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.

 

 





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……





Opening Day Early Geese and Thank God for Kayaks.

2 09 2013

Normally when one thinks of goose hunting he or she envisions cold wintery weather and huge flights of migratory Canada Geese.  The thought of 85 sunny degrees and 100% humidity really doesn’t enter into the equation.  Unless of course it is the early goose season in Michigan.  For many years now this 2 week season has been in place to help reduce the resident population of Giant Canada Geese.  Some years the weather is cooperative and somewhat comfortable.  Most years it isn’t.  This was one of those years.

My friend Dan was able to get permission to hunt some private property around the south Branch of the Kalamazoo River in Hillsdale county.  All the crops were still standing so we would be hunting water today.  The original plan was to hunt a large pond but after some more scouting it was decided to hunt the river itself.  There were geese in the area and we were hoping that after the shooting started they would be looking for a safe place to rest.  Dan had no idea how deep the water was so he asked me to bring my kayak along to place the decoys in the river.  We arrived at our destination about an hour before shooting hours and we started to set up.  I dropped the kayak in the water, turned on my cap light and started placing decoys in the dark in a river I have never seen before.  Hope I get it right.  Meanwhile the rest of the crew was clearing the area for some filed decoys and preparing hiding places for us.  After I was done setting the floaters I paddled back to shore and then hid the kayak under some trees.  I then found myself a place to hide and waited for 6:34 am.

An hour later and no geese.  This was not looking good.  We had yet to even hear a goose honk.  No the first time I have had a hunt turn out this way but I was hoping to at least hear something.  Fortunately about 30 minutes later that changed.  WE some geese in the air and headed our way.  Paul started calling them our way and soon we had 3 Canada’s overhead.  They were in range and showing no sign of decoying so Paul yelled out “Take Em”,  A volley of shots later and we had 2 birds heading down.  Problem was they were falling downstream and not dead.  Paul’s dog Dozer had no chance of retrieving these (no Dog would) so he told me to get the kayak and go after them.  Eventually I caught up with both crippled birds several hundred yards down stream and after a few shots they were in the kayak and I was paddling back upstream.  That was a lot of work for 2 geese but I don’t like to let any crippled game animal get away.

We had another small group fly over but we passed on them.  They looked like they might decoy in but they changed their mind and flew south.  That was pretty much our excitement for the day so we headed in for a lunch of venison brats around 10:30 am and took a nap.  We headed back to our hunting area around 6 for the evening hunt.  The only geese we saw during legal shooting hours never even gave us a look as they flew by.  We did have a few more fly by about 30 minutes after shooting hours was over.  Not much we could do about those.  Nice to know there were more geese in the area than the 7 or so we saw in the morning.

It didn’t take long to pack everything and soon we were on the road and heading home.  One of the members in our group (Jim) had to be to work at midnight.  I was glad I was going to be able to sleep in tomorrow.  Just hope I could.

Thanks again Dan.  More proof that taking a person fishing once and awhile can pay off in other ways.

9-1-13 Geese Dozer