Monday, December 28, 2015

Coming soon: Top hunt of 2015

Hard to believe it's almost time for Rockin' The Wild Outdoors top hunts of 2015 but indeed it is.

Sadly, there won't be much to choose from but what will stick will definitely stand out.

So you won't want to miss it. Look for the tally sometime after the New Year.

Stay safe.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Another year, another midseason report, but one better than usual

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

It was with the most certainty that the teeth-chattering hunt I shared with my wife at the Sanilac County, Michigan, camp would be last of the regular firearms season.

This little adventure the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 28 had a tad of everything -- hooting great horned owls, a spill into a muddy rut along the trail to the blind, flitting about by red-bellied woodpeckers, shots from farms all around us, barely navigating the squishy camp drive upon departure -- except for deer coming into our shooting lanes.

And yes it was cold. Not like a late snowy and gusty December muzzleloader hunt, but after a stretch of mostly mild fall archery and gun hunts, some of which almost had me packing in the ThermaCell, I had a good chill settling into my inner core.

Then it was 1727 and dark.

And so settled the darkness on the 2015 deer firearms season.

But not all was dim, because for the first time since 2011 I shot a buck with a compound bow. No, it wasn't a monster but an "acceptable buck," as the taxidermist put it.

For me, it's mission accomplished.

There are two main things I strive for every hunting season. The first is being successful by bagging a mature tom during the spring gobbler season (which didn't happen this year), and secondly, taking a decent buck with a compound bow. Because as I heard a Cabela's archery salesman tell a guy the other day: "Anyone can shoot a crossbow."

With this success I shook off a longtime hang-up of finally shooting an 8-point or better with a bow. It felt great to get over this hump. Now I can move onto monster land with the compound.

In previous posts I've talked about needing that one moment, on one hunt, where everything comes together, which is what happened Nov. 7 and 8.

Most of the archery season I was battling, or going along with if you want to look at it that way, surrounding forces interfering with the calm around the Monroe County, Michigan, woods, mainly the construction of a building near my setups. (I won't even go into the debacles on the opening day of gun season.)

But that evening there were no interferences. I had out Wildlife Research Center's Special Golden Estrus. The time of day was the same as he had come out on the trail cam the previous moon cycle. And he walked right into the No. 1 preferred shooting lane. The only problem was there was a limb jutting out that I hadn't counted on which I had to shoot under a bit. It made the arrow hit back farther than I would have liked.

RTWO Photo by Mac Arnold
Found him piled up about 60 yards from where
I shot him the evening before Nov. 7.

Because of that, despite some signs that he was dead on arrival maybe 60 yards or less away (I thought I could smell him at times), I opted to stay put until the dark. Plus, a smaller deer came in but stopped and kept looking over toward the direction the fatally wounded deer ran, thinking the buck was somewhere in the vicinity because he apparently could smell him too. The button never did come all the way in.

After the longer than usual wait -- an hour and a half -- I scaled down the tree in the climber to trail him. My worst fears were realized when I had zero blood trail. But I had watched his route out of there. After about 15 minutes of searching for evidence and even following a hunch or two, I opted to wait until morning so not to bump him into Lenawee County in case he was still bedded down somewhere nearby.

Later that night after taking it on the chin watching the worst call of many years doom Michigan State at Nebraska, I figured the trade was on for a successful recovery in the morning. One sacrifice for another success, right? The wife and I were chuckling over this ridiculous bartering with the Man upstairs.

The next day, Nov. 8, right as morning broke, I came upon him on a little thicker trail one over from one I was on the previous night.

For this successful hunt, most would think the grade would be A plus at the midway point. But sadly, because of the latest bird shooting funk I'm now mired in, the grade can be no better than a B.

Many misses have followed the goose bagged on the Sept. 1 opener and since, except for a downed mallard early in November. Some days at the sporting clay range may be in my future.

But again, for the most part, the feeling here at Rockin' The Wild Outdoors is we have made it happen.

All the other stuff -- waterfowl, upland birds and coyote -- is icing on the cake, but definitely fun to do and helps break up the monotony of always hunting the same game.

In fact, I'm toying with the idea of hitting the grouse woods with our black Lab Augustus instead of stalking deer for the annual Jan. 1 finale hunt, but that's still a ways off. Things may change.

Today, Dec. 1, holds even more joy as the woods finally will be cleared of many amateur gun hunters with the end of the regular firearms season, and I get to pick up my skull mount from the taxidermist. Whoopee!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Seriously still waiting on deer action

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

In the previous blog post Saturday, Oct. 24, I said "it was time to get serious about deer hunting," and there is no doubt I'm focused and ready, but now I need dance partners.

Which leads me into the next aspect of this: When is this year's rut going to begin?

I've heard that everything is behind from the late spring, and I'm half tempted to go along with this theory. Of course, it is only Oct. 25.

There are two approaches for when the rut kicks off: the lunarist types and the scientists.

To get to the bottom of these two theories on what's up for this season, I will get some help from an article I came across online by Mark Kenyon titled "Wired to Hunt."

