The art of hunting is the key to success in the consumptive sports

Friday, January 09, 2009

Where An Arrow Or Bullet Goes Is Most importantl

Years ago there was an ongoing feud between the legendary Outdoor Life firearms and hunting writer, Jack O’Connor, and another equally popular gun writer, Elmer Keith.

Keith touted the large heavy-caliber rifles and handguns while O’Connor cited more moderated rifles like the .270. Jack urged readers to properly sight in their firearms, and to choose a bullet appropriate for the animal being hunted.

Keith, on the other hand, believed in shooting heavy bullets from a mini-cannon. Back and forth they went, and there were many O’Connor fans then and his influence continues to live on. Keith wasn’t a very big man, but he wore a cowboy hat big enough for two people, and he preferred his handguns and rifles to be a part of his “big-bore” theory.

O’Connor passed away first, and some feel he was trying to make up what he and Keith had lost through their constant bickering.  Both were capable writers, and although O’Connor had been a professor, I’ve read a few raw examples of Keith’s prose. He knew his firearms and ammo, but many an editor labored long and hard on his words.

The “big-bore” theory that Keith espoused is a bit similar to broadheads with big blades and lots of weight. Some hunters favor a head weighing 165 grains or more, and sporting four or five blades.

I follow O’Connor’s choice of accuracy and putting the broadhead or bullet where it is supposed to go. The larger and heavier arrows and broadheads are more difficult to tune and to make fly where they are supposed to go.

Where Keith’s heavy bullets lumbered along, the same is true with the heavy shafts and broadheads. If it hits something, there will be plenty of damage, but it may not immediately kill the deer.

Conversely, even though I don’t recall O’Connon ever writing a story about hunting with a bow, his philosophy stressed accurate shot placement and a bullet that would do the job. He saw no need for a 300-grain bullet on an antelope or deer hunt.

My argument follows somewhat the same lines. The arrow should have a flat trajectory, and the hunter should be able to place the arrow and broadhead in the precise location where it will do the most damage.

Bullets kill through massive tissue and organ damage, and the kinetic energy of a properly constructed bullet striking the animal in the right spot represent a major advantage. However, if the archer places a sharp broadhead through a vital organ, there is very little kinetic energy. I’ve shot deer with a two-blade broadhead, and have them slice right through and the animal would die where it stood.

Arrows and broadheads kill game by cutting through arteries, capillaries and veins, creating heavy bleeding. If the broadhead cuts through a vital organ, it results in a massive blood loss that kills quickly.

There isn’t much difference between Jack O’Connor’s philosophy of killing game and mine, other than he chose to use a rifle, and most often a .270, while I choose a 100-grade broadhead with two blades.

It’s not so much the size of the broadhead or the bullet used. What obviously is far more important is shot placement. A deer shot in the rump with a huge bullet or a large broadhead is going to run off.

Hit that same animal in the heart and lungs with a small, medium or large bullet or broadhead, and you’ll collect the animal. Make a poor hit, and the chances are it will get away.

And, unlike Keith and O’Connor and their verbal dust-ups, there can be no argument with this philosophy. It’s not a matter of how big it is but a matter of accurate shot placement.

Do it right, with bow or rifle, and the animal dies.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/09 at 12:30 PM
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Deer Got Revenge


The old myth about outdoor writers was we were rough, tough, hard to bluff, and knew what we were doing. The last two were really the only ones that were partly true/.

In days of old, when outdoor writers were bold, some folks perpetuated themselves, becoming legends in their own mind. Most came to grief who could talk the talk but couldn’t walk the walk.

Last night I proved that your writer isn’t so tough. I was laid low by a doe.

Kay shot a plump doe. Me, and my buddy Jeremy Castle, and a young lad went to track the doe down. All we had to do was follow the Game Tracker string, and the boy even volunteered to field dress the animal.

Here’s where I reveal a weakness. It’s not one I’m ashamed of but it’s one that can cause me grief. Believe it or not, with well over 250 deer to my credit over more than 50 years of hunting in Michigan and about 30 other states and two Canadian provinces, I am allergic to deer hair. The hair on a deer causes me severe distress when cleaning or skinning an animal, and I take certain precautions.

I take a Benadryl, an antihistamine, and then five minutes later, a huff of Albuterol is sucked deep into my lungs and held there. It’s a time-honored remedy that has been as much a part of my hunting gear as my bow and backpack.

A Benadryl was swallowed, and I walked to the car and my back pack to get my rubber gloves, a sharp knife and my inhaler. Someone said something to me, as I pulled the rubber gloves and knife out, and I answered them.

Guess what. I forgot the Albuterol. It would lead to a lesson I learned, and hopefully keep me from making a similar mistake in the future.

Josh, the young deer gutter, was on the Game Tracker string like a beagle on a hot rabbit track. He soon out-distanced Castle and I. and was standing over Kay’s deer when we walked up. He had his knife ready and was rolling up his sleeves.

“That knife sharp?” Castle asked, and he said it wasn’t too bad. Castle decided to give it several licks on a diamond stone to give some sharpness to the blade, and Josh went to work on the deer. My job was to hold a light where the boy was operating, and hold one deer leg out of the way.

The deer was half gutted out when the first symptoms of asthma grabbed me by the throat. What happens is my throat starts to swell shut, and 10 minutes into this field-dressing session, I was sucking air.

Wheeze, snort and cough, and another wheezing gasp for air. At the same time I’m trying to figure out how to personally build a boot and shoe factory under my butt for forgetting the second half of my anti-asthma remedy.

The deer was finally field-dressed, and it was a 50-yard drag out of the thicket, up a steep hill and out to a dirt road. The other two were dragging the deer as Kay brought the car around to pick us up.

My breathing was become more labored, and it was becoming more difficult to take a breath. Wheeze, snort, cough, spit and wheeze again. I was sounding like an ancient locomotive laboring with a long load to make it up a steep grade.

I was gasping and sucking hard to get air into my lungs, and Kay could hear my wheezing 50 yards away. I got closer to her, and managed to strangle out the words “Inhaler! Front pocket of backpack. Hurry!”

She brought if, and I took a huff deep into my lungs. The medication was held there as long as possible, and within a few minutes my breathing was considerably better. It wasn’t perfect but better than it had been.

I had fought this battle numerous times, but this night’s battle was one of the worst of my life. The deer may have lost its life as a result of a well-placed arrow but he the animal clearly won a big round with me.

Sometimes the deer does get revenge.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/12 at 09:57 PM
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Remembering Why I Hunt With A Bow

imageIt’s only a little more than three months away. That’s when bow season opens, and waiting for Oct. 1 is becoming more difficult by the day. I look ahead to the opener with great anticipation.

I savor the cooler air, the autumn woods and knowing that soon the fall color will cover the entire woods like a paintbrush, and then it will cover the ground like a blanket. Bow season means different things to different people, and there are many blessings in each season and each day afield.

