Monday, March 31, 2008

Trespass Runs Rampant In This State


One of the biggest problems private landowners face is trespass, and incidents of this problem are increasing.

Many of my hunting buddies have found strangers roaming their land, are swore by them when told to leave, and they wonder why no one wants them on their land. A few have tried to sneak on my land, and find themselves in serious trouble. There are no second chances with me.

I detest arrogant, loud, obscene and rude people. I also have trouble with those who claim to know me and feel they can hunt my land without asking. The problem is that trespass isn’t limited to hunting seasons. Some trespass occurs during the morel picking season, or while people are looking for wild flowers or just taking a walk.

Some hunters are as tidy as an unmade bed, and they find it difficult to find a place to fish or hunt and no one is willing to let them set foot on their land. People who walk up to a landowner, carrying a firearm when they ask for permission to hunt, are politely asked to leave. It’s an insult to a landowner for someone to be so presumptious as to carry a firearm into their presence before they’ve shook and howdied.

I have very few problems any more but the same can’t be said for some friends. One couple was having their morning coffee when he spotted eight or nine people in his back yard.

“What are you folks doing in my back yard?” the man asked the group.

“Picking mushrooms,” one nitwit said. “Why? What’s it to you?”

“It’s my land and you are leaving,” my friend announced. One of the guys gave him the finger, and he vaulted the deck railing in his stocking feet, and took off after the trespasser. Grannie was hiking up her skirt so she could run faster, and Mom, Dad and the kids managed to reach their car. My buddy’s feet were sore for two weeks after chasing them through the woods without boots or shoes on.

The tales of trespass could go on forever. I spoke with a doctor who caught a man trespassing several times. The man said he had hunted there all his life and wasn’t going to stop just because the land had been sold.

The doctor told him he’d be arrested if he didn’t stop trespassing. The trespasser told my doctor friend that if he were arrested, he’d come back and burn down his barn. If he were further hassled by the owner or police, he would burn down his house and pour sugar in the gas tank of his vehicles. tractor and plow truck.

The doctor was beside himself. He finally reached a truce with the trespasser. The guy had a spot that he always hunted, and it was the only place he wanted to hunt, so they reached a tenuous agreement.

The trespasser could keep hunting that one spot but his job was to keep everyone else off the land, and to never set foot near his house or buildings or vehicles. The guy agreed to the deal, and the landowner has had no problems with other trespassers or his unpaid caretaker

And, guess what? Most trespassers do not care about your land. Like poachers, it becomes a game for trespassers to hunt your land without permission and without being caught. If caught, the conversation turns nasty and the results can be ugly.

Most lawmen detest trespass cases, and many county prosecutors have more important (to them) cases to handle. A trespasser gets a verbal hand slap, pays a small fine, and is free to continue to do whatever he wants to, including trespassing on your property.

Back in the old days, cattle and horse thieves trespassed on someone else’s private land to steal live stock. If they were caught, they strung up from the nearest cottonwood tree. Granted, such measures are a bit harsh for the offense of trespass, but very little is being done to curb this type of crime.

Vigilante justice doesn’t apply here, but many who suffer from continuous trespass problems would probably be happy to dole out some form of personal justice. However, we live in a society where honest people can’t take the law into their own hands so they fight a continual battle over the rights to fish and hunt on their own land with people who have no qualms about illegal access.

The jails are full, and it’s difficult to prosecute a trespass case, and even more difficult to get the problem stopped. One man I know solved the problem by allowing a deputy sheriff to hunt his land. His job was to deal with the trespassers, and for them, seeing a lawman every day brought the trespass problem to an abrupt halt.

Angry words and fisticuffs are not the answer. What best addresses the problem remains unclear. A neighborhood watch among all neighbors could work but unfortunately neighbors often are the people who access your land illegally.

It is a very real problem, and it is one for which there appears to be no clear-cut way to legally halt the crime.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/31 at 06:50 PM
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Is There A Big Brown Trout In Your Future?


All things are relative. A trophy brown when I was a kid was the 11-pounder that George Yontz of Wolverine caught from the Sturgeon River in the late 1950s.

In the mid-1970s, Jack Duffy of Leland caught a 31 1/2-pound brown while trolling in Lake Michigan. In-between those two figures is a space reserved for a huge brown trout but one that is not a record fish.

Frankly, over many years of trolling Lake Huron and Lake Michigan for brown trout, I’ve landed many that were big enough to put a hefty strain in my rod, and would tilt the scales from 11 to 18 pounds.

The brown trout is a mystery fish to many people. A five-pound brown on the Holy Waters of the upper AuSable and Manistee rivers is a trophy fish. Fish one of those back-of-beyond jump-across creeks, and catch a brown trout measuring 12 inches, and it too is a trophy.

Brown trout numbers have dwindled somewhat in recent years around the Great Lakes. Previously, browns of 20 to 25 pounds were fairly common catches, and the last state record fish was caught by Robert Henderson of Vestaburg, Mich. in Manistee County’s Arcadia Lake in 1984. It weighed 34.38 pounds and was 38 1/4 inches long. That record has since been broken.

Last year, on Mothers Day, my nephew Casey Richey of Frankfort caught a brown trout at Frankfort that weighed 36.81 pounds and was 43 inches long. He wonders if his state record fish will fall this year. It’s doubtful, but he says, “records are meant to be broken.”

Big browns are where you find them. Most harbors on Lakes Huron and Michigan produce some big fish. For many years, Thunder Bay at Alpena was home to some of the state’s biggest brown trout. It still is a great spot to troll.

Some very nice fish have been caught trolling in Hammond Bay north of Rogers City, and the area near AuGres off Whitestone Point has produced some very nice fish as well.

Huron Bay at Baraga and L’Anse on Lake Superior also produce good numbers of brown trout in the past. Another Upper Peninsula hotspot for years has been Michigan’s shoreline from Escanaba and Little Bay de Noc south to Menominee. Ten pound fish were common catches here, and I’ve caught some 11 and 12-pounders near Escanaba.

Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, including both the east and west arms of the bay, have produced some huge browns. My son David hooked a big one on a Rapala once, played it with a gentle hand, and lost it when the lure broke apart. Three of us saw that fish, and our closest estimate to its weight was 25 pounds. In higher waters of yesteryear, the Acme Reel along US-31 was a hotspot as was the rocks near Bowers Harbor.

Harbors at Frankfort, Onekama, Manistee and Ludington also produce big brown trout on occasion. Even some of the southerly ports such as Saugatuck and South Haven have delivered good numbers of big browns.

It’s possible to cast spoons off breakwalls or piers at these harbors, and a blue-silver, green-silver, orange-silver, all silver, copper, brass, pearl or other color 1/4 or 1/3-oz. Devle Dog spoons work well. Experiment with sinking time, retrieval speeds and vary between casting straight out off the pier or casting parallel to the pier if no one is in the way.

Trolling produces very well, and the trick is to work in and out of shallow water during the spring months. Years ago, in the late 1960s, Jack Duffy pioneered this offshore fishery. He brought me in on it, and we pounded big browns for many years. The methods that follow worked for us.

We always used 6-pound line, and trolled two types of lures: wobbling plugs (X-4, X-5 and U-20 FlatFish to be exact) or minnow-imitating plugs like the Rapala, Rebel, Long-A Bomber or FasTrac. Hot colors were silver, silver-black, chartreuse-orange and gold-black in the latter category. FlatFish colors were silver, silver with red spots or pearl.

