Sunday, December 09, 2007

Keep Pets Indoors During Winter Month

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The cat tracks came creeping around my back steps. Mourning doves often roost on my deck at night, and 30 feet away was a pile of bloody feathers in pristine snow where a stray had killed a dove during the night.

Wild running cats and dogs spell trouble for winter wildlife, and the animals do what often comes naturally. It’s in the nature of cats, and some dogs, to kill anything they can catch. A similar thing happened one day last week.

The day was brilliant with strong sunlight reflecting off the snow, and when I went out for the paper this morning, cottontail rabbit tracks were everywhere in front of and behind the house.

The rabbits had been active. I donned some boots, and forgot about my shotgun and blaze orange, and just went for a short walk.

It was to see how many bunnies were living near the house. One rabbit can make plenty of tracks at night, and I knew there are at least two bunnies nearby. I’ve seen them outside after dark as they scamper around looking for food.

It appeared there were four cottontails. Two were the adults I’d seen on many occasions, and the other two made smaller tracks. Perhaps the smaller two were from the most recent litter.

They weaved in and out of nearby brush piles left from the last timber cutting, wandered through downed tree-tops, and there were many tracks where we feed deer. They’ve nibbled a bit on the old dead clover, and there were two deer tracks as well. One was an adult, most likely an adult doe, and the other was a fawn.

We often see cottontail rabbits where sunflower seeds are knocked from the feeder. The bunnies don’t mind sniffing through the seeds for some that are still intact.

My short little walk wasn’t much over 150 yards, and in one spot was the unmistakable sign of the death of a young rabbit. The animal had made a serious mistake by moving into the open and away from nearby brush and heavy ground cover, and nature’s story was painted on the white snow.

An owl had swooped down from the sky during the night, gliding in on hushed wings, and a few spots of blood on the snow showed where the bird had run his talons through the cottontail. There were faint signs of wing-tip feathers dusting the snow as the bird grabbed the young bunny and flew away with his nightly dinner.

Avian predators are a major concern for wildlife. We often see hawks take songbirds and ruffed grouse during the day, and if they hit a grouse, nothing is left behind but a pile of russet feathers drifting on the breeze.

We’ve had cottontails around as long as we’ve lived here. They stay in the shrubs, venture out after dark to feed, and we see signs of their presence as they chew on our ornamental bushes and shrubs.

Cats are silent predators, and they prey heavily on songbirds and grouse when the snow is deep. There’s no telling where these cats come from, but if we see a strange car or truck, we will probably find cat tracks later.

People who no longer want these critters turn them loose in someone else’s neighborhood, and then we must deal with the problem. Today, there was one lone dog track behind my house, and one pooch often meets a sad fate when it encounters one or two hungry coyotes.

These large predators will kill every dog or cat they catch. Cats occasionally escape by climbing a tree, but coyotes are brazen animals. They’ve been known to pluck a small cat or dog off the back porch.

Rather than take unwanted cats to the Humane Society and let them deal with them, people dump them. They feel sorry for the cat, and often these animals slowly die of starvation or provide a nourishing snack for a coyote.

A cat is a killing machine, and often kill for the sake of killing. People should keep pet cats and dogs inside at night where they belong or in a kennel. Too often they lack the guts to accept this responsibility, or are unwilling to send them to the pound. Those of us who live beyond city lights do not deserve these canine or feline discards.

Unwanted cats are destructive during winter months. I frighten them away, but many people either set live traps or kill the cats on sight. Cats may be pets, but they belong indoors or under human control.

Those left to roam at night often disappear. Although I don’t agree with the Three S’s doctrine (shoot, shovel and shut up), I can understand why some landowners treat every free-roaming cat with suspicion and a quick death.

Those that appear to be hunting game or song birds are summarily dispatched. This can be cause for a citation, a fine and perhaps a jail sentence, but no one I know wants free-roaming cats in their neighborhood.

Free-roaming dogs often attack deer in deep snow, and many think that turning Fido out for the night is the right thing to do. Two, three or four dogs, turned out by their masters at night, form a pack, and will kill deer.

The place for pet cats and dogs is inside during winter months and under human control when outside. Free-roaming animals are pests, and it’s up to pet owners to control their animals at all times.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/09 at 08:44 PM
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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Does Apathy Describe Some Sportsmen?

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Does apathy adequately describe many of Michigan’s anglers and hunters? I think it certainly does pertain to many sportsmen. For those who haven’t visited a dictionary lately, apathy means a lack of emotion or feeling or a sense of indifference.

