Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Clarify Existing Trout Regulations

Decoding Existing Trout Regulations

Is it just me? Am I the only angler in this state that feels the DNR’s 2009 Fishing Digest is too complicated, too redundant, too filled with quasi-legalistic jargon, and too boring?

The DNR’s Fisheries Division is, for once, asking the public for input about their annual Fishing Digest. Should you desire to make comments on trout lakes and streams, go to: < >.

Here’s my take on this situation. The DNR has messed around for many years trying to get their fishing digest in order. Along the way, dating back into the 1980s, there have been some atrocious mistakes. In those years, the standard answer was the computer messed up. Folks, computers do mess up but it’s often the result of operator error.

We’ve suffered with the old computer adage: garbage in, garbage out, and in the past it has applied to the DNR. Other times, when things went wrong, the people ultimately in charge blamed subordinates for not editing the copy properly. And then, back in 2000, the DNR decided to copy what neighboring Wisconsin did.

Their fancy new idea was a magazine-size format with maps and charts that told us what we could and could not do. We had to skip from one page to another and to a third page to determine what the trout fishing regulations were for a particular stream or lake.

If anything, this change that we’ve suffered with for nine long years was a lesson in optimistic failure. All it did was make people throw up their names and go elsewhere and do something other than fish for trout.

The rules were poorly written, redundant, and frankly boring. Reading it could put an insomniac to sleep. Pity the person who was color blind. The maps of county lakes and streams had several different colors, and anyone who had a red-green vision problem, was in deep trouble.

Frankly, the rules were stupidly written and have been for as long as I can remember. Apparently the DNR is so broke that those drawing up the rules can’t find a calendar with the proper dates. Need an example. Here are a few being quoted directly from the 2009 Michigan Fishing Guide.

Page 11 under Lake Sturgeon for Black Lake in Cheboygan County: 1st Sat. in February – Sun. following the 2nd Sat. in February.” Say what? There are more, many more.

Page 11 (also for Lake Sturgeon): “1st Sat. in Sept. – Sept. 30.” Does this mean that no one can check the calendar and see which day the 1st Saturday in September is? If it’s important to you, the proper date is Sept. 5.

Page 10 under Bass: “3rd Sat. in June” and “Sat. before Memorial Day – Dec. 31.” Is this a bad case of someone being lazy or what?
Page 10: Washtenaw County for Whitemore Lake (and elsewhere through most of the counties) are map coordinates that most people ignore, such as: (T1S, R5E, Section 32) downstream to (T2S, R2S, Section 2). Couldn’t all of these coordinates be summarized better and are they really needed?

Under the current regulations, some streams have different size restrictions on trout in one area and something else in another. There are numerous types of lakes and a similar number of stream types. Looking at a map that shows these types in different colors looks like a bad color photo of someone’s varicose veins. It’s hard to determine, in some cases, where on set of regulation start and another stops.

If the DNR has its way next year, certain streams types would be eliminated. Is this a step in the right direction? Who knows, but the 2009 Fishing Digest has 47 pages to try and digest. It makes me want to throw up.

Is it really necessary to have so many different rules? Can’t the DNR find someone who can write, or hire someone who can write and edit, and reduce this monstrosity to a manageable size. Cut the thing in half, and the following year, trim it down some more.

Some of the DNR’s regulations are not working and should be trimmed away. A first-year student in journalism school could edit countless lines from the Digest without changing the meaning of a single sentence.

The sad fact is that government-speak has crept into the DNR, and they write these fish laws as if people can’t understand common English. They can, but most people balk at trying to decipher the Lansing legalese.

Sadly, the DNR and the state and its citizens, have fallen on hard times. Now they come, seeking our help in changing their fishing regulations, and it’s time for each of you to stand up and be counted. If you’ve got a gripe, voice your concerns. Be nice about it, but tell them what problems you see with the laws as they are now written.

Make it clear that you want the legal mumbo-jumbo spelled out in simple terms, want the specific dates listed, and remove anything that isn’t needed. I’ve listed a few, and I’m certain you can find more.

Stand up and be counted. Now is the time to speak out, and have some impact on how our fishing laws are written in the future. We need laws that are easier to understand, not more difficult and vague. Let’s have a complete re-do of the Fishing Digest in 2010.

Is it just me? Am I the only angler in this state that feels the DNR’s 2009 Fishing Digest is too complicated, too redundant, too filled with quasi-legalistic jargon, and too boring?

The DNR’s Fisheries Division is, for once, asking the public for input about their annual Fishing Digest. Should you desire to make comments on trout lakes and streams, go to: < >.

Here’s my take on this situation. The DNR has messed around for many years trying to get their fishing digest in order. Along the way, dating back into the 1980s, there have been some atrocious mistakes. In those years, the standard answer was the computer messed up. Folks, computers do mess up but it’s often the result of operator error.

We’ve suffered with the old computer adage: garbage in, garbage out, and in the past it has applied to the DNR. Other times, when things went wrong, the people ultimately in charge blamed subordinates for not editing the copy properly. And then, back in 2000, the DNR decided to copy what neighboring Wisconsin did.

Their fancy new idea was a magazine-size format with maps and charts that told us what we could and could not do. We had to skip from one page to another and to a third page to determine what the trout fishing regulations were for a particular stream or lake.

If anything, this change that we’ve suffered with for nine long years was a lesson in optimistic failure. All it did was make people throw up their names and go elsewhere and do something other than fish for trout.

The rules were poorly written, redundant, and frankly boring. Reading it could put an insomniac to sleep. Pity the person who was color blind. The maps of county lakes and streams had several different colors, and anyone who had a red-green vision problem, was in deep trouble.

Frankly, the rules were stupidly written and have been for as long as I can remember. Apparently the DNR is so broke that those drawing up the rules can’t find a calendar with the proper dates. Need an example. Here are a few being quoted directly from the 2009 Michigan Fishing Guide.

Page 11 under Lake Sturgeon for Black Lake in Cheboygan County: 1st Sat. in February – Sun. following the 2nd Sat. in February.” Say what? There are more, many more.

Page 11 (also for Lake Sturgeon): “1st Sat. in Sept. – Sept. 30.” Does this mean that no one can check the calendar and see which day the 1st Saturday in September is? If it’s important to you, the proper date is Sept. 5.

Page 10 under Bass: “3rd Sat. in June” and “Sat. before Memorial Day – Dec. 31.” Is this a bad case of someone being lazy or what?
Page 10: Washtenaw County for Whitemore Lake (and elsewhere through most of the counties) are map coordinates that most people ignore, such as: (T1S, R5E, Section 32) downstream to (T2S, R2S, Section 2). Couldn’t all of these coordinates be summarized better and are they really needed?

Under the current regulations, some streams have different size restrictions on trout in one area and something else in another. There are numerous types of lakes and a similar number of stream types. Looking at a map that shows these types in different colors looks like a bad color photo of someone’s varicose veins. It’s hard to determine, in some cases, where on set of regulation start and another stops.

If the DNR has its way next year, certain streams types would be eliminated. Is this a step in the right direction? Who knows, but the 2009 Fishing Digest has 47 pages to try and digest. It makes me want to throw up.

Is it really necessary to have so many different rules? Can’t the DNR find someone who can write, or hire someone who can write and edit, and reduce this monstrosity to a manageable size. Cut the thing in half, and the following year, trim it down some more.

Some of the DNR’s regulations are not working and should be trimmed away. A first-year student in journalism school could edit countless lines from the Digest without changing the meaning of a single sentence.

The sad fact is that government-speak has crept into the DNR, and they write these fish laws as if people can’t understand common English. They can, but most people balk at trying to decipher the Lansing legalese.

Sadly, the DNR and the state and its citizens, have fallen on hard times. Now they come, seeking our help in changing their fishing regulations, and it’s time for each of you to stand up and be counted. If you’ve got a gripe, voice your concerns. Be nice about it, but tell them what problems you see with the laws as they are now written.

