Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Claude Pollington’s Baby Is Due Soon


The Whitetail Wizard (Claude Pollington) says it’s been nearly nine months, and his baby will be born in the next two to three weeks. And he’s really excited about the upcoming birth.

His baby is his new deer hunting book. The title is The Life Of The Legendary Whitetail Wizard, and even though he brags a bit about the book, but he’s mighty proud of it. I had been after him for at least 15 years to write a book about his life and to share some of his bow hunting strategies and tricks.

I kept his nose to the grindstone, and pointed him in the right direction, demanded face-to-face meetings during my editing process, corrected his errors, and Kay did all of the prepublication lay-out work with photos and text to hammer this book into shape. The cover is shown above.

The book is being published on high-quality paper, filled with (haven’t counted them yet) about 200 color photos and just a few black-and-white photos, and Claude expects publication sometime about Nov. 15. The photos are courtesy of me, Dennis Buchner and from the Pollington family. Books will be shipped out upon arrival from the printer.

So what is this book? It contains much about his life, and some about him buying and building the new C. P. Oneida Eagle Bow Company, about his Buck Pole Archery Shop and Buck Pole Deer Ranch, and a raft of bow-hunting tales. It is more than just about him shooting big bucks on his ranch; it also covers his hunts in other states and in Ontario and Quebec. On these out-of-state hunts he has taken antelope, black bear, caribou, deer, elk, javelina, moose, mule deer, nilghi and other game.

He is constantly being asked by visitors and hunters who come to his archery shop to teach them how to accurately shoot a bow. He has labored long and hard for over 20 years to make their bows the best in the archery industry and Claude believes they’ve succeeded. To prevent anyone from misunderstanding him, he said he hasn’t owned the Oneida Bow Company that long, but he has sold their bows for over two decades and then bought the company in 2000.

One might wonder what his book brings to the deer-hunting table. There is much of what he write about that consists of hunting techniques that he developed years ago, and many of these tactics have never appeared in book form before. His wind direction testing method is worth the price of the book itself, and it works wherever the wind blows.

Some of his early life is covered, and how they hunted deer back in the 1940s and 1950s when few people hunted with a bow. He has hunted with a long bow, recurve and compound, and has over 60 years of bow-hunting experience. Sixty years of hunting deer means he has witnessed the highs and lows of deer numbers in this state, and I dare say that few people have killed as many bucks as he has. That’s no brag, just fact.

These days he preaches proper deer management, and on a ranch the size of his (1,024 contiguous acres), it’s not only necessary but vital that doe numbers be held in check. Right now, on his ranch, the deer herd is about one buck to one doe, something even the large Texas ranches have trouble doing.

He said he is long on teaching newcomers how to shoot accurately. He stresses perfect practice, and offers alternative methods for practice around the house. His method is much like shooting instinctively, and people who use his internal red-dot sight (legal in Michigan and in most but not all states) can learn to shoot far better than they ever dreamed possible.

The book covers Pollington’s life, buying the archery business, how to learn to shoot with great accuracy, hunting the rut, scoring live big bucks in the field, and much more. It is literally filled from cover to cover with color photos of live (and a few dead) deer. The book is loaded with solid how-to information from his 60+ years of deer-hunting experience.

He is selling two different books. Both have the same internal content with one exception. The limited edition of 250 numbered and signed copies has a limitation page and the paperback does not. The limited edition is a hardbound book.

Books are available by sending checks payable to Claude Pollington.
Order from Buck Pole Archery Shop, 20669 30th Avenue, Marion, MI 49665. Phone (231) 743-2427 and ask for Lori for credit card orders or for in-store sales. The price for the paperback edition is $35 postpaid. The limited edition copies are numbered and signed by him, and will sell for $110 postpaid.

More than half of the limited edition books have already been ordered, and it’s expected this printing of 250 numbered and signed copies will be sold out by the time the books are available to the public.

He thanks people for their patience. This book, from beginning to end, will have been nine months. It’s no wonder The Whitetail Wizard calls it his baby.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/31 at 06:51 PM
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Old Ways Not Always The Best Ways


The firearm deer season will open in 16 days, and some hunters still haven’t learned their lessons. Many will sit on the same stump, along the same runway, as they did 10, 15 or 20 years ago. It’s difficult for many sportsmen to break thoseir old habits, and some deer hunters never try. It becomes a tradition to again hunt where a buck was killed sometime in the far distant past.

They often wonder: If it was good 20 years ago, it will be a good spot now. Won’t it?

Maybe yes and maybe no. That tradition of returning, year after year, to the same spot has probably saved the life of more bucks than poor shooting or a lack of preseason scouting.

Sadly, clinging to a traditional spot, even when it no longer is hot, is a lesson in frustration. It also leads to fiery claims by skunked hunters that the Department of Natural Resources’ reports of abundant whitetail numbers are inflated. That’’s hardly an argument the past few years, especially in Region II where numbers are way down.

Perhaps this season is the time to cast aside the traditional old haunts, and think about trying a new area. Too many people never realize that food and habitat conditions can and do change, and if the landowner doesn’t do something to make the land produce more food and offer more cover, the deer will move on. It’s as simple as that.

Deer are animals of farmland and woodland. Granted, some deer live in deep forest and many live on farms, and that’s a fact of life in this state.

If you agree that a new hunting location should be tried, where should hunters start in their search for a new spot to try their luck or skill?

Hunters can start with the DNR. They keep track of deer trends, and know which counties have the highest deer numbers and which ones produce the largest deer. The county extension agent often deals with farmers and other landowners, and they also can help.

Determine if you want to hunt the Upper or Lower Peninsula, but if you’ve read hunting reports elsewhere about deer hunting prospects, the U.P. is not the place to go. The area with the most deer is south of an east-west line from Bay City to Grand Rapids.

Start asking questions. Learn which counties produce big bucks and lots of deer, and learn why deer numbers are high in such areas. Determine the availability of state or federal lands nearby, but both state and federal land is quite sparse and over-hunted in the southern Lower Peninsula.

Spend time scouting two or three different areas. Determine which ones offer the best combination of land, cover, deer foods, bedding cover and hunter access. Walk around the land, and check for well-used deer trails leading from bedding to feeding areas and back.

Look for buck rubs and deer scrapes now. Check barbed wire fences for bits of hair that indicate deer passing through the area.

Talk with nearby landowners to determine their idea of hunting pressure. Often, in agricultural areas, the major hunting pressure is from the landowner and his or her family and close friends.

Consider the possibility of leasing hunting rights. Fees vary depending on length of the lease, property size, whether it is ideal or marginal deer habitat, and what it offers the hunter.

