Tuesday, September 30, 2008

10 Tree Stand Hunting Tips

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Some great story ideas come from my readers, and one that came in last week was this question: what are the major things that bow hunters should remember when hunting from an elevated coop or a tree stand?

It’s a good question and worthy of an answer. I put some thought into it and here are some common things to remember as we head into tomorrow’s archery deer opener. They are in no particular order except for No. 1. It is very important to all deer hunters.

1.) Knowing how to hunt the wind is paramount to success. The really savvy deer hunters test the air movement several times during each hunt because the wind seldom stays from just one direction. To be an effective tree stand hunter, one must either be directly downwind of the deer or across-and-downwind. Milkweed pods once dried out, and released several times during a hunt, is a smart move. If any seeds blow toward where the deer come and leave rather than spook the animal with my scent. Learn to play the wind, learn how to stay downwind of the animals, and more deer will provide you with better shooting opportunities.

2.) Know your equipment. It’s always nice to have a new bow, but a hunter must become familiar with their bow. We must know what the bow will do under any given circumstance. If we shoot an unfamiliar bow, and find ourselves having a problem hitting the sweet spot of our anchor point, the chance of a miss or wounded deer is possible. Become familiar with the bow to the point where drawing, aiming and shooting becomes mechanical. Good shooting makes deer hunting easier.

3.) Know your ideal shooting distance. It’s important to know your limitations and never exceed them. Your ideal range may be 30 yards, but in a wooded environment during that 30-minute period just after sundown, judging 30 yours can be tough. Most hunters find their effective shooting range is shorter in a shadowed or wooded spot. Never try to stretch your established shooting distance because it seldom pays off.

4.) My favorite trees for a stand are cedars or pines, but it’s not always possible to find such a tree. Hunting from hardwood trees can be equally productive if the hunter chooses the right tree. I prefer deer that come from behind me. I can usually hear them coming, and there is no need to move until it’s time to shoot as the buck walks past and is quartering-away. Obviously, this means knowing exactly where deer travel and then choose a tree wisely.

5.) Any hardwood tree can work but it must be positioned absolutely perfect. Make every attempt to situate the stand so you can achieve a full draw without being seen and without any movement. Reach full draw, allow the deer to walk past and shoot when it is quartering away. If it sounds easy, it’s because it is easy.

6.) Check your tree stand before each use. If it squeaks or makes noise when climbing into or out of it, it will make noise when you sit or stand to shoot. Eliminate any and all noises while checking for defects. A squeak at the wrong moment will send bucks heading for thick cover far away.

7.) Avoid cutting wide shooting lanes around your stand. Instead, look for holes in the vegetation where a killing shot can be made. It’s one thing to remove a few twigs, and still another to remove all the brush. Deer travel where they do because of the brushy cover.

8.) Always wear a safety harness. Most tree stand accidents occur when climbing into, out of or when moving up or down the tree. Even with a harness, always maintain three firm contact points with the tree. This means two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. Falls can occur when only two contact points are used. Wear the safety harness, make certain it is securely attached to the tree and get accustomed to wearing it. The life you save may be your own.

9.) Practice shooting from an elevated position. Shooting at a steep downward angle can cause your anchor point to shift. Learn how to shoot sitting down to remove most of the movements required. And know how your arrows fly when shooting down at a steep angle.

10.) How high is too high to hunt? It’s a matter of personal comfort and belief, but most of my tree stands are fixed at 15 feet. A hunter who sits will be shooting from 18 feet while a standing hunter will be shooting from about 21 feet. I know people who hunt 35-40 feet in the air, and such heights can be very dangerous. Learn to play the wind, know how to sit still, know when and how to draw on a deer, and 15 feet is plenty high enough.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/30 at 07:31 PM
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The Old Days Of Gathering Bait is Long Gone

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/30 at 03:18 PM
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Monday, September 29, 2008

20 Tips For Better Bow Hunting

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Good whitetail deer hunters leave nothing to chance. They plan ahead, and if conditions are wrong for Plan A, they know enough to switch to Plan B or C.

Many hunters almost always have a loose plan in mind for the day. They may tighten it up or switch directions, but most successful bow hunters will always have something in mind for the immediate hunt. Here are some tips to consider when planning a hunt.

*Have a somewhat detailed plan and a good idea of how and where you will hunt. Implementing that plan may require some tinkering. Be flexible.

*Have a good knowledge of the terrain and where deer travel. Locate well-used and seldom-used trails. Often big bucks follow the faintest of runways.

*Always be downwind of where deer move. The key word is always. If you can’t be downwind at one stand, move or don’t hunt. Don’t blow a good stand by sitting in it when the wind is wrong.

*Know which deer frequent your hunting area. Some areas are better noted for big bucks than anything else. Have everything in your backpack you’ll need. An extra release, more Game Tracker string, compass, light, matches, Space Blanket and many other items.

*Wear clean clothing and clean rubber boots. Don’t wear stinky boots or clothing. Strange odors in the woods can and will spook deer.

*Shoot two or three times at a target before going out. Know exactly where your bow is shooting.

*Use a Game Tracker device. It can help eliminate long hours of searching for a weak or nonexistent blood trail. Even if the string breaks it can still provide a hunter with a direction of travel.

*Use only razor-sharp broadheads. Factory sharpened heads are rarely sharp enough. Spend time on broadhead blades to make them sharp.

*Wear a safety harness when hunting from a tree stand. Wear it while climbing into, out of or while in an elevated stand. Don’t use just a waist safety belt.

*Visually inspect all stands before committing your weight to them. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Maintain three points of contact at all times.

*Inspect areas within shooting range for open shots, and commit them to memory. Know where you can shoot, and where natural shooting lanes are found.

*Use a grunt call sparingly. Too many hunters call too loud and too often. Err on the side of too little and not too loud or often.

*Know your best shots and wait for either a broadside or quartering-away shot. Never take a low-percentage shot that can lead to wounded game.

*Pay attention to what other deer are doing while you wait for a buck to turn and offer a good shot. Make certain you can draw without being seen or heard.

*Pick your shot. Never shoot at the center of mass, but pick the exact spot to aim. Concentrate on not lifting your head at the shot because it can cause the arrow to go high. Follow through!

*Know your ideal shooting range and never exceed it. Taking shots that are too long is a good way to miss or wound a nice deer.

*Always sit quiet and motionless. Be still and be quiet, and draw the bow smoothly and silently when a deer has its head turned away from you.

*Know a deer’s body language. It will tell hunters what the animal will do. Each deer is as different from other deer as fingerprints, and that means that each animal can and will react different to various stimuli.