For me, bow hunting means sitting in a tree stand waiting for a buck. Shoot or don’t shoot—that’s always a major decision only each person can answer. Chances are I won’t shoot in hopes of making my time in the woods last just that much longer.

So, one asks, what does the upcoming bow season mean to me? It’s a bonanza of fall colors, ranging from gold through orange, purple, red and a brilliant yellow.

It also means the musty smell of the earth getting ready for winter, and the pungent odor of a passing skunk on a foggy night where visibility is minimal. It means sorting out the soft rustle of falling leaves, and identifying that distinctive sound of a deer moving slowly through dried leaves that crunch like old corn flakes underfoot.

It means continuous daily practice shooting at different angles and elevations with my bow, and taking test shots from elevated stands and at ground level. It’s hard to count the hours spent shooting from a cramped, sitting position to simulate an actual hunting situation. This is a big part of bow hunting, too.

It means fine tuning my bow and arrows for peak efficiency long before the season opener, unpacking, checking and repacking my backpack to make certain everything I may need is there, such as my compass, drag rope, knife, walkie-talkie or a cell phone, flashlight, extra broadheads and a spare spool of Game Tracker line.

It’s said that hunting is 90 percent anticipation and 10 percent participation, and getting ready for the hunt is a major part of our anticipatory sport.

Bow season means more opportunities to watch deer and to judge their reactions to foreign odors, movement and sounds. It means watching bucks, does and fawns at various distances while they eat and travel. It means learning what movements or sounds should not be made while drawing a bow to avoid scaring deer.

October is a month of ecstasy, and obviously something I look forward to with a great deal of fondness. My senses are heightened by being outside after one of the world’s most wary game animals, and I live for this month and worship at the altar of bow hunting.

You see, I bow hunt for many reasons, and killing a deer isn’t the major one. I love venison and shoot deer every year, but the thoughts of tender venison chops and steaks isn’t the only reason I hunt. It’s just one part, albeit a big part, of the overall package.

I hunt October whitetails to avoid the people pressure of other fishing and hunting seasons, and I hunt because it makes me feel good. October is the loveliest of all months, and the chance to hunt deer during the year’s most perfect month, is a major reason why deer hunting is so important to me.

The hunt and the month just feels perfect to me. It’s a shame we must wade through August and September to get there, and doing so only heightens our anticipation level. You’ll have to forgive me, but just thinking about the archery season has me so geeked up it’s probably a good thing I’m in my office chair rather than a tree stand.

I dread the day when deeply felt anticipation is no longer there. That’s the day I’ll know my race has been run, and it’s time to cash in my chips. That is indeed a sad and sobering thought, but like it or not, it is as inevitable as the changing of the seasons.

Which is why it is so important to live and love every day for what the outdoors blesses us with, and for the wisdom to know what bountiful treasures we have. Possessing that knowledge is a gift: share it with a loved one, particularly a child.

Posted by ofieldstream on 06/22 at 12:01 AM
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Friday, June 20, 2008

What is a Bowhunter?

imageThe above title is a question that has often been asked of me, and it’s always a very difficult one to answer. A true bow hunter is a combination of many things, all of which are outstanding, uplifting and good.

A bow hunter is ...

  • A person who revels in nature, loves the outdoors, seeks a difficult challenge, equals the odds between hunted and hunter as much as possible, and who is finely tuned to the ways of the game we seek.
  • One who seeks his or her game on a one-on-one basis, and who strives to get close enough to deliver a quick and certain death from a well-placed arrow.
  • A person who masters accurate arrow placement, and one who spends long hours during spring and summer practicing his archery skills and testing personal mettle against a whitetail buck that is more attuned to its surroundings than we are. This person shrugs off rain, forgets about windy weather, and laughs at a snow storm. Deer hunters hunt deer, and weather conditions are meaningless. We become one with the weather, and use it whenever possible, to our advantage. We need an occasional break.
  • A hunter who thrills to the small things, and takes brief moments each day to savor the wildness of the animal being hunted and the land where such big game live. We don’t live just for the kill; we live to have had the opportunity in this free society to hunt in a well regulated and legal manner.
  • Someone who knows that getting close to game means knowing and playing the wind, studying the habits of deer, knowing how and when to move, and being one with his bow and the land. He or she finds more love in the act of hunting than in the act of killing although the two are ever-entwined and a respect for the game we hunt is most important.
  • One who enjoys the fine feel of a smooth bow, the effortless drawing of the string, the smooth feel of a carbon arrow, and the “whisst” of a arrow leaving the bow. It’s the silent but straight flight of an arrow, and seeing the broadhead hit where we aim.
  • Having the knowledge of deer habits that allow us to defeat the most important protections that deer possess: the sense of a deer hearing the faint whisper of clothing against rough bark; a flicker of movement as a hunter comes to full draw prior to a shot; or the deer’s sense of smell that allow them to pinpoint a careless human presence.
  • More than just someone who takes but gives nothing back to nature. A bow hunter is more than a person dressed in camo clothing with a hunting license in his pocket. We are caring, giving folks, who pursue deer with a passion. We are superb hunters because we must be to get close shots at 15 to 20 yards. We are the supreme hunting predator, and we take pride in our accomplishments without having to brag.
  • It is teaching our children, and our grandchildren, this ancient art of bow hunting. What we do is a time-honored tradition, and it is a way of life for us and for others who will follow the bow hunter’s creed.
  • We, as avid bow hunters, are above-average in our hunting skills. We rely less on luck, and work hard to elevate those hunting skills that allow us to succeed. We hunt, not because our friends do, but because we must. We need to hunt and we must hunt in order to achieve these skills, and it is through long hours of practice that we become proficient.

We are bow hunters, and we are very proud of it.

Posted by ofieldstream on 06/20 at 12:01 AM
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Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened On A Bear Hunt

STONINGTON - Some hunting trips are destined for failure from the git-go. There are certain times in every sportsman’s life when little goes as planned, and outdoor writers are as subject to this unusual phenomenon as anyone else.

A bear hunt nearly 20 years ago is a case in point. It wasn’t that my bear guide hadn’t done his job; his baits had been in place for two weeks, and bruins were coming daily to feed.

imageIt was just the little things that kept going wrong. The trip started out bad and quickly got worse. Anyone who has hunted black bears know how it works. Plan for every eventuality, and things still get messed up.

One problem began by losing two stories off my portable computer as I began preparing for the hunt. I then dropped a hard plastic bow case and cut my finger. I finished loading the car, leaving droplets of blood on everything I touched.

Several hours were spent driving to the Stonington Peninsula east of Little Bay de No from Gladstone in the Upper Peninsula, and the drive was frustratingly slow. Whitetails were on the move, and they constantly darted in front of my car and there were several near misses.

