Saturday, January 31, 2009

I’m Looking To Buy Some Hunting-Fishing Books & Mags

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My email box had an interesting question from a reader today. He was looking for a book, and had scanned my Scoop’s Books on this website and my sales spot on eBay.

He knew it was a fishing title, but couldn’t remember its name or author. That narrowed the field down to one topic out of many thousands of book topics. Did it have a date of publication? No.

He couldn’t even remember if it was about bass fishing, muskie, panfish, pike, trout, walleyes or some other fresh or saltwater species. Was it oriented toward general fish or was it about fly fishing? He had no clue. Too many years had passed since he last read the book during his childhood.

I enjoy helping people, and I really enjoy it when they buy a book or books from my extensive listing on Scoop’s Books. I wanted to lend this guy a hand, but after trading several emails, the whole exercise was one of frustration and futility.

I have a fairly large number (more than 500) of titles for sale. I’m always willing to do a book search to help a client, but I need at least two reference points to achieve any degree of success. The author’s name and the title are the two criteria I need. Sometimes I can find the book from just a name, but two items are better. Obviously, a misspelled name will lead me down a dark alley where too much time is wasted.

Several clients send me a list of book titles they want to buy, and I begin the search. Most are eventually successful but some are not. It’s a hunt and not all searches end well.

One client already has a copy of a book his heart desires. Sadly, the book doesn’t have a dust jacket. He wants a copy of this extremely scarce title in better condition than his copy but it must have a spiffy dust jacket. Such things are very difficult to find, and a person may search for years for such a copy with a nice dust jacket without success. Some may never find one/

Some clients deal only in certain game fish species such as bass, muskie, trout or walleye titles. Others favor the generalist approach where the book will feature quite a bit about all kinds of fishing.

Other book collectors are completists. They want a copy of every book ever written by Jack O’Connor, the famous gun writer for Outdoor Life magazine years ago. They want his hunting, rifle and shotgun books, and his novels, Boomtown and Conquest, which I’ve had for sale but they are now gone although I do have a nice copy of his semi-autobiogaphical “Horse & Buggy West” with a nice dust jacket.

Some people collect only limited editions of fishing or hunting books, and I just had to turn down a customer who wanted a self-published title about hunting in Africa. I studied a list put out by a friend who deals in Africana more than I do, and he didn’t have one. I’m still looking for that title. Finding a specific book can take a day, a week, month year or many years/

On the other hand, people come to my site because 90 percent of my books are in Fine condition or better. There are several categories of book condition ranging from Reading Copy up to Fair, Good, Very Good, Fine, Very Fine and Mint. I grade the books I sell, and there are establish criteria for each grade. The better the book condition, within reason, the higher the price.

A man offered me nearly a dozen books last week. He wanted to know how much I would pay. Buying a book or many books without seeing them can be a major mistake for both parties. Buying books blind means that I may underbid a book because I haven’t looked at it. The reverse can also happen: I can bid too high, lose money, and it’s hard to stay in business long.

I asked if he would buy a car from someone without seeing the vehicle. He said no, but books and cars are different. I agreed there is a difference but the principle still applies: no one buys items sight unseen unless they are very wealthy or very stupid.

It’s sad to say but there are scam artists that deal in books. I am not one of them, and anyone who has followed my lengthy career of writing books, internet stories on my personal website, magazines or newspaper articles should know enough about me to know I have plenty of books and have no need to steal one. I worked for The Detroit News, Michigan’s largest daily newspaper, for more than 23 years. I worked for Outdoor Life Magazine for 5 1/2 years. Men do not get into such trusted positions by being crooked. In October I will have been at this writing game, and buying and selling books, for 42 years. I’m proud of my 100 percent rating on eBay. People have to work at getting 1000 percent ratings, and must be honest.

The man wasn’t interested in letting me look at them ahead of time, and I wasn’t interested in pursuing the issue any further. They were titles I wanted to buy, but he wouldn’t let me take a peek. He lost, I lost, and some customer down the road lost as well.

Some people want a book dealer to establish a price they will pay, and then buy the book for that price without seeing the merchandise. It’s very difficult for a bookseller to be both the buyer and seller. Some negotiation is almost always possible, but there isn’t a bookseller I know that will pay full retail for any book or buy without looking.

So ... I’m in the market to buy good books on fishing and hunting, and some older outdoor magazines, in very nice condition. Most of the books I wind up buying are in Fine to Mint condition. Most people who buy books want to buy the best condition they can afford. Condition doesn’t mean much if the selling price is $5-10, but it is very meaningful when the price tag goes to $100 or more.

Send me a list of fishing or hunting books you have, and describe them and any flaws. I may ask to see them if they are of interest to me, and if not, I’ll gracefully decline. However I can’t and won’t buy books sight unseen unless I know the seller.

I live in the Traverse City area, and am willing to drive some distance to look at your books for sale. Email me at < > and tell me what you have. If it sounds interesting, we can make arrangement to meet. Money is tight right now, and I’ve got a bit to spend on books. Here is a chance to possibly make a face-to-face sale that could benefit both of us. You may write me a note at David Richey, PO Box 192, Grawn, MI 49637.

I’d love to hear from you this winter. Digging through your books will give you something to do, and it may help me out. I buy all kinds of books, but muskie fishing, trout fishing and turkey hunting titles turn my wheels. C’mon, give it a try.

Let’s see if you can make them spin.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/31 at 03:18 PM
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Friday, January 30, 2009

Looking For A Trophy Muskie This Year?

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For some state anglers, their fishing future hinges on catching a trophy muskellunge during 2009. Some will make it happen while others will continue to dream about catching one of these massive brutes with dentures like Dracula.

Muskies are known as the fish of 10,000 casts, but anglers needn’t go that route. They can troll in this state, or cast, as they choose, and each method can produce a trophy fish.

They can book a charterboat trip with Steve VanAssche of Harrison Township during July and August or October through November, and the chances of catching a trophy fish is excellent.

Mind you, not every charter lands a wall-hanger. It doesn’t work that way, but there is always the opportunity of doing so. Trophy muskies are as unpredictable as the weather but catching a 25-30-pound muskie happens with great regularity.

It’s a proven fact that 40 to 45-pound muskies are being hooked and landed. Most of the fishermen put them back and get a reproduction mold of their fish made, and from that can come a wall mount.

If I wanted to increase my odds of catching a surefire trophy, I’d go in October or November. However, if you’ve read my blog for very long, you know I’m hunting deer every day during those months.

“Fishing was superb last year in October and November,” VanAssche told me. “We are catching big fish every month of open water. The fall is really the best but we must deal with bad weather, and most people can book up a bunch of days in hopes of hitting one or two good days. There’s always an element of chance with muskies but this fishery is growing, and the fish continue to get bigger because of catch and release fishing, and I suspect a 50-pound one of these days..”

He said July is a great month for catching good numbers of fish with some muskies dragging the scales down to 30 pounds. Three years ago my group landed 24 muskies in one day and we had two 28-pounders, one 29-pounder, and six fish between 24 and 27 pounds. A grand day.

Two years ago we landed 21 muskies one day during July, and our biggest fish scaled 28 pounds with two 27-pounders. I could go on, but why waste space.

Steve VanAssche (38344 Elmite, Harrison, Township, MI 48045) also can be reached by cell phone at (586) 524-2827 or at home at (586) 783-7985 (before 10 p.m.) Check out his charter’s website at http://www.bushwackercharters.com or his email at .

There is something about big muskies that turn me on. Two years ago I was letting my guests land the fish, and after each of them had landed two legal muskies and release them, they clamored for me to catch one.

