I love October

6 10 2015

There’s just something about his month that makes it better than any other month of the year.  The cool breeze in the air, the change of the season from summer to Fall, the colors and most of all just about everything is open.  For a hunter and fisherman nothing beats October.  The fish are starting to go into their pre-winter feeding binge.  Steelhead are starting their trip back upstream.  Several hunting seasons open up.  So much to do and so little time.  Heck, back when I was in college I probably spent more time afield and on the water then I did in class.  Now with work and other responsibilities my time outdoors is not as much as I would like but I still try to squeeze in as much as possible.  Weather permitting…..

Saturday Oct. 3rd would start my month long obsession with trying to get in as much hunting and fishing as possible.  It was opening day of waterfowl season for Zone 2 and that means Wood Ducks in my favorite spot.  My friend Barry had counted 26 woodies there the day before so the outlook was promising.  All we could do now was hope that they didn’t decide to ride the 20 mph winds out of there during the night.  As legal shooting hours approached we had a few singles fly through and a pair landed about 75 yards down from our position.  With the overcast skies visibility was poor so it was hard to keep an eye on them.  Not much more happened for the next 10 minutes or so and then it started…..

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We had ducks coming in from all different directions.  Wood ducks are known for appearing without warning here but this was ridiculous.  Barry was shooting, I was shooting, Dean was shooting.  I was drawing a bead on a second duck when two landed in front of me.  Of course I focused on them and forgot about the other one but as they took off Barry shot and I lost track of them as well.  A few seconds later I singled out a lone drake and dropped him with one shot.  As I was confirming where he fell Barry shot another one in front of me and Dean was shooting at one flying over the top of us.  After several minutes of chaos we had 7 ducks down.  Barry shot 3, Dean shot 2 and I shot 2.  Now it was time to go pick them up before we lost track of where they were.  I launched the kayak and started retrieval duties (I miss my dog).  Of course as I was picking up ducks more started to fly in.  Dean took a couple of shots but missed.  After some searching for the seventh duck I was on my way back to shore.  After that flurry things were really quiet.  We only saw two more ducks and I managed to shoot one of them.  Dean left to go squirrel hunting but Barry and I stuck around for a bit longer to see if any mallards might fly in.  We had our wood duck limits filled so it was mallards from here on in.  Not that it mattered, we didn’t see any wood ducks either.  By 9:30 I launched the kayak again to go pick up decoys and head back to the truck.

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We decided to go try for some squirrels in the ridiculously high winds before lunch.   Squirrel hunting was pretty slow, understandable with the winds as high as they were.  Each of us managed to shoot a black squirrel.  Mine made two mistakes.  The first was running through the tree tops when I walked by.  The second was stopping to take a look to see what I was doing.

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The winds were picking up so we headed back to the house for lunch, check the weather and to clean ducks and squirrels.  After a quick bite we cleaned the critters and debated what to do next.  The NE wind was blowing right at the house and their were whitecaps on Sanford Lake.  It was starting to drizzle a little so of course I went fishing.  Dean and Barry had been doing pretty good on the crappie and the thought of taking home a dozen for a meal or two was quite appealing.  Getting rained on wasn’t.  No big deal, I had dry clothes and a warm house to retreat to if necessary.  We were fishing with minnows and slip bobbers right off the dock in about 12 feet of water.  It was slow but Barry and I managed to catch 15 crappie on and off for the next few yours.  The weather would go from drizzle to down pour and back to drizzle all afternoon.  When the rain got  bad we went in, when it stopped we went out.  It really is nice having a house on the lake.

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By 5 o’clock the rain and wind had stopped completely.  We had a window of a couple of hours before the next front moved through so we grabbed the .22’s and headed back into the woods.  It was a pretty quiet evening.  It looked like most of the squirrels decided to stay holed up for the evening.  Barry and I managed to shoot 3 more before we called it quits.  It had turned out to be a pretty good day and I was not going to get greedy, besides Barry had shot 5 the day before and I had them to add to my freezer as well.  I could have stayed to hunt and fish tomorrow as well but I needed to get home.  Susan wanted to go to a flea market the next day and the group that was supposed to go with her backed out at the last minute.  I didn’t want her to go alone so once I finished cleaning the last 3 squirrels and fish I was headed south.  There will be other days.

So the final tally for Friday and Saturday was 8 Wood Ducks, 11 Squirrels and 15 Crappie.  All that was left now was to seal them up and put them in the freezer.

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I love October.

 

 

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9/1/15, Year 2 of Michigan’s Experimental Early Teal Season

2 09 2015
My nephew Finn is excited.

My nephew Finn is excited.

