Thursday, April 30, 2009

Taking A One-Day Break

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The reasons for missing do not require extensive explanations but I don’t mind sharing them with my readers. I love my turkey hunting but there comes a time every season when I need a day off, for one reason or another.

The weather is usually a determining factor. Two days of rain (a hard rain today) has everything all mushy, muddy and the birds don’t always move well on such days, and I was determined to bet they wouldn’t move at all today. Besides, I had other things to do.

Joe Heywood, a fellow writer from Portage, came up north to take care of some business. I’d reviewed his latest book Death Roe a few months ago but he hadn’t signed my personal copy. He stopped by, and we talked books and he signed my copy.

I attend a monthly luncheon with some retired conservation officers, and this month’s meeting was scheduled for today. Joe also had a meeting later in the day so I asked if he would like to attend the game warden luncheon. He did, and we went to at a Traverse City restaurant.

He smoozed with some of the retired guys, and since his series of Woods Cop mysteries is about a fictitious Michigan conservation officer, his books are popular with many of the retired officers. Many of them had read his series, and looked forward to meeting him. About 20 retired officers attended the meeting, and during the meal I thought that this was far more fun than sitting out in a rainstorm while trying to call in a water-logged gobbler.

One of the state retirees told me that he was turkey hunting this week, and if he scored on a bird, he’d be attend the luncheon. The fact that he never showed up meant he had yet to shoot his gobbler. I was content knowing that he was hunting in the rain, and I was inside staying dry.

Another reason for not hunting today was I had a doctors appointment about my left eye. He had considered another surgery to close a hole caused by a previous surgery. Itt seems that my most recent surgery did the job for him. The hole had scarred over, the eye pressure was good, and the healing process was over. He considered the surgery, which had been performed by a retinal specialist, to be a major success.

So, aside from a meeting tomorrow with the surgeon, and another trip in two weeks to revisit my glaucoma specialist, it appears that my visits with the eye docs may be over for some time. I’m hoping that will be the case.

One of the best reasons for sitting out today’s hunt was to sleep in for a change. Turkey hunting wears me out after a few days, and a good night’s sleep often allows me to finish out my short season hunt in grand fashion. Besides, although I’ve killed gobblers in the rain, I’d much rather stay in where it’s dry, and hunt the birds hard when the weather conditions are more suitable to hunting the Michigan redhead.

The reason I didn’t hunt today was purely personal and selfish. I did what I wanted to do, and what I needed to do, and left the wild turkeys to do what they wanted to do but tomorrow is something else. Again, a personal and selfish reason will dictate my actions. I intend to chase those birds hard beginning about sun-up tomorrow morning, and who knows?

I may even get lucky.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/30 at 04:52 PM
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Getting Plumb Wore Out By Gobblers

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Those gobblers are slowly but surely wearing me out. Mind you, I have nothing against getting up at 4:00 a.m., and doing something outdoors. But there isn’t much happening at that time of the night except for a bit of late bass or walleye fishing, and that only happens to most of us once or twice a year.

Turkey hunting packs more punch in the time it takes for the bird to answer the call and walk within shotgun range than 100 bass or walleyes being landed. It may even capture my attention more than landing a nice brown trout during June’s finicky Hex hatch. But they plumb wear out a crippled up old codger like me.

There I go again, prattling on and on. My comments were how this bird was slowly whittling me down to size by not cooperating. Today was another wonderful example of how gobblers run me around in circles, but at the same time, it was another wonderful day in Paradise.

To say this second season has been exciting would be over stating a negative quality outdoor recreational experience. As years pass, the ground gets harder, the rocks jabbing into my hind end get sharper, and those stubs of broken branches that try to lance you back become a bit more painful with each passing year.

Am I whining? Yeah, I guess I so but just a wee bit.

My hunting area today was similar to that of yesterday and the day before that, but my approach was different. I get bored looking at the same scenery day after day, and set up in a natural opening between two woodlots. The distance between them was perfect for strutting gobblers, and I’ve seen them use this location for that purpose in the past.

Henrietta, my sleazy looking hen decoy was put out along with little Tommy, the jake fake, and the set-up was as perfect as it can get. Any birds that approach would be looking southeast, and almost directly into the sun. The dekes were placed about 10 yards apart, and on a knoll so they could be seen by a gobbler approaching from any direction.

My butt was planted on a foam pad that never seems to be quite thick enough, and my calls were laid out on a brown washcloth next to my left leg. I relaxed and waited for the dawn to break, as it soon did with a reddish-orange ball of fire in the eastern sky.

Five minutes latter a gobbler called from the northwest. I decided to wait until he gobbled again, and 10 minutes later he let out a throaty roar, I knew if I stayed where I was, at least a quarter-mile away, the odds of him being alone and coming to me were minimal.

Up came the old body, and I grabbed my butt pad, Henrietta and Tommy, and took off to try to close the gap. I was puffing by the time I reached the road, trotted 300 yards down it, and slipped into the woods. I waited five minutes, hoping for another gobble, was disappointed when it didn’t happen, and yelped once for the hell of it.

The bird gobbled again as it headed west away from me, and I rushed through the woods, called again while still hid by trees, and the bird gobbled again. This guy knew where he was going, and he had on his running shoes. I broke out the binoculars, but missed seeing the bird enter the next woodlot to the west

The bird had at least a 600-yard head-start on me, and i raced (that’s stretching it a bit) to the next woodlot, yelped once, and got no response. Then the head games began.

Was the gobbler still heading west but was tired of calling to a hen that couldn’t catch up? Or, did the bird decide to stop and head back toward the trailing hen.

Such things are a coin flip. I knew if he kept going west I’d never catch him, so I checked the nearby area and found a great tree with just enough lean to be a comfortable back rest. I scraped away last year’s leaves and underbrush, and sat down.

I called again, putting as much sexy hen chatter into the call to lure a gobbler providing he wanted to come. Apparently he decided not to circle back to check on the hen, and after 60 minutes of patient waiting, I tossed in the towel. I returned to my car, drove back to the area, came to the end of a two-track trail, and there was nothing in front of me but rolling hills for nearly three miles.

Out came my sweet-talker, and I wheedled and cajoled, but the gobbler was having nothing to do with it. So, I drove around a bit, looking for birds without seeing any, and eventually went home.

I’m writing this at 7 p.m., and the toll of the last three days is weighing heavily on my eye lids. Soon, I’ll be studying the insides of them for several hours before trying it again tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll get lucky or a gobbler will make a mistake, but over many years of chasing these contrary critters, a hunter usually makes his own luck by spending time in the field. My body tells me there is one more day before I’ll take a weekend break.

I’ll let the weekend warriors have a crack at them. They deserve the chance to have some of this fun as well.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/29 at 05:45 PM
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Windy-Day Turkey Hunting

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There are days when it doesn’t pay to get dressed in full camo clothing. Today was one, if a guy really decided he didn’t want to hunt turkeys.