No one owes today’s sportsman anything in terms of hunting private property. It’s a never-ending learning process to determine where to hunt on private propertu.

Public lands feature too many hunters in narrowly confined areas, and the hunting pressure is too high. Food supplies are far better on private land than state or federal lands. Private property holds deer, and, in many areas, it supports more whitetails than public land. For this reason it’s easy to understand why more people lease hunting land even though the price of leasing acreage is rising.

Whether a hunter leases private land, hunts on public land, or manages to wangle an invitation from a landowner, scouting is a never-ending problem. Hunters who don’t scout old land or new land run a major risk of not being successful.

Knowing what lies over the next ridge and why deer travel one trail and not another is why some sportsmen bag whitetail bucks year after year, and why some sportsmen never tie their tag to the rack of a good buck.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/30 at 06:50 PM
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Monday, October 29, 2007

This Buck Was A Shooter


He wasn’t huge but had good mass wrapped up into a basic 8-point frame with long tines and an overall gross score of perhaps 130 to 135 points.

There are times when I decide ahead of time to shoot a buck. There also are days when my mind is made up to just study the deer, see how they travel and enjoy sitting in a ground blind or tree stand. On the occasional day, if the right deer shows up, I make an instantaneous decision to shoot or not shoot.

I was sitting out in a tall pine and was ambivalent about whether to shoot or not, and it all depended on whether a good buck put in an appearance. Sometimes I will go days on end without seeing a good buck, and other times, the woods seem to be crawling with them but such times occur very seldom.

A buck came across a small field, heading in my direction, and I knew from past experiences that if he stayed on course, he would pass under my stand and offer a quartering-away shot at close range.

Some Irish guy—by the name of Doyle, Murphy or something similar to that—has developed a bad reputation for messing things up. Little did I know he would be riding my tree stand tonight with me.

Two does and a trio of fawns came out of nearby heavy cover, and headed my way. They appeared to be on a collision course with the 9-pointer. Sure enough, there was a gathering of the deer clan behind my tree as the five does and fawns and the single buck moved out in front of my tree to mill around.

I tried to pay the most attention to the buck and what he was doing, but it became necessary to watch the does as well. Many of us have become so intent on shooting a buck that we forget the antlerless deer standing nearby, and a doe or fawn steps in front of the arrow intended for a buck.

The buck stood, upright and motionless, and quartering toward me from a 10 o’clock position. The wind was blowing from the buck past me, and the does and fawns seemed willing to mill around before moving on.

I shoot bucks that are broadside or quartering away, and have learned over many years to wait for one of these shots. If it doesn’t present itself, you wait. More deer are lost because of sloppy shooting and shots taken at a low-percentage angle, and the result is a wounded deer. It’s far better to wait for the shot you want.

The buck turned as it saw a small buck in the distance, and opened up the angle I wanted, but just as I began my draw, the buck turned back and presented a straight going-away shot. It’s another shot I won’t take.

One of the does walked past the buck, and he hooked at her, and she shied away. A doe fawn came up on the other side of the buck, and one hard look sent her scampering away.

The buck turned again, and quartered toward me from a different angle. He offered every possible low-percentage shot there was, but wouldn’t turn and open up his chest cavity.

Bow hunters with very little experience should consider the wisdom of the following statement: Never take a shot the buck (or doe) offers; wait for the shot you want or don’t shoot. It’s simple advice but many people count on luck rather than skill to put the arrow in the right spot.

Patience is a virtue, and none are more noble than waiting for a killing shot to offer itself, and then being capable of putting the arrow where it must go. The patience required to sit like a bird-dog on point, and wait and wait for a deer to turn must be experienced.

Hunters need self control to wait out a buck. These deer stuck around within easy bow range for nearly an hour. Twice the buck offered a good shot but he held that position for only a second or two, and it’s impossible for anyone to stay at full draw for 60 minutes.

Each time he got to that magic spot, he would spin and swipe at a doe or fawn that had come too close. Finally he turned, and as I came to full draw, a doe walked up and whispered in his ear.

He stood, as still as a mannequin, and she stood next to him. I slowly eased the bow back down and watched. Soon, the buck and doe turned 90 degrees as if they were dance partners, and walked off side-by-side and directly away from me.

There would be no shot taken this night. The deer had again won the eternal struggle between hunter and hunted, and on this night, they didn’t know anyone was around.

There will be another night, and we’ll see how that it plays out. Any hunt with a buck in front of a bow hunter is a night to cherish ... even if we never get the shot we want.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/29 at 08:01 PM
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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Remembering My Home River

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A person’s home river is something very special. It’s where we go to get the business monkey off my back, clear the cobwebs from our brain, and it’s a spot where catching fish is less important than just being there.

My first visit to Cheboygan County’s Sturgeon River was in 1951. Me and Bob Swarthout of Clio were neighbors, and we both suffered from asthma and hay fever. Our parents discussed the mutual problem, and what we wanted to do was go up north and away from all the summer pollen, and camp on the river.

Two kids—me at 11 and Bob at 9—to camp out all summer. We would be responsible to ourselves and to each other, and that meant we had to cook our own meals, wash our own clothes, take a bath in the frigid water of the river, and not get into trouble. The latter would have been difficult in those times when we had no transportation. We lived like two hermits sharing a tent, studying the stars at night and listening to the coyotes howling.

Scared? Not us, We thrived on the outdoor experiences, and we learned by doing things. We learned which dead and down timber would work best, how to store dry kindling where it wouldn’t get wet during a summer storm, and we learned the wisdom of building a nice fire at night but it was never a big one, and we never built a fire when the winds were high and the woods as dry as tinder.

The best thing we had was our independence, the opportunity to fish every day, and we were breathing normal once we escaped the pollen of southern Michigan. Our campsite was down an old two-track that was largely grown over in those days and no one ever bothered us because only one person knew where we were.

Camp sat high atop a sandy hill upstream of the White River bridge near Indian River. Our tent, lean-to for our cook stove, and almost everything we owned sat near the edge that dropped off 100 feet down a steep sand bank to the river. A cold spring bubbled out of the ground and ran into the river, and we kept our pop and perishables there in waterproof containers, and it was a bit of a hike to get things but everything stayed cold.

We learned what happened when we aired out our sleeping bags, forgot them for a few hours, and they were still outside when a rainstorm swept through. We learned not to leave uneaten food outdoors because the raccoons would eat what would have been our lunch the next day. We drank water from the river, and never suffered from giardia (beaver fever) and had never heard of such water-borne diseases.

