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.

photo 6

Squirrels are getting freaky with skunks.

Squirrels are getting freaky with skunks.

Master Angler Cat

Master Angler Cat

photo 4

Zoom in and try to count all the feathers.

Zoom in and try to count all the feathers.

photo 7

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

18 and life to go.

28 08 2013

On August 28th 1995 my daughter was born at Oakwood hospital.   Now, 18 years later she is getting ready to start college.  Where did the time go?

Daddy’s little girl grew up and I feel like I missed something.  When she was younger she couldn’t wait to for me to come home from a hunting trip so she could have her picture taken with my catch.  Now she prefers to never hear about any of it.  She doesn’t even want to go fishing with me anymore.  Alex, the same girl who wanted to compete in the DWF tournaments just so she could show the “Old Guys” that she could catch walleye too.

Where did that girl go?

New Interests, New Friends, New Settings, New Boyfriends.  A father doesn’t stand a chance.  Now I know why parents can’t wait for grandkids.  That way they can do it all over again.

Happy Birthday Alex!!


26 02 2012

Outdoorama, at one time the biggest outdoor show of the year.  Back when this show was at the Michigan State Fairgrounds it was the premier hunting and fishing show in Michigan.  The last time I attended the show at the State Fairgrounds was probably one of the best ones I had ever been too.  I got to see “Da Yoopers” perform and I got the opportunity to get up and close to a Gray Wolf.  You have no idea how big a wolf is until he stands up on his hind legs and puts his front paws on your shoulders.

Now the show has the same name but is run by Show Span, the same group that runs The Ultimate Fishing Show.  The DWF has a booth at Outdoorama as well so I was once again helping out Friday night.  Things were kind of slow this year so I had more of an opportunity to check out some of the attractions.  One even I watched this year was Ultimate Air Dogs hosted by former Detroit Tiger pitcher Milt Wilcox.  This event is a competition for dogs to see how far they can jump into a pool.  All the dogs would run down a dock and then jump into the pool after their personal toy.  Some dogs could jump over 20 feet, others…..not so much.  One dog went charging down the dock only to put on the brakes as he hit the edge of the pool.  He had a little too much momentum and ended up sliding off the end and into the water.  I wash they would have had this when my lab Sherman was still around.  He would have loved the opportunity to show off.

Super Sherman

After that I went back to wandering around the showplace checking out all the vendors, outfitters, boats, products and anything else fishing and hunting related.  Of course I had to buy some more lures; I had to get my weekly fix in.  It’s just so hard for me to pass up an opportunity to buy custom painted Rapala’s for less money than a brand new factory one.

Weekly Fix

That was about it for this year.  I wanted to try and get back up there but other responsibilities kept me home.  It still helped to relieve a little cabin fever until Spring gets here.

Next Week…The Quiet Water Symposium

Gun Shows

19 02 2012

Spent the weekend running the admission table at my friends Dean & Barry’s gun show. They call it a Sporting Collectables show but for all intent and purpose it is a gun and knife show.  These shows used to be very popular but for awhile the ones in my area were turning into Militia/ Government Conspiracy shows.  My friends have been hosting these shows for a few years now and have been building up quite a following.  This last show had 130 tables of vendors and over 850 people through the door.  It can be a lot of fun for me because I get to talk to a lot of people and some of them have some pretty interesting stories.  Of course there are a few that I wish would never come but you can’t have everything.  Since I am helping out I get first crack at a lot of items.  Not too many guys selling fishing stuff at this one but I have really cleaned up on some good deals at past shows.  There is another show next month and that will be the last one until August.  That works for me because walleye fishing will be starting up pretty soon and I won’t have time to sit and collect money.

Set up for another weekend

Next week…..Outdoorama

Crow Hunting Made Easy

20 01 2012

10 degrees below zero.  That’s what it said on the thermometer outside my parent’s picture window this February morning.  I was half tempted to crawl back into bed but everything I had read about coyote hunting said that the morning after a very cold night was a morning to head out.  Once the jeep was loaded with rifle and electronic caller I headed out to my “Hot Spot”.  I was very optimistic for a first time hunter, the videos made it look so easy.  Just find an area with coyotes, sit down, turn on the caller and wait for him to walk into range.  Seemed simple enough.

I soon arrived at my first spot for the morning.  I parked the jeep about 400 yards away so I wouldn’t spook anything and quietly walked in.  Once I found a suitable tree to lean up against I got my rifle into position overlooking a clearing for some power lines.  I then got my caller pointed in the right direction and turned on the rabbit squealer CD.  It didn’t take long; about 20 seconds into the CD the sky above me came alive with Black Bandits.  I didn’t know what to think, here I am trying to call in a coyote and all I saw were noisy, angry crows.  This went on for the next 10 or 15 minutes until I finally gave up and walked out.  As I was walking back to my parking spot all I could think about was what I did wrong.  They never talked about this in the predator hunting videos.  All they ever saw were coyotes, fox and bobcats.  Instead I get crows.  This same scenario repeated itself 4 more times that morning in 4 different areas.  Walk in, sit down, turn on caller, and get bombarded by crows.  Now I know how Tippi Hedren felt in “The Birds”.