I got up in the darkness, leaving a warm and comfortable bed, and could hear the wind whistling outside. My eyes were wide open, my ears cocked toward the bedroom window which I reached up and opened, and I’m having a private battle with myself.

One part of me was clamoring: “You fool, it’s impossible to shoot a gobbler while laying in bed. Get up, and get out there into the woods. Your last days of the pring turkey hunting ends Sunday evening. Forget the weather and get on with it.”

The other part of me, the logical side of my brain, was arguing the other side of this problem. “That may well be true, but tell me when have you had a good turkey hunting day in really windy weather? Huh? Answer that one.”

It was a standoff. Both sides of the problem had some valid points, and both sides had a strike or two against them. Both made sense, in a rather twisted kind of way, and the final decision simply had to be made by the guy laying in in a comfy bed.

Recognizing the problem, I made my decision. I rolled over, closed my eyes, dozed and dreamed of a fanned-tail gobbler marching to the call like a good little soldier. He came, head-up, wary and looking around, and I woke up again just as the Day-Glow bead was settling on his noggin. Why do dreams always end at the most critical point?

It was still dark, but graying up toward dawn. My watch said 5:45 a.m., and I decided to let my ears do some work for a change. If I heard a bird gobble, I’ll hit the deck moving, climb into my camo, grab my shotgun and hunting vest, and head out to greet the dawn.

I laid there for almost an hour, and heard some robins and other song birds outside, but not one gobble was heard. Up I come, jumped rather slowly into my pants and shirt, and went out for the morning paper. I’m listening with both ears cocked, hopefully in two different directions, desperate to hear a gobbler sound off from yonder woods.

No such luck today. The paper was eased out of the tube, and I stood there for 20 minutes in 40-degree windy weather and listened. I can hear a gobbler a mile away, so I’m covering nearly four square miles with my ears.

There was nothing but the sound of wind whistling through the trees. I spotted a doe, her belly heavy with fawns, cross the road a quarter-mile upwind as I stood motionless and silent. The old girl moved rather sluggishly, and it was apparent this year’s littler of fawns would soon be born.

In the house I go, my mind now on the next Detroit Red Wings game. That line of thinking made me happy, and I began having turkey hunting thoughts again.

My mind conjured up many past turkey hunts, in my younger days when time was limited and I hunted regardless of the weather. Thinking back, I’ve shot a couple of gobblers in a heavy rain when they looked like giant two-legged, water-logged rats coming through the timber to the call.

I recall once when I called a great gobbler up to me in a snowstorm, and many are the days when the sky dawned clear with a chilly bite to the air, and the birds gobbled their brains out before flying down and working their way rapidly to the call.

There were days when the Toms roared, and days when they snuck in as silent as drifting fog. Some of those days I shot a gobbler, other times my wife did, and on many occasions, whoever was hunting with me popped a cap and took a grand longbeard as he raised his head to look things over. Today, however, the birds were playing a shut-mouth game. They weren’t talking to anyone, including themselves.

I’ve also hunted enough to know that some of this turkey hunting business, and the weather conditions we encounter during the season, can be rather meaningless. For every rule, there seems to be an exception.

The rule holds true with many things. Normally, I would have been out there looking for gobblers that don’t gobble. It’s mighty difficult to really get cranked up, but I donned my clothing, grabbed my venerable Model 870 Remington, stuffed three magnum loads of No. 5 shot into the old cornshucker, and headed back out into the cold morning air.

I moved often, called sparingly, covered a mile of terrain, and never saw or heard a gobbler or hen. Once, I thought I heard a hen mouthing off at my calls from a long way away, and moved in that direction.

I gave it a few minutes of rest, and tried again, now about 200 yards closer to where I thought I heard the hen. I tried calling again, hoping for some word from a tired old gobbler who still had enough starch left in him to want to breed another hen.

No such luck. What I took to be a hen call may have been the wind or just wishful thinking, but nothing came to the call during this morning’s wind. However, there is tomorrow and with luck the wind will die and the gobblers will gobble.

One can always hope.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/28 at 03:12 PM
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Rationalizing A Bad Turkey Opener

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The wind was like a wild animal bucking and kicking to get away. We’d driven to our chosen spot for the morning turkey hunt, and a quarter-mile hike would take us to where we would enter the woods. After that, it would be a 10-minute walk to our chosen hot spot.

We could have slept in. The weather was nasty, and our belief that it would probably be a bad day was realized.

The wind literally pushed us along the dirt road, and it blew Kay’s hat off and she lost one of her brown gloves to the gusting wind. It moaned in the trees, and we later heard that gust to 40 miles per hour had lashed the region, along with scattered rain showers.

We sat in our hot spot, which proved to be not so hot because of the wind, and toughed out most of a bad morning. One spot where we’ve taken many gobblers over the year was as dead as yesterday’s news. There were no birds sounding off, and none were seen on the ground or in the trees. A friend had watched two different gobblers head into the area just about sundown last evening, but wherever they got to was unknown. They weren’t there today.

It was time to head for the strutting fields, and in the open, the wind was a wild thing. A turkey out in the full force of the wind today may have lost some feathers. The strutting zones used by birds on most days seemed about as empty as the city of Detroit.

We did a bit of run-and-gun. There was plenty of movement on our part, but the shotgun butt-stock never touched a shoulder. The birds were conspicuous by their absence. They were huddled down in heavy cover somewhere, and were trying to ride out the storm.

It rained sporadically during the afternoon, and then the sun came out but the wind remained strong. We’ve been through these turkey wars before, and being senior citizens for a number of years, we realize the benefit of a mid-day nap. Without a nap, the hunter is wore out after getting up at 4 a.m. to head out for the morning hunt. Two of those hunts are enough to wear out many people, retirees or not. The radical change in get-up times can easily take their toll.

Our day ended with more rain showers and more high winds in the afternoon. The thoughts of sitting in the woods and listening to old trees crashing to the ground makes a person study the tree-tops nearby before choosing a spot to sit. It’s hard to dodge a falling tree-top from a sitting position.

So, with no further details to report, we found today’s hunt to be invigorating as all opener are, but without hearing more gobbles than we did (only one), it makes for pretty tough hunting. We’ve had our nap, and will be fired up and ready for whatever tomorrow’s weather will bring. It’s hard to imagine the weather could be any worse than it was today.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/27 at 04:07 PM
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Are We Ready?

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The sour weather tonight doesn’t bode well for my wife and my turkey opener tomorrow. In fact, it appears the weather may be ghastly for a day or two/

Am I ready? Sure thing.