My speed was moderate at best, but the critters acted as if they were possessed by a death wish. Two does narrowly missed becoming a statistic.

I was joined by a photographer who shall remain nameless. His goal was to record on film me arrowing a bear at spitting distance. The pressure was on both of us, and to make matters worse, he had never seen a wild bear in his life.

I hoped to accomplish my lofty goal without making a fool of myself by completely missing the animal. Shooting a bear can be difficult enough without the added pressure of having someone try to capture the moment on film.

Opening day rolled around, and it was cool for Sept. 10. We used a three-wheeler (I hate those things) to drive three miles back into a Marquette County swamp, and I placed the photographer on the ground 20 yards away before climbing into a tree stand overlooking the bait. The collection of doughnuts were 12 yards away, and only 10 feet from a nearly impenetrable swamp.

It dawned on me, and the photographer on the ground, that he couldn’t get me, the tree stand and the bear in the photo from his ground position. Besides that, I was concerned about an approaching bear winding him and blowing our chances. We changed that problem about 10 a.m., and created a newer and perhaps worse problem.

He began to climb into the tree stand and froze halfway up the tree. He told me, in a panicked whisper, that he had never climbed a tree in his life. I climbed up around him, got onto the tree stand and pulled him up. Not being a tree-climbing kid in his youth, he was petrified with fear. He would have to stand the rest of the day while I sat on the edge of the platform, and if or when a bear came, he would shoot photos over my shoulder while I came to full draw and shot at the animal.

In the meantime, two people in one stand meant we were as cozy as ... well, let’s just say we were cozy. My only back support the rest of the day was against his leg which was shaking uncontrollably.

My back ached and he was cold, He shivered and shook in the 70-degree weather, and just before dusk I spotted a bear 70 yards away moving toward the bait. I whispered for him to be motionless and quiet because a bear was coming to the doughnuts.

The bear circled the bait, and the photographer was shaking so hard with his finger on the motor-driven Nikon that he twisted off six shots of the back of my head. The bear evaporated, and 30 minutes later we trudged from the swamp to the three-wheeler.

“Can I drive the three-wheeler back?” he asked. “I’ve never driven one before.”

Warning signals went up. Against my better judgment I agreed, and got on the back. He gunned the engine, went down the bumpy two-track trail and lost control at 10 miles per hour. He started heading for a ditch with four feet of water in it, and I bailed off the back. He buried it in the swamp, and turned to me on dry ground and asked: “What do we do now?”

I told him that I wasn’t going to do anything but he was going to turn off the ignition, put it in neutral, and pull the machine uphill and onto the trail. He said he would get wet, and I agreed that he most certainly would get soaked as a penalty for driving so recklessly.

Eventually he got the three-wheeler up far enough so I could help. I drove us the rest of the way back to our pick-up point without further incident. He was even colder now because he looked like a drowned rat. His teeth were clicking like castanets.

An hour later we bellied up to the guide’s table. Heaping mounds of mashed potatoes and gravy, thick slices of medium-rare roast beef, vegetables and dinner rolls were topped off with apple pie and ice cream.

The photographer had a 15-mile drive back to his motel. I bid him farewell with a stern warning to watch for deer crossing the narrow road. He was urged to drive very slowly and pay attention to the road-side edges.

An hour later he called, and said he was less than two miles from the motel where he was staying when a doe bounded from a homeowner’s yard, crossed the road and he slammed into it at 30 miles per hour. The deer was dead and his car was a mess.

Both headlights were shattered, the grill and front bumper destroyed, the hood crumpled and the front fender looked as if it had lost a duel with a wrecking ball. The radiator was leaking and he was a mess. The photographer was a mental wreck, and asked if all outdoor filming trips offered such problems.

I replied that so far, in my humble opinion, the biggest excitement of all was stuffing my belly at dinner. He didn’t think it was funny when I mentioned that thousands of whitetails are hit each year by vehicles, and it happens to many folks who often drive in deer country. Especially those who drive too fast.

I’m not sure he was convinced that taking photographs of me was much fun. The bears didn’t show, he didn’t get the photos we wanted and a big doe had wrecked his car. But then, some trips are destined for failure.

He learned, on his very first outdoor experience, that animal movements are beyond our control and that Murphy’s Law always applies in the outdoors. It’s just a shame he had to learn that lesson the hard way.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/08 at 10:20 AM
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sell Me Your Fishing & Hunting BooksIt’s no secret that I have a monkey on my back. My Jones (addict





It’s no secret I have a monkey on my back. My Jones (addiction) is a love of fishing and hunting books, and they come to me from many locations and many different people.

Two weeks ago, while fishing Lake St. Clair for walleyes, several muskie books were dropped off at my guide’s house for me. A man who enjoys reading my website was tired of dusting them off, and four more muskie titles found their way into my burgeoning collection.

A week ago, a good friend stopped by, and dropped off a dozen hardcover outdoor books. “They belonged to my uncle,” he said, “and I inherited them. They were taking up space, and I was doing some spring cleaning, and felt the fishing and hunting books should go to someone who wants and needs them and I thought of you.”

I thanked him kindly, offered to pay for them, and he wouldn’t accept any payment. He said his uncle enjoyed them immensely, and when he died, they came to my friend. He found a good home for them with me.

There is nothing mysterious about selling books. I know several book dealers who will buy every fishing and hunting book they can for a quarter each. In a few cases, that may be all they are worth.

But I’m willing to pay more money for a book than any book dealer I know will give. I’m pretty picky about the books and their condition, but if they are in clean and decent shape, those I want I will pay good money for them.

Books are difficult for many people to judge, and they expect a person like me to offer a price. I want to see what I am buying, and will not buy books for 25 cents from you or anyone else. I don’t cheat people.

I expect to pay a fair price, and this is where things get sticky. What is fair to me, may not seem fair to you or someone else. In some cases, my offered price is greeted with a “Pay Up!”

Most people want me to quote them a price, sight-unseen. I can’t do that unless I risk a quarter like some dealers that I’ve known. But it’s hard to tell what I’m buying unless I see it.

I sold a man a decent copy of a muskie book some time ago. I’d seen far better copies, but told him that if I found a better copy of the title, I’d buy it back for what he paid me for it plus a bit more money because the new one I was selling was in much better condition. He found that arrangement most agreeable.

Many people feel that all fishing and hunting books are scarce and worth big money. That is far from being true. Only two of the books I was given by my friend had any value, and I offered to pay him. He was content just getting rid of them.

How much were the two books worth? Good question. One was worth about $15 on the retail market and the other was worth $10. The other 10 books were worth only a dollar or so each, and were very common.

Can you rely on a persons reputation? Of course, and my reputation for fair dealing is widely known. However, paying someone full retail price for a book doesn’t make good business sense. As a rule I pay roughly 50 percent of the fair market value. If you have a $20 book I want, I will pay $10 for it. There must be some mark-up for a dealer or he will soon be out of the book business.

