Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Major Snow Storm Is Moving Through

There is nothing about winter that surprises me any more. This is my 69th winter, and frankly, snow-blowing isn’t quite as much fun as it once was.

Today, after listening to the forecast yesterday and last night before going to bed, I woke up to a pale yellow sun and no wind. It made me optimistic all day, and then I looked out the window tonight.

The sight was unbelievable. Snow drifts starting to span my driveway, and it is piling up on my metal roof, and my deck appears completely covered at 6:45 p.m. It’s falling straight down out of a leaden sky. I’d planned a last-ditch Nov. 30 hunt this afternoon but the forecast suggest a bit more product use of my time. I’m happy I stayed home rather than climbing the hills and dales to one of my stands. It would have been a tough hike coming out.

My cousin called from Florida last night, and had never experienced the force of the wind and the power of wind-driven snow. I tried to explain it to him.

“You know how when the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic rolls in onto the beach, and then recedes, it leaves little tiny ridges in the sand,” I told him. “These ridges are like tiny hills, and they may be a half-inch higher than the rest of the sand.”

He knew what I was talking about when it came to sand and waves, but responded: “OK, I understand that, but what does that have to do with the snow and wind storm?”

“Those ridges of snow,” I told him, “may get to be four feet high by morning, and in between the ridges is the driveway with very little snow on the ground. All the snow is packed as solid as concrete, and it’s still coming down. I took the garbage out for pict-up and had to drag it all the way to the road. The wheels never hit the ground.”

There was a long silence on the phone as he absorbed that. He finally said that he decided to stay in Florida. He didn’t like shoveling, and I commented that one doesn’t shovel this kind of snow. One uses a shovel to carve off chunks of snow, and then the snow-blower would come through and blow it away, and the process is repeated over and over again.

I worked on it today for nearly three hours, and then spent two hours gets car doors open that had fronzen shut. It must have been a pitiful sight watching me climb through the tail-gate, over a tub of hunting close, and a spare tire that will no long fit in that Mickey Mouse bracket under my Jimmy. People who design such things for cars in the snow belt deserve to be strung up by their thumbs.

When the job was finally finished I was beat. Thirty-one years ago when we first moved into our home, we had the same kind of a storm except it lasted longer and the drifts were over our head.

We had a little walk-behind snow-blower at the time, and it was just one step ahead of shoveling. Back then, both of us were much younger, and it was a challenge. I no longer look at deep and tightly compacted snow as a challenge.

I view it as a bunch of very hard gut-busting work. Having said that, when the job was done I looked at it with a large measure of self-satisfaction but hoped that we didn’t have another storm like this again.

There is something about wild and savage weather that excites me. Perhaps it’s the Man against Mother Nature thing, but I’ve come close to losing to the old gal a time or two over the years, but I no longer feel like pushing my luck too far.

Messing with Mother Nature can make you a big loser. People die of heart attacks, exposure, and other ills, and I don’t want or need any more hassles.

Me and my John Deere and a snow-blower is just the ticket for this kind of weather. But this is enough. I’ve had my fill of digging out, and am ready for what may be a warm-up this weekend.

We’ve got more than enough snow to give us a White Christmas. It can stop snowing anything between now and bed time, and I’ll have plenty of snow to move in the more. More snow is something we don’t need.

Hurry up, Spring.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/30 at 05:56 PM
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Never Take Life For Granted

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A number of people who have been near and dear to me may have taken life for granted at one time or another. Most of them, in the final days of their life, realized their mistake.

In other situations, some of us don’t take things for granted, but life can still step up and blind-side us.

None of us are infallible, and none of us are invincible, no matter how strongly we believe it. Life can begin and end on a moment’s notice.

My life has been blessed in many ways, and I took my vision for granted until I began losing it. Now, every day is a precious commodity to be wisely considered and lived with a fervent passion.

The problem is that none of us know how much time we have to live. My father, who died of old age three years ago, had prostate cancer for years. It didn’t kill him but 94 years of life did.

Twin brother George lived life to its fullest. He did nearly everything in life he really wanted to, and learned on a Saturday that he had cancer and died the following Wednesday.

He didn’t go to his Maker kicking and screaming. Hours before he passed away, he told me: “I have no regrets. I’ve lived a good life, and now I’m ready to go.”

A good friend of mine died two days in Oregon. He had made it through perhaps ten years in a wheelchair, and died after having lived a full life before a stroken kept him from walking.

Brother George had seven different kinds of cancer, and his pain levels were mild compared to that of others. Why does this happen? Why do so many people die of this disease?

My aunt, who died two years ago at the age of 84, was a very religious woman. She never smoked or drank, but battled cancer for many years. She attended church two or three times a week, and still the disease finally wore her down.

My first wife died at the age of 40 from cancer. She didn’t visit the doctor as often as she should have, but no one should die such a painful and undignified death.

Three good friends died early. Two had families, but died of self-inflicted gun-shot wounds. Only one was physically ill, and he had inoperable cancer and chose his own time of death.

All of these people, with the exception of two suicides, had cancer. It wreaked havoc on their bodies, and in the end, the pain and the debilitating effects of chemotherapy and radiation probably hastened their demise.

My good friend, Fred Houghton, a friend since childhood, died quietly. He loved to fish for walleyes and yellow perch on Saginaw Bay, was married the second time about four years ago, and kept himself in great shape.

Physical conditioning doesn’t bar the way to cancer. It can come calling, as it did with him, and now my old friend is gone. I remember many fishing days from when we both went to Clio High School, and we spend many days over many years hunting ducks and geese.

He lived a good life, retired fairly early, and had everything going his way except for a cancer he didn’t know he had until it required surgery. He was pronounced cancer-free, as he told me several months before his death, but the disease took him from us all too soon.

I attended a birthday party for a friend who just turned 90 years old. I’ve thought about him and another 90-year-old friend all day, remembering their contributions to my success as a photographer and writer.

I remember while duck hunting on Wigwam Bay near Standish in the late 1950s, when brother George and I were hunting from a sneak boat. My childhood buddy was hunting in the cattails, got cold and tried to climb into our boat.

It didn’t work, and the boat finally sank beneath the waves as he tried to clamber aboard. I was the only one without waders (who knows why) but I went down with the ship, and got soaking wet and cold during an early November storm.

