Sunday, February 28, 2010
It's an easy thing to do. Most of us, including mysef, know that certain lists must be made and kept up to date. If a thought isn't written down down when we think of it, that thing is easily forgotten or never completed. It has happened to me many t
This points out the need of covering stand windows. Move, and if this doe is looking, she will spot inside movement.We pay particular attention to wooden stands. We check to see if the wood is worn, if nails or screws are starting to pull loose, and whether the railing is stable. An unstable railing, and a slip and a snow-covered ste[, can throw a person against the railing. It could break or tear loose, and lead to a bad fall.I climb into each stand and check the chairs or stools. We check the carpeting on the floor, and grab hold of a wall or shooting window, and push and pull it. We are trying to locate any squeaks. A loose nail or screw can lead to a creaky board, and that can lead to an unusual sound being made as a hunter comes to full draw on a good buck. Any weight shift in some stands can cause a creak or squeak, and that usually leads to a lost opportunityMy stands are as air-tight as possible, but that is difficult to do when windows must be opened to shoot. We check windows to see if they make noise when opened. We make sure that doors close tightly.We double-check the wooden steps that lead up to an elevated stand. We test every step to make certain it is safe, and if an extra heavy hunter wants to hunt with me, they usually will hunt from a brand-new stand that is structurally as sound as possible. This doesn't mean that some stands are not sound; a new stand hasn't been through one or two or more hunting seasons. The chance of a problem is minimal with new stands.
All stands must be safe and secure and need checking yearly.We make certain that all windows are clean, and we usually kill off any hornets or wasps long before hunting season begins. For some reason, these insects seem to love wooden coops on the ground or in the air. We also double-check to make certain that no bats have taken up temporary residence in any enclosed stand. Our ground blinds get the same degree of inspection as elevated stands receive. It's difficult to fall out of a ground blind, but we make certain the footing is good leading to ground blinds. Years ago, we built a stand for a friend that used a wheelchair. The doorway was lower than our other stands, and I had to remind others to duck their head when going into or out of that stand. I keep thinking about painting a sign on the inside and outside of the door that says "Duck Your Head!"Windows must be tested as well, and although some ground coops are built on the dirt, many have wood floors. We try to remove any loose-board squeaks. The doors must shut tight, and dark cloth curtains on the windows must be replaced almost every year because the mice get into them to line their nests.
Use caution when using wood steps to a tree stand in winter.Think of it this way: If you are in a darkened coop, but a window is uncovered behind you, any movement made can and will be seen. Dark cloth prevents people from being skylighted and spotted by wary deer. Some of my coops used to have small peek-holes to look out, but I found that friends were constantly opening them up, usually at an inappropriate time, so I screwed the shut so the only window they can see out of is the shooting window.Checking all of my ground and elevated stands is an ongoing spring thing. We test every blind long before the season opens, check them again when we start hunting, and look for any problem. We don't believe in leaving anything to chance. I've fallen a couple of times, and it's not fun and that's why I check my stands several times a year.If I'm to err, it will be on the side of caution I urge all hunters to do the same. A safe stand provides a safe and successful hunt.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
This deer wouldn't offer a clean shot unless the hunter was behind and off to one side.But one man I know has a 3-D course set up in his back yard. There is one tree stand location with two targets, and four ground targets. He goes over the area with a snowblower after every snow, and keeps the lanes reasonably open for he and his wife ir friebds to shoot.Of course, during a winter like this one, it's rather hard to stay ahead of the snow. It's even more difficult to keep shooting lanes open, and the snow has to go somewhere. He's constantly moving his 3-D targets, and any miss means a lost arrow until spring arrives and the snow melts.There is a distinct advantage to shooting outdoors during the winter months. Each archer is dressed in clothing similar to what they would wear during a December bow hunt, and they can learn to judge when fingers are warm enough to help them shoot straight. It also seems to toughen up their body, allows them to build up a tolerance to the cold, and makes them less miserable in cold and snowy weather.Another friend has a long garage, and it has a small wood burning stove that he keeps going all winter. One corner of the garage is set up solely for the purpose of winter target practice.His longest shot is 20 yards, and he has targets set at 10, 15 and 20 yards. He also has built an easily moved shooting window to replicate hunting from inside a coop. He fashioned it out of a single sheet of plywood with braces at the bottom so it will stand erect. He has the shooting window positioned so it will be at the perfect height for taking shots while sitting down. He shoots all of his deer while sitting, and he can easily move his targets or the shooting window to make shots easy or difficult.He also has a rheostat on his garage lighting system. He can make the garage as bright as noon on a sunny day or he can dim the lights to simulate those shots taken during the last few minutes of legal shooting time. One year he took his used Christmas tree out of the house on New Years Day, stood it up where a buck appeared to be coming out from behind a tree.
Taking a shot at any of these deer means knowing the exact distance. Winter practice can help.It added a degree of realism to his target shooting. He even went so far as to build a ladder stand at one end of his garage, and could practice shooting down at targets from a height of about 10 feet.Does all of this practice help these hunters? All of them shot bucks last year, and none of them missed a deer, and every one of these folks were able to bow-shoot a buck and place the arrow with enough accuracy that not one animal traveled over 75 yards before dropping.
Winter archery practice is important.Is this taking things too far? I don't think so. I mentioned above that I shoot every day, but I do it inside where it is warm and dry. Shooting outdoors, from a tree stand, or inside a garage means these folks are as serious as a heart attack when it comes to shooting and killing a deer.My hat is tipped to anyone who practices shooting during the winter, spring and summer months. Come fall, they are ready to hunt. And when a buck offers a shot, and they decide to take it, that deer's life is measured in mere seconds because they won't miss.
Friday, February 26, 2010
This is not a good shot and a true hunter would wait for the deer to turn.The deer shooter doesn't understand the intricate sense of balance between them, the deer and the environment. They belong to that old and outdated group of hunter who subscribe to that awful philosophy: "If it's brown, it's down."The hunter views the hunt as a wonderful event in nature where they can learn about deer, study the animals as they breed, feed, hide and roam at will. They have come to understand that the more they know about whitetail deer, the more successful they will become. And after a time, they progress to the third stage where the hunt becomes a very large and difficult challenge, one they know they will probably lose.The shooter seeks the shortest distance between two points. There is no need for study because they know what a deer looks like. "Show me a buck and I'll shoot it" becomes their motto.The hunter might complain about two days of east wind, but they are grateful for the opportunity to be afield and to hunt from a ground blind or tree stand. They know that many countries do not allow private ownership of firearms, and they see hunting as a privilege.The shooter complains about everything: too much east wind, too much high pressure centers; too many bugs early in the season; not enough bucks; too many does; and they blame others for their misfortunate of missing a decent buck. They are into immediate gratification, and a dead deer is the only thing that gives it to them. To them, hunting is a God-given right, a thought that is not true.