*Hunt alone. A solitary hunter is quieter, moves less, and there is far less chance of one person spooking a deer than two people.

*Be prepared for a shot at any moment. Deer hunting means paying attention. Never be caught with the bow anywhere other than in your hand.

*And an extra bonus tip for good measure. Shoot once, shoot straight and don’t miss.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/29 at 03:38 PM
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Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Handful Of Reasons Why I Hunt Deer

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It’s a recurring thought that plays through my head like a recurring dream. It’s there whenever my mind shifts to things such as deer hunting next Wednesday. I dream of such things as:

*The kiss of a southwest wind against my cheek as a whitetail buck eases down the trail, stops at my upwind hoped-for spot, and pauses to look over the terrain. He’s fooled, and mine if I want him.

*White antler tips shining in a tag alder thicket like distant headlights on a dark road. The question is always the same: will he come my way or not?

*The sweet feel of a my Oneida Black Eagle compound coming to full draw. The smooth roll-over as I lock in on my anchor point. There is that slight tingling in my arms and shoulders as I hold the bow back, the red-dot following the buck, and then easing up to allow the buck to live another day.

*I marvel at the massive hoof print that I saw near a soft earth area splashed with woodcock droppings. I’m on the track of a nice buck I couldn’t shoot last year, and the hoof print looked twice as large as that of a nice buck that I did shoot. Perhaps this buck will still be around, and bless me with another sighting of another track of massive proportions. Perhaps, one day, I will see him. One can always hope.

*The sweet smell of a cedar tree. My stand hangs off the tree 16 feet above the ground, and cedar has long been one of my favorite odors. To see a buck, and possibly making a great shot while wafting that cedar smell, is about as good as bow hunting can get.

*There are those two-week lulls into the season when deer just don’t move well. They are adjusting their travel patterns from preseason to a time after the season has opened. It happens every year and will start anywhere from Sept. 10-14, and once the two-week period ends, the bucks will be in their pre-rut mode. For many, including me, this pre-rut or chasing phase is a personal favorite.

*I remember so many other hunts where bucks, does and fawns filtered past my stand in a steady procession. A storm was brewing nearby, and the smell of rain was in the air, and the deer knew the weather was about to change and they were heading for food before it hit. It was always tempting to shoot a marginally nice buck, but I always hold out for a possible look at a bigger buck.

*I wonder if I’m in love with big bucks, and suspect I am. I haven’t killed a small buck in many years, and have gone a few years without shooting a good one simply because I refused to shoot a basket rack. I killed a number of smaller animals in the distant past, and see no need to do so again. A plump young doe provides good eating, and I’m helping to do my part in deer management to pass on the little bucks and take does.

*One thing that that builds my anticipation and increases my heart beat is seeing a big buck. It’s impossible to will one closer unless the animals wants to move in your direction, but it is counted a most wonderful day when I experience that rush when a big buck moves close. Whether he comes closer or drifts in the other direction is a moot point: seeing that buck is what trips my trigger.

*There’s something about golden-red sunlight glancing off giant antlers as a big buck moves through the cedars or pines 45 minutes before sundown that makes me glad to be alive. Of course I hope the buck moves my way, but if he doesn’t, that gorgeous sight will stick with me for a lifetime.

*Am I happy with my role as a deer hunter? Of course I am. Do I enjoy shooting a beautiful buck, and ending the quest for another year? I never hunt for a trophy, but always hunt for the meat which I find delicious, but killing a deer is only one small part of why I deer hunt. Hunting, not killing, defines who and what I am.

*Re-read this blog to gain greater insight into what really turns me on. Good luck bow hunting this season.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/28 at 01:32 PM
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Strive For Pin-point Accuracy

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A bow and arrow is pretty tough piece of equipment, but there are certain things that can mess up a bow. I know because I’ve probably made every mistake with a bow that any one person could make, including backing my car over one bow.

I’ve used a haul rope to pull my bow up into a tree stand. Somewhere between the ground and me, the wheels fall off and the bow plummets to the ground. Often the bow lands on the end of one limb, and numerous things can and do go wrong.

The string can break, it can knock the bow entirely out of fine-tuned condition, and in many cases the bow may need a complete overhaul. If the bow lands flat, it can knock the sights out of kilter, and necessitate sighting it in again.

A week ago I picked up my bow, checked the string as I always do to make certain there are no frayed ends, a serving that is coming undone, or any other visible sign of a problem. The bow string looked perfect.

I nocked an arrow, came back to full draw, and on the shot the string broke. One of the nocking rings came whipping back and hit me on the hand near my thumb, and made a slight cut.

That’s good. I’ve seen times when the string breaks where a bow literally self-destructs. All kinds of bad things happen, and it requires the aid a a talented bow tuner to put it back together again.

I took my C.P. Oneida Eagle bow down to Marion to Claude Pollington’s Buck Pole Archery Shop, and although he was still in Colorado chasing elk, I had the string replaced. Then came the crucial test: shooting it to determine if the bow was still on or way out of whack.

I shot several shots on their range, and the first two arrows hit side by side in the bulls-eye. Skill, talent or good fortune? One always hopes for the former but must sometimes settle for the latter.

I nocked another arrow, aimed carefully, and stuck the arrow smack in the middle of the bulls-eye. Several more shots produced a grouping of arrows in the target that probably would have made The Whitetail Wizard happy with me.

The bow was brought home after the minor repair, and I’ve shot the bow in my basement target range, outdoors and most importantly, off my front deck at a target 15 feet below and 15 yards away.

I concentrate even harder on the downward shots, remembering to maintain my proper anchor point and bend from the waist. If a person doesn’t bend from the waist when shooting downward, the chances are very good that the anchor point will shift and the shots will go high or low. Seldom will the shot be accurate if your anchor point moves.

I frankly admit that I am not as good at shooting targets as I would like to be. Granted, as happened once the new string was attached, I shot a good group but I am not consistently as good as I feel I should be.

The bottom line for me is that I don’t concentrate enough on targets. It isn’t totally meaningless because I don’t shoot in leagues or major 3-D shoots, so I find myself not concentrating hard enough. However, it’s a completely different story when shooting at a bear, caribou, deer or whatever.

My shots are picked well and I never take low percentage shots. My shots are always taken at a high-percentage angle, and in all sincerity, I can’t remember missing a bow shot at a whitetail in many years.