Bob liked the stretch of river from camp down to the old Red Bridge on White Road. My favorite stretch was from White Road downstream a mile. It made for a longer walk for me than for him, and we took precautions not to be seen coming out of the woods. No one walked back to our camp site, and that’s how we wanted it.

Those were idyllic days. We fished when we wanted to and puttered around camp. The late George Yontz of Wolverine owned Hillside Camp, several miles south of White Road on old US-27. He’d check on us about once a week, and once in a while when we felt like a good walk, we go to check on him. He was one man who was directly responsible for me learning how to catch steelhead.

“Kid,” he said, “you want to catch steelhead, fish near bottom and in the tail-out of the pool. That’s where the fish hold. If you’re not losing hooks and split-shot, you’re not fishing properly. If you can catch Sturgeon River steelhead, you’ll be able to catch them in any river.”

He was right, of course, and it took me two years to learn just how to do it. The lake-run rainbow trout came from Burt Lake during the summer months when the lake water got too warm for them, and those summer-run or temperature-run fish ranged from two to six pounds. They fought hard, especially on light line and in the Sturgeon’s fast water, and we caught a good many of those fish.

Thinking back to my home river, as I’ve done today while recuperating from the flu or cold or whatever my wife and I have had, has been good therapy. I’ve pretty much stayed inside, looked at the brilliant sunlight filtering through the few remaining maple leaves, and took myself for a mind-trip down memory lane.

That period of time lasted from age 11 to 18, and we spent every summer taking care of ourselves. We had no parents watching over us, and we never got in trouble. We learned how to be resourceful, manage what little money we had, and how to fish one of the state’s toughest trout streams.

Now, just 50 years since my last teen-age summer on the river, I fondly remember those summer days when two boys grew to be men, learned how to care for ourselves and each other, and do it in a civilized way. It’s rather a shame that the innocence of that era hasn’t lasted as long as my memories.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/28 at 10:24 AM
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Beautiful Day, Rotten Mood


Missing a day of deer hunting is worse than taking a beating. It makes me crabby, irritable and downright obnoxious to some people … including myself.

It began the night before last but I hung tough. The sore throat, stopped-up nose, sinus congestion, ache all over feeling, and the chilblains and a few other old ailments like consumption or whatever it was, dropped on my head like a bad habit.

Mind you, the idea of dealing with a bad case of the punies isn’t my idea of a good time. I have broadheads to sharpen, install to install a new blade in my deer gutting knife, grab another spool of Game Tracker line, and shoot one or two dozen arrows to keep my hand in.

There’s no time for not feeling well. It all started with my great-grandson. He came to spend the night with us, and when he left, he was sicker than when he arrived. We didn’t think much about it, but when we went in and got our annual flu shot, and two days later we were both sick in bed. No fever but chills, the sweats, joints aching, and a general feeling of malaise.

Now, should I blame the little squirt who wasn’t feeling good earlier or the nurse that joked with me while administering the flu shot. I mean, one gets a flu shot to avoid getting the flu. So what’s up with getting what certainly feels like the flu?

I went outside today, did a few little chores, came back inside, felt like a bag of garbage that had just been run over by a south-bound 18-wheeler hauling hogs. I broke out in a sweat, which is something I seldom do, and probably smelled like one of the oinkers, and then sat down to write this blog.

My wife is in bed, and sicker than me, and I’ll probably be fixing dinner tonight. I’ll open a couple of cans of homemade Campbell’s chicken noodle soup (people say that is what sick folks are supposed to eat) and we’ll dine. I’ll nuke each bowl for two minutes, probably burn my fingers lifting the bowls out, and we’ll have a glass of juice and another Vitamin C pill, go to bed early and hope for the best.

The weather cleared this afternoon after 3 p.m., and it made me feel better for a minute or two, before it dawned on my that going out and sitting in a tree, possibly getting rained on again, and hunting in 40-degree weather didn’t make sense to me. I’d rather stay in tonight, curl up with a good book and read until I fall asleep.

But, there is my blog to write and numerous other details to take care of before I can allow myself to kick back, relax, take a hot shower and hit the sack.

We’ve just finished (I hope) fixing most of the problems that caused my computer to go down nearly three months ago. My Scoop’s Books is back up with some old and some new outdoor books for your consideration. Kindly take a look at the books and realize that good books make great gifts for Christmas shopping. And, if I don’t have a particular book in stock, I can probably find it. I take bank or postal money orders or people can order books through PayPal. Having said that, I still have a great bunch of books that need to be put up on my website.

Having said all this makes me even more tired and crotchety. I detest bemoaning my bad fortune of getting the flu and missing out on some hunting days. I’m rarely ill,, and right now don’t feel ill, but know that another day of sitting out the hunts indoors may not be what I want to do but it’s what I should do.

So I complain and whine a bit but no one feels sorry for me nor do they listen. It just seems so unfair. (Whine. Whine.)

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/27 at 02:27 PM
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Friday, October 26, 2007

Rutting Bucks Are Where You Find Them


Many things change when whitetail deer enter the rut. It seems as if everything a hunter thinks he knows about hunting rutting bucks can be thrown out the window.

My stand preference tonight was a place where rutting bucks have been shot in the past. I’d always see two or three bucks last season as well as several does each night, but I hunted tonight with high hopes on a northwest wind, and although my hopes were high, nothing came of it.

Not a deer showed up. Not a buck, doe or fawn. Deer were conspicuous by their absence, but a friend hunted only a quarter-mile away, and saw some does and a few bucks including a big one that was shagging a doe back and forth across an open field, well out of bow range.

I heard a buck grunt twice nearby in the tag alders but neither the buck nor doe put in an appearance. Some might question if the deer were winding me, but that wasn’t the case. I’m accustomed to playing the wind, and it was dead perfect for me.

The deer apparently didn’t care. A few grunts in the alders, and then nothing. For whatever reason, the same held true for other hunters in a nearby area.

One saw a young buck and doe, but they didn’t act as if they were ready for the rut. Another man saw exactly what I saw—nothing.

Two other people were hunting a mile away, and one saw two does and he guessed it was an adult doe and a doe fawn. The other hunter saw a spikehorn and a little basket rack 6-point, and both were well out of archery range.

The one thing that hunters during the rut can count on during the peak of the rut, and that is they should expect the unexpected. I’m hunting every night, and I know the tide will turn. It always does, but can be very unpredictable.

Other ruts in other years have proven the unpredictability of whitetail deer. Make strong statements that this and that will work, and the deer will prove you wrong almost every time. I’ve given up on making rut-hunting predictions because invariably they are wrong.