Most shooters complain about everything, and blame others when something goes wrong.The hunter studies the rut, knows that all bucks are not stupid during the breeding season, and they are wise enough to know that if you can fool the doe, the buck trailing behind is easy... if they decide to shoot.The shooter seldom thinks about the doe but focuses solely on the buck. If they forget about the doe, and make any mistake, there will be no shots at the buck. They are impatient while hunters must be patient.The hunter, thinking always of giving a buck an even chance, will pass up a marginal shot. He will remain still and silent, and allow a good buck to ease through if he is not 100 percent certain of his bow shot.The shooter is a firm believer in the "Hail Mary" shot that may or may not make it into the vitals. They take a shot, often a low-percentage shot that only wounds the animal and often allows it to get away only to die in some secluded thicket. These deer have been wasted. The hunter delights in a well-placed shot and shows the deepest respect for the animal they take. They are keenly aware of having killed an animal, and many may shed a silent tear for that deer's death. They treat it with the utmost respect, even in death, and pay their final tribute to a beautiful creature by having it mounted.
A nice buck in the snow can be an easy shot in open terrain.The shooter, if he scores, whoops it up and disgraces his killing act by talking about "happiness is a warm gut pile." The buck becomes nothing more than an ego stroke, a dead critter that grants them bragging rights over their buddies.The hunter recalls each hunt, whether they are successful or not, with pleasure. They enjoy nature, marvel at beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and worship the areas where whitetail deer live.The shooter recalls only the kill, and occasionally the miss, and could care less about the weather, the color of the autumn leaves and everything else about the hunt. For them, the kill is all they care about, and all that matters to them is a messy blood trail with a hair-covered corpse at the end of it.There must be more to hunting than what the shooter sees. Hunters take in and thoroughly understand the magic of the hunt, where that outing with bow in hand becomes far more important than the kill.Sadly, shooters seldom advance past that first level. They miss all that is fine and wonderful about the hunt, and revel only in a dead animal.How sad!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Bucks in the "old days" were often seen in the open once the snow fell.The deer seemed much larger back then than now. Of course, I suspect that was because I was much smaller, and our size difference was a result of being younger.Most of the hunting in those days came during the traditional November 15-30 firearm season. Blaze or Hunter Orange clothing wasn't worn in those days for one simple reason: it hadn't been invented yet.Most of us wore green-and-black or red-and-black checked wool coats and pants. Ours were often hand-me-downs from an older brother, and sometimes we hunted in whatever clothing we had. We knew about dressing in layers, and often wore everything we owned to stay reasonably warm. A few people had some of the old WWII camouflage, which really wasn't very good.We never worried much about human scent, and seldom took any precautions about hunting the wind. Many hunters simply walked into the woods, found a stump or uprooted tree to sit on, and would watch where two or three trails came together. If they happened to choose a downwind position, they might shoot a deer if they could sit still and not spook the approaching animal.I was fascinated by whitetails in those days. I'd often go hunting. It soon dawned on me that if I was upwind of deer, I seldom got a shot.One of the first things I learned was to hunt the wind. I learned that a hunter downwind of a whitetail buck was seldom winded. I learned to hunt deeper in the thick cover so I'd have a chance at a buck before the guys lined up outside of the cover would see deer.It didn't take long for me to learn that a long bow or recurve wasn't made for long-distance shots, and found most of the bucks I shot at were between 10 and 15 yards away. I became an instinctive shooter because there were few sights in those days. I drew back, aimed down the arrow shaft at the buck, and when the sight picture looked right, I made my release as smoothly as possible. After time, those shots often killed that buck.
Early bow hunting meant getting back into deep cover away from other hunters.There are memories of scouting for deer. It was easy to find the main runways, and I avoided other hunters as if they had smallpox. The more hunters in an area, the greater the chance of the accumulated noise and human scent spooking deer long before dawn arrived.So I hunted deeper in the thick cover, planned my adventure with teenage expectations, and studied deer. I wanted to learn all I could about these animals, because deep down inside, I knew that the more we knew about whitetail deer, the better success we would have.Weekends, holidays, days off from work, all would find me in the woods. I spent countless days studying them from afar, and many of those lessons I learned as a teenager are still being practiced today.
After all these years I'm still addicted to deer hunting with a bow.Hunting deer is much more than a casual thing for me. It is something I happily admit to being addicted to. Spending time in the woods, studying and watching deer, is as much a part of my scouting procedures as it was 50 years or more ago.Perhaps the bucks were bigger back then, and perhaps they weren't, but it makes little difference now. The good old days didn't occur six decades ago, they are here today. Lots of deer doesn't make the deer hunting better. Hunting one buck, and concentrating one's entire efforts on that single animal, is what makes hunting so much fun.After all of these years, there is nothing better than going one-on-one with a whitetail buck. If he makes a mistake, you'll get a shot. If you make a mistake, chances are good you'll never know he was nearby and how close you were to getting a close and clean shot.For me, that's what makes hunting whitetails with a bow, such a worthwhile endeavor. The one-on-one experience is still addictive.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
We didn't see any gobblers like this one on our scouting trip.I could easily become a one-man wrecking crew. But, through sheer willpower, I controlled my temper. I'll explain my ineptness to our guest, and he may understand.He is a teacher and a coach. Both require an enormous amount of patience, and I suspect with all the rules that schools and teachers must abide by these days, a hammer could possibly be considered a dangerous weapon. But only if you hit someone with it.In my day, corporal punishment was the law of the land. Mess up in school, and a teacher, the principal or superintendent could and most likely would mete out swift punishment with a smile on their face and a heavy hand. It wouldn't be something to be discussed. It would settle the matter, once and for all.Years ago (about 60 years ago) my twin brother George made a serious mistake with the hot-water heater in the boy's bathroom just as the principal walked in. George was busily engaged in watering down the heater, and it was something that made the bathroom stink. He'd learned this trick from the big boys who had enough brains to watch the door.Not George. The principal decided to administer a swift and exacting justice. He grabbed George by the shoulder, spun all 75 pounds of him around, and folded him up like an accordion with a hard fist punch to the belly. George doubled up, the principal delivered a rabbit punch to the back of his neck. That laid him out on the stinky floor.The principal was the sole judge, jury and executioner, and whistled while using the toilet, and chuckled merrily as he said: "George, doing things like that just aren't accepted in this school. When you feel a bit better I want to see you in my office."