An election in 2006 proved that most hunters didn’t care much about a Michigan dove hunt. The measure got whipped in a bad way, and few hunters seemed very upset about it.

Folks, believe it or not, but that vote for a Michigan dove season went much deeper than keeping state sportsmen from shooting mourning doves. It was the first big step in a long parade of other items that can and one day will be stuck on the ballot. The next one might affect something you feel strongly about.

How would you feel if it was put to a vote next year to end archery hunting. Or, the next vote may be to prohibit firearm hunting for deer and/or other game species. It might come to a photo to outlaw dogs while hunting which would affect most bird hunters and bear, bobcat, coyote and fox hunting.

Does anyone out there understand that the anti-hunters whupped us on the dove issue? Why, because many hunters are apathetic. They don’t care enough to get involved. They wait for others to fight their battles for them. Read again the definition of apathy.

I know a guy who whined about the dove season being defeated. The man has never voted for anything (including presidential elections) in his life, never discussed hunting issues with anyone other than his buddies, and he was most upset when I told him he didn’t deserve the opportunity to whine and gripe. That behavior is reserved for those who have enough gumption to vote.

People who don’t vote should have no say in how a democracy is run. And trust me on this: anti-hunters know that sportsmen are unwilling to take a stand, and many folks claim to be too busy to vote. Say what?

Who among these unenlightened sportsmen is willing to wake up and see what goes on around them. They gripe and complain about a possible raise in license fees, but when the sporting segment of this country needs help to fight anti-hunting measures, where are these folks? They are too busy to care. Apathy reigns supreme.

Many avoid the voting book as if the curtains were coated with poison. The day of letting others fight for our causes is over. People who want to hunt, now and in the future, had best realize that forces are underway to eliminate all types of hunting.

Preliminary figures concerning the firearm season are in. Everyone know the deer kill was down, but how many have noticed that the number of deer hunters in the state dipped below the 900,000 mark for the first time in many years. It has averaged between 925,000 and 950,000 for years until 2007. How much will it drop in 2008?

Will the same people who are against legalized hunting want to ban ownership of firearms? What will happen to our wildlife if the DNR has no money to manage it, which has already happened. Will the United States become neutered like Australia and Great Britain? Does anyone care?

An out-of-control deer herd is entirely possible. The state has worked hard for years to reduce the herd size, and in many areas, they did their job too well and the deer numbers are way down. We saw the results of this problem last year and again this year.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the state’s largest conservation organization, is trying to fight the good fight. They keep people posted on what is happening, but MUCC membership rolls have shrunk dramatically from 20-30 years ago.

Why? The short and ugly answer is public apathy. Sportsmen no longer care about joining groups. They often say they don’t have time or money to be a member. And for some that is probably true.

Others have different priorities. Where fishing and hunting was once their good time, bowling and golf may have replaced some of the leisure time activities. Others simply are not joiners.

Where do we go from here? I’m one man, preaching to the choir and to those who enjoy reading about the outdoors and who have nothing against hunting, but I’m only one man. I’m not a one-man army.

Others must stand up and be heard. They must stand and fight the good fight. Are you willing to step up to the plate for our fishing and hunting?

I’ve heard it many times at a conservation club, Kiwanis meeting, or in other places. People actually ask me to fight their battles for them. I’m just one man with one voice, but they must make their voices heard. Sportsmen must become involved before it is too late.

Hunters of all stripes, whether bird hunters or a bear and deer hunter, must unite under one banner to endorse all forms of hunting and be prepared to vote on critical issues. If one method of hunting is lost, as happened on the dove issue, anti-hunters will go after the next least defendable hunting method. Will it be bow hunting as many believe?

It could be dog ownership which would hurt hunters who use a pooch for their sport. If they don’t support bear and deer hunting, and treeing coons with a hound or chasing bunnies with a beagle, than it is quite likely their lack of action will help the anti-hunters.

The past issue was supposedly about dove hunting. That’s nonsense. It was simply the first nail in the coffin of legalized hunting in this state, and hundreds of thousands of people stood by and watched it happen.

How sad. And who will feel sorry for you when your favorite fishing or hunting sport comes up on a ballot, and one by one, our outdoor pleasures are taken away from us because apathetic sportsmen don’t care enough to become involved?

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/08 at 06:50 PM
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Friday, December 07, 2007

The Whitetail Wizard’s Book Is Ready!