FlatFish require a very slow trolling speed, and test lures next to the boat to see if they track straight. If so, slowly release line until the lures are 100 yards behind the boat, and put them into rod holders. Some anglers prefer trolling off in-line planer boards.

Minnow-imitating lures can be trolled faster than FlatFish, but tie a loop knot to the line tie to open up its wiggle. Again, let two lures out at the same time and speed for about 100 yards, and put the rods in rod holders. Adjust reel drags so a brown can take line on the strike.

Big browns almost always rip off an addition 50-75 yards of line. Reel the other line in to get it out of the way, and play the fish gently. Often, browns will strike and run toward the boat. Reel fast and hard, and you may be pleasantly surprised when you catch up to the fish when it is about 25 yards behind the boat.

Browns occasionally jump, and most often will roll on the surface. Once they get close to the boat, be prepared for one or more last-ditch efforts by the fish. Watch its head, and if the head cocks to one side or the other, he is planning another run. Let the fish go, and don’t try to pressure them on 6-pound line. A big fish will break the line like sewing thread.

Try trolling near the edges and tips of piers, along the mud line where river water meets lake water, and off a river mouth. Gravel or rocky bars in six to 15 feet of water can be good, and the key to good brown trout fishing is an abundance of alewives or smelt. And a huge amount of patience is required. Casey’s big fish came after 30 years of trying, and he fishes for browns more than any other person I know. He makes his luck by fishing hard.

Good luck!

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/30 at 01:47 PM
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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring Means Establishing Hunting Stands

imageSpring means many things to many people, but in my mind, it means giving some deep thought to my hunting stands and how and where they are placed. Proper placement according to the prevailing wind direction is important, but what happens if the wind shifts?

It’s certainly not an original idea with me. Many hunters, myself included, have toyed with the idea of having two stands for each hunting location. One for the prevailing wind direction and another that could work for most other winds.

I’ve thought about it at great length, and have pretty much decided that the most problematic winds are from the northeast, east and southeast.
Would a stand for a prevailing westerly-northwesterly wind, and one for an easterly wind work?

It probably would providing the cover (meaning trees for tree stands) were available for those winds. The reason most of us never have put up stands for an east wind is that we never used to get as much of it as we have over the last several years.

I have a few places where I can go when an east wind blows. One is a pitblind at the base of a small hill, and an east wind blows right into the opening near my buddy’s house. Deer, as a general rule, do not approach from behind the pit blind, and it’s very difficult for a deer to wind the hunter.

A couple of elevated coops are situated so an east wind isn’t too bothersome, but many of my stands are placed strategically for the prevailing westerly wind direction.

However, going back to the plausibility of two stands for each hunting area. It could work, if the terrain features and available trees are present, but there is the additional cost of doing so.

Say we’re hunting a big buck and we want to set up on him when the wind is out of the east, it can be done but it’s not something one jumps into when we already have other stands fairly close. Too many stands in a small area simply clutters up the woods.

Most of our stands are permanent fixtures, especially elevated coops built into trees or elevated on posts. I’m at the age when I want something substantial under me.

What probably makes more sense than anything is to build four or five stands for use strictly on an east wind. That might mean two or three new stands along the western edge of our property where the likelihood of a deer catching the hunters scent would be minimal.

If two or three stands were positioned with the west property line just a short distance away, the chance of a deer circling and picking up human odor would be minimized.

The other alternative would be to build an air-tight coop with one shooting window strategically placed. If the window was just large enough to shoot an arrow through, and could be opened without a sound, it would probably work. The coop would need a carpeted floor and walls that were painted black to reduce the likelihood of a hunter being spotted.

Too many windows in a coop allow the hunter to be silhouetted against the light entering the shooting window. And, the more windows there are, the more likely someone will try a shot at a circling buck or open the windows to look around. All this would do is distribute more human odor.

Fighting the east wind is something bow hunters must put up with, and in some cases, we can do something about it. In other cases, the wind may beat us.

We’re putting our heads together this winter, and trying to figure out how to beat the October east-wind problem. Will it be two blinds in one hunting spot or air-tight blinds with only one small shooting window?

Will it be one or two more pit blinds that back up to a hill? Will it be stands close to the property line to keep deer from circling behind the hunters?

It may well be a combination of all of these things although having two blinds covering one hunting spot is not one of my favorites. If one was an elevated coop and the other was a pit blind or tree stand, it could work without cluttering up the skyline.

One thing is certain: whatever we do must be accomplished during the spring, or at the very latest, by June or early July. I like all changes to be made long in advance of the bow season. Deer numbers are few where I live, and I don’t want to educate any of them. Know what I mean?

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/29 at 04:30 PM
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Turkey Hunting Ethics

imageEthical turkey hunting means hunting according to the rules. For instance: we can’t pot a gobbler from a roost tree, before or after dawn. Granted, some people might get away with it but it is not only unethical but illegal as well.

Most hunters, if they knew someone was watching, would never shoot a treed gobbler. It’s just not an honest or honorable way to hunt. So, if we always believe that someone may be watching our actions, we follow the rules and do the ethical and right thing.

Ethics are legal and moral standards by which other people judge hunters. Shooting a gobbler from a car window is not ethical nor is it legal. Shooting one from someone’s front yard, running out, grabbing the bird and racing back to the car is not only unethical but breaks two or three laws.

I had a chance several years ago to cheat. A huge gobbler was working my way, slowly but surely, and the minute hand was ticking slowly down to the end of shooting time. A soft little whining yelp teased the bird and he paused to gobble, dance and all that did was slow him down even more.

The gobbler had a beard that tickled the ground but he was 55 yards out. Three minutes of legal shooting time remained, and I hoped he would get moving and take several fast steps closer. He could then dawdle along for another five yards, and be in range before shooting time ended.

He took two or three steps, stopped again, went into a semi-serious strut, folded up his wings, and stood at 45 yards. It was now down to seconds: 10… 9 ... 8… and finally my watch said shooting time was over. Five seconds later the bird quickly walked to within 25 yards of me, stopped, and stood broadside with his head up for a full minute.

Could I have shot? Absolutely. Did I shoot? The answer is no. Who would have known if I had cheated by less than a minute?

That answer is simple. I would have known, and every forkful of breast meat would have stuck in my throat like a big chaw of tobacco. I couldn’t have eaten that bird if I had violated all of the ethical and legal codes of hunting conduct.

There are certain things ethical hunters will not do. Shooting a gobbler before legal shooting time starts is a serious breach of ethics and laws. Dumping a gobbler after shooting time ends is equally wrong. Killing one with a rifle is illegal in this state although it is legal in some other states.

The advent of 3 1/2-inch 12 gauge shotguns and the heavy 10 gauge magnums with ultra-full choke tubes have made longer shots possible. I watched a gent unload one shot at a gobbler that would have kept coming had he not shot at 80 yards, and the bird flew away with the guy chasing it with two wild shots.

There’s no excuse for ultra-long shots. Allow the bird to approach within range, take your time, and when his head comes up, shoot. If the bird approaches, his head and neck tucked down, don’t shoot. Birds often will go out of strut, straighten up, and lift their head after gobbling. The chance of wounding a bird is high until the head is straight up.

It’s unethical to call to a bird if you know another hunter has been working it. Common sense, which plays a major role in hunting ethics, dictates that the newcomer should hunt elsewhere for a different bird.

I watched a big gobbler approach a highway, cross and headed toward my hen and jake decoys. My set-up was 350 yards off the road, and the bird came off the road shoulder and out into the field. It then began to strut, gobble, and started my way again.