My buddy always had a much different version of that story, and we argued long and hard about the merits of his or my version. But the boat went down, and in a good-natured way, I always told him it was his fault. He blamed me, and we both had a good laugh about me getting wet.

That story, now that he is gone, was part of the glue that held us together as friends for over 60 years. As is so true with all of us, one day we will all have run our race.

Fred’s race sadly ended early, and I shall cherish his memory and that of my brother and father. He was a good man, a kind and considerate friend, and cancer took him much too early.

I will miss my dear friends and relatives. They are gone, and those of us who remain, are stuck with memories. Enjoy them for memories are meant to be cherished.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/29 at 06:17 PM
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Remembering Smelt Runs Of The Past

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Years ago, a rallying cry would go up along Lake Huron near the old Singing Bridge when smelt began moving on-shore to spawn in the outflow of Whitney Drain during April. We’re a long time from smelt dipping but the memory of such days came to mind today..

It was always a rite of spring passage to drive to the Singing Bridge (it made a humming sound as vehicles drove across it) and go smelt drinking (oops, I meant dipping). Actually, many people used it as an excuse to go out, get drunk and be somebody.

Drunks would eat raw smelt, the eggs dripping down their face, and five minutes later would be retching their guts out. It was obvious they were having a wonderful nocturnal experience.

Those not into eating live smelt, but were blasted enough to do other stupid things, would bring several wash tubs, and put two in the truck (back in the days when big trunks existed) and a couple on the back seat (also big), and fill them to overflowing on a good smelt dipping night.

The trip home was always an adventure. Smelt would slide around, get under the spare tire or under the carpeting and seat cushions, and wouldn’t be found until the second of two warm days. Those folks didn’t have a good time at home.

Aah, the good old days. Smelt were in abundance, and usually the runs would occur in mid- to late-April on a warm, rainy night. People would gather around Coleman lanterns, stick washtubs in old tractor inner tubes so they would float, and dip until everything they had was full.

That was then and this is now. One wonders where the smelt have gone. Have they died off? Have the salmon and lake trout eaten them all? Are they running during the day? Have zebra mussels made an impact on them?

It’s questionable that they have all died off but one thing is obvious: with rare exceptions, these fish are not running into the shallows off spawning streams anymore. Oh, I’ll grant you that a few smelt are still taken at most of the old hotspots but not in any numbers.

There are smelt in many inland lakes. Crystal Lake at Beulah seems to have plenty of smelt and they often provide a winter ice fishery. Smelt are fished for and caught in Green Lake at Interlochen and Cedar Lake as well. Higgins Lake also has what seems to be a stable population.

One guess is they are spawning in mid-lake where anglers can’t dip for them or in places like the Detroit and St. Clair rivers. Others believe smelt may be spawning far offshore in the big lakes although that doesn’t seem plausible.

Have the salmon and trout eaten them all? That is doubtful. Smelt used to be available by the millions. Some people believe that alewives eat the small smelt. Certainly salmon and trout eat them, but it doesn’t explain the widespread disappearance of these tasty fish.

Honestly, although salmon and trout would eat every smelt they could find, I don’t believe that is the case.

The decline in smelt numbers began in the mid-1980s, and Ontario’s Point Pelee was a key spot. Disappearance of smelt seems to have coincided with the discovery of zebra mussels in Lake St. Clair. The smelt were all but gone by the early 1990s. and zebra mussels had spread to all the Great Lakes.

No one was dipping many smelt along the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, or the AuSable River, like they once did. The Singing Bridge smelt runs trickled down to nothing.

Which brings us to the last question. Are smelt running and spawning during the day while most dippers are programmed to dip after dark?

Smelt have always run during the day. Not in heavy numbers but when they were plentiful, some fish would run up tiny tributaries during the day. Few people knew about it, and on many occasions, me and some friends would dip during the day in order to avoid the melee found after dark.

Smelt have always been cyclic by nature, but never to this extent. Even the inland lakes where smelt are commonly caught by ice fishermen are showing some signs of a decrease in numbers. These inland lakes also are showing an upswing in zebra mussels.

Is there something more sinister at work here? Could our water quality be affected? Tiny smelt (and alewives) eat micro-organisms and plankton, and it’s very possible that with the strong and widespread invasion of our lakes by zebra mussels, these mollusks may have filtered the water to the point where baby smelt have nothing to feed on.

No one laments the absence of smelt more than me. Smelt dipping and smelt drinking always went hand in hand, and it was fun to dip some smelt. It was even more fun watching the two-legged drunken animals moving about in a stupor.

It was surprising that some of them didn’t drown. It was a period in time we may never see again. And that is something to lament.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/28 at 05:50 PM
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Handgunning For Deer Offers Many Challenges

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The mood crept up on me like a thief in the night. All of a sudden, there it was. A new and different way to hunt deer.

Handgunning for whitetails isn’t all that different except you must be, within reason, close enough to kill the animal with a bullet large enough to effectively do the job.

At the time I had two handguns that would do the job. One was a Thompson/Center Contender with two different barrels that offered a choice. One barrel was a .30-30 and the other was a .44 Magnum.

I also had a .44 Magnum revolver, and I was a pretty good shot with it. I thought about putting a scope on it, and decided I’d rather use iron sights and keep my shots within 50 yards.

The T/C Contender was a single-shot pistol. The hammer had to be cocked, and it’s true I could have used a scope on it but doing so didn’t make me feel good. I had time to practice shooting at 50 yards but chose not to try a scope on either handgun.

A .44 Magnum is a powerful handgun, and with a 240-grain hollow-point bullet, it would do the job. The recoil when shooting this revolver is substantial but I’d had it ported by Mag-na-Port, and that tamed it down considerably.

I could shoot a dozen rounds a day, and eventually got to where I could put five rounds into a two-inch circle with iron sights. It was plenty good enough if I had time to cock the hammer, aim and squeeze off a controlled shot.

The .30-30 was a different story. Shooting it was a far sight different than shooting the .44 Mag. The revolver had been ported, which helped reduce felt recoil and eliminate some of the muzzle jump.

The .30-30 was a different story. The recoil from this rifle cartridge came back more into the palm of my hand rather than back and up, and 10 shots of practice each day was all I wanted to handle.

I found myself much more accurate with the .30-30 at 50 yards although the felt recoil seemed much more punishing. It was taking some getting used to.