Make it clear that you want the legal mumbo-jumbo spelled out in simple terms, want the specific dates listed, and remove anything that isn’t needed. I’ve listed a few, and I’m certain you can find more.

Stand up and be counted. Now is the time to speak out, and have some impact on how our fishing laws are written in the future. We need laws that are easier to understand, not more difficult and vague. Let’s have a complete re-do of the Fishing Digest in 2010.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/30 at 08:33 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Clarify Existing Trout Regulations

image

Is it just me? Am I the only angler in this state that feels the DNR’s 2009 Fishing Digest is too complicated, too redundant, too filled with quasi-legalistic jargon, and too boring?

The DNR’s Fisheries Division is, for once, asking the public for input about their annual Fishing Digest. Should you desire to make comments on trout lakes and streams, go to: < >.

Here’s my take on this situation. The DNR has messed around for many years trying to get their fishing digest in order. Along the way, dating back into the 1980s, there have been some atrocious mistakes. In those years, the standard answer was the computer messed up. Folks, computers do mess up but it’s often the result of operator error.

We’ve suffered with the old computer adage: garbage in, garbage out, and in the past it has applied to the DNR. Other times, when things went wrong, the people ultimately in charge blamed subordinates for not editing the copy properly. And then, back in 2000, the DNR decided to copy what neighboring Wisconsin did.

Their fancy new idea was a magazine-size format with maps and charts that told us what we could and could not do. We had to skip from one page to another and to a third page to determine what the trout fishing regulations were for a particular stream or lake.

If anything, this change that we’ve suffered with for nine long years was a lesson in optimistic failure. All it did was make people throw up their names and go elsewhere and do something other than fish for trout.

The rules were poorly written, redundant, and frankly boring. Reading it could put an insomniac to sleep. Pity the person who was color blind. The maps of county lakes and streams had several different colors, and anyone who had a red-green vision problem, was in deep trouble.

Frankly, the rules were stupidly written and have been for as long as I can remember. Apparently the DNR is so broke that those drawing up the rules can’t find a calendar with the proper dates. Need an example. Here are a few being quoted directly from the 2009 Michigan Fishing Guide.

Page 11 under Lake Sturgeon for Black Lake in Cheboygan County: 1st Sat. in February – Sun. following the 2nd Sat. in February.” Say what? There are more, many more.

Page 11 (also for Lake Sturgeon): “1st Sat. in Sept. – Sept. 30.” Does this mean that no one can check the calendar and see which day the 1st Saturday in September is? If it’s important to you, the proper date is Sept. 5.

Page 10 under Bass: “3rd Sat. in June” and “Sat. before Memorial Day – Dec. 31.” Is this a bad case of someone being lazy or what?
Page 10: Washtenaw County for Whitemore Lake (and elsewhere through most of the counties) are map coordinates that most people ignore, such as: (T1S, R5E, Section 32) downstream to (T2S, R2S, Section 2). Couldn’t all of these coordinates be summarized better and are they really needed?

Under the current regulations, some streams have different size restrictions on trout in one area and something else in another. There are numerous types of lakes and a similar number of stream types. Looking at a map that shows these types in different colors looks like a bad color photo of someone’s varicose veins. It’s hard to determine, in some cases, where on set of regulation start and another stops.

If the DNR has its way next year, certain streams types would be eliminated. Is this a step in the right direction? Who knows, but the 2009 Fishing Digest has 47 pages to try and digest. It makes me want to throw up.

Is it really necessary to have so many different rules? Can’t the DNR find someone who can write, or hire someone who can write and edit, and reduce this monstrosity to a manageable size. Cut the thing in half, and the following year, trim it down some more.

Some of the DNR’s regulations are not working and should be trimmed away. A first-year student in journalism school could edit countless lines from the Digest without changing the meaning of a single sentence.

The sad fact is that government-speak has crept into the DNR, and they write these fish laws as if people can’t understand common English. They can, but most people balk at trying to decipher the Lansing legalese.

Sadly, the DNR and the state and its citizens, have fallen on hard times. Now they come, seeking our help in changing their fishing regulations, and it’s time for each of you to stand up and be counted. If you’ve got a gripe, voice your concerns. Be nice about it, but tell them what problems you see with the laws as they are now written.

Make it clear that you want the legal mumbo-jumbo spelled out in simple terms, want the specific dates listed, and remove anything that isn’t needed. I’ve listed a few, and I’m certain you can find more.

Stand up and be counted. Now is the time to speak out, and have some impact on how our fishing laws are written in the future. We need laws that are easier to understand, not more difficult and vague. Let’s have a complete re-do of the Fishing Digest in 2010.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/30 at 08:29 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Day In The Rain

Mind you, it never did rain hard today to make much difference but it did rain on and off all day. My wife and I were were busy liming the soil of a new food plot prior to discing it up three times.

An old-time farmer, and a man who knows much more about farming than I ever will, told me that if a person wants a planting site without weeds, it’s necessary to turn the ground over three times before planting. Each round of plowing cuts up some of the weed growth, and with each consecutive tilling of the soil, more and more weeds are killed. It makes sense to me and certainly beats the cost of Round-Up.

Anyway, our new ground had never been worked before, and it needed some lime to help “sweeten” the soil. So the first tilling of the ground has been done, and lacking the fancy equipment of modern farmers, Kay and I were liming this future food plot ... the hard way. That means by hand, and my shoulders tonight feel like Justin Verlander’s pitching arm probably feels after pitching a long but winning game.

In a word, the right arm and shoulder wasn’t up to pitching any more lime by hand. We probably limed the equivalent of two acres, and that means a good bit of back-and-forth travel to make certain the lime wasn’t clumped up in big clots. Instead, by doing it the old way—by hand—I could make certain that the lime was evenly spread in every spot we covered today.

Kay drove the four-wheeled while I walked behind and broadcast the lime by hand. When that particular spot was covered, we’d move forward to do it all over again. Through it all the rain varied a bit from being a mist to a soft rainfall. At no time did it rain hard, but as we moved along, I could see that the rain was already helping the lime soak into the ground.

Right after the July 4 holiday weekend, my farmer buddy will return with his rig, and turn the soil over again. That will be soil treatment No. 2, and probably after three to five weeks, he’ll do it the third time. At about the same time I plan to make my fall planting somewhere between August 15 and September 1, depending on the prevailing weather conditions.

Is doing all of the donkey work by hand fun? No, it’s not unless a person has a masochistic streak to his or her personality, and feels compelled to inflict more self-induced pain on themselves. Me, I don’t do it because I enjoy t he aches and pains that come with this kind of foot-on-the-ground toil, but like most hobby farmers I can’t afford all the expensive equipment. So the job takes longer, and the aches and pains seem to last longer as each new year passes, but there’s something I enjoy about putting something back into my land.

For many years, I was like many sportsmen still are—takers from the bounty of our land. It look a long time for me to realize that it’s important to put something back into the land. It’s imperative that sportsmen learn that hunting also means helping the game we hunt. A good food plot provides food and nourishment for all the game we hunt, from deer to wild turkeys, and most other critters in-between. If we can help provide more nutritional forage for bunnies, deer, grouse, wild turkeys and other game, we are giving back. We are no longer just takers.

There are no laws that force us to follow this put-back doctrine, but it’s one that sportsmen should consider in the future. More and more land is being chopped apart to provide landowners the opportunity to sell off some land to developers. They come in, pour down cement for roads, and soon another 50-100 acres is under development and that means less land to produce food for wildlife. Sooner or later, the game must move to an area of better forage or die out in that particular location.

This is nothing new in the northland. Anyone who has been around the North Country for 20 years or more has seen the meaning of my words. In the name of profit. people turn good land into an eyesore. Strip malls sprout up where tenants come and go, huge malls emerge and soon learn they no longer are doing the type of business they once dreamed of, and the small subdivisions are becoming the low-cost homes of the North.

Am I against people moving north? I am if they insist on bringing their downstate baggage with them. I’ve lived in the north since 1970, and I’m not a “homer,” I’ve been around just long enough to know that what once seemed like Paradise to me is not the same now as it seemed almost 40 years ago. Is there any answers to the question of too many people crowding into too small of an area?