Corporal punishment didn't always work.I saw George 10 minutes later. He was crabbing his way sideways down the hall, his neck bent a little crooked, and not tracking very straight. I asked what was wrong. He told me what he'd done, what the principal had done, and he was hurrying for another meeting with the 250-pound man.George never did anything like that again. Corporal punishment had served its purpose in that case. This doesn't mean I wholeheartedly endorse such things these days, but on a day when nothing has gone right, it might explain why I have a longtime love for hammers. The bigger the hammer, the better.A friend of mine was once a teacher and a school principal at a downstate school. Little Johnny, all 13 years of him, was sent to my friend's office when he sassed and smart-mouthed the teacher. Corporal punished still ruled in those days, and at this school, it was enforced with a ping-pong paddle."So, Johnny, what brings you to my office?" he asked."I mouthed off to the teacher.""You know what that means. Five smacks on the butt with the paddle.""No way you're going to smack me with that paddle.""C'mon, Johnny, bend over and take your punishment."
Fighting with children in school isn't the answer. Neither is the madness of stupid people taking a gun to school.The teacher tried to bend the kid over the desk, and the boy resisted, and by the time the principal had used all his strength on the kid, his shirt was half ripped off, his sports coat was a wreck, buttons littered the floor, his tie and hair was askew, and only sheer force kept the kid pinned down for the prescribed punishishment.He reached over, grabbed the paddle, and as he swung, the ping-pong paddle turned in his hand. Instead of cracking Johnny flat on the butt, the edge went between the kid's legs, and put Johnny on the floor in great pain. Perhaps that is why corporal punishment no longer rules our schools.So, like poor Johnny, all the things that went wrong today made my guts hurt. Very little was accomplished, and with any kind of luck I won't fall off this swivel chair and hurt myself.Tonight's blog has very little to do with fishing or hunting, but as a change of pace, it offers two excellent reasons why corporal punishment probably may have had a place in our schools at one time. However, like using a too-large hammer for a small job, perhaps we are much better off for the change. Few things in life are perfect and philosophy of big hammers is one that is not.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Same boat and motor as mentioned below. Good thing the fuse didn't go with the kids aboard.I buy a car, and it's expected to run. We do our part by getting oil changes every 3,000 miles. We take our rides in for scheduled maintenance, and put new tires on long before the need-to-do-so phase arrives. That means I expect the thing to work.So this morning I jumped into my fishing car or hunting car (as the seasons dictate) and expect mt battered old ride to move out of the way of the snow blower, and it wouldn't start. So what if it hasn't been started in a month. I demand reliability.I seldom really get angry but a personal weakness is when an expensive item stops working for no apparent reason. You've seen those film clips where a person takes a sledge hammer to his vehicle.That could be me but I'm smart enough to realize this problem, and control my anger. But, the frustration level is there. I've never done anything really stupid, but the temptation is always present when mechanical item prove obstinate.I have an outdoor-writing buddy in Colorado, and he'd had enough of a recalcitrant portable computer. He propped it up on the back side. drew a red bulls-eye on the cover, and shot three rounds from his elk rifle throught it. It didn't help it run at all but now he knew why it wouldn't.Never had the urge to be a shade-tree mechanic or a person who makes a living wrenching. I know what hammers and screwdrivers are, have a minor working knowledge of a hack saw and wood saw, but beyond that, my knowledge level about using tools falls apart. I suspect my knowledge level is on the same plane as my want-to-know level.
Fortunately, only a buddy was along on this trip.Once, far from port on Lake Michigan, the motor conked out. My buddy didn't even know what a screwdriver was so he was of no help. We'd boxed a number of chinook salmon, and all of a sudden the motor died.I was smart enough to have two batteries aboard. One to start the outboard, and another for my marine electronics and downriggers.I knew it had to one of two things (I hoped): it was either electrical or we'd run out of gas. The gas was no problem, and the gas line from tank to motor was fine. I was getting a spark, but still it wouldn't start.Stupid me, I ran down one battery trying to start the engine. Failing that because the battery soon ran out of juice, I switched batteries. That other battery soon ran down without turning over the motor.Now, I had a 50 horsepower Evinrude on the stern, and decided to try hand-cranking the motor. Ever try to start a big engine with a starter rope by hand? No?Well, don't. I was in my 30s, in good shape, and began pulling. Then the rope would be wrapped around fly wheel (at least that's what someone told me it was), and it would be pulled again. Nothing happened. We drifted aimlessly along on a soft breeze as other boaters steered clear of us, apparently assuming we were fighting a fish. The engine sat idle, and we drifted some more. I thought about putting a line out, but we weren't moving fast enough to make even a FlatFish work.No power meant the marine radio wouldn't work. Several hours into our drift, a buddy's boat was spotted and I waved him over. He came along side, and I explained our predicament. He asked about a fuse.Fuse? What fuse? Boat motors have fuses? He explained that engines indeed have fuses, for what reason I've forgotten, so he jumped aboard my boat, pulled off the engine cover, and showed me my fuse. You got it. It was blown.
It never occurred to me that a boat engine would need fuses. I've learned that lesson.He jumped back into his boat, located his spare fuses, and came back aboard. He took out the bad fuse, put in a new one, and then he took something out of his boat I'd never seen in any motorized vessel.A pair of jumper cables were attached from his boat battery to mine. I turned the key and the engine roared to life. It was all rather amazing.This business of engines was all rather baffling to me. The lessons learned from that episode forced me to have the right fuses aboard, and when all else fails, check the fuse. And to carry jumper cables, and not be stupid.There have been times when I could put a capital S on the word stupid. And some of those dumb stunts of mine cost me plenty of fishing time.There are other examples of mechanical things in my life that have gone wrong but I refuse to belabor my ignorance any further. I buy a car, and put gas in one end, oil in the other, and when the ignition key is turned, I expect to hear a running motor.My boat problem was solved by someone else, and I suspect the car problem also will be fixed by someone else once we get it started and take it in for service. Chances are the problem is one of those head-slappers where I should have known what to do but didn't.Duh!