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The Whitetail Wizard (Claude Pollington) says his new deer hunting book is back from the printers. It’s available to the public right now, and it is a delightful book that has arrived just in time for Christmas shoppers.

The title is The Life Of The Legendary Whitetail Wizard, and even though he brags about his book (which is only natural), and he is mighty proud of it. The books were published on high-quality paper, filled with 110 color photos and a few old black-and-white photos of he and his family in the old days. Most of the book deals with the here and now of archery deer hunting. These books are being shipped out as orders come rolling in.

So what is this book? It contains a great deal 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 bunch of great bow-hunting stories. It is more than just about him shooting big bucks on his ranch; it also covers his many 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 at his archery shop to teach them how to accurately shoot a bow. He has labored long and hard for over 20 years to make these bows the best in the archery industry and he 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 these bows for over two decades. He bought the company in 2000.

One might wonder what his book brings to archery deer hunters. Much of what he writes about 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, which is wherever people hunt with a bow.

Some of his early life is covered, and how they hunted deer back in the 1940s and 1950s when few people considered hunting with a bow. He has hunted with a long bow, recurve and compound since those early days, and he now has over 60 years of bow-hunting experience. Sixty years of hunting deer means he has witnessed the many highs and lows of deer numbers in this state but 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, a goal that even western ranches have trouble attaining.

He said he loves 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. This book is filled with solid hunting information.

The book covers his life, buying the archery business, how to learn to shoot with great accuracy, great tips on 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 deer. The book is loaded with solid how-to information from his 60+ years of deer-hunting experiences.

He is selling two different formats of the same book. Both have the same internal content with one exception. The limited edition of 250 numbered and author 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, which includes postage. The limited edition copies are numbered and signed by him, and will sell for $110, which includes postage. Michigan residents must pay 6 percent sales tax.

More than half of the limited edition books have been sold, and it’s expected this printing of 250 numbered and signed copies will be sold out before Christmas. The limited edition has a dark cloth cover with gilt titles, and a montage of photos on a color photo centered on the cover. It is a book that any archery deer hunter would be proud to own.

He thanks people for their patience. This book, from beginning to end, has been a labor of love. Both books are lovely to look at, delightful to hold, and the hunters who buy them for Christmas presents will be giving a gift that keeps on giving great hunting stories and first-class bow hunting information.

It is my pick of the litter among this year’s crop of hunting books. Sportsmen won’t be disappointed with this book. It’s a dandy!

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/07 at 04:55 PM
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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Snow Stalking The Wily Red Fox

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Two decades ago there were far more red foxes than coyotes, and one thing we’d do is cut a fresh red fox track, and take off cross-country on foot along the snowy trail.

Once I drove to my late brother George’s house, and spotted a fresh track crossing the road a quarter-mile from his home. I stopped, got out, and studied it. The track was smoking hot.

George and I put our heads together, and he felt the fox would probably skirt behind the barn, head off across the field, hunt the open fields for mice, and then settle down for a nap atop a clump of uprooted trees a half-mile from his place.

We took turns dogging the tracks, and it was his turn. I’d lag behind, check ahead through binoculars, and try to make certain we didn’t accidentally bump the critter. We headed out on the track, and the fox did cut behind the barn, moved down a hill, and crossed the field.

I glassed the track from cover, and lost them near a patch of sumac this side of a fence row 300 yards away, and on the other side of the fence was the tree-tops that would provide a sunny hiding place for a napping fox.

We eased through the field, spotted several areas where the fox had tried for a mouse, but the tracks stay straight until it came to a small knoll, and we bellied up to the edge of the knoll. More fox stalks are blown because people rush to see what is on the other side, and blunder into the fox. Once spooked, the animal will run for a long distance.

My head eased over the top, and I glassed everything within view. The fox was nowhere to be seen, but its tracks cut through the field, into the sumac bushes near the hill-top, and we couldn’t see the tracks past there.

We huddled, and whispered back and forth, and felt if the fox wasn’t in the sumac, which we didn’t really consider, we’d have a reasonably clear look at the tree-tops. Perhaps the fox was already sunning himself.

I studied the sumac until my eyes watered, and couldn’t see tracks coming out. We had to keep going while we were fairly close to the animal. Stalling now could ruin the hunt.

We crossed the open field and approached the sumacs with caution. We could then see the fox tracks heading toward the fence line and the nasty mass of tree-tops were scattered about like jackstraws.