Kenyon cites the moon philosophies for his article from well-known lunarists Charles Alsheimer and Wayne Laroche, who believe the whitetail's breeding season is influenced by the phases of the moon.

This usually is what is used by such devices as my Garmin's "game finder." And I'll have to admit there are many coincidences of deer or turkey coming in right when it predicts "best" or "good" times during the day.

Laroche is a respected fish biologist and also an avid whitetail hunter who became interested in the moon influences on deer after seeing how it would drive grouper fish in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Alsheimer, also a big-time deer hunter and field editor at Deer and Deer Hunting, has been detailing the moon's impact on whitetails for articles in DDH and Outdoor Life magazines for many years.

They've researched this material for more than 20 years, so we at RTWO realize we are really simplifying their hypotheses for the sake of getting down to the actual rut predictions for a quickie blog post.

Since Laroche and Alsheimer ultimately pinpoint the rut launch from "the second full moon after the autumn equinox" and for this year that would make it today (Tuesday, Oct. 27).

This "rutting moon," as they call it, is much earlier than last year's one, on Nov. 6, which fell in a more preferable date that "syncs up well with other rutting factors and results in a synchronized and frenzied rut," according to Laroche and Alsheimer's predictions in Kenyon's article.

Furthermore, it was saying the "seeking" behavior of bucks should have started about Oct. 20 and ignited into full-blown "chasing" by today (Tuesday, Oct. 27) with the best time of the season coming between Oct. 25 to Nov. 3.

After this Nov. 3 date, the "tending" behavior, where a buck follows a doe closely until she comes into estrus, will continue until Nov. 10.

Not to be a fly in the ointment, but I haven't seen any chasing behavior from Oct. 20 and on, and I hunted a good four hours the morning of Saturday, Oct. 24. In fact I had a doe come in with a button buck in tow. You would think she would have ran him off by now if the rut was beginning in earnest.

And they didn't seem nervous or on the lookout for potential bucks in the area, which I know are there from last year's hunting and trail cam pictures taken only a week ago.

But believe me I'll welcome this supposed theory since I hope to be on point this morning.

Historically, the week before Halloween has been good to me, and I was reminded of that by a "post your memories" item on Facebook that showed a picture of me with a 6-pointer I took on Oct. 26 in 2009.

As far as the full-moon hunting goes, at least from what I've experienced, it's a dud. What I believe happens, especially if the moonbeams keep the night sky lit up, is the deer are even more active during the hours when us hunters can't get at them and are more likely to remain bedded down longer once it hits daylight.

Now, all of this is just bunk to the scientific theorists and organizations such as Quality Deer Management Association -- also quoted in Kenyon's article -- who say unequivocally that studies find the biggest influence on when the rut begins is based on the length of the day getting shorter from region to region and not by moon phases or other surmised things such as cooler temperatures.

In addition, these "pro-science" prognosticators say the prime breeding periods remain fairly consistent in these areas on a yearly basis.

So now that I have mulled over these theories for this posting, it's clear to me so far that maybe the lunarists are just looney and the scientific ones have the right plan, especially if I see Mr. Big Boy start grunting and stomping around the hunting grounds ... oh, somewhere around the week of Nov. 8 to Nov. 14.

Last year, after the same slow start, once I got into that  week, that's when all of the buck sightings, shots and activity began for me in Monroe County, Michigan.

Now it's time to watch and wait,  and just maybe bring down a beast.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Lookie, lookie who's coming a callin'

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

It is time to get serious about deer hunting, hence, the shaved head for this veteran woodsman.

But then again, when I look at the Jeep's temperature gauge, it's at nearly 70 degrees with gusty winds and rain in the forecast.
The bigger of the two bucks I have on my trail cam is at the
lower left of this picture.

Yet, with it being Oct. 24 and the end of month slowly approaching, we of the timber, waves of corn and beans and pines, know Mr. Big Buck doesn't really care what it's like outside when it's time to find love and protect his territory from potential invading suitors.

He'll be there and so will I, hopefully at the same time.

Although I've been patrolling the nearby oak flats in Monroe Country, Mich., for just under two years, I do know of what has been out there antler-wise from the previous whitetail season.

A spike and button were left to walk another year and a big boy was not tagged because of my errant shot and failed go-around in November.

But I now have even more confirmation. This is the first time in a few years that I have employed a trail cam. I apologize that the pictures aren't the best because I put it up a ways on the tree to at least make it an effort for a thief to walk away with a free camera.

Yes, weather be damned, it's tough to sit back when you know what's out there.

At right, the smaller of the two bucks approached from the same direction but at a time when he can be legally shot.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bow season has commenced

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

Another Michigan deer archery season is officially under way,  and I've been out twice, once on the Oct. 1 opener and another time Oct. 4.
RTWO photo by Mac Arnold
I may look comfortable but I'm not. 
Northeast winds above 15 mph have
prevailed so far this early season and 
have kept it brisk in the stand.

I suppose there was a primer in September that would count since I went out for one of the two early firearms days with the Parker Thunderhawk crossbow.