Books in excellent shape are far more valuable, if indeed they are truly scarce, than the same book with a tattered or torn dust jacket. There are some books I do not buy, and those are old and damp-stained or musty books, and I do not buy fishing and hunting books with covers falling off, drink-glass rings or childish scribbling.

Clean and well-kept books are what I’m looking for. I’m interested in books on muskie fishing and turkey hunting, especially if it applies to Michigan turkey hunting. I also buy grouse and woodcock hunting titles, Atlantic salmon and some trout fishing books, some waterfowling titles, and old classic books on either sport.

I’m honest, and I’m fair, and if I buy a book from you thinking it will sell for one price, and I sell it for much more, I’ve often cut another check for the seller. It certainly doesn’t happen on every sale, but it happens juat often enough to make a few people happy.

Spring cleaning has come and gone, and perhaps you are tired of moving books around in the attic, barn, basement, garage or storage shed and want to get rid of it. Contact me at < > and tell me the author’s name, title, and year of publication.

Price the book if you wish or let me know where you are, and leave a phone number or your email address, and we’ll discuss it. If you live fairly close to Traverse City, we could meet and it would give me a chance to look at the books. I’ll buy one book, a dozen or a collection.

Give me a shot at your fishing or hunting books. Talking doesn’t cost anyone any money, and it may lead to some money for you and some books for me. That should make both of us happy. 

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/05 at 02:54 PM
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Memory Of A Sky Lit Up Like Fire


There are many reasons why people hunt deer. For me, shooting a whitetail ranks right down at the bottom of the reason why I take bow in hand, and climb into a tree. I hunt because of an overpowering urge to hunt.

Hunting allows me to see things that aren’t possible while sitting indoors. Hunting is the complete package of powerful human emotions.

Now me, I believe in premonitions, omens, signs and gut feelings. Instincts play an important role in my daily working life, and my thoughts of having a good night on stand one night last year was right on target.

A new spot was needed. The deer didn’t move much better than they had in the previous week, but I saw a few more animals. They also moved much earlier.

The sky was overcast and sullen with clouds the color of pewter. It acted as if a rain was coming. The new and different stand was in a pine tree, and I scrambled up the stand about 3:45 p.m., and sat down.

A doe and button-buck came down the trail, passing just upwind of me and moved off cross-wind and it would have been an easy 15-yard shot at 4 p.m. Thirty minutes later a small basket-rack 6-pointer moved through, following the doe, and I drew on him and then let him pass.

Fifteen minutes later another doe and a pair of fawns moved through, not stopping and not skittish at all. It seemed like a wonderful parade of deer after the past outings.

The sky seemed to gradually lighten as some of the cloud cover pushed off to the east, and I was mentally kicking myself for sticking it out in the previous spot for four days. It goes against my mental make-up to hunt the same stand two nights in a row, but because of memories from the year before, I stuck it out for four days in a row. It’s a modern record for me, and one I won’t make again.

Shortly before 5 p.m. I saw a doe moving fast through the open hardwoods and pines, and she came racing down the trail. She passed 15 yards upwind of me, and everything about her told me that a buck was hot on her trail.

Two minutes later I could hear him coming for 15 seconds before he was seen. It wasn’t a big 8-point, but he was bigger than anything I’d seen in a week. His white antlers gleamed in the late afternoon light, and he was moving fast as he came even with my tree.

I blatted loudly, and the buck skidded to a halt. I dropped the red-dot just behind his front shoulder as he stood, looking around for the sound he had just heard. I held the dot steady, and one ounce more of pressure on the release trigger would have sent the arrow on its way.

The shot was held up, and I slowly eased the bow down as the buck wheeled and headed off into the sunset. The western sky was streaked with a fire-red sky the color of a bruised peach. Streaks of gold and purple shot away from the setting sun, and horizontal layers of black-looking clouds gave the sky a wonderful glow.

I’d had a chance at a decent buck but passed him up because I’d already given a bye to a larger 8-pointer earlier in the season. The sky was a fitting tribute to what I took to be an omen.

The deer seemed to be moving again, and as long as deer run free past my stand, and I am treated to a sunset as glorious as that one, who needs to spend time field dressing a deer?

It seemed far more fitting to bask in the glory of the setting sun. Days like these are too few and far between to do anything to spoil the mellow mood. 

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/03 at 07:20 PM
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Monday, June 02, 2008

Bones Of Contention: Antlers Or Horns?


A windy day always sets me to thinking months in advance of the deer season. If I was a big buck, where would I be laying up or traveling to on a day like this? Sometimes, the answers to such questions can be difficult or nearly impossible to determine.

One thing I thought about today is the common and illogical use by sportsmen of the words “antlers” and “horns.” People often say their buddy shot a nice buck with a good set of horns.

Not only are the two words not interchangeable, but it’s time to set the record straight. Members of the deer family (caribou, deer, elk and moose) have antlers. These bony growths sprout from the skull in the spring, grow all summer, harden in early fall, and fall off in early or late winter. They grow from a bare skull, reach full growth and fall off, all in one year before epeating the process the following year.

Horns are year ‘round growths that continue to grow year after year. Buffalo (bison), muskox and wild sheep are three examples of animals that have horns.

So, to clarify things, antlers fall off but horns continue to grow. The two words are not interchangeable, and show a lack of knowledge.

Back to the antlers. It’s an amazing thing to watch whitetail deer grow antlers. They seem to have bald heads in the spring, and if you see them two or three days later, you’ll notice a change. The antlers grow according to the genetic make-up of the individual animal and the amount of nutritious food they consume.

A big buck begins with small antlers, but as time goes on, the antlers grow up and out, get bigger around, and more points form and continue to grow until they reach their full growth in September. The velvet on the antlers dry, and is soon hanging in strips from the antlers, and then the head-gear is bone hard and white. Animals can breed once their antlers are hard.

Nutrition, age and genetics are key ingredients in the make-up of a whitetails antlers. Most of the nutrition in the early spring and summer goes to fulfill body needs, and any leftover nutrition goes to produce antlers.

Age is a major factor in antler production. It’s virtually impossible for a 1 1/2-year-old buck to have a huge rack with thick, heavy bases, a wide spread and long and heavy tines commonly found on bucks that are 4 1/2 to 7 1/2 years of age. The number of points have nothing to do with a deer’s age. I’ve seen 11-pointers that are only 1 1/2 years old.

The change from one year to the next can be obvious if the deer were fenced in so a person could view them on a daily basis. Some deer grow antlers faster than others but most deer still have velvet-covered antlers on Labor Day. It doesn’t take the animals long to shed the velvet once it is dry.