A car came down the road, stopped when it saw the gobbler and pulled onto the shoulder to watch. The bird spooked when the car stopped/ Hunter ethics wasn’t an issue here but instead, it was a clear case of hunter harassment. The person in the car knew that when he stopped the turkey would take off running. Ethics applies on both sides of the hunting issue.

If one person is working a bird, it’s unethical to try to horn in on their action. It’s unethical to trespass, and and its a crime to harass the birds for any reason. Hunting doesn’t harass the birds but chasing them with a four-wheel-drive ATV is unethical and illegal.

You know, I know, and poachers know that conservation officers are spread too thin and it’s hard for them to enforce all the laws. So, if anyone will help police our ranks, it must be sportsmen like you and me. Ethics must stand for something, and if ethical behavior goes out the window, where are we then?

Civilization must stand on a strong foundation of common sense and ethical behavior. If we lose one, the other will surely follow. If they both go, the world of hunting as we know it will falter and fail. 

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/28 at 12:24 PM
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bow Hunting Gobbler Requires Patience.

One of my friends leased some land years ago, put up some tree stands and ground blinds for deer and turkeys. As soon as his friends learned he had some good turkey hunting land, his list of newest best friends grew by leaps and bounds.

Two people came to hunt from another part of the state where bird numbers were few, and sightings of a gobbler was cause for celebration. He did all the work, did all the preseason scouting, and they came to shoot birds.

He assumed they were ardent turkey hunters. That assumption led him to believe they knew when and where to shoot a gobbler. That assumption was soon proven wrong.

Each one hunted the first weekend with my friend. At the end of two days, four gobblers had been wounded and lost. They didn’t have or care to have Game Trackers on their bows, and all four birds eventually fed the coyotes.

They came the next weekend, and my friend presented each with a Game Tracker unit and helped them put it on their bow and then practice shooting at targets. You guessed it: they shot and lost two more birds because they wouldn’t tie the string behind the broadhead.

“No more,” he screamed. “You’ve lost six gobblers in four days of hunting. Either learn when and where to shoot or don’t come back. And ... you won’t hunt one more day here without using a Game Tracker.”

The following day he explained the facts of life to them again. He told them that where they once hunted, and where they seldom saw a turkey, was a thing of the past. If they were to hunt more than this last day with him, they would know when and where to shoot birds.

He explained the necessity of taking only high percentage shots, and never taking low percentage shots. He told them the only shots they could take that day were standing broadside or standing quartering-away shots at 20 yards of less. There could be no exceptions.

He used a turkey 3-D target and positioned it at many different angles. He offered them broadside, quartering-away, quartering-toward, dead-on and dead-away shots. He made them shoot countless arrows at the target when it was properly positioned, and finally they realized what they had been doing wrong.

They had been flinging arrows in hopes a lucky hit would kill the gobbler. No doubt the first six “lucky” hits killed the birds but none were recovered even after several hours of blood trailing. They had the skills to draw on and aim at turkeys, and both were good shots but they just aimed at the center-of-mass.

My wife has shot two gobblers with a bow. Hit properly, they jumped into the air and come down dead. She made detailed remarks based on her experience, and it all helped that day.

Two shots are deadly. One is to shoot at the base of the tail feathers to hit the spine when the bird is displaying and strutting although the bird may only stop for a second, and being ready and at full draw is important. Another killing shot is to place the arrow just behind the base of the wing bone. Another shot that works is to aim slightly to the right or left of the base of the beard.

This pair soon became excellent shots, and knowing which shots to take and when to take them had been learned. My friend had to teach them how and when to draw, and he didn’t want them shooting at a moving turkey gobbler.

“A turkey that is feeding is occupied,” he said. “Watch that bird and other nearby turkeys, and make your draw slow and noiselessly. Take careful aim at the heart-lung area, and don’t shoot at anything else.”

He told them that patience is a virtue, and especially when trying to arrow a gobbler. Wait until the bird offers an ideal shot. Turkeys often move around in herky-jerky fashion and seldom offer a decent shot, so he told them not to shoot. You be the judge of when to shoot: don’t let the bird decide for you.

“You must control when you shoot,” he preached. “Don’t raise the bow until a longbeard turns sideways or offers a quartering-away shot. If the bird is in range, but other birds in the flock have their heads up and looking, just wait.

“Don’t be in a rush to shoot. Cherish the moment. Make it last. Drag out the final outcome as long as possible. When you decide to shoot, make certain the gobbler is properly positioned. Check to make sure no other birds have their head up or are looking in your direction. You’ll know when the right moment comes. Pick a spot, come to full draw, aim at that precise spot, and make a smooth release.”

That day both of them shot nice gobblers. Nothing big, but bearded birds nonetheless. They waited, and true enough, when the right time arrived for a shot when the bird was perfectly positioned, they eased back to full draw and killed their gobblers.

Learning periods like this are very important. Beginning bow hunters have the urge to shoot something, and they invariably take shots that offer little chance of recovering the wounded bird.

Bow hunters must perfect the art of patience. Don’t try to rush things. If and when the time is right to shoot, the turkey will be motionless and looking away or at another bird, and you’ll have plenty of time to shoot. Learn how to wait, and if a limbhanger doesn’t present a good shot that day, let him go and try again the next day.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/27 at 12:50 PM
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Turkey Master Rob Keck Resigns

image Wow, talk about a quick departure. Less than a week after National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) CEO Rob Keck was schmoozing at the Alabama Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt, the longtime organization head abruptly announced his resignation this morning during an all-staff meeting. The announcement, a complete surprise to the staff and industry alike, comes just a day after the federation’s board of directors forced Chief Operating Officer Carl Brown and Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dick Rosenlieb to step down.

Keck, who began his career as a high school art teacher, became a volunteer with the fledgling NWTF back in the mid 1970s. He joined the organization as an employee in 1978 and quickly rose to the ranks of CEO, a position he has held for 27 years. Under his leadership, the NWTF has grown to more than 550,000 members and stands among the most viably robust and visible conservation organizations in the outdoor world.

“I was at a point in my life were I decided it was time to make a change,” Keck says. He would not comment on if the firings of Brown and Rosenlieb led to the timing of his decision, citing health and family reasons for his decision.

Sources close to the matter said a move had been made last October during the fall board meeting to oust Brown and Rosenlieb, both key members of the organization’s leadership for many years, and that Keck threatened to resign if they went through with the move. The effort failed and the leadership team proceeded intact. Until now.

Carl Brown

Reached at his home, former COO Carl Brown, declined to discuss specifics, but confirmed that he was no longer with the federation.

“I think it is a sad day for the Federation, and the future for the organization right now is very unclear,” Brown says. “The culture...that we tried to build there was one of family and at this moment, all I can say is that I’m very disappointed.”

Brown had worked for the NWTF for 28 years and was responsible for overseeing the organizations meteoric chapter growth in recent years.

Dick Rosenlieb, the former Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing and an employee with the organization for 19 years, echoed Brown’s sentiments.

Dick Rosenlieb

“I hate it because of my relationships with volunteers across the country and the relationships we had built with so many corporate partners,” Rosenlieb says. “I think it’s a shame. I love the Turkey Federation and I hate to see this.”

When asked why the board had it out for him and Brown, Rosenlieb noted only that they apparently wanted to head in a different direction. He said he could not elaborate further.