The practice continued through the summer, and the more I shot, the better I became. My eyes were good back in those days, and if I could spot a buck at 50 yards, I knew that killing the animal would be easy.

Shooting the T/C Contender for three months enabled me to condition myself to the felt recoil, which still seemed to be much more than with the .44 Magnum. Nov. 15 should be a snap if everything went as planned.

Opening day came that year with some snow on the ground and partly cloudy skies. My stand was well positioned 40 yards downwind of where three active deer trails came through a tag alder swale, spread out, and gradually came back together to neck down into a funnel between two heavy patches of cover.

There was a coin flip, and I chose the T/C Contender with the .30-30 barrel. I had two extra cartridges in my pocket, but a single-shot handgun doesn’t offer fast reloading. One shot means taking enough time to get the right shot.

I’d been setting on stand for two hours. It wasn’t a cold day, and dozens of does had trickled past but I wanted a buck with the handgun. It didn’t have to be a wall-hanger because the area I was hunting didn’t produce many big deer.

Soon a young buck could be seen easing through the cover. He came down one of the deer trails, and it gradually merged with the other two at 40 yards. It stopped where all three deer trails came together, turned broadside and looked back over his off-side shoulder.

Satisfied, he turned and took one step. The sight picture looked perfect, and I took up the last ounce or two of trigger pressure with the sights behind his front shoulder and shot.

The shot seemed excessively loud that morning but my eyes continued to track the animal. I could see the red stain behind his front shoulder, and after 50 yards he crashed to the ground.

Later, I shot another buck with the .44 magnum, and also shot a wild boar with the T/C and the .30-30 barrel, and a javelina with a 9 mm. It’s not that I don’t enjoy hunting with a handgun, but now I basically just shoot paper holes to maintain some form of consistent practice.

Can handgun hunting be a challenge for you? Of course it can, and I know a number of people who hunt all the time with a handgun. Who knows, I may go back to it again.

But, for now, I’m still locked into hunting with a bow and a muzzleloader. And, although handguns are fully capable of killing game far beyond my 50-yard range, long-range handgun shooting is not for me.

It may be your cup of tea, and if so I know you enjoy it, but after a lifetime of bow hunting, it gives me a bigger kick to have game within 20 yards when a shot is taken. Up close and personal is what bow hunting means to me.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/27 at 07:19 PM
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wildlife Death On The Highways

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We went out today for dinner, and had a lovely meal, and on the way home saw two or three splattered deer carcasses in Manistee, Benzie and Grand Traverse counties. Nothing unusual there.

The carnage on our roadways is nothing new. Much of it is caused by people driving much too fast, and deer spend much of their time right now where there is some vegetation or near roadways where some salt is found.

The thought of the number of animals killed by cars and trucks each year is staggering. It got me to thinking of which critters are most likely to wind up on the statistical side of the wildlife ledger.

During the spring, summer and fall months there are four animals that are frequently seen dead along our highways. Perhaps the highest number of animals killed would be the raccoon. Years ago when I’d drive back and forth to the Detroit newspaper I worked for, there were always high numbers of dead coons.

Second on my list were plenty of opossum. The rat-like possum with his prehensile tail and hissing noise they make when confronted by a human seems to number almost as high as raccoons.

Third on this list of critters killed by speeding cars and trucks would be deer. I didn’t check the numbers of deer killed last year, and quite possibly the numbers haven’t been compiled yet, but in years past over 200,000 whitetails are killed by vehicles, and each year several people die in car-deer crashes. The cost to insurance companies is staggering.

Fourth of the list of road-killed critters would be skunks. Their stinky remains are not only a blood-smeared highway marker but the lingering odor of skunk spray. Sometimes the stink is squeezed out when the vehicle runs over their body, and others I think they get off one blast before being killed.

Every year during the summer months I’ll see big snapping turtles obliterated by a passing vehicle. Bits and pieces of shell are scattered across the highway. Turtles are not fleet afoot, and I stop to let them complete their passage. One time I stopped for a lumbering 25-pounder when a speedster wheeled past me and the car behind me, crushed the turtle and never slowed down.

Some black bears are killed as well. One year, five or six bears were killed on M-55 in one spot just a few miles west of Cadillac. It’s a famous north-south crossing point for black bears moving through the Mitchell Lake Swamp. Some may not mourn the loss, but I do.

Birds by the millions meet an untimely fate with traffic. In most cases, no one will swerve to avoid hitting a bird only to cause a collision with another vehicle. I used to average 1,000 miles per week while on the road to cover my outdoor beat, and would often find the grisly evidence of songbirds in my grill and/or radiator.

Even the bird considered smartest of all—the wild turkey—gets splattered. Most often they flush into the air as a car or truck approaches within 50 feet and lays on the horn, and they often fly right into the windshield. The impact kills the bird and makes the purchase of a new windshield necessary.

There is one animal that I’ve seen only once dead on the road. This animal is one that many people wouldn’t think of, and over the countless miles I’ve driven to see only a single specimen means one of two things.

It means the varying hare or snowshoe hare seldom crosses highways, and they seldom venture near a road. The only dead hare I’ve seen was killed along a paved road in western Alger County many years ago.

These animals are content to stay in their thick cover, and although they have a larger home range than a cottontail rabbit, most of their travels take place in heavy cover.

In fact, in all the years I’ve driven in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, I’ve yet to see a live snowshoe hare cross the road in front of me. They seem to know that crossing wide-open areas leaves them open to overhead predation by bald eagles, hawks and owls.

The carnage will continue simply because people refuse to slow down when in wild game habitat. They hit the speed limit, kick it up another five or 10 miles per hour, and refuse to worry about the extra gasoline they burn at higher speeds.

Now me, I’m old enough to be a bit of a curmudgeon and a rebel, and I drive slow all the time. I look for critters on both sides of the road, and them that don’t care for me driving the speed limit, can pass. Who knows, perhaps the police will pick them up on radar, and that will force them to slow down.

One can always hope.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/26 at 06:44 PM
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

True Or False Deer Tales

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A deer tale is made up of some of the very same components as fish stories. Both usually require the use of both arms and hands to measure how long the trout was or how wide the antler spread happened to be on that big buck they missed last week.

Oddly enough, some deer tales are true. Others may be partly true, and some have no truth to them at all. For them, the story teller seldom lets the truth get in the way of a good story.