The type of antler produced is directly attributable to genetics or injury. Many bucks injure their antlers while in the velvet, and like an old bamboo fly rod that rests against a wall for a short period of time, the antlers will take a “set.” This means that an antler bumped hard against a tree limb may be bent downward or upward at an odd angle.

A buck that suffers an injury will often have a deformed antler on the opposite side of the body. A right leg injury often results in the left antler being deformed in some way.

The same is true if a testicle is injured. It can cause a deformity to the antler on the opposite side, and it often results in the growth of a nontypical antler.

One wonders which has the greater beauty? A typical or nontypical rack? Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Frankly, I find loveliness in both types of racks, but a tall and evenly matched set of typical antlers is beautiful. But then, the quirky look of a big nontypical rack is something to behold.

Nontypicals come in all shapes and sizes. Some may have some short kicker or sticker points while the next animal may have one or more drop points. A friend of mind shot a very nice buck with three main beams three years ago, and it was difficult to see the third beam except under perfect conditions.

Call deer antlers whatever you wish. They can be small, large, big, wide spread, high, beautiful, fantastic or whatever adjective you choose. Just don’t refer to whitetail antlers as “horns.”

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/02 at 01:45 PM
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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Superstitious About Fishing & Hunting?


We’ve all seen the antics of baseball, basketball, football and hockey players. Each sport has their own little rituals.

Call the players superstitions if you will. The world is full of baseball players who refuse to step on the first-base or third-base lines or some other bit of foolishness.

Some baseball pitchers won’t shave the day they pitch, and I’ve heard and read of players who feel compelled to pull the right sock on before the left. Ben Wallace seems to wear his hair tight for one game, and big and wide for another. Who knows why.

Others use a certain color of toothbrush on game day while some won’t talk to a reporter if they pitch that day. The world of major league sports is filled with such idiosyncrasies. Some folks would call them superstitions.

We all know not to walk under a ladder ... but why? Then there is the black cat theory, and “step on a crack, break you mother’s back” song sung by girls playing a sidewalk game, back in the old days.

Some of these things border on being compulsive, obsessive or superstitious while others border on doing something based on something that happened in the past.

Years ago, when I fished Cheboygan County’s Sturgeon River, there were no beliefs based on superstition. However, if the fish were in the river, and a distant rumble of thunder rolled across the sky, it didn’t matter where I was at. I was on the move.

I’d make a mad dash for the car, and head for one spot. This certain hole didn’t look like much to me or anyone else, and most people ignored and never fished it, but by chance or luck I learned that if a steelhead was in that hole just before the rain fell, I would catch it.

Why, I have no clue. But it paid off for me so many times, that it became a ritual. If I could smell rain, I headed for that hole, and sometimes would get only one cast before the rain began to fall. That one cast would hook a steelhead nine out of 10 times.

For many years, my trademark was a red Jones-style hat that I wore. It was with me on more adventures than I can remember, and whenever I was wearing it, we’d catch fish. I decided after Kay and I were married that it looked better on her than me, and she began wearing it and my luck continued to hold even though I would switch hats. As long as one of us wore the hat, the fish bit and the game moved.

Is this coincidence? Is it luck? Or is it a figment of my imagination? Who knows or cares, because I’ve never tried to root out the reasons why things work or don’t work. If wearing that hat led to better catches and more photos for a full-time free-lance outdoor writer, why not wear it. Why step on the third-base line if you don’t have to?

Years ago I had some skin-tight Gortex rainwear. I began wearing it in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains while hunting mountain lion. There was a great deal of walking in deep snow, and a lot of sweating, and I wanted something that would keep me warm and dry without wearing long underwear, jeans and other clothing. It worked perfectly, and my lion was shot with a bow at six paces as it was bayed on the ground.

That rainwear was like a lucky rabbits foot for several years until I took it to the Northwest Territories’ Little Martin Lake for a Central-Canada Barren Ground caribou hunt. I wore it on that hunt, killed a caribou bull that at one time was No. 9 in the world. My guide wanted the rainwear, I wouldn’t give it to him but gave him a hefty tip. He happily took the money, and helped himself to the rainwear when I wasn’t looking, and then I began shopping around for something else that would work.

Do I consider myself superstitious? Nope, but some good things happen when certain types of equipment are used. I own a pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 in .264 Magnum. I used to handload my own ammo for that rifle, and it can shoot straighter than I can hold it. I’ve killed plenty of game out to over 400 yards with that rifle, and although my handloads are now made to perfection by a friend, that rifle has been with me on many fine hunts.

During my 10 years of guiding fishermen, a Shakespeare Black Beauty fiberglass fly rod was the main tool of my trade. It was a sweet rod, tough as nails, and over 10,000 (that number is correct) big browns, salmon and steelhead were landed with that rod. Several years after I quit guiding, I took an old client fishing, and hooked a big Chinook salmon.

I heard a soft ominous creak in the rod as I led the big fish to shore, and once the king was unhooked and released, I headed for the car. My buddy asked where I was going, and I told him I had just retired my favorite fly rod. That rod now hangs in a special place of honor, where it is rightfully recognized as one of the most fish-catchin’est rods in history.

It’s a funny thing though. I don’t catch as many fish now as I did when I used that old fly rod, but I blame that not on the rod, or bad fortune, but on my poor vision. We all need a good excuse at times.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/31 at 02:33 PM
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Friday, May 30, 2008

Remembering More Dangerous Bear Enclounters


I was looking through an old pile of Outdoor Life magazines the other day, from the decade that I wrote stories on a regular basis for them. One article was about a grizzly bear attack that I covered for the magazine.

The subject was a man who had most of his face chewed or ripped off by a grizzly bear, and he lived to tell his story. The magazine flew me to Salt Lake City where the interview was conducted at a major hospital.

He lost one eye, his nose and one ear, and the bear literally ripped his face off. He’d had over 1,000 stitches when I did the interview, and he had more plastic surgeries scheduled. He was swathed in bandages from his head to his shoulders, and had numerous other wounds on his arms, body and legs.

That got me to thinking about the number of black bears I killed while mopping up a messy job of shooting by other people. Years ago, when bear hunting meant going into a sporting good store and buying a license. There was no need for a lottery draw in those days.

One such time was for a bruin that had been shot in a hip, breaking the leg bone. The hunter was frightened of the situation and asked if I’d help. I said I would it he agreed to stay behind so I didn’t have to listed to his jabbering.

He gladly agreed, and I went after the bear with a 3-inch magnum 12 gauge shotgun stoked with five No. 4 buckshot. I saw the bear at 40 yards, and hit him. He went down, got up, came running at me, and four more shots were taken with the last one at six feet. It finally killed the animal.

I’d read stories as a kid about African hunters shooting a leopard or lion, and then having to dig them out of thick cover and kill them at close range. This was pretty heady business for me, knowing full well I’d never go to Africa. I’d have to settle on killing wounded bears that other people had severely injured.