That was my introduction to coyote hunting and shortly after that I turned my attention to Crows.  I figured if they were going to keep interrupting me I might as well carry a shotgun instead.  Fortunately Crow hunting is a lot easier and a lot more productive.  I already had all the necessary equipment; I just had to put it all together.

Location, location, location.

Being successful at shooting crows is all about location.  You just can’t set up in the middle of some field and expect them to come flying in from all directions.  If there aren’t any crows in the area you are going to spend a lot of time doing nothing.  Scouting for shooting areas is quite easy; all it takes is some driving around until crows are spotted.  Make note of the location and the time of day and store it away for a later date.  If the opportunity presents itself you can park out of sight of the birds and try calling them in then.  You want to pick an open area without any tall trees.  Crows won’t go out of their way to swoop in below tree top level.  They will stay above the tree tops and out of range to see what all the commotion is about.  Find an area with smaller trees that you can use for cover and your success rate will improve two fold.

Most of my crow hunting is the “run and gun” method.  I have an area pre-scouted with about 6 different calling spots along the way.  I will stop at each one and call for about 5 to10 minutes.  If nothing comes in I will move on to the next one.  If they are in the area it usually doesn’t take long.  If they are really close it can happen in the first 10 seconds.  Once I shoot a crow in a specific area I will leave that spot alone and wait until the following weekend before I hit it again.  Crows figure things out pretty darn quick and they will get gun shy faster than any bird I know.


Getting started on crow hunting takes a minimal investment on equipment.  Most hunters already have everything they will need to start.  All it takes is a shotgun, a few shells, a cd player and calling cd and camo.  For the beginner an actual predator caller is nice but not necessary.  If it plays a cd or tape and has speakers it will work.  Just point the speakers up and turn up the volume.  As for what type of calling tape I prefer a crow in distress or crow fighting sound.  Both seem to work pretty well for me.  Crows are the bullies of the avian world and they love to pick a fight with just about everything.  If they hear another crow in distress they will usually come charging in to help out.  Once that happens you have to be quick.  Your favorite shotgun along with some target loads will work nicely.  A crow, body wise, is not much bigger than a pigeon.  They just look bigger because of the wings.  It doesn’t take much to bring one down and a well-placed load of #8 shot will do the trick.  I like to keep my shots close so my O/U 20 gauge with an IC/Mod choke combination works quite well for me.  In order to get them close good camouflage and keeping still helps.  It’s just like duck hunting, if you move to quickly or look up at the wrong moment the birds will flair and you will be hard pressed to get them back into range.  Once a crow thinks something is wrong he will stay out of range and fly circles around you until he gets bored and flies away.  Sometimes you can get away with not having any camouflage but if you already own it, wear it.  A couple of standard decoys will help lure them in as well.  I like to set one up on the ground near the caller and another in a small tree or bush if I can.  It isn’t always necessary but it certainly does help.

Know your target

I can’t stress this enough.  When using a call, especially one of a rabbit squealing, just about everything within earshot is going to come check it out.  I have had owls, hawks, cats, dogs, a bald eagle and lord only knows what else come in to see what was making all the noise.  The last thing you want to do is make a mistake and rise up to shoot at a hawk.  Where I hunt in north east Michigan the other problem is Ravens.  Ravens are protected and there are a lot of them in my area.  They look almost identical to a crow except they are bigger and their tail has a “V” shape to it.  Their call is also more guttural and not as high pitched as a crow.  It doesn’t take long to spot the difference between the two so err on the side of caution until you are sure.

When to go

The best time to hunt crows is when they are in season.  Morning, evening, middle of the afternoon, it really doesn’t matter.  Crows fly around all day.  My home state of Michigan has a 120 day season that is broken up into two parts.  The first season starts Aug 1st and runs until Sept. 30th.  The second season starts Feb. 1st and runs until the end of March.  Check your local game laws to see when the season is for your state.  Each season had its advantages and disadvantages.  The early season means first year birds that have never been shot at but it can also mean 90 degree humid days with mosquitoes.  The later season the birds are smarter but food is also a little scarcer.  That first spot I mentioned in the beginning was holding so many crows because there were a couple of deer carcasses nearby.  If the deer had not been there I doubt the crows would have either.

Well there you have it, crow hunting in a nutshell.  All that is left is to go out and give it a try.  Crows do make for some excellent wing shooting and they also make an ideal hunting experience for a young wing shooter.  Just remember to be careful and have fun.

Oh, one other thing.  That first spot I mentioned?  I went back there right after dinner with a shotgun instead.  There are two less crows to attack me the next time I stop by.

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Excessive use of Camo