Tomorrow night could be as appetizing as a spinach sandwich, but it might be the night a doe leads a nice buck past my stand. Of course, it could be another dry day without a deer sighting.

It’s been a good season for the days I’ve hunted. So far I’ve passed up easy bow shots at 15 bucks, so I’m averaging a buck within range every two nights. I haven’t seen a buck in bow range in four days.

Look at it like this, that I’ve seen 15 bucks in 26 days. All provided me with a wonderful opportunity at 15-18 yards, and I’ve passed on every one. There is no rush for me to shoot a buck, and I’ve killed a raft of small bucks in the past. But, the last sdecade I’d shoot a nice buck or be content with taking a doe.

The hunting is obviously far more important to me than killing a small buck. I enjoy watching deer, drawing down on every deer that ambles by within bow range, but I know my preferences and limitations.

It’s become easy to pass up smaller bucks. Some years I don’t see a good buck, and that is fine. It’s not terribly important for me to shoot a buck every year, but it is vitally important that I allow some small bucks to live for another year or two.

That makes it all worthwhile when a nice buck offers a good shot, and a good buck with a fine rack is taken. It seems to add the frosting to my deer-hunting cake, and in recent years, hunting my way is much more important and satisfying than tagging a small buck.

What I do, and what you do, are two different things. I’d never try to impose my will on others nor will I let them impose theirs on me. And that is what makes deer hunting appealing to so many people.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/26 at 03:17 PM
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Know The Right Time To Take A Bow Shot


The buck was a nice animal. It was an adult 2 1/2-year-old with eight points, the beginnings of a really nice rack, and he wasn’t rut-crazed just yet. He may never experience breeding does if he doesn’t smarten up.

I was looking at many wonderful venison dinners. The buck came early this evening with plenty of light, and stopped at 18 yards and stood at an extreme quartering-away angle for long minutes. He was intently studying other deer at a distance.

Did I want to shoot? You know, it’s impossible to answer that question. I did as I often do, and came back to full draw. The tiny internal red dot settled low behind the front shoulder, but the shot would have to be precise and I tweaked my aim a bit more.

It’s too sharp of an angle, I thought. Too much margin for error. I held the bow back longer, waiting for him to turn. Finally the bow was eased down, and that buck stood in that position for several more minutes before shifting just a bit to turn directly away from me.

I continued to watch, all the while asking myself: “do you really want to shoot this buck? He is nice, but he isn’t that nice. Another year on would make this a really fine buck.”

The result was that my inner self talked me out of that buck until five minutes later when he turned slightly to watch other deer. I raised the bow again, put the internal red dot on the proper spot, and held it there.

If I touch the trigger of my release this is a dead 8-point. I laid my index finger on the trigger, refined my aim just a twitch, laid my finger on the trigger again, and didn’t pull it.

That buck walked away minutes later, completely unaware of how close he had come to getting shot. It was turned just right so I wasn’t looking into its eye, and it wasn’t fidgety. It was completely unaware of my predatory presence, and I let the buck walk.

Thirty minutes later an even larger 8-point walked in. This guy stood broadside, offering me an easy 17-yard shot. I aimed, and held the red-dot on the vitals for 30 second and eased up.

It was useless. I knew, deep down in my heart, there was no intention of shooting this animal. He was a nice buck, but still didn’t have what I wanted.

It occurred to me that I was having an identity problem. I didn’t know what I wanted to shoot ... if anything.

Trophy hunting doesn’t appeal to me, but after a half-century of deer hunting and shooting many bucks, shooting what suits me is important. And I can and have survived very well without shooting a nice buck. I no longer need a small rack.

I then agonized over trying to identify what it was I did want, and got no further down that trail before I realized that a buck was important but it was nearly impossible to identify what unique requirements were needed to satisfy me on this particular day. I also was certain that what I thought was needed could, and probably would, change from day to day.

It reminded me of a conversation I’d had 30 years before with a magazine editor as we discussed his future editorial needs and how I could help him realize those goals. He said: “I don’t know what I want but I’ll recognize it when I see it.”

My problem is quite similar to his: I probably won’t recognize what it is that I am hunting for until I see it, and then all of my motor skills will allow me to come to a full draw, aim with precision, and let loose a killing arrow.

I’m at some type of mental crossroads. I’m well past the point where I must shoot another buck. I’m not out looking for massive antlers although I’d probably shoot if that kind of buck walked in front of me at my preferred shooting range, but more than anything, outwitting a good buck seems much more of a personal challenge than just shooting a nice animal.

I once passed up a sure-fire, honest-to-goodness, no-doubt-about-it Boone & Crockett black bear on Vancouver Island. My guide and I belly crawled to within 75 yards of the massive bruin and I settled the scope’s cross-hairs of my Knight muzzleloader on his heart-lung area. I knew I could kill that bear.

But I chose not to shoot. The guide said the bear had a skull that would measure 23 inches, but no shot was taken. Why not, you might ask?

It’s simple. This animal was rubbed raw in several locations. All four ankles looked like he’s been wearing manacles. The hair was gone. One rubbed spot on his right rear flank had a bald spot the size of a Thanksgiving Day turkey platter, and another one on the left rear flank was just a bit smaller. He was, in a word, ugly.

I knew if I shot that bear the only reason for his death would have been to put my name in the record books. It’s already there in a different category, and I don’t need another entry to prove to myself or anyone else that I could kill a bear with a giant skull. I didn’t shoot that animal although I’m sure someone else did.

And I suspect it’s one of the reasons I didn’t shoot either one of those bucks tonight. The time wasn’t right, and whatever it is that I seek in a whitetail buck, just wasn’t there. Perhaps, both shots would have been too easy or maybe the reason was the challenge just wasn’t there.

I’ll probably never know what triggers me to shoot a deer. So far this year I’ve passed up 16 antlered bucks within 15-18 yards, and haven’t shot yet. Perhaps No. 17 will be the magic buck that I’ve been dreaming of, and perhaps it won’t be. Only time will tell.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/25 at 05:08 PM
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fight A Cold & Spot Some Turkeys


Aaaa-cho, came the sneeze, and then another. My day began with the sounds of silence other than the occasional cough or sneeze. The woods were silent.

There was no breeze blowing as I retrieved the local morning newspaper before heading for a slushy walk through rain-dampened woods. I paused twice between getting the paper and reaching the house to sneeze, and I decided to waste 15 minutes by going to look for an autumn turkey.