Sources have said that the board had been investigating certain management practices at the Federation and that the board’s actions were in response to their findings. Chairman of the board, Jere D. Peak, a longtime NWTF volunteer from Alabama who was also in attendance at the Alabama Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt last week, was unavailable for comment.

Other employees reached for comment refused to speak saying only that they were extremely surprised by the news. They had not been notifiied of Brown or Rosenlieb’s departure.

During a phone call, Keck said that he will stay on with the NWTF until June 1, to help with the transition of power to a new or interim CEO. His resignation, combined with the departures of Brown and Rosenlieb, leave a huge vacuum in the organization’s leadership. Despite that, Keck says the NWTF should continue to find success.

“I would think the organization will be just fine. (The board) will find a good, competent leader in good time,” he says. “They have a vision that might take the federation in a new direction, but the people we brought up under us can do a very good job.”

Turkey populations have skyrocketed during Keck’s tenure as the organization successfully partnered with state and federal wildlife agencies to relocate flocks and improve habitat. Keck is also perhaps the most recognized conservation group leader, known to many sportsmen through his role as host of the NWTF’s flagship television program, Turkey Call, which first aired in the late 1990s.

Keck, 57, said that he was looking forward to finding a job that would allow him to have a broader impact in the industry, explaining that the health concerns were more of a lifestyle nature than any one particular problem.

“I’ve been known for my part in the return of the wild turkey, but I’ve done a lot more than just (work on behalf of) turkeys,” he said.

When asked if he would be interested in heading up another organization he said no.

“I really have no interest in heading up another organization,” Keck says.

Stay tuned as developments come in.

For more information on this and other turkey management and hunting topic, kindly click on the following website:  The National Wild Turkey Federation’s CEO turns in his resignation in conjunction with firings of some high level members

Note: Great thanks about this story are owed to Doug Howlett and Colin Moore. For more information on this issue and other wild turkey hunting and management policies contact Grand View Media Group or by email at: 

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/26 at 03:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Old-School Theory Applies To Deer Hunting


It’s a topic first learned in school. It may not have been devised with whitetail deer in mind, but the principles do apply.

It states that for every action, there is an opposite reaction. We’ve all heard this before, and it applies in many and varied ways while deer hunting.

Take an ill-advised shot at a buck or doe and miss, and the action of shooting causes an opposing reaction. The deer runs off, alarmed but unharmed.

This action-reaction plays out on a daily basis in the deer woods. Set up in the wrong place, place yourself upwind of the deer, and once they catch your scent, off they go without a bow-shot being taken.

The same action-reaction could be called cause-and-effect. Your ill-advised hunting actions cause you to take a shot and miss, and the deer runs off, allowing for a quick and effective escape.

Many bow hunters fail to heed the good advice of credible hunters. They seem to think they are invisible because they are dressed in camo. Well-worn camo can be ruined by wearing clothing washed in detergent with whitening agents. The deer spook from whitened clothing that doesn’t look natural.

Thousands of hunters believe they are quiet and motionless. They should have a buddy sit 50 yards away with a video camera to tape all the movements that are made.

We’ve all seen television hunting shows where the cameraman tapes the host pointing and loudly whispering “there is a big buck.” These are called “cutaways,” and are usually taken long after the buck has walked into range and caught an arrow through the heart and lungs.

Hunters who try such nonsense merely are seen, heard or both by the deer, and the animals run off snorting. Cause and effect or action and reaction. Take your pick of which terminology you wish to use.

Television hunting shows are expensive to produce, and the competition for advertising dollars is fierce as people graduate from fishing shows to hunting shows. If they make noise at the wrong time, and the buck vamooses, the chance of getting future advertising dollars from that company are down the tube. Again, a classic case of action and reaction.

Most things we do while bow hunting involves action and reaction. Forget to use a safety harness while leaning out to shoot at a buck, and go tumbling out of a stand, and you’ll soon be on the receiving end of an object lesson about action and reaction. Live through the fall, and the hunter will have ample time to reflect on cause and effect.

Forget to check tree stands or permanent elevated stands on a regular basis, and if an accident should happen, the hunter who lives through the fall may reflect on their senseless lack of sanity.

Bow hunters are well advised to consider cause and effect, action and reaction, whenever they go hunting. For every possible action, there is a possible opposing reaction, and they may be damaging to your body or harmful to your hunting efforts.

Hang stands early. Insure that everything is safe. Wear a safety harness. Learn how to sit still and don’t make noise. There are countless things to think about, but consider every action in advance and think about the possible reactions.

Deer live in the fields, swamps and woods. We live there a few hours a day or a week. Give deer credit for being instinctive, savvy and alert to changes within their home range.

One way to consider your actions while deer hunting is to consider your bed. If the head of your bed faces west, and you prepare to retire for the night and find the head of your bed facing east, you will notice it right away. Deer always notice changes in their world as well.

Consider every change made while hunting, and give serious consideration to the reactions. This is such a basic concept that any bow hunter should be aware of it.

Just remember: for ever action, there is an opposite reaction. Anything you do can and will backfire if you don’t think the problem through long before committing to it.

Conquer this basic thought: engage the brain before the body, think things through, and it’s very possible that your hunting success will improve.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/25 at 04:58 PM
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Does Intense Concentration Spook Deer?


Tonight’s item is something to think about, and it’d be nice if other bow hunters who have similar feelings or have seen similar reactions from deer while hunting, would drop me a note.

It’s a quantum leap for some hunters when they read this, and when I’ve voiced my opinion at deer-hunting seminars over the years, some folks sit there with their mouth agape in obvious disbelief.

It’s not important that you believe as I do, but over the last 35 years I’ve tested this concept on countless occasions. Each time I test it, the result is the same.

Here goes: I believe, since I am a supreme predator, that deer—especially does—can sense the presence of danger. I hunted mountain lions once in northern Arizona, and my guide told me the reason cougars kill mostly mule deer bucks is because the antlered bucks are so full of themselves they feel invincible. They are not alert to the presence of danger. Does, on the other hand, are constantly alert to possible nearby predators.

My thought is pretty straight-forward. I believe that thinking hard about killing an incoming buck or doe can transfer some type of danger signal or energy waves to deer. Are they carried by brain waves? Do these vibes, if you will, throw out a silent alarm that does seem to pick up easier than bucks?

I never think, upon seeing an oncoming buck or doe, that I am going to shoot that animal. My brain stays in neutral. I’m not thinking about anything.

My idea is to never stare at a buck or doe. Looking into a deer’s eyes seem to allow that animal to feel your presence. My thoughts are neutral, and when I draw, aim and shoot, I’m concentrating on my aiming point but I’m not thinking about killing the animal.

To test this theory over the years has been quite informative. My normal method is to allow my eyes to sweep over the deer without lingering on any part of its body. It’s easy to establish that the animal is a buck if antlers are visible, and that data is stored in my mind. I know it is a buck but no longer think about it, and I never dwell on the fact that bone grows from its head.

Instead, I think about my nightly blog, the chance to get out hunting the next night, or recall something that has nothing to do with hunting. I could just as easily think about painting the basement walls, which is a horrid thought, even when I’m trying to fool a buck.

However, my mind knows why I’m there, and that is to possibly shoot a buck or doe. My mind focuses on some other thought, or on nothing at all, and when my mind tells me it’s time to shoot, the bow is drawn, the red-dot settles behind the front shoulder and the arrow is gone before my mind tells my finger to touch the release trigger.

The deer never displays any sense of unease. It doesn’t feel my predatory instincts coming its way, and the deer remains relaxed.

