Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Best of 2013

By Mac Arnold
ROA photos by Mac Arnold
Snow made for easy an drag Dec. 20. 

ROA Editor

Despite not knocking down any horned beasts, two fatties in the freezer definitely turned my 2013 deer season around.

The last being a doe right at dark with an 80-yard shot from the Knight .45-caliber muzzleloader.

Can I just say, I love this gun? Yes, I can.

This same instrument of death brought down the best deer of my life, which was a 8-point with a 19-inch inside spread a few years back. Someday I hope to beat this with something better. Maybe next year?

Anyway, with the time dwindling and nowhere else to rip off a breech-clearing shot Friday, Dec. 20, I was either going let loose into a stump or a willing participant and lo and behold in the waning minutes of legal shooting time five customers came prancing down along the neighboring property DMZ line and into our Sanilac County, Mich., camp.

Was I dreaming? I couldn't believe this good fortune.

All I needed was about five more steps from the lead doe to clear a large tree trunk, and I would have an open shot.


Once the smoke dissipated, all I saw were scattering deer every which way.

Ut oh, I thought to myself, even with snow a lengthy nighttime tracking excursion seemed likely in my future.

Muzzleloaders don't always provide great blood trails, which is just the nature of the beast with this primitive weaponry.

But wait ... it seemed as if a heap that wasn't there a minute ago was now there between the two trees where I lined up the doe.

After a careful inspection with the binos, and still seeing a dark heap that I couldn't remember previously, I confidently decided it was time to check the blob out.

I unpiled from the blind gear in hand and down the ladder stand, then slogged through the wet 6 inches of  snow over to where I marked the deer.

Wow. I dropped it right in its tracks with a shot through the front shoulder.

You can't beat that.

Zero tracking. Yee-haw.

This will apparently cap off the ending to the season although I'm not ruling out the annual New Year's Day hunt.

With me practically standing on the freezer to get the top to close, the only way I would take another white-tail is if it was nicely antlered one.

For those who accused me of being greedy or a meat hog, I always donate plenty to friends and any other takers.

But despite this great ending, Mac's best for 2013 is the early fall tom I took with a crossbow.
This fall gobbler was Mac's best for 2013.

Hands down, it is No. 1 for this season. A strong case could be made if I did take a nice buck with a crossbow with the remaining days left. It would complete a coveted "triple" -- one in archery (although some debate could be made if a crossbow is truly archery), one in shotgun/rifle and one in muzzleloader.

In some ways, this year's take could be viewed as a "hybrid" triple, since I did take a fall tom with the crossbow.

Talk about good fortune. I had just arrived late in the blind a half hour after sunrise and within 10 minutes of sitting down and making some raspy yelps -- to mock a jake -- I got a response. And then, suddenly three dark figures began winding their way to me in the still quite green and yellow woods.

I identified two of the birds as toms from their nice beards. The first one slipped past me without a shot but the second wasn't as lucky.

Thwapt!!! A flapping sound and then silence. But only two birds re-appeared from the brush out in front of me.

After waiting for the big hoss bird -- which I not only missed again this time but in spring as well -- to move off, I got down and found the other tom 10 yards from where I shot him.

I figured something was up when a wily bearded gobbler like that doesn't head for the hills after a weird encounter in the woods. He was waiting on his buddy to link back up.

To make matters worse, from a nearby field outside the woods this old boy was gobbling at me, which is uncommon during fall, as I walked off doing the triumphant-over-the-shoulder hoist and stroll back to the truck.

He may have had a good laugh that day but I hope we meet again next spring.

After the nice muzzleloader shot at No. 2, the fat doe I took Nov. 18 to erase the goose egg during early part of the deer season, registers at No. 3.

Once I dropped that plump girl, I was able to settle down and really concentrate on connecting with a buck, but nothing of consequence ever materialized. The only buck I had an opportunity to give a good look was a forkhorn and that is not allowed at the camp I hunt on.