The paper was tucked under my arm, and i ambled behind the garage and through the woods to a short & narrow ridge. It’s here I occasionally sneak when I want to eye-ball a deer or turkey.

I eased up next to my wife’s hunting coop, and stood motionless. My body blended in with a nearby maple and the elevated coop. The sun, what little that could be seen, looked like the bottom half of an over-ripe grapefruit. The upper half was lost in the clouds.

Dark clouds, the color of soot from a hastily opened wood-stove, scudded across the sky. There was no wind at ground level but upper-level clouds were moving fast on their journey through the atmosphere.

The sound of rapidly jabbering turkeys came through like the clear ringing of a church bell. The birds were 250 yards away, and the busy sounds of birds on the ground helped me pinpoint their position.

They were over a hill and just out of sight. I stood in the dampness of the early morning, the wet coldness slowly seeping through my clothing, and listened to the wild sounds of nature. The birds soon grew quiet, and then they eased up over a hill and into sight, and I had to pinch my nostrils to keep from sneezing and spooking the birds..

The wild turkeys were still 250 yards away but now they were in the open. I raised my Swarovski binoculars, and studied the birds as they moved through the open field in that herky-jerky travel pattern they have. Turkeys spook deer simply because they are in constant motion.

Four of the birds were hens, three were poults born last spring, and two were gobblers. The birds were busily pecking at the ground as they walked, and one gobbler had an eight-inch beard while the other appeared to be a jake with a tiny beard.

Suddenly, two or the hens began badmouthing the large gobbler. They cutt and chattered at him, dancing around, and chewing him out over some unseen or unheard insult.

The big gobbler puffed up his feathers somewhat similar to the way they do in the springtime when trying to show off for the hens, but one of the old biddies wasn’t impressed. She sassed him hard, and he started heading back the way he had come with the jake following behind.

I went back inside, and waited for the day to brighten. The hens started acting up again later on, and I cut an eye toward the field. The birds moved across it from where I’d stood earlier in the morning, and they were jabbering at each other. The gobbler and his sidekick were not in sight. The birds crossed the road and disappeared from sight.

“That’s twice I’ve seen those birds today,” I told my wife. “Once shortly after I got up this morning and just now. I saw them two or three times yesterday.”

My neighbor who had come to visit wore a wide grin on his face. It was obvious he enjoyed seeing and hearing the birds as much as I did. It was a pretty rotten day, but I have learned to take my pleasures when and wherever possible.

Today was one worth remembering. It’s not often, especially at this time of year, when wild turkeys will bless your day with their trash talking and by showing themselves in an open field where even I can see them. My day is now complete. and now I’m taking my cold to bed for a early night of sleep.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/24 at 04:33 PM
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bow Or Camera: It’s My Choice


Two nights ago was one of those great bow-hunting nights when the deer started moving early on the northwest wind, and they continued to filter through my area until after dark. It did present me with a major dilemma.

Should I shoot a buck with my C.P. Oneida Black Eagle compound or take photos? The new Canon camera with a 300mm lens beckoned hard and long for my use so I left the bow in the car.

The first deer came along the edge of a funnel between two tag alder thickets. It was an adult doe, and lacking anything better to do, I watched her come for 200 yards. She stopped once, looked back, and hauled butt toward me and she was weaving in and out of the tags.

Her body language told me what I needed to know. She was trying to stay a few steps ahead of a trailing buck, and she squirted out in front of me. She stopped just out into the field, stood momentarily, and kept moving.

Two minutes later, as silent as a creeping shadow, came an 8-point. He had five-inch brow tines, and all the makings of a good buck with another year on him. I clicked several photos as he stepped out of the alders where she had run out, and he trotted head-down to the place where she had stopped 15 yards from me, and came to a halt.

I got another photo as he stopped, and he apparently didn’t hear the camera shutter clunk, but off he went in hot pursuit. Minutes later two does and four button bucks and doe fawns passed, and they were looking over their shoulder. I clicked a few photos of them passing by, and then all was silent and still for several minutes.

The wind was terrible, switching from southwest to west to northwest, and back again. My stand was perfect for the wind, and it gave me a good view of the funnel these deer used. They often stepped out into the field rather than to cross a two-track trail in heavy cover.

There isn’t much traffic on this trail, and my stand was 150 yards from it. The deer favored a more open view of the area rather than to be caught in heavy cover with a car coming. I found it a bit odd, but it seemed like a local quirk.

A half-hour passed, and I could see a few deer across a wide-open field, and they were heading elsewhere. They weren’t moving in my direction.

Fifteen minutes before shooting time ended, a small doe was being chased by a spikehorn, and she came busting through the funnel, jumped out of the alders and never slowed down. The spike had twin six-inch daggers growing out of his head, and it’s possible she was more concerned about rough stuff with those spikes than being bred.

A minute later a pair of year-and-a-half bucks, one a 7-point and his buddy had 8 points, walked past my stand just inside the brush. I snapped more photos, and they continued on their way.

A friend was coming to pick me up, and I stayed in my stand to await his arrival. His vehicle would spook away any deer, and it would help me avoid scaring off any deer within sight of my stand.

Shooting light came and went, and I stowed my camera and sat quietly with binoculars in my hands. Two antlerless deer were seen 200 yards away, moving south and away from me, and as I sat waiting patiently, a buck slipped out of the brush and paused, only 15 yards away.

I could see white bone atop his head, and what appeared to be quite a bit of it. This buck came from out of nowhere, and wasn’t seen until he was standing there. He was upwind, and where he paused was where the doe had stopped.

He sniffed, sorted out the odors of the doe, the other bucks and fawns, and headed into the tag alder funnel and disappeared from sight. He may have went north or south, but it was too dark to tell.

My buddy soon arrived, picked me up, and we discussed what photo ops we’d had. He had seen more deer than me, and like me, he didn’t have a bow with him.

Perhaps, tomorrow evening will be a bow night. I’m not terribly picky, but it’s still early enough in the season and I’m looking for something really nice. I may have to settle for an antlerless deer or two this year, but I don’t care. I’ve taken too many smaller bucks, and I’d rather take a doe than a small rack.

I’m not a trophy hunter. I’m a realist, and would rather see those small bucks grow big racks. A doe eats as well or better than a buck, and in the meantime, I can always shoot photos.It’s My Choice Between Bow & Camera

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/23 at 05:37 PM
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Good Bird-Dogs Bring Joy To Pheasant Hunts


There is something very special that happens to your heart when a solid-as-Sears pointer slams to a stop, lifts a front foot and his stubby tail goes rigid.