Some of these tales will provoke a questioning response from the listener. Some are out-and-out lies, and others may contain a kernel or two of truth simply because they are so outrageous, it seems likely they must contain some truth.

Down over 50+ years of hunting, some deer tales have come my way. Many are considered lies because I can see the teller’s lips moving, and know he never tells the truth.

Years ago, a man who is not prone to lying told me a tale about a hunter he knew. The gent had watched a nice buck jump a dry drainage ditch at the same point several days in a row. The time was almost always about 5 p.m.

My friend’s friend decided to ambush, bushwhack or dry-gulch the animal with a bow when it jumped the ditch. He peeked through tall marsh grass and watched as the buck moved closer. He came to full draw, while laying on his back in the ditch, and waited ... or so the story went.

The buck was heard near the edge of the ditch, and as the buck sailed over his prone body, he released the arrow. The shaft skewered the buck just behind the brisket, hit the spine, and exited the animal’s back.

The buck could be heard alongside the road. flopping about, paralyzed, and slowly dying. He said a driver, sailing along in his car, almost hit the deer as it folded up inches from the edge of the road. The driver nearly had a heart attack, and thought the deer was coming through his windshield, which quite possibly could have happened.

My problem is: how does a bow hunter draw a bow while laying flat on his back. How does he nail a firm anchor point. Go ahead, try it: try laying on your back and draw an arrow.

Could it have been done? I doubt it.

Years ago a bunch of guys traveled to Tennessee each year to hunt those wild Rooshian boars, as the locals called them. Their weapon of choice was a spear. They found a boar, taunted it until it charged, and when the boar with its knife-sharp tushes came at them, they would put the back end of the spear in the ground, and when the pig charged, they met the charge with a spear point.

The storyteller said they killed several boars with a spear, and wanted to try it on deer. They knew it would be impossible to get a buck to charge so decided to try spearing a deer from a tree stand, even if it wasn’t legal.

One of the yahoos saw a small buck walk past his stand, and he drew back his arm and threw the heavy spear with all of his might. The point went in behind the front shoulder, knocked the deer over, but it ran off and the spear fell out.

The violator climbed down, gathered up his bloodied spear, and started following the blood trail. He trailed the deer for some distance, saw it laying dead and walked up to it.

He squatted down, the spear held with the point upright like an African warrior, to admire the splendid throw he’d made. The spear was suddenly snatched from his hand. He jumped up, cussing up a streak, only to see a smiling conservation officer. The gent lost his deer and spear, received a ticket, paid a big fine, and lost his right to hunt for three years.

Such stories are almost too far-fetched to be true. Both show a wonderful sense of imagination if they aren’t true. One of the secrets to telling a joke, a tall tale or a lie, is each one should contain some semblance of truth.

It’s that little dash of truth, like mustard on a hot dog, that makes the tale somewhat tasty to the listener. And, over many years, I’ve spent a good deal of time with conservation officers, and some of the tales they tell are about as far off center as these. So, perhaps they could be true.

I’ve got some other whoppers I’ve heard in the past, and one day soon I’ll trot out a few more for your reading pleasure.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/25 at 07:32 PM
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Late-Fall Exercise

It’s not even Thanksgiving and my back deck has already been shoveled eight times. That’s right, eight times today.

Folks, if you want snow to slide off your metal roof, get a day of 35 degree temperatures and combine that with 20+ inches of wet snow, and shoveling becomes more than an ordeal; it can become an adventure in knowing when to duck.

Ice sometimes forms under the snow pack, and as everything begins to warm and wet snow falls on the present load, things begin to happen. Gravity exerts its inevitable force on the snow, and it slowly begins to move.

Snow doesn’t move upwards. It comes down, and quite rapidly at times and with little warning.

There is little time to think about falling snow coming off the roof, but the one place you do not want to be is under the snow and ice once it begins plummeting toward the deck. The force of the impact shakes the house.

The avalanche begins with a few faint creaks as the metal roof flexes a bit under the strain, and next is a barely audible hiss. If you hear the hiss, you best be ducking for cover fast because the snow will be crashing down in one or two seconds. That’s all the warning you get.

There is very little warning with snow on a metal roof. Creak, creak, hiss and here it comes. If you snooze, you lose this race. If you get hit by a 50-pound jagged piece of ice on the old bean, your shoveling days may be over.

Seriously, this early snowfall has put a snuffer on my local deer hunting. I shovel every day that it snows, and since my measuring device is attached to my house, I can tell how much snow we get.

Mind you, it may not be exactly accurate because some of it may be drifted snow, but I use my back deck railing as a guide. Each morning I look at the railing, and if there is a noticeable amount of white stuff, I measure it before starting to shovel it off.

Since November 15, the opening day of our state firearm season, we have got 28 inches of snow. I don’t care if it all falls straight down out of the sky or blows in sideways, what is on the railing is counted daily in inches. I usually keep close track until we exceed 100 inches of snow and to continue counting after that is a waste of time.

One hundred inches of snow is too much of a good thing. By the way we are going, unless the snow slows down, we may be close to that rediculous number before we usher in the New Year.

That, my friends, is a sobering thought.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/24 at 07:49 PM
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Pig Wearing Lipstick

I’m not a big television fan, and would rather read a book than watch the boob tube. Many people apparently agree with this philosophy.

On occasion, and I mean that both figuratively and literally, I’ll watch a television hunting show. I shy away from some because I have a major problem viewing many bloody, brain-dead, poorly-thought-out shows.

Many are filmed on a game ranch. I don’t care if the deer they shoot are raised behind a fence as long as the host informs the viewers. Too many people view these shows, and consider the host a superb hunter. Some are excellent hunters, and great shots, and some may not be but the viewer is left out of touch with what is real and what is not.

I won’t name names, and I’m not out to bad-mouth anyone. But I see things on some shows that fly in the face of what I consider good form and good hunting ethics. Some set poor examples for their viewers.

Here is an example. A guy was sitting 25-30 feet up a tree, and along comes a buck walking directly at him. The bow comes back to full draw, the deer catches the movement and stops to look up, and he shoots the animal in front of the front shoulder near the brisket.

The deer was shot in full daylight, and suddenly it is extremely dark, and they find the deer 75 yards away after a perfect shot, they say. Does this mean that taking whatever shot the deer offers will make the viewer a better hunter? Not hardly, because they may assume that this was a good shot when in fact it was a horrible shot placement.