I’ve been pulling together my turkey gear, checking everything out, and it appears we’re ready for whatever tomorrow brings. I’ve had two nights of turkey-hunting dreams and I think that can be a good sign. Am I overly concerned about rain. Nah, I’ve killed gobblers in the rain and snow. My biggest hope is the wind stops blowing before dawn tomorrow.

I’ve gone through my checklist, double-check things, and everything seems to be in place.

Turkey vest? Check!

Two box calls, each with a different tone. One has a higher pitched hen yelp while the other has the lower tones of an older hen. Check!

One crystal and one slate friction calls? Again one with the younger bird high pitch and other other of an older hen. The proper pegs for each. Check and check.

Rain gear for the likely possibility of wet air and wet ground. Check. Warm clothes. Another check.

Face mask and brown gloves? Check. Ditto on a camouflage hat, coat and pants.

Three 3-inch 12-gauge magnum Federal shotgun loads with No. 5 copper plated shot. Check. Fresh batteries in my flashlight? Check.

Henrietta, my hen decoy and Tommy, the young jake. He’s the one with the deep slashes about his body from the lengthy hooks of a big gobbler. Battle-worm but still effective. Check. Camo-painted stakes to prevent both decoys from turning completely around in a stiff breeze. Check.

Binoculars for assessing open fields before crossing. Check. There’s no reason to run the risk of spooking birds from an open field. Check the open areas first from a wooded area before committing to a move.

Last, but certainly not least on my list, is an optimistic attitude. Double-check. We’re ready.

Are you?

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/26 at 05:34 PM
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Remembering Other Trout Openers

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It was sometime in the mid-1980s when I made my rounds of six or eight trout streams on opening day, and it had to have been the worst trout opener in modern history.

I drove through high winds, heavy snow, and temperatures in the mid-20s. It wasn’t a fit day for man nor beast.

I checked the upper Manistee and one of its branches, the mainstream AuSable River and its North and South branches, the Sturgeon and Pigeon rivers near Indian River, and one or two others, and the fishing was nonexistent.

My story was filed from on the road to The Detroit News, and I reported dismal fishing conditions. It was like writing about a funeral. Not much good could be said for the day or the fishing, for that matter.

Another writer for another newspaper wrote a canned story that told of sunny skies, temperatures 40 degrees warmer than they were, and bountiful hatches of Hendricksons, Blue-Wing Olives and Black Stones.

The story was so phony that people were angry when it appeared the next day. A news man at one of the Detroit television stations, who happens to enjoy opening day trout fishing, reported that two Detrpot-based writers had two different stories on opening day. He said only one was accurate, and it was written by me. I felt somewhat flattered.

On another opener, I wound up my checking of rivers and the anglers who were on them that day, wrote my story on battery power, but didn’t have enough juice to left to post my story to the paper. I recalled a young friend who live near Thendara Road east of Grayling off M-72, and went to visit with him in hopes of a good chat, and the use of his phone and electricity.

He wasn’t home but his mother was. I introduced myself, told her of my problem and she invited me in. I set up my computer, hooked it up to their electricity, and she allowed me to use their phone. First and last time I ever had to beg for a place to send my story to the paper.

Another time, I was fishing near Wa Wa Sum on the AuSable River with Max Donovan, an old friend from my boyhood hometown of Clio. He’d had part of one leg amputated years before, and with his “peg leg,” as he occasionally called it, he waded that stretch of river with agility and strength.

At mid-afternoon, the Hendricksons came off and Max was in his glory. He’d flick casts into current seams, behind sweepers, and he was like a machine. He caught all of his trout on a No. 14 Adams, claiming “the Adams is the best fly of all. It can match many different hatches, and it’s a fly that always produces.” He proved his theory that day, and even gave this tow-headed kid a bedraggled Adams to use and I caught a few fish as well.

Once, on the trout opener on the Sturgeon River, my old and late friend George Yontz whispered to me of a hole that he said was full of silvery rainbow trout from Burt Lake. I knew the hole well, understood how it had to be fished, and luckily found it free of people.

The fish were there, and I was on the attack, and hooked one high-jumping steelhead after another. I was young back then, filled to overflowing with a sense of my angling skills, and set out to prove it to the older anglers who wouldn’t help me when I asked for their secrets to catching Sturgeon River steelhead. It was perhaps one of the last days of my life where I kept and killed five steelhead, my self-imposted limit in those days back in the earl 1950s.

I walked into the tackle shop at Yontz’s Hillside Camp with a stringer with five steelhead, and all of the old-timers were there. Yontz could estimate fish weight better than any man I’ve seen before or since.

“Six pounds even,” he said, before laying it on the scales. He pegged it perfectly. “Four-and-a-half pounds” was his next guess and he was off by an ounce. The other three weighed 3 1/2, 4 and 5 1/2 pounds.

My face wore a sappy smile as the old-timers looked at that catch in amazement. The best any of them had done was two fish of three and four pounds. One or two of them had been skunked.

“Where did you catch them, Dave?” asked the best angler (other than Yontz) of the bunch. I got a bit smart-mouth with him, and answered “in the mouth” or “in the river.” They knew why I was hassling them, and later, it seemed a hollow victory as I lay in bed and cussed myself for killing all five fish to prove that I’d arrived as a steelhead fishermen.

Oddly enough, this is the first time I’d thought of that opening day story in a few years. So I dusted if off, put it forth with all of my ugly teenage warts showing, and it was one of my finest openers.

One could only hope for something half that good today. May one and all enjoy a great day, and unlike that mouthy teenager of long ago, I urge people to keep only what they can eat and return all the rest to live to fight another day.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/25 at 05:23 PM
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Friday, April 24, 2009

GOBBLER LOGIC: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

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There’s an old real estate adage that everyone seems to know. Realtors preacj location, location, location. Where the land or home is located means everything in selling a business, home or land.

This old saying also holds true for turkey hunters. Location means everything, and if a hunter is going to have any kind of chance with a big gobbler, he must be in the right spot at the right time.

So far, I’ve talked to just two hunters with a first-season turkey tag, and neither man has scored. Both cite high winds, rain, snow and cold weather as excuses.

One was hunting near home, and his brother was hunting a nearby area. My buddy set up where he’d seen a gobbler fly up to roost the night before, and estimated he was 150 yards away.

He waited for dawn, listened to the bird gobble once from the roost tree at about 6:30 a.m., and called twice, and that was all it took.

“That bird came to me, got to within 25 yards in fairly thick cover before turning and running off,” he said. “The bird flew down from the tree, came on a direct line to ne, and then spooked as if it was frightened of my decoys.”

His brother, who had not seen or heard a bird, traveled to a new hunting location. He walked into the new area, sat down with his back to a big tree, and began to call.

“As soon as I made the first call,"he said, “I got an immediate response from a bird that wasn’t too far away. I worked him for 40 minutes, using every bit of finesse and skill I could muster out of my box and slate calls.