“I can see his tracks down to the fence,” George whispered. “Check the tree-tops, and see if you can spot him. We’ll stick out like two sore thumbs while crossing the field to the fence row.”

Long minutes were spent glassing the tree-tops before I spotted the reddish-russet color of the sleepy fox. He was facing away, directly into the wind, and we formulated plans. I would give George hand signals, and a palm raised up meant for him to stop.

We watched a minute or two longer, saw the fox raise his head and check his back trail once and then twice, and after the second time, we had five minutes to move. As soon as his head went down, George stayed low and ran for the fence only 40 yards from the fox.

He eased into place just as the fox’s head came up to look around, and when it went down, I moved out. We met at the fence, and George pointed to a hole in the fence that would put him only 25 yards from the fox but he didn’t dare make a sound getting into shooting position.

The fox looked around again, and when his head went down, George crawled to the hole, and snaked through. He had to depend on me now to tell him when the fox raised his head again.

Two minutes later the fox raised his head, and I made one small hand movement to George. He raised his 12 gauge 3-inch magnum, started to aim and the fox stood up when it caught the movement, and with one shot this fox hunt was over.

Stalking fox is no different than stalking bedded coyotes. Work into the wind, check closely before making a move, and when the stalk leads to a close shot, make it count. It’s an exciting way to spend part of a mid-winter day.

Stalks often fail for one reason or another, but when they work, there is plenty of good exercise and some up-close and spectacular action.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/06 at 05:59 PM
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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Packrat Hits Pay Dirt

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OK, so I’m a packrat. I come by it naturally. My mother and father saved all kinds of weird things, and I must have picked up this habit from them.

My baseball card collection disappeared when I was 18 years old. My mother decided that we (twin brother George and I) were quasi-adults now. What did we need with 5,000 or more baseball cards from the 1940s and 1950s.

Out went Al Kaline rookie cards. Gone too were Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and other cards. We had them all, and in some cases, a dozen of each one.

We lamented our lost cards then, and miss them now, but what’s past is over and done with. I moved on, and over a period of many years, began picking up outdoorsy things that I like. Fishing and hunting books topped my list (and still do), but there were other items for a packrat to collect.

Much of my “stuff” was stored in cardboard boxes for safekeeping, and much of it has now been gone through and some marvels were found. Imagine finding my old Marble Boy Scout Knife. The handle is wrapped in rawhide, and the blade is big enough to slay bison with a single blow.

And tight to it was an old Marble compass from the late 1950s, It still works, and has been put away in a safe place. I was thinking I hit the jackpot until I laid my hands on a Winchester Model 61 .22 rimfire magnum pump rifle.

After high school, back in 1957, I worked for two years at Water Wonderland Sporting Goods, at the junction of Dort Highway and North Saginaw Road, about three miles north of Mt. Morris.

It was legal in those days to hunt whitetails (very few lived in our area near Flint) with a .22 rimfire magnum. They also came in handy for shooting red foxes, and some of my old fox-hunting buddies like Max Donovan, G.V. Langley and others carried one on hunts.

I saved my money, and bought the rifle. I was now ready to go out and run with the big dogs now. The rifle was purchased during the winter, and about three months before the firearm deer season would open, the Department of Conservation outlawed the use of a .22 rimfire magnum for deer hunting.

My baseball cards may have been lost but I still have that rifle. I potted a few red foxes, a coyote or two and an abundance of woodchucks with it over the years. I still shoot it on occasion, but looking at it now brings back memories of buying it to hunt deer only to have it made illegal for that purpose.

In another box was my shotgun shell reloading equipment with all the powder and shot bars, crimping tools to seal paper and plastic shells. I found a great, huge box of Winchester AA plastic cases. Some had been reloaded two or three times, and many had been fired only once.

Two years ago I was visiting with my late friend, Fred Houghton, formerly of Clio, and he mentioned he still had that rod and reel I’d loaned him 45 years before. The rod was an ultra-light Wanigas fiberglass rod made by famous Trout Unlimited co-founder Art Neumann of Saginaw, and a Cargem Mignon ultra-light spinning reel. This rod and reel had been a favorite, and thanks to Fred’s honesty, I now have it back.

I’ve always had a love affair with pocket knives, or jack knives as we called them. Brother George gave me a Remington two-blade pocket knife almost 50 years ago. I’d lost track of it, and then found it and now it’s back in my pocket where it belongs. The blades have been sharpened so many times, and the steel is so good, that I often use it to fillet bluegills. It was a treasure that had been lost and found again.