The next strike was on a corner “down” rod, and I was on it like a hungry dog on a meat-covered bone. I pulled the rod up, tightened into the fish, and hung on as the fish plunged off on a long run. The fish took out 50 yards of line and stayed deep, which often is a sure sign of a truly large muskellunge.

I kept even pressure on the fish, and made him work for any line he took from me. The other lines were pulled, and everyone knew this was a big fish. It was fought hard but not too hard, and then it rolled behind the boat and 10 feet out of net range, the lure fell out and the big fish disappeared.

“That was a big fish,” VanAssche said. “It was probably at least 35 pounds and it could have weighed 40 pounds. It’s tough losing big ones, but it’s all part of the thrill. People who land a 35 to 40-pounder muskie from Michigan or Ontario waters of Lake St. Clair earn their fish.”

That said, catching a 25 to 30-pounder is reasonably easy. There are many fish in the lake of that size, and this is the result of catch and release fishing. VanAssche says a 30-pounder is the minimum for a mounter although if someone catches a 25-pound fish or larger, and promises to get it mounted, the fish will be kept. Most fishermen hold out for a 50-inch fish before considering a wall mount.

I like muskie fishing in July because the weather is normally stable, and if I didn’t hunt deer, I’d fish often during the fall. October and November is when big muskies gorge themselves in anticipation of the winter freeze, and it’s a time when a truly large fish can be caught.

“I encourage people to book early,” Van Assche said. “I know I’ll book up fairly early. I still have some great dates open but they go fast. People who wait too long must wait for me to have an opening or a late cancellation.

Muskie fever is alive and well on Lake St. Clair, and I’ve fished every summer with VanAssche for over a dozen years, long before he began chartering. The fever is easy to catch when two anglers are fighting big fish at the same time, and that has happens on his boat on many occasions. And catching a trophymuskie is a thrill an angler will never forget. 

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/30 at 07:08 PM
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Remembering The Sounds Of Silence

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A foggy day seems pretty bleak. Whirling masses of white gauze-like fog swirl across open fields, and seem to muzzle every sound.

There is something keenly weird about a foggy winter day like we had about 10 days ago. Directions are difficult if not impossible to determine, and that’s how it was on that day.

There was hardly any wind, and two days of previous warm weather and melting snow, made the day seem somewhat ominous. Trees seemed shrouded and indistinct, and a walk outside proved how easy it could be for someone to get turned around.

The swirling mists rose from the ground, and I looked across the field toward my neighbor’s house a quarter-mile away, and it wasn’t there. My wife’s elevated hunting coop only 100 yards behind the house appeared and disappeared like a ghost walking the woods. It wasn’t a day to go for a cross-country hike, especially if you didn’t know the country.

Sounds are strange in the fog, and I heard a hen turkey give one half-hearted yelp, and the sound seemed to come from all four directions before it was swallowed up by the fog.

I well remember a time when a heavy blanket of fog rolled in off Lake Michigan 30 years ago at Frankfort. I was out trolling for brown trout when the fog drifted in and seemed to swallow me and my boat. I knew where I was. The Frankfort foghorn began to blow, and first it seemed to come from the stern, then off my port bow, and I could just see 10 feet of wake straight behind my boat. I kept my wake as straight as possible, and one eye was glued to my compass and the other ahead and to all sides.

A warning bell sounded as it was coming from hundreds of yards away, but I kept my head and held my bearing, and five minutes later at a putt-putt speed, I spotted the north breakwall just 10 feet ahead. I jammed the boat into reverse, and creeped around the pier head with all due caution.

Other than the one garbled turkey yelp, there were no sounds. No cars on the road, no happy chattering of chickadees at the bird feeder, and no noisy flushes of mourning doves from my snow-covered back deck.

All the world—or at least my small part of it—was silent. It was a strange sense of wet silence, feeling like a wet wooly blanket was being wrapped around me. It wouldn’t be fun for a claustrophobic person but I loved it.

I walked near the downspout of my eaves, and here was a soft sound. The soft liquid flow of water running down the spout. Then came the soft drizzling sounds of water dripping off the eaves.

A nearby stand of pines looked gnarled and twisted in the soupy mist. I eased the paper from the paper tube near my mail box, and stood to listen. There was nothing to hear, only the sounds of silence.

Fog muffles and distorts sound. There was nothing to hear, so in its absence, I listened to the delightful silence.

It’s a soft hush, as meaningful but directly opposite of noise. No phones were ringing, no hissing of car tires on wet pavement, no one speaking or answering, but just a period of perfect quietness.

It’s like being with someone special when no words need to be spoken. It’s very similar to standing knee-deep in a cedar swamp, the boughs splashed with six inches of insulating snow, and not moving ... waiting for a hound to howl to me about the snowshoe hare running in front of it. And yet, there is no hound or hare ... just the soft, wet silence.

My twin brother and I shared a similar kind of day on Lake Michigan once. We were wading, and casting spoons into the soupy fog and the fish were on the prod. Ploop went the lure into the water, a few cranks on the reel handle, a jarring strike and occasionally the sound of a leaping fish could be heard.  Often, the only sounds we’d hear were the raspy snarls of a drag giving line, and a splash as the fish was landed.

We were near each other but out of sight. “Get him?”

“Yep.” No need for a lengthy conversation.

Some people can’t stand quietness. I can, and long for it. It’s one reason why such a day was so special for me recently. There was no visible sunrise or sunset but I alertly listened to the silence.

It was a time when my five senses didn’t work well. It’s impossible to see far in heavy fog; hearing is impossible if there is nothing to break the silence with sound; and I’ve been in heavy fogs that are every bit as deadly as a white-out in the Arctic.

The lack of anything to focus on, or anything to hear, confuses the brain and our senses. It’s difficult to determine one’s relationship to up, down or sideways. And, the silence sweeps over you and robs us of any logical perspective.

I’ve been in Arctic white-outs, and they come and go within 15-20 minutes. That thick fog held all day, and it was impossible to see 20 yards. It was a good day to spend outdoors, listening to the sounds of silence.

I find such days very relaxing, whether they occur during a winter warm-up or during a spring, summer or autumn day when the atmospheric conditions combine to rob us of our sight and hearing. Such days just don’t happen often enough to please me.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/29 at 06:07 PM
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Return To My Home Stream

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Show me a trout fisherman worthy of the name and I’ll show you a person with a home stream. Such rivers are where our dreams of trout fishing first began, and it’s where we often return for temporary relief from a troubled life.

The Sturgeon River between Wolverine and Indian River had been my childhood stomping grounds. I learned about steelhead fishing at an early age, starting in 1950, and although the area is now buried in mounds of snow, it doesn’t keep my memories from going back in time.

Some years ago, bored to death, I bumped down a two-track trail that led to a paved road that had once been a hotspot for the Richey twins and a neighbor kid over 50 years ago. I rounded the bend, eased up near the Sturgeon River, and stared in disbelief. Someone had bought the hilltop overlooking the river where we used to camp, and then had the nerve to built a chalet on our campsite.

Disbelief was mingled with self-pity as I looked at what man had done. Our campfire pit had been replaced by a basement. Nearby trees that had once supported our clothesline during our three-month summer camping expeditions had been bulldozed aside to clear a building site.

My cherished hilltop view of the river had been cheapened by a spanking new house. The river, far below looked the same but somehow the home atop the hill was as out of place as a fox in a hen house. The two things didn’t blend well.