On the other hand, I’ve often thought to myself as a test: Here comes a buck, and look at those antlers. My eyes scan the bone on the buck’s head, and then I strongly focus my attention on the heart-lung area. I come to full draw, think about driving the arrow into the chest cavity, and about that time, the animal suddenly bolts away.

There has been no noise or sudden movements on my part. But my thoughts are about shooting that animal, and perhaps this comes from many years of hunting experience and shooting many deer. Perhaps my vibes are stronger than those of others who have largely been unsuccessful.

Think of it this way. I no longer drink, but back when I did, my entering a bar was always an experience. If I was a stranger, I’d feel the vibes of other people, and then feel someone looking at me. With practiced determination, my eyes would gradually scan the room until the person staring at me was found.

It was then that I’d size up the situation. Is this a curious but friendly person or one who wants to put knuckle bumps on my face? If I sensed agitation or anger, I’d turn and walk out while the opportunity presented itself.

Deer, I’m convinced, can do the same thing. Years ago, while shooting some of the photos of deer seen on this website, the deer would hear the shutter click, look around, and nothing happens. Minutes later another photo or two would be taken, and the deer might became somewhat used to the noise. Nothing happens, and they relax.

It’s strange but deer seem to sense when the hunter or photographer means no harm, and an old doe may go charging off, but if they are not unduly alarmed, they often return in minutes.

Deer that sense a hunter who is intent on shooting them can get as freaky as a mule deer doe when she suspects the presence of a predatory cougar.

So, I never look deer in the eye, never think about shooting them, scan past the animal, never stare at the deer, and if I’m about to shoot, my mind is emptied of all predatory thoughts. Ninety-five percent (or more) of the deer that have fallen to my arrows were dead before they knew their lives were in danger.

I repeat: it’s not necessary you believe this, and hunters can continue to hunt as they please. However, when I hunt, my purpose is to get close to deer, not get them excited, and if the right buck comes by, I’ll take the shot. Cougars hunt the same way and they are more deadly predators than most humans.

Feel free to share your comments. Agree or disagree? Your thoughts?

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/24 at 06:09 PM
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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Avoid Tunnel Vision & Kill That Buck


Tunnel vision occurs when a person is in a high-stress mode. a big whitetail buck is seen approaching, and ever so slowly it moves your way, and you want to shoot that buck. You have a strong desire to take this animal, and you focus intently on the animal.

It stops, rubs a tree briefly, then stands back to admire his handiwork, hits another lick or two on the bark, checks it out again, and then continues toward you. He stops, sniffs but can’t smell you or any danger, but he is in no rush.

The anxiety level builds after the third or fourth stop to putter around doing big-buck things, and then he moved forward again. He is now 50 yards away and will soon have a date with a life-or-death experience. Your breath is labored, your throat is dry and feels ragged, and there is a bit light headed.

His antlers are big, possibly the largest whitetail buck you’ve ever seen in the wild. He stands, out of easy bow range, and surveys the area. He doesn’t smell or see any danger, but he didn’t grow a rack with 10 good long points and a 20-inch inside spread by being stupid.

He stands, motionless, head up and looking around. He’s not spooky, but just being careful.

Satisfied, he moves to within 40 yards. The rack seems to grow even larger the closer he gets. You are sucking air, and mentally begging for a 20-yard broadside side. The thought of shooting this buck makes you dizzy with excitement, and your heart is racing. A full load of adrenalin is streaming through your system, and the buck closes to 35 yards and then to 30, where he stands behind a thin screen of brush. Jolt after jolt of adrenalin has you as wired as drinking 10 cans of Ya-Hoo.

He offers a brief 25-yard shot but your eyes are riveted on that rack, and you don’t want to make a mistake. He’s coming, just let him move into the 20-yard range and then wait for a broadside or quartering-away shot at this huge buck.

Finally, he steps into range, turns to offer a quartering-away shot at 20 yards. The buck stares off toward other deer 100 yards away in the field, and you raise the bow, stare at the antlers again, come to full draw, aim and turn loose an arrow.

There is a large whack noise, and the buck races off while the arrow and broadhead sail off into the brush. Exciting, knowing you made a killing shot, you climb down and follow the Game Tracker string to the arrow. There isn’t a drop of blood on the arrow anywhere.

Tunnel vision had set in and when the hunter aimed and shot, he aimed at the major focal point on that buck—the antlers. He forgot to force himself to pick a spot behind the front shoulder. His continuous focus on the buck and his majestic antler was his undoing because that is where he aimed.

Total concentration is paramount during the aiming process. Once I know a buck has antlers, and decide to shoot him, I never look at the antlers again. I focus on the heart-lung area, shoot and the deer dies.

A buddy of mine went on a wild boar hunt down to Tennessee with me, and I warned him against studying the length of the boar’s tushes. These big curved teeth are fascinating, and my friend looked at the teeth, aimed and hit the boar in the top of the head. It wasn’t a killing shot, and I hollered to “shoot for the heart-lung area.” He did, and the boar died a quick death.

Tunnel vision doesn’t just happen to police officers in a fire-fight with some bad guys. It happens to hunters all the time, and most often to sportsmen with very little experience.

It can ruin a hunt, but there is no need for it. The trick is to determine whether it has antlers, and if it is what you want. Once that has been determined, forget about them, and intently focus on the vital area.

Once you draw back the arrow, and aim, do not look at the antlers. Pick a tiny spot, concentrate on that spot, make a smooth release, and do not drop your bow hand until the arrow makes contact with the deer.

Big bucks come often to the television hunters, but for most bow hunters like you and me, it can be a once-in-a-lifetime deal. The timing is too important to waste time missing an easy shot. Concentration, and not giving in to tunnel vision, is the key to deer-hunting success.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/23 at 02:59 PM
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Saturday, March 22, 2008

More Bears In The State?


Bear numbers have been rising in the northern Lower Peninsula for several years. In fact, bears are being occasionally seen in areas where they’ve never been seen before. Some people, like me, cheer that news but my opinions are not shared by all people. More bears mean more bear sightings.

Which may be the reason many more bears are being seen during the early summer months. A new Bear Crossing sign has been erected on M-115 just northwest of Cadillac. It’s at a favorite bear crossing. Bears, like whitetail deer, have favorite highway crossings and motorist are advised to slow down.

The area on the west side of the highway is a major swamp that extends over 20 miles north and south, and although I haven’t heard of a bruin being killed by a vehicle there, it is a favorite crossing location for these animals. There is a spot on M-55 west of Cadillac where numerous bears have died after being hit by a car or truck.

Deer Crossing signs are common in both peninsulas, but when Bear Crossing signs are put in place, it’s done for a reason. An increasing number of black bears live nearby.

That Mitchell Lake Swamp normally holds at least 20 bruins, and some years it may hold as many as 30-35 animals. An increase in bruin numbers in certain locations is caused by Mom kicking the kids out before she breeds again.

The cubs are nearly fully grown, and often will weight 80 to 100 pounds. Most of these transient bears are young boars that are trying to stay out of the reach of older and larger boars. This causes bears to wander into new and unfamiliar territory, and a young boar running from a big boar can cross highways and be killed.

Or ... the animals can become a nuisance to homeowners when they find outside garbage cans tipped over and smashed. Bears frequently come up on porches at night to get into a bird feeder, and beekeepers find young bruins at fault with the destruction of bee hives.