“I thought I was working just one bird but it turned out to be two adult gobblers traveling together. Finally, one split away from the other, and came my way only to spook about 75 yards away.”

I’ve heard it mentioned many times by many hunters that they believe gobblers and hens may be spooking from decoys. If there is no wind, and the decoy doesn’t move, the bird being called won’t come in. Obvious, this isn’t an across-the-board indictment against decoys, but some birds do seem to be afraid of a spread of two or more decoys.

Being in the right spot at the right time is crucial to success. I don’t consider myself a great caller, but I know enough not to call too much. Finesse the birds a little, don’t call too loud so the bird gets spooky, and chances are good you can close the deal on a gobbler. The trick is to be patient, and don’t call too much or too loud.

Years ago, my wife and I drew a first season hunt, and we got set up early, and she wanted to take her gobbler with a bow. I had her sitting inside a hunting coop. I had three decoys—two hens and a jake—positioned in front of her with the jake only 15 yards away.

I sat outside with my back to a big tree and waited for the first gobbler to sound off. A few crows called, and then he tuned up the volume and rattled the trees in that woods. I gave a soft tree yelp, and he gobbled again and again while I remained silent. This is part of the teasing process.

Five minutes passed, and he gobbled again, and I gave a soft tree yelp, waited until he quit gobbling, slapped my pant legs a few quick times to simulate the bird flying down, and could hear that big bird busting branches as he flew to the ground.

He gobbled again on the ground, came walking through the woods, walked within four feet of my boots and strutted out to whup on that jake decoy. I could hear him drumming and spitting, and he gobbled out a challenge to the jake decoy, and walked in to smack the fake bird around.

The gobbler offered Kay a good shot, and that was the end of that bird. It wasn’t the largest gobbler she has killed, but doing it with a bow was a major accomplishment for her.

A year earlier, much the same thing played out as I called in a nice gobbler for her, and she took it with a shotgun. In fact, I’ve called in most of her gobblers over the past decade or so.

A person can be the best caller in the world, but if he is in the wrong location at the wrong time, there will be no birds racing in his direction. Personally, I’d rather know where the bird is roosted, and be a mediocre caller, than to be in the wrong spot with championship calling skills on my side.

Location to a turkey hunter, as it is true to a real estate agent, is the most important part of the hunting equation. It’s what can put a tasty bird on a turkey platter this spring.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/24 at 06:37 PM
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Remembering A Forgotten Steelhead Spot

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Decades ago, there was a place on the Little Manistee River that was almost like my second home. It had numerous shallow gravel bars where steelhead spawned, and rather than chasing after brook trout that day when I still have a few months to do so, my son David and I returned to my hotspot from the late 1960s.

“If that’s where you want to fish,” I’m happy to check it out with your. “Show me a place you haven’t showed me before.”

So I did. And he fell in love with it just as I had many years ago. No, sorry, but I’m not going to reveal its exact location although I can get you within 10 miles of it.

The river, between the 9 Mile and 18 Mile bridge, was running low and clear that day as we stepped into the river. Strongly felt was the old familiar tightening of water pressure against my legs as we began wading slowly upstream in hopes of finding a steelhead.

We poked along slowly, easing into the current, checking out gravel bars for the dish-shaped white overturned gravel from the fanning of a hen steelhead’s tail. The bed is slightly upstream from the white gravel at the tail-end of the bed. Some people wonder why these beds are white, and the quick and easy answer is this gravel has been turned over as a hen digs her spawning redd.

David, much younger than the old man, has speed to burn. I nodded for him to charge off in his personal quest for a lively steelhead while I walked slowly, stopped often, and looked for the near-invisible shadow of a fresh hen or the darker and blockier shape of a male.

I covered 200 yards, and stood motionless, looking near a fallen log that had toppled into the river. My vision, at best, is poor but I know what to look for.

First came the dark shadlowy shape of a male holding in slightly deeper water along the edge of the redd. The water was four feet deep here, and I studied it for 10 minutes. The trick is to locate both fish before starting to fish for them.

Make a mistake at this point, and hook the female, and she is gone and the males will vanish with her. I studied the bed, both sides of it, and finally found her holding next to a log 10 feet downstream from the redd. The female was bright silver in the sunshine, and she was very close to being invisible. At first I couldn’t see her, but then I spotted her shadow, and then she became instantly visible. It’s a matter of knowing what to look for, and any skill at spotting these fish comes from experience.

She was in an impossible spot to fish, even if I was stupid enough to try for her. The male held alongside the redd, and in a perfect location. My line was lengthened, and reading the current speed and depth gave me the ideal spot to cast. My orange yarn fly drifted downstream along bottom, and the fish moved away from it.

The fly was lifted out, cast again, and again the male moved aside and allowed the fly to drift past. Again and again I cast, and each time the male slid away, but he was becoming agitated, and on the 20th or 30th cast, he grabbed the fly and the hook was pounded home.

That fish ripped off on a downstream run, ran past the hen, went between two fallen logs, and wheeled in midstream, splashed out of the water in a corkscrewing jump, and ran back upstream. He took 10 yards of line upstream from me, rolled on the surface, and headed back down and turned. He bulldozed into a submerged brush pile in front of me, and in less than a second tangled my line and broke off.

I moved back up to shore, sat down, tied on another orange yarn fly, and rested the spot. It took 30 minutes before the hen moved back into her holding position, and 15 minutes later, the male reappeared. This time there was something different: an orange yarn fly was firmly embedded in the corner of his mouth.

It took at least an hour for both fish to settle down, and I admired the day and the scenic beauty of this portion of the river. It seemed a great day to be alive. Upstream, I heard David talking to himself as a fish splashed. He was into a steelhead, and was telling the world about it.

My male with the decoration in the corner of its mouth lay beside the female, and she let loose a jet of yellow eggs as both fish rolled on their sides, mouth agape, and he fertilized the eggs. I got a good look at the hen, and she was flat-bellied and had successfully spawned.

She headed into a log jam and disappeared from sight. She would now rest, and I had no problem casting again to the solitary male. This time he was more eager, and grabbed the orange fly on the second drift but he’d learned his previous lesson well. He darted into the brush, twisted around, and the hook pulled free.

Minutes later David came back downstream. He had landed a nice male and released in, and said he had covered over a mile of river and saw just those two fish.

Was it a perfect day? The weather was wonderful, and we each found a male fish to cast to. David hooked and landed his and released the big 12-pound buck, and I hooked and lost the same fish twice. Did we have a good time?