I stood for long moments, thinking of other trout fishermen who return to their home stream only to have their dreams dashed into an ugly nightmares. I’m a sentimental slob, and one tiny tear slid down my cheek as I turned away from what had once been a pristine site.

I rolled down old M-27 looking for landmarks. There stood the old ghost town of Rondo, and just to the north a quarter-mile were the tall pines where I once hid my car to keep other anglers from following me to some steelhead hotspot. I saw where the old restaurant had stood, and the old Hillside Camp, once owned by George Yontz was still there, but the bait and tackle shop was boarded up and closed. It was a testament to what damage that I-75 had done to once prosperous area businesses.

I remembered the old Snow Hole and Snow Cabin that is now owned by friends, and it was a welcome sight. The Snow Hole stood out in stark relief against the green cedars across the river. The pool had changed very little over time, and the cabin stood like a sentinel overlooking the river as it had many years before.

The tiny island in midstream brought back many pleasant memories of a day when steelies came to my bait, jumped mightily, and dashed upstream and down before bowing to rod pressure. My sorrow from seeing my old campsite gone was replaced with one small part of my childhood that hadn’t changed.

A sucker fisherman sat waiting patiently for a bite, and probably wondered what I was doing without a rod, and we chatted briefly. He said fewer and fewer trout were being caught from the Sturgeon River these days since the DNR stopped planting fish. He nattered, seemingly happy to have someone to talk to, and then I excused myself to get my waders and a rod from the car.

I had some spawnbags, and rigged up with six-pound monofilament, a No. 8 hook and a marble-sized spawnbag. I flipped it upstream, held the rod high, and felt the bait bounce downstream along bottom. Two more casts without a bump, and then on the fourth trip through the hole and near the edge of the tail-out, a fish came to me hard. I saluted it with my rod tip, setting the hook, and hoping it wasn’t a sucker. A male steelhead in spawning colors bounced halfway into the air. I had a fine time with the hook-jawed male before gently releasing him.

A silvery female came to a yarn fly rolled along bottom, and she too was released to continue her spawning chores. It was a welcome return to the river.

Memories are about all we retain from a lifetime of fishing and hunting. Without pleasant memories of bygone days, we are nothing; and because our environment and those things we count as precious and sacred seldom remain the same, we must recount and relive those good memories as often as possible.

Doing so is what keeps most men sane.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/28 at 06:36 PM
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Taking More Than We Give Back

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Are you a giver or a taker? It’s a simple question that goes far beyond a one-word yes or no answer.

The bottom line here, in the event that this question may come as a surprise to some of my faithful readers, is very simple. Do you take more from your fishing or hunting trips and your living area, than you put back?

The purchase of a fishing or hunting license grants us nothing more than an opportunity to legally fish or hunt. It is a privilege but not a guaranteed right. It promises opportunities, not limit catch or a heavy game bag.

In days of old, when knights were bold, the landowner owned the fish and game. They also owned the river water that flowed through their property, and Heaven help the peasant that poached one of the king’s red stags, a brown trout or Atlantic salmon.

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

Things are much different now. We have flowing springs, but bottled-water plants are tapping into the aquifers. They are taking water but putting nothing back. There are developers ready to quickly fill wetlands, and they operate on the premise that it’s easier to say “I’m sorry” later, if caught, than to ask for and be granted permission first.

These are trying times, and everyone wants and needs some outdoor recreation. We need to smell the roses, so to speak, but what will happen when the roses stop growing? What will happen when former trout streams become a mere trickle before drying up because a bottling plant has shipped our water out of state for corporate profit, and the trout have disappeared because bottlers have drained and sold our water?

How many people are speaking out to Gov. Jennifer Granholm? Are you standing up to face big business, and asking the hard questions: Is sale of our water right? What happens to Great Lakes water when Arizona, New Mexico and Texas want our water? What will be done then? Hopefully, compacts already is place limit such withdrawals but those who do not care are greedily trying to circumvent those laws.

Who among us is speaking out about urban sprawl in the Traverse City area? Or near Charlevoix? Or in the Petoskey-Harbor Springs area? Cadillac is another area primed for a push from those who wish to move north to what they perceive as paradise in northern Michigan.

How many people are willing to take a few minutes from their busy lives to ask why? Why is state government allowing this to happen? Why are cities like Detroit becoming an empty maze of cluttered and unsafe streets, boarded up crack houses, and why has 1.2 million people fled Detroit over the past 20 years? Why is the same thing happening in Flint and other cities around this state?

One needs to look no furthern than some politicians. Consider Kwame Kilpatrick and his sordid text messages and political hijinks. He got come time in the can, but not nearly long enough for someone who profited while the city he was paid to protect teeters on the edge of death.

What will become of our open fields, marshlands, hardwoods and conifers that now provide cover for game and non-game animals and birds? Has anyone paid attention to the downsizing of Michigan’s deer herd? The marked decrease in snowshoe hares and some game birds?

How about those rivers where salmon and trout were once plentiful? Those rivers don’t support the same number of salmonids as they once did, and they may never regain their grerat popularity.

The answer is easy. We’re talking about an excessive loss of habitat. We’re talking greedy businessmen. How, I wonder, can Exxon and other gas companies declare such huge profits for shareholders while the average person was breaking his back trying to stay afloat when gasoline was over $4 per gallon. We have Medicare programs that no one understands, and skyrocketing prescription drug prices. It’s bureaucracy at its best.

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

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

People see bears where they’ve never been seen before. The animals need a place to live, but humans have taken over. We own 20 acres we bought 30 years ago, and admit that we may have contributed to the problem. However, we did it long before the big push to move north came about.

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

Thirty years ago Traverse City was a quaint northern Michigan town with about 8,000 people. Look at it today. It has the same types of problems as southern cities now faced. Drugs, embezzlement, rape, robbery, murder. We’ve got it up here, and paradise has lost most of its glitter, but it still looks nicer than downstate so the people keep coming back for another sample of the north.

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

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

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

Meanwhile, paradise has been turned into another drug store, gas station, bank or a cement-carpeted parking lot. And one must look hard to find a rose to smell, a deer to see, or that wonderful silence at night when the northern lights sparkled in the heavens. Sorry folks, but the aurora borealis is hard to see through the glare of city lights.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/27 at 06:14 PM
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Turkey Hunting Is Rapidly Changing

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Anyone who has spent any time reading my daily blog knows I am a turkey-hunting addict. Deer hunting may be what I enjoy most, but the only reason is because turkey hunting seasons don’t last long enough.

It’s possible to hunt whitetails during October, November, December and throuogh January 1. Turkey hunting is much different. Our seasons are short, and in many cases only one week in length. That’s hardly enough time to really get revved up.

Even if you hunt the whole season as has happened in the past, a hunter will get in about six weeks of hunting. It’s a far cry from three full months of deer seasons. And when I can’t turkey hunt, I buy new or used books on turkey hunting to read. Contact me at < > if you have and turkey books to sell.

My turkey hunting often allows me to pass up a bird or two early in my season, and I’ve been known to pass up several gobblers that provided easy shots only to end the season without a bird. Why, you may justifiably wonder?

It’s rather elementary. By not shooting the first, second or third bird, it allows me to maximize my time in the field and the greatest potential to experience everything turkey hunting has to offer. I spent some time two weeks ago with two old sidekicks—Harold Knight & David Hale—of Knight & Hale Calls. They hunt at a nonstop pace, and it can wring a guy out. “I remember when we hunted together 30 years ago, and life was as hectic as it is now,” Knight said.