Deep in the box was a round metal tin of Mucilin that we used years ago when fly fishing. There also were a half-dozen No. 1 traps that I used 55 years ago when running two trap lines. They brought back fond memories of days when prime muskrat pelts sold for $5. each, and we’d often catch five or six ‘rats a day. Some years we made more money in a week of trapping than our father made in a week of cutting hair.

There was an old Jones-type hat that had traveled North America with me. It was half rotted, and I thought it had been thrown away, but there it was—as ugly as ever—and it brought back grand memories.

Then I found a small pocket knife with the likeness of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the handle. Next to it were two rusted knives I’d found sticking in logs where some hunter had probably field dressed his deer, drug the animal out of the woods and forgot the knife. They are useless but I keep them anyway

There were a matched pair old wooden duck decoys I’d found in the Saginaw Bay cattails while jump-shooting ducks in my youth. Their decoy anchor lines had broken, and they had drifted off during rough water. George and I found 50-100 old wood dekes many years ago, but these were all that remain.

One might think this was a collection of junk, but not me. I looked at all these things, and counted them as wonderful memories from a bygone era when hunters knew enough to keep their paper shotgun shells dry. If they didn’t, they would swell up and it was nearly impossible to get them to fire or get the swollen shells out of the shotgun.

Those were the days, my friends, we though they’d never end. And they haven’t because fishing and hunting is still my way of life.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/05 at 05:28 PM
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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Choosing The Right Ice Fishing Lure

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It’s becoming ever more difficult to pick ice-fishing lures. There are almost as many for the winter months as for open-water times.

There are three basic fish groups that I love to catch—bluegills, perch and walleyes. All are mighty fine eating on my dinner table, but I’ve almost given up fishing for lake trout, northern pike and splake.

Tip-up fishing for lakes and pike is fun for the first hour or two, and then I get bored. If flags are going up, using tip-ups can be a lot of fun. However, it seems as if there are dozens of days where “wind bites” provide the only action while the days when the fish really bite have become scarcer in recent years for me.

Besides, I prefer having a rod in my hand. I’ve used the old custom-made jigging sticks, home-made jigging sticks, and rod and reel. I much prefer a light-action spinning rig spooled with two- or four-pound line, depending on what I fish for. I usually have one spinning jig set up with six-pound FireLine when jigging for walleyes. Lures for my favorite species can vary from early ice to late ice, and I experiment with lures and colors often.

My favorite baits and lures for these game fish are:

*Bluegills—My favorite rig is two-pound clear or green monofilament line and a tiny teardrop jig or ice fly jig. I choose sizes like 1/16 or 1/32-ounce, and buy them in a variety of colors. Yellow is always a good choice, as is yellow with red spots.

My preference is to bait a teardrop with a mousie or wax worm. Fish off the edges of green weed beds, and it doesn’t take much effort to catch bluegills and sunfish. Start fishing near bottom, and slowly work your way up at least halfway to the surface.

My bluegill rods have a tiny fine wire spring bobber at the tip. I use coiled wire rod holders, stick the rod in them, lower the jig and bait to bottom. and raise it an inch or two off bottom. Jig it a few times, and let the rod and rod holder sit on the ice. Reach down, jig it again, and keep trying different depths or different holes until the fish are located.

A late-winter bluegill will barely suck in the jig and bait, and if the fine wire bobber bends a bit, set the hook. Occasionally they will hit quite hard, but it’s better to count on a soft take. Don’t set the hook hard or you’ll spend most of the day tying on teardrop jigs.

*Perch are even more fun, and i use a similar rig for perch as for bluegills but use four-pound clear or green monofilament line. Two basic methods work: using a Russian spoon baited with a perch eye, emerald shiner or a wiggler or using a two-hook rig..

Of these methods I favor a line with a egg sinker on the bottom and two dropper lines spaced six inches or so above the sinker and another a foot above that. It’s not uncommon to catch two yellow perch at a time with this rig, and it’s a real ball when two jumbo perch are hooked at the same time.

Again, I like the wire rod-tip bobber, but perch often hit hard enough to make the need for a bobber useless. Bait both hooks, making certain the the minnow is hooked in the fleshy part of its back behind the dorsal fin. Hook the minnow too deep, and it will puncture the spinal column and kill the minnow. Ease them slowly to bottom, and reel up slack line so there is a bend in the rod as it sits in the rod holder. Lower the minnows too fast, and the rapid descent may tear the minnows off.