The answer, in my mind at least, is to put something back. If everyone continues to take, and fail to put something back to help our wildlife in the foreseeable future, there may soon be less and less wildlife for any of us to enjoy. It’s not necessary to put in food plots like I do, but people should become involved in groups that foster the intention of helping our wildlife while protecting our right to hunt.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/29 at 06:40 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

A Day In The Rain

image

Mind you, it never did rain hard today to make much difference but it did rain on and off all day. My wife and I were were busy liming the soil of a new food plot prior to discing it up three times.

An old-time farmer, and a man who knows much more about farming than I ever will, told me that if a person wants a planting site without weeds, it’s necessary to turn the ground over three times before planting. Each round of plowing cuts up some of the weed growth, and with each consecutive tilling of the soil, more and more weeds are killed. It makes sense to me and certainly beats the cost of Round-Up.

Anyway, our new ground had never been worked before, and it needed some lime to help “sweeten” the soil. So the first tilling of the ground has been done, and lacking the fancy equipment of modern farmers, Kay and I were liming this future food plot ... the hard way. That means by hand, and my shoulders tonight feel like Justin Verlander’s pitching arm probably feels after pitching a long but winning game.

In a word, the right arm and shoulder wasn’t up to pitching any more lime by hand. We probably limed the equivalent of two acres, and that means a good bit of back-and-forth travel to make certain the lime wasn’t clumped up in big clots. Instead, by doing it the old way—by hand—I could make certain that the lime was evenly spread in every spot we covered today.

Kay drove the four-wheeled while I walked behind and broadcast the lime by hand. When that particular spot was covered, we’d move forward to do it all over again. Through it all the rain varied a bit from being a mist to a soft rainfall. At no time did it rain hard, but as we moved along, I could see that the rain was already helping the lime soak into the ground.

Right after the July 4 holiday weekend, my farmer buddy will return with his rig, and turn the soil over again. That will be soil treatment No. 2, and probably after three to five weeks, he’ll do it the third time. At about the same time I plan to make my fall planting somewhere between August 15 and September 1, depending on the prevailing weather conditions.

Is doing all of the donkey work by hand fun? No, it’s not unless a person has a masochistic streak to his or her personality, and feels compelled to inflict more self-induced pain on themselves. Me, I don’t do it because I enjoy t he aches and pains that come with this kind of foot-on-the-ground toil, but like most hobby farmers I can’t afford all the expensive equipment. So the job takes longer, and the aches and pains seem to last longer as each new year passes, but there’s something I enjoy about putting something back into my land.

For many years, I was like many sportsmen still are—takers from the bounty of our land. It look a long time for me to realize that it’s important to put something back into the land. It’s imperative that sportsmen learn that hunting also means helping the game we hunt. A good food plot provides food and nourishment for all the game we hunt, from deer to wild turkeys, and most other critters in-between. If we can help provide more nutritional forage for bunnies, deer, grouse, wild turkeys and other game, we are giving back. We are no longer just takers.

There are no laws that force us to follow this put-back doctrine, but it’s one that sportsmen should consider in the future. More and more land is being chopped apart to provide landowners the opportunity to sell off some land to developers. They come in, pour down cement for roads, and soon another 50-100 acres is under development and that means less land to produce food for wildlife. Sooner or later, the game must move to an area of better forage or die out in that particular location.

This is nothing new in the northland. Anyone who has been around the North Country for 20 years or more has seen the meaning of my words. In the name of profit. people turn good land into an eyesore. Strip malls sprout up where tenants come and go, huge malls emerge and soon learn they no longer are doing the type of business they once dreamed of, and the small subdivisions are becoming the low-cost homes of the North.

Am I against people moving north? I am if they insist on bringing their downstate baggage with them. I’ve lived in the north since 1970, and I’m not a “homer,” I’ve been around just long enough to know that what once seemed like Paradise to me is not the same now as it seemed almost 40 years ago. Is there any answers to the question of too many people crowding into too small of an area?

The answer, in my mind at least, is to put something back. If everyone continues to take, and fail to put something back to help our wildlife in the foreseeable future, there may soon be less and less wildlife for any of us to enjoy. It’s not necessary to put in food plots like I do, but people should become involved in groups that foster the intention of helping our wildlife while protecting our right to hunt.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/29 at 06:40 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Living The Impossible Dream,

.image

There is only one good thing about hot weather we’ve had recently. It helps the crops grow, providing we get some rain, and that in turn feeds the critters we hunt during the fall and winter.

The heat puts me into a daydream world where for a time I dreamed of deer hunting. Mind you, in my dream, instead of hot weather, the temperature was a more moderate 60 degrees. A northwest wind was kissing my nose, and I sat 15 feet up a cedar tree 10 yards downwind of where two heavily used deer trails merged.

It’s a spot I’ve hunted for many years, and one where I’ve taken several good bucks. It gets hunted only two or three times during the fall, but whenever I sit there, I see bucks drifting past at a slow pace.

It’s one of those spots located midway between the bedding and feeding areas, and it is in heavy cover. There are only two secure ways in and out of it, and if it is hunted more often, the deer will pattern the hunter rather than the other way around.

As I doze, between innings where the Detroit Tigers should have won but lost last night, my dream has me kicked back in my ladder stand. The stand is rock solid, doesn’t squeak or make any noise, and I watch young fawns and their mother amble past.

This spot is perfect for a northwest wind, and the two trails meet just 10 feet upwind, before the single trail kicks a bit to the left. This gives me an easy quartering-away shot.

The tree has been doctored up a bit. A few low-hanging cedar boughs were cut off a private-land tree far from this stand, and brought into the area for the sole purpose of adding a bit more cover to a perfect tree.

Long before I ever hunted it there was a noticeable gap between boughs that would skylight me. That gap was filled in with cedar boughs, and then two more boughs were placed four feet over my head and across in front of me. Two boughs were lashed in place, and it provided shade from above, and I could draw my bow without hitting them.

More boughs were added behind me, and they were tied in place with twine. The deer always came from behind and to my left. and two more boughs hung down to my immediate left. They were tied in place so I could see past them but the deer couldn’t see me.

The stand was chained in place, and all chain and straps were wrapped in camo-colored duct tape. Two other boughs blocked off my right side, and there was only one place where I could shoot. It was all I needed.

It was slightly to my left and going away. The deer would walk past, never knowing I was there, and seeing the bucks when they were immediately to my left gave me 10 seconds to come to full draw, aim and release when the buck was in precisely the right spot.

The tree stand was camoed so well that over the years I’ve seen several black bears while hunting it. Every bear spotted from that stand was heard before it was seen, and the last one could be heard coming for 50 yards.

The woods were dry and enough alders and a few popple trees were around to litter the ground with leaves. During wet years, the deer and bear came out of a water-filled swamp, sloshing water with every step.

The last bear came in, stood behind my tree, moved slightly to the right of my tree, turned and walked between the tree and the ladder and out into the open. It stood quartering-away at 10 yards, and although I didn’t have a bear tag that year, there is no law against drawing down on a bruin providing you don’t shoot.

I didn’t shoot, but drew twice on that bear without it being alerted to my presence. Deer have never crossed from my right to left side to reach the same location. They walk in a straight line, and two of the bucks I’ve taken from that tree were spined almost directly below me. They died instantly and no trailing was required.

The dream ended as the other team scored again, and a roar went up from the crowd. Detroit’s pitching didn’t help last night. The Tigers lost a game they never could have won.

My dream was short and sweet, and its little tidbits of deer hunting will keep me going until the deer season opens.I’ll soon be counting the days, and it can’t come too soon to suit me

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/28 at 10:30 AM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Saturday, June 27, 2009

High Expectations Lead To Poor Results/

image

Today was a break-in day for Mark Rinckey and I. It would be our maiden voyage for walleyes on Platte Lake with his boat, but we were wondering about the upcoming weather.