Shooting a gobbler, whether a jake or an adult longbeard, is not why I hunt these keen-eyed birds. I hunt them for the intense challenge and satisfaction that comes from making the most of my opportunities. There are times I don’t score, but sometimes that is my decision. A turkey in the pot isn’t the only reason I hunt gobblers.

That means there are more opportunities to fool a gobbler.  More chances to listen to a big Tom gobble and double-gobble back at me, and more opportunities to watch the blue-white-red head of a highly charged gobbler move through the fields and woods in my direction, his eyes looking, picking apart the woods for any sign of danger.

Three years ago I was hunting a strutting zone 10 miles from where I live. Any bird that came to me would have to cross an open ridge, walk down the hill, and cross another 200 yards of open field to get within shooting range.

The gobblers greeted the dawn from their roost trees, and behind me were some hen turkeys. Once the first gobbler sounded of, I held off from answering him. He gobbled again, and then a big gobbler sounded off with a double-gobble that rattled the branches of the tree I was sitting again. Lordy, what a powerful blast of raw emotion.

I gave a soft yelp, and that livened up the hens several hundred yards behind me. The gobblers sounded off again, and I answered softly, and sat back to wait. The hens began calling, and I was perfectly positioned in a strutting zone where gobblers and hens would meet. There wasn’t much call me to do anything except sit still and be patient.

Ten minutes later the gobblers stood atop yonder hill, gobbled again when they saw my two hens and one jake-decoy moving slightly in a soft dawn breeze. They were spread out like soldier, and began their advance on my position. They would stop and start, and I’m mentally urging them to hurry before the hens arrived and might possibly lead them away.

The three longbeards and one jake started running when I made scratching sounds in the dry leaves like feeding birds. My shotgun was up and laying across my knees, and I was set up properly. It took those gobblers 10 seconds to cross the remaining 100 yards as they ran it in that rocking, shuffling gait that eats up the ground.

The lead gobbler ran up to poor Henrietta, my battered and bedraggled hen decoy, and knocked her off the stake while the other gobblers went after the jake the the bird owed him money..

Poor Henrietta was laying flat on the ground with the large gobbler astraddle her, and the other birds were working Jakie over in a bad way. I watched this fascinating performance for another 10 seconds, and since it was now late in the season, the gobbler stood erect with his head up to survey the scene, and a load of 3-inch magnum No. 5 copper-plated pellets took him down.

The other gobblers stopped, saw the Big Boss Bird laying on the ground, and took off. I heard the hens flush behind me right after the shot, and the birds were gone. It doesn’t take turkeys any time at all to get long-gone from the area of a gobbler shooting.

I’ve called in two different gobblers on separate hunts over the years when my wife shot them with a bow. It was some pretty exciting stuff, and each bird went 10 feet straight up into the air as the arrow drove through them, and both fell dead on the ground.

Turkey hunting is very exciting stuff. Shooting the bird is anticlimactic, and the hunt lives on long after the bird has been eaten and other thoughts of the hunt have faded away. Calling in a big gobbler, watching him approach, and then offering a shot is what triggers intense feelings in an addicted hunter.

The shot is nothing more than the final act in this outdoor drama. Sometimes the gobbler wins, and sometimes he doesn’t, but what counts the most is the actual hunt. This is a pastime where the hunt is far more important than the kill, and it’s wise for turkey hunters to remember this..

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/26 at 06:46 PM
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

I’m A Dunce With Tools In My Hands

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There are many things I may be may be, but a handy man is not one of them. My tolerance level for all things mechanical is very low. In fact, I do not tolerate well those things that don’t work as they should.

Mind you, me and tools are a dangerous combination. The height of my anger and frustration levels are off the charts when things stop working for no apparent reason.

I buy a car, and it’s expected to run. We do our part by getting oil changes every 3,000 miles. We take our rides in for scheduled maintenance, and put new tires on long before the need-to-do-so phase arrives. That means I expect the thing to work.

So this morning I jumped into my fishing car or hunting car (it’s either one at the appropriate times of year) to move it out of the way of the snow blower, and it wouldn’t start.

I seldom really get angry but a personal weakness is when an expensive item stops working for no apparent reason. You’ve seen those film clips where a person takes a sledge hammer to his vehicle.

That could be me but I’m smart enough to control my anger, but the frustration level is there. I’ve never done anything really stupid, but the temptation is there when mechanical item prove obstinate.

Never had the urge to be a shade tree mechanic or a person who makes a living wrenching. I know what hammers and screwdrivers are, have a minor working knowledge of a hack saw and wood saw, but beyond that, my knowledge level about using tools falls apart. I suspect my knowledge level is on the same plane as my want-to-know level.

Once, far from port on Lake Michigan, the motor conked out. My buddy didn’t even know what a screwdriver was so he was of no help. We’d boxed a number of chinook salmon, and all of a sudden the motor dies.

I was smart enough to have two batteries aboard. One to start the outboard, and another for my marine electronics and downriggers.

I knew it had to one of two things (I hoped): it was either electrical or we’d run out of gas. The gas was no problem, and the gas line from tank to motor was fine. I was getting a spark, but still it wouldn’t start.

Stupid me, I ran down one battery trying to start the engine. Failing that because the battery soon ran out of juice, I switched batteries. That battery soon ran down without turning over the motor.

Now, I had a 50 horsepower Evinrude on the stern, and decided to try hand-cranking the motor. Ever try to start a big engine with a starter rope by hand? No?

Well, don’t. I was in my 30s, in good shape, and began pulling. Then the rope would be wrapped around, and it would be pulled again. Nothing happened.

We drifted aimlessly along on a soft breeze as other boaters steered clear of us, apparently assuming we we fighting a fish. The engine sat idle, and we drifted some more. I thought about putting a line out, but we weren’t moving fast enough to make a FlatFish work.

No power meant the marine radio wouldn’t work. Several hours into our drift, a buddy’s boat was spotted and I waved him over. He came along side, and I explained our predicament. He asked about a fuse.

Fuse? What fuse? Boat motors have fuses? He explained that engines have fuses, for what reason I’ve forgotten, so he jumped aboard, pulled off the engine cover, and showed me my fuse. You got it. It was blown.

He jumped back into his boat, located his spare fuses, and came back aboard. He took out the bad fuse, put in a new one, and then he took something out of his boat I’d never seen in any motorized vessel.

A pair of jumper cables were attached from his boat battery to mine. I turned the key and the engine roared to life. It was amazing.

This business of engines was all rather baffling to me. The lessons learned from that episode forced me to have the right fuses aboard, and when all else fails, check the fuse. And to carry jumper cables, and not be stupid.

There have been times when I could put a capital S on the word stupid. And some of those stupid stunts of mine cost me plenty of fishing time.

There are other examples of mechanical things in my life that have gone wrong but I refuse to belabor my ignorance any further. I buy a car, and put gas in one end, oil in the other, and when the ignition key is turned, I expect to hear a running motor.

My boat problem was solved by someone else, and I suspect the car problem also will be fixed by someone else once we get it started and take it in for service. Chances are the problem is one of those head-slappers where I should have known what to do but didn’t.

Duh!

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/25 at 06:42 PM
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Difference Between Looking & Studying

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Animals often are led by a mature doe, and if you want to shoot bucks, it is imperative that the does and fawns do not smell or spot you as they pass by. Picking a spot this far from the woods requires finding an area where two or more trails move from the bedding area and join to help funnel deer traffic out into the field via specific trails.

Preseason scouting can help pinpoint those trails, and further scouting can help refine your knowledge of which trails bear the most whitetail traffic. Stands obviously must be set up downwind of those trails, and a hunter should have two or three ways into the stand to prevent the deer from patterning human movements.