Of course, I wait for what I want to shoot at, and don’t miss. There are two reasons I don’t miss a deer or other game animal: I know how and when to draw on game, and I never rush my shots. I also know my bow.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how fast some people, draw, aim and shoot at a deer. It’s as if they are in a race against time, and such hurried shots often miss or wound the animal.

It’s far better to pick the time and place for the shot, and when the situation is perfect, ease back to full draw, hit your anchor point’s sweet spot, aim and make a smooth release. I’ve learned that shooting with a release gives me a consistent release that I never had when shooting with fingers.

Don’t follow what I say when I mention I’m usually not very good when shooting targets. Don’t do as I do; do as I say, and shoot as much as possible at targets. It will make most people a better game shot.

It doesn’t work for me, but when the time comes to shoot a buck, I don’t miss. And I take great comfort in making a clean kill.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/27 at 01:09 PM
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Friday, September 26, 2008

Hunting Autumn Bushytails

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A brief walk around a nearby woods produced the sighting of three deer, probably a doe and two fawns, as I checked field edges for tracks. A pair of water holes were checked for tracks as well, and all that produced was small hoof prints.

I sat for a bit on a fallen log, and pondered the upcoming deer season, hoping it shapes up better than the last one. I remember the crowd in Cadillac at the High School auditorium three years ago, and the anger and animosity the people showed the DNR people who asked for input.

They probably got more input than they expected, and probably felt that everyone disliked them. I don’t dislike them on a personal level; for me, I just want to see wildlife biologists out in the field, getting some dirt on their boots, and talking to people.

There are many who may not have had the book-learnin’ the DNR folks have, but many of them know more about how deer move, why they move, what they do in a storm, etc., than most DNR biologists. Most have a far better idea of how many deer roam their land than the DNR does. My question is: why not use some of that private-sector knowledge?

Ah, but I digress. I sat on a fallen log with my back to a tree, and remained motionless for many minutes. It took about five minutes for the squirrels to start moving around again.

In one location I saw almost a dozen different squirrels. I eventually moved to another location, sat down and saw a half-dozen more. A third location produced sightings of at least another six bushytails.

OK, so I saw perhaps 24 squirrels in a matter of 90 minutes. By any measuring stick one chooses to use, 24 squirrels in a half-mile area is a bunch. Some are the ones who seem to move in on my bird feeders.

Between squirrels, raccoons and possums, it’s hard to feed the birds without having to cope with the critters as well. So what should people do this fall with high gas prices?

Most hunters probably cut their teeth of rabbits and squirrels years ago, and then they grew up. They want something a bit more challenging, and go after black bears and whitetail deer. Maybe a caribou or two.

My solution, if I can sell it to you, is for you to take youngsters out. They aren’t difficult to hunt if you know how to sit still, and spend more time looking and less time talking and walking.

Over many years of hunting, I’ve killed squirrels with bow and arrow, a .22 rimfire pistol, .22 rifle, shotgun and even with a black powder pistol once while hunting in Tennesee years ago when Hunter Orange clothing wasn’t a requirement. Squirrel woods are best when located near a corn field or in oak stands where acorns are plentiful, and by the time the season opens, squirrels will be making forays constantly to those fields.

I prefer camo clothing and a blaze orange hat, and two hunters can work together. Squirrels are inquisitive and will chatter and scold when they spot human intrusion in the woods, but once a hunter sits down and remain motionless and quiet, the nutcrackers will start moving.

A trick we used years ago was to click the brass sides of two empty shotgun shells together or click one against the metal receiver of the shotgun. It makes a rapid clicking sound and roughly imitates a chattering squirrel.

Soon, squirrels will move out onto a limb, and offer an easy shotgun shot. Two hunters can mess with squirrels. One person sits quietly while the other putters around on the other side of a squirrel tree. The bushytail will circle the tree to get on the opposite side of the walking hunter, and they can step right in line with a shotgun-toting hunter.

One hunter can accomplish the same thing. Sit down when you see a squirrel or it chatters at you, and remain still. Let five or 10 minutes pass, and throw a rock on the other side of the tree. If a squirrel is over there, he will come around to your side to hide.

Years ago, before the country got built up so heavily, I hunted with a rifle chambered for .22 rimfire cartridges. I had a scope and good eyes back then, and I’d never shoot at a squirrel on a limb because shooting up and missing the animal can cause the bullet to travel a mile or more. Instead, I shot the squirrels when they were hanging on the trunk of a tree, and if the shot missed, the bullet hit the tree trunk.

Now, a shotgun is best. Always be aware of where the shot charge will go, and hunt yourself up a mess of squirrels this fall. It’s a grand adventure when shared with a young hunter who does all the shooting.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/26 at 07:10 PM
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Last-Minute Preparations For The Archery Opener

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The countdown to the archery deer opener has begun, and there will be bow hunters in tree stands, elevated coops, pit blinds and pop-up tent blinds all across the state as they greet the dawn of the 2008 bow-hunting season next Wednesday.

Hunters who plan to be on stand before dawn on Oct. 1 still have a few days to consider last-minute things to remember Even though I offer this advice, I invariably forget a few things myself.

Sometimes it’s opening day that tells us whether our preseason scouting was up to par. Hunters who know the habits of bucks in their area will know how, when and where the animals travel in the morning and late afternoon-early evening hours.

We should have every little turn in the trail memorized, every side trail, and every trail that leads to food sites covered. Hunters know that on certain winds which trails the deer take, and they also know why whitetails choose those runways. In most cases they will have a tree stand 50 to 150 yards off the edge of the field in hopes of getting a shot before the deer get antsy as they move closer to the open feeding fields.

Hunters, if they have put in some scouting time in the past, will know all the entrance and exit routes. They know where the bedding areas are located, and have figured out how the deer pass through open woodlots en route to feeding or bedding areas.

We should know which trails carry the does and fawns, and some small bucks as well, but should also know why they must fool the does if they hope to get a shot at a wily buck. They also know that the odds of seeing bachelor groups of bucks is quite likely early in the bow season.

These bachelor groups can number three to five or six animals, and there is always a dominant buck in the group. He will tolerate smaller bucks for now, but all of that will change in two or three weeks as the pre-rut kicks into gear.

These bachelor groups often roam one key area but may spread out a little bit to see just how big and bad the dominant buck may be in the adjoining home range of other bucks. The leader of the pack is the largest or toughest (two different things) buck, and if he is a super-stud, he may try to dominate all other bucks in the entire area.

I’ve watched more than my share of buck fights, and it’s not always the biggest buck who wins. It is, however, the buck with the most heart that will do most of the breeding.