There are two high-percentage shots that hunters should take: broadside and quartering-away. The showing of this deer being shot in front of the front shoulder, coupled with the fact that it had apparently taken hours and perhaps more than one day to find the animal, is never explained. Again, a poor example is set for novice hunters. Those sportsmen who know better won’t watch these shows again.

Another show I recently watched saw an arrow hit a deer in the front shoulder blade. There was hardly any penetration, and the animal ran off with the arrow dangling down. They later found a deer, and it shows one with a round hole behind the front shoulder. It appeared to be a different deer, one that was apparently shot with a rifle to provide a dead animal for the show. Folks, you were suckered on that one.

Right, wrong, I’m not the hunting-show police. It’s not up to me to act as an unpaid overseer of how they produce their shows. I made a vow to my readers many years ago that I wouldn’t fib, lie, prevaricate or tell that which was not true. For 41 years I’ve kept that promise.

I write books, magazine articles, newspaper articles and columns, and now write for my personal website. I write a daily blog, and one has to have countless experiences to continue to write a story every day, but what I write is what I’ve done.

Granted, this is just a personal observation about some television hunting shows. Each person has his or her own sense of personal ethics, but when I see someone shoot a buck in the shoulder, and when they “recover” the deer and it looks different, I have a problem accepting such things. It’s just flat wrong!

Many years ago, a hunter who had numerous whitetail bucks in the record books (before they were disqualified) got into making videos. I bumped into him on a hunt, and he wanted me to see his latest video.

I almost walked out before the video ended. He was proud of the live “kill” and “pass-through” shots. In one scene he shot a buck, it ran off, stumbled and fell in a tiny stream. The camera zeroed in on the downed buck, blood spurting into the air and turning the creek water red, and he asked what I thought.

“That is the most disgusting video I’ve ever seen!” I said. “How many “pass-through” shots are needed? I believe your sales will dwindle if you leave the buck-in-the-creek and spurting blood in that video. We all know that an arrow-shot deer bleeds and dies, but is it necessary to video such a scene? It would be like videotaping one of your children or a parent dying. Some women will ask their husband not to view it when the children are around. Some women will just make it disappear.”

He left in the spurting blood portion of the buck kicking and thrashing in the creek, and the video didn’t sell well. Then, other video producers started an attempt to clean up some gory hunting videos.

He didn’t speak to me again for several years, but later admitted that he and the video producer made an error in judgement. I am not the guy to say such things mustn’t be shown. I’m just a guy who feels that some things don’t deserve to be shown in all their blood-and-guts glory.

Some things are better left alone. The outdoor magazines long ago shied away from bloody abdomens, blood around the nose and mouth, and most outdoor writers take time to clean up the animal before shooting photos. A live deer is majestic to look at but a dead deer just looks dead, even if it has been cleaned up. You can put lipstick on a pig to make it look better, but in the end, it is still a pig wearing lipstick.

Sorry to natter on so long on such tasteless topics. I just saw one of the shows a few days ago, and felt I had to write about it. Journalists should report only that which is honest and true, and if it doesn’t cause other people to get wild-eyed with horror when they see it.

Frankly, I’m tired of the fist pumps, the knuckle bumps, the thumb-grip handshakes, and the phoniness of some of these shows. The laughing and giggling when something dies leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

Class will carry a television hunting show. A few television shows have class and many do not. It’s my perogative to choose what few outdoor shows I watch, and we don’t linger long on the bad ones.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/23 at 07:11 PM
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Hunger Time For Coyotes Is Coming

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The time of the Hunger Moon is fast approaching. It’s that period next month when December and January coyotes and other critters have cleaned up on the aged, dead and wounded deer in the woods.

Right now, the woods are fairly silent at night. We’ve just coming up to the Thanksgiving hunt, and in northern Lower Michigan, the muzzleloader season won’t start for about three weeks. There didn’t seem to be a great deal of interest, and I spent a good deal of time today outdoors shoveling my deck and falling on the steps and hurting my hip.

My wife screamed when she saw me do a pirouette on the steps, land on my right hip and fall from there into her rock garden. She’s begging me to get up, and I’m thinking about whether I can. I finally got my creaky old beat-up body moving, got to the top of the steps, took firm hold of the deck railing and lurched to me feet, all covered with snow and a sore a.. backside.

I never heard a shot all day, and although a neighbor hunted today, he didn’t see a deer. All of that will soon change when the winter woods will rumble with the sounds of coyotes on the chase. For now, we have received 20 inches of snow since the Nov. 15 firearm opener.

They are looking for food, and it matters little what is available, which made me thankful none were watching my fall-down-the-steps trick. Coyotes have learned how to live in close proximity to man, and they are not bashful about announcing their presence. It’s at times like this, with cold temperatures at night and snow growing deeper by the day, that the brush wolves start to make their presence known.

A coyote has a couple of favorite foods. One is cats. If Tabby is left outdoors at night, and doesn’t show up in the morning, it’s quite likely the mouser ran afoul of one or more coyotes and won’t be coming home.

I know some coyote hunters who won’t run these animals unless there are two or more dogs in the pack. Coyotes, especially in February when males and females are about to breed, that they will team up and kill a single hound dog.

Small dogs are another favorite coyote food. Fewer dogs are taken than cats, but fewer people let their small dogs run loose in the winter. By all that is right, no cat or dog should be left outside after dark. Cats are every bit the predator that a coyote is, but they tend to catch mice and ruffed grouse while coyotes prefer larger prey.

The coyote is a much maligned animal, and over many years when Michigan paid a bounty on coyotes and foxes, the only thing the bounty system proved was that it didn’t work. I grew up in Clio, just north of Flint, and we hunted red foxes all winter.

No matter how many fox were taken by the Clio group, and our nearby rivals, the Frankenmuth fox hunters, there were as many or more foxes the next year. The bounty system was a worthless waste of time and taxpayer money.

But i digress. This upcoming hunger moons of December and January is when coyotes howl and prowl, and it’s when coyotes forget about eating mice and other rodents. It’s a time when they need food, and lots of it to eat, and it’s a time when coyotes begin picking off the elderly and weak animals.