I forgot just how much fun it is to muck around in a marsh at 5:00 am swatting mosquitoes as I set decoys.

That was how I started my day on the Panko unit of Crow Island State Game Area.  My friend Barry who is a Wildlife Tech for the DNR had scouted this spot earlier and thought it would be a good spot to try.  When we first arrived there were already half a dozen trucks in the parking lot.  Not surprising, I’m sure some of them arrived the night before and the hunters spent the night in their blinds.  Not me, I like to hunt ducks but I’m not that dedicated.  Getting here at 4:45 am was pushing it for me, especially since that now we get to sit for the next two hours and wait until legal shooting hours.  Thank God we had a pair of Thermacells.  If I ever meet the man at Coleman who invented these little gadgets I’ll buy him a beer.  Those things are worth their weight in gold when the mosquitoes are thick.

Once we got the decoys set we just sat in our chairs and talked about how much we missed hunting in North Dakota.  Barry used to work for the USFWS out there and I would visit him every October for one week of bird hunting.  I miss those days of never seeing another duck hunter.  Now, back here in  Michigan, I can’t throw a rock without hitting one.  We weren’t there 10 minutes when a another group came long and set up about 50 yards to our left.  We told them it was ok to set up next to us but if we knew what they were going to do later we would have said otherwise.  Around 6:30 am, with another 30 minutes to go until legal shooting time, we had some teal land in our decoys.  Some more flew in and landed in the spread to our left and they shot.  Everyone, and I do mean everyone on the marsh let them know that shooting hours hadn’t started yet.  Normally they would have been ok if it was the regular season or hunting geese.  Since this was the early teal season the DNR pushed legal shooting hours back to sunrise which was 30 minutes later.  This was done to help ensure the hunters could easily identify the ducks as they came into range.  Apparently this group hadn’t read the regulations very closely.  Barry and I just chuckled as he pulled out his observation form and wrote down the incident.  As part of this experimental season DNR personnel are supposed to set up in the hunting areas and observe.  They have to keep records to see if people shoot early, sky bust and most importantly shoot or shoot at any ducks that are not teal.  For the most part hunters are careful but every once in awhile someone makes a mistake and something else gets shot.  We were being extra careful today.  There were a lot of wood ducks flying around and I didn’t want to make that mistake, especially with Barry sitting right next to me.  I didn’t make any mistakes but I do believe a hen shoveler that flew past us did get shot by another group hunting to the south of us.  With the amount of shooting we heard and the lack of shooting from us I really wonder just how much these hunters were paying attention.  We didn’t have a single teal come into range until about an hour after that first initial early shot.  That pair made it through unscathed thanks to my looking in the wrong direction.  We did manage to shoot a couple before it got to hot and muggy for our liking.  At least I didn’t get a wet ass like last year.

So that was it for this year.  We saw a few teal, saw a ton of wood ducks along with a Bald Eagle and a Kingfisher that had a death wish.  Not a bad way to spend a morning, especially since I wasn’t at work.

Morning view, before it got to hot.

Morning view, before it got too hot.





Crow hunting the easy way.

29 03 2015

Crow hunting has to be the easiest, most relaxing type of hunting I know.  I get to sit in my parents living room and watch fishing shows until I hear the sound of a crow in the distance.  Once I do I put on my coat, grab my shotgun and caller and walk across the street which, is state land.  After about a 200 yard walk I load the shotgun, turn on the caller, hide in some bushes and start shooting about 10 seconds later.  It’s just that easy.

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To be fair though I do have an ideal set up.  My parents live on a dead end street in northern Oscoda near Van Etten lake.  The north end of the lake is surrounded by huge pines that the crows roost in overnight and generally hang out at all day long.  Across the street is state land that was lumbered out a few years back.  It was never re-planted so there are a lot of small oak and pine trees popping up all around it.  This has resulted in lots of small clumps of trees and bushes that make excellent cover.  A two track runs right through the middle which makes for easy walking.  All I have to do is hide in a clump of short trees, turn on the crow distress cd (yeah a CD, not a pre-programmed caller) and wait.  Usually it doesn’t take long, they don’t have far to fly.  The only draw back is that it is usually a very quick hunt, like less than a minute.  Sometimes I get lucky and a straggler will come in a few minutes later but for the most part it is done pretty quick.  Once I’m done shooting I pick up my birds and stuff and walk back to the house and go back to watching fishing shows.

Life is rough……





From a Super Secret Undisclosed Location, I bring you Duck Season.