Finally, at No. 4, comes the jake I took to end a two-year slump in spring. After missing the first two shots, one with a crossbow from a blind earlier in the morning and another in the woods with a shotgun, I was able to "salvage" some pride by hitting this bird on a run with the kid's youth gun off the opposite shoulder.

So the end tally is two turkeys and two does, not bad. Maybe next year I can hang up some decent antlers.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The 'real' midseason deer report

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor
A small doe followed the forkhorn Nov. 16.

The Michigan regular firearms season for white-tailed deer ended Saturday, Nov. 30, with me in the rack and not in the stand, which shouldn't surprise anyone since I noted this would likely happen in a previous post.

Sitting along a funnel Nov. 27.
But contrary to what I wrote in it, I did get out one more time for the regular firearms season the day before Thanksgiving (Wednesday, Nov. 27).

It was one of the four times out of 12 total I was out in October and November since the season started that I didn't see deer.

That was OK though because I got off my duff and tried the somewhat nearby Monroe County public land and gathered plenty of intel for future hunts.

So, for the most part, I was satisfied with what I saw despite seeing mostly smallish deer, button bucks in particular. However this could mean good things for the Sanilac County camp I hunt on for the upcoming years. As long as they make it through the late antlerless firearms, which runs from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1, 2014.

As far as mature bucks go, I did not see any, so obviously there weren't any opportunities for shots. The best opportunity came in the late afternoon of Nov. 16 when I grunted in a forkhorn. That was fun. I saw him through the brush from the fixed blind where I was stationed for that hunt. He was about 25 yards to the right, and he backed away to circle closer downwind. When he appeared he was noon high in a wide-open clearing for what would have been a slam-dunk.

But at the camp, there is a three-point-to-a-side restriction, and additionally, I didn't want to incur landowner King George's wrath or even settle for something that small so early into the season.

Get deeper say into December somewhere else during muzzleloader or late archery, and I would have to think about it. Especially if it was a manly hunt with blowing snow or other similar weather conditions.

Reflecting now I'm happy with the take so far. The fat doe in the freezer I shot Nov. 18 will provide many tasty venison meals.

Once again, the freezer-packer (Mossberg 695 rifled slug gun) and I were able to get the job done with a split-second crossing shot while on watch in another fixed blind to the west part of the camp. She and two of her pals were moving pretty good, probably because of the winds -- some gusting to 35 mph that evening. I was able to "nehhhhh" her to enough of a stop and put a Hornady SST slug in the boiler room. She went 40 yards or less.

Really, this time of year, the "smart" strategy would have been to wait and see if a buck was what was chasing them but the window for legal shooting light was rapidly slipping away. By the time the love-struck brute -- if there was one -- came in it likely would have been too late.

In the end, I'm happy with the call.

Moving along to a possibly controversial commentary, I would like to say a little bit about the rise in our ranks of women hunters.

In a Nov. 25 column by our outdoor columnist at The Blade, Matt Markey, he cited the number of females taking to the woods and fields for wild game increased 25 percent from 2005 to 2011.
That's a pretty significant jump.
I welcome their entry into this great and time-honored tradition.

However, here is where I stray. I'm so sick of how defensive and petty the ladies get -- in particular on Facebook -- over their contrived perceptions that a guy is talking down to them by offering a suggestion, or how they constantly have to lift their statures by "showing us men up."

The only ones making it a females vs. males' thing are the ladies.

At 30 in 1993, I started rather late into hunting by most estimations. I never had a older mentor of any sort to guide me on the finer points of chasing white-tails or turkeys in the great outdoors as a youngster.

How I learned was by humbling myself and asking lots of questions from fellow colleagues and by reading whatever I could on the subjects. And there were a lot of trials and errors for sure.

Had I scoffed at the suggestions or tips offered up over the years, I'm positive I would be worse off.