The Russian spoon rig is meant to be jigged up and down, and white, write-red, yellow, yellow with red spots—all work. Bait the spoon’s single hook and allow it to flutter back to bottom, raise it up a few inches, and then use short jigging strokes of two or three inches with frequent pauses. The Russian hook method was first developed and used 100 years ago on Saginaw Bay.

*Walleyes love jigging lures baited with emerald shiners. My favorites are the Hali, jigging Rapala, and the Do-Jigger. I add an emerald shiner to each hook, and jig it softly with short two-inch up-and-down strokes. Hard and forceful jigging strokes will litter the bottom with dead minnows and produce very few fish.

This is a sport where it’s important to keep moving until a school of fish is found. I use either a spinning or bait-casting rig with six-pound FireLine, and make certain the hooks are sharp. Use short jigging strokes, and most fish hit on the up-stroke although some will hit as the baited lure flutters down.

The lure, the bait and the jigging method is what turns all three of these winter game fish on, and fishing through a hole in the ice is a great way to spend a winter day

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/04 at 05:39 PM
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Monday, December 03, 2007

Are We Giving Anything Back Or Just Taking?

Are you a giver or a taker? It’s a simple question that goes far beyond a one-word answer.

The bottom line here, in the event this question surprises you, is very simple. Do you take more from your fishing or hunting experiences than you give back?

The purchase of a fishing or hunting license grants us no more than a chance to legally fish or hunt or trap in season. It is a privilege but not a guaranteed right. It promises opportunities, not limit catch or a heavy game bag.

In days of old, when knights were bold, landowners also owned the fish and game. They owned the river water that flowed through their properly, and Heaven help the soft-headed peasants that poached one of the king’s red stags, a brown trout or an Atlantic salmon.

The population 300 years ago was far less than now, and peasants were kept in their places and ruled with an iron fist. People caught poaching were severely punished, and any fish or game illegally taken was confiscated.

Things are much different these days. We have flowing springs, but bottled-water plants are tapping into the aquifers. They take our ground water but put nothing back. There are developers ready to quickly fill wetlands, and they operate on the premise that it’s easier to apologize if caught than to ask for and be granted permission.

These are trying times, and everyone wants and needs some outdoor recreation. We need to smell the roses, but what will happen when the roses no longer growing? What will happen when former trout streams become a turgid trickle before drying up because a bottling plant has shipped our water out of state for corporate profit, and the trout have disappeared because bottlers have drained and sold our water?

How many people are speaking out to Gov. Jennifer Granholm? Are you standing up to face big business, and asking the hard questions: Is sale of our water right? What happens to Great Lakes water when Arizona, New Mexico and Texas want their share of it? What happens then?

Who among us speaks out about urban sprawl in the Traverse City area? Or near Charlevoix and Gaylord areas? On the Petoskey-Harbor Springs region? If you haven’t looked lately, the northwestern corner of Lower Michigan is spreading out at a rapid pace, traffic is horrid, and remind me of Detroit.

How many people will take a few minutes from their busy lives to ask why this is happening and how can it be controlled? Why does state government allow this to occur? Why are cities like Detroit becoming an empty maze of cluttered and unsafe streets, boarded up crack houses, and why has 1.2 million people fled Detroit over the past 20 years? Why is the same thing happening in Flint and other once prosperous southern cities?

What will become of our open fields, marshlands, hardwoods and conifers that now provide cover for game and non-game animals and birds? Has anyone paid attention to the downsizing of Michigan’s deer herd and our Department of Natural Resources? The marked decrease in snowshoe hares and various game birds such as ruffed grouse has become alarming?

The answer is simple. We’re talking about habitat loss. We’re talking greedy businessmen. How, I wonder, can Exxon and other gas companies declare such huge profits for shareholders while the average motorist breaks his back trying to stay solvent in a credit-card society. We have Medicare programs that no one understands. It’s bureaucracy at the worse possible level.

Granted, what has happened in the past several years to our deer herd is not easy to cope with. But take a hard look at some of the problems.

Urban sprawl is eating away at the land needed for deer to thrive. People move north, buy five or 10 acres of paradise, and disrupt deer travel routes. Homes are built where deer once crossed roads. As more people move in, buy land and build homes, the terrain becomes fragmented. The deer soon disappear to another area that has yet to be exploited.