It has happened many times. I’d walk in behind a great pointer, shotgun at port arms, and look in front of and over the dog and 10 yards away.  Too many people study the ground in front of the dog, and a pointer may be on a bird that is 10 yards ahead or to either side. Fine field work is what endears good dogs to their owner.

The pleasures of owning a dog died with my German shorthair, Fritz, who came with some truly great bloodlines and who died many years ago. There were many reasons why no others entered my life, and losing an old friend was the major one.

Fritz, like many shorthairs, was bullheaded and stubborn. He could get into more trouble than a fox in a henhouse, and he always thought he was hunting for himself. He didn’t realize that he was supposed to hunt in return for his daily meals and in respect to the man who brought him to this dance.

He was a terror, and his idea of hunting was to be a half-mile and three fallow fields ahead of me. I’d work him on a long leash, and he’d sit, heel and was steady to wing and shot as long as the rope snugged him in at about 25 yards. Take the lead off, and he attempted to set a new speed record for crossing three open fields and busting one pheasant after another.

Finally, in desperation after finally catching him after a long sprint, I loosened his collar a bit, stuck one of this dark front paws through the collar, and turned him loose. He made one step and fell over whining. I got him back up on three legs, and he tried to run off again. He was scolded and told to hunt close.

An hour later, feeling sorry for the dog, I pulled his foot out and off he went like he had a booster rocket under his tail. Another long-winded spring, and my feelings of regret changed to one of quickly solving this problem. The next two days he hunted on three legs, and wasn’t happy about it but he stayed within 25 yards of me.

He worked the cover slow and cast from side to side, and we put up hens and roosters over his rather lop-sided point, and I’d praise him in person and to anyone who would listen, and after two days of punishment, we went out the third day.

We had a heart-to-heart about his past behavior, and more recent ways of staying close, and he seemed to pay attention. It was a gamble worth taking, and I slipped his foot from his collar. He looked at me, and I patted his head and said “Hunt close,” and he began hunting into the wind. He cast back and forth, and never exceeded the 25-yard maximum. A soft “Whoa” was all I needed to steady him.
He locked onto point, and I whispered Whoa to him, lifted his tail, and he looked like a granite carving. I stepped in front, saying “Steady now,” and he was solid. The ringneck pheasant lifted into the air with a raucous cackle, his long-barred tail streaming out behind, and I swung with the bird and down he came.

Fritz, after his introduction to a lead rope and the foot through the collar, never gave me another problem. He hunting grouse, pheasant and woodcock, and his expertise was superb. He would hunt with the neighbor kids, and there were only two rules: hunt safely and don’t shoot at low-flying birds.

The last year of his life was a painful ordeal. His hips were shot from arthritis, and he always begged me to take him. We’d hunt near home, and he would gimp through the fields. His hips were bad but it didn’t affect his hearing or nose.

He’d zero in on cackling roosters at dawn, and we’d move on them when shooting time opened. With luck we’d take two quick roosters, and then it was a slow walk home for a dog in great pain. I’d pat his head, tell him I loved him, and he’d wag his bobbed tail.

Our last hunt came a few days later. A magazine deadline was met, I grabbed my shotgun, got Fritz up and headed out. He slowly worked two different birds, both were roosters, and my shooting was better than average. Fritz pointed, and I shot both birds, and then he sat down. I kneeled beside my old friend as he whined and shivered with pain, and I picked him up and carried him home, knowing that he’d run has last race in pheasant cover.

Two days later, during the second week in October as cold winds blew down from the north, Fritz left me and went to that area where all good bird dogs go when they die. He was buried along a fencerow that often produced, and on occasion I still think I hear him snuffling the scent of a big ringneck 10 feet in front of his nose.

It isn’t, of course, but there is the memory of a bird dog that never knew the meaning of the word quit. He could out-hunt me, and it’s the biggest reason I’ve never owned another hunting dog. A new dog could never measure up to Fritz, and it would be unfair to expect him to.

So I live with my memories of Fritz. He was the finest bird dog I’ve owned, and I’ll never see the likes of him again.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/22 at 05:13 PM
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

What The Wildlife Biologist Never Tell Us.


It was a most unusual tag-team event. The players were three evenly matched bucks. Perhaps they were brothers or had been sired by the same father.

The other individual was a young doe coming into her first estrus cycle. She stood, chest heaving, gasping for air, when the next tag came.

Another buck started chasing her, and nothing she had seen before could have prepared her for this. This buck was tight to her back end, and she twisted and turned the swamp and trees, and the buck never caught her but he hazed her around for several minutes before she stood panting again while surrounded by the three bucks.

They instinctively knew that chasing her would bring on her estrus cycle. She barely recovered her breathing and was trying to move away when the next tag of this tag-team event came. This old boy wasn’t gentle but was very persuasive.

He almost knocked the doe over as he tried to mount her. She slid out from under the buck, and scampered off with him in hot pursuit. Her legs were weak from all the running, and I was rooting for the doe to get away.

The buck caught up with her and nearly drove her to the ground. Who knows if she was quite ready for his advances or not, but he mounted the doe, and with wobbly legs she stood for him.

Whitetail foreplay is pretty rough stuff, and the buck breeding a doe is for one purpose only … to get the doe pregnant. The physical act itself is short in duration, and it has about as much to do with mutual passion as rape has to do with love.

The tag-team event gradually brought her into estrus, but the boys had their way with her. Her back was gouged by a buck’s front hooves, the hair on her back was all rubbed the wrong way, and she seemed barely alive.

I watched this dramatic event several years ago, and the bucks and doe were just out of my effective bow range. I’d seen does bred before, but it was always a one buck-one doe situation. This one reminded me of a wrestling tag-team event, and it seemed almost as brutal.

I don’t dwell on the sexual end of animal life often, but watching that doe get bred was almost as difficult to watch as a human rape if we were incapable of doing anything to help the victim.

Watch ducks in the spring. Three or four drake mallards will surround a hen mallard, and start trying to mount her. She swims away, and the drakes attack. They gang up on her, hold the hen underwater, and have their way with her.

Some hen mallards drown as a result of such rough sex. Others bob to the surface, seemingly dazed, and I suspect not from any feelings of being loved. They’ve been bred by more than one bird, and the less hardy fowl die.

Sow bears breed every two years, and the sow kicks her young ones out of the family nest in June or July when the boars come visiting. The boar not only wants to breed the sow, but will provide her with a special treat. He will kill and eat any young male bears if they don’t show the good sense of heading out for parts unknown.