Monday, February 22, 2010
This photo tells a story of the whitetail deer rut as a heavy-antlered buck chases a doe around an early November field.Although most of my older traps have disappeared, there are still some No. 1 and 1 1/2 long-spring and jump traps used for muskrats, coons, mink and fox. I still have a few of the old metal stretchers we used to dry our muskrat hides prior to the sale.I have a small collection of very low-numbered fishing and hunting licenses as well as some metal seals for deer, bear, moose, wolf and wolverine. Something makes folks like me collect such things. I have a number of old fishing and hunting digests dating back into the 1940s.Mom did her thing with Mason jars and tinfoil. Dad loved western novels, and especially those published in the 1940s and 1950s. He also had a bunch of the Dell map-back novels, and many are scarce and desireable to old paperback novel collectors, often for their covers.My guess is we feel closer to our chosen pastimes of fishing and hunting when we are engaged in collecting some of the memorabilia that accompanies our passions. I also have a small knife collection, including an old Marble Arms Company Boy Scout knife.Are any of these items worth great sums of money? No, they aren't. I used to reload shotgun shells, and somewhere along the way had the chance to pick up some Winchester-Western 12-gauge AA plastic shotshell cases. Some people are looking for them because they were a great shotshell for reloaders, but one wonders what I'll do with them.
A great enjoyment of mine is I collect, buy and sell old fishing & hunting books.It's obvious to most people who read these daily blogs that I collect fishing and hunting books. Why, you ask? Because it's difficult for us to determine where we are going if we don't know where we've been. The books give me a wonderful idea of what has gone before, and besides, I'm a hopeless romantic when it comes to old fishing and hunting gear.Over many years my hat collection has grown. There is a story behind every hat, and I still remember most of the stories. Some involve fishing and hunting while other relate more to friends who enjoy the same things that wind my clock. The collection numbers about 400, and each has a story to tell.I have an old Marble compass and match-safe I've carried while hunting since I bought my first hunting license in 1952. In my pocket is a Case jack-knife that is older than I am, and I well remember always having a pocket knife on my person from the 4th grade on. Every boy in school carried a pocket knife when I was young, and no one was ever cut or stabbed by one, and having one in your pocket wasn't grounds for being expelled from school. My knife helped me stay focused on what I think are important issues about the old days and life itself, and sadly, those days have ended and a knife -- even though used to trim fingernails or sharpen a pencil -- now results in an unfriendly chat with the police and probable expulsion from school.
Many turkey hunters enjoy collecting the turkey, bear and deer patches.I well remember years ago when our father was a member of the Special Police in Clio where we grew up. Brother George and I bought Dad a pair of pearl-handled .22 Derringers for Christmas one year. We were kids, but the local chief of police knew us, and OKed the buy. That wouldn't happen now. The kids, and their unwitting father, would likely be arrested: the kids for buying firearms and Dad for letting it happen.Some little nicknacks line my shelves. Old bottles of Citronella (an insect repellect), leader tins for storing fly-fishing leaders, an old bottle of Hoppe's No. 9 that I open several times each year to savor an aroma as distinctive as a 12-point buck or a wedge of decoying mallards.I bought a set of maps published by the DNR many years ago. There are hotspots marked on those maps that showed the way to old fishing hotspots, some great grouse and woodcock coverts, and the neat thing is they show old trails and two-tracks that are no longer visible. Search those maps, and it's easy (sometimes) to find an old lane that when followed will help us restore some great memories of yesteryear.Some people have asked me: "What good is all of that old crap?" They only see the flotsam of one man's life while I see this stuff as being pretty important to me and my fondest memories. Anything that can bring the old days back to life, if only for a few minutes, may be junk to some but it's one man's treasure to an old goat like me.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The waterspout dipped down out of a nasty looking storm cloud over East Platte Bay that day, and we watched the water-borne tornado for two minutes before it lifted off the water and disappeared back into the black clouds.
"Neat," said Jack Duffy of Leland. "I've seen a fair number of them while chartering out of Leland for lake trout and salmon, but I've never seen one on Platte Bay."
The waterspout was the spice that comes from spending time with a good friend, outdoors at a location that we both truly love, and we were there ostensibly to fish for steelhead off the Platte River mouth. Actually, fishing for steelhead was just an excuse for the two of us to get together to spend part of a day at a place that holds many dear memories for both of us. This episode happened two or three years ago, and I just remembered it.
Duffy and I have been friends for more than 40 years, and we pioneered brown trout fishing back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when he lived in Midland and I lived in Clio. We fished those brown trout hard, and caught hundreds of fish to 20 pounds at a time when no one knew they existed, and then one day Lady Luck smiled and he caught a 31 1/2-pound brown that set a state record.
He was the only guy I know who has caught a coaster brook trout off the Platte River mouth, and it weighed about five pounds. We've seen the Platte Bay fishery rise and fall over all of these years, and whenever we return to fish, we are really returning to a place where some great fishing dreams once came true. Granted, that doesn't mean that new dreams can't be realized but the fish simply are not there in heavy numbers as they once were.
Duffy had two lines out with spawnbags fished just off bottom in the river current. It's a technique we've used all these years to catch steelhead, but the fish seemed conspicuous by their absence. They lay out there drifting with the river current, and nothing bothered them. He was using an old Shakespeare rod that he used to catch his former state-record brown trout in an attempt to relive some of his old memories.
Casting small spoons sometimes pays off but not on this day.
I cast Devle Dogs in several colors by wading out into the lake and casting into deep water. Enough casts were made to make my shoulder sore, and there were no hits, no runs and I made no errors. The steelhead, if any were present, were not interested in our offerings.
We discussed the places we fished in Platte Bay for browns, and noted that the Lombardi poplars that once lined the shoreline of East Platte Bay are mostly gone now. They provided great landmarks at a time when landmarks played an important role in fishing. Duffy, like me, has aged and those memories of long ago are important to both of us. We discussed, in depth, the many brown trout we'd caught trolling on the bay.
We'd wade into the surf, and I'd cast my lures while he checked his spawnbags and replaced them with a new one. My lures were switched, and fan-casting them and varying retrieval speeds and sinking times were tried. The steelhead ignored our offerings as if there wasn't a fish in the area.
Our stories were told, we caught up on each others families, and discussed his chartering business and my writing business, and decided that we are both fortunate to have a vocation and avocation that is the same: fishing. Duffy pulled his first line, and we were wrapping things up. We had shared yet another precious memory from this hallowed spot by seeing the waterspout.
He grabbed the other rod, and felt a slight pull, and I heard that old familiar squeaky voice I remember from nearly four decades ago: "There's a fish hitting this spawnbag," he squeaked, giving the fish a bit of line. "He's taking more line out. Watch out there when I set the hook."
The rod tip came back, and the fish was hooked. We then talked about how many last-minute fish he and I have caught while fishing together, and it's a large number. The fish ripped off a bunch of six-pound line, jumped twice, all bright silver and glittery in the pale sunlight. Again the fish jumped, and he began working the fish back only to have it take out more line.