Now, I'm hardly suggesting I'm a Jim Shockey or an Eddie Salter, but I do OK, and I am proud of my accomplishments. Nor am I jealous of kills by women, for I laud any trophy animal taken legally by a man, a woman or a youth; or a well-experienced hunter, a physically challenged person, a lucky doofus or a novice, because I know the effort that goes into being successful.

And I will be sure to say, "Well done," to the female hunters who can be appreciative and grateful without displaying a chip on their shoulder.

But for you ladies who want to keep behaving snotty, I hope the next buck you shoot at jumps your string and comes under my stand, I won't miss.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A grateful hunter

By Mac Arnold
Only one way to put it walking up on this nice fat doe I
shot Nov. 18 with the hours I've been working: grateful.
ROA Editor

It's rare that I would glorify a bagged doe after a six-day deer sabbatical but under these circumstances it is truly a welcomed result.

In addition, this post will stand as a midseason report since as it is looking now, I won't be getting back out until Michigan's muzzleloader opener Dec. 6.

The tally as of now is a fall tom and a big fat doe.

A tough pill to swallow, but it is what it is. After an off day Sunday, which I had a prior obligation (trust me, I would have gotten out of it if I could), I am scheduled to work the next 10 days straight.

One down last night and nine to go before I can sit on point again in a Sanilac County, Mich., blind.

As is commonplace at this time of the season, I am renewing the annual call for "one more deer."

I'm hearing from fellow hunters at the Sanilac camp and at a friend's property in Saginaw County that the deer movement has really died down. I attribute this to the bucks being hunkered down with does, and unless they move, neither will the big boys.

I did have a slow day myself on the last outing of the vacation in which conditions seemed perfect for deer movement: crisp temperatures, pretty much zero wind and a reduced number of hunters on the property, but nary a deer nor any critter moved on Tuesday, Nov. 19. So I'm not sure if the blustery days we've had recently are the only reason to blame for slow deer action.

But I've had decent action in past muzzleloader seasons, even into the end of December with the late doe firearms season, so I'm not down on my luck by any means.

After the orange army pretty much clears out of the woods, deer get into a necessary feeding pattern to build up their bodies in preparation for the long winter months ahead. And it isn't only at night, which benefits the opportunistic hunter on point willing to brave all conditions, usually snowy and windy ones.

And with the fewer days afield so far this season, I should be willing, rested and ready to fill the freezer with one more deer.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On the edge of greatness

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

Yes, I know, I'm being silly with the title of this entry.

It's unlikely there will ever be an "Arnold Buck" filling up the record books.

But the optimism that reigns prior to the first day of shotgun season in Michigan -- Nov. 15 for novices -- or the opening day in any state is a great high to ride for a few days.

I'm always amazed at how I'm frothing at the mouth at first light on that glorious day but then by noon this same energy is cut in half.

I remember hearing, I believe it was from past in-laws, that on opening day you have a 70 percent chance of scoring on a buck, 30 percent on the second day, 10 percent the third day and it ticks down from there accordingly. I see that that doesn't add up to 100 percent but I'm not sure it needs to for the point of this post.

Ummm, is there a point?

Anyway, I often wonder what ... say Milo Hansen was thinking the day in 1993 he got up before bagging what is often considered the best whitetail buck ever with a Boone & Crocket score of 213 5/8 in Saskatchewan, Canada.

"Today, I'm headed out to shoot the biggest bruiser ever on the planet ... "

Yeah he did. He probably was wondering where he could get a good cup of coffee before heading out on the great hunting prairie of Canada.

I'm sure when the curtain of darkness lifts Friday morning I'll be anticipating my own buck of a lifetime racing past the blind at the Sanilac County camp where I have the great privilege to hunt.

Eh, or it's more likely I'll be ready by noon for that steaming cup of joe at the diner where we all meet for lunch in Yale, Mich.

Good luck everyone.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Early deer rundown

ROA photos by Mac Arnold
Despite the sluggish deer action at Shiawassee National 
Wildlife Refuge, the woods was definitely awe-inspiring.
By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

I'm fresh off from a four-day deer sabbatical, which included two hunts at the supposed legendary Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.