The answer was an emphatic “yes!” We fished several other areas today, and never saw another steelhead. But, finding two males and hooking both of them, was just part of a perfect day. Fishing a spot I hadn’t fished in 30 years was a bonus, and it was nice to know that fish still hold in the same locations as they did three decades ago

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/23 at 03:52 PM
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Try Runnin’ & Gunnin’ For Gobblers

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The fog was thick enough that day several years ago to carve with a hefty meat cleaver. I eased into my chosen hunting spot, and was well positioned for a turkey to cross an open field from another woodlot or to move through the woods where I was sitting.

It took until 7:45 for the fog to burn off. I’ve never had any luck hunting in the fog, but I wanted to be afield before the soup dissipated, and be right in amongst the birds. I was there, but the turkeys were somewhere else. They’d forgotten their appointment.

I’d spent the previous two days looking for birds that apparently have yet to learn how to gobble or make themselves seen. They are close-mouthed like crazy, and I figured once the sun burned away the fog, I’d go looking. Until then, I’d have to deal with shut-mouth gobblers.

There were fond hopes of at least one gobbler sounding off from the roost, but it didn’t happen. I stayed rooted to a good spot for two hours, and then went looking, my back and hips were sore and stiff from sitting for a long period of time.

Professional tournament bass fishermen call this past-time runnin’ and gunnin’. It’s as good a description for my day as anything else. One either sits and waits or runs and guns; both techniques work and it’s important to know when to try each one.

When it became abundantly clear, even to a dimwit like me, that the birds weren’t coming to me, I decided to take my Dave Richey dog-and-pony show on the road. I stowed my turkey decoys, and headed out to hunt some state land that borders up to some of the land where I have permission to hunt.

Runnin’ and gunnin’ turkeys is great when it works. The biggest problem, and one that I try hard to avoid, is bumping birds. My Swarovski binoculars are perfect for a quick check before moving ahead, but there is always the chance of bumping an unseen bird.

Nothing is guaranteed in turkey hunting but I would move fast for 100 yards, stop and glass in front of me while listening for any response to my call. If I heard anything, I would play it much more cautious.

No turkeys gobbled, displayed or were seen moving through the woods or the open fields. I put down more boot leather, moved to the next vantage point while remaining cautious in my approach to new cover. If the cover permitted, it was easy to lean against a tree and study an open field ahead. Nothing was seen, and I’m wondering if all the birds move to Benzie or Wexford counties.

I beat feet to another woods. This one had undergone a managed timber cut several years before, and the going was a bit tougher. A turkey could work through it, but I began looking at the tree-tops ahead for any indication of a clearing in front of me.

Out would come a box call, and I’d give it a soft yelp. Wait a minute, yelp a bit louder, and if there was no response, I was on my way. This hunting method has worked in the past, but the more land I covered, the more convinced I became that the birds weren’t talking or they were hiding somewhere else.

I eased up to a power line that cut through a thick patch of woods, and paused well back in the timber from the edge to check the opening. Often birds can be seen in such areas once the fog burns off. The gobblers strut, the hens that have been bred come out for a quick bite, and head back to set on their nest.

There were no birds here. I moved from one side of the powerline quickly to the other, mushed through the bottom, topped out on a ridge, and kept stopping and starting, and calling intermittently.

A big circle was covered today, and that circle encompassed over three miles of travel. There were open fields, small woodlots, thick stands of timber, two-track trails and open power lines, and it seemed as if every inch of that three-mile area was devoid of any gobblers and hens.

I checked sandy areas for sign of dusting turkeys. Nothing. I checked the muddy edges of the fields after a recent rain, and again, no turkey tracks. There were coyote tracks a’plenty, and lots of deer sign, but it was as if the ground had swallowed up the birds.

I’ve run into this situation during the late-season hunts in the past, and usually after two or three days of little turkey movement, there will be a day when the birds gobble their brains out. Those are the days when even a novice with a badly warped box call can bring birds on the run.

My day passed without hearing or seeing a turkey of either sex. That made three days without seeing a gobbler that year so, in all likelihood, the next day might be productive.

If you’re not hearing any birds or seeing them, try runnin’ and gunnin’. It doesn’t always work but it is an alternative to sitting on one spot all day and hoping that a gobbler stumbles by within range. Granted, it’s more work but turkey hunting should never be easy.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/22 at 05:41 PM
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Calm Your Nerves & Shoot A Gobbler

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Watch those television hunting shows about chasing gobblers, and many of those old boys can control their nerves although some hyperventilate a bit as a nice gobbler gets closer. They may get excited but they almost always appear cool and rock-steady.

They shoot gobblers with what appears to be calmness. I know some hunters who hunt a dozen states every spring, and they have plenty of time and experience to hone their skills to avoid moving at the wrong time or to make some of the other mistakes made when gobblers close the gap between out-of-range and time-to-shoot.

I’ve had gobblers almost trip over my feet, brush against my elbow, and stand within three feet of my shotgun barrel and gobble in my face.

Are my nerves better than yours? I can’t answer that question, but when I hear a bird approach, stop to spit and drum, I know any movement or noise on my part would end this hunt fast. Once a bird came very close to me along a fence, and was near enough for me to grab had I been dumb enough to try.

Most people who grab supposely dead long-spur gobblers off the ground by the feet when the bird is still flopping usually only make that mistake one time. A bird with good spurs will rake deep cuts in your hand, and most require a visit to the hospital.

I was ready for that sneaky bird, and once he put a couple of trees between us, and stopped to fan out and display, I knew this hunt would end with a big and dead gobbler over my shoulder.

He gobbled once near the decoy, and when the deke didn’t respond, he lifted his head to look around, and I shot him. Is this coolness under fire or just a matter of experience?

To my humble way of thinking, it is more experience than ice water in my veins. So far this season I haven’t had the chance to test my mettle against a wise or gobbler because my season starts next Monday.

There have been many times when a bird may circle. Your eyes can only track a bird just so far to the right or left and you lose sight of him. Just because you can’t see the bird doesn’t mean he or one of his chums can’t see you. Grit your teeth and hang tight.

These are times when so-called “nerves of steel” come in mighty handy. My hearing helps make up for my poor vision, and I can hear turkeys walking behind me and that helps me know their exact location. The trick then is to remain absolutely motionless, and wait for the bird to circle around in front of the shotgun. Sometimes they do and other times they don’t. It’s a part of the hunt we can’t control.

Think of yourself as a statue: immobile, rigid and incapable of making a movement or sound. Trust me, it’s tough to do when a gobbler gets right behind you and rocks your head and hat with a tremendous gobble. Expect that to happen, and be prepared for it. If a gobble doesn’t come, that’s great, but it’s smart to be ready to avoid jumping.

Imagine the bird is searching for a hen. Your shotgun should be to your shoulder and balanced across your knees long before the gobbler gets close enough for a shot. The stock should be against your cheek, you eye lined up over the front bead, red-dot sight or scope. Once the bird is in the right spot, pinch off a push-button safety between thumb and forefinger, ease the finger up to the trigger, aim and shoot.