Sitting at a field edge may allow a bow hunter to see five or 50 deer, but seeing them at a distance and having them within easy bow range, are two entirely different things. I know lots of people who are prone to saying “I saw 15 deer tonight, and five were bucks.”

They seldom say they saw those deer at a distance of 100 to 300 yards. Seeing deer is fun, but unless one is set up on the proper deer trail where a shot may be had, seeing deer doesn’t mean squat.

My idea of seeing deer is having the animals inside 20 yards. I know I can’t shoot 100 yards and hit a deer with a bow, but I know that any buck or doe within 20 yards, is in serious danger should I decide to shoot.

The reason I like whitetails up close and personal is I can’t see well, and I also know what my shooting limitations are. So, I work at getting close and do my best not to be spotted or winded by moving animals. Getting close means more work and an increased chance of spooking the animals.

It goes without saying that anyone sitting in an open tree stand must be constantly mindful of the wind and of being scent-free. I wear my old Scent-Lok underwear and suit, know how to sit still, and know how and when to take a shot. I don’t get winded.

Seeing a dandy buck at 200 yards is a major thrill, but think about what a kick it would be to have that same buck move within 20 yards of you. The adrenalin flows through your blood stream like it is being shot out of a fire hose, and when the moment of truth comes, will you be ready?

I can promise one thing. A hunter who sees that buck at 200 yards will never be ready for a shot when the animal stops, 18 yards away, tests the wind and scrutinizes the trees.

Looking and seeing lots of deer is fun, but frankly, such stands seldom pay off with decent shots. Those hunters who have given up looking at lots of deer, and are content to see one or two bucks at close range, are those that get my vote for being a wise hunter. Such sportsmen bring home the venison.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/24 at 04:25 PM
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Rude People & Hard-Nosed Answers

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A good friend stopped by the other day with a buddy of his. The other gent wanted to meet me, and have a discussion about steelhead fishing.

It began mildly enough when we shook hands, and we made small talk for a few minutes. Then, in a burst of what seemed like anger, he questioned me about my steelhead fishing.

“You’ve written that you have caught 100 steelhead in one day, and another time you wrote that you’d probably landed nearly 10,000 steelhead in your life,” he said. “I think both statements are a crock. No one can catch that many steelhead these days.”

Mind you, this dude was a guest in my home. I didn’t take too kindly to his ranting insults, and that I might be lying.

I agreed that he was probably right. It would be most difficult, if not impossible, these days to catch 1,000 steelhead in a lifetime. I also added that he must have missed something from both stories he had read. I learned long ago that people read what they want to read into a story, and then are willing to argue their mistakes.

“First of all, Bud, I wrote that two of us caught 100 steelhead in one day, and will gladly introduce you to the other man who has a much shorter fuse than mine,” I said in an even tone of voice. “ Call him or me a liar, and you’ll find a rocky time facing you.”

“But ... but,” he stammered. And I then told him it’s not polite to interrupt someone when they are speaking. He quickly shut up.

I explained that the 100-fish day happened over 25 years ago, on a cold and snowy day with lots of wind, and most steelhead fishermen were home. We happened to find a big school of fresh fish, and it seemed as it they hadn’t eaten in a month. Every orange-colored fly we pitched to them resulted in a strike.

We quit fishing once with nearly 60 fish that we had caught and released unharmed. We went for breakfast, checked another stream, and headed back to the hot spot for a second round. We were up to about 85 fish when my buddy fell, got soaking wet and headed for the car.

I stuck with it, caught what it took to hit 100 fish, and we kept only one small male that had inhaled a fly through his mouth and it hooked his gills from the inside. The fish was bleeding heavily and would die so I kept it. My hand on 10 Bibles on that one.

And then, the case of approximately 10,000 steelhead. I’m 69 and will be 70 in July, and began steelhead fishing at age 11. By the time I was 15, I was catching between 100 and 200 steelies each year, and that was from the Sturgeon River between Indian River and Wolverine. Mind you, that was back in the early 1950s.

By the time I was 18 in 1957, I was fishing more often, and the fish numbers shot up to about 300 steelhead per year. Some of those fish were caught during a “temperature run” caused by Burt Lake fish seeking comfort in the cold river water during the hottest days of summer. Competition? There wasn’t any.

By my mid-20s, I was fishing steelhead along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Favorite streams were the Betsie, Little Manistee and Platte rivers, and those rivers held lots of fish and very few fishermen came to fish and even fewer knew how to fish for these game fish.

It was really amazing, and seldom would I keep a fish. I would have six or eight 30-fish days each year, and always put the fish back. A quick, hard fight, and a swift release and no harm to the fish.

I began guiding salmon fishermen in 1967 when the coho spawning runs first began, and my clients cared nothing about steelhead. Everyone wanted salmon, so I’d give them lessons and once they learned how to cast, I’d “go check for other hotspots.” I always carried my Black Beauty fly rod, and I always looked for steelhead holding downstream of spawning salmon where they gobbled free-drifting salmon eggs.

Those fish were always caught and released, and I’d return often to check on my people and lead them to new batches of salmon. I guided for 10 years, spring and fall, and not once did my clients go home without a limit of fish. Not once! I was the first fly-fishing wading guide in the state for anadromous browns, salmon and steelhead.

If I had a free day, I would check rivers to keep track of the runs, and the best way to do that was to fish. There were countless days, especially in November and December when the rivers were full of steelhead and everyone else was deer hunting.

I could easily say I personally landed 400 to 500 steelhead each year during my guiding years, which would mean 4,000 to 5,000 fish during those 10 years. One also must remember the limit back then was five fish daily, and seldom would I not catch my limit. Again, perhaps 99 percent of those fish were released.

One also must remember that the big push by the Michigan Steelheaders group really didn’t get underway until the mid-1970s. Back then, people who had caught three or four steelhead were introducing their friends to the sport.

High steelhead numbers held through the early 1980s, and although I no longer was guiding, I was still fishing hard in the spring and fall. It was great: I’d fish for steelhead in the morning, and bow hunt for whitetails in the afternoon and early evening.

Do I know precisely how many steelhead I’ve landed? I had caught over 8,000 steelhead by 1976 when I quit guiding. I know I’ve caught well over 2,000 fish in the 22 years since then, and if it hasn’t reached 10,000 by now, I’d be surprised.

I’d consider myself a fish hog and poacher if I’d kept everything I caught, but nearly all fish were released after a fast, hart fight. Most spring steelhead are soft-fleshed and not tasty, and they don’t freeze well. I only fished for male steelies in the spring, and never bothered fishing for the females.

Nowadays, with my vision problems, I don’t fish steelies as hard or nearly as often as I once did, and that is a good thing. Bowlers become expert bowlers by rolling 20 games or more each week, and steelhead fishermen become better by fishing daily. It’s pretty simple to understand but much harder to practice.

I courteously ushered the head-shaking gent to the door and on his way, telling my friend to never bring that man back again. I don’t know whether that loud-mouthed visitor believed any of what I told him or not, and it really mad little difference to me whether he did or didn’t believe it. All I know is that for many years the numbers of river steelhead far outnumbered the anglers who were qualified to fish for and catch them with any regularity.

Back in those days, those who could, did. Those who couldn’t, bad-mouthed the hot sticks. And that will never change.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/23 at 09:18 PM
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dreaming Away The Winter

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I must be daft. It’s 25 degrees as this is being written, and I’m thinking about sitting in a tree stand.