Slowly, and gradually with a minimum of pressure, the mint-silver steelhead started to lose the battle. Duffy played the fish gently, and led the fish up to the beach to a gentle landing. It was a hen steelhead with a small head and bright silvery flanks, and little did she know but this fish was the climax to another in a long line of unforgettable days we've shared.
A typical Lake Michigan brown trout like this were common may years ago.
Really, what can top a morning of fishing the surf of Platte Bay, remembering my brother George getting hooked in the head by an angler who only knew how to cast sidearm. We removed the hooks, and the wound bled hard, but it finally stopped, and we continued fishing. We discussed the big browns we once caught like they were hatchery trout, and we recalled those days, like today, when we had the whole area to ourselves.
We recalled. with great relish, that there is much more to fishing than catching fish. That one steelhead was about six pounds but it was the capstone to a wonderful day filled with great camaraderie, grand memories of other earlier times, and one nice fish. Seeing the waterspout was simply a bonus.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
There are times each winter when snowshoes are needed to get around.They weaved in and out of brush piles, wandered through piles of downed tree-tops, and there were a number of tracks out where we used to feed the deer. They've nibbled a bit on the old dead clover, and there were a pair of deer tracks as well. One was an adult deer, and most likely an adult doe, and the other was a fawn.We often see cottontail rabbits where sunflower seeds are knocked out of the feeder. The bunnies don't seem to mind sniffing through the seeds for some that are still intact.My short little walk wasn't much over 150 yards, and in one spot was the unmistakable sign of the demise of one of the young rabbits. The animal had made a serious mistake in getting out in the open and away from brush and trees, and the whole picture was printed on the white snow.An owl had swooped down from the sky sometime during the night, gliding in on hushed wings, and a few spots of blood on the snow showed where the bird had snared the cottontail. There were signs of wing-tip feathers dusting the snow as the bird grabbed the young cottontail rabbit and flew away with dinner.Avian predators are a major concern of wildlife in these parts. We often see hawks take songbirds and ruffed grouse during the day, and if they hit a grouse, nothing is left behind but a pile of russet feathers.
Avian predation on rabbits is high during night-time when owls are active.We've had cottontails around our house as long as we've lived here. They stay in the shrubs, venture out after dark to feed, and we see definite sign of their presence as they chew on ornamental bushes and shrubs.Cats are another silent predator, and they prey heavily on songbirds and grouse when the snow is deep. There's no telling where the cats come from, but if we see a strange car or truck in the area, we often find cat tracks later. People who no longer want the cats turn them loose in someone else's neighborhood, and then we have to deal with them. Today, there was one lone dog track behind the house, and a single dog often meets a sad fate when it encounters one or two coyotes.These large animals will kill every dog or cat they catch. Cats often escape by climbing a tree, but coyotes are brazen. They've been known to pluck a small dog off the back porch.Rather than take unwanted cats to the Humane Society and let them deal with the critters, people dump them elsewhere. They feel sorry for the cat, and often these animals die of starvation or provide a nourishing lunch for a coyote. A cat is a killing machine, and often kills for the sake of doing so. People should keep pet cats and dogs in the house at night or in a kennel. Lacking the guts to accept this responsibility, taking them to the pound is the best choice.Unwanted cats are destructive during winter months. I frighten them away, but many people either set live traps or kill the cats on sight. Cats are pets, and they belong indoors or under human control.
A major predator of rabbits are house cats, which should be kept indoors at nigh.Those left to roam at night often disappear. Although I don't necessarily agree with the Three S's doctrine (shoot, shovel and shut up), I can understand why some landowners treat every roaming cat with suspicion.Those that appear to be hunting game or song birds are summarily dispatched. This can be cause for a citation, a fine and perhaps a jail sentence, but no one that I know wants free-roaming cats in their neighborhood.Free-roaming dogs often attack deer in deep snow, and many think that turning Fido out for the night is the right thing to do. Two, three or four dogs can form a pack, and they can and will drag down and kill deer.The place for pet cats and dogs is inside at this time of year or under human control when outside. It's up to pet owners to control their animals.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Mature does fight for winter food. Fawns can't survive such a battering as this.The deer ate but there's nothing courteous about winter deer. This was Mother Nature hard at work, with each deer vying for the most food. They ate as much as possible, as quickly and greedily as possible, and weren't keen about sharing.A doe, accompanied by twin fawns, began feeding. The doe fawn moved too close to her mother, and the older animal reared up on her hind legs and pummeled the hapless youngster before running the fawn off. So much for motherly love and sharing at the February dinner table.It was hardly a Disney-like portrayal of Bambi and Mom. This was a realistic view of a deer's winter life. The doe fawn, weighing barely 40 pounds, moved away from her mother. She was bowed and bloodied from the attack. Ten minutes later she tried to feed near her young brother, and was viciously kicked by the slightly larger sibling.It's called survival of the fittest. Did the doe fawn survive? It's doubtful.The doe fawn was fuzzy-faced, with ribs and hip bones jutting out. Her lethargic movements doomed her to one of two deaths: a lingering death from starvation or a more rapid demise as coyotes would eat her alive. Which is worse? For the young fawn, the end result wpi;d be the same.
Fawns need nutritional food but many never get enough.In some areas the browse is eaten away higher than most adult deer can reach. Fawns move from one spot to another in search of food, and should they get off a well-packed deer trail, they are too weak to crawl back through deep snow onto the trail and its relative safety.Snow depths throughout most of the northern areas averages two feet in depth right now after our brief thaw, and the snow is much deeper in most of the Upper Peninsula.It's merely a statement of fact: hard winters exact a horrible toll on whitetails. A bobcat or free-ranging pet dog can easily kill winter-weakened whitetails.In years of deep snow, the animals have nowhere to go. The DNR used tp allow supplemental deer feeding. Not any more, and this stupid action and unwise DNR decisions have hurt our deer herd. That false-alarm CWD scare two years ago has hurt our deer herd. It will take quite some time for our deer herd to recover from the lack of supplemental feeding. And frankly, with out a beefed-up crew of Conservation Officers, it can be difficult to keep up with illegal baiting.
The CWD false alarm and a DNR knee-jerk reaction hurt state deer herd.Deer need thermal cover to break the wind and provide warm cover, but year after year they return to the same over-browsed deer yards, and most years the winter starvation rate can be incredibly high.