Another bear led me on a two-day hunt that covered a small swamp bordered on one side by a tiny creek. I had lost what blood trail had existed but found where the bear bedded down three times. Finally a drop of blood was found near the creek. I followed it slowly up a steep hill.

My shotgun preceded me, and bent blades of grass pointed out the path taken by the bruin. I’d just topped the hill when I spotted the bear three feet away. It moved and I shot, and this sorry mess was over.

Bears have provided me with some hair-raising thrills. People talk about brown bears, grizzlies and polar bears, but more people are attacked by black bears each year than most people think. Black bears are most common, and I’ve had some close encounters when armed and unarmed, and it’s a thrill most people would prefer to live without.

Only once did I go after a wounded bear with another person, and it was a friend whose skills were legendary. We got that bear, but every other time I’ve done it was alone. And that was the way I wanted it.

Frightened people talk, make noise, and generally get in other people’s way when some serious work has to be done. Wounded bears often are shot at spitting distance in thick cover, and I didn’t want anyone nearby for fear they would create a greater hazard than already existed. Close-range shooting with a shotgun or rifle can be risky business, and it is made all the more dangerous by a person with nerves rubbed raw by being close to a bear.

I’d move slowly if the going was tough, stopping often and looking around. Of the six wounded bears I’ve dispatched, none had injuries that would have been immediately fatal. All were moving, and often the dirty work was done within an hour of sundown. It meant moving fast and quiet, getting close enough to the animal for a deadly shot. Of those six, only the one required more than one shot.

It isn’t something I’d do now because my vision is so poor. Back then I could see well, and there is a major adrenalin rush when the wounded animal is first spotted. Then it means staying downwind and trying to get close to the animal without spooking it.

Doing this nasty business was not fun but whenever I went after a bear it was because the hunter couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. It meant putting an animal out of its misery as quickly as possible. I never advertised my services, never went looking for this kind of work, but for many years I was in the area where bears were being hunted.

I did it because someone had to. Otherwise, a frightened hunter may walk away from the problem or wait until the next day and not be able to find the animal.

This string of memories came back to me like a recurring bad dream. This wasn’t Africa and it wasn’t a wounded leopard or lion at the end of a blood trail, but they were wounded bears and potentially dangerous animals that had to be put down before they were lost or lived long enough to become a danger to someone else.

It wasn’t fun but it offered some hair-raising adventures. And trust me, they were adventures I’ll never forget.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/30 at 04:59 PM
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dealing With Close-up Bear Encounters


Bear hunting is a special brand of outdoor adventure where, in rare circumstances, the hunted can become the hunter. It’s when the tables are turned on a sportsman, and things can get very interesting very quickly.

It doesn’t happen often with black bears, but when one attacks, it’s never good news. A grizzly will maul and bite a human, often inflicting horrible injuries, but the person often lives.

Black bear, even though they are the most common of all, are perhaps the most dangerous of all bruins. Their attack may continue until the human is dead. It’s happened many times across North America, and in many cases, the human doesn’t survive such encounters.

I lay no claim to being a black bear expert, but have hunted bruins, photographed them, and have had these animals approach to within three feet of me over 40 years. Each experience is something to learn from, and one hopes it never happens again.

I’ve never been truly frightened of a black bear, even when they’ve come within spitting distance on a dead run. Knowing some things about bears can help people cope with the animal if things turn sour, and an angry bear is only feet away. What you do may truly affect the outcome of the encounter. The majority of such encounters happen during the summer months when boars are breeding sows or when a sow is moving during daylight hours with her cubs.

Once while photographing a black bear in Canada’s Northwest Territories I was downwind of a foraging bruin. It turned, looked in my direction, and I took a photo with a flash attachment. It startled the animal, and it came walking slowly toward me.

I talked to the animal in a fairly soft voice. I kept my voice level, and it approached close enough that I could have reached out and touched it, which I knew would have been a serious mistake. The animal continued to circle, and as it moved around me, I turned with it and continued to face and talk to it. The bear got downwind of me, caught my scent, and circled back on the same path as before and slowly walked away.

One important thing in bear encounters is to keep a clear head. Don’t scream at the animal, and realize that a wild bear can sense anxiety just like a mean dog senses fear in a human. Watch the animal, and read the messages it gives you.

Know this: bears, and especially a sow with cubs, will often make a false charge toward a person. They can walk, trot or run, but you’ll hear teeth clacking, deep growling, and then the bear stops at 15 to 20 feet.

It is defending its turf and its cubs, and a slow dignified retreat while facing the animal can usually put an end to the whole business.

The trick is to stand your ground until she stops. Step backwards slowly for a step or two, and talk softly to the bear. If it does nothing, take two or three more slow steps backwards. This allows the animal some space, and allows it to save face. Its enemy is retreating to avoid what could be a deadly confrontation. Just don’t make any quick movements, and pay attention to your footing. If you fall down, it could trigger an attack that would be difficult to defend against.

Watch the bear. Keep a level head, and don’t crowd the animal. If it comes toward you, turn with it as it moves, but watch its head because the body will follow the head. Study its actions intensely. A bear that becomes increasing agitated has gone from being a curious to a deadly animal.

A bear that approaches within 15 to 20 feet and stops, its ears laid back against its skull, clacking its teeth and growling, is a dangerous animal. A bear that does that, and begins stomping its front feet against the ground, has become truly dangerous. Back up and try to defuse the situation with a slow retreat.

Do not run. Never, ever, run from a bear because it’s like running from a mean dog: the chances are it will trigger a charge. Black bears can outrun a horse for 50 yards. A human can’t run that fast. Running triggers aggressive behavior.

A full-blown charge with foot stomping, growls, ears laid back, and clacking teeth is something that will stir your guts into liquid, and give your mouth a coppery taste. This is no time to lose your head and do something incredibly stupid. The key here is to keep you wits about you.

Continue to face the animal but try a slow-movement retreat. Chances are the bear doesn’t want to force the issue, but this posturing can be a prelude to a mauling and death or just a close call. In many cases, the humans movements or lack of them may act as a catalyst that triggers an attack.

Saving face is no different with a bear than with a barroom bully. Sometimes the issue can be resolved without incident; other times, it can only be resolved with force. A man alone, unarmed, is not capable of fighting a faster and stronger bear. A few instances have been noted of a bear-man fight, including one here in Michigan years ago, and they are the stuff of wild tales ... except many of them are true.

Few people will ever face a false charge, and even fewer will come to grips with a full-blown charge. Those who face the latter (and it’s difficult to determine one from the other until an attack occurs) and live to tell the story are a rare breed in today’s society.

I’ve faced four (two from the same bruin), and all were defused after several troubling minutes, but the best advice is to stand tall, make yourself look as big as possible, talk (don’t scream) to the animal, and give the bear a chance to save face without injury to it or you.