People are seeing bears where they’ve never been seen before. The animals need a place to live, but humans have taken over. My wife and I own 20 acres we bought 30 years ago, and admit that we added to the problem. However, we did it long before the big northern invasion began.

Deer numbers in our area are way down so we hunt elsewhere at times. Does this solve the problem? Of course not, it just puts a bit more hunting pressure on an area that hasn’t yet felt the full force of land development like what has taken place around Traverse City and other northern cities.

Thirty years ago Traverse City was a quaint northern Michigan town with about 8,000 people. Look at it now. We have the same problems as southern cities have faced for many years. Drugs, embezzlement, robbery, murder. Such things now life on our doorstep, and paradise no longer glimmers.

Twenty or 30 years from now, when Traverse City has expanded southeast past Kingsley to Fife Lake, southwest to Copemish and Thompsonville, northwest to fill the entire Leelanau Peninsula and Benzie County, and northeast to meet Charlevoix and Gaylord that are expanding southward, we’ll have the same problems that people fled when they moved north.

The difference is those who moved north brought baggage with them, and now they want this area to be like their home area once was. Folks, it doesn’t happen that way.

When will people look around, see the slow but sure decay and destruction of this area, and wonder how and why it has happened? Of course, the answer is easy: we are too busy raising our family, pinching pennies because half our pay is a view of the bay, and if we live long enough, we’ll learn that if we aren’t part of the solution, we must be part of the problem.

Meanwhile, paradise has been turned into another drug store, gas station, bank or a cement-carpeted parking lot. And one must look hard to find a rose to smell, a deer to see, or that wonderful silence at night when the northern lights dance and glow in the heavens and the coyotes howl at the moon.

The problem is we’ve taken what we deem is ours and given nothing back. How sad is that and when will we learn?

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/03 at 09:03 PM
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Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Code Of Ethics For Sportsmen

All people are bound by the laws of man to live by a code of ethics, but sportsmen have additional values to be considered if we are to be judged by what we believe are ethical actions.

Hunter ethics are more far reaching than many believe. They include a feeling and a deep appreciation for the animals and birds we hunt, the outdoor environment we and wildlife need and share, and the deep inner stimulation we feel when pursuing our pastime in an ethical, legal and well regulated manner.
This personal ethics policy hinges on those deeply-seated feelings sportsmen must have for the well being and continued health, welfare and habitat improvement of game animals and birds as well as non-game animals and birds. Hunters must care deeply about what happens to all wildlife, and not just those species for which there is an open or closed hunting season.

The habitat that the small Kirtland’s warblers call home is every bit as important to everyone as that used by ducks, geese, pheasants, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys and woodcock.

But hunting ethics go far beyond this simple, yet personal, concept that govern our actions. Michigan laws place additional ethical demands on hunters, making our special-interest outdoor group the most regulated in the state.

Young, beginning hunters no longer can pick up a firearm and head for the woods, fields or marshes without lengthy and well supervised Hunter Education training. The same rules apply to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1960. Any first-time hunter born on or after that date must possess a hunter education certificate to purchase their first hunting license.

They must take a certified Hunter Safety Program, pass a rigorous examination and satisfy qualified instructors on their capability to practice hunting safely without endangering others, themselves and the property of landowners. They must understand the laws that govern their conduct while hunting, and people should be signing up for such classes as soon as they become available for next fall. The DNR can provide information on classes.
These training classes teach students how to handle bows and firearms safely, give explanations of wildlife management, teach game laws, and make certain that students understand the laws of safe hunting. These rules are common-sense thoughts that can help keep us safe.

All are necessary to obtain an in-depth knowledge of hunter safety, but ethics—personal ethics—are almost spiritual inner feelings, something that must come from deep within each individual. They are as much a part of hunting as carrying a firearm or hunting from a tree stand with a bow.
Hunting, and the freedom to hunt, is a part of our American heritage that should be as rich and deep as love of our family and this great country. The American Constitution guarantees us the right to keep and bear arms, but those arms must be used in a civilized and lawful manner.

This constitutional guarantee obligates sportsmen to abide by local, state and federal fish and game laws, and to have respect for themselves, the lives and property of others, and obviously, for the wildlife they pursue.

Recreational hunting is a sound game management policy designed to keep wildlife around in desirable numbers for the enjoyment of future generations of hunters and those who have no desire to hunt but enjoy the recreational value of viewing deer, elk and other game.