The day would begin poorly. First we had to determine if the drain plug was in place or not, and his boat has a drain plug under the floor at the back of the transom on the inside of the boat. One needs the skills of a contortionist, and neither of us are built that way.

Rinckey crawled into the boat, wiggled under the aluminum bar that holds the downriggers and rod holders, twisted his body in what appeared to be a most uncomfortable position, and felt around under the floor boards before he finally found the drain plug. It was solidly in place.

We had some discussion about the merits of having drain plugs on the outside of the boat where they are easily seen, and more to the point, much easier to take out and to view to determine if it is ready to hit the water

We then had to attach the cables from the electric and gas engines to the battery, and see if both were getting juice. They were, but it involved a bit more rolling around on the inside of the boat to make them ready for our first walleye trip of the year. We were still filled with high expectations, but in the back of my mind were some memories of other first trips when everything seemed to be going wrong.

For some reason, the thoughts of earlier first days with a boat came back to mind. There wasn’t a good memory in the bunch.

We continued working on the boat, removed the canvas, hooked up the boat to the towing vehicle and stopped for outboard gas. We filled the tank, and just as we climbed back in the car to leave, some dude pulled in front of us and parked. He started to get out, and we motioned that we were leaving. He moved just far enough forward for us to squeeze through although I feared for the back of the boat or the outboard.

We arrived at the busy launch ramp on Platte Lake off Arborvitae Drive, and the place was packed. Two boats were in front of us, and quickly two boats were behind us, as we made ready to dump Rinckey’s boat in the water. All of a sudden he blurted:

“I left the bottom bouncers home,” he hollered. “I’ll have to drop the boat in and drive home to get them.”

“No sweat,” I muttered, “I got you covered. I brought my bottom bouncers.”

“They may be the wrong size,” he said. “We need one-ouncers.”

“Got ‘em. Relax, we’ll be fishing in 15 minutes.”

Well, it took a bit longer than that but eventually we pushed away from the dock, and headed out into the lake to get away from the dock scene, and to rig our rods. Sure enough, we had the right size of bottom bouncers, and some were even in bright, vivid factory-painted colors.

We rigged up, made three passes in what has always been Rinckey’s walleye hotspot, but today as rain clouds gathered over Lake Michigan only five miles away, those troubling thoughts of other first-of-the-year voyages returned to my mind. We quit that spot, headed east down the lake, found a piece of structure that often produces fish when fished properly. We fished it like the old hands that we were, and the first rain drops began to fall.

We fished a couple of other spots through the rain, and soon learned anew another old adage about the year’s first fishing trip—always take rain gear. Both of us had left ours home. Well, it was bright and sunny we we left home but things quickly change on days like this one.

We ended the day in fine fashion. We drowned a couple of worms, never had a hit, not even from a yellow perch, and succeeded only in getting wet and having to wait in line at the ramp to take the boat out. The Benzie County Sheriff’s Department had more brains than us.

They were blocking the ramp in hopes of putting their boat in the water. Suddenly, the rain came down even heavier for those of us still out on the water, and they wisely stayed in the patrol car and headed somewhere else. It was a good day, but could have been better if we’ve done all of these things in advance ... and remembered our rain gear. Still, it was a great day on the water and there’s always another day to try for walleyes.

Besides, we’ve got all the wrinkles worked out. Next time will be better. Or so we hope.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/27 at 05:55 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Friday, June 26, 2009

Some Hunters Never Miss A Shot

image

It’s been more than 20 years ago, and a buddy and I were hunting mule deer on a ranch in northeastern Wyoming. There were some good bucks on that ranch, and I shot a dandy mule deer as did my friend.

A few of the hunters on the ranch were there to hunt antelope. One was the type of gent who let his mouth overload his back-side, and he told one and all that he never missed a shot. Not once, not ever. He was Dead-Eye Dick, with a major emphasis on the word Dead.

“Is that a fact?” I asked. “I’m frankly in awe of anyone who can shoot game and never miss. Do you mind if I shoot some photos? It would make a good magazine feature, and later tonight I’ll do an interview. For now, I just need some photographs of you in action. Is that OK with you?”

‘You bet, kid,” he said. “I’ll show you how it’s done. I pull the trigger, and the ‘lope hits the dirt. You’ll have to be quick to catch me in action.”

“I’ll try my best to keep up with you,” I said with a tremor of awe in my voice.

We drove around until we spotted several antelope, and the gent said we could get closer on foot. He said the biggest buck would go 15 inches or a bit better, and that is what he was really looking for.

He and I stepped out of the truck, got a roll of ground between us and the antelope, and I dogged his tracks. We covered a quarter-mile, and he cautiously peeked over the hill. The antelope were 125 yards away, staring off toward the pickup truck.

He sat down, got his shooting sticks situated, and I was right behind him. He eased the rifle fore-end into the sticks, snuggled up tight to the rifle stock, peered through the scope, and whispered “watch this, kid.”

I was watching the buck antelope and shooting with a telephoto lens. The buck goat never moved.

“You missed,” I whispered to him.

“Nope,” he said. “He’ll topple over soon.”

“Better shoot again. I can see him through my telephoto lens, and he doesn’t know where the shot came from. You missed him. Shoot again.”

He did, and with the same result. Braggarts are a pain, and I needled him a bit. “Hey, partner, you flat missed that antelope. Try again.”

By now, he’s ticked at me, mad for making a fool of himself by bragging up his ability to shoot once and shoot straight, and he aimed and fired a third round down-range. The antelope wheeled, looked our way, and put it in overdrive.

“Missed again, bub,” I advised. “They’re gone.”

“They will pop up on that rise and I’ll try again,” he said. The rise was 400 yards away, and I knew the antelope would be moving fast.

Up they came, and he shot, and the buck antelope dropped. It was hit in the back end. We jogged over to the poor animal, and he shot it at close range to end its misery.

“Must be tough missing those three shots when you’ve never missed before,” I teased. “You had me going there for a bit. You were just putting the shuck on me, weren’t you? That last shot ruined most of the steaks, but then, antelope are pretty small critters. Right?”

He wouldn’t talk to me anymore, and left camp as soon as we returned. It’s what bragging does to people who can’t back up their words.

A friend of mine missed two bucks one day last year. No excuses, he flat missed. But then, I’ve seen him miss once or twice in the past 25 years, and I’ve also seen him make some almost unbelievable shots.

A buck came out in front of him at over 200 yards during a drive years ago, and he missed that buck with both shots. It crossed a nearby road, and everyone in his hunting party searched for blood or hair. Both were misses, and he’d made those kinds of shots many times in the past.

On the next drive he spotted another buck, shot once, and missed again. They checked for blood or hair, and it was another clean miss.

“Hey, I just plain missed,” he said. “I’ve got no excuses. For whatever reason, I missed, plain and simple.”

I had gone years without missing a whitetail with a bow, and casually mentioned that fact to a friend. Sure enough, that was the night I missed an easy shot. Bragging on one’s skills is never a smart idea,

There is a big difference between these two men. One was a loud mouth and braggart, and the other admitted to his misses, just like I did just now. The first one got needled hard because he had bragged himself into a corner from which there was no escape, and the other man and I deserved the sympathy we got.

We’ve all missed deer in the past, and may very well miss again in the future. It’s a part of deer hunting, and those who say they never miss have either shot very little game or is a pathological liar ... or, most likely, a combination of the two.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/26 at 07:52 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It’s Much Too Hot For Me!

image

When is it too hot for me? The quick answer is ... right now! It’s been too hot all week, and the forecast is for more of the same.

It’s senseless to try patterning whitetails right now. Often they don’t move until just before dark. The bugs are bad in the woods, and deer prefer a cooler breeze to keep the insects at bay.

I’ve been working on my food plots, and just finishing liming the soil today. Two or three more rains will get it all washed into the soil, and then it will be time to fertilize and plant late next month. But it’s hard work doing this by myself in the heat.