I watched a truly massive buck once for several weeks, and he never traveled the same trail two days in a row. He seemed to cover at least one square mile, and I saw him challenged several times by smaller bucks, and he would never fight. I never had any indication, nor did I ever see, that he bred or had any interest in does. He seemed to go his own way, and didn’t bother the other bucks. It was almost as if he had been ostracized from the whitetail community.

Hunters who head into the fielåds, swamps and woods next week, should put their thinking cap on, and try to determine where deer will come from on the prevailing breeze. Deer operate by instinct while humans have the capacity to think, and it’s the thinking hunter who often have the best chances at nice bucks.

Oct. 1, the first day of the deer season, is not the day to blow your best spot by hunting it if the wind is wrong. I’d rather set out the day, and take a pass on hunting, than jump into my No. 1 stand and get winded.

This is where thinking comes in. If you’ve done your homework, you know where the deer come from and where they go. If you can get into your stand, and still be downwind of the deer, do so. But be ever conscious of wind direction changes, and clear out if the wind shifts and begins blowing your scent into the area where the deer come from.

Opening Day, regardless of the weather, is one of the finest days of the year. Get outdoors, climb a tree or sit in a ground blind, and spend the morning and evening hours watching deer. If you play your hand right, and don’t spook the animals, it’s possible to shoot a nice buck on the opener.

Good luck. And touch base to tell me how your hunt went.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/25 at 08:22 PM
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Great Day On The Water

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Two things can perk up any fishing trip. Sunrises and sunsets make me happy to be alive, and to be sharing a day on the water with someone whose talents I greatly admire and respect.

Mark Dawson of Acme is just such a man. He fishes for many different species of game fish, but whitefish are a passion. We were fishing in 100 feet of water today off Mountain Jack’s Restaurant on US-31 in Acme, and the whitefish were doing their best to prove his prowess. I was watching golden shafts of sunlight shooting into the sky from a golden red rising sun, and for 30 minutes, watching that spectacle of nature overshadowed any desire to catch fish.

“You going to fish or study the sun?” Dawson asked. “We’ve got to catch you a few whitefish before my wife and I, and Mark Martin of Glen Arbor and his wife, set off for Cabo San Lucas, Mexico tomorrow. We’re going after bluefin tuna, wahoo and other game fish. It should be a great trip but you’d better wet your line sometime soon.”

My minnow-baited line went slowly to bottom, and I tightened up the line as the rod lay across a cooler. Now I was fishing, and asked him when the fish would start biting. It’s a friendly little jab we take at each other.

“Soon,” he said. “The whitefish bite is just getting started, and there are lots of fish below us. All the other guys around us are jigging with Sandkickers, and they are taking fish. We’ll fish with fathead minnows hooked just under the skin behind their head, and this has been a very productive method for us. I’d rather catch whitefish on minnows, chunks of salmon roe or wigglers than jigging. It just seems to be too much work jigging heavy lures in deep water.”

The first fish bit me about 15 minutes later, and it was an eight-pound lake trout that took 10 minutes to land. Dawson uses nine-foot bait-casting rods and reels stocked with six-pound gray FireLine with a four-foot length of four-pound monofilament leader and a No. 8 hook. The minnows were hovering about one foot off bottom and the other about three feet above the lower one, and suddenly my rod tip bent toward the surface.

“Hit him,” Dawson hollered, but I was a heartbeat ahead of his warning. The limber rod tip came back, and the fish bulldogged back toward bottom. “Lake trout or whitefish?”

“I think it’s a laker,” I said. “It keeps pumping down toward bottom, and he’s shaking his head. It feels like a decent fish.

It was a creamy-spotted laker and Dawson soon netted the cold, firm lake fish that weighed eight pounds. Minutes later a four-inch gobie grabbed my bait and was quickly raised to the surface, landed and killed. Gobies are an invasive species and do provide some food for whitefish but are considered a nuisance.

Dawson soon put the rod tip to a whitefish, and he fought the fish gently, remembering the light leader. Soon a four-pound whitefish rolled on its side and was landed. He baited back up, and within 10 seconds of his bait hitting bottom, he was into another fish.

I caught another whitefish, and our little group of 10 boats were anchored over a roving school of whitefish, and everyone was catching fish. Dawson said that the secret is just getting out about the whitefish bite, and every day a few more boats are on the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. Some days find the whitefish biting well, and other days finding fish becomes difficult.

We broke off a couple of Dawson’s special two-hook rigs that he uses when bait fishing, and once a whitefish tangled up two lines. We hooked several other fish briefly, and lost them for one reason or another. He said it’s important that bait fishermen use a light leader, and play the fish gently, but this game fish has a very soft mouth. It’s easy to lose a fish if an angler tries to horse them to the boat.

Had we landed every fish we hooked, we would have boated at least 20 whitefish. We quit fishing after less than four hours of fishing effort with 10 whitefish, and most of them were about the size of the fish shown above. I had my period of quiet contemplation, great conversation, and some fast action. But Mark Dawson is a man of many secrets.

My next goal is to learn his special method of tying up his two-hook whitefish rigs. He says it took him several trips to visit the man who taught him how to tie these rigs before he got the technique down to an art. At the pace we are on right now, I’ll be several years learning this secret. And, by then, he will have exposed me to another secret about how he always seems able to find fish.

I suspect his and Martin’s fishing trip to Mexico will be a success. Good fishermen like those two have little trouble finding fish.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/24 at 07:18 PM
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Enjoy Windy Days

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My thoughts and feelings about weather may differ from yours, but as I try to write something meaningful tonight, it gives me pause. What I like may be worlds apart from what your tastes happen to be.

I like a windy day, especially if it occurs before or after deer season. Back in my duck hunting days, I kept an eye on the weather, and would hie myself off to Saginaw Bay when a nor’easter came blasting down out of Canada toward the end of duck season.

The picture is still clear and perfect in my mind. Whitecaps rolling in, and the hard wind knocking foam off the tops of the waves, and the wind was laying flat the cattails near shore. I knew the wind would blast through, and bring some late-season bluebills (scaup) with it.

There was a little point with a ramshackle old blind at the edge of the cattails, and 20 feet away in waist-deep water was where my decoys would go, and I knew those ducks would come skipping across the tops of the gray waves under a leaden colored sky within easy gun range.

I’d set out two dozen decoys with a stringer lead of dekes pointing into the wind, and a J-shaped cluster of decoys on the downwind side. The birds would come through, their rapid wingbeats pulling at the air as they followed the lead in, buzzed tight over the clot of decoys at the rounded end of the spread, make a snappy U-turn, come ripping in and go splashing in. The time to shoot was once they committed to a landing and before they hit the water.