Mostly I found hunters there on a rather small parcel -- Unit No. 5 -- with does and an extremely bold button buck.

Does were good no doubt, so much so that I went out and picked up a doe tag for the a.m. hunt Saturday, Nov. 2, which I found surprisingly still available.

What wasn't so good was the weather for the first two days: rain, mist, wind and more rain.

Look, before you shout out -- "crybaby! whiner!" -- I manned up and hunted both days fairly intense but not before I picked up a field-jacket liner at Lapeer Military Surplus to use in my favorite rain coat for the evening hunt in Sanilac County, Mich. The rain held off so I was good on that one and even better warmth-wise.

For the action report, I saw deer for two of the five days I hunted spread out among Saginaw, Sanilac and St. Clair counties.

No real close calls but I watched the guy across the woods from me at Shiawassee miss a shot with his crossbow at that daring (or dopey) button. The deer bolted and stood broadside from me at 20 yards. I strained and stared but I didn't see antlers. Nor did I confirm a wound from a hit. After a couple of minutes, away it pranced into the thicket by the Cass River behind me.

It now appears to put me at the tail end of Michigan's first archery season before I can make it back out again, Nov. 13-14, because I have to work the next nine days in a row.

So it's down to the wire once again. How many times have I been here before?

I know I look bundled up like an Eskimo, but dang, it was wet and cold the second day of my Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge deer hunt.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lame October

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

This has been for sure the slowest October during deer archery season  in years ... maybe even ever.

Not because of the action, which for the three times I've been out, has been fairly good. No bucks have been seen but I've had deer milling under the stand or passing by my setup each time out.

The thing is, I just haven't been able to get away from the job like I used to when I lived across the street from a halfway decent public hunting land in St. Clair County, Mich. Even when I worked then, at least I could walk across the street for a first light hunt. Sometimes the early sits would branch out into the late morning, and I would down a buck.

Oh well.

Beats not working, which was even worse.

Really it's just a matter of time before I find something near the Monroe County, Mich., abode.

Might even take a year.

Regardless, a smoked fall tom makes up for a slow deer season so far.

But the truth be told, deer is king in autumn.

That is why I can't wait for next weekend when I get to patrol from high above the oak flats at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge near Saginaw, Mich., during what should be the beginning of the rut.

I've heard tales of some big uns roaming the territory.

Should be good.

At least I'll be out and in the game.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Deer season is in the air; Dad, ROA's most dependable and top photographer

    Fall foliage appears to be a few weeks off in southeastern Michigan, but I captured a few colors Sept. 13
    from the canoe on the River Raisin in Monroe County.

ROA photos by Mac Arnold
The mast appears to be on track
 so far in Sanilac County, Mich. 
By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

It is officially fall.

There are so many things I would like to do hunting-wise but as always there may be limits.

This past Wednesday, Sept. 18, found me under an oak in hopes of ambushing a flock of turkeys coming back to find their roosts after milling about in the fields all afternoon.

That was my first day afield as well.

It won't be long and the 90 days of insanity will kick in.

I can feel it.

The trees have the look of deer season in them. The air is getting crisper. The aroma of fireplaces has begun to waft throughout the countryside.

Yes, it won't be long.

When I speak of "deer season," I am talking specifically of the onset of Oct. 1, which is the Michigan archery opener.

This is when I most prefer to take a nice buck.

And not with a crossbow.

Not just yet. Eventually with two repaired shoulders it will likely come to pass that this will be my instrument of death, but as long as I can confidently and with command pull back a compound bow, that is how I intend to get the job done. I haven't accomplished what I've wanted to do yet with a compound, which is to take a significant antlered deer with standard equipment.

This isn't the first time I've blogged about this on here. It's certainly my own personal goal and mine alone, although other readers may have a similar preference.

So once again, sound the trumpets, the battle call has been unleashed.

Maybe this will be the year, I can only hope.