These bears are looking for a home, and they frequently come into contact with humans. There is a poorly-defined line between acceptance and a lack of acceptance among humans when it comes to bears.

This acceptable level falls quickly if the animals begin destroying personal property. The farther south bears go, the lower their social acceptance level becomes. Draw a line from Grand Rapids through Midland to Bay City, and south of that line the willingness of the public to share our habitat with black bears is not very high.

A bear wandered around Clarkston over 10 years and the animal made the 6 o’clock news. The city dwellers were peeking out their windows before walking from their front door to the car. That bruin, a young male, was chased and seen, and finally captured in the Thumb area after traveling nearly 100 miles trying to escape the hollering of the Clarkston residents. The hue and cry of city dwellers forced the DNR to relocate the animal farther north.

And therein lies the problem with bears. They need room, and so do humans. Do we need as much as we have? It’s a debatable question, but the habitat of bears is slowly shrinking while the population of bruins is growing.The number of people inhabiting northern Michigan also makes it more difficult for humans and bears to co-exist.

The DNR is doing a great job of managing black bears, but bears have been seen near Bay City, Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Midland, and as far south as the Michigan-Indiana border. This is non-traditional bear areas and when a bruin is seen in these southerly locations, the DNR soon hears about it.

Some great bear habitat is found south of that Flint to Grand Rapids line, and the food sources are much greater than those in northern counties where snow keeps the animals denned up from December through March or early April.

Can we look for a greater southern movement of young black bears in the coming years? I think so. I also see more of the animals getting killed on state highways. I see more damage done to croplands by a hungry bear, and great damage done to beehives.

Can we expect our southern residents to welcome black bears with open arms? Not hardly.

One or two bears spread over a 20-mile area wouldn’t hurt a thing, but if the animals find a nice little swamp near a great food supply near Lansing, Jackson or Kalamazoo, and start being seen on a regular basis, the local residents would rise up and scream for their removal.

We move into their habitat, take their land, and then complain when they want to take some of it back. Ask those people who live near Denver how much fun it is to move into some of those canyons only to find that mountain lions live there. Mountain lions are far more aggressive than bears, but no one wants bears around either.

Bears, like state prisons, are a victim of the NIMBY Factor, a phrase that stands for Not In My Back Yard. So the state scientifically manages the state’s bear numbers well, but they can’t stem the southward expansion of black bears into areas where they aren’t being greeted warmly.

Me, I’m rooting for the bears but know the end is inevitable. The bruins may make a very slow inroad into our southern swamps, but bear numbers will remain higher in the northern counties where most people accept them.

It’s just too bad that people in our southern counties really don’t want the animals anywhere within 200 miles of them. It’s sad because they don’t understand how nice it is to know that bears live nearby although we seldom get a chance to see them.

The bottom line is if we are to have more bruins roaming Michigan, some will eventually find their way into southern counties. It then becomes a social factor that few resident will want to deal with, and that isn’t good news for the animals.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/22 at 01:58 PM
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Friday, March 21, 2008

Living ThroughA Big Disappointment


It was 1979, and at almost 40 years of age, I had the chance to go to New Zealand with my late buddy, Gordie Charles, the retired Traverse City Record-Eagle outdoor writer. Another person was supposed to go with him, but canceled out.

Gordie asked if I would like to go. Would I? Could I? I had to scramble to get a passport, and it arrived two days before we were to leave. We flew to the New Zealand’s North Island (there also is a South Island), and enjoyed a wonderful eight days.

We fished a lovely North Island stream near Auckland, and enjoyed some world-class action with spawning brown trout. We trolled flies on some of the inland lakes, fished larger rivers, and everywhere we went there were brown trout and rainbow trout ... and the friendliest people on Earth.

We then went to the South Island, a more mountainous area, and fished lakes and rivers to our hearts content. I remember one lake we fished where spoons were legal, and our guide said yellow lures would work great.

I tied on a snap swivel, chose a yellow with five red diamonds Devle Dog (one of the many Dardevle lures), and the guide knew what he was talking about. I hooked 10 brown trout on eight straight casts. Trust me, you are reading that correctly.

Two of the first eight fish were hooked, fought for a minute or two, and they shook free of the spoon. As soon as the lure fell from the trout’s mouth, and I made several turns on the reel handle, another trout would hit the spoon.

All of the trout I caught were released, and Gordie was catching fish on almost every cast. Most of these browns weighed between four and seven pounds, and they acted as if they hadn’t eaten in a week.

We spent some time fly fishing the river that flowed into the lake, and the water was as clear as fine crystal and about two feet deep. Polarized sunglasses helped us sight-fish for the browns, and a No. 8 green, black and brown nymph was deadly.

We’d cast upstream above the fish, allow the nymph to sink as we stripped in excess line as the fly drifted toward us, and the strikes were certain and sudden. It produced some of the greatest fly fishing action I’ve experienced.

Many of the river fish got away. Once hooked, they often jumped and the narrow river had many trees along the banks, and the fish would tangle in low-hanging branches above the water and break off. We’d tie on another 5X tippet, another fly, and move several steps and cast to other fish.

The trip offered the finest fly fishing of my life, and I vowed to return again. An offer came from an unusual source.

My son works in the computer industry with a California firm, and they have clients all over the world and he occasionally must fly to certain countries, solve their computer problems, and once three years ago I mentioned that if he ever had to visit New Zealand, I’d like to tag along.

He called a few nights ago and is leaving for Auckland, New Zealand in about a week. Did I want to come along?

You bet. Absolutely. Count me in. And then the reality of my current situation set in. I’m probably halfway through the healing process with my eye and haven’t got new lenses in my glasses yet. There is a big difference between needs and wants.

I need new glasses to improve my flagging vision. I want to go, but cannot. Needs and wants. Big difference.

I couldn’t drive, and even though I wanted to go, it would be a unwise decision. Flying to a foreign country, and with no way to get around, wasn’t my idea of a good time. Sure, I could walk but didn’t know if there were some trout streams within walking distance of the hotel.

I didn’t want to be too far from my eye doctor, and New Zealand is a very long distance away from anywhere. I remember leaving Honolulu in the early evening on my first trip and we flew all night over the Pacific Ocean before arriving in Auckland about 10 a.m.

My mind (the irrational part) was saying: “Go. You’ll never have another chance.” The more rational part said: “It’s foolish to go without new glasses. If you can’t drive, how will you get around? What will you do all day while Guy is working?”

Another problem is I’d have to have my wife drive me to Chicago to get an expensive hurry-up passport, and that could represent a problem on these snowy roads. There were too many strikes against my going at this time, and I’ve always paid heed to reasons to do or not do things.

However, I asked for a rain-check on a New Zealand trip. I know I could easily write a story each day while down there, but I’ll have to forego the pleasure this time. In the meantime, thoughts of sparkling streams, clear lakes and big trout have been teasing me for two nights.

Hopefully, he will go again and hopefully my eyes will be looking through new glasses and I’ll be able to drive. It’s a dream I hope to realize soon.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/21 at 05:11 PM
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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Share Hunting Experiences With Others


Spending time with someone else, and watching them take a shot at a buck or a gobbler, is just as exciting for the watcher as for the shooter.

It’s long been said that turkey hunting is a one-man game, and that, for the most part, is true. Hunts can be shared by people who hunt alone but who have learned to share the trip with others.

More families than ever before have come to share their hunts. My wife once shared a successful bow hunt with three grandchildren. The youngest was still sucking on a bottle, and Kay had the kids all seated in an elevated coop.