It was even more fun if snow was falling, and the birds were hard to see. We’d count decoys, and if there were more than two dozen decoys, we’d stand up, yell through the wool scarves wrapped around our neck, and when the live duck started running across the water for a take-off, we’d wait until he cleared the water before shooting.

The wind sets me to thinking of other days when the first of the leaf drop occurred, and a couple of days when the woodcock were as unpredictable as a junkyard dog. They might hold tight for the point, or flush from 30 yards away, and seldom in a hard wind would they tower over the tag alders.

They mostly cranked up the speed and the tight turns and darted through the alder run like a whirling dervish. Such birds were always difficult for me to hit, and I’d pepper several alders while the woodcock set his wings and fell from the sky after a 10- or 15-yard flight. I always seemed to shoot just about the time they fell to the ground like a stone, and I’d miss but the makers of Federal shotshells loved me.

There is something about high winds that I find exciting as long as I’m not 15 feet up a tree. I’m so mindful of a hunt 10 years ago, and it was at the tail-end of the December season, and it would be my final bow hunt of the year.

In the past I’d noticed a bunch of deer every night near a willow tree. I asked the landowner if he had a stand in the willow. He did, and then he left for a New Years Eve party. I scaled that tree, got up into the stand, and hauled up my bow. The wind was coming from the northwest, and any deer that came would be upwind of me.

The deer came, and this was in the days before safety harnesses. I had what most people used back then, a safety belt, and chose not to use it because if the wind blew me out of the tree, I didn’t want to be folded up in the middle of my stomach and slowly suffocate.

The deer milled around the upwind side of that tree, and I tried three different times to draw and shoot. Each time the bow came back to full draw, my sight would swing through the deer. The willow tree was swaying six feet in each direction, and only a lucky shot would hit that buck.

I clung to a stout limb for dear life, and waited for the end of shooting time. It couldn’t come too soon. My hands felt half-frozen, and I’d already lowered my bow to the ground. As soon as the deer moved on, so did I, and climbing down was a harrowing experience.

Hunting on windy days can be a lesson in futility, but on occasion, all the puzzle pieces fall together, and the day becomes a winner. It’s what every hunter hopes for, and I always try to be there to enjoy it. 

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/23 at 05:26 PM
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Remembering Some Long-Range Shots

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Granted, we are heading into the archery deer season, not the firearm season, but one recurring thought kept running through my head like a needle stuck in the groove of an old 45 rpm record.

I got to thinking of long shots. Long shots made with a rifle on caribou, mule deer and whitetails. The ones that tell you theat you’ve practiced long-range shots, know how the rifle shoots, and are capable of taking and making such shots.

A long shot means different things to different hunters. There was a television show that specialized in one-shot long-range shots. I’ve watched it several times in the past, and they’ve stretched things out a bit farther that I have but not by much.

I own a Winchester pre-1964 Model 70 in .264 Winchester Magnum, and my first scope was a 1.5X8-power Weaver with fine crosshairs. It hit the market, if memory serves me right in 1961 and I bought it in 1962 and 44 years later it still shoots better than I can hold it.

Back in those days I did all my own reloading of ammunition for that cartridge, and I played with loads ranging from a 77-grain Norma to a 165-grain Hornaday. Each bullet weight would shoot to the same point of impact, and my vision was keen back then, and I could shoot.

One year, while hunting the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore sand dunes, I had my son David with me. I told him where to lay on the ice-cold dunes, and where to watch, and that if a buck came out on a deer drive, it would almost run over top of him.

I saw the buck come out, and just as straight as a string, it ran at my son. No shots, and it went past him on a dead run, only to stop between 325 and 350 yards away on another dune. I took a quick sitting position, locked in on that buck and sent a 140-grain airmail package at him. He dropped, and that was it.

Another year, while hunting near the Platte River, I spotted one of the biggest does I’d ever seen walking on the far bank of the river. It was an honest 300 yards away, and when the rifle cracked, the deer fell to a well-placed shot.

A few years ago, while hunting the Kaibab along the north rim of the Grand Canyon, a good mule deer jumped up at 200 yards, went boing-boing in that bouncing pace. Contrary to popular belief, mule deer bucks don’t always stop to look back. This one never stopped.

He ran down a valley that led down into a side canyon. My guide and I ran just below the rim on one side, and we could see the buck and a doe running across the opposite side of the canyon. The buck and doe finally stopped when they felt it was safe, and started browsing.

We worked as close as possible, and this was the last day of my hunt, and the guide said: “That buck is 400 yards away. Can you hit and kill him at that distance? We can’t get any closer.”

I found a scrub tree nearby, scraped some pointed rocks away so I could sit down to hold the rifle steady. I cranked up the scope to 12 power, studied the buck with a firm rest. I settled the crosshair at the top of his back (my rifle was sighted in to be three inches high at 100 yards), took a deep breath and shot downhill at the buck. A second passed before I heard the bullet hit that mulie buck, and down he went. It was a clean one-shot kill.

The longest shot I ever made was in Canada’s Northwest Territories a dozen years ago. I was hunting Central Canada Barren Ground caribou, and the guide and I found a huge herd of 3,000 to 4,000 animals down in a big bowl. There was no cover for a stalk.

My guide held my ankles as I leaned over a steep cliff, and I shot free-hand at the largest bull that was bedded down directly below us. I had no support, and it was a dumb thing to do but I hit that huge bull.

The caribou—every last one of them—left that bowl, climbed a ridge across from us, and finally my bull stopped. We went down into the bowl, made our way across it, and eventuall we ran out of cover, and the bull was staring at us.

“I say 500 yards,” was my guess while the guide thought it was farther. I took a firm rest after laying my backpack on the last big boulder of the right height, and I studied that great stag. I’d be shooting into a stiff cross-wind at a wounded animal at least 500 yards away.

I know my rifle, know what it can do, and in my early 20s when the rifle was purchased, I shot crows at 300-350 yards in an open field. I felt this shot was possible, and with great patience, I leaned into the stock, settled the crosshairs for where I thought I should hold, and squeezed.

Two second later came the sound of the bullet hitting that bull and down he went. I paced off the distance, and I was doing my best to take 36-inch steps, and 535 steps later, I walked up to that great bull.

That animal was big, but I had no clue just how big he was until we later put a tape measure to him. He wound up the first year in the No. 9 position in Boone & Crockett. The last I looked he was down to about 100, and I could care less. Whenever I look at him, and the great long rear points, I relive the long-range shot of my lifetime.