There is nothing to match the ferocity of a coyote other than a wolf. Fox were once the most popular canine predator in the state. As coyote numbers grew, the fox became fewer in number. In the Upper Peninsula, where wolves are the ultimate predator (other than man), coyote numbers are few and fox numbers even less. Wolves will catch and kill coyotes and foxes at every opportunity.

Coyotes often hunt in loose packs until the breeding season begins, and right now the coyote pups born this spring are hunting together with at least the mother as they learn how to drag something down and kill it.

It’s easy to tell the approximate age of coyotes. Young ones yip-yip-yip, and try to howl. The adults can and often howl as the family members gather for the hunt.

Hunters take some coyotes, and two primary methods produce. The spot-and-stalk and by calling. Calling is great fun but as more and more people try it, and then move too soon and spook the animal, that coyote gets a fast education. I’ve had mediocre success calling coyotes.

My favorite hunting method is to drive the roads through relatively open terrain, and spot a coyote. It may be crossing the road, mousing in a field or looking for a spot to bed down. Watch the animal until it circles around before laying down.

Make an upwind stalk, moving slowly and stopping often to keep the bedded coyote in sight, and move again when it lowers its head to nap for a few more minutes. A slow stalk can put the hunter within easy shooting range.

The coyote, much cussed and discussed, is difficult to hunt. Make one mistake, and the coyote will just get smarter and smarter. If it’s a challenge you seek, look no further than the coyote. They are plentiful everywhere in the state, including Detroit and its crowded suburbs, but nowhere are there any dumb ‘yotes.

A hunter earns every coyote he takes.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/22 at 08:17 PM
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Two To A Coop: No Deer But Fun

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It’s been many years since Kay and I have sat together in a coop while deer hunting. Let’s see ... seems like the last time was about 15 years ago, and I can’t remember why we did so.

Tonight we did because it was the only spot open where we could get to without slogging a long ways through some deep snow. It was a good spot, surrounded by pines and some tag alders with open spots here and there. It was ideal deer habitat.

Did I mention that it was snowing, and would soon increase in its intensity? Well, that was the weather conditions, and to add a bit more misery to our hunt, the wind was huffing a bit. Crazy weather.

How often do we hear of a southeast wind in mid-November? Not often, and hopefully never again but some of our worse winter storms come from that direction, and the weather has been screwy during deer season for the past several years. Look at our recent weather; we’ve got 20 inches of snow since the firearm opener. Crazy!

There we sat, thinking much the same thing. We haven’t shared a hunting blind in many years. Often, when we have shared a blind on the occasional hunt (perhaps three times in 30 years) I give the nod to Kay if a deer offers a shot. What a guy I am!

The blind had been hunted the previous night, and the deer were edgy in the weird wind. The first deer Kay saw was a nice 8-point, and it came from the north with that curious and hesitant stop-and-go gait that deer have when they are nervous and looking for danger.

She spotted the deer and held four fingers up on each side of her head to indicate that it was an 8-pointer. He came perhaps 20 yards closer to the blind before ducking into heavy cover.

Ten minutes later another buck showed up, and this one also was spotted by my wife. She put up her two little fingers, one on each side, indicating a spike.

Mind you, she was hunting with a bow even though it was still the firearm season and my choice this evening was my Knight .50 caliber muzzleloader. It was topped by a Bushnell variable power scope, and although both bucks were only 75 yards away, I held off shooting. Secretly, I was hoping they would keep coming to a spot within 20 yards where she would get a shot.

Secretly, I believe she was hoping I could get a shot with the muzzleloader. However, two people trying to move to get into shooting position, in tight quarters, is a good bit of fun and somewhat like slow dancing with the cutest cheerleader as a junior in high school.

A coop built for one person means that two people must be friendly, which we are, but trying to move without making noise is a study in slow movements, hand signals, and it becomes a test of one’s willingness to move in a choreographed routine.

We did the half-step, you-move-now, you stop, and it’s-my-turn-to- move-a-half-step-now. The tendency is for both people to try to move at the same time, and it is an impossible thing to accomplish. Inevitably, we have to stop, hold up one hand in the “stop” position, move slightly, and then point at the other person, indicating it is their turn to wiggle around a little bit.

I quickly determined that this would only work if each of us watched for deer from different windows. Kay got the more difficult window to look out, and the reason is she has excellent game eyes. She can spot deer with her naked eyes that requires time for me to find with binoculars.

We eventually got the movements orchestrated, and as was the case tonight, she became the deer spotter. And then things got a little hinky.

“I see two deer under that pine tree,” she whispered softly in my ear. I forgot what I was doing for a moment until she followed that with a “pay attention. One is the 8-pointer. It’s your turn for a nice buck.”

I’d passed up too many bucks this year without seeing one I wanted, and may have settled for the 8-pointer if I’d seen it clearly, but it was still a mystery buck. Kay shot a nice 8-point with her bow during the archery season, and was now hoping for a fat doe.

None of the deer cared much about moving in the steady snow. We set it out until the end of shooting time, and I uncapped my frontloader and Kay put the arrow back into her bow quiver, and we called it a night.

The joint hunt was fine, and we both enjoyed the change, but both confessed that bow hunting, like hunting gobblers, is a one-person sport. It’s just not meant for two adults, no matter how cozy they are with each other.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/21 at 07:32 PM
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Thought For Next Year

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

I’ve thought about it for years, and have pretty much decided that the most problematic wind is 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 got as much of it as we have over the last 10 years.

I have a few places where I can go when an east wind blows. One is a pit blind at the base of a small hill, and an east wind blows right into the opening where bow shots are taken. 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. I have another pit blind just 50 yards behind my house, and the deer won’t circle behind the pit blind because it would put them in my back yard.

A couple of our 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.

Most of our stands are permanent fixtures, especially those elevated coops that are built into trees. If we were to do it at every stand, the woods would lose its good looks and begin looking like a scattering of tenements in the trees. That would spoil the aesthetics of the hunting area.

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 fairly close to the north road where the likelihood of a deer catching the hunters scent would be minimal.

If two or three stands were positioned along the north fence line just a short distance from the road, the chance of a deer circling next to the road 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 it was just large enough to shoot through, and could be opened without a sound, it would probably work.

Too many windows in a coop allow the hunter to be silhouetted against the light entering another 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 every time.

We’re putting our collective heads together 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 fence 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 favorite options. If one was an elevated coop and the other was a tree stand or ground blind, 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. Let’s see now, if we put an elevated coop here ....