It’s sometimes amazing how motionless and quiet you can make yourself if you concentrate on it. Just take the occasional deep breath, ease it out softy, try not to hyperventilate, and enjoy the experience for what it is: an exceptional opportunity to experience absolute calmness before the shot.

Then, if you shoot straight and a big longbeard lays on the ground 25 yards away, feel free to let loose with a silent scream of wonder and joy. An audible scream will probably spook other nearby birds out of the county and ruin any chance for someone else to score.

Turkeys often will stand and look when a shot goes off or they may run 20 yards, stop and turn around to look at their fallen friend. Occasionally they will take off and fly far out of sight before landing.

A loud scream will send them wildly on their way. So learn to conquer your nerves, and it’s surprising how easy turkey hunting can be ... once in a while.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/21 at 08:43 PM
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Monday, April 20, 2009

How Beautiful Is A Gobbler?

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At first glance, the title question is almost amusing or funny. I mean, just how beautiful can a spring gobbler be?

His head looks like its covered with warts, and then there are those red wattles that are not pretty even after dark. The snood or piece of ugly looking meat the drapes over the beak looks like a worm crawling out of the bird’s beak.

All those little hairs growing on a gobbler’s face reminds me of a drunk who did a patchy job of trying to shave. Let’s face it: Is there anything remotely pretty about a gobbler?

It’s something like the old joke that all bar-dwelling men and women get better looking at closing time. Perhaps it’s time to take the gobbler out of the harsh glare of the limelight, put him into the muted light of an early morning or late afternoon sun, mix in some shadows from big beech, maple or oak trees. Toss in a little brush, and add to this mix a lengthy spell of time between last year’s turkey season and this one, and maybe they do get better looking as the season progresses.

Frankly, I don’t need a sales job. Sure the gaudy ringneck pheasant with his bright colors and long tail or the tail and the noisy flush of a ruffed grouse should be given points for their looks, but I’ll match Old Tom against any other game bird species in North America for his looks.

Let’s analyze a turkey gobbler for a minute. That jasper is up on legs, and those legs are made for running. The wings of a wild turkey are stout and strong, and it takes some muscles to launch a 15- to 20-pound bird into the air to escape danger. A young jake almost took my hat off last year after Kay shot his heavyweight buddy after a long and grueling period of calling to the bird. I had to duck to escape being hit in the face with a strong wing grabbing air in an attempt to get airborne.

The tail fan of a mature gobbler is big and bold, and the bird can do some rather amazing things with it. He can make it stand up straight with all the feathers tucked together or he can make them spread out to cover 180 degrees. Then again, a gobbler can spread only half of his tail feathers, on one side or the other, and an old bird who has been breeding numerous hens will have wingtips that are rubbed right down from his strutting and wingtip dragging. He also has some of his breast feather missing from the breeding act.

The breast and back feathers of a gobbler are something of particular beauty. Get them into medium strong sunlight, and turn the bird in different directions, and a brown feather can magically change to black, green, a deep purple-green, and a myriad of different colors. At a distance they look predominantly black, but add color and a closer inspection, and their coat of feathers is like a coat of many colors.

A gobbler’s head, as mentioned before, is an amazingly ugly piece of work until you watch what an adult Tom can do with it. I’ve watched amorous birds come through the woods, and their head can and will change colors. It can go from red to white to blue, and back again in a matter of several moments. The sight of a snowball-white head bobbing rapidly through the spring woods as it comes to the call is something that grips me like the sight of a 10-point buck moving my way just before the end of shooting time.

Throw all of these puzzle pieces together, and add the resounding tempo of a throaty gobble, and what a turkey hunter has is enough to make some people hyperventilate or gasp for air. The sight of an approaching gobbler can turn the strongest man into a mass of wet noodles that can hardly raise their shotgun to shoot.

It can transform a brave man into something that quivers and shakes from nervousness as the bird gets closer and closer. A robust gobble right behind a seated hunter can make them jump into the air, and by the time they get their act together, the bird is 100 yards away and getter farther with every step.

A gobbler can make a ground-shaking gobble, a softer gobbler or the can drum and spit. The latter is difficult to hear beyond 25 yards, and many hunters have never heard it. Or, if they have heard it, they didn’t know it was coming from the gobbler that is circling their position. It is a very faint “mmmmm-pphhhtt.” Listen closely the next time a gobbler approaches, and listen hard and perhaps it will be heard.

I’m in love with wild turkeys. They turn me on, wind me up, and when they are through with me, I count myself fortunate for having been there to hear and see a gobbler at close range and they never look ugly to me. Sometimes I get so caught up in the magic of the moment that I forget to shoot.

How careless and silly of me.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/20 at 06:55 PM
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

More To Turkey Hunting That Killing A Bird

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Those who think the epitome of turkey hunting is shooting a your shoulders, and quite honestly, I much prefer a measure of skill over luck any time in the turkey woods.

Sometimes those little things that are needed for success are not something you plan for and may not provided on a hunt. Sometimes Lady Luck smiles, and you get a shot without trying. Sometimes it seems as if a gobbler is pre-destined to die by your hand. Some things about hunting far beyond our control.

Folks, turkey hunting is a grand American sport. We struggle to arise early enough on the first day of our season, and sometimes we guess right on where the birds will roost. Sometimes the birds roost elsewhere and we blow our best chance of the morning.

For me, it’s becoming more of a challenge to hunt these keen-eyed birds. My one working eye makes it increasingly more difficult to get around the woods in the dark. Knowing this, my way around it is to get an earlier than usual start which gives me time to ease through the woods and to within 100 yards of a roosted gobbler.

I don’t mind sitting motionless once I’m in place for an hour or more before the first gobble rumbles through the woods and nearby fields like thunder before a bad storm. That hour or more of pre-dawn idleness is a welcome change from my daily routine.

It’s a delight to listen to deer walk through the woods, unaware of my presence, and move off toward their bedding area. And then, there are the first faint rustlings of songbirds in nearby bushes and trees as they come awake.

I listen hard for the first peepings of songbirds, and soon the crows will come awake with their raucous crowing. They blather back and forth, waking other animals and birds, and usually within five minutes of the first owl hoot or cawing crow, will come the first gobble of the day. Sometimes the bird will gobble before the cawing ends.

The number of gobbles a big Tom makes will vary with weather conditions and whether or not they been disturbed by humans. Sometimes they will gobble once, and never gobble from the ground. Other times they may gobble once from the tree, again on the ground to let the hens know where they are, and then never gobble again. Each day in the turkey woods is a different experience, and it’s wise to savor each day for what it is.

There are those days when the conditions are just right, and one or more gobblers are in the mood, and they will gobble a dozen times from the roost. They hit the ground, and maintain a somewhat steady tempo of ground shaking gobbles, and such birds are fun to hunt. They may be alone, and looking for hen company, and other times they are roosted near other gobblers and jakes that make the morning ring with gobbler music.