Backing away or stepping aside when a bruin is very close can leave you with a wildly beating heart, a dry mouth and your life, providing you do everything right. The chance of a bear attack anywhere is remote, but it pays to have some knowledge of what to do well before such a need is within 10 feet of you and still coming..

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/29 at 05:42 PM
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Day A Trout Pond Died


Luzerne Pond once sat nestled between low hills, down in the bottom of a valley, and decades before a dam had been built across Big Creek, and slowly the pond took shape.

I came to know it back in the mid-1950s, and it long had been a favorite of my angling-hunting mentor, Max Donovan, of Clio. He fished it often from his AuSable River long-boat, and occasionally we fished it 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 the pond during the day, but we prowled its waters relentlessly after dark.

We often fished without any light, but on occasion when the fish forgot to feed, we’d shine a light into the water. The browns would be there, the large and small ones, but none would want to feed. We never solved the riddle of why one night can be so much better than the next evening.

Max was a hemophiliac, and I supplied the brawn while he handled the brains department. We each began with a fly rod with a No. 4 Muddler Minnow or Doodle Bug knotted to a 3X tippet, and a spinning rod with a two-inch shiner 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 if any browns were to be caught, he often would hook them on the Muddler Minnow. In the darkness of this valley, the air turned cold once the sun went down and the fishing heated up and it was easy to hear the sizzling his of a good fish plucking a natural off the surface. We fished more with our ears than our eyes.

I lost track of the number of browns 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 he’d hooked a true trophy fish.

The fly stopped as Max worked it slowly across the surface in fits 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, a disembodied voice from the stern. “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 males 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 and we’ll check out this dude.”

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 false-cast to dry out his fly, and we got him unhooked without having to handle the creatire. 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.

One day in the late 1970s or early 1980s, 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 tiny stream still flowing through the middle.

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

Max passed away many years ago, and now, well over 20 years after his passing, 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. Going back now is like a wake for what had caused the death of a brown trout pond of legendary proportions, and it means knowing full well I’d never see it again except through my mind’s eye and that is good enough.

It’s easier to remember The Pond 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 and memories died with it.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/28 at 05:16 PM
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fishing Tournaments Help Improve Fishing Gear


Fishing tournaments fall into a love ‘em-hate ‘em category. There is no middle ground among anglers.

Comparing modern fishing tournaments with those of 30-40 years ago is like comparing a low-end Ford to a big-ticket Ferrari. It is impossible to do.

Today’s angling competitions offer much that can benefit fishermen. Granted, there are still some do-nothing fishermen who epitomize the slob angler, but such people are few in numbers.

Many of the top bass and walleye pros are college-educated and aware of the value of this resource, what it means to the angling public and what must be left to ensure that future generations will have quality fishing in the years to come.

There is some fame and glory that comes with winning a major tournament, but some tournament pros fish because they enjoy the competition, catching fish and because they have become very good at it.

There isn’t much prize money to be made in tournaments unless the angler places in the top six or eight spots in each contest. For many, tournament fishing is a money-losing situation. For many, it is an ego stroke paid for with had-earned money, time off work and busted dreams.

These anglers go fishing, have a good time, and enjoy butting heads with each other to place high in the standings. When it is over, they shake hands and part as friends.

One can ask: how does tournament fishing help the average weekend fisherman?

It’s you, my fellow anglers, who benefits from these people and their tournaments. It’s us who gain the most from the efforts of professional anglers. How so, you ask?

Those who fish professionally are our first-line defense against shoddy fishing equipment and poor workmanship. It’s because of these angling pros that we have:

*Kill switches: Many high-power bass or walleye boats have such switches to prevent the operator from being tossed overboard, only to have their boat circle around and cut them into mincemeat. And it you think it doesn’t happen, think again.

A man I fished with on Lake Sam Rayburn in Texas years ago hit a stick-up about a year after he and I fished together, and he was thrown from the boat. It circled around, ran him over, cut him in half and people cried because of the tragedy.

*New rods and reels: Many new features have come about because of suggestions made by professional anglers. They often fish daily, and soon learn about rod or reel defects. The mistakes are corrected before you ever buy the new gear.

*Line: New monofilament lines have evolved because of special needs. Soft lines, limber lines, small diameter lines, World Class lines, colored lines, super braids and the new synthetics have evolved through the efforts of bass and walleye pros.

*Electronics: Some of the finest liquid crystal and chart recording graphs, Loran-C, marine radios, GPS and other such electronics were developed because of the needs of professional anglers or the military.

*Lures: New lures have been discussed and developed by manufacturers, tested by bass and walleye pros, and eventually marketed to us. Many new plugs are made just to meet specific angling needs.

All of this is fine, but I can hear someone asking: how about all the fish they catch? Don’t you think catching those bass or walleyes will upset the balance of the lake or educate the released fish?

Nope, I don’t think so. A bass or walleye has a brain the size of a very small pea, and it is not capable of logical thought. In two days or so a hooked and released fish will not remember its temporary problem. Much of their life is ruled by instinct, not remembered cases of being hooked.

Modern bass and walleye tournaments now have more than a 95 percent live return rate. Fish are caught, kept in aerated live wells, briefly weighed, given a bath in protective chemically treated water to retard any possible infection, and returned alive to the lake.

So, I feel the good of modern angling contests far outweigh the bad, and anglers can now reap the many benefits made possible by researching tournament pros.

I am friends with many touring pros, and each one is concerned with the natural resource. And why wouldn’t they be? The lakes they fish help keep them in a job, and job security is having a lake filled with a good spread of three or four year-classes of fish and a healthy forage base.

You don’t find that in an over-fished lake.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/27 at 07:18 PM
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Monday, May 26, 2008

A Casual Meeting On The River


A retired friend was fishing the Manistee River well upstream from Mesick. He was knee-deep in the current, and working a big streamer through a deep hole, when a bear stepped out of the shadowed brush.

The animal stared at the angler, and the man stared at the bruin, and sized him up as a 250-pound adult boar. The animal glared at him, and paced back and forth along the shoreline. It seemed he wanted to cross so my friend waded downstream 100 yards, and the critter kept pace with him.That wasn’t working

He was trying to give the animal some room, and the bear seemed more interested in him. There was no huffing and puffing, or growling or clicking of teeth. Just the determination of the animal to keep pace in the direction the angler traveled.

He said he was a bit preoccupied with the bear for five minutes and then decided to go back to fishing. He cast his streamer near a brushy tangle on the opposite side of the river, and the bear seemed to be a bit upset by this.

The animal began walking back and forth a bit in what he felt was a determined effort to chase the man away. He decided that it might be best to wade back downstream to his take-out point where his car was parked.

It was a quarter-mile downstream, and he fished a bit as he waded along. He stopped two or three times along the way to work his fly through a deep hole, and the bruin again stepped out of the brush and made a big show of pacing back and forth on the opposite bank.