Even more precisely, I’m thinking about hunting On Opening Day. In my mind’s eye, my bow is in my left hand hand and I’m wearing camouflage clothing.

My camo hat is pulled low over my eyes, and a camo face mask covers my ugly puss. Dark brown cotton gloves cover my hands, and all senses are on full alert.

Mind you, deer seasom just ended a bit over three weeks ago, and we have more than eight months before it opens again. But one can always dream the winter away.

The way this visual message comes to me is I’m in a ladder stand, and the deer are moving. Two have already eased past my stand, and I’m 15 yards downwind of them.

One is a doe and the other is a young buck. He’s got six points, but his points are tiny and the rack is small. It’s even smaller than what I would call a basket rack.

My back is against the trunk of a big pine and this is a relaxing day with the temperature in the 50s. I’m not cold or hot, but just comfortable. A soft breeze blows, and I keep a constant watch on the wind as it drifts my scent away from the deer.

This is a hot stand. I hunted it last year, and the deer always traveled past in the same manner. They came from behind me on my left side, and the heavy pine boughs gave me ample cover and some natural scent. Being downwind made this stand perfect.

My daydreaming takes me back to my stand just as a doe and twin fawns move past slowly, browsing here and there as they walk. They don’t look up, and I know if the buck I’ve seen comes close, he won’t look up either.

The buck is still in his summer mode of travel, and he’ll be along within a half-hour as it starts to cool a bit as the sun begins sinking in the west. This buck stands back in heavy cover, watches the doe and fawns move through, and if they are not alerted, he will consider it a safe travel route.

The only difference between everything else about his summer mode of travel is the same except for me being in my stand. He and all the other deer have passed this way many times and never shied away from the ladder stand, and they are doing it again on this cool evening.

There is no way for me to know the buck is coming other than what I’ve seen during my preseason scouting. This time, I’m in place and know enough to sit still and not move. I’ll know the buck is moving when he comes walking past my stand on his way to the farm fields where he feeds.

It’s plenty enough warning. I know the shot is only 15 yards, and there is one spot where the deer always stop to look around. It offers me a quartering-away shot at 15 yards, and there’s no need for me to move.

I’d come to full draw, drop the red-dot signed behind his front shoulder, nail my anchor point, and make a smooth release and follow through. The Maxima carbon arrow will zip through him like a sharp blade carving lukewarm butter.

There is a rustle in the leaves behind me, and I suspect it is the buck. The tip of the bottom limb of my Black Eagle bow is stuck in my left rubber boot, and the release is on the string and the arrow is nocked.

My left hand rests on the bow handle, and as the buck walks within range I begin making my draw. The stand is solid and quiet, my bow has no squeaks and the arrow slides smoothly across the rest, and I’m at full draw as the buck arrives at the point where the deer always stop.

The bow comes back, the anchor point is hit, and the red-dot is locked onto the heart-lung area. It’s decision time: shoot or don’t shoot. One caress of the release trigger will mean a dead deer but do I want to shoot an Opening-Day buck?

The phone rings, knocking me out of my daydreaming reverie. Gone is the cool weather and my sitting in a tree stand at full draw with a dandy 8-point 15 yards away.

But, it’s not meant to be. We still have eight-plus months to go, and I still have that tree stand to put up. I may have to greet the dawn with a cup of coffee, wait for deer to pass by on their way to their bedding area, and then I’ll slip in and get the stand up before the heat wave hits.

Those are my plans for next spring. That is, if it’s not too warm or windy at daybreak. Frankly, I’m already tired of cold weather and deep snow.

C’mon, October. I’m ready!

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/22 at 08:01 PM
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Remembering Some Old Firearm Writers

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It’s been 41 years since my first magazine story was written and sold, and over the ensuing years I’ve been fortunate to have met some of this nation’s finest firearm and hunting writers. Many of those writers were a one-of-a-kind character.

Take Jack O’Connor, the famous gun writer for many years at Outdoor Life. In my days working for Oudoor Life in the 1970s, I’d be invited to editorial meetings in New York City and occasionally O’Connor would be there. We got to be reasonably well acquainted even though Jack never seemed to make friends well. I did a couple of stories where Jack had some input, and one story was called “Guns In Bear Country.” I had several people such as writers Ben East and O’Connor, two or three other hunters and one or two guides as contributors to the story.

It’s immaterial at this point to rehash what O’Connor contributed, but it was worthy advice. Ben East, who bopped around North America and frequently had occasion to be around bears of all species, is the only man I know who shot a polar bear in self defense. He was on one of the islands in Hudson Bay (all islands in Hudson Bay are part of Canada’s Northwest Territories) for some other reason, and was taking pictures when suddenly a polar bear appeared.

It spotted East, and without hesitation came at full speed toward him. He unlimbered his rifle, and it took several shots to kill the bear, and by that time it was much closer to him than when he first saw it.

O’Connor grumbled and was constantly at odds with the late Elmer Keith, another famous writer. Toward the end, there were some signs of reconciling their differences but O’Connor died on an ocean cruise before their fences could be mended.

Elmer Keith was a genuine character. He favored the theory that bigger is better, and this philosophy pertained to handguns and shoulder-fired rifles and shotguns. O’Connor dismissed this practice, preaching that a well-placed bullet is always better than several badly placed bullets, and I must admit I subscribe to this idea.

Keith, it’s been said, was in New York City, walking one of the city streets with his big Stetson on, when he saw a young thug try to snatch a woman’s purse. The story goes that Elmer unlimbered a .44 Magnum revolver, took aim and shot intentionally a bit wide of the mugger. He hoodlum dropped the purse and cut a trail down the nearest alley. Elmer then holstered his handgun (it’s long been illegal to carry handguns in New York City), checked the lady and handed her her purse, tipped his cowboy hat and departed the scene before the police arrived.

I’ve since spoke with some editors who worked on Elmer Keith’s manuscripts for his magazine articles and books, and those editors had no praise for his writing abilities but admitted that the gun writer knew his firearms, handgun and rifle loads, and impeccably researched everything he wrote about.

One of the most colorful gun writers of my acquaintance was the legendary Bill Jordan (not he of camouflage fame). This Bill stood 6-foot, five-inches tall, was rawboned and weathered, and as tough as whang leather. He worked for years for the U. S. Border Patrol out of south Texas, and in our years of talking, Jordan was quiet but informative. He spoke authoritativly, and was perhaps the greatest of modern gunfighters in an age when few law enforcement officers ever have need to draw a weapon.

Rumors about about gunfights along the U.S./Mexico border would be discussed in a one-sided fashion, and Jordan would usually smile. He wouldn’t deny nor affirm his part in any shoot-or-die situations, but he wrote a book called “No Second Place Winner,” and there are none among gunfighters. He remains one of the most memorable lawmen and writers I’ve known.

Each of these men would be the first to say that experience is what makes them experts at what they do. O’Connor was an excellent shot, Ben East was a lucky shot on that polar bear, Keith was a great shot with handgun or long gun and it came about only through constant practice. Jordan was superb at what he did because he knew all the little nuances of gunfighting that the other side didn’t know.

Hopefully, none of us will ever have to be in a gunfight. With luck, all of our shooting will be at paper targets and game animals and birds, but there is a common thread that runs through this story. Those who are successful, practice. They shoot as often as possible and realize what that firearm will and will not do. Getting to know and understand your firearm is just as important as frequent practice.

Practice is what made all of these outdoor writers as skilled as what they were.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/21 at 08:11 PM
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Make A Choice:In The Air Or On The Ground

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It’s rather odd that people always want to argue the merits of hunting from the ground or up in a tree. As I see it, making such a decision next hunting season is a matter of personal choice.