The deer, and I’ve seen a few while working up my ground, seem content to lay in a cooler, more shaded location, and then they bide their time until right before dark. If it’s still 85 degrees, they often lay and wait until after the sun goes down before moving far from cover.

I’ve surprised a few deer at close range, and they sit tight until they think you’ve seen them before bounding off.

There is no need for them to move. Food is abundant now, it’s not going anywhere, and kicking back in the shade makes sense for whitetail deer and human alike.

Saw a hen turkey early today with several poults about the size of ruffed grouse, and they were pecking away at insects in the grass and weeds. They too disappeared into cooler areas when the sun starts getting high in the sky about 10 a.m., and they keep their heads down in such hot weather until moving toward their roost sites just before dark.

Think of turkeys for a minute. They are covered with down and feathers, which act as natural insulation. Any endeavor that requires running or flying is avoided. It’s easy for birds to get overheated in broiling temperatures.

Several buddies who have been fishing Lake Leelanau, Lower Herring, Long and Platte lakes, tell me the fishing has suffered during the day. Salmon fishing dwindles as fish head for deeper water, and the last time I was salmon fishing, we were fishing fairly deep water. The salmon were conspicuous by their absence.

Many inland lakes are doing well at dawn and dusk when the air and water temperatures are cooler. Bluegills, crappies and sunfish are hitting live bait like crickets and minnows. Most of the Hex hatches are over, and the fish are having to work for their grocieries.

Some largemouth and smallmouth bass are being caught, and the big-mouth bass hit fairly well on Hula Poppers and Jitterbugs once the sun goes down and the watery crotch rockets are put away for the night.

A slow, stop-and-go retreive works best with surface lures after dark. Cast the lure out, allow it to sit idle on the surface for a minute without movement, and then give a Hula Popper one little tug so it “chugs” once, and let it set idle for another minute. Give it another chug, and retrieve it slowly with frequent pauses. It’s a steady producer of night-time bass.

The Jitterbug is a personal favorite, and to paraphrase Henry Ford comment on his Model A’s and T’s, I don’t care what color the lure is as long as it is black. I cast it out, and let it lay idle on the surface for a minute before taking one or two turns on the reel handle. That takes out the slack line, and makes the lure gurgle for an inch or two.

If the lure is being fished near lily pads, floating rafts, docks and other structure near shore, a largemouth bass will likely hit it. If it doesn’t hit, retrieve the lure at a slow but steady pace so it gurgles all the way to the boat. Experiment with different fishing areas.

Some anglers abhor using bait for muskies, and one technique that I’ve successfully used on several occasions, is to cast a large jerkbait. These lures float at rest, but dive and wiggle when given a rod-tip jerk. The rod tip is pointed at the water, reel up any slack line, and give the lure a jerk. Some fishermen favor the double jerk retrieve; use the rod tip to jerk once, and then jerk it again in rapid fashion. It causes some lures to dive one way on the first jerk, and the opposite way on the second jerk, but I prefer the single-jerk method. Again, I prefer black lures in the seven to eight-inch size. Good spots are near weed beds or off rocky points. Make certain the fish has the lure, and set the hook hard. Be prepared to duck if the fish is not hooked. Removing big needle-sharp hooks from you hide is not fun.

I feel sorry for charterboat skippers in weather like this. They bake their brains in the heat, and the hot sun and reflection off the water can cause intense heat and the possibility of severe sunburn.

I often dip my hat and shirt in the water and put them back on. As the water evaporates, it causes a slight cooling effect. Good luck fishing this weekend, and forget the sun screen or a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a billed cap

For me, it’s just too hot for mid-day fishing.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/25 at 05:57 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Death Of A Great Trout Pond

image

It happened a long time ago. Back in the early to mid-1980s, and as a news item it didn’t draw much attention.

Big deal. So what? Another dam went out and silted up a small stream. Most people didn’t pay it much mind, but it was a catasrosphe for me.

Luzerne Pond sat nestled between low hills at the east end of Luzerne. Many years before, a dam had been built across Big Creek, and slowly the pond took form as water backed up in the valley.

I came to know it back in the mid-1950s, and it long had been a favorite of my mentor, Max Donovan, of Clio, and me. We fished it often from his AuSable River long-boat, and occasional from a canoe, but the river boat provided us with a stable fishing platform with a built-in live-well.

The late 1950s and through the 1960s and 1970s was the highlight of my young fishing career. Me and Max would paddle out onto the pond, and ghost slowly along over the gin-clear water. We seldom fished it during the day, but we prowled its waters relentlessly after dark.

We often fished without lights because no one used a regular boat and motor, but on occasion when the fish forgot to feed, we’d shine a light into the water. The browns were there, the large and small ones, but none wanted to feed.

Max was a hemophiliac, and I supplied the brawn while he handled the brains department. We each started with a fly rod with a No. 4 Muddler Minnow or Doodle Bug knotted to a 3X tippet, and a spinning rod with a minnow threaded on a double-hook rig. One or the other usually produced good sport.

We’d shove off, and within minutes Max would be flailing the water, and and if any browns were to be caught, he often hooked them on the Muddler Minnow. In the darkness of this valley, the air often turned cold once the sun went down and the fishing heated up.

I lost track of the number of browns that I netted for Max, and not quite as frequently, he’d do the same for me. I remember a five-pounder was as big as we ever landed, but once he was convinced of a big fish.

The fly stopped as Max worked it slowly across the surface in stops and starts, and he set the hook. The fly line buzzed off his reel, and soon he was down into his backing before I got the river boat under motion. We slowly caught up, and out went more line.

“What do you think?” Max asked. “Should we shine a light on him?”

“I don’t think so, Max, not yet,” I offered. “You know a sudden bright light really fires them up. Fight him as long as possible, and when it is close enough to the boat to net, we’ll light him up and take a good look.”

Max fought hard, and it never broke water. After what seemed to have taken 30 minutes, the bulldogging bruiser was on the surface less than 10 yards away.

“I figure its one of those big hook-jawed browns we’ve seen occasionally,” he muttered, now carrying the fight forward.

“Could be, Max, but he hasn’t splashed around on the surface,” I said. “It’s not fighting like any brown trout either of us has ever caught. Get him a few feet closer to the boat, and I’ll turn on my head lamp.”

The boat would move sideways a bit, and Max couldn’t take it any longer. “Light him up,” he yelled.

I picked up the net, flipped on my bright head lamp, and six feet away was a big beaver. The light hit him, and we could see the No. 4 fly hooked into his hide, and he wasn’t happy to see us.

The beaver slapped his tail on the water, dousing both of us, and then dove under the river boat, and the leader broke. “Great fish, Max,” I said. “Too bad you lost him.”

Another time a brown bat nailed his fly as he was making a back-cast to dry out his fly, and we got him unhooked without having to handle the bat. It flew away into the darkness, and we were happy to see it gone.

Our nights often were filled with prolonged struggles with fly-hooked browns, and when the flies failed, we’d toss minnows and work them slowly through the water. The browns were beautiful, well marked fish, and often we had the pond to ourselves.

Then, one day the Luzerne Pond Dam went out in a spring freshet, and the dam was never rebuilt. What we had known as superior trout habitat was nothing but mud flats with the stream still flowing through the middle.

Such spots were an item of great importance during my youth, and until I was about 40, and when it went, I shed a silent tear for what had been and what would never be again. Gone were the big and small trout, and one suspects many of the browns found their way down Big Creek and into the AuSable River east of Mio.

Max passed away a few years later, and now, well over 20 years later it is impossible to drive past Ma Deeter’s where a sign still stands stating: This is God’s County, Please Don’t Drive Through Town Like Hell.

I never do but still recall fondly those earlier nights. Now it is like a wake for what had caused the death of a brown trout pond of legendary proportions, and knowing full well I’d never see its likes again except with my mind’s eye.

It’s easier to remember it in its prime than to remember the day when the damn dam broke, and all of my childhood and much of my adult trout-fishing dreams died with it.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/24 at 03:21 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fish Hard After The Hex Hatch Ends

image

It’s almost time for the big brown trout to turn on after sundown. It happens this way almost every year once the Hex hatches ends. Gone may be the blanket hatches that people love but what makes brown trout real picky.