Long-range shooting isn’t something I encourage. There is too much risk of missing, but if a hunter shoots often and knows his rifle and where it will hit at 250 yards, making a 350-400-yard shot is fairly simply. Luck was riding on my shoulder on the 535-yard shot even though I was confident I could make it.

In the end, people don’t ask “Can you?” Instead, they ask “Did you?” And I did.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/22 at 05:15 PM
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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Forgetting Things Can Become Habit Forming

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The crunch time is approaching. I’ve done most of my pre-season deer scouting, put up a couple of tree stands in key locations, and am waiting to see just how much more nice weather we are going to get.

Invariably, no matter how hard I think about things, I’ll forget one key element in my deer-hunting gear. Hell, one time I drove 60 miles to one of my hunting spots and got my plastic lidded tub of Scent-Lok clothes out of the car, as well as my rubber boots, and reached in for my bow. It wasn’t there, and then I remembered taking it into the house to dry it out after a rain the previous day.

It was dry when I got home that night. Instead of hunting, I spent the evening watching other spots and located a good buck that I shot a week or so later when all of my equipment was with me.

Forgetting things is easy, and happens to all of us. Once, I was hunting a cedar tree where there was no time to put up a stand. My bow was laid on the ground with my haul rope attached to a belt loop. Normally, my backpack is worn into my stand and it always contains a spare release.

The path up to where I could watch the trail and shoot if necessary was a tight fit so I left my backpack 150 yards away near the field edge. I’d pick it up on the way out. Up I go, like an arthritic old squirrel, got positioned on a large and sturdy tree limb, leaned back against another sturdy tree limb, and hoisted my bow into the tree after attaching my full-body harness.

I settled back to wait, and I always leave my release on the string. Here comes a dandy 9-pointer, and I’m prepared to shoot when he hits a little dogleg in the trail. It will provide a quartering-away shot at 17 yards. The bow is slowly raised into position, and guess what?

A tiny twig hit the trigger, and the release fell to the ground. The buck heard the noise in the leaves, stopped, looked around and walked to the dogleg and stood in the most perfect place. I could have shot with my fingers, but it had been years since I had done so, and I couldn’t remember whether to pull with three fingers under the nock or one over and two fingers under. Rather than risk a bad shot, I didn’t shoot but never saw that buck again.

I’ve lost enough things while hunting to stock some small sporting goods stores. All have been lost because of dumb moves on my part. I’m like the pool hustler: I know how to sink the shot, and play position pool to set up for an easy shot on the next ball, but knowing how to do it and doing it are two different things.

The same applies to hunting gear. A buddy found a pair of binoculars I had left in a blind. I thought they came out in my backpack, but goofy me, I forgot them and tore my car and house apart looking my optics. The next person that sat in that stand walked out after dark and said “here are those binoculars you lost. You left them on the seat in the coop.” I once lost a hunting knife twice. I found it one time but it has stayed lost the second time.

I’ve lost expensive and highly prized flashlights, releases and what not. Stuff falls out of my pocket or backpack, and I can think of two releases that have been lost in the woods. I lost a Marble compass once, found it days later, and now carry it zipped in my back pack.

Even knowing my proclivity for losing things, I still run through a checklist, and try to keep everything I may need in my backpack.

Paying attention to what goes in and what is taken out of the backpack or one’s pockets is an obvious first step to keeping track of things. But, as is true with many people, we get thinking about something else, and forget a needed item.

I took my quiver off my bow several years ago, took them inside to retouch the edge on my broadheads. I touched them up, added a light coating of oil to postpone the onset of rust, and set the quiver next to the door. I was starting out the door when the phone rang.

I grabbed the phone, hung up, turned on the security system, and out the door I went. Drove to the hunting spot, grabbed my bow, looked all over for my arrows, and realized this was another head-slapper night.

So there is my story of some nitwit moves and stupid actions. It’s my suspicion that others forget things on occasion, but I seldom hear from people willing to admit to their dumb tricks.

Now, having confessed some of my silly stunts, perhaps I’ll remember everything this year. You think? 

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/21 at 02:58 PM
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall Is An Exquisite Time Of Year

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Autumn comes each year with a balmy day, breezy weather, days when a sweater feels just fine while greeting the dawn, and on the odd day, fall rains pelt us with cold water that will soon turn to snow.

There is something magical that offers to show its pretty face right after Labor Day. The hordes of tourists have abandoned northern Michigan, and once they leave, the frantic pace of living slows down and the residents can take stock of their lives.

Mine revolves, as it always has, around fishing and hunting. It’s just that these outdoor loves speak a bit more provocatively to me, and I willingly imbibe in everything that epitomizes autumn weather.

It might be enough for most people just to watch the brief flurry of autumn colors as the days grow shorter and the weather cools. It starts with a gradual blend of orange, purple, red and yellow colors. They quickly intensify in the depth of their beauty, and brilliant sunshine seems to make each color more attractive.

There are one or two days each fall when the brilliant sunshine combines with just the right angle of the sun in the sky to make each color stand out in stark contrast against any nearby pines. I’ve yet to see a pine tree whose beauty wasn’t intensified by its close proximity to aspens, maples or oaks in full color.

Those days are when I stop the car, step outside, and bask in the glory of the autumn hues. I love the sight of the leaves in full color on the trees, and frown slightly once they lose their sparkle, and fall dead and somber to the forest floor.

I love running water. The sight and sound of a trout stream twisting through the woods and gurgling around a log jam, makes me happy to be alive. I often pause, during an autumn day, to idly sit on a river bank to watch the ritual of recreation as Chinook salmon move onto a spawning redd and renew their kind.

The old adage about Pacific salmon holds true: They are born an orphan, and die childless. Think about it, and it’s another marvel of nature that requires too much thought to explain. It’s enough to know that it is true.

Autumn means testing my mettle against the thunderous flush of a ruffed grouse, the corkscrewing flight of the woodcock towering over an alder run, or the quick flush of a snipe from the edge of a wooded water puddle. These game birds, although I seldom run into snipe these days, provide something very important to me.

These months often deliver a day of fine dog work. It’s wonderful to watch a brace of pointers or setters work the cover, singly or in tandem, moving into the wind, cutting the breeze at a 45-degree angle, and suddenly slamming to a rock-hard point, their bodies quivering.