The question is put to me frequently every year. I’ll be talking to a guy about bow about bow hunting, and the question come up. It’s the same old question, year after year.

“Which do you prefer,” the hunter asks, “a ground blind or tree stand. And why?”

Sit me down in a corner, threaten me with the third degree, and I’d probably say I prefer hunting out of a well-placed tree stand. But then, in fairness to myself and to the person asking the question, I’ll mention that I enjoy hunting from a ground blind. For me, much depends on the season and the weather. I’ll be 70 years old when the bow season rolls around again, and I don’t care as much about cold and snow and tree stands as I once did. That doesn’t mean I don’t still hunt from them but I choose the time and place.

There are many things that dictate where I hunt during the fall. The first, and perhaps most important bit of information I need before making a decision whether to hunt up or down, is this: Where is the buck traveling, and what type of stand do I have in that area?

If the buck is moving through thick brush, and is passing within 20 yards of a good tree stand or elevated coop, that will be my first choice if the wind is right for that spot. Choosing a spot is like trying to decide which I like best—chocolate cake or ice cream. I like whichever one is handy.

All bucks like thick cover but they also like wide-open spaces, especially during the rut. If the bucks are moving through the open fields in hot pursuit of an estrus doe, my choice is a ground coop in the open. Sadly, there are few trees in most open-field locations so it become necessary to choose a ground or pit blind.

My coops have been in place for years, and I’ve had countless bucks of all sizes walk within 10 feet of a ground coop, and they seem to pay little attention to it. Part of the reason is the stand has been there for years and the deer have come to accept its presence.

There are many advantages to hunting from a ground blind. First of all, a hunter would have to try exceptionally hard to fall out of one, and it the hunter was successful at doing so, there wouldn’t be an injury. The same cannot be said for a tree stand.

Another factor in favor of a ground blind is the shot is taken horizontally at a deer, and much can be said for having a buck stand broadside or quartering-away at 15 yards. It offers an easy shot, and ground blinds are wonderful when heavy hunting pressure from tree stands start making deer look up.

There is little noise made when entering a ground blind unless the door has squeaky hinges. A drop of oil on the hinges can silence them. It’s possible to walk to a ground blind, and quickly disappear into it, and there is far less noise made when entering one. A fold-up tent blind can be erected quickly if deer change their travel patters. Pit blinds do not allow much mobility but they can be extremely effective if placed downwind of a good trail.

Tree stands offer exciting hunts, and they can be located in thick cover where bucks always chase does. It’s possible to stay reasonably high up in a tree, and it can drift human scent far away from your position. A hunter who is quiet and doesn’t move, can get easy chances to shoot.

That doesn’t mean the shots are always easy. Some are easy and some are very difficult, and much depends on the stand location. I like my deer out about 15-18 yards, and this lessens the steep downward angle that arises when a buck is almost directly under the stand.

Steep-angle shots are tough, and there is always a chance of making a bad hit. However, although some hunters still think deer never look up, they do. Most hunters who get spotted are seen by a deer as much as 50 to 100 yards away, and they catch a movement while standing unseen, deep in the brush.

In bitter cold weather, it is easy to become so cold that fingers and toes lose that keen sense of feeling needed when climbing into and out of a tree stand. A fall is possible under such conditions. I check every elevated coop or tree stand on my land and in other locations where I have permission to hunt before the season opens to determine if it is structurally sound and safe.

Choosing a ground blind over a tree stand, or vice versa, is a matter of choice. Frankly, as long as I am bow hunting, it really doesn’t make much difference where I hunt. I’ll be in a tree one day and on the ground the next, and both are equally productive if solid thinking goes into choosing stand locations.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/20 at 06:32 PM
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Absorbing Deer Hunting Knowledge

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Hunting whitetail deer is my passion, and I’ve been fortunate to have taken some pretty nice bucks over the years. As time passes, and our hunting skills increase, veteran bow hunters find themselves soak up hunting knowledge like a kitchen sponge, and making wiser decisions.

The deer hunting season is long gone in this state although it is still going in Alabama and other southern state. I’d like to travel south for some Dixie deer action in what remains of this month, but it’s not going to happen this winter.

Once a person has racked up 40-50 years of deer hunting, they are filled with solid hunting knowledge. The one thing I keep telling myself is that younger hunters, with far less knowledge, are just starting to bow hunt for whitetail deer. They either need to have someone pass along solid information or they must hunt far more often that most of them do. There is a learning curve to deer hunters, and it is very steep for one-in-a-while sportsmen.

Most of them are starving for tips that will help them produce. Some of the tricks that I will reveal in the future are tricks that were learned the hard way: by making many serious mistakes at a younger age.

Here is one to try on for size. Many hunters have ground or elevated coops, and often they put in shooting windows on all four sides. This can be a major mistake.

If you have four windows, all should be covered with camo netting or heavy black cloth. The netting or cloth can be lifted aside, but once a hunter gets used to looking through it, deer can be easily spotted without revealing your presence. Of course, if you can see the deer, it’s possible they can see you.

One common mistake is that hunters spot a deer, and prepare for a shot without considering what is behind them. If an uncovered window is behind you, it provides a light background. Any hunter movement, even drawing the bow, can result in breaking-up or blotting out the light source behind you, and the deer will spot the movement instantly.

Many hunters wear a face mask and brown Jersey gloves to cover up their skin. That works fine, but any light shining through a window from behind you will produce a moving shadow that can and will spook deer.

Deer spooked from a ground or tree stand coop may not return. It’s possible to fool doe fawns and button-bucks, but not a wise old deer. If he spots any motion, even from 100 yards, he will spook.

It makes sense to paint all walls of a ground or elevated coop black. Do it long before the season opens and leave the windows open so the coop airs out all paint fumes. You may have to remove hornet or wasp nests, but that is a small price to pay for having a dark background behind you.

Never use metal chairs in a coop. In the cold you’ll freeze your butt, and the chairs will squeak whenever you move.

Tree stand hunters have much the same problem. It’s easy to allow yourself to become silhouetted against the sky.

Whenever possible, place your stand in a cedar or pine tree. There is some natural aroma to the needles, and the green cover stays green all winter. Shy away from tamarack trees because the needles turn yellow and fall off, leaving the hunter exposed.

Always sit in front of the tree, and position a stand so the deer approach from behind. Do it early, and once you know where deer travel, put up a stand and install some pine boughs strategically around both sides and overhead to provide more shadows for the hunter to blend in with.

It’s not important to shoot all 360 degrees from a tree stand. Do your homework, and learn where the deer travel. A deer that moves down a trail from behind will offer an ideal quartering-away shot as it passes by you and the stand.

Put pine boughs to each side of your tree stand, and leave one choice spot to shoot through. Pine boughs tied horizontally three feet over your head will put you in deep shadow. It’s important to have the tree trunk behind you, pine boughs on both sides and overhead. It doesn’t hurt to tie pine boughs to the legs of a ladder stand as well.

A hunter who can sit still with this type of arrangement, and who positions his stand downwind of where deer travel, will have it made. Learn to optimize your camouflage, don’t put stands too high in the air, and you’ll be in business.

Careful attention to detail will keep deer from spotting you regardless of whether you are in a ground blind, elevated coop or a tree stand. Think out all of the possibilities, and remove any that would spook deer, and next season could be much better.