It’s really more fun to fish when a light hatch comes off. There are just enough bugs on the water to keep a nice brown sipping flies off the surface.

The night may turn hot and close, and silent daggers of heat lightning dance across the blackened sky. Everything is silent except the murmur of the river current tugging at your legs or gliding with a soft hiss under the riverboat.

If you are placed just right, and are tossing just the right fly, sometimes from out of nowhere comes the rapier-like strike of one of the rivers biggest brown trout

There are people who fish only after dark, and although I do fish during the day, there’s something about casting a big streamer, large floating bass bug or even a more colorful streamer to these big fish. Some folks also enjoy working a hole or run with a four-inch Rapala or Rebel and fairly stout monofilament.

One of the most exciting methods is to use big streamers. Large Muddler Minnows, Buzzsaw and other hefty flies are cast quartering across and downstream, and literally ripped through the water. You’d think this type of hard-and-fast streamer fishing would spook a wary brown trout. Often, it’s just the opposite.

I’ve talked with several people who have stood under a full moon or a partial moon, made their cast, and began stripping line hard. They tell of large wakes that follow the streamer, and on occasion, those big trout will hit and nearly wrench the rod from your hands.

Four of us floated the AuSable River one evening, and one of the anglers hit a big fish. The take sounded like someone had thrown a big dog in the river, and the fish ripped off line, rolled on top several times, headed upstream and back down, and there was no controlling the fish. It slipped the fly after nearly 10 minutes of nonstop action.

This is no place for dainty rods and light tippets. Anglers who practice this method (it also works during the day) know just how much work it is. The constant casting, and stripping of line, becomes very mechanical and tiring but some people can do it all night. Not me!

I used to fish the Sturgeon River years ago when it held some good trout, and I liked a big, white, hairy deer-hair mouse. It stuck out like a big sore thumb on a dark night, and even I could see it. I’d cast across and downstream, mend the line to obtain the longest drag-free drift as possible, twitch it once or twice, and then cast again.

The neat thing about this method was the strikes were visible, and very few fish under four pounds were hooked. The largest that I recall was caught by the late George Yontz, who owned the old Hillside Cabins just north of Wolverine many years ago. His fish, if my memory holds true after all these years, weighed 13 1/2 pounds. That’s a big brown, regardless of where it was caught.

The Sturgeon River browns, back then, were either silvery fish that ran upstream from Burt Lake or the great golden-brown fish with big hooked jaws and a kype as big around as the smallest joint on your little finger. Some kypes were an inch to nearly two inches long. The males could get pretty ugly with a nasty looking kype, and night fishermen accept what they get.

One other method was practiced on these big fish. Casting a medium-sized Rapala or Rebel quartering across and downstream, and let it dive and wiggle on a tight line. Once the current carried the lure across stream until it would hang directly below the angler on a tight line, the rod tip would be jiggled two or three times.

Some walleyes were in the river at times, and it was easy to determine which fish was hitting the lure. A walleye would tap-tap-tap the lure as it swung in the current, and hit softly once it finished its drift. A big brown trout would hit the lure hard, and a strike could come at the end of the drift or as soon as the lure hit the water.

The trick, regardless of which method was used, was to wade down two or three stretches of river in the daytime. Learn where it was safe to wade and where it wasn’t. Getting caught in too much current, or tripping over submerged debris, could make a night fishing adventure far more interesting than most anglers prefer.

Hot, muggy nights were usually the best. The mosquitoes would be on the prod, and any exposed skin would provide a meal.

But hooking a six-pound or larger brown trout after dark is just about as much fun as a fisherman can have while wearing waders. There were a few very special nights where two or three big fish were landed, but most people considered hooking one big fish a rare treat.

Put them back, and try for each one again next year. Those big fish aren’t very good to eat, and they deserve to be caught more than once. Fooling the fish, and enjoying the battle, is what brings us back year after year to probe those holes and runs for big fish after dark.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/23 at 05:30 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Monday, June 22, 2009

Try These Rivers For Smallmouth Bass

image

There are many wonderful smallmouth bass rivers in this state, and for the most part, most are under-fished. The truth is that most people chase salmon and trout in the Great Lakes, and these little great game fish are untouched in many streams.

I remember the Cass River from many years ago when I once prowled it severa; times a year. I’d look for the riffle water and deep holes or runs upstream, and a small sinking Rapala was deadly medicine for smallies. Cast the lure to the head of the deep hole, crank it hard to get it down and wiggling, and if a smallie was home, he’d jumped on the lure like it was his last chance at a good meal.

Then there is the Grand River downstream from Lansing. I floated it one day several years ago with retired DNR fisheries biologist Ned Fogle, and he exposed me to another hotspot. Beetle Spins and other small spinnerbaits, and crayfish imitations produced when moved slowly along bottom in the slow-moving water. They turned on the fish.

Fogle caught one fish about four pounds, and I took another a bit smaller, but there was steady action most of the day. It was hot and bright, and we found the fish on the dark side of the big rocks. Any lure that landed nearby was fair game, and we danced with smallies all day.

The upper Flint River (upstream from Flint and Mott Lake) produces the occasional 4-pound smallmouth bass. I fished it years ago, and although it can be rather tough fishing in some areas, it has the capability of producing dandy bronzebacks.

Another Flint River hotspot can be found in the lower river, downstream from Montrose, where anglers can fish the rocks, deeper holes and runs. This stretch, downstream almost to Saginaw, also produces some good walleye fishing as well.

One of my favorite rivers for smallmouth bass is the Thunder Bay, upstream from Alpena. It may not be the best river for smallmouth bass but it certainly has the potential to produce some big fish.

The last time I floated the river in a canoe, there was an assortment of Jig-a-Do, Beetle Spins, crawfish-type lures and small spinners in my tackle arsenal. It didn’t make much difference what we used. If the lure landed near a good fish, and we put the proper speed on the lure to bring out its action, they would hit. We caught fish to 4 1/2 pounds, and I lost a bigger fish on a jump.

The Muskegon River downstream from Croton Dam, especially in the rocky areas, may be one of the finest smallmouth rivers in this state. It’s not uncommon, on an all-day float, to land 40 to 50 smallies. I’ve never caught one over four pounds here, and most of the fish will weigh about two pounds, but they smack a lure hard and jump often.

There are some seldom-fished hotspots on the St. Joseph River, above the Berrien Springs dam, where some dandy smallies live. They seem to see very few anglers or lures, and if you hit the right holes and runs, it’s possible to find a brand of smallmouth action the likes of which few people have ever experienced.

The Detroit River is well-known for its smallmouth bass action, and I’ve caught them from Windmill Point down to Celeron Island at Lake Erie. A large number have been caught on the Michigan and Ontario sides. Good bets include the Hiram Walker plant and the Cow Pasture area, and just upstream from the Ambassedeur Bridge along the Canadian shore. Try the rip-rap near Joe Louis Arena, near Windmill Point, and downstream in the Trenton Channel on the American side. The fish are where you find them, and it pays to prospect for fish.

The Upper Peninsula offers wonderful bass fishing in many locations. Try the St. Marys River, Manistique River and Menominee River between the dams. The Ford River that empties into Lake Michigan southwest of Escanaba can be a good bet, as is the Whitefish River near Gladstone.

River smallies are grand game fish. They hit bait or lures hard, jump often, and once whipped, come to be landed with fire in their eye. They are one of the state’s most highly respected and overlooked game fish, and here’s hoping you can give them a try this summer.

Hit it right, and you won’t regret making this decision.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/22 at 06:55 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Spend Some Time Scouting Now

image

A drive to Grand Rapids 10 days ago proved one thing. I can still spot good deer cover. The deer were moving that day last week, and every location we saw from the US-131 expressway that should hold deer, did.

Deer land has a very special look to it for those accustomed to looking at quality deer habitat. Most savvy hunters can spot it at a glance, size up its potential, and not be very far off the mark.