My intention is to always listen to the gobblers. The ones that gobble frequent may or may not be with hens, but they often do all their noise making from a distance. The ones I like to hunt are those that gobble once from the roost tree, fly down, and come sneaking in to the hen calls without making a sound. Sometimes they spit and drum a few times before coming closer to the call or a decoy, and they may circle the call a time or two before often a shot. Being still is important when birds make their approach..

The loudmouth gobblers can be called, and sometimes they simply won’t come. They expect the unseen hen to show herself and come to them, not the other way around. Each hunt provides a separate set of circumstances, and hunters must cope with them.

Working a single bird, or a small group, is the best part of turkey hunting. Granted, it’s fun to watch a gobbler come through the woods fast, his head changing colors, and watch him go into a strut with his head tucked into his shoulders. It’s great fun to tease him closer by scratching the leaves on the ground and to make soft little contented calls, and see him keep coming, stopping and moving, and then, there he is only 30 yards away.

One of the many things I’ve learned after hunting these birds for many years is that the greatest enjoyment of all is calling a bird to a fellow hunter. I enjoy listening to them as they hyperventilate, whispering for them to calm down a little and to sit very still, and then give a little “putt” when the gobbler is in the ideal location for a head shot.

The bird stops, and his head shoots upward to look around, and I whisper “Shoot!” The bird goes down with a clean kill or runs off when there is a clean miss. Working the bird, not killing the bird, is what trips my turkey-hunting trigger.

Good luck this season.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/19 at 07:05 PM
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Getting Ready For The Turkey Opener

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Thinking about hunting spring gobblers will usually do one of two things to most sportsmen. It will either make them feel all warm and fuzzy with great expectations or their upcoming hunt or it will give them a roaring headache as they will hunt a big gobbler.

I have a second-season permit so there still is more time to prepare for the hunt. Those who plan to greet the dawn on opening day are busily trying to get all their gear together, and do some last-minute scouting.

Turkey hunters, by and large, carry too much crap around with them. Two or three box calls, two or three friction calls, be they made of aluminum, crystal, glass or slate. Add three or four pegs for the calls. And then there may be a half-dozen diaphragm calls, and perhaps even a gobbler call that you shake to make a realistic gobble. But that’s not all you might find in a turkey hunter’s equipment.

Obviously some hunting boots. And then there is the face mask for those who don’t care to cover their face with grease paint. Obviously, a shotgun or bow is necessary. Then we have either brown or green camouflage cloth plus a hat. Is that it? No, because most turkey hunters now carry anywhere from one to four or five turkey decoys. Many decoys require stakes as well to hold the fake birds in place.

Anything else? Well yes, there is something rather important to the hunt. In fact two things come to mind.

The first is common sense. Try to hunt where no one else is hunting, and this can mean getting farther back in than other hunters. Most sportsmen will be found within a quarter- to a half-mile from the road. I have a friend who hunts Osceola turkeys in Florida, and he commonly doesn’t start hunting until he is at least three or four miles from his truck.

“I leave ‘em (other turkey hunters) in my dust,” he said. “I out-walk them, go into areas they wouldn’t dream of hunting, and I seldom see another hunter. I get one or more turkeys every year by hunting this way.”

Common sense also means hunting safely. Never get into a calling competition with another hunter. Use a flashlight (I like a green beam), and hunters can see it. The last thing you want to do is to set up on a bird on opening day, sit and wait for the first gobbles from roosted birds, and then hear another hunter calling to the birds. Get up and move out of the area rather that compete. Someone could get shot in such calling competitions.

Can you out-think a turkey? I would certainly hope so. Human have the capability of thought while turkeys simply react to sounds and what they hear or see. Blend in with the available cover, learn to sit still without moving, and learn the basics of calling, and you are most of the way to success.

However, it’s important to choose an area where turkey like to travel. They dislike moving through extremely thick cover. Instead they prefer semi-open woods where visibility allows them to see another bird (or a decoy) and where escape from possible danger allows them to run or to easily launch themselves into flight.

Pick a spot near an adjacent open fields. Gobblers will poke around a bit in the woods at dawn but soon after fly-down they will head out to their strut zones. It’s here where they do their little mating dance as they try to impress nearby hens just how handsome and virile they are. They often breed hens early in the morning although breeding can take place anytime a gobbler and hen meet. Choose a location, often within 200 yards of their roost trees, where the birds can see for long distances.

Once the gobblers posture, and chase the hens, they often split up and move off to feed. A hunter who calls in the morning, and the gobbler is obsessed with an obliging hen, may seem to remember hearing a hen call. After the hens leave the gobbler or circle back after eating, the gobbler may go looking for that hen, Some calling may work. I’ve found, although this conclusion is not cast in stone, that fairly soft turkey sounds will inspire confidence in the bearded bird. Hard, excited calling can work but I begin in mid-morning with medium tones.

Hens can be a problem sometimes in the spring, and will try to lead a gobbler off into another direction away from a calling hen. If the bird shows an interest in coming to the call, and a hen tries to call him back, duplicate the sounds of the wild hen but put a bit more urgency and pleading into your call. If the real hen sasses you, sass her back by making the same sound as she makes but do it louder. This trick has worked for me so many times in the past that I’ve lost count of how many gobblers have fallen to this tactic.

Last year, while trying to call a big gobbler in to Kay, the hen tried to interfere. I simply out-called her, and dragged the Boss Gobbler, several jakes a nd several hens within gun range. Kay killed the big gobbler at about 20 yards.

One thing to remember: dare to be a bit different. There are almost as many ways to hunt gobblers as there are hunters. Nothing works every time, and if it isn’t working, change it. Try something else, something different. If possible try moving closer to the bird without being seen. Or, try moving away and muffling the call as if this hen has lost interest in the gobbler and is moving off. Both methods have worked for me.

Just don’t do as a friend of mine did many years ago. He bragged to anyone who would listen that his calling skills were superb (which they were) and that he had called in countless birds to hunter (which also was true) over the years. However, bragging doesn’t work well nor does it impress turkeys.

He finally ran aground of a hunting season where all of his tricks from previous years, and all of his calling techniques, failed to bring even one gobbler to the gun. Nothing he did that year worked, and other hunters who had listened to his brags, blew him off as a braggart who couldn’t produce.

Turkeys, if you haven’t noticed, have a way of humbling most hunters and they seem to take savage delight in doing so.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/18 at 03:41 PM
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Where Are All The Steelhead?

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The title is a question that many people have asked me and other longtime steelheaders. I’ve only fishedt steelhead twice this spring because of my eye problem, vision problem and the impending eye surgery. I had eye surgery two days ago, and am home and seemingly doing well.