What has amazed me so far is there haven't been any snafus, which usually run rampant for me the first few times out, such as leaving the release in the Jeep or forgetting the pull rope. Well, maybe dropping the battery cap from the crossbow scope out of the tree Sept. 20 would count but I was able to find it once I touched down.

And I'm not baffled I haven't seen nary a deer ... OK, that might not be true. What did look like three deer scampering across the fallow field could have been coyotes. They were a ways off. Or were they just small?

Some veteran woodsmen would say get your eyes checked or pull out your binos. But the wind was fairly intense Oct. 1., clocking in about 15 mph, according to Accuweather, and made it tough to follow running targets.

But whatever they were, they were on the other end of the field from me and small enough that I was only mildly amped. Now, the coyote thoughts had me more pumped up because I need to trim that population. Plus I thought I heard pups earlier in the morning.

Nothing ever did swing past the stand, nor two days later on the birthday gig.

It's early.

The next two days planned are for evening watches. These prove to be more fruitful than morning this time of year, although I will have a special guest, John Paulin, for Thursday.

Quads and the Double Bull Blind with crossbows are being rolled out. This type of hunt -- albeit is loaded with fun -- usually isn't programmed for stealth and is geared more toward camaraderie, which I could use plenty of right now anyway. In other words, I'm not expecting to see much.

But first, let's see what today's hunt brings along with more ... you guessed it: northeast winds.

Oh, snap.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

'It's all happening now'

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

If you hang around me long enough this time of year in September, you will probably hear me utter at least a couple of times, "it's all happening now."

Indeed, it is.

The leaves are beginning to turn. Fields are hazy yellow with golden rod, spotted throughout by maroon sumac and sheet-white Queen Anne's lace, bordered with alternating wild gray skies and then bright baby blue ones.

Late summer's morning chill sets in before temperatures rise up into the 70s that by midday create a Michigan pendulum of switching between turning on the heat and then the air-conditioning in the Jeep.

Speeding along with the swirling winds come flocks of geese and occasionally one falls to Earth from a well-placed blast by this hunter. Although as of late, I am back in a shooting slump. Or is it just the amazing perseverance of geese?

On Sept. 1, with the liftoff of the first flock from the pond, my second shot rang true and christened a hopefully long partnership in the woods and on the water with my Labrador, mighty Augustus. Or should that be, a mighty pain, since he hasn't yet steadied himself during our grassy sits tucked along the pond's rim?

Next up though is fall turkey, and I have much redemption here after boloing my only opportunity in spring.

And after that, I will take Augustus to the sacred lands of woodcock and grouse flushes in Gladwin County where my beloved springer Henry ran point.

From there, more geese tries and finally the glorious deer archery opener Oct. 1 will be upon us and its 90 days of insanity.

Yes, it is all happening now.

"Boy, if I bagged that one I'd retire," I nonchalantly told the wife while we were sitting around sipping our java fixes in the living room the other day.

"Really?" she said, with a hint of incredulity.

"Well, for this season," I retorted in an amazing recovery of my mental stability.

"Yeah, I knew it," she huffed in a deep breath.

This conversation came after I had just showed her a picture of a real nice 10-pointer in a friend's hay field from last month. He recently had said I could hunt for the buck this fall.

The day I ever take my biggest whitetail buck, spring gobbler, smallmouth bass or whatever and say that's it or I "peaked," then just put me out to pasture. I had someone supposedly joke this comment to me the other day. I mean what pompous hogwash.

I'm always trying to outdo myself, and if I were to take the state record in a hunting or fishing category while at it, then that would just be an extra-sweet icing on top.

Believe me I'm not trying to bluster here. Just saying how I keep it fun every year (as if I really have to anyway).

It's why I always have an annual Top Hunts of the year listing at the end of every December or early January.

There's never any peaking here, only the next best one down the line.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A little caution can go a long way

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

As the hunting seasons creep closer and closer while the month of August wanes and sought-after tags reveal what hunts will be reality, I stumbled (for real) across a few items for the note board:

-- With it being summer, I'm fairly busy, and it's not often I get confined to the indoors and have a chance to watch the rundown of shows on the Outdoor Channel.

But with an upcoming ... (ahem) procedure, I was stuck to staying close to the bathroom while the appropriate elixirs were working their magic at cleaning out my pipes. Oh, so much fun.

Yet while watching these TV personalities, as I will call them not experts despite their accomplishments dwarfing anything I've yet to do, they confirmed a couple of Mac truthisms.

One of the first I heard was from the old Buckmaster himself, Jackie Bushman, who was talking with the Primos' boys -- Chris Ashley and Kevin Meachem -- that when it comes to hunting mornings on the full-moon "I just sleep in."

From what I've experienced despite what all the game finders always say is slow action.

Instead on the show, they went out midday and had pretty good movement.

-- Then next up on the "Crush" host Lee Lakosky mentioned the "October lull" while wondering where a few nice bucks were that he had pictured from his trail cam. (And it's crazy these days the technology on these things nowadays. Images on the camera at the tree. Right to the computer or phone? Video? It's unbelievable.)