A buddy of mine and his wife used to travel all over North America by car, and they would be zipping down the highway on whining tires, and look at the land out the window. They could spot the funnels, saddles, field corners, transition zones, and other spots where whitetails travel.

A hunter must be able to take a look at an area, and quickly size up where deer should travel. There is a knack to it, and it requires some years of intense study to do it accurately.

Granted, only about 10 days remain of June, and then there is July, August and September to go before the October 1 archery deer season opens. Constant practice can help a hunter increase his hunting odds.

Hunters who head into large blocks of unfamiliar territory would be well served with a variety of different tools. Aerial photographs are wonderful because they show different terrain features that often are not visible from ground level.

Topological maps that show elevation changes, fields, swamps and wooded areas are wonderful. Combine these two major tools with plenty of boot leather, and it’s not that difficult to find a hunting hotspot providing you have a compass and/or GPS, and know how to use them.

There is a genuine need for hunters to learn where other land features are located because deer often relate to them in a number of different ways.

Here is a short course on some landmarks, what they mean to the local deer population, and how deer utilize them on a daily basis.

*Creek bottoms - Creek and river bottoms are often thick with brush, and deer often follow them when traveling from one area to another. If the creek or river is bordered by tall marsh grass, it’s easy to find where deer move through the grass to cross the water. Locate a stand site nearby and downwind.

*Crop lands - Deer often have several routes into or out of a feeding field. Watch from a long distance, and pinpoint the morning and evening trails being used. Set up at the field edge if you place value on great visibility, but set up back in the woods if you really want an earlier shot at a good buck.

*Drainage ditches - Drainage ditches are common in flatland farm country. Look for places where deer move from a swamp or tag alder thickets, into a nearby ditch, and travel down the ditch rather than across an open field. When it comes time to hunt, set up around a bend in the ditch, and downwind of the deer and don’t move. Often the deer can be heard coming, and a draw can be made.

*Field corners - There is something good to be said about field corners. Deer love them. If there are four field corners, perhaps only one will see continuous use. Deer will move through such areas while remaining back in the heavier cover, and they can study the fields before moving out. It’s up to you to find the best spot in the best corner.

*Funnels - A funnel is where fairly heavy cover necks down from a bedding area, and it funnels deer through it to another patch of heavy cover. Look for narrow fingers of woods that connect one or more area, and many funnels will parallel a fence line although a fence isn’t required to be a funnel.

*Marshes - Marshes are low-lying areas, and often are surrounded by marsh grass and they may contain water. Size up any marsh, and the odds are great a hunter will find a trail leading into and out of it. Often, they are small and the only place for a stand is some distance away. Marshes often hold good numbers of deer, and often big bucks will frequent thick marshes.

*Ridges - Every hunter knows what a wooded ridge looks like, and over the years I’ve learned that many deer travel just below the crest of a ridge. It keeps them from being sky-lighted. Use that knowledge in your favor.

*Saddles - A saddle is a flat spot along a ridge, and such flats often provide good numbers of oaks in some areas. Other times, especially in northern areas, the saddle may hold pine trees. Christmas tree plantations often are placed in such locations. Game trails always pass through the edges of a saddle, and locating these from the air is the best bet.

*Swamps - Most swamps in this state are ringed by cedar trees and/or tag alder thickets. Some of the best cedar swamps to hunt are those with water and the occasional dry marsh hummock. A deer will wade through a swamp, and may loiter for hours in the water, especially if it feels necessary to avoid detection. Find a slightly high spot deep in a swamp or a muskrat house or dry hummock where deer can bed down. Determine their approach to it, and get set up. Often these animals will be very close when the shot is taken.

*Tag alder runs - There are other types of terrain features that deer prefer, and we will touch on them in the future. Tag alder runs can be dry, damp or wet, but the twisted trees provide excellent deer cover. A big buck with heavy antlers can navigate a tag alder run with ease while you and I have difficult getting through. Learn where bucks exit these runways, and wait for them there.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/21 at 07:18 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I Like Close Bow Shots

image

There is little doubt about my love for bow hunting. It is a driving force that carries me through the months of January through September.

And one thing stands out when it comes to bow hunting. I don’t care whether I’m hunting bear, caribou, deer or whatever the other wild game may be, I want a close shot. I have nothing against those people who delight in taking 50-yard shots with a bow.

It’s not something I can do. My weak and oft-operated eyes provide only a limited distance of decent vision. Note that I didn’t write good vision. The “decent vision” part means 15 yards or closee. Good vision, in my case, means 10 yards or even closer than that.

There’s the mechanics of my vision problems, and that is what is acceptable for me. I could probably hit a deer and kill it at 20 yards, but the operative word for all of this is “close.” Most of my deer are shot at six to 10 yards. A few in recent years have been taken out to 15 yards, and the King of the swamp could stand at 22 yards, quartering-away, and I wouldn’t shoot. It’s just too far for me.

There is another thing about hunting and taking close shots that turns me on. It’s the very close proximity to wild game that trips my trigger. The closer the game, the more of an adrenalin rush comes over me and the more challenge there is to not be spotted as my bow is drawn and it’s important to play the wind to avoid being winded. Getting close to game, and succeeding with a killing shot is the epitome of what the hunt means to me.

This goes far beyond just the killing stage. It requires a great deal of skill and will power to remain motionless and silent. This means picking your hunting spot wisely, putting up a stand in the right location, not hunting it too often and being able to control your nerves and still make a good shot.

Back about 1971 when I first began bear hunting it was illegal to hunt from a tree. My stand was always on the ground, and usually within six to 10 yards of the bait. My first bow-killed bruin was taken at a distance of six feet. Many of my other bow kills were made at distances of 10 yards or less. If you think deer are jumpy, try hunting a bear that has been hunted before.

I’ve sat on the ground with bow in hand, and had bears come in, circle the area and sit down behind me at five or six yards. A hunter facing the bear’s normal travel route, can’t turn, draw, aim and shoot at a bear behind him. One animal I knew was there sat behind me for 10 minutes, and it never did go to the bait. It would have weighed about 400 pounds.

There have been a number of whitetail bucks I’ve taken over the years that were shot at distances of 10 feet. Admittedly, that is a bit extreme but the animals got within 10 yards quickly, wouldn’t turn, and moved much closer before turning slightly to avoid my ground blind. I simply hold my draw, and wait for the animal to turn and offer a high-percentage shot. If it’s not broadside or quartering-away, no shot is taken.

Is the “close” technique for you? Probably not, but most of my hunting is done at close range out of necessity. It’s important for me to allow the animal to get close or I might not get a shot. The glaucoma that has plagued my eyes for 25 years makes taking close shots a necessity. I enjoy watching deer, and do it often, but once in a while every year I decide to shoot a doe if I can’t find a truly decent buck to hunt. I reached the end of shooting little bucks many years ago, and now prefer taking a nice animal with some mass, a minimum of eight decent points, and I look for 3 1/2-year-old bucks ... or older.

What works for me may fail miserably for you. Such extreme measures have been forced upon me by advancing years and loss of some vision. It’s not all fun and games, but it keeps me going and lets me get out in the woods. That, my friends, is what I want and need.

A buck or doe is secondary to just being there.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/20 at 06:25 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Joys Of Hunting Over Pointers

image

Fritz, my German Shorthair pointer, was casting back and forth across a stubble field over 30 years ago. Nothing fast or fancy, but his stubby bobbed tail was wiggling and that meant he was getting birdy.

The dog had a vacuum cleaner for a nose, and he always worked the wind and made certain he was between heavy cover and the bird. This old ringneck pheasant had cackled several times that morning, and we were a team: he was old enough to know what I wanted and how to deliver it.

The sun was just up on the eastern horizon when Fritz pinned one of the nearby roosters at the corner of an open field. The bird had run out of cover, and the dog was rock solid on point with the ringneck only 10 feet away.

“Whoa, boy, easy now, whoa-a-a,” I said, moving in front of the quivering dog. He was a bit off-balance on a slightly sloping hill, and the rooster was a bit downhill of the dog.