In addition, I will be dedicating this hunting season to my father Robert V. Arnold, who passed away in his sleep at the age 81 on Monday, Sept. 9.

Dad was a pilot, not a hunter. He did appreciate the outdoors. And he was this blogger's most formidable and reliable photographer, which is only fitting. 

As in most aspects of my life, he was my No. 1 supporter. Although I think at times some things about my passion for hunting baffled him, yet he never failed at being there to snap off a shot of me with the latest trophy from the great outdoors. (His last work was on here -- May 12 post "One up, one down" -- of the turkey I shot this spring.)

Despite him being slowed by gimpy legs and a cane, we tried three different backgrounds around the yard until we settled for the one with the turk hanging from the wood fence.

For those loving the photos on this blog, do not despair, it won't be long before the new No. 1 Mac Arnold supporter and ROA photographer takes over.

She will have big shoes to fill but I'm sure she'll be up for the part.


In another previous post -- "Fall on the water," Sept. 2 -- I talked of taking one more trip down the River Raisin when the colors would be changing along with the cooler temperatures igniting a bite from the shallows.

The trip did indeed happen on Friday, Sept. 13, but neither items above transpired as I had thought.

I did find one small section of red maple leaves and included that and one of the two better bass I managed to put in the canoe for a couple of pictures.

Oh well, I guess I'm destined to make yet another canoe trip.


ROA photo by Mac Arnold
I didn't hook into a couple of nice ones on the River Raisin until around 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 13.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Everything coming up acorns for this deer hunter

Right out of the box for this year it seems that
I didn't do too badly. The two 12-ringers were
the final adjustments in my spontaneous shoot
this past weekend and shoulders felt fine later.
ROA photo by Mac Arnold

By Mac Arnold
ROA  Editor

It appears things are coming together nicely for the upcoming fall deer season.

Just found out last week that I did pull a doe tag for the public land unit near my new home in Monroe, Mich.

It's still a haul compared to merely walking across the street like I did at the old house in St. Clair County, Mich., but things change and change can be good.

I believe it will be for this grizzle-bearded whitetail hunter.

In addition to this, on Tuesday (Sept. 10) I will once again be standing in line at a sporting goods outlet somewhere in Monroe County trying to score a doe tag for public land in St. Clair County. I've tentatively mapped out a deer sabbatical for November, and it would be short-sighted, if not downright foolish, if I didn't consider setting up on whitetails in the old haunts.

Especially when I already have a familiar place to stay.
I'm piecing together all the necessary deer hunting apparel and gear, which at one time was scattered among the old house, the new trailer and three storage units.

One of the final key items to be secured in time for the Oct. 1 archery opener was the favored safety harness with its seemingly permanent cover scent after years of being used in the "old mother tree," a rather stately pine behind the old house.

To tell you the truth, as I recall now, I never did any good in that tree.

Change is good.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fall on the water?

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

Have I been out bass fishing for the last time this season, that is the question?

Hmmmm, could be.

I was planning on hitting the river or creek Tuesday, Aug. 27, but I couldn't justify floating the canoe with the impending storms, which elicited a severe thunderstorm watch from the National Weather Service for Monroe County, Mich., and most of the Detroit area until 9 p.m.

It appeared later I could have made it off the water in time but I likely would have been in the driveway packing away stuff under a torrential downpour.

No thanks.

Maybe I would have went for it if not for the nice smallies I hooked on the two previous outings in the month of August.

With the dramatic move in my life from the house in St. Clair County, Mich., to the trailer in Monroe, I no longer have a hunting ... er, dog, so this will likely result in me getting in a bass gig later than usual this year. I've always wanted to try out a river jaunt with the leaves turning their magical oranges, yellows and reds, and here is my chance.

I've heard the bite can be awesome as the temperatures drop with the onset of the autumn months. I guess that does it, the answer is no, the canoe will float at least one more time down the river this year.