The bruin continue to keep pace with the angler, and at one point it stepped down to the water in what he interpreted as another attempt to scare him by wading in the shallows. The animal waded out far enough to feel the strength of the current and backed up to shore.

He said the bruin’s ears then went back, and he knew the animal was most upset. The angler picked up his pace, and the bear did the same. He was parked on a dirt road near the bridge but his car was parked on the other side of the river.

He reached the path that went up the bank and would take him across the bridge, and he looked for the bear but couldn’t see him. He stopped atop the bridge looking down the other bank, and soon spotted the animal.

It was 50 yards from his car, and as the angler explained it, he began walking toward the parked vehicle. The bear had the angle on him, and began pacing back and forth some more. He said he knew better than to run, but was fearful the animal would come up the bank after him.

He began talking to the bruin. They were nothing words, but human talk so the animal would know he was a human. As he walked slowly, and talked in a moderate tone, he took apart his fly rod and dug in his pocked for his keys.

He said he didn’t feel unduly threatened by the bear but admitted it was a troubling experience. He was 20 yards from the car and the bear was down from the road about 10 yards, watching him.

The man kept talking and walking, and soon he was at the car. He unlocked the door, tossed in his fly rod, and took another look down the hill. The bear was still watching him.

He slipped off his waders, put on his street shoes, and still the animal looked up the hill toward him. He slammed the trunk lid down, and the bruin didn’t move.

He said it was as if the animal had escorted him from his domain. He never snarled nor growled, and his neck hairs never went up.

His only sign of agitation was the back and forth pacing along the river bank. The angler sat down in his car, backed his car around, and drove up to a point where he was just above the animal.

It looked up at him, the angler looked down at him, and the bear turned and walked off through the trees, possibly to a waiting sow. The angler drove off, and felt relieved that it was nothing more that a slightly scary incident.

There used to be a bruin that lived along the Laughing Whitefish River in Alger County, and anyone who ventured into his domain was escorted off the river and back to their vehicle. Mind you, that was at least 30 years ago and this animal behaved in the same manner.

It is just another case of some pretty odd black bear behavior.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/26 at 01:00 PM
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Making & Keeping Our Memories


Many tangible and intanglible things are accumulated as life passes in front of us. We begin our life naked and squalling, and if we live long enough, our busy lifetime of travels through the outdoors will leave us with an accumulation of priceless baggage. Many of these are not valuable from a monetary standpoint but remain priceless because they produce fond memories.

Our baggage consists of the odds and ends and other accumulations of momentoes and memories from a lifetime spent on the water and in the fields; in the marshlands and woods; on the ground and from a tree stand.

This baggage is both mental and physical; things that can be held, looked at, and reminisced about. Memories can be found everywhere for a packrat like me, and I keep them around for many good reasons: every mounted animal, bird or fish, every hat, my bows, firearms, fishing rods—all have stories behind them. Those stories bring me life and great joy as I look back over all of these things.

For instance: on the wall between my mounted fish is a Shakespeare fiberglass fly rod. I used it every day during my 10 years of guiding brown trout, salmon and steelhead fishermen on most of the rivers, and the stories that rod could tell would be wonderful. Over 10,000 salmonids were caught with that rod, and it was finally retired in 1979 after I landed a 30-pound Chinook salmon. I heard a muffled creak as the brute of a fish was beached, and after removing the fly and rolling the fish upright until it could swim away, I retired that rod and it now hangs in a place of honor among some of the fish it helped me catch.

My junk room (basement) has over 300 different hats hanging from the rafters. There is a unique story behind every one, including one from Detroit’s Homicide Squad that states: “Our day starts when yours ends.” There are hats from Alaskan hunts, fishing trips in New Zealand, product hats worn on one hunt or another, and hats from friends who know I collect them. However, the only hats I keep are those with a fishing or hunting tale hanging off them. I could spend hours studying this worthless hat collection that has provided over 50 years of fishing and hunting memories.

Whoa. Here is a signed copy of Robert Traver’s (John Voelker) “Testament Of A Fisherman.” It was signed by him on Feb. 1, 1982 and states: “To my fellow writer and fisherman, Dave Richey, with all good wishes.” It’s worth very little except to me because I valued my friendship with Voelker and often think of him even though he passed away years ago. I look at his Testament, read it at least once each week, and it’s a priceless memento.

It’s been my privilege to belong to the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), which I joined in 1968, and on my office walls are my writing awards. Four stand out: OWAA’s prestigious Ham Brown Award and their Excellence In Craft Award, Michigan United Conservation Club’s Ben East Award For Excellence In Conservation Journalism, and the Michigan Outdoor Writer’s exalted Papa Bear Award for Excellence in Craft. There are many other writing awards, but these four remind me of my 40 years spent writing outdoor copy for my valued readers.

The hours spent the other day while sorting through some of my life’s baggage was fun. There was a box containing all of my fishing and hunting licenses from my teenage years to now. I have most but not all of my earliest fishing and hunting licenses from this state, and some date back to the 1950s. It takes a few minutes but eventually a thought will reveal a heralded moment of fishing from a 1957 fishing license, and those old licenses still have the required Trout Stamp attached. One license held a stamp of Michigan’s old Fish Car that was used by the Department of Natural Resources to carry trout to northern streams for stocking.

I was never one for fancy, expensive gear. I look with fondness at my Shakespeare Model 1810 reels, the 2052 Ultralight reel, a pair of hand-crafted fiberglass rods from Wanigas Rod Company, my collection of Trout Festival badles, and empty shotgun sheels with the beard of a turkey that was killed with that shotshell. I have knives, some that I bought and others that were given to me by my twin brother, and each little item triggers a grand and wonderful thought that begs to be brought to the light of day, even if for just a moment or two.

One man’s baggage is another man’s treasure trove of outdoor memories. Such is true with some of my bear, deer and turkey patches. My lot in life is to record as much of our fishing and hunting heritage as possible, and to present it in a way that others can enjoy. Take a moment now, and think about some of your little pieces of life’s baggage and what joys they have produced over the years. I look at some of the old waterfowling books given to me by Michigan’s last market hunter, and Russ Bengel’s cheerful face pops into sharp focus. The memory of this kind and wonderful man, and what he did for Ducks Unlimited, is a story that deserves to be told once again.

We can travel through a life of fishing and hunting, and retain some of our memories. Because, if nothing else, those thoughts will spark a fire in sportsmen. That fire will blaze up into a full-blown recollection of a memorable day or event in our lives that must be remembered long after our ability to hike the hills and wade the streams has ended.

Those memories are what keeps us alive and sane in a world give to high fuel costs, world-wide anger, terrorist factions, an ever-rising cost of living, and through it all, when times get tough I have fond memories to fall back on. Isn’t that wonderful?

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/25 at 03:16 PM
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