Every summer there are bears seen where they’ve never been seen before. This is caused by boars running them off, and they are looking for a home base that is unoccupied by another big boar. This often brings the young animals with the Mickey Mouse ears around houses, farms or other human-controlled areas. Left alone, the bears may eat backyard bird seed or the honey from a bee-hive, but they seldom present a major problem.

Sex does rule the animal world, and for a short period of time each year, it is on full display for those people who wish to watch it. Just don’t expect kindness and good will between male and female deer, ducks, bears and other critters.

That only happens in those animated Bambi-type movies. It’s much different in real life.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/21 at 09:30 AM
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

What A Gorgeous Day


Today was the kind of day that would make even an old curmudgeon like me happy to be alive, and have enough common sense to enjoy the breathtaking autumn colors.

The sun had just the right intensity, there was no early-day cloud cover, and the colors seemed to jump off the leaves and into my face like a brightly painted canvas of fall foliage in a radiant rainbow of color. I stood outside, and drank in the beauty of nature.

Such days happen infrequently at this time of year, and this is especially true during the fall color. Most days are cloudy, the light isn’t quite right, and dry weather has made the leaves less than spectacular. Not so on this beautiful day.

We headed out to one of our hunting spots this afternoon, and everywhere we drove, the color was superb. Some trees still had some green leaves, and they stood out in stark contrast to the brilliant colors.

It seemed each tree was sprinkled with jewels the same colors as the leaves. The oranges and peach-colored leaves took my breath away. The aspen and birch with their yellow leaves were spectacular, and especially so for the aspen because those leaves turn almost upside down in a breeze and seem to shake their yellow glow at the world.

Maples are among my favorites because they are found with crimson, orange, red, and scarlet leaves, and two maples side by side often will have slightly different colored foliage. Oaks are another great tree for autumn color, and the plum and purple-colored leaves are especially vivid, and we saw several today that were simply outstanding.

Our hunting was in a small piece of private property that was mostly marshy cover with conifers in all directions. However, here and there along the edge were white paper birch (a beautiful tree) with their yellow leave and a couple of scattered maples. The sunlight was intense enough that the yellow, oranges and reds served as the perfect contrast to the white birch bark and the green cedars.

I saw a nice 8-point with crab-claw tips on the ends of his rack. He was a nice deer but wasn’t what I was interested in. I’ve taken many similar deer in the past, and no longer choose to shoot a mediocre animal. Besides, the idea of killing a deer on a day such as this seemed like kicking dirt on Santa’s shiny boots.

It was a day to relax and study the loveliness of it and the local foliage. The colors seemed to sparkle even more as the sun began going down, and there were two distant maples that had a magical glimmer in the afterglow of the setting sun. It was stunning.

Today was a perfect day to spend time afield. We each saw deer, and a fair number of them, and at least a dozen turkeys. I heard one buck doing his tending grunt as he trailed a doe that went into early estrus. For most animals, the chasing phase of the rut is just getting underway and by the time we hit the peak of the rut, the fall color will be nothing but a memory.

For me, today’s brilliance and vivid colors served as a means of renewing my faith in Mother Nature. It’s just too bad that God didn’t make fall color that would last for six months.

I’m not sure whether I could handle that much beauty, but it certainly would be fun to try.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/20 at 07:59 PM
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Friday, October 19, 2007

Hunting The Woodcock Flights


The woodcock spiraled upward about 10 feet over the 10-foot-high popples, flapped his wings two or three times, corkscrewed his body around, and dropped like a stone back into the covert. Heavy rains and storms at this time of year do good things for woodcock flights, and it can produce some of the season’s best wing-shooting.

There’s much to be said for hunting woodcock after a hard rain on either side of Oct. 20. It’s when the heaviest numbers of flight birds arrive in local coverts, and there are good reasons to back up such statements. For many years, I’d drive up to St. Ignace to hunt with a man who owned great German Shorthairs, and for several years it seemed as if I’d drive north in heavy wind and rain.

We got heavy winds last night and rain today, and we’re almost as close to Oct. 20 as we can get. We’d find spectacular hunting in the soggy popples, and our bag always consisted of a grouse or two, a snipe or two, and often two woodcock limits back when the limit was five birds. We would usually hunt just in the morning, come in and clean the timberdoodles, have them for lunch and then relax and talk about good guns, good dogs, good friends and heavy woodcock flights.

It would have been a banner day because his dogs would have pointed and we would have flushed at least 100 birds. That would be an actual count, and although a good many of those birds flushed wild, enough flushed close enough to offer us a shot. My friend is a fast and accurate shot, and I was a mediocre shot, but the dogs were steady on point and a half-day of slogging through popples from eight to 10 feet high was a grueling experience.

He always thought it was funny when my boots slipped on a piece of wet wood and I’d fall on my keister, but as often happens, he who laughs first seldom gets the last laugh. He’d do a header, and we’d kid each other about quitting and going home before we hurt ourselves. Neither of us wanted to quit, and we knew the birds would still be there the next day.

That’s all it was ... great action. There was no way either of us would miss two consecutive days of 100-bird flushes. The woodcock would be spooky from all the rain, and everywhere we looked would be white with the splashings (droppings) of the birds. We’d often see the birds just a few feet in front of the dog, and they would be as staunch as a statue, the tail sticking into the air like a wood stove poker, and all a’quiver with excitement. The other dog would honor the point, and back his kennel mate.

One or both of us would walk in on the bird, and as often as not, two woodcock would twitter into the air, top out and flutter back to the ground like a knuckleball that has run out of steam. These birds seemed to have difficulty flying too far because of wet wings, but we’d follow up and seldom would find those birds for a second flush.

We’d be like two school kids sloshing through every mud puddle we’d find. Our bird-hunting pants would be soaked through, and we’d return to the car, jump into our rain pants, pull on a pair of dry socks, and hit the woods again. It was always an adventure, and one we didn’t want to waste. Bird-hunting action like this was just too good to be ignored.

For us, the point wasn’t to shoot a limit, although it was possible, and it wasn’t about how many flushes we’d have. The hunt was about being there, fighting through aspen tangles and the edges of fields and swamps to put up these little birds with the long bill and Barney Google eyes. These birds were northern woodcock, winging their way south, dodging the great expanses of water. They flew across the Straits of Mackinac because it was the shortest distance between the U.P. and Lower Peninsula.

These birds often travel in a north-to-south pattern, and they seem to follow I-75. Years ago I hunted woodcock with two old-timers who had great dogs, and they hunted along the Black, Pigeon and Sturgeon rivers in Cheboygan County because those streams flow north and I-75 runs in both directions. We always found good woodcock hunting in that area.