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/20 at 07:08 PM
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why I Enjoy Deer Hunting

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It is a grand experience, this bow hunting for whitetails, but what makes it so special for me is that every day is different. Every day in the woods is one of pure joy, even those days of hard east winds.

Not all days are created equal when it comes to bow hunting. There are those special days that come along perhaps two or three days each season where we know something truly special will occur.

The possibilities of what may happen are endless. Perhaps a beet-red sun falls out of the western sky at sunset, and we set and marvel at nature’s beauty. Sometimes the wind will switch at just the right time so the hunter catches a break and shoots a buck with large antlers, occasionally more by accident than on purpose.

Some days are memorable because we see a whitetail buck that we’ve never seen before, and the animal is large enough to have been around for four or five years but has escaped detection until now.

A hunting day can be spectacular when we watch two large evenly matched bucks fight for dominance. The dust flies, there is the thunder of their hooves stomping the ground, the grunting as they push and shove in an effort to whip the other buck. Some fights end in a tie, but most reach a finale when one buck, clearly outmatched, gives up.

There is always the pleasure and personal pride of exquisite placement of an arrow, and the knowledge that the buck will be dead in two or three seconds. A touch of sadness always comes over us when we realize that we’ve taken that animal’s life for our nourishment.

Just as we feel bad, we also feel a keen sense of accomplishment. The downing of a grand buck is a happening; it is something we’ll long remember, and the memory of the buck will live on forever once it has been stored in our personal memory bank.

We take pride in our skills, and we pursue deer with a purpose. Some bucks will be passed up, and some will not. Much of the time we never know we are going to shoot until the trigger finger twitches on the release, and the buck goes down.

Hunting isn’t just about killing nor is it about letting all deer live. There is a mental and physical balance we must maintain within ourselves, and the deer herd, that tells us it’s time to stop.

Stopping hunting is out of the question for me. I may stop carrying my bow, but I hunt 12 months out of the year. All of it, in one form or another, is scouting. I remember late-fall deer trails, study where deer bed down in the winter, and learn where big bucks live and why they are found there during the hunting season.

Hunting is a never-ending endeavor to learn and study the deer we hunt. We greet each season with enthusiasm, we scout long and hard to learn the habits of good bucks, and we put forth more than a bit of energy learning our hunting area.

It means laying down plenty of boot leather, checking food sites and deer trails, and watching deer from afar to avoid spooking them. This love affair with deer may well be an addiction but it’s not a harmful one.

The more we watch and study deer, both bucks and does, the more we learn. The more we know about why deer do what they do, the better we become as a hunter. When we reach a certain pinnacle of skill and hunting success, we begin making each hunt more challenging.

It is, after all, the challenge between man and deer, that brings both of us together in the fall and early winter. The deer-hunting days are dwindling fast, and I can’t speak for you, but I haven’t had my fill of deer hunting just yet.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/19 at 08:04 PM
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deer Move When They Get Ready To

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There are as many theories about deer movements as there are deer roaming this state. The secret to a good fib is to keep a bit of truth in it, and that seems to be the primary ingredient in the many guesses I hear about when whitetails should move.

Take for instance the hot-button theory on when the rut occurs. Some would have you believe it will occur on or about the time of the second full moon after the autumnal equinox—the first day of fall.

Believe that, and some years the rut would not occur until late November. That wouldn’t work in northern states. On the other hand some hunters believe the rut starts in early October, and that would have many fawns being born in late April or early May, a bad time for the fawn drop.

The rut, or so many folks have told me, doesn’t begin until about Nov. 15. The rut was basically over at that time this year. Some people would have us believe the rut starts with the first frost or cold snap, which often comes in late September. If that were true, fawns would be born in late winter snow storms, providing them with certain death.

The whole thing about the rut is that many people believe what their grand-pappy told them or what Uncle Abner said 50 years ago. More old wives tales exist about the rut than anything else.

The primary rut ended sometime around Nov. 10-15 this year although some bucks were still chasing does two weeks later but the rut didn’t seem to be very intense. The second estrus will be underway soon, but it doesn’t amount to much. Only late-blooming doe fawns are coming into estrus now, and there is a bit of rutting action but most bucks I’ve been seeing are hungry and sticking close to food sites, especially since the snow began falling and piling up.

That doesn’t mean if Big Buck is peacefully eating, and some young maiden in estrus shows up, that he won’t bird-dog her through the brush until she stands for him. He will breed her, and resume eating, and perhaps breed her again and again, but the secondary rut doesn’t mean much.

The primary rut in Michigan, and in my area, usually kicks off about Oct. 25 and runs through about Nov. 10 but there are obvious exceptions to this rule. That’s an average, and it can change by a day or two either way from year to year. It can start a few days earlier in the U.P., and a few days later in southern counties.

Watching deer is what I do, and what all deer hunters should do, and when bucks begin chasing does and checking the scrapes, the pre-rut has begun. When the bucks are tending does, nose to the ground, and ignoring the scrapes, the rut has begun. When bucks look at does, and begin feeding, the rut is basically over. It’s all pretty simple.

Before any of you jump my frame on this issue, and say you saw a buck breed a doe in early December one year, allow me to state that there are exceptions to every rule.

We are talking about a basic breeding season. Granted, some bucks will breed estrus does in February and some will breed does in early October, but those are exceptions to the rule. Most of the serious rutting activity here runs from Oct. 25-Nov. 10.

A buck can breed whenever his antlers are hard, and once his antlers fall off, he is done breeding for this season. If someone says they saw a buck with raw, bleeding pedicles breed a doe, I’d suspect this person doesn’t know much about deer.

I have no degree in wildlife biology but have studied whitetail behavior for more than 50 years. I know what happens in my neck of the woods, why it happens, when it occurs, and the same basic patterns hold true from this year to next, and there is little variation from year to year.

Studying whitetails is almost as much fun as hunting them. The more knowledge a hunter gains about the animal he hunts, the better success he will have.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/18 at 07:43 PM
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Try To Avoid Stressing Winter Deer

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It happens almost every November about now when people continue to deer hunt from the same blinds day after day. Two or three mornings or evenings of climbing into the same stand means the deer will soon have you patterned.

What happens after they pattern the hunter is they seldom show up during legal shooting time. I proved it to a friend two nights ago.