I've noticed this same phenomena here in Michigan after the initial action once the season opens Oct. 1. By midmonth it's like, "Where they go?" And he said it doesn't pick up and "get good again until Oct. 26 or 28."

RTWO photo by Mac Arnold

Augustus helped me post signs in the 
woods. He loves the four-wheeler.
That last week in October has been decent to me as well. In fact, I often take days off to accommodate this promising time.

-- And lastly, I will wrap it up by offering a safety conscious tip based on what happened to me Thursday afternoon while putting up my own trail camera. Which I should have probably put off a day or two since I've had to fast for a day and a half. I was somewhat off-kilter. But that's not how I roll.

I figured since I have a few trespassers, or travelers because up to now the woods I hunt has only been somewhat posted, I would get this cam in the air and angled down. Just so if it does look tempting, the scoundrel will have to work for his ill-gotten prize.

Well, I had the tree steps in place, and I reached for the first step from on top of the quad.

Guess what? Yep, that seemingly sturdy limb came off like it was attached by scotch tape. Down I went but luckily my ninja catlike skills allowed me to land feet first.

The lesson here is to not be in too much of a hurry -- which is the story of my life -- and test branches for firmness BEFORE attempting to use them while climbing trees.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

More reality and nice bass, finally

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

A third deer in the "target" area in the middle of Michigan tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to a Aug. 6 news release from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Strangely as I get more into the thought of the upcoming hunting seasons, bad news just turns me back around.

OK, maybe not that much, because seeing the honkers starting to flock up by the pond behind the Monroe County house, along with having a full-on credentialed black Labrador old enough to step up has me practically walking on air.

Yes, the early bird seasons should be good, to include the fall turkey season in an area I really didn't expect to pull a tag. It'll just be another option for a place to walk around with my sidekick Augustus. The more time he gets in the woods, the better he'll get.

For those of you who didn't draw a turkey tag but still would like one, the leftovers are available today for unsuccessful applicants and then Monday, Aug. 24, all hunters can buy licenses until the quotas are met.

And believe me there are always plenty to go around in Unit YY, upwards of 40,000 each of the last three years.

There are those hunters who thrive mainly on the whitetail, but if there is a collapse of the season because of CWD -- which probably won't be the case -- yet if it did, I would still have a good time.

I like to diversify my challenges in autumn's golden backdrop and mix several game bird seasons in with the king that is the quest for a large antlered deer.

But most regular readers of this site know this and can count on getting excerpts from following all of these different travels.


Those endeavors include the river challenges and bass conquests, as well, which up to Tuesday, July 28, hadn't proved eventful.

Oh, sure I hauled in a few dinks from the backyard pond ... and then there was epic canoe dumping in the River Raisin with Bill Brisebois on July 11, but no fatboys. I was wondering if I had lost my bass finesse.

So with the river still running high I thought I could find another way around the swift currents to get at those majestic smallies I know the Raisin holds.

RTWO photo by Mac Arnold

No surprise: Chartreuse with pepper flake Senkos

were the hot bait on River Raisin in midsummer.
I wouldn't say I outsmarted the river because as the hero of the 1972 film "Deliverance" Lewis Medlock was quoted as saying, "you don't beat this river; you don't beat it."

OK, that was a different river.

But maybe just maybe I stole some glory back from it for a moment on that humid midmorning at the end of July.

On a hunch I paddled out to the rocky wall at the other end of the river where it widens before going out into a harbor of Lake Erie and slammed an 18-incher smallmouth on a buzz bait.

Man did it feel good to hoist that baby. 

Finally. But I wasn't done. Oh no. Soon there was another one about 16 inches and a nice largemouth to go with them.

And then as fast as it turned on in that half-hour window it was over. The Seaguar flurocarbon line that I was told by the Cabela's salesman was top notch started blowing up on the reel. In fact, not only repeatedly going into bird's nest city but also snapping off lures during casts. (Trust me, never again. Went back to Cabela's and picked up my long-trusted monofilament, Stren, in clear 10-pound test.)

The silver and white-tasseled buzzes worked their magic until they sunk to the depths of the mighty Raisin.

But at least I lifted my bassing confidence.

I'm not done just yet. I can see at least one, if not two, more bass gigs before I stow the canoe for winter. Especially in September when the leaves are changing. What a great time to be on the water.


UPDATE: Last night, Scott Watson, an old Little League and high school alum, joined me in an impromptu bass fishing gig at the pond.

The evening action was good yet I'm still in the process of getting the rigs set up again after putting three poles in the drink in July.

We both lost nice fish.

Scott said he saw the one that came off my line, and stuck a dagger in me by saying it "was a real monster."

I know it was because the fish used the preferred Houdini tactic of big bass everywhere by jumping out of the water and shaking off the lure.

This resulted in a skunked night.

I blame the new pole I was using -- a Berkeley -- which likely would be fine other than its medium action specification seems more "medium" than most.

The fish really bent the rod down and allowed it too much give, which will result in bass-fishing failure.

That's right, failure, I said.