This little spike buck might not make it through the winter.The most vulnerable deer right now are adult bucks and fawns. An adult buck will lose 25-30 percent of its body fat and weight during the rut, and unless the weather moderates enough to allow them to stockpile body fat, they can die early. Fawns must compete with their mothers and other larger deer for food, and when the going gets tough, fawn and older bucks start dying.Starving deer often start feeding on browse that lacks any nutritional value. The sad fact is that winter whitetails often die with a full belly, and it is a slow, wasting death. Survival means being mean, being big enough to reach enough browse to make it through the winter, and looking out for No. 1.The fawns have to fend for themselves, and the death toll mounts in February and March. It's too bad but it's Nature's way.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
At 40 degrees, the snow is coming off the roof. I spent some time arranging and rearranging books that are for sale on my website at < www.davericheyoutdoors.com >. Some titles are once-in-a-lifetime acquisitions for any sportsmen and some are moderately priced.
It's obvious that not all sportsmen like to read books, and that is OK. They just don't know what they are missing. There are so many fine fishing and hunting books available and listed on Scoop's Books.
Dave Richey looks over a book before buying it.
A hunter might ask: why buy a book on deer hunting? I already know how to deer hunt. Good question but a poor answer. Anyone who doesn't study deer regularly will know something about hunting these animals, but won't know enough about how to hunt them when the going gets tough.
Lots of people can cast a fly, but there are countless books available that can help with casting more accurately but also can teach us how to read the river, determine which insect is hatching, and which patterns will help fool the fish. Nothing is ever guaranteed except paying taxes until you die, but reading can broaden your horizons and help people learn new skills.
I'm constantly looking for fishing or hunting books to buy. I need to buy books in order to sell books, and I'm picky about condition but pay fair prices. So just what am I looking for and hope to buy from you?
Good question but a tough one to answer. The easiest answer is for you to tell me the author's name, the title of the book, and whether it is a paperback or hard-bound book with a dust jacket. From that tiny bit of information, I can usually determine whether I may be or am not interested in that title.
Contrary to popular belief, all fishing and hunting books are not scarce. Most also are not all worth big money. Many books I turn down are not worth $5, and I have no need for them. But for you, the potential seller, I will pay within reason what it takes to buy books in good shape that I want for resale.
Books with damaged covers, childish scribbles, underlined passages, highlighted sentences, damp-stained covers or those with other faults are not worth offering. I never buy musty, mildewed or ex-library books because they usually aren't worth owning.
I buy fishing and hunting books, and sell them, too. Need a gift suggestion? Contact me.
So, c'mon Richey, what exactly are you interested in? I seldom buy new titles. I never buy Readers Digest or condensed books. I prefer books that state 1st edition or 1st printing on the copyright page.
Topics of interest to me include Atlantic salmon, muskie, brook trout, tarpon, Pacific salmon, fly tying, bamboo rod building and other types of fishing books work for me. I crave good books on hunting ruffed grouse, deer, ducks, geese, upland game, wild turkey, woodcock and other hunting books. I have a mild interest in African hunting books but am picky about what I buy. I do pick up books on duck decoys.
There are certain authors I collect. Havilah Babcock, Larry Benoit, Bob Brunner, Nash Buckingham, Jack Burns, Peter Hathaway Capstick (first editions only), Russell Chatham, Wally Chodak, Eugene Connett, Ralf Coykendall, Henry Davis, George Bird Evans, William Harnden Foster, Percy Haver, Marv Heeler, Dana Lamb, Homer LeBlanc, John Lowther, Thomas McGuane, Art Moraski, Richard Nissley, Jack O'Connor, Larry Ramsell, George Richey, Robert Ruark, Ernest Schwiebert, Louie Spray, Bob Swineheart, Robert Traver, Jack L. Turner, Ted Vogel, Alfred Weed and countless others. I'm always interested in any books written by Michigan turkey hunters like Denny Geurink.
Here some authors that I purchase. Let me know what you have,
People have nothing invested in offering me books for possible purchase. If I can't or won't buy your books, I'll be happy to explain why. If I do buy, know that I will give you the highest possible price, and hope then to be able to resell the books for a modest profit.
I've never cheated anyone, and don't plan on starting now. My reputation is excellent, and I sell books off my website and some by mail order sales. It's in my best interest to pay the highest possible price, and still realize a potential profit.
I grade books fairly, charge a fair price and pay a fair price when I buy. I've been buying and selling books for 42 years, and one doesn't stay in business long by cheating people.
Give me a try. Nasty winter weather will be around for another six to eight weeks. Dig through that pile of fishing and hunting books stashed in the attic, barn, basement, cellar, closet, garage or wherever, write down the author's name, the book title, and whether paperback or hardcover with dust jacket. If you can read this, you can certainly email me at < email@example.com > and tell me what you have for sale.
It's that easy. And who knows? The book you sell could be valuable or not, but the payment may allow you to purchase some fishing or hunting equipment. Try me and we'll see what happens.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Why I Love Bowhunting ((Dave Richey, Michigan, outdoors, bowhunting, arrows, broadheads, children, deer, ecstasy, tree stands, five senses)
And, of course, memories of past hunts. I also savor the cooler air of the autumn woods, and knowing that soon the fall colored leaves will blanket the entire woods like a paintbrush, and then they will cover the ground like a blanket. Bow season means different things to all of us who hunt, 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 been a decision that only we can make. Chances are I won't shoot in hopes of making my time in the woods last just that much longer.
Hunting a big buck in a thicket is great fun.
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.
I strongly believe the next sentence is true.
It's said that hunting is 90 percent anticipation and 10 percent participation, and getting ready for the hunt is a major part of my 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 whole 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 has become so important to me.
I saw this buck three times one year but couldn't get a good shot.
The hunt and the month just feels perfect to me. It's a shame we must wade through the dreary months of April, 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 rhis 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 and to use them wisely.
Possessing that bit of knowledge is a gift: share it with a loved one, and especially with a child. You’ll never regret that action.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Practice Shooting & Let Little Bucks Walk ((tag: Dave Richey, Michigan, bow, firearm, outdoors, bucks, muzzleloader, patience, practice,respect, rifle, shoot often
One thing that many anti-hunters get made about are wounded animals. I have people ask hunting question, and some of them are ill-prepared for a shot. A bad hit is the result of jittery nerves, buck fever and the inability to shoot straight when an opportunity presents itself.
People who regularly hunt make killing shots. Most of them hunt with a bow, even during firearm seasons, but others also hunt with a muzzleloader or center-fire rifle. When they aim at a deer, and pull the trigger, the animal goes down and dies quickly.
A pretty but young buck. Don't shoot him.
These hunters have one thing in common: they can shoot straight, and they don't miss. One man shot seven bucks in seven seasons. Five were taken with a bow and none ran over 75 shots, and four were heart shot and the fifth was taken through both lungs.