“Look,” she whispered, “there is a nice buck. Sit still, don’t move around and don’t make a sound. Grandma will see if she can shoot it.”

She eased the elevated coop’s window open, made sure all the kids could see without moving around, and waited for the buck to walk in. It stepped into her shooting area, and was slightly quartering-away, and she waited for the near-side front leg to move forward before drawing and shooting.

The buck ran off, and Eric who has eyes like an eagle said: “You got him, Gram, you shot him right in the heart. Let’s go find him.”

She got all three kids safely to the ground, went back up, lowered her bow and quiver of arrows to the ground, and began following the Game Tracker string. She had to rein in the kids to keep them from running ahead and getting tangled in the tracking line.

It was starting to get dark in the woods, and she took the kids back to the car. She knew the deer was dead, and soon her daughter Nancy, and son-in-law Roger, and I, would arrive.

The kids were right into it. We quickly found the dead buck, and set about field-dressing it. The girls stood and watched as the entrails came out, and when Dave held up the heart, Eric blurted: “I told you, Gram, right through the heart.”

The youngest of these kids was about two years old at the time, and it didn’t gross them out. They probably would have helped with the field dressing but we didn’t want them to get bloody for fear some well-meaning person might have thought we’d been beating them. They probably wouldn’t have understood taking the kids out hunting either.

Children must learn to have patience, and it is a necessary part of a bow hunt. Most kids, especially those who do not hunt, have a patience level of seven or eight minutes—the time between television commercials. That type of patience won’t work in a deer stand.

Kids must learn to sit still, and to remain silent. They can learn what an adrenalin rush feels like when Dad, Mom or Gram takes a shot. They learn, first-hand, that hunters always try to kill cleanly and quickly, and utilize the flesh of this animal for the nourishment of their bodies.

Adults can get their children into shooting. Never give a kid a hand-me-down adult bow that is too long for them. Shop around to find a short-draw bow that will work fine for two or three years.

Teach them to shoot, and teach them how to read deer sign in the sand, snow or mud. Show then how to determine wind direction, and why it is so important to be downwind of deer.

Show children what a broadside and quartering-away shot looks like and coach them that these are high-percentage shots. Show them which shots should not be taken and why they seldom produce a killing shot.

Teach them respect for these animals we hunt. Allow them to learn to read the body language of a deer, and how the animals will react when danger threatens.

Take them out when preseason scouting, and take them out once the season opens. Teach them tree stand safety, how to use a safety harness, and how to stay safe in an elevated stand or tree stand.

Most of all, talk to them afterward. Listen to their stories, and share yours with them, and give up your time to sit with them if they are not 17 years of age. Be supportive of their efforts, and install a sense of needing to practice to avoid having to make a long trailing job on a poorly hit deer.

Take them out hunting. Show them. Teach them, laugh with them and be proud of them if they cry over their first deer kill. Give of yourself, and that giving will be returned ten-fold in the years to come.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/20 at 04:56 PM
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Don’t Make The Mistake: Take The Jake


Turkey hunters, new and old, often want some turkey hunting advice. There is one piece of wisdom I will always share.

The dream of most turkey hunters when the season opens is to call in and kill a ground-dragging longbeard. Most hunters want to see that huge gobbler come strutting in, his beard swinging from side to side, and it’s usually not what we hope for and seldom attain.

Truth be told, many hunters will hunt for a majestic gobbler for a day or two, and then tiring of getting up long before sunrise, they wind up shooting the first bird they see with a beard. It’s often a little jake with a two- to four-inch beard.

Is shooting such a bird right or wrong? From a biological point of view, it doesn’t hurt the turkey population to shoot jakes. They do very little breeding of hens, but the first unwary jake that tries to top a hen will be thoroughly thrashed by a Boss Gobbler if he is nearby.

Some hunters believe there is a stigma attached to the shooting of a jake. It’s as if the killing of a young gobbler is a bad thing, and a few clueless turkey hunters who also believe that feels that shooting does or other antlerless deer is poor management.

The truth is that there are plenty of jake birds when the season opens barring a horrific winter. We didn’t have a serious winter during 2007-2008, and I’ve seen far more jakes this year than adult gobblers. Four tiny jakes were in my backyard doing their best to get birdseed out of the bird feeder.

It’s basically the same thing from year to year. Jakes are eager to come to most hen calls providing the big guy isn’t nearby. They are precocious birds, ready to breed hens if they will hold still, and the hunter who has never shot a gobbler—or very few of them—will often take a jake at the end of the first or second day.

Make no mistake about it: turkey hunting is hard work. The hours are uncommonly long, and it doesn’t take many days to get beat up and the body becomes so far out of kilter, that anything, including shooting a jake, will end the misery.

I know a large number of turkey hunters who move from state to state, hunting birds every day for nearly two months, and the only way the human body can take such punishment is to take a two-hour nap every day. Even at that, most of these guys act and look like zombies after two weeks of steady hunting. I’ve seen deer in the headlights that show more emotion to some of these hunters.

I’ve taken many hunters out, and have put many of them into big longbeards, but I’ve also had many who would settle for a jake before the first day ended. This hard work business doesn’t mean much if a guy can call up a sharp-spurred gobbler at dawn of the first morning. They go back and hop into bed, knowing that hunting will become ever tougher on the body as time goes on for other hunters.

Have I shot a jake? Yes, and in fact I’ve shot two or three such birds over my career. It often happens during the third hunt in Area K when hordes of hunters have been pounding the longbeards for two weeks. The third season opens, the birds are very spooky, and there are times when it’s impossible to find a big gobbler anywhere.

We are down near the end of the season, and are seeing more mushroom pickers than turkeys, and finally, wore down and weary, we get an answer. We can tell by the gobble that it is not an adult bird, but in saunters a spirited jake.

He comes quickly, or slowly as the case may be, and steps out in front of us at 25 yards. We study the beard, wish it was seven inches longer than it is, and then drop the firing pin on a magnum load of No. 5 copper-plated shot.

If the hunt has been arduous, and turkey numbers are widely scattered and not gobbling, that three- or four-inch bearded bird is a genuine trophy. It is far better to eat than a bird with a 10-inch beard and inch-long spurs, but we’ve reached the point where a decision must be made.

So, as is true with shooting antlerless deer in the fall, shooting a jake bird is a matter of choice. It doesn’t hurt the population, and in fact, helps reduce bird numbers slightly. It provides wonderful hunting opportunities, and for many sportsmen, it is a wise decision.

None of us know when or if we will make that decision. Some hunters refuse to take a jake, and that is up to them. But, as the human body gets weary and hunting becomes very difficult, it’s always good advice to listen to the advice of old-time turkey hunters.

Don’t make the mistake: take the jake.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/19 at 05:58 PM
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Steelhead Fever Is Burning Me Alive


It’s a well known fact. Ask any beginning steelhead fisherman, and they’ll tell you just how hard these lake-run rainbow trout are to catch.

Books have been written about them. I’ve written three books on this topic myself, and even though when pushed hard, I will admit they are hard to catch when they aren’t in the river. Sometimes fishing can be tough even if fish are present. It’s part of the lore of the steelhead.

My three books—Steelheading For Everybody, Steelhead In North America and Great Lakes Steelhead Flies—and the mystery notions that continue to plague many anglers don’t make these game fish any easier to catch in the early part of the season. Usually by now, we’ve had good fishing. Many lakes tributary to steelhead waters are still locked up with firm ice. Cold weather, day and night, linger on.