They stiffen in position, one dog backing the other, and hold steady as we move in. Calming words of “easy now” are muttered softly as a hand gently touches the dog’s head or shoulder to steady them up, and the hunter moves in. His eyes aren’t on the ground but a few feet above the ground, a built-in hedge against being startled by the flush.

The bird is up and away, and a shotgun barrel swings through the grouse or woodcock, and when everything looks right, a shot is fired.
Sometimes, for me at least, the bird commits suicide, diving into a long shot string of No. 8 bird shot early in the season and slightly larger shot once the leaf drop occurs.

It is sitting still in a tree stand, marveling at the fall splendor of color along the oak ridges, and watching a buck ease through a saddle and become backlit by the setting sun and a back drop of blazing color.

Autumn is knowing I can kill a buck with my bow, and having the intestinal fortitude to forego the shot because it isn’t necessary. There are times, once I draw down on a buck, and then let off without taking a shot, that I know that buck could be killed. Knowing it and doing it are two different philosophies.

This next two months are the finest of the year. They provide me with everything I need to feel whole. They stroke my one-eyed vision, offer me daily glimpses of some of the most colorful sunrises and sunsets that an angler or hunter could ever hope to see.

Fall is my time. It is the best time of my life, and just think, it starts this month and I can’t wait. I’m ready, quivering like a dog on point, and panting to be afoot in the woods again.

Being there, once again, moves me in such an exquisite way that words to describe my awe often fail me. But then, you know what I mean.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/20 at 05:12 PM
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Hunting & Fishing Are Undergoing Changes

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Guess what? Fishing isn’t the same now as it was 10 years ago, and it won’t be the same in 2018 as it is now.

Fishing and hunting, to some extent, have become fragmented. How are they different? There are many ways to look at them, such as:

Years ago, a bear hunter bought a license and went hunting. Now, we supposedly have sound, scientific wildlife management, and that means more bears are being killed each year under a quota system than were ever killed under the old rules when anyone could hunt bruins.

And that’s OK because we have more bears than before, and the animals are moving into new territories, and management means determining the social carrying capacity of bruins. How many bears will people tolerate near their homes before they start squawking?

We have elk hunts now with some rather new rules. The rules only affect those who draw an elk tag from now on. I applied for an elk tag ever since they had their first hunt in 1964. I’ve never been drawn, but instead of drawing names from those who have applied and missed out, the DNR are enforcing the newer rules. And frankly, I’m not the only one who has applied and been denied. It means that hunters who drew an elk tag years ago can still draw one. Does this make sense?

The DNR had a chance to allow Region II turkey hunters to obtain some private-land turkey tags that would guarantee a first- or second-season hunt for applicants who own property up here, but pressure from other groups is louder than the mumbles of regional landowners. So, private-land turkey tags can be obtained in the Upper Peninsula in those counties where birds are hunted, and throughout southern Lower Peninsula counties, but again Region II landowners get shafted.

It appears the DNR is caving in to special interest groups. In case you haven’t noticed, the special interest groups are in the face of the DNR biologists to get what they want, not what is fair to others.

Do you remember when Michigan had their statewide trout season opener on the last Saturday in April. And then, in hopes of streamlining our fishing seasons, the DNR allowed Lower Peninsula muskie, pike and walleye fishing to open at the same time. There are countless sport shops in the Lower Peninsula, and this ruling several years ago, denied sportsmen two opening days—trout and walleye, etc.

Guess which one people chose, and in resounding fashion? It wasn’t trout, which are harder to catch. Those people who opened the trout season, and then on May 15, opened the walleye season jumped for joy. They got over two more weeks of walleye fishing, and the sporting goods stores lost an opportunity to make money on the second opener.

The DNR, currently backed into a corner by angry deer hunters, have been taking it on the chin. The DNR’s little dog-and-pony show took their act on the road to discuss issues with deer hunters two years ago, and were confronted by angry people who are tired of not seeing deer.

They are clamoring for change, and rightfully so. I’ve backed the DNR for more years than I can remember, but things are changing ... and frankly folks, it’s not for the better. Deer are plumb hard to find in the U.P., and things aren’t a great deal better in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula. But guess where the deer are: on private land in the southern Lower Peninsula counties. They aren’t Up North.

This deal over deer and deer hunting is far from over. The DNR needs to begin mandatory deer registration, and do away with the two-license deal. If they want to make more money, make it mandatory that hunters register their first deer before they can buy a second license. Hunters no longer believe the estimated Oct. 1 numbers, and they don’t believe the final totals that show deer kills higher that what anyone believes, especially those sportsmen who do not a whitetail at all.

Now, because of a Chronic Wasting Disease scare in Kent County, baiting has been eliminated in the entire Lower Peninsula. In the meantime, baiting continues in the Upper Peninsula. Many people will start cheating, and continue to bait in the Lower Peninsula. Does it make sense to have legal baiting in one part of the state but none in the rest of the state? The DNR and Department of Agriculture has to get their act together.

Am I in a bit of a nasty mood. You bet! Michigan hunters once stood tall and proud of its DNR, our deer management policies, and the fact that we had more combined deer hunters and man-days than any other state in the nation. We don’t have much to be proud of now except in areas where there is a Quality Deer Management program. Hunters in such areas are now seeing more bucks and larger animals in some of those counties than ever before.

Folks, it goes against the grain of Mother Nature to try to maintain a status quo, year after year. It’s impossible to do, and management of our deer herd is lacking. I never see a wildlife biologist in the field, and in the words of a fine wildlife biologist who retired a few years ago, “the new wildlife biologists don’t have any dirt on their boots.”

One might wonder if they ever own a pair of boots. They spend little, if any time, in the field. They manage by building computer models, and I for one, know that it isn’t working.

And sadly, the biologists seldom want to talk with landowners, especially in northern counties. They know they’ll get an ear full, and most of the anger generated their way these days, is justified.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/19 at 06:13 PM
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

How To Cure Buck Fever

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There once was a hunt I had been invited to participate in, and one of the people among the 20 guests was one of the top 10 target archers in North America. His name is unimportant now.

He could drill holes in a paper target and never miss. He could stack arrows on request, and I watched him do it several times (he was sponsored by some arrow manufacturer and got all the free arrows he could ever use), and watching him shoot targets was misleading. I thought he would be able to shoot a deer blindfolded.

He was the top personality at this Alabama hunt, and everyone who was just a decent or a good hunter wasn’t considered any big deal. The hunt hosts picked all the best spots, and saved them for the target archer.

They needn’t have bothered. The bow hunters were quite content with our allotted stands, but we looked on with obvious delight as we knew what would probably happen to this celebrity hunter.