The gaudy rooster lifted into flight with a raucous cackle, and I swung on him at 30 yards, and with one shot the bird fell to the ground. Fritz made a perfect retrieve, looked up at me, and I waved for him to start hunting after a pat on the head.

That pointer and I teamed up on countless roosters back in those halcyon days when pheasants were quite common game birds in Michigan’s southern counties. He would hunt with anyone, and some of the older neighbor kids would come to borrow him if I was unable to hunt.

The joys of pointing dogs was something I learned many years ago. Name the breed, and I’ve hunted over them at one time or another. Some of the key moments of my upland bird hunting career has come while following the wanderings of a fine-hunting pointer.

I’ve thrilled to the off-balance points, the birds that hold off to one side of the dog that results in a rather lopsided point, and some of those times when the conditions are just right and the pointer does his thing from 20 to 30 yards away.

It never ceases to amaze me what a good bird dog can teach a hunter if that person only pays attention. I’ve watched dogs work a field, hesitate for a moment, and continue to comb the field for scent. Suddenly, after long minutes without finding a bird, the dog slams into a point as stiff and rigid as a stone statue in the local park.

There’s just something about a pointer that makes me smile. Miss a bird, and some of the better pointers look back as if to say “how could you miss such an easy shot.” Other dogs seem to take the frequent or occasional miss in stride. It’s those dogs that look at you after a miss that always make me wonder what is going through that dog’s head.

Once Fritz was gone, I decided not to buy another hunting dog. I was constantly on the road in those days, chasing stories for the outdoor magazines. I knew that to own another dog would mean the animal would be subjected to languishing in its kennel most of the year.

That’s wouldn’t be fair to a good dog. It was easier to hunt with otherpeople who did own a good pointer.

I hunted once with the honorable Charlie Elliott, a common name among readers of Outdoor Life magazine. Charlie was in his 70s back then, and the two pointers combed through the pea fields and in nearby low cover for quail, and it didn’t take us long to find a covey.

“Go get ‘em,” Charlie said, and I had just stuffed two 12-gauge shotgun shells into my new Winchester 101. I walked in front of the lead dog as the other pointer backed him, and both were as motionless as if cast in marble. A covey of quail went up, and I knew enough not to try flock shooting.

I spotted one quail scooting off to the left, swung on it, shot and the bird fell. Next the shotgun caught up with a late-flushing bird heading off to starboard, and I swung through the bird and dropped him at 35 yards.

“Nice shooting,” Elliott said. Little did he know that those two shots were the first out of my new shotgun. The compliment was graciously delivered, and accepted. Elliott then proceeded to give me a sound lesson in shooting quail birds.

There have been grouse, pheasant, quail and woodcock hunts, and often the dogs of choice were pointers. Some are as flashy as a new movie star, and others are old and dependable as well-trained dogs should be.

It’s not the game birds that make the hunt for me. It’s the joys received by watching good pointers work the cover like a well-oiled machine.

They have a job to do, and of late, they handle their assignment far better than I handle mine. What these pointers don’t know is that over 58 years of bird hunting with dogs, it’s watching fine dog work that pleases me most.

Shooting a bird is anticlimatic to a wonderful hunt.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/19 at 05:24 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Give Your Kids Your Time

image

The most precious thing we can provide our children and grandchildren during their formative years is our time. And this summer would be a great time to start doing it.

I raised four children. Two girls, two boys, and I love them dearly. I spent many days each month with them when they were young. Did it pay off? It did, and in many ways.

I broke my back in 1970 and again in early 1971, and my kids ranged in age from five to one. I was home every day for more than a year recovering from those injuries. I made their breakfast, got ‘em dressed and ready for school, made their school lunch, saw them onto the bus, and made dinner in the evening. Cleaned house during the day, and included them in all of my activities.

I was stuck at home, wanting to fish and hunt but it was impossible. Getting around was a time consuming task as I learned to walk again. So we did some outdoor things together near house.

My back improved a bit, and we could go fishing on a nearby pond. We could sit on the edge of the road shoulder, watch our bobbers and catch wee bluegills and sunfish. I used that time to teach them about panfish, and why we were catching so many little fish. The fish were small and stunted because there were too many of them, and our catching fish and taking them home would help the other fish grow.

I found a low spot in a cornfield one fall where water stood between the rows, and I watched ducks pitch into the corn. I hobbled back through the corn after getting hunting permission, found the puddle of water and flushed a dozen mallards. I returned with my German shorthair, a 12 gauge pump shotgun and some No. 6 lead shot, which was still legal to use back then.

The birds were deliberately flushed again, and my brother had carried in a wood box for me to sit on. Ten minutes later the birds returned, and I would shoot two for my dog to retrieve, and then hobble back to the car. I always saved the cleaning process until the kids got home from school, and then taught them about ducks. I pointed out how iridescent the colors were of a mallard’s wing speculum. They would hold the bird at different angles to the sunlight, and see the loveliness as the sun highlighted the feather colors.

A rooster pheasant that drifted too close to my back fence, and was pointed by my dog and shot by me, provided them with another anatomy lesson and a study about the beauty of rooster pheasant feathers. They always had one or two of the long barred tail feathers on the walls of their bedrooms. It was kind of neat for me and them.

We’d study the night sky, learn about the constellations, and I’d point out visible planets that looked like stars. We often watched for shooting stars, the kids would wish on a star, and once on an especially cold and still winter night, we got bundled up and I showed them the Aurora borealis (northern lights) during the winter. They watched the flickering color changes in the northern sky, and oohed and aahed more than at a fireworks display.

We discussed the role of fishermen and hunters, and how these pastimes helped humans keep animals, bird and fish populations in line with their available food supply and within bounds of their habitat needs. They were taught about what each one ate ... and what eats them. They learned that wildlife stay alive by being fit and strong, and capable of taking care of themselves.

They sat with me in the winter, and wondered why does would chase their fawns away and not let them feed, and were told that it’s part of nature’s way. It ensures that only the strongest survive, and nature takes care of the others in a harsh manner.

They learned at an early age that Walt Disney’s Bambi and other anthropomorphic adaptations were so far from reality as to be unbelievable. They had seen that movie, had watched how Bambi’s mother “talked” to her. They quickly learned that animals and animal life is far different in real life than in the movie. I didn’t have to try to influence their opinion: they were smart enough, even at five to eight years of age, to know the difference.

We fished and hunted together. I gave of my time, perhaps life’s most precious commodity, to teach my kids about fishing, hunting and the outdoors. My intent was not to influence them one way or the other but to teach them some of life’s greatest pleasures can be found outdoors. The choice of whether they would fish or hunt would be theirs to make.

Now, of my four children, only one hunts. All but one fishes, and although two of the four now live in Florida, they have nothing against fishing or hunting. If we lived closer, I suspect they would fish and/or hunt more now than they did as youngsters.

Whether they fish or hunt is not the point. What is important is they have nothing against either pastime; they choose, because of family constraints, not to go.

We’ve taken grandchildren who live nearby fishing and hunting, and now I have two great-grandsons. Some of my proudest moments came about with my grandkids.

I spent several days teaching one grand-daughter how to fly fish, and watched her catch trout. One grand-daughter shot a nice gobbler about 10 years ago, and I featured her in a story for The Detroit News. Two grandsons have shot deer, and one was sitting beside me in a blind several years ago when he shot his first deer with a rifle.

It’s such times that are fondly remembered. It brings us closer to our children and grandchildren, and it’s fun watching them accomplish something on their own with little more than caring advice from the old man. I feel giving of ourselves in this way is how we will perpetuate our favorite sports.

Time stands still for no man (or woman), and time spent with our children and grandchildren may be some of the finest days of our lives. And, as they age, they will remember those lessons learned as a youngster, and pass them along to their children and grandchildren.

And that, good friends, is one secret to happiness in this life.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/18 at 05:28 PM
{links] TrackbacksPermalink
Page 1 of 3 pages  1 2 3 >