He’d told me that every deer that steps out of heavy cover seems to be looking at his stand. He couldn’t understand why they seemed so interested in his spot.

He had shot a doe that night and it ran into the woods 50 yards before dying. We followed the deer after dark, and I suggested he look around the edges of the heavy cover.

“You’ll see deer beds everywhere within 20 yards of the edge of the cover,” I told him. “Those deer watch you walk in from the road, and see you climb into your stand and lay there and watch you climb down and leave. The deer have you patterned.”

Shifting from one stand to another, and never hunting the same one two nights in a row, eliminates much of the problem. It’s difficult to sneak into anywhere when snow covers the ground, but one trick that that does work in farmland country, providing the snow doesn’t get too deerp, is for one person on a four-wheeler or a truck to drop the other hunter off.

Deer can’t count. If the see and hear a four-wheeler or pickup truck come in, and both people get out, one stays and the other leaves, and nearby deer seem to think that everyone has left. That is unless the hunter makes too much noise, moves around or is spotted by the animals.

The same can hold true in the evening. If a hunter is pinned down by deer out in front of them, and they climb down, every nearby deer is educated to the human presence. However, if a four-wheeler or truck comes putt-putting in after dark, it scares off the deer, and then leaves, the animals are not overly frightened by the vehicle. Deer see cars or trucks every day, and we’ve used this method effectively for years.

The vehicle is what spooks the deer, not the hunter climbing down in front of a deer. The whitetails run off, the hunter climbs down and gets into the vehicle, and the deer are none the wiser.

Often. our deer are gone by full dark. We can then climb down and walk out without spooking any animals.

Late November and December be hard on bucks that are recovering from the rigors of the rut. They need to feed heavily in a short period of time to build up enough body fat to carry them through the winter. Anything that disrupts their schedule of moving out to feed can lead to stress, and in areas like this one with very low deer numbers, we try not to stress the deer any more than possible.

Stress can be caused by a variety of reasons. If deer traditionally bed near a stand, and night after night a hunter walks in to that spot, the deer get a mite spooky and often hold off on their travels until full dark.

Changing stands, changing arrival times at a hunting spot, or giving a stand a rest for a few days allows deer to settle down and start getting back to their normal travel patterns.

Whatever hunters can do to make human impact on deer even less will often result in better deer hunting. The more stress we put on nearby deer, the poorer the hunting becomes.

Right now we are already putting a bit of stress on deer with heavy snows. We have six-seven inches of snow at my place, and the Traverse City area is supposed to see snow daily for the next several days. If any major accumlation falls, it will only make matters worse.

Try a new approach with the rest of the hunting season. Move around, change the times you arrive and leave a stand, and if possible, have someone drop you off. It certainly doesn’t solve every problem, but it can lead to slightly better hunting if the animals aren’t stressed out by hunting pressure. 

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/17 at 06:15 PM
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Boy’s First Buck

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There are a great many firsts in a person’s life. A first car, a first kiss, a first job, and the list can become endless.

Jacob Baynton of Grawn celebrated none of the above today, but he did shoot his first antlered buck at 1 p.m. on a hunt near Buckley. There were five people involved in a mini-drive. His great-uncle—Gary Baynton of Buckley—had taken the boy in tow, and his mother, father and Uncle John Baynton, Gary’s brother, teamed up to push a little patch of pines on some nearby farmland.

“What we hoped for,” Gary said, “was to work the pines thoroughly. We’d seen a number of antlerless deer go in, and none came out. I figured there had to be a buck in there. Obviously, we were hoping for a big buck, but Jacob said he’d be happy just to see a buck. Size wasn’t important.”

Gary and Jacob worked their way into position to cover the most possible escape route that a buck would probably choose. Gary, and his relatives, had driven all the nearby pieces of cover for many years, and he had learned which way deer usually travel when pushed by hunters.

“It began snowing early this morning and by noon about four inches of fresh snow covered the ground,” Jacob said. “Uncle Gary told me that ‘tracking snow’ would benefit us. The wind was blowing the snow pretty hard when the drive began, and although I’ve heard tales of these mini-drives that Uncle Gary puts on, this was the first one that had been put on for my benefit. The three others were just driving, and not hunting, and that really put a bit of pressure on me to not let them down.”

Gary said he’d prepared Jacob for the possibility of a long shot, and was letting him use a short-stock .243 rifle that was perfect for a small-frame person. It fit Jacob well, and they sat back, waiting patiently, and one by one 15 does squirted out ahead of the drivers. The drivers eased slowly through the cover, zigzagging back and forth, stopping and starting, and then it happened.

“A four-point buck came trotting out at 175 yards,” Jacob said, “and Uncle Gary told me it was a buck. He told me to track the buck through the scope, and shoot when I felt comfortable doing so. I took a deep breath, swung through the buck and pulled the trigger when I felt comfortable with the lead. At the shot, I wasn’t excited because everything was happening too fast. There wasn’t time to get excited.

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“As I tracked the buck, and squeezed the trigger when everything looked good, that deer stumbled and felt. When I saw him fall, I hollered ‘Yahoo!’ as Uncle Gary slapped me on the back and we quickly covered the distance to the fallen buck. He seemed huge to me.”

However, this isn’t just a story about a boy and his first buck. It’s about his mother as well.

She was the person that jumped that buck out of its bed, and she watched the buck bolt from the pine trees, and she knew her son was going to get his first shot at a buck. She also had jumped a buck during the Youth Hunt for her 15-year-old son Jeffery, who also was hunting with his Uncle Gary. He shot a five-point, and now she was rooting for Jacob to get a good shot at this animal.

“I was really excited,” Jennie said. “I wanted this hunt to end well, and Jacob made a good hit on the deer. I’m so proud of both boys.”

“It really was a great shot that Jacob put on that deer,” Gary said. “He stayed cool and calm, did everything I’d told him earlier to do, and I was cheering for him when he shot and the buck fell. I well remember my first buck, and I can promise you that Jacob will remember his first buck as well.”

And it goes without saying that his parents were proud of him. It’s easy to suspect that Jennie and her husband Jeff will never forget this day, this deer, and this son. It was a hunt that came together exactly as planned, which seldom happens, and Jacob can now look forward to other firsts in his life. Shooting his first buck is now behind him, but I doubt seriously that it will be his last.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/16 at 06:09 PM
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