Hunting satisfies a deep personal need for many people, and it can be a deeply moving experience. But it is as individual as our fingerprints. Each of us who hunts has a different viewpoint on how we should view our days afield.

Ethics, and the feelings hunters have for their sport and the wildlife we hunt, is an emotional package so deeply seated and meaningful that it’s difficult to put into words so non-hunters or anti-hunters would understand.

We, as hunters, must develop our own personal code of ethics which goes beyond those laws and rules established by any sporting agency or group. Our sport will be judged by its personal and collective ethics, and the public actions of its many individuals.

Hunting actions and needs require a code of personal ethics to survive ... not only now but well into the future. How hunters behave now will determine whether we will have hunting in the not-so-distant future.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/02 at 06:46 PM
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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Another Firearm Deer Season Bites The Dust

There was a time when the firearm deer season seemed terribly important to me, and although that still holds true to some degree, I spend more time bow hunting during the Nov. 15-30 season than I do with a firearm.

The same is true for the muzzleloader season. I may hunt a day or two with my in-line black powder rifle, clean it thoroughly, and pick up the bow again. There’s no two ways about it: I’d rather hunt with a bow than a firearm, and that is that.

Frankly, the firearm season wasn’t much. Many people I know, men and women who are good hunters, felt the less than lamented firearm season left a great deal to be desired. The reason is the deer simply stopped moving.

If hunters sit over a bait pile, and don’t move, there is nothing that will make them move except for bitter cold and snow. So, if I’m not going to see many deer, or perhaps none at all, I’d druther do it with a bow in my hands.

So, what is it that attracts me to this bow hunting gig? Especially now when it is bitter cold. Many things, including these plus many more.

*I like deer up close and personal. Preferably well inside of 20 yards, and 15 yards is absolutely ideal. There is no room for mistakes when deer get that close, and it becomes tougher, for me at least, to shoot a buck with a bow once snow covers the ground.

*I find it fascinating to watch deer move in close. Even I can see their long eye lashes and facial hair at 12-15 yards. Reading a deer’s body language, and knowing what they will do, really lights my fire.

*Once the weather turns cold like now, and snow begins to fall like it is tonight, deer hunting takes on a different complexion. The deer are more concentrated in little pockets of cover, and there is the opportunity to obtain close-up looks at deer that may not be possible during other seasons.

*Bow hunting means an accurately tuned bow, and experience drawing a bow with more clothing on. I normally reduce my draw weight by five pounds, and much prefer not having to struggle to come to full draw. Cold weather stiffens muscles, and the added burden of too many clothes makes it all that more difficult to draw and aim accurately without putting extra effort into pulling the bow. That extra effort is what may be noticed by the deer.

*I favor snow for trailing a wounded deer. I always use a Game Tracker string tracking device, but the snow always helps locate blood along a deer trail. The two—snow and Game Tracker—are an unbeatable combination for late-season hunters.

*There is no avoiding the issue. Snow allows hunters to quickly spot an incoming animal. The foliage of October is gone, and when deer move against a white background, they are quickly seen. Spotting deer early in their approach allows hunters to get ready.

*It goes without saying that pinpoint accuracy is required. Even though snow does help when blood trailing, there is no reason to take anything less than a perfect shot. High-percentage broadside or quartering-away shots are still required, and remember to pick the best shot and accept nothing less.

*Winter bow hunting means being motionless and quiet. Watch the deer, and move only when the animal is preoccupied with something else. Demand nothing but the highest degree of skill from yourself, and always strive for a clean killing shot. Often, at this time of year, there will be a number of deer moving through on deer trails or coming to a bait site, and the hunter must be ready at any time for a shot.

*You know, I haven’t killed a buck yet this year. It doesn’t bother me because my idea of taking one means shooting something that pleases me. I have no need to shoot a small buck, and would rather shoot a doe fawn than a small antlered buck.

I’ve passed up 29 bucks so far this year within my preferred range of 15 yards. There were some 8-pointers, and one nine-point, and a raft of smaller bucks. None suited me for many different reasons.

This sort of thing has happened before, and the season may play out without me taking a buck. It doesn’t bother me. I hunt to satisfy myself, and a kill isn’t what gets it for me. I hunt to be out there in good and bad weather, and if or when the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll shoot.

Until then, I keep hunting. You see, there is no pressure on me to shoot a deer. There have been a very large number of deer taken over 50+ years, and one more isn’t important unless it satisfies an inner need that even I can’t describe but I’ll know it when I see it.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/01 at 02:12 PM
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