But it was a fun time having dinner with our wives beforehand and then watching a fight on TV with dessert after the fishing.

Oh the ones that got away will haunt you if you let them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CWD becoming a reality

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

Reading in a DNR news release that there was another confirmed case of chronic wasting disease in a free-ranging deer in central Michigan was rather upsetting.

Seems it's a reality the Great Lake State's deer herd will truly be taking a hit.

According to the Department of Natural Resources release, in the Core CWD Area, consisting of Clinton, Ingham, Shiawassee counties, there will be "an unlimited antlerless deer license quota and the deer license or deer combo licenses may be used to harvest antlerless or any antlered deer during firearm and muzzleloading seasons."

Come Sept. 15, with the onset of early doe firearms season, let the slaughter begin.

Trust me, it's gonna be on. Although many hunters will feel as I do and check themselves with how many they take.

Another thing that wigs me out is where the release goes on with "to date, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease presents any risk to noncervids, including humans, either through contract with an infected animal or from handling contaminated venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals."

So for me, the real tame ones will have a free pass. Unless that is, the rack is nice.

(That is one of the signs, is an infected deer will act odd, disoriented and even let a person approach them.)

The DNR Wildlife Disease Lab is asking hunters to report a deer exhibiting these signs at (517) 336-5030 or complete and submit the online observation report on the DNR website.

Continuing on with the deer theme, the other night I had a dream a nice buck ran out in front of me. (For all those comedians, I was on the ground, not in the Jeep, which I already hit one in back in 2011.)

I really hope so, I'm way overdue for a nice score. This dream though, as the wife would say, could be explained merely by me seeing a nice-sized deer swim about 30 yards from the canoe while I was getting skunked bass fishing at Sterling State Park on Friday, July 24. By far, that was the highlight of the outing.

With the bass fishing this summer being such a bust, either with no big ones hoisted or by getting dumped in the raging River Raisin while canoeing, my enthusiasm for deer season seems to be gaining despite it being only July.

Usually, I'm more than patient for fall to come, because after fall is winter and I'm in no hurry for blinding squalls and icy roads on my rides back and forth to work, among other woes that Old Man Winter brings.

I've put in for the usual tags, even the old standby, the Shiawassee State Game area. In addition, I plan on trying for a leftover tag in the Port Huron State Game area, which used to be my backyard.
Photo by T.J. Prisciandaro
A double-netter of wallies with old school pal Scott Watson (Reds hat). 

There was some fishing fun Saturday, July 25, with a planned charter gig aboard "Passin' Time" out of the Toledo Beach Marina. A death in the family kept Capt. Ron Levitan Jr. from running the boat but his fill-in, C.J. along with first mate Paul, performed admirably in face of tough conditions. While the chop rolled on Lake Erie, the fish were more than happy to accommodate us and fill up our cooler. But about 5 p.m., the lake started going flat and so did the bite.

We did get a haul of 20 wallies but seeing how much fun a couple of friends of mine from my Little League days -- T.J. Prisciandaro and Scott Watson and their ladies had along with my wife, Stacie -- was more than worth it.

Now it's time for me to reel in some big bass into the canoe myself.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

'An adventure?' You could say that

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

There we were, both hugging a large V-tree trunk partially sunk sideways along the river, pinned from behind by the canoe with water sweeping downward to our backs and under us.

"I'm going under ... ," I heard my friend of nearly 45 years gasp.

Bill Brisebois of San Diego was in Michigan the weekend of July 11-12 to visit family and, of course, partake in our annual summer fishing challenge.

"Let's fish the river," he said that Saturday afternoon when I starting talking of our options, to include the pond behind my Monroe County, Michigan house. (Which was the one I was hinting at.)

In this scenario, we would take a lap around the pond along the trail on the 4-wheelers and then hit the bank at dusk for largemouths. It would be casual fun. And simple.

I can hear him now saying, "Yeah, blame me, it's all my fault."

But, no, really it was my fault.

River Raisin, after one of the wettest months of June on record along with big-time flooding in Dundee, which is where we put in, was too fast, too high and too muddy. I should have trusted my gut on this one.

But an hour later we were at the access site, the canoe loaded and being slid into the greenish brown foamy river.

I took a precursory glance around the usual surroundings and decided "good enough."

Unbelievably, we rolled the canoe while I was climbing in. Hardly the skill of two river veterans.

Maybe that was a sign of what was to come.

With Bill already slightly injured from hitting his knee and falling on his wrist awkwardly in this faux pas at the launch, we re-loaded the canoe, hopped in without a hitch and headed out.

After a couple of casts it was clear the water was much higher than I anticipated and slow spots and eddies off in backwaters in the world's most crooked were few and far in between. (Smallmouths will hang under flotsam and just off of the current for easy meals of bait fish.

We took a side route in
hopes of finding a fish
bonanza that was a
'fun' adventure but
alas no hits.

RTWO video by Mac Arnold

At one backwater spot Bill did actually get a hit. That would be the only action of the day. Um, fish action, I should say.

