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

Thanksgiving Deer Hunt

23 11 2012

Every year I take out a few first time handliners to show them how it’s down.  A lot of times these guys will promise to take me fishing or hunting here, there and everywhere in return.  In most instances it never happens but every once and awhile one of them holds true to his promise.  This time it was a person who already knew how to handline, he just wanted a little insight on the Trenton Channel.  Dan had spent most of his time fishing with his father up on the St. Clair or upper Detroit River.  He recently moved down to Melvindale so he wanted to learn how to fish my end of the river.  During several of our trips he would talk about his other passion which was deer hunting.  He had permission to hunt some property   north of Imlay City and he told me I could come along on a few hunts during rifle/muzzle loader season.  At the time I didn’t think much of it but he was persistent.  He was going to be hunting there the week before Thanksgiving so I took a vacation day and we made it happen.

Day 1

3:30 am comes way too early.  There I was driving down Allen road with no one else on the road.  I know, big surprise.  A few minutes later I was at Dan’s and unpacking my stuff.  He told me to pack light which I did, one shotgun, a box of shells and a Pepsi.  I was all set.  I was introduced to John and Cisco who would be joining us today as well.  A few minutes later we were on the road and headed north.  A few hours after that I was seated in a heated blind overlooking a winter wheat field.  This was a new experience to me.  My deer hunting consisted of small wood lots and swamps.  I would find myself a big tree to lean up against and then sit quietly and wait.  This modern hunting was  very foreign to me.  As we sat waiting for the sun to come up Dan explained the situation to me.  The landowner was suffering a lot of crop damage from the local deer herd and she wanted them gone.  There would be no trophy hunting or any Antler Point Restrictions this day.  We had buck tags and antler less permits and our goal was to fill them.  We were facing a woodlot and fence line just over 200 yards to our west.  This would be where most of the deer would come from.  Once a deer crossed the fence and entered the field he/she was fair game.  This was the reason why Dan’s CVA inline muzzle loader was zeroed in for 200 yards.  As I said before my deer hunting was small areas where my shots are up close and personal.  Before today I had never taken a shot at a deer over 100 yards away.  This was a little out of my comfort zone.

Around 8:00 am we saw our fist deer in the field.  It was a mature doe and she slowly worked her way further out into the wheat.   Dan marked her with his range finder at 204 yards and he handed me his rifle.  There was no way I could make this shot with my old Model 97 Winchester with iron sights so he was nice enough to let me use his muzzle loader.  I waited for her to turn broadside so I could get the 200 yard dot high on her shoulder.  While I waited a small group of deer came out of the woods farther down the fence line and north of our position.  Dan kept on eye on them while I waited for my opportunity.  Minutes seemed like hours but she finally gave me a good angle for a shot.  Unfortunately I missed.  Not a big surprise to me since this was the first time I ever shot an in-line muzzle loader and at a distance like this.  Amazingly she never ran off, she just stood there and went back to feeding.  Dan quickly re-loaded and I told him to take the shot.  By then though she had walked off in the woods but the other deer never left.  Dan lined up his shot at the biggest doe at about 260 yards away.  He fired and he faired about as well as I did.  This time the deer left the field and we were left with our thoughts and theories on why we both missed.  We hunted for a few more hours and then headed in for breakfast around 10.  We picked up John and Cisco and they hadn’t seen anything.  After breakfast we bummed around town for a bit just killing time until we were ready to head our for the evening hunt.

At 2:00 pm we were back in the blind and by 2:05 Dan was fast asleep.  I figured I wouldn’t bother him, better he sleep now instead of when he was driving me home.  Besides he really wasn’t missing anything. He woke up around 3 but we didn’t see any deer until just before shooting hours ended.  Only problem was that they were in the next field over and headed north away from us.  Oh well, there was always tomorrow.

Day 2

Once again it was 3:30 am and I was heading to Dan’s.  When I got to his house he was a little disgusted and the first words out of his mouth were “it’s just you and me today”.  Two other people were supposed to join us but both of them were suffering from Brown Bottle Flu which they got Wednesday night, the busiest bar night of the year.  Word to the wise.  If you are invited to go hunting or fishing don’t go out drinking the night before.  If you cancel at the last minute and don’t show up you will get moved down to the bottom of the call list.  Ask any of the people I know that weren’t at the dock when it was time to go fishing.  We went anyways and just changed our plan of attack.  Originally Dan was going to place 1 person on different parts of the property in hopes of getting the deer moving.  Since it was just me we decided to just sit in the blind again.  Again the deer were there but this morning they all decided to stay on the other side of the fence.  We had seen probably close to 20 deer (and 3 dozen turkeys) but they were all too far away.  While I was watching a pair of does in the woods Dan spotted two deer running across a field to our north.  I got the binoculars on them and it was a buck and what appeared to be a doe.  We watched them for the next 20 minutes as the buck repeatedly tried to run off the doe.  The buck wanted to head east and every time the doe would follow he would turn and try to run her off.  Usually it was the other way around but this situation wasn’t making any sense.  Not that it really mattered since they were heading farther and farther east.  Right too a blind that Dan later told me he was going to sit me at if everyone had showed.  In fact, the two deer finally disappeared into a stand of pines not more than 20 yards from the blind.  Deer hunting is just like real estate, location, location, location.

Not much happened after that and by 9:30 am we were closing up the blind.  We both had family obligations for the afternoon so we packed up and headed home.  On the way home we talked about the pair of deer we saw running around the field.  The more we talked about the more we thought that the “doe” may have been a small spike and we just couldn’t see the antlers.  That would make sense because the other deer was definitely in dominant buck mode.

So no deer for the freezer but there is still plenty of time left.  Dan told me I was more than welcome to go again, all I would need to do is take another vacation day.  Good thing I have about 10 days left to take.  It’s also a good thing that I don’t drink and my alarm is good and loud.

Sunrise Day 2

View of the Sanctuary from the blind. Trust me, they’re in there.