Other hodgepodge items:

-- I've recently been in contact with my friend George, who owns the camp in Sanilac County, Mich., I am blessed to hunt on, and he told me, "I should come up (to turkey hunt). Done a lot of planting ... lots of fruit and acorns." Have to admit it's really bumming me out that I was considering NOT fall turkey hunting since I was NOT lucky enough to draw for a unit closer to my home in Monroe. So I hope there are still over-the-counter tags remaining for the YY unit and at least make one outing this fall, if not two, or three, or four ...

-- On the deer hunting front, I learned that I scored the elusive Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge archery hunt in prime rut territory -- Nov. 1-Nov. 5. This, along with the week off from work for the first part of regular firearms season should give me plenty of opportunities to score a nice buck. I'm definitely due. And deer seasons following a successful, well, moderately successful spring gobbler hunt, I have found spell glory.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Magical Buzzbait

This 17-inch smallmouth bit on a buzzbait offering just before dark to help me avert a goose egg on the River Raisin in Monroe County, Mich., Tuesday.

ROA photo by Mac Arnold

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

As promised, I returned Tuesday to the honey hole on the River Raisin in Monroe County, Mich., where I had so much success smallmouth bass fishing recently with my friend Bill Brisebois.

It did not go as I imagined, or did it?

Over the years in past blog postings I've talked about being at a hot spot and trying to see if lightning would strike the same place twice, such as from a treestand where I've drilled a nice buck or an obscure hilltop where I blew a meeting with a monster tom.

The same instances can obviously be applied to fishing.

One of the earliest such examples would be when I was a boy fishing for perch at my grandmother's cottage on Bear Lake in Manistee County, Mich. I would have to merely row out about 100 yards, then head down five to seven cottages and set anchor in front of the yellow one. Jig a crawler or two and it was game on.

Most of the time, I should add.

And I believe the same is true of this recent spot on the River Raisin. It likely would have caught on fire had the temperatures not already been there for most of the day, hitting near the 90-degree mark.

With darkness fast approaching, I found myself facing a "skunked" outing to go along with a deadlined baitcaster due to an inexplicable bird's nest.

But I was still alive with another pole that was set up with a buzzbait. In the gray silence of dusk, there are few lures that contain the magic of the buzzbait -- something I learned from my West Virginia "ex-outlaws" and experienced myself over the years.

I decided on the way back to the boat launch that I would attempt a few casts at this new-found bass paradise. As I slipped slowly along the shore opposite the fallen logs and branches that are likely key to holding the fish in this bend of the river, I got out and slung the buzz straight across the shadowy ripples.

Halfway back as it bubbled and gurgled across the surface -- bam! A fish nailed the white and chartreuse lure complete with white Berkley Power Grub trailer. Unlike the earlier hits in the late afternoon-evening that didn't land fish, this baby was hooked and hooked good.

The picture says it all: relief.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The plot thickens

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

In July I was denied a bear permit for the upcoming season in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which was the first time this happened in several years.

Now, this month I was rejected for a fall turkey license. True, it was for a unit (GC) that only held 200 available tags.

But just the same, I'm left wondering what the 2013 fall hunting season will hold.

On tap next will be the doe tag I applied for in Unit 081. It would be nice if this one would at least come through for me since I will be relying mostly on public land for autumn's deer hunting. Those drawing results will be posted Sept. 5 at

I've recently moved to Monroe County, and I'm going to be without private land and/or known areas when I try to fill up my freezer with the annual take of venison chops and the like.

This season's outings will likely be reduced and all over the board as the new job at The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, often has split days off and long consecutive stretches of work shifts.

I am definitely not complaining. In fact I am grateful to be working full time again after being laid off April 4 from The Macomb Daily, where I logged 16 years of service. 

It's just that it will be a schedule which will require some adjustments of fitting in deer hunting gigs, along with tying in virgin territories to boot.

Despite all of this, I will try to pass on the thrills of the outdoors on this blog in the usual fashion for the upcoming fall hunts.