The swift water took us further than I usually go before fighting the current back to the Dundee launch site.

I had mentioned this so we tried to turn around but we were making little headway upriver.

"We could make an adventure out of this," Bill said, meaning we would go down hopefully as far as my house albeit I didn't know there were falls at the Ida-Maybee Road crossing that we would have had to portage had we tried this. That would have been a bear in the dark. (The trip we took ended up being between 8 to 12 miles on its own.)

It was clear we would go the "adventure" route.

More casts. More getting buzz baits snagged and unhooked out of limbs.

Then it happened.

A small innocuous twig jutting up from the river looked really like nothing more than a loose vine. No worries, I thought.


The first mistake is we were headed backward, which does happen from time to time when both canoeists are fiddling with their lines or phones or whatever. But you're asking for trouble if you continue that way for a great distance. I should have been more vigilant.

Another error was trying to turn at the twig, which was really a taut hickory or oak branch, because once we tried veering at it we were sideways to the current and bingo, it just forced us over.

We later both had to admit the water felt nice and cool but at that moment it wasn't exactly what we were thinking.

So as we were fighting to stay up and work our way over to the shore, it was then that Bill said he could no longer battle to stay above the branch and went under to "go after the bags," which I thought was a noble gesture. And a much appreciated one by me because if the wife's Trader Joe's insulated bag disappeared forever, I would have been in deep doo-doo.

I liked to say it was because our favorite Monster drinks were in there but truthfully the other bag had his phone in it. Now it all makes perfect sense.

Once he was out of view swimming in his blue life vest downstream, it was up to me to horse the canoe away from this large treetop and onto shore with the canoe nearly full of water. It was a tough overture. But I conjured a Super Mac moment and flung the one oar up on the bank but sadly watched as the second one was swept away. Along with my life jacket, which made me sadder for sentimental reasons more than anything else because I've had the green thing for practically 20 years. It would be recovered later.

There's something to be said for how strong a river's force can be and how hard it is to move a nearly topped off canoe. As a man in his early 50s, I can attribute much of how I managed in that situation to my diligent weight training in the Arnold gym.

I think the worst part of it all -- well nearly worst because losing three fishing poles was definitely No. 1 -- was the mosquito feeding frenzy that took place at that place of refuge on the bank while I took stock of what gear was left and tied a buzz bait back on the one remaining pole.

And yes, after about 10 minutes, the canoe was up on top of the water with me fishing again.

Miraculously, a call came in from Bill telling me of his whereabouts to the shore and I got him back in the canoe.

The miraculous part of the call is that his phone survived by being in a Ziplock bag. For some reason every time I've tried that gig it's meant an instant phone death when I've dumped in the river with the phone on me. And that's why now I have a waterproof phone holder I use when canoeing.

Another miraculous part was when we reached the livery I knew was some ways down the river, Bill was able to talk me into looking at re-figuring our whereabouts on the phone's GPS and "should we stop there and get help?"

It was dark. I commend Bill for the request.

Not only we were able to catch the owners in time to get us a ride back to the Jeep, but we also found out about the River Raisin Canoe Livery operation for future bass river gigs and camping.

A very miraculous ending all the way around, indeed.
One might wonder why after such an experience I would even suggest of returning to the rivers and streams in a canoe, or even question my sanity at that.

But I'm an outdoorsman. This is what I live to do.

And if anyone climbs into a canoe, or any vessel for that matter but most especially a canoe, and doesn't at least consider the possibility of it overturning, then really, they should not go.  

In fact, according to a website called, taking a swim should be swapped with "the possibility of" and changed to "expect to."

"Every canoeist needs to know what to do what to do when you flip a canoe. If your sense of balance is pretty good, you will probably be able to stay upright most of the time you are canoeing. Give it enough time though and everybody will end up flipping their canoe eventually," the website continues, "in fact, every time you get in a canoe, you should plan as if you are going to flip (tie gear to the boat, wear clothes you don’t mind swimming in, etc.).
"When you do happen to flip your canoe, the way you handle it will depend on the water conditions you find yourself swimming in."

For us, those water conditions were a little more intense than what they had been our previous times out.

And I will say in thinking about the moment I was hugging that tree limb, with regard to the clothes you should wear, I had a tough time unhooking the loose shirt I had on from a nub on the bark. For future gigs, much tighter clothing will be in order.

Eventually, after a couple attempts, I was able to pull free and move to shore.

That could have been the difference between life and death.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thinking on pond was a little hasty

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

After a couple decent outings on the Monroe County, Michigan pond behind the house, I've come to rethink whether the late winter fish kill wiped out all the bass.

RTWO photo by Mac Arnold
Biggest one of the night I caught at dark
July 4. They were all about a foot long. 
Maybe all the big boys.

But so far I've hauled in at least five or more on two occasions. However, both times were evening gigs. Seems to be the winning strategy.

No action on the two morning jaunts.

Now these were hardly world-beaters but just average length largemouths. Big enough to put up good fights for fun.

Some may say it seems like it would be like shooting ducks in a barrel but I stick to the golden rule of no live bait for bass.