Study deer habits, what they can see, learn to remain motionless, know when to draw and shoot, and shooting a buck becomes much easier. Take it from me. The above tips may seem simple, but unless a hunters follows through with each of them, hunting deer can be as difficult as it has been in the past.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/19 at 09:13 PM
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Proper Attitude Is Important For Hunting

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It’s difficult to do anything that requires skill unless one has a good attitude. The thing I find about some hunters is they lack the drive or motivation needed, and this usually comes from not having a positive attitude.

There are good attitudes and bad ‘tudes, and a bad attitude isn’t conducive to being an effective deer hunter. Hunters with a bad ‘tude are constantly griping about the weather, the lack of deer, too many does, too many hunters, and on and on.

Can’t remember the name of the guy but years ago he held classes that praised the power of positive thinking. He believed that thinking in a positive way made a big difference, and I completely agree.

Think of deer hunting this way. You climb into a tree stand or ground blind, feeling good about yourself and your ability to sit still and shoot straight. You know you can shoot that buck if it comes your way. You know it!

This positive thinking attitude doesn’t work every time. If it did, we would all tire of deer hunting, rolling a 300 game while bowling, or clobbering two home runs in the local softball game.

What this positive thinking does is allow a hunter to do everything else right. A buck starts heading your way, and you spot it immediately. You sit still and don’t wiggle around, and you’ve got the wind in your favor at all times.

This positive attitude allows hunters to scout more efficiently, pinpoint key buck areas, and to be in the right spot at the right time. This occurs because they believe in themselves.

Hunting means you must believe in yourself, your abilities and hunting skills. If you think negatively, chance are good you’ll be daydreaming about the boss you intensely dislike, and a buck will sneak past and be out of range or back in thick cover before it is seen. You’ve blown your chance.

Stay daydreaming long enough, and a buck will slip in behind you, squire a doe, and she will lead him past your stand too fast for a shot. You won’t shoot because your bow was not in your hands where it should have been, and you were ill-prepared to take a shot.

Turn this whole scenario around, and you head into the woods with hope in your heart, and a good feeling about hunting. There is a feeling that you sense more than feel, that today will be a day when a nice buck will offer a shot. You can sense that buck, and you sit tight with bow in hand, and when he shows up, you are fully capable and ready to shoot it.

The power of positive thinking is something that few people think about when it comes to hunting pr fosjomg. They might be thinking about a beer after the hunt, and be thinking of that brew when they should have been thinking about a deer.

This is a mental concept that is difficult to explain, and in all honesty, a hunter must have a few bucks under their belt to believe in this concept. They must know their way around the deer woods, and must learn to think like a deer. If I was a deer, where would I enter this area from and why? You must learn to study the terrain, figure it out, and sure enough, on many occasions the deer will travel the trails you’ve puzzled out.

Hunters with a positive attitude have their game face on whenever they enter a stand. They are out there to hunt, not just spend time outdoors in the fields, swamps and woods, and they are constantly running the many angles through their brain. They are, without knowing it, trying to will a buck to them.

Now that is a bit of a stretch, and although I’m not saying a person can will a deer to them, I believe the hunter with the right attitude will do more things right than those with a different mind-set.

Hunters often refer to those people who always shoot a nice buck as “lucky.” They are not lucky in the normal sense of the word; instead, by having the proper attitude, and the willingness to think things through, do everything right, solve mental problems quickly, they make their own luck.

I can’t teach you or anyone else how to develop the proper deer-hunting mind-set. You either have it or you don’t, and those that do, know what I’m talking about.

Those that don’t will never know unless they put this column aside and read it every day before they go hunting. Then, maybe with a tiny bit of common sense and the right attitude, a buck may walk within range of a hunter who is mentally and physically prepared to shoot it.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/18 at 06:11 PM
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Revisiting Earlier Hunts

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Sometimes the bucks that get away, because of some reason or another, are those that are remembered long after other less intelligent bucks have been forgotten.

A few such deer come to mind. There was that great huge buck that put the fatal hurt on two trophy bucks a few miles from where I live, and he’s the one animal I know nothing about except for his blood lust. I don’t know whether I ever saw him or not. He would kill other bucks during the rut by goring them in the side. I don’t know if he lived a long and homicidal life, but he disappeared and no one ever knew which buck was responsible for killing the other bucks.

Another buck that runs through my dreams was a 12-pointer with massive beams, long points, wide inside spread, and somewhere close to 200 points. He lived on another person’s land, and I heard stories of his massive rack. Two friends saw him at a long distance, and he remains the largest buck either one has ever seen.

One of my friends saw a buck in November that he felt would score about 170, and he should know. He has shot some massive bucks, and this animal was one that I had never seen in the past. I’m convinced that some of these large bucks move into an area while following an estrus doe, breed as many does as possible, and quickly meander back to where they came from. One, a three-beam buck, did just that and was shot by a bow hunter and is shown above.

Spotting big bucks is, to some degree, a matter of luck. A buck may stay in one spot regularly, and is as regular as a dish of prunes. However, many things can cause a buck to change his travel patterns.

I’ve watched bucks put in a daily appearance for two weeks straight, and then on the 15th day they drop out of sight as if the ground had swallowed them up. Patterning bucks is easy early in the season, but once the rut is underway, they become much more difficult to figure out. A doe may lead them on a merry chase, and it may be two or three days before that animal returns. In some cases the buck can be gone for a week to 10 days.

Some bucks, because they are so predictable, are easy to shoot. A big buck can be extremely easy to pattern and can be shot on the first day ... in some . Bucks that have been shot at, or spotted a human movement or winded a hunter in a particular spot, can be most difficult to hunt.

Shooting a big buck can be difficult. A friend of mine took a photo of a very nice 11-point buck, and his antlers seemed a bit offset. The rack was slightly higher on one side than the other, and he saw that buck on two occasions while hunting only 300 yards from my favorite stand. I’ve yet to see that critter.

I walked in to one of my stands, and was skirting some tag alders, when a big buck stepped out 75 yards away. He was upwind, and hadn’t seen me, and began walking in my direction. I eased down to one knee, nocked an arrow, and watched him walk a direct line toward me.

He stopped at 45 yards, turned broadside and then put his tail toward me, and stood. He turned again to face me, started walking my way again, and at 25 yards he stepped into the tag alders and turned to go out the other side. He was a 150-class buck, and animals like him get my heart pumping. He kept going and I never got a shot but I remember him.

The most fascinating thing about deer hunting, and going after big bucks, is that some animals are easy and others are most difficult. Some big-racked bucks seem to possess a high degree of suspicion that keeps them out of harms way. They always seem to stand the wrong way for a high-percentage bow shot.

Others always seem to stop with their vitals behind some brush. Some, like the buck noted above, seem to come directly at a hunter only to turn at the last moment. Often, they don’t know the hunter is there; they just seem to travel widely and trust to their instincts.

Other bucks, and this happened to me once this past year, just seem to avoid any and all tree stands or ground blinds, and they often seem to build in a buffer zone of 75 yards between them and any bow stand. They have moved a quarter-mile across a field, and headed straight to me, and about 75-80 yards away, they turn and veer away from my stand.

It’s not because they see or smell me. It’s just a built-in warning system that some animals have developed.

It’s why I find this hunting of big bucks so exciting. Each and every buck is just a little bit different than the one before or those that may come in the future. For me, not knowing what a buck will do excites me. When they turn, and come within bow range, I’m happy.

I’m also happy when they turn 70 yards away, for whatever unknown reason, and move away. Trying to figure them out is difficult, and that is what makes big-buck hunting so exciting. Sometimes, but not always, there may be a second chance at that animal but it’s nothing I’d bet my bank account on.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/17 at 07:11 PM
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