5 10 2014

Super Secret my butt.  Anyone who has followed this blog knows where I’m at, my favorite wood duck hole.  I had high hopes for this opener. Barry and I saw a lot of woodies the previous weekend so we were expecting a great opener.  Even the weather looked like it was going to cooperate.  West winds, overcast, drizzle, just ducky weather.  But just like the best laid plans of mice and men it didn’t quite work out the way we wanted.

We awoke the next day to dead calm and clear skies.  No clouds, no wind, no rain…..what the hell happened?  I just hope the ducks didn’t ride the front out.  We arrived at our spot around 6:30 am and dropped the kayak in the water.  Since neither of us have a dog anymore I get to play retriever and decoy spreader.  Barry walked to our spot while I paddled around the blow downs and sunken stumps.  I threw out about half a dozen wood duck decoys and then we hid the kayak in the woods.  Woodies are not known for their decoying and the ones that frequent this area are no different.  They come in from all directions with no regard for wind direction and either plop down immediately or just fly by.  We have to be on our toes because they can be in and out in a second.  Barry and I scanned the skies for ducks but 20 minutes later and a fair amount of shooting from the lake produced nothing.  In years past we have had ducks fly in and land right in front of us before shooting hours started.  This year we had nothing.  It was 7:30 am before our first duck arrived and he flew in and out before we could even raise the guns.  Shortly after that 3 flew in and we fired.  Barry missed his but I knocked down a male woodie.  A few minutes later Barry spotted 4 more coming in and we each managed to knock one down.  That was it for the next hour.  Around 10:00 am we had a single woodie come in from the east and Barry and I both hit him and he landed on the other side of the pond in the woods.  I pulled out the kayak and went after him.  I found him about 30 yards in lying next to a log.  That proved to be our last bird of the morning.  We packed up and I paddled out while Barry walked back to the truck.

After we had a snack and something to drink we headed over to the sand pit so I could sight in my .22 with the new scope.  While we did that Dean showed up with a couple of squirrels he shot earlier.  Sighting in didn’t take very long so we drove around scouting for likely deer hunting spots.  By now the wind was starting to pick up and the overcast skies finally arrived.  We weren’t finding a lot of deer sign so we headed back to the lake house to get some lunch.  Dean decided to go home so Barry and I decided to fish and discuss strategy for tonight.  We weren’t seeing any ducks flying around the lake so we decided to go back to the wood duck hole.  They normally don’t roost in that area but we hoped we might get a few to fly through and give us a shot.  By now it was approaching 4:00 pm and getting close to time for us to leave.  We cleaned our catch of 13 crappie, 4 ducks and the 2 squirrels.  Once that was done we headed back to the hole.  We got comfortable and waited and waited and waited.  Just when we thought tonight was going to be a bust I spotted 3 coming in from the west.  I yelled out to Barry but he couldn’t get to his gun in time.  I picked the lead bird and fired once and knocked her down, another woodie.  This one would turn out to be our 5th and final bird for the day.  Just before shooting hours ended we did see 3 more and they did circle us a couple of times but never came into range.  As I was picking up the decoys the rain arrived.

Never fails. It was still a good day. 10-4 Crappie 10-4 Woodies





September Fur, Fish and Feather Extravaganza

3 10 2014

Every September my friends and I get together for a long weekend of Hunting and Fishing.  We have been doing this for almost 30 years now.  The game has changed over the years but the outcome is always the same.  A guy’s weekend where if the season is open we are going after it.  This time of year it’s all small game.  First on the list is squirrel followed by Grouse and Woodcock.  We don’t do as much bird hunting anymore since none of us have a dog.  We still get a few birds here and there but without a lab or setter it just ins’t the same.

Saturday morning started out very foggy so while we waited for the fog to burn off some we got in a little crappie fishing.  Barry has been creating fish structures off his Mom’s dock and it is starting to pay off.  In less than an hour we managed to get 10 crappie for a fish fry later.  The fish turned off rather quickly but no matter, the fog was lifting so it was time to shoot a few squirrels.  We grabbed the .22’s and headed to a stand of oaks not to far down the road.  Barry headed south and I headed east.  Dean was doing something else so I don’t know where he ended up.  I was glad to see that the long winter didn’t affect the acron crop.  If anything it helped, they were everywhere.  I can’t remember the last time the crop was this good.  An abundance of acorns usually means an abundance of squirrels.  I saw a fair share of them that morning and was able to connect on two.  If I carried my shotgun I’m sure I would have filled my 5 squirrel limit but I like using my Marlin Model 60.  It is a lttle more challenging to hit a squirrel with a .22 but at least I don’t have to pick shot out of the meat.  The drawback though is that since I have started using bi-focals trying to spot squirrels in the tree tops and then focusing through the scope is a little more difficult.  I told myself that I would get  a new scope this summer but I never got around to it.  I paid the price for my procrastination later that day when I missed 3 easy shots.  We could have stayed out a little longer but there was a group training search and rescue dogs using the area so we decided to stay out of their way.  We had other things to keep us occupied, like fishing.