The other two deer were taken with a flat-shooting rifle with a 140-grain pointed soft point. Both deer were hit low behind the front shoulder, and both deer died instantly where they stood.
Another man shot a big 10-point this past fall after he had hunted the animal into December. The buck made a mistake, walked past the hunter, and one arrow killed the buck. It went just over 50 yards and tipped over.
Learn to avoid some of these mistakes.
What do these men have that other sportsmen don't? They have the patience to wait for a clear shot, and the ability to put an arrow or bullet in that spot, every time.
They practice shooting all season. The centerfire rifle usually doesn't come out of the gun safe until just a week before the Nov. 15 firearm opener. They may fire a dozen shots before the season opener, and are equally familiar with their bow or firearm. They know when the rifle's cross-hairs center the heart-lung area that the deer is dead but doesn't know it just yet.
They know that when they put the red-dot bow sight behind the front shoulder of a buck, that animal will go down. They shoot regularly, never exceed their shooting abilities by taking long shots, and they know how and when to draw and shoot. The deer they shoot are unaware of danger because the hunter plays the wind every day.
These men are not casual hunters. They work hard to learn as much about deer as possible. They know how and where deer travel, and soon learn when the animals will come near their stand.
Allow little bucks like this to walk away.
They never take hurried shots, and never take a low-percentage shot. They know that tomorrow may offer a better shot, and are willing to wait until all conditions are in their favor. They never make a mistake when shooting game, and they respect those animals they hunt.
They never brag about their prowess, never make the deer appear dumb or stupid, and they never show the animal any disrespect. Many have learned over time that hunting means more than just killing, and also know that the meat from these animals will grace their table.
They know that hunting is something more, much more, than killing a small deer with tiny antlers. They are willing to pass up young bucks, knowing that in two or three years that buck will be the trophy buck of their dreams.
They are hunters, 365 days per year, and that is why they are so deadly in the autumn woods. They know that patience and practice is what makes them the supreme predator.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Take The Coyote Challenge (tag: Dave Richey, Michigan, outdoors, calling, coyote hunting, spot and stalk, .243, be ready, downwind))
The wind was blowing uphill and downwind of me, and I suspected that was where the coyote would appear. However, I didn't expect him to be as close as he got before I saw him coming.
I let out a screech with my portable caller, and let it run for about two minutes, and slowly turned down the volume. Fifteen minutes later, while sitting with my back to a tree and my wife's .243 single-shot Thompson/Center rifle across my lap with an 85-grain hollow-point bullet up the spout, I slowly eased into another sequence of a screaming rabbit.
The sound grates on your nerves. It is 10 times worse than someone dragging their fingernails down a blackboard. That though was going through my mind when I saw a movement 30 yards to my left. My rifle was across my knees with the butt stock to my shoulder, and I watched the old dog coyote slip through the last bit of heavy brush. He was coming in for the kill.
The safety was pinched off silently between my thumb and forefinger. i eased the volume up just a tiny bit to cover the sound of pulling the rifle's set trigger. This rifle has a set trigger, and once it is set, breathe too hard on the other trigger and it will go off. It's best to have the cross-hairs on the animal before touching the trigger.
I'm familiar with the rifle, and the coyote was focused on where the speaker was hid in some tall weeds and brush. It sounded like a rabbit dying, and the coyote was looking at the sound rather than me. I knew he would step out, and then streak in for the kill. My time to aim and shoot would be when he first stepped out and before he ran.
The coyote stared hard at the spot, and the rifle was up and the scope cross-hairs were centered on his chest. He took one step out, staring toward the sound, and a soft caress of the trigger sent the bullet on its way. The coyote flipped over backwards and lay still.
It's important to be ready to shoot. Coyotes seldom offer a second chance.
I've been at this coyote hunting business for many years, and as soon as I shot, up went the volume again as the rifle was quickly unloaded and a fresh cartridge inserted into the chamber. Two minutes went by, and I was watching closely for another coyote.
Winter hunters know that in January and February coyotes often run together in pairs, a male and female. I soon spotted the other coyote, and its tail was clamped tight to its rear quarters, and it was 400 yards and sneaking out of the area.
Once, several years ago, my son-in-law, Roger Kerby of Honor, called up a coyote and shot it. He fired up the recording, and out stepped another coyote, and he shot that one as well. He then turned up the volume again, and out steps a third coyote despite hearing two shots.
He aimed at it, and decided against it. He had cross-country skied into the area over deep snow, and knew dragging out two coyotes and his rifle would be as much work as he wanted to do. He let that coyote walk off, and later, after skinning out both animals, he decided to go for a ride. Ten minutes into the ride a coyote crossed the road in front of him. and began mousing 200 yards out in an open field.
Roger Kerby of Honor, Mich. takes several coyotes yearly.
He could have shot that animal but decided that two coyotes in one day was enough excitement for one person. Make no mistake about it: coyote hunting is exciting, especially when one sneaks in close to the caller without being seen.
My first coyote was shot 45 years ago when I started hunting coyotes and foxes with hounds. I took that one with a 3-inch magnum 12 gauge with No. 4 buckshot at 30 yards.
These animals are hardy, and a flat-shooting rifle with a hollow-point bullet is needed to prevent them from running off. There is no shortage of these predatory animals, and hunting them is never easy. It's as big a challenge as one can find during any time of the year, but especially during the winter months.
Don't believe me, then take the coyote challenge. Anyone who takes a coyote by calling it, running it with houses or by stalking it, has accomplished something very difficult. Calling has become a popular winter pastime, and hunting hasn't made a dent in the coyote population and it never will.
These animals have learned to live close to the area's human residents, and they are well tuned to human way. Calling isn't the surefire way to hunt coyotes as it was many years ago. These animals are smart, and hunter earns every one he takes.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Pileated woodpecks are large birds and often much larger than this one.Seventy-five yards behind my house is one of my food plots. There's not much to it now that deep snow has covered the ground although deer occasionally paw through the snow and nibble at the old clover. It becomes a major source of nutrition during the spring months.It satisfies all the rules that pertain to winter feeding. I no longer can distribute carrots, corn and sugar beets over the once-prescribed 10 X 10-foot area, and each day when I went out, there would be deer tracks everywhere but adding some corn to the winter deer diet is now illegal because of the Chronic Wasting Disease scare.So far there is no sign of wild turkeys near us, and I seldom see them until the winter weather turns harsh. Right now, our area seems to be inhabited by a few does and young fawns from last spring although it's possible a buck that has lost his antlers may be coming in, but in all honesty, since the no baiting, no-feeding law went into effect late last August, the deer have not been coming to my food plot.Mind you: before our brief warm-up two weeks ago, the snow had been too deep for easy deer travel. We seldom see deer once the snow gets knee-high to a human. The deer vacate such upland country and head for traditional low-lying deer yards.Frankly, I'm not 100 percent sure what comes to dine on the food plot behind the house. Deer are common in early and late winter, and so too are rabbit and squirrels. On a warm sunny day we occasionally see a 'possum or raccoon waddling about in the melting snow.
