stand, but it shows what time they come to feed. I’m going to expand my use of the trail timer, and check out some other locations. One guy I knows has photographed several big bucks, numerous small ones, and a bear or two as well. They can tell people what game is moving near their home.

*Granted, the weather is hot but anglers are advised to start watching for Chinook salmon to move into the Betsie, Little Manistee, Manistee, Muskegon and Pere Marquette rivers in mid-August, and although the water is warm, there are times when some fast early fishing can be had although salmon in warm water do not hit well.

Normally, the best river fishing comes in September and early October, but don’t discount the possibility of mid-summer salmon, especially if the weather turns cool with cool rains. We’ve certainly had plenty of rain lately. These silver rockets are a hoot to catch, and they do bust up tackle.

*Several inland lakes near Traverse City have been producing good bass catches. Every year about now there are some wonderful smallmouth bass catches made on Intermediate Lake. The whole Elk Lake Chain of lakes offers some wonderful bass fishing for anglers willing to pound the water for these game fish. Who knows, perhaps you will be like the man two or three weeks ago that caught a limit of four-pound smallmouth bass from that lake. Such a happening is guaranteed to spruce up a fishing day.

*It hasn’t happened yet, but each year during the dog days of August, some anglers troll Crystal Lake for jumbo lake trout. Not every fish is a trophy, but every laker caught here offers exception eating when compared to Lake Michigan lakers. Some of the fishing is done in 90 to 120 feet of water, and anglers work hard for what they catch, but lake trout to 25 pounds are caught each summer.

*My last thought of an idle nature was when the walleyes would start moving into Manistee Lake. It usually occurs in mid-August, and when these fish go on the midnight prowl, it can offer exciting evening action.

Trolling takes fish, and so does casting from an anchored boat. Wiggling lures work well, and this is the epitome of hit-or-miss fishing. Hit it just right, and you may catch the largest walleye of your life, and if you hit it wrong, such idle thoughts may be discarded in the future.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/11 at 04:59 PM
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Monday, August 10, 2009

More Musky Tales

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More Musky Tales by Bob Jennings. Published by the author, RR 1, Box 40-A, Switz City, IN 47465. $22. with Priority Mailing, and the book is author signed.

Jennings and I are a good bit alike. We both have a rather odd or weird sense of humor, and mine may even be a bit more bizarre than his.

Let’s face things up front: Humor means different things to different people. What makes each of us giggle, guffaw, laugh, roar, tee-hee, titter or say ”huh?” because we don’t get it, is a large part of what humor writing is all about.

Frankly, there are times I wonder where Bob Jennings is going with his stories. There are times when Bob Jennings doesn’t tickle my funny bone. That’s OK though.

Lucille Ball wasn’t funny all the time, and North America’s Poet Laureate of outdoor humor – Patrick McManus – isn’t funny all the time. It’s part of this insane writing genre that is so hard to master.

Jennings gives it his best shot in this book, and I applaud him for his efforts to bring some humor to the sport of muskie fishing, which is perhaps the least laughable type of fishing there is.

One goes out, cast his arms off (I am somewhat ambidextrous when casting heavy muskie plugs) and damn, I haven’t found much about catching these evil-looking fish that makes me laugh. Granted, I’ll crank up a bit of a grin when I land and release a legal fish, but I can’t remember ever keeping a fish so it’s certainly hard to laugh about that.

I’ve heard a few muskie-fishing jokes of the type that can’t be printed on a page destined for family reading, but by their nature, they do not count for anything here. To write rib-cracking words that make us cry because they are so funny is about as much fun as a self-performed appendectomy with a rusty fillet knife.

At best we can recall a few things that were some funny, for some people at least. I remember a buddy getting hooked high in the upper thigh just an inch or two from a couple of very tender parts of his lower anatomy, but that really can’t be funny. I mean, can you really imagine going into the hospital with one person supporting a very dead muskie dangling from one of the three hooks. He’s hooked by the top treble near the aforementioned sweet spot, and one treble is swinging in small circle while the third hook is still in the muskie’s mouth. It was up to your faithful writer to support said muskie while he tried to keep the middle treble at bay.

Trust me. It really was an odd and somewhat laughable scene. One person – the victim – was the only one who failed to see the humor of his predicament.

He approached the emergency room admissions desk, points down at his problem, and in as nice a voice as is possible when in such a precarious position, hollers “Help!”

People flocked around to see what precisely has happened to the guy. Someone wants to measure and weigh the muskie to see if it was a legal fish (which it wasn’t), someone else told him they’d have to cut his shorts off to get to the root of the problem of the extra appendage dangling from him, and he finally solved the problem while others dithered over what to do.

He grabs a pair of side-cutters, twists the hook so the needle-sharp hook finished its painful journey through his thigh, narrowly missing everything he loves in life. The pain causes a great gasp as the massive treble hook went through his leg.

He cut the hook off below the barb, backed it out the same hole it went into, and we sloshed some alcohol and iodine on the wound while he screamed a few nasty works, and then we went back to fishing with blood running down his leg. Granted, it may have been fun watching the hospital crew cut the shorts off this poor guy but I’m happy that nothing else was hooked. And, to make this story somewhat funny, we wound up catching a pair of 48-inch fish as a finale to another weird day of muskie fishing.

So what’s so funny about that story? Not much, which points out why Bob Jennings has to work hard to bring out a laugh from his readers. He used to write the end of the magazine story for one of the muskie magazines, and this book follows another book, Musky Tales.

Muskie fishing is just a bunch of hard work. Constant trolling or casting, ripping weeds off hooks, hour after hour, and once in a while we are rewarded with a fish. Once in a while Jennings is rewarded with a laugh. It’s everything he hopes for.

Muskie book collectors rate books as “pure” muskie fishing, and as “partial” muskie books, which means the book contains other things than fish that hook people in painful places. Muskie book collectors, and others who like muskie titles, are buying it to add to their collection.

You can too. And be careful when muskie fishing. You may wind up in one of my or Jennings’ stories.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/10 at 05:20 PM
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