Already, I've recently posted a mucho-fun bass fishing day trip on the River Raisin, and even with the impending move from the former St. Clair County home, I was luckily able to make short work of the spring turkey season in May.

Admittedly these two blog follows are too few and far in between but with the festivities of fall just around the corner it will surely pick up.

And I plan on returning to the River Raisin for more bass action on my next day off.

So do not despair, yours truly will keep you riveted and wanting more.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bass heaven? We shall see

This was one of my better catches Aug. 10 on the River Raisin in Monroe County, Mich. Artificial worms would carry the day and many bass were landed. I hope to soon duplicate this day again. 
ROA picture by Bill Brisebois

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

At long last, I believe I may have found the holy bass waters in my home state of Michigan.

It will take a few more outings before I can confirm this but with it being a mere 20 minutes from my home it shouldn't be a problem.

Maybe there were other extenuating circumstances such as the perfect moon phase -- but on further review -- Aug. 10 was five days past the new moon, which some anglers believe has an effect on fish feeding behaviors.

Another one could be that the water level was just low enough in Monroe County's River Raisin to create a perfect holding pool at that bend in the river for that one moment.

Regardless, on this glorious day, from about 6 p.m. to closing time, which was around 9 p.m., I ended up catching more smallies than I could count.

In the past several years I can only remember one other non-charter fishing time when this had happened and that was on the South Branch of the Potomac River in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle. Ever since I've tried to re-create that event -- even back on the South Branch -- but to no avail.

I must admit lately this has really had me down on fishing, especially with me being the Type A personality who always seemed to find ways to build bird's nests in reels or lasso with casts the seemingly unreachable tree branch several feet above the bank of the river.

The previous outing before Aug. 10's bountiful occasion in June I ended up dumping the canoe with Brian my fishing partner that day and play scurry around the 40th Street Pond in Port Huron to salvage what lures I could after the tackle bag spilled out its contents. True, Brian had caught a nice pike and we somehow managed to get it ashore still in tow with the canoe. But yours truly was skunked again without even a single hit at one my offerings prior to going swimming.

And pretty much every other gig in previous years was just as eventful.

So I needed this day.

Even the company couldn't have been better. Bill Brisebois and I have been friends since second grade and now we're both closing in on the midcentury mark. That's a long time. He was in from San Diego and occasionally we have taken the route of the charter fishing experience to kick back and relax to catch up on the old days.

There was the time maybe 10 years ago when everybody bailed out of a planned Lake Michigan salmon gig except us, and we had to alternate, to both having to man the poles on hits. Let me just say there was little down time and plenty of work for our reward of salmon steaks on that day.

But I digress ...

So spontaneity ruled this year's fishing. There was even a "quick" trip to Cabela's  before the canoe launch.

Before I landed my latest job at The Blade in Toledo, I had been working part time at The Monroe Evening News and driving over the River Raisin four days week pondering what it may hold in the way of angling thrills. It certainly looked as if it had fast enough water to make for fun smallmouth bassin'.

There would be no more wondering. After Bill finally harangued me enough with his watch tapping and "c'mons" it was time to leave a mecca of hunting shops and get on the river.

At our first stop, which was beginning to look like the usual, Bill lost the hook and artificial worm on his first cast. While he was tying on a new setup, I waded into the river and immediately got a nice hit and eventually landed the first smallie on the day. The action would snowball from there at the next location in the bend once we got headed downriver again.

Bill recalled how we used to fish when we were younger and battle it out for title of top angler of the day. It wasn't long before that was resurrected. After he switched the rod and reel he had started out with at my suggestion, he soon was matching my catches fish for fish. For the first hour he was mostly losing fish. (He still thinks that was a plan I hatched but I swear it wasn't.)

Even the panoramic picture he took of our surroundings looked like postcard shot. I'm trying to get him to send it to me so I can post it on here.

What a day. What a day, indeed.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

One up, one down

Not a monster by any means, but another successful spring hunt nonetheless for Mac Arnold, who was able take this turkey on May 6 in Sanilac County, Mich.