As usual the killer color for Gary Yamamoto's Senkos this time of year is chartreuse and pepper flake.

Oh, wait a minute, I needed to keep that quiet as my longtime pal Bill Brisebois is coming to town for a visit this Saturday (July 11) and of course, our annual fishing challenge.

And I'm sure a trip to Cabela's, his favorite store, will be in order.

Hope he didn't read the Senko part. Or the Cabela's part (it really isn't his favorite place to go).

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Favorite things

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

Bullfrogs drone at dusk while the moon's early reflection glimmers on the water. Sweat rolls off my forehead from the stifling humidity as I try to guide the canoe into position for an "impeccable" cast at the nearby fallen tree trunk.

Big boys like to hang just underneath logs to zap unaware smaller fish in the current for an easy meal.

Boom! The hook is set as the jumbo smallmouth takes the offering.

Ahhhh, if only ...

It's the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Definitely is meant to be spent on the water in a canoe.

And the hotter it is, the better it is for this angler.

One of my favorite things to do is bass fish from a canoe along a swiftly moving river. It rates right up there with spring gobbler and deer archery hunting.

Sadly, this holiday I must hold off because one of the wettest Junes on record has left a favorite bass fishing river of mine -- River Raisin -- a flooded mess in the Dundee, Mich., area.

I saw where a promo for an upcoming article by the Blade outdoor writer was going to talk about how the high water in the Michigan-Ohio border region will affect fishing.

This isn't a hold-the-presses moment by any means, at least for this bass man.

Although I know the fish can be hauled out of the depths, which is what happens, they lurk in lower crags. It just makes it tougher to find and present the lure down to them.

But I've witnessed better-than-average anglers, such as my ex-brother-in-law, still find a way to get it done while I would rack up a zero or a one-fish day.

So the wait goes on until the water recedes.

The pond behind the house used to be a fun option but in February, after the ice cleared, it was discovered that there was a massive fish die-off. Anywhere from 30 to 50 fish had rolled up on the shore.

Two morning gigs so far this season resulted in maybe one small hit. Not a good barometer. Last year I would have at least hoisted a couple of fish from out of there.

Right now, the July 15 coyote opener is starting to look real good. Better than usual.

Of course the woods where I patrol and they roam is a swamp.

This wet summer is making it tough to do anything around the lowlands of the Great Lake State.

Hopefully next year at this time the wife and I can make a West Virginia excursion to another of my favorite spots: the south branch of the Potomac River in the Eastern Panhandle.

Another good thing or two, and others not so good

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor

As a I said in a June 13 post, despite scoring a big fat goose egg during Michigan's 2015 spring gobbler season, some good stuff still came out of it.

Of course getting in touch with Tom Sampey of Apache Pyramid Blind Co. being No. 1, so I could continue the legacy of using his masterful blinds in the deer, turkey and coyote woods.

But another one was hooking up with Dairy Farmer Dave for the upcoming fall turkey season in Sanilac County. I rattled off several nice kills there, especially during autumn 2010 with my best ever tom, which sported a 14.5-inch beard.

So I'm far from being down.

It used to be that if I didn't hoist a longbeard over my shoulder in spring then it didn't happen for that year. But that is no longer the case.

Last year the boys at the Sanilac County, Michigan, camp were pumped for deer archery in October and there was a resistance to having me in the southwest oak flat with my shottie in September. So I kind of took a hit on the motivation factor. I still went out twice with the crossbow but never had an opportunity.

But picking up Dairy Farmer Dave's is a great option, and he couldn't care less.

When I stopped by a few weeks ago to reconnect, he said dryly, "Hunting turkeys isn't the highlight of my fall. Give me a holler as the season gets closer."

RTWO photo by Mac Arnold
Dairy Farmer Dave's is always a good option for
hunting turkeys during Michigan's fall season.

Another goose egg came up in the Maine moose drawing. Couldn't tell you how many years this makes it. Er, yes I can.

The question of "how many years have I applied?" was brought to my attention from a Facebook friend who was responding to a friend of his that had said he was packing it in after 31 years of trying.

I had responded on the post by asking, "Thirty-one years?"

The Moose Whisperer as he calls himself -- who has great luck applying for the draw -- suggested we had missed a drawing or two.

But I haven't missed a year since for probably more than 10 years.

(Which I just confirmed with a call to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife today [July 2]. I was told I have 11 preference points.)

During the call, the Maine wildlife department staffer admitted she had been applying since 1980 and had yet to be drawn. So I guess it truly is a dream hunt of a lifetime.

And to add more salt on the wound, I also got blanked in Michigan's bear and elk drawings in June.

Looks like it'll be the usually suspects for this fall: geese, woodcock, grouse, turkey, pheasant,  ducks, deer and coyote.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The blind master

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor

Despite Michigan's 2015 spring gobbler season coming to an abrupt end and not in pay dirt for this hunter, some positives were still harvested.

One of the best being that of coming into contact with Tom Sampey of Apache Pyramid Blind Co. in Orion, Mich.