Later that evening we took the pontoon boat out and did a little fishing.  We were hoping to add to the crappie in the fish basket but no such luck.  I did catch a 17 inch largemouth bass but I don’t eat those so back he went.  After dark we set up to do a little catfishing and I caught my personal best 31 inch Channel Cat.  Turns out is qualifies for a Master Angler award.  Not my proudest moment but I’ll take it.  I don’t eat these either so after a few pics he went back in the water.  That was it for day 1

Day 2 started out the same as day 1, foggy.  We tried fishing again but no luck.  It was like they just shut down.  Later that day we talked to a few other anglers and they reported the same thing.  Barry and I gave up after about 30 minutes and went squirrel hunting again.  We managed 3 this morning and we checked out our opening day wood duck spot.  With all the acorns we figured their would be a lot of wood ducks in our usual area.  We had to change things up some since we no longer have a dog for retrieval duties.  Had to make sure I could get the kayak back in our spot.  It’s looking good since we jumped about 30 or 40 woodies from the area.  Hope they stick around until the opener on Oct. 4th.

Around noon I packed up and headed to Oscoda to spend some time with my parents.  I got there just in time for a dinner of the perch my Dad and I caught earlier this summer.  Once that was done I drove over to one of my grouse and woodcock thickets to see if I could find a few birds.  As usual the cover was thick and the warm, humid day made for rough walking.  It seems like I was stopping every other minute to wipe the sweat off my face and glasses.  I managed to put up 3 woodcock and 1 grouse.  I never got a shot at the grouse but I did connect on one of the woodcock.  Problem was I connected to well.  It was what I like to call a dead on impact hit.  I couldn’t have hit this bird any more square with my shot pattern.  Some people would say that I should have let him get out a little farther but in prime woodcock cover you don’t always get that chance.  10 more feet and the bird can disappear.  After that I found my trail out and walked back to the car.  On the way though I decided to walk across the nearby creek to see how well a clear cut grew back in.  The US forestry service Cut this area back in the 90’s and it never really took off like I hoped it would.  Lots of dry summers kept the aspen from growing like it should.  Well it finally came in and it looks pretty good.  I took a quick walk through and managed to put up another woodcock.  This are should be full of them come migration time.  Fingers crossed.

The next morning I was back chasing squirrels again.  This time I was in a new area I discovered during one of my kayak/bass trips down the AuSable.  It is part of an ORV/Snowmobile trail system so that meant lots of easy walking through the oaks.  Not as many acorns as in Sanford but still plenty to go around.  I saw many squirrels but due to my own laziness I scared more than I shot at.  Most of them were on the ground and I would walk right up on them and by then it was to late.  Again if I had my shotgun it would have been a different story.  I did managed to tag a few and I spent a lot of time walking around the area to get a good idea of how much huntable land there was.  I’ll be back here throughout the season.

After lunch My dad and I took the .22 pistols down the hill to go plinking.  I managed to pick up a few bricks of ammo so now we can actually shoot his Colt Woodsman and my Beretta Model 71.  Once we were done with that we took a walk through the nearby oak trees to see if there were any squirrels about.  I managed to shoot a grey right away and missed a black in the same tree.  After that it was like they all disappeared.  I soon found out why.  The wind had shifted and we had a storm coming in.  The wind started gusting to over 20 mph and it sounded like hail with all the acorns coming down.  We got out of the woods and under cover just as the rain started to come down, which it did on and off for the rest of the night.  So much for salmon fishing this evening.

The next morning I woke up to drizzle, a north wind and temps that were 30 degrees below yesterday’s temp.  I decided to pack my stuff and head for home.  I did swing back towards my new squirrel spot and walked around for about an hour.  I manged to get one more black squirrel before calling it a day.  I took some of the back roads home and stopped at a few gun shops along the way.  I did find a new 3×9 32 mm scope for the .22 so hopefully my miss rate will drop drastically.  Providing I get it sighted in soon.  If not I can always do it after the opening morning duck hunt.

So for my long weekend I ended up with a bunch of squirrels, a few crappie, 1 master anlger Channel Cat and 1 decimated woodcock.  Not bad considering how hot it still is.  Not too much fun trying to hunt while swatting mosquitoes and wiping sweat off my glasses at the same time.  Hopefully the duck opener is a little cooler.