ROA photo by Robert V. Arnold

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

I am Mac, therefore I hunt.

After great anticipation for spring turkey's 2013 opening day in Michigan, it was over before noon May 6, but not without the follies that come with a typical Arnold rockin' adventure.

To spice things up this year, I decided to take to the woods with a crossbow. I sighted it in a week before the wee hours of that Monday, which was met with the usual glorious chirpings from many songbirds along with the thunder chicken's echoing bellows throughout the spring woods.

Given the right opportunity, I was quite confident that a struttin' tom would drop after a bolt went zinging through his vitals from the Parker crossbow ... at least that was the plan.

I also packed the H&R .20 gauge in the truck in case I wanted to try out Dairy Farmer Dave's later if the action slowed at the Sanilac County, Mich., camp I was setting up at first.

The hunt hit the low gear right at the gate in the foggy gray of dawn when the usual lock combo failed again and again. Calls to the camp commandant's cell phone went unanswered. Twinges of anxiousness knotted in my stomach as Mr. Gobbler began to sound off on his roost above a small creek across the dirt road in the neighboring property as darkness began to lift.

At this point  I could stand no more. I gathered the necessary gear to include the longtime standby of  many a turkey hunt -- the Pyramid Blind -- and headed across the first field where I missed a shot on a tom during the 2012 spring season.

Finally Captain George called back with the "new" lock combination that I was supposedly told of earlier in the winter but did not recall. With the gobbler safely headed away to the southeast likely in pursuit of a "real" girlfriend instead of my blind date invites, I packed up, then pulled the truck on through and resumed my initial intentions of being set up in a tree blind toward the back of the camp.

I took George's recommendation to take watch over a clover field by the pond. Being content to just work the time-tested Lynch's Fool Proof Hen Call, it wasn't but about a half hour ... oh, maybe around 9:30 a.m. when out popped a hen and just like he said, went straight for the lush green clover plot. She picked at the field for a spell before making her way to the northern field 100 yards away.

Every 15 minutes I would hit a few yelps and end with soft clucks on the box call, which ironically I thought sounded awful earlier at the first field setup.

I noted what seemed like two toms were answering and getting closer. 

Next thing I knew, they were right behind me at 50 yards on the other side of the pond.

Gobbbbbblllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeee. Gobbbbbblllllllleeeeeeeeeeeee.

But I had no shot. Would they circle around to the north where I would have a nice shooting lane I wondered?

Yes. This is almost too easy I thought to myself.

I had to ease around in the blind, which alerted their "spidey senses," and they weren't planning on hanging around. I lined up the crosshairs on the first one, whose golden feathery sheen glowed in the sun with a ground-dragging beard, and I let the bolt fly. However, not before I played the "safety game," which likely gave him just enough time to not be there.

Off they strolled into the southwest woods, gobbling to my pleas, but in no way even thinking of coming back for a return visit.

My jaw was hanging open.

"I thought these things were 'can't miss,' " I texted George.

"Operator error," was his response back.


Well, that did it. Down I climbed and headed straight for the truck.

Yep, in went the crossbow and out came the shotgun.

I followed their tracks in the soggy mud and I slipped into the woods about 70 yards. Propped up the blind and began calling with the box again. A distant gobble was heard going back toward the direction from which they originally came and then silence. I contemplated moving but in my slow procrastinating ways, I did nothing.

Cluck. Huh? Then I was sure I heard a turkey purring and I returned with the same.

In came two birds. I lined one up at 10 yards. Boom!

I missed. But I didn't let it faze me this time and I reloaded the single shot just in time to hit the shaken bird on the run from the opposite shoulder.

And just like that. I went from the doghouse to the winner's circle.

No, he wasn't the first one I missed with the crossbow, with the nice beard. He did have a 6-inch double beard.

The best part other than the good eating to follow later on was he would end my two-year spring turkey drought.

Anyway, what a crazy hunt that was.