Shooting a limit of woodcock is not the point of this exercise. For me, woodcock are the perfect game birds with which to start young bird dogs. They hold well for a pointer, and they have an odor that bird dogs find attractive although many canines cannot stand the taste of these birds. Many dogs with stand over a fallen timberdoodle until its owner comes to pick it up.

It can be slippery hunting after heavy rains, but hit the flight birds just right, and you’ll find a brand of hunting excitement that can hardly be duplicated. Find soft earth, and plenty of splashings, and you’ll usually find the birds.

Nothing in fishing or hunting is guaranteed. However, hunting woodcock the next few days in some key areas will be about as good as it gets.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/19 at 03:49 PM
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

More Deer For Benzie & Grand Traverse Counties


It’’s rather sad what has happened to the whitetail deer populations in Benzie and Grand Traverse counties. Deer numbers are low, buck numbers even lower, and the area has some fairly heavy hunting pressure on holidays and weekends.

Years ago, deer numbers in both counties (which I still actively hunt) were much higher. A good bit of my hunting in Benzie County was near Point Betsie which is now off-limits. I used to hunt the sand dunes south of Empire as well, but no more. Used to hunt along the Platte River but that has fallen on hard times.

Leelanau County used to provide a buck every year or two, and many came from long-range rifle shots from one sand dune to the other. Now the sand dunes have many other hunters, and going there to hunt just doesn’t seem anything like it once was. Hunting some of the juniper clumps near Glen Haven isn’t the same as in bygone days.

Am I taking a tour on the pity pot, feeling sorry for myself because some of my favorite hunting areas are not like they used to be? No, it’s not that way at all. I cherish my memories of hunting those areas but the draw isn’t there.

Grand Traverse County, where I live, has a major shortage of deer. Areas that once supported fairly large numbers of whitetails have fewer animals every year. They aren’t being killed off, but the animals are running out of quality habitat. I plant food plots to help the few deer that roam through my land, and it makes me feel good to do it.

However, one of my favorite haunts from 30 years ago is gone. Big money came in, built a bunch of houses, and many acres of good agricultural land that used to host a decent deer population has disappeared under a canvas of blacktop and cement. The land now available for wildlife has almost vanished.

Wexford County was another favorite spot. I used to hunt the Anderson Creek area and the High Rollways along the Manistee River, but no more. Others have moved into the area from downstate, and now it is their favorite hunting spot. Sure, there’s state land or hunting on my personal property or that of a friend with 80 acres.

He’s kind enough to let me hunt, and I appreciate it, but I’m never comfortable about putting up a tree stand on his property. He’s often busy, and doesn’t have time to show me his boundaries. Far be it from me to hang a stand only to discover it’s just across the line on the neighbor’s land. Not good.

I’ve looked for land to lease, enough land to afford me the freedom to have a half-dozen stands so I’m not locked into hunting the same spot day after day. The land either offers poor habitat or is too expensive.

My wife and I leased 300 acres in Missaukee County for 15 years. It was fairly expensive, but when my father grew ill and moved in with us, it became nearly impossible to get away to hunt. We reluctantly gave up our lease. We don’t miss the one-hour drive down and back every night, and especially once we get into December with all of the snow and icy roads.

We hunt almost every day in one place or another in all the counties listed, and we’ve uncovered a few good spots that can keep venison on our table but we wonder how long it will last. Will this be the last year before the landowner puts the property up for sale and we go back to looking around? Life is a gamble at times, and finding good land to hunt is getting mighty difficult.

Paradise up north is getting crowded, and that’s OK ... up to a point. What chews up land are the little two-acre or five-acre plots of land with a No Trespassing sign where it was once possible to hunt. Many of my great turkey spots from 15 years ago are nothing more than a dim memory now.

I love this area, and so do thousands of others. There’s room here for all of us to enjoy our outdoor recreation, but year by year it becomes more crowded. One wonders, as I frequently am wont to do, what Traverse City will be like 20 years from now. I certainly hope they don’t change its name to Paradise Lost.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/18 at 05:11 PM
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Scrapes Are Really Plentiful Right Now


We were on the blood trail of a doe. The animal was hit with an arrow, and it ran 60 yards before the Game Tracker string hung up in heavy brush and the arrow pulled out.

Was everything lost as a result of the arrow popping out? Not really. We had a line of travel to follow but the blood spoor was spotty. It led past an old apple tree with low-hanging limbs, and there were six different well used and well tended scrapes beneath the overhead licking branch.

It looked like a Daisy Chain of deer scrapes. All smelled of urine, and I squatted down to look for blood, and the closest scrape was raked clean of leaves. A buck had whizzed down his back legs and it dribbled into the scrape, and the strong urine smell was pungent with the odor of a buck almost in full rut.

Several rubs could be seen on trees leading toward and away from the scrape. It had a paw print firmly planted mid-center of the scrape, and heavy tine marks were seen in the raw dirt. The other scrapes weren’t as big or as smelly as this one, and my buddy commented on them.

“There’s a bunch of good scrapes under this apple tree,” he said. “This dirt two-track trail up ahead is bordered on both sides by heavy swamps and tag alder thickets, and bucks seldom see a hunter back here. Bucks roam this thick cover, pop up onto the ridge trail to look around, and jump back down into thick cover. I’d bet there are 25 to 30 scrapes within 100 yards of here, and I saw several coming through the brush on the Game Tracker string. It’s too bad there isn’t a few more good trees overlooking this two-track because this could be a real hot spot.”

The scrapes and their condition, and the thought of a buck walking the two-track was fascinating but we were here to find the wounded doe. The hunter had taken it as far as possible, which is where the arrow fell out, and we kept looking for blood. We’d find a tiny berry of blood on a leaf, 15 feet away would be a tiny bit, and nowhere did it appear the animal was seriously injured.

We lost the blood on top of the two-track, and it’s long been my opinion that when blood trails start to peter out, it often means the deer is dead and not very far away. He agreed, and we were just 10 yards from each other when we split up at the last blood.

“Here’s a bunch of blood,” he said.

I hurried over to him, and he was standing astraddle of the doe. It wasn’t a big deer but it wasn’t a fawn, and from last blood to where the deer lay was less than 10 yards. The deer had staggered off the trail it had been following, and died in the nearby tall grass.

Knowing this trait a good thing to be remember. When the blood spoor disappears, and no blood can be found, the animal almost always is within 25 yards. It was an easy trailing job, and ended with the successful recovery of the animal, and we found a gold mine of buck scrapes. Now, all we have to do is figure out how to hunt it.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/17 at 08:10 PM
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