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Squirrels are getting freaky with skunks.

Squirrels are getting freaky with skunks.

Master Angler Cat

Master Angler Cat

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Zoom in and try to count all the feathers.

Zoom in and try to count all the feathers.

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Labor Day Weekend Fin and Feather Extravaganza!

5 09 2014

It’s not to often that I get to combine my favorite past times in to one weekend but when the opportunity presents itself I take advantage of it.  Or in other words, when opportunity knocks……Shoot!

It all started on Friday evening.  Earlier in the week I had made plans to meet up with my friend Dave and his son on the Huron River in Dexter for some smallmouth fishing.  We  had talked to some of the guides at the Huron River Fly Fishing Festival a few weeks earlier so we thought we would give it a shot.  Dave had arrived earlier since I had to work so I met him on the river.  Fishing was slow but we gave it our best shot.  I ended up catching one small fish on a foam hopper pattern I tied up the night before.  Dave caught one as well but I can’t seem to remember what on.  I think it was a streamer patter of some kind.   I didn’t stay long, I still had to pack for my trip north.

The next morning I was up bright and early for my first stop, Auburn Michigan and my friend Barry’s house.  We were going crow hunting so after a quick bite to eat we were on our way.  Our first stop was near Sanford lake on some state land.  We heard crows off in the distance so we took up hiding spots and turned on the caller.  The crows never came in so we packed up and moved on to the next spot, sort of.  When we got to the end of the road there were several crows sitting out in the middle of the road.  We turned around and set up again.  This time they came in but to far out of range.  After a short ride we set up in another area and a couple of crows snuck in behind us.  Barry was able to knock one down and that was it.  Just as we were packing up the storm clouds started to roll in and the rain came down.  Oh well, so much for crow hunting.  I said my good bye’s and headed up to my parents in Oscoda.

The next morning found my father and I on Lake Huron in hopes of catching a few salmon.  We set up about a mile out from the river and ran spoons and plugs.  There weren’t many boats out, only about a dozen and most of them out on the horizon.  We gave it our best shot but all we really did was wash lures.  Around 10 we headed in for breakfast.  A little later, as we were putting the boat away, I heard some crows mouthing off across the street.  I quickly grabbed my stuff and took a short walk.  I found a small group of scrub oaks to hide in and then turned on the crow distress call.  It didn’t take long and soon I had a crow in range.  1 quick shot and he was on the ground.  I missed a second one flying behind him and quickly re-loaded.  A couple of seconds later 2 more came in and after 2 shots they were both down as well.  I love early season stupid crows.  The remaining crows quickly left the area so I gathered everything up and headed home.

The following morning found me standing waist deep in a small inland lake for the early Goose and Teal opener.  This was the first early Teal season in Michigan in almost 50 years and I was going to give it a try.  I had shot both teal and geese in years past on this lake but without doing any pre-season scouting I wasn’t expecting much.  I did have plenty of wood ducks and mallards fly around me but no teal or geese.   It was a pretty uneventful morning except for the part where I waded into a hole up to my neck in mucky water.  What Fun!

After a hot shower and some lunch I had my Dad drop me off at Foote Dam so I could try some more smallmouth fishing.  I took the fly rod along but with the wind picking up I decided to stick to tossing tube baits into all the log jams.  Fishing was pretty easy with lots of smaller bass in the 8 to 10 inch range.  Not exactly the size I was looking for but I was catching them pretty regularly.  Eventually I did find some bigger fish but unfortunately I lost them at the side of the boat.  I still need to remember to set the hook harder.  The main thing is that I was catching more and bigger fish and learning more about the river.  When I first started fishing here all I caught were rock bass and 1 smallmouth.  since then I haven’t caught any rock bass and more smallmouth.  Now I am catching more and bigger fish.  Hopefully soon the bigger fish will out number the smaller ones.  I may even use my fly rod more once I get a little more confidence with the area.  This trip was cut short though by the rain.  About 30 minutes from where I was going to be picked up the clouds opened up and down came the rain, in buckets.  A wet ass twice in one day.  What Fun!

That was the last of my fishing any hunting for the weekend.  Home was a long drive away and I was tired.  I would make a few stops along the way but eventually I got home around midnight.  I had a long day of doctor’s appointments ahead of me and I needed some sleep.  It won’t be long and squirrel, grouse and woodcock will be open and I will be headed north again.  Until then I’ll get some rest and prepare.

Huron Sunrise Dam Water Stupid Crows Smallie





Meme

13 03 2014

I normally don’t share too many of these or forward them on but this one was priceless.

 

Pintail