Such freaky notions about the steelhead mystique are basic scare tactics to drive neophyte anglers away, but if a fisherman doesn’t know the river, they can’t catch fish with any degree of regularity. Locate some fish, as we do with some regularity, and it’s possible to have some great late-winter or early-spring fun providing the fish have started their spawning run. Right now, we are close but the good action is still to come once we get some run-off, rain and the snow melts away. We need a week of above-freezing temperatures, day and nit, and we haven’t had it yet.
There are as many ways to catch steelhead as any other game fish. All methods produce at time, but certain methods work best at other times. Me, stalking visible steelhead on shallow rivers and casting flies to them is as good as it gets, and I made a living for 10 years guiding anglers to good catches using some of the following method.

The problem with this fly-fishing method is that people are in a big rush. They want fish now, and they bail off the river bank, go splashing into the clear river and spook fish off their spawning beds. And then they wonder why they can’t hook a fish.

Forget about wading up or down the river, and spend most of your time on the river bank. Walk slowly, stop often and study the water. It’s a method a good bit like still-hunting deer, and don’t try to rush the process or the fish will spook. The only difference is that deer run away while steelhead swim away.

Slow down, and take your time. The toughest thing I had to do when guiding steelhead fishermen was to curb their enthusiastic impatience. This old method worked back in the 1960s when I was guiding and it still works now if people follow some easily understood rules.

Stay out of the water unless you are casting to visible fish. Instead, walk the riverbank, stop, start and look for them. Use any available cover and a successful stalk may require 15-30 minutes to move close enough for a siccessful and short but accurate cast.

Wear a billed cap, pull it low over Polarized sunglasses, and pause frequently. A mint-silver female is most difficult to spot, and sometimes all that can be seen is a shadow against the bottom. Males are darker colored, and their gaudy gill covers and cheeks are easily seen. Don’t look for the whole fish; often all you’ll see is a tail, a white mouth or a shadow.

Watch the fish and study them. If they are going on and off the bed, it means they are spooky. Relax, take your time, and wait until the hen starts rolling up on her side and the male fertilizes the eggs with a jet of white milt. Remember this, if nothing else: don’t fish for the female; fish only for male fish.

Ease slowly into the water and move softly without splashing the water or crunching gravel underfoot. If the fish start moving back and forth, stop, remain still, and wait for them to resume spawning. Take you time, and ease gently within easy casting position. It can take a long time, and I’ve spent hours trying to catch a gaudy buck steelhead. This method requires constant attention to detail, great patience and accurate casts.

Study the water current and depth. The fly must be cast far enough upstream to be scratching gravel when it comes to the male. If the female hits the fly. do nothing. Hook and fight the female, and all the males will scatter. Hook a male, and it’s not uncommon to catch two or three fish without unduly spooking the hen or harming the resource.

The fly must ease past his nose. Set up a rhythmic casting pace; cast up past the male, strip in line as the fly drifts downstream, and once it passes the male, lift the fly out and cast again. Cast, strip line, ease the fly past his nose, lift it out and cast again. Don’t pause between casts. Keep putting the fly in front of the steelhead’s nose, time after time. Males may hit the first cast or the 200th cast. Do it right and you’ll have a sore shoulder at sundown.

The male will often move away from the fly. This repetitive casting angers them, and they will often hit. Watch the fish’s head, and when it moves about two or three inches and the fly disappears, it has the fly and is moving it out of the bed. Set the hook. If you wait for a hard strike, you’ll never hook a fish.

Common courtesy has its place on a steelhead stream. If you spot an angler casting to bedded fish, walk wide around the area on the bank. Don’t wade down the river and spook his fish. If you are fishing to bedded fish, and see an angler coming, holler and politely ask them to make a wide pass around you and the fish. People with common sense will do so; those who never had any brains or up bringing will ignore your request.

This is just one of many steelhead techniques but it works for me, and in the very near future when the runs really kick off, we’ll share other methods that produce. But one thing to remember is to try to learn something new about these fish, places where they hold or hotspots on new streams. Never get locked into fishing just one stream; learn hotspots on three or four different river, and it can lead to much better fishing action.

Patience, accurate fly presentation and good timing are three keys that will unlock the steelhead puzzle.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/18 at 06:38 PM
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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Winter Outdoor Show Blues


Yesterday I attended Jim Liska’s Outdoor Show at Howe Arena/Civic Center in Traverse City, and each year it becomes more enjoyable—for many different reasons. It also makes me sad because it doesn’t last long enough, and this year I could only attend one day.

Each year it seems to be larger than the previous year, and it’s easy to measure the success of such shows. When the same booths, and the same faces are present year after year, it adds to my enjoyment. It also serves as an excellent indicator of the show’s success. If the same people are there each year, it tells the public that the show is well run and the booths are making money.

I spotted my old hunting buddy Arnie Minka working the Boardman River Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation booth. We discussed the upcoming turkey season, how the birds fared this winter, and spent time talking turkey.

He and his wife Dzidra have two out-of-state hunts planned, and they are going after Merriam’s and Rio Grande turkeys. It will be a good time for them, and both are eager to take a Rio this spring.

Visited with my old buddy Jim Gauthier of Gauthier’s Archery. He said this is the best season he has ever had, and even better than the 2007 season. He said bow sales are great.

I spent some time talking with Michigan DNR conservation officers Sean Kehoe of Grand Traverse County and Mike Borkavitch of Leelanau County. It’s always a good time seeing both men mingling with the ground.

Walked a short distance, studied some Pope & Young bucks, and it was an impressive sight. Many were really nice racks, and such sights always makes me wonder how anybody can take that many record-book bucks. Some of them were from Leelanau County where Quality Deer Management has made a believer of many deer hunters. It’s been a tremendous success there.

There is a very real chance that Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Wexford counties may try to get QDM policies established in those counties. It would really improve the deer herd if hunters only realize that hunting success will not be two for two or three years before the big bucks start showing up.

I turned around the next corner, and there was retired Michigan DNR conservation officer, John Walker. He and I have known each other for years, and I’ve reviewed all eight of his books about his CO days.

He asked if I’d try to sell his books on my website, and they are up now on my Scoop’s Books site. The nine-book set sells for $75 plus 6 percent Michigan sales tax. They are only available as a set. Go to my web site at < > and click on Scoop’s Books. Book authors are listed alphabetically so John Walker will be near the end of the listings.

Then I talked with Claude Pollington of C.P. Oneida Eagle Bow Company from Marion, Michigan. He said the bow business has been pretty good with strong demand for their new Extreme II model. Claude also was selling copies of his new book. Paperback copies are $35 postpaid and the limited edition sells for $110 postpaid. Copies of the book are available at his Buck Pole Archery Shop on M-66 a mile north of Marion. Phone (231) 743-2427 for credit card orders or more book information.

I met and chatted with many other people, and going to such a show is like going to a class reunion. It’s a chance to meet old friends that haven’t been seen in some time, catching up on each other’s lives, and perhaps spend some money on something we need.

And that is the purpose of such shows. My buddy bought a Gator Jaw bow release from Pollington, and I just looked around and spent time visiting.

Yesterday was the last day of the show. It was rather sad leaving because I knew that it would be another year before I catch up with some of my friends again. The show was great, but walking out the door made me feel a little blue.

Somehow, that’s how outdoor shows affect me. I can put up with the outdoor show blues simply by visiting with my friends. It’s a great late-winter break.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/17 at 03:52 PM
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