I would like to blame the aged blind Dad bought for me some 20 years ago -- much beat-up after the many woodland battles with wily toms and shifty bucks alike -- for the bungled last chance I had on three beauties May 29, but really I can only attribute impatience and possibly a little ... er, a lot maybe, on sleep deprivation.

Ah, but May 29 seems so long ago, doesn't it?

I mean we're on the cusp of bass season (as I sit writing this in a Bass Pro Shops T-shirt).

Wow, I'm really getting pumped for setting the hook on a steamy evening hog laying low under a river log. Won't be long. And now I see my awesome boss has given me a three-day weekend over the July 4th holiday. This is my favorite time to bass fish.

So yes a score on a thunder chicken will have to wait until fall but in the interlude there will be many pond and river excursions for largemouths and smallies.

But when that Sept. 15 opener hits, I will not only be armed with the "right" shotgun choke but also nice new Apache Blind in the stylish Mossy Oak pattern. I misplaced the Jellyhead choke I've used for years until the day after my last spring hunt.

The blind I've been using for 20-plus years has an original Realtree pattern. Just about every turkey -- spring and fall -- I've ever killed, dozens, has come from behind that blind. I took my first deer with it during archery season in West Virginia.

Along with its ease of carry and setup and stealth factor, there was a nostalgic element with it. I can still remember Dad handing it to me saying he bought it for me, and me thinking, what the hell is this thing? Little would I know just how much I would grow to love it and depend on it for successful hunts.
RTWO photos by Mac Arnold
Tom Sampey of Apache Pyramid Blind Co. with 
a sampling of his versatile, lightweight blinds.

So it came with much relief when I was able to Google Tom's name and number for his company to at least find replacement parts for my treasured piece of hunting equipment.

But it got even better.

He said he had more available and a handful even with the much desired winter pattern for late season deer and coyote.

Unfortunately Tom recently suffered a stroke and hasn't found a replacement seamstress for the business so it looks like he's winding down production.

On Saturday, June 13, and likely for the rest of the summer, he will be having weekend garage sales at his house at 3746 Morgan Rd., Orion, Mich., that will surely include his inventory of Apache Pyramid Blinds. So if you're looking for much lighter option for cover than what the heavy and complicated Primos Double Bull and Ameristep blinds provide (I don't care what anyone says, you need a bachelor's of science degree and to be a bodybuilder to put those things up.) In addition, the Apaches make for a great kind of walking stick you can use for moving low branches and briars out of your path while traversing the woods.

For those fellow hunters who shun blinds, to each his own, I couldn't care less, this is how I roll -- with memories of my father and those turkeys I've flattened after being jarred awake from a midmorning snooze by the soft clucking of a turkey mere steps away.

Come get some.

While my wife Stacie and I were looking for his house, she said jokingly, "Oh, I wonder if it's the one with the blind out in front of it."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Still looking to fool one

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor

With bass fishing shows blaring on the television in the background and a belly full of eggs and browns warming my belly, the time seems right to write about my forays so far in this Michigan spring gobbler season.

Looking toward bass fishing in June also seems right because the toms aren't cooperating.

There still is time for sure but not as much as in the past.

Everything shook out for me to hit the turkey woods May 11, which is my latest start ever.

I could have joined the rest of the crowd and opened at the end of April, but as much as I froze Wednesday, I'm just as happy I didn't opt for the first season.

True, the bugs are a minimal but part of the allure of spring turkey hunting is the nicer weather compared with deer hunting.

As the turkey gobbles, it appears that I'll have a handful of more opportunities before the season ends May 31.

That's the thing with getting older: more responsibilities and less time for getting out into the woods. (Mainly fewer vacation days at this job). Where most seasons I would get out anywhere from 10 to 15 times, for 2015 I'm targeting somewhere from five to 10 outings.

Where I hunt in the Thumb holds the best chance for hoisting a 20-pounder off the oak flats. The two times I was there -- Monday and Wednesday -- I had gobbles but no suitors willing to make that commitment for a closer look.

Seems like they have a private rendezvous spot across from our woods to the one in the west, where it's off limits.

But I see where the tactic should be to set up along our most southwestern border and try to draw them over for a look or stay later and wait for them to come back when they roost in our woods.

And I know they do because of the evidence I found -- a primary feather -- Wednesday under one of the older trees on the camp property.

So the tactics have been narrowed down to go along with the time constraints. Now if only a tom will accommodate the plan.

Will this be the turkey I get for Michigan's 2015 spring gobbler season? Guess you'll have to stay tuned to this blog and find out.
RTWO photo by Stacie Arnold

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What's left on the agenda

By Mac Arnold
RTO Editor

Pretty much everything else came off the Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest Sunday March 1 of legal critters to kill.

Coyotes are still on tap until April 15 as long as you buy a new small game license April 1.

And that's really all that I'm interested in anyway. Not that I wouldn't take a fox if presented with an opportunity when in season.

But that predator -- Wile E. Coyote -- is what primarily affects me because it eats into my deer hunting and really is the only reason why I still venture out into the great outdoors, unless you count the nightly expeditions I