I just don’t know how to answer the raging question of steelhead scarcity. A few streams like the Manistee and Pere Marquette report decent numbers of fish. Other streams such as the Betsie, Boardman, Elk and Platte are showing few fish. Is this unusual?

Not really. I’ve fished these rivers for more than 50 years, and have watched the periodic highs and lows in fish numbers. The Platte River, once stocked with hatchery steelhead, produced an unbelievable fishery in the 1960s through the mid-1970s. There were many times more fish back then when fish were being stocked, and anglers had a great reason to head north to find good sport.

The DNR now says that natural reproduction is sufficient for the Platte River. I’d beg to differ with that thought. The Platte has basically been a dead duck this spring, and people are wondering where all the fish are. If they are not in the rivers now, they are in the lakes. Anglers fishing the rivermouths are not catching many fish.

Frankly, although this is about steelhead, the same question could be asked about brown trout. They basically disappeared over the last five years, and no browns are being planted. They provided an excellent spring fishery for many years, but that great action has disappeared from the Michigan scene.

Back to the steelhead, we had a tough winter in these parts with lots of snow. There was a reasonably late breakup of ice in Platte Lake this year. Could that account for the scarcity of fish? I don’t think so.

The major steelhead push usually coincides with the ice going out of Platte Lake. The ice went out but very few steelhead moved upstream. I know guys that poked around the upper river, without fishing gear, and looked for fish on spawning redds. Very few active beds were seen with fish on them.

So what’s the answer? I suspect a number of different factors are involved.

The Platte River, with its gin-clear water and a natural rivermouth, has a great reputation as a steelhead stream but it’s no longer living up to its old reputation. It needs some fish plants to restore fish numbers. It needs an end put to night fishing with lanterns in the upstream areas. Night fishing with lanterns is legal, but it shouldn’t be.

Two anglers, one with a lantern and one fishing, can move in close to spawning steelhead. They don’t seem to respond negatively to the light. It’s easy to catch or snag fish in this manner. The biggest thing wrong with this is the fish are pestered all day by anglers casting to them on spawning beds, and the result was the fish would spawn at night. Now, with night fishing and lanterns, the fish are hammered 24 hours a day.

Granted, some arrests are made for snagging fish but for every person caught, many escape with their foul-hooked fish. I really think the spring steelhead and fall salmon should be protected by a ban on night fishing.

Other problems. Low water for years on the Betsie River has seen many of the best spawning gravel and deep holding pools covered with sand that is still moving downstream after the Thompsonville Dam went out in the early 1980s. Get down by the mouth where the river empties into Betsie Bay, and the marl, muck and sand buildup is awful. Low water levels affect fish moving upstream to spawn.

Again, fish numbers are lower, much lower, in the Betsie and the other mentioned streams than they were 30-40 years ago. Fishing pressure is heavier, and the catch rate is down. The success level of fishermen is a fraction of what it once was.

Can we blame this on more fishermen? I don’t think so. The good fishermen will always catch a few but the anglers who haven’t spent as much time on the river as the top fishermen and the hot sticks have, are not going to catch as many fish as before. The neophyte angler really doesn’t stand much chance on a big-water stream like the Manistee River, and only slightly better odds of catching fish on the Pere Marquette and Betsie rivers unless they hire a guide.

Perhaps it’s time to face the facts. Michigan no longer has the steelhead numbers it once did, and the chance of this fishery getting better in the near future, is slim. Natural reproduction cannot sustain itself for the large numbers of anglers who now try for these fish.

It would be nice to have nothing but natural reproducing steelhead in all of our rivers but anyone who thinks that will happen, and that it will sustain a great fishery, are simply whistling in the dark.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/17 at 12:29 PM
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Eye Surgery Today

There I was, laying flat on a cold hospital bed, yukking it up with the eye surgeon and a bevy of nurses and other hospital personnel.

They had gassed me, knocked me out for about five minutes, just long enough for the doctor to stick a needle back behind my left eye and shoot me up with something to cover the pain of the eye surgery. The shot was given, and a few minutes later with the entire left side of my head and face numbed, I came out of it and was back to joking and kidding with the nurses and trying to calm my great-grandson, who was with my wife, Kay.

He’d gone through a tough patch at 1 1/2 years of age with a faulty valve in a kidney, and spent 41 days in the hospital. He was sympathetic to his grandpa who was wired up to monitors, getting a liquid drip, and had a blood pressure cuff going all the time. His mother had just found a job, and was at work, and we were watching over the young lad.

He was worried about his grandpa, and telling me “Don’t be afraid, grandpa.” So sweet. His concern for me was heartwarming.

I wasn’t afraid, because over the years there had been many other eye surgeries. Seventeen others, to be accurate. This was the first one he had been around, and I had to tell the little guy a dozen times that I was OK. Kay lifted him up to where he could give me a big hug and a kiss before the wheeled me in to surgery.

They had to clean out the inside of my eye after a recent bacterial infection. I was awake during the entire surgery, and I asked the doctor to give me a step-by-step running commentary on what he was doing. I’m certain he may have skipped a few steps or perhaps I dozed of but I was awake most of the time and could answer detailed questions.

“You’ll soon hear a clicking noise,” the doctor said. “That is the miniature instrument i’ve inserted into your eye as it will cut and snip, and remove all of the fluid and gel in your eye. Once we are certain there is no live bacterial hiding behind your retina or the lens implant from your cataract surgery, we will give you another antibiotic shot in the eye, add some fluid and put an air bubble inside the eye.

“The air bubble will remain in the eye for about 10 days before it dissipates. You’ll be able to go turkey hunting when your season opens,”

That was good news to me. He cut, scraped, and flushed out my inner eye, filled me up with antibiotics, checked my air, and sent me off to recovery. I felt somewhat like an old car that had just be overhauled.

Kay and Reece were there to greet me, and I immediately told him I was fine, and it was good, and a bit heart-wrenching to see the worry go out of his little face. He gave me a hug and kiss, and then came the best part. After such surgeries they used to give patient a muffin. No more. Now it’s Oreo cookies and pop.

I swigged on a ginger ale, shared my cookies with Reece, who couldn’t eat his share. He offered them to me. In turn,, I suspect because Reece was there, one of the nurses brought in milk chocolate Hershey kisses. I traded Reece my chocolate candy for the rest of his cookies, and he willingly accepted the deal.

The surgery went fine, as of five hours after it took place, and I’ll know even more tomorrow. The best part of it was I had a little angel-- my three-year-old grandson—on my side. He and Kay were rooting for me, and the success of this surgery, and that made all the difference in the world to me.

The experience with Reece captured my heart, and that of the doctor and nurses. All in all, it was quite a miraculous day. And thanks, one and all, for your prayers. Bless you!

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/16 at 04:21 PM
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