We weren’t disappointed. The target archer who could stack arrows on command missed two shots at deer the first day, missed one the next day from another great stand, and missed two more on the third and last day of our hunt.

The final score was 20 deer for the 19 other bow hunters and zero deer for the hotshot archer. How could such a thing happen?

Call it what you will: buck fever, target panic, whatever ... the target archer had an acute case of the shakes whenever a deer wandered within range. The poor guy would choke up, was under great pressure to perform, and when he did, he made a giant mess of it.

This self-inflicted malady can happen to anyone. Most seasoned hunters have shot enough deer with a bow to know how to escape the trembles that overtook that poor guy. One of the guides said he shook like the leaves on a quaking aspen in a brisk breeze.

Hunters who can shoot tight groups, stack arrows on occasion, and seldom miss the heart-lung area on a 3-D target, can fall apart when a buck moves closer. Their heart rate goes off the chart, they hyperventilate, gasp for air, and if they manage to draw the bow, who knows where the arrow will go.

Most people try to hide this problem, saying the buck was just a bit too far away or that it jumped the string. If a bow hunter shoots an arrow that travels 180 feet-per-second or faster, it will impact on the deer before the animal hears the bow twang, providing the animal is within 20 yards.

So, “jumping the string” is an excuse that doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny. Of course, true experts of excuses could say the animal was 30 yards away, but why bother?

Beating buck fever isn’t easy but it can be conquered. The only way to do it is to put yourself in close proximity to deer as often as possible, learn what to expect your body to do when a big burst of adrenaline kicks in. They also must learn how to control their nerves, and only experience can teach that.

Find someone who has a few pet deer in a small enclosure, and ask to sit in a tree nearby and watch them. Bucks or does in a five- to 10-acre enclosure can never escape being close to human. Put some food out, and the hunter can learn what to expect. Go to a petting zoo, and get close to deer and observe them.

This is obviously something a person has to work at, and if you want to do it, there is no law against sitting in a ground blind or tree stand on private land during the off season providing you aren’t carrying a bow and arrows or a firearm.

Learn how deer move, what their habits are, and the more time you spend around deer, the quicker the sight of a deer within bow range will stop jump-starting the adrenaline flow. It may take a season or two to conquer this fear of failing to meet the expectations of yourself and your hunting buddies.

The second part of the equation is to learn how and when to draw, how to avoid the panicky feeling that overcomes a hunter when they try to draw their bow, aim and shoot a deer. The best way I know to learn how to do it is to draw on every deer within your normal shooting range.

You’ll spook some deer in the beginning, but perfect practice will instill a perfect ability to size up the deer and the situation. Make enough mistakes and learn from each one, and soon you’ll conquer that fear.

Curing buck fever isn’t easy but it isn’t difficult if the hunter is willing to work at it. Once several deer have fallen to well-placed shots, and you’ve drawn on a bunch of deer each season without being spotted, one day you’ll realize that you are excited but not trembling or even breathing hard.

That’s when you know you’ve made the quantum leap into the big time.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/18 at 07:23 PM
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Never Give Up On A Fishing Or Hunting Trip

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Outdoor writers operate under some rather unique circumstances. No story, no pay. Sorry, dude.

This means that during my many years of freelance outdoor writing, if I went on a trip and got skunked, whether fishing or hunting, it meant a complete waste of my time and loss of any potential income.

This applies as well to fishing stories. I always practiced the “just one more cast” philosophy. I’d keep casting up until the last possible moment, and guess what: in many cases, I was rewarded with a nice fish that provided numerous photos and resulted in a magazine sale.

Time and again the “last cast” produced a jarring strike, a fine battle with a big fish, and left me with a few minutes to hurriedly coordinate a dozen or more key photographs that the outdoor magazines would publish.

The same principle applied on hunting trips. I’m so mindful of a five-day whitetail hunting trip to Idaho several years ago. I hunted hard every day during daylight hours while roaming the high country between the Salmon and Snake rivers.

I’d located a big buck, and tried for him every evening, and each night just at the end of shooting time, this monstrous buck would step out of the woods between 200 and 300 yards away. By the time I spotted the animal, put the crosshairs of my 1 1/2-6X Swarovski scope on the buck, the shooting light would go. I never did get a shot at that buck.

Two hours were available the last morning as my guide and I sat on a hill side waiting for a really nice 8-pointer that I’d passed up before. It was a make-or-break, do-or-die situation. My hunt would end in two hours, and I’d have to drive like crazy to make it to the airport in time to catch my flight back to Michigan.

And I’d be returning without a story. That doesn’t work well for big newspapers or magazines. They expect results, but have no clue about animal behavior, weather conditions and other problems.

I sat patiently for almost an hour before spotting the 8-point making his way up the mountainous side hill. His head went behind a tree, and I raised the rifle to my shoulder and took a firm sitting rest with my elbows against the insides of my knees.

The sights were rock solid on the buck but he was taking his time and was partially screened by some thick brush. He was moving uphill toward me, and the minutes seemed to be speeding by. Finally the buck stepped out of the thick cover, stood facing directly at me, and I centered the crosshairs on the white throat patch and squeezed the trigger.

The buck went down like it had been poleaxed, and I hurriedly shot several rolls of film, got the buck skinned out, packed into a box, and I was on my way to the airport with a story, fine meat and a nice rack.

Another last-minute break came on an Upper Peninsula bear hunt. I was down to the wire on the last evening of hunting, and would travel on to the site of my next story that evening. My stand was north of Amaza in Iron County, and 15 minutes of shooting light remained.

I heard a twig snap, and out stepped a 250-pound boar. It walked to the bait, stood up to sniff around, dropped to all fours and was quartering away. The arrow slid in behind the last rib, angled forward, and sliced open both lungs and the heart. It went 15 yards and died.

I quickly set up my camera and tripod, measured the distance, focused on the bear, and I tripped the self timer. It gave me 10 seconds to get into position, and the flash went off. I shot several more photos, and as shooting light went, the tag went on the bear.

I got a story out of that hunt, and the “one more cast” philosophy paid off many times for me with a good catch, a last-minute bear or deer, and it’s a never-give-up attitude that pays off.

That’s why I set my watch to the correct time every day, and I know when legal shooting time ends. I hunt until the last second, and when legal shooting time is over, I unload and case my firearm or bow, and call it a day.

It’s just amazing though how often this never-give-up attitude will pay off in the field or on the water. It has helped me pay my bills for 40 years, and that is one reason I’ve been successful. I don’t give up.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/17 at 07:08 PM
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