Seeing an occasional wild turkey is great fun.We've enjoyed having wild turkeys stop by in the past, and one winter we helped feed a flock of 40 birds. One, a bird with a 12-inch paint brush for a beard, brought his harem of hens and little ones in every day for a feeding visit. The birds would fly up onto the deck of our house and try to eat seed from the bird feeder, and they would walk up and down the deck. They usually roosted in trees behind the house but often would roost on the peak of our house roof or the peak of the garage roof. The big gobbler was having a bad time of it, and a ball of ice as big as a golf ball covered his middle toe. He quit coming for a few days and I was afraid a coyote had pulled him down, but when he showed up, the ball of ice and middle toe were gone. The toe had frozen and broke off.
Hosting a flock of turkeys was great fun.The birds came in January and were still here in April. One day, some idiot poached that big gobbler from his car window, ran onto my land, grabbed the flopping bird, threw it into the trunk and rapidly drove away. Those birds never came back to my land.Birds will come to the winter handout, but once it is started, it must continue. To abandon feeding, especially during a bad winter, will cause irreparable damage to our wildlife.The largest bird that visits our bird feeders (primarily the suet feeder) is a pileated woodpecker. We have both the male and female of that species, and see them almost every day. Flickers also visit, and they are a fairly large bird. We also get chickadees, goldfinches, grosbeaks, juncos, nuthatches, sparrows and a raft of the smaller downy and hairy woodpeckers.We feed to help give something back to the wildlife community. It can be a major expense, but I've found that it makes me feel good. And watching the birds as they feed is far more entertaining than watching the soaps on television.But then, that's just one man's peckish wintertime opinion.
Friday, February 12, 2010
We lamented the lost cards then, and really miss them even more now, but what's past is gone forever. I moved on, and over many years, began picking up outdoorsy things that I liked. Fishing and hunting books topped my list (and still do), but there were other items available for an aging packrat like me to collect.
Much of my "stuff" was stored in cardboard boxes for safekeeping, and much of it has now been found again. Imagine going through cardboard boxes and finding my old Marble knife. The handle is wrapped in rawhide, and the blade is big enough to slay bison singlehandedly.
And right next to it was an old Marble compass from the late 1950s, It still works, and has been put away in a safe place. I was thinking I'd hit the jackpot until I laid my hands on a Winchester Model 61 .22 rimfire magnum pump rifle. After high school, I worked for two years at Water Wonderland Sporting Goods, at the junction of Dort Highway and North Saginaw Road, about three miles north of Mt. Morris.
It was legal in the late 1950s to hunt whitetails (very few of them were in our area) in southern Michigan with a .22 rimfire magnum. They also came in handy for shooting red foxes, and some of my old fox-hunting buddies like Max Donovan, G.V. Langley and others carried one on our winter fox hunts.
I saved my money, and bought the rifle. I was prepared to go out and run with the big dogs now. The rifle was purchased during the winter, and about three months before the firearm deer season would open, the Department of Conservation (forerunner of the Department of Natural Resources), outlawed the use of a .22 rimfire magnum for deer hunting. I hunted for woodchucks often with that rifle, and close shots like this could be deadly.
The come-and-gone Remington jack knife.
I've always had a thing about pocket knives, or as we called them back in our youth, jack knives. Brother George had given me a Remington two-blade pocket knife 45 years ago. I'd lost track of it, and then it was found, and soon after was lost again, and hasn't been seen since. The blades had been sharpened so many times, and the steel is so great, that I often used it to fillet bluegills. It was a treasure that had been lost, found and lost again.
I'd lost my baseball cards but still have that rifle. I potted a few fox, a coyote or two and an abundance of woodchucks with it over the years. I still shoot it on occasion, but looking at it now brings back memories of buying it to hunt deer only to have it made illegal for that purpose.
In another box was my shotshell reloader with all the powder and shot bars, crimping tools to seal up paper and plastic shells. I found a great, huge box of Winchester AA plastic cases. Some had been reloaded two or three times, and many had been fired only once.
Several years ago I was visiting with the late Fred Houghton, formerly of Clio where we grew up, and he mentioned he still had that rod and reel I'd loaned him 40 years before. The rod was an ultra-light Wanigas fiberglass rod made by famous Trout Unlimited co-founder Art Neumann, and a Cargem Mignon spinning reel came with it. This rod and reel had been a favorite, and thanks to Fred's honesty, I now have it back.
Deep in another box was a round metal tin of Mucilin that we used years ago when fly fishing. There also were a half-dozen No. 1 traps that I used 55 years ago when running two traplines. They brought back memories of days when prime muskrat pelts sold for $8. each, and we'd often catch five or six 'rats a day, and some years we made more money trapping than our father made in a week of cutting hair.
There was an old Jones-type hat that had traveled North America with me. It was half rotted, and I thought it had been thrown away, but there it was -- as ugly as ever -- and it brought back grand memories.
Then I found a small pocket knife with the likeness of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the handle. Next to it were two rusted knives I'd found sticking in logs where some hunter had probably field dressed his deer, drug the animal out of the woods and forgot the knife.
There were a couple of old wood duck decoys I'd found in the cattails while jump-shooting ducks in the 1950s. Their decoy anchor lines had rotted and broken, and they had drifted off during rough water. George and I found 50-100 old wood dekes many years ago, but these were all that remain.
One might think this was a collection of old junk, but not me. I looked at all those old items, and counted them as wonderful memories from a bygone era when hunters knew enough to keep their paper shotgun shells dry. If they didn't, they would swell up and it was nearly impossible to get them to fire or get the swollen shells out of the shotgun. We soon learned to keep our knives sharp for when they might be needed, and every boy of that generation carried a knife to school but no one ever used it improperly. Try that now, and a kid would be expelled and probably picked up by the police for carrying a dangerous weapon. Back in those days it wasn't a weapon, but a tool to be used, and it was a rite of passage to carry a knife.
Those were the days, my friends, we thought they'd never end. And they haven't because fishing and hunting is still great fun for me, and I still share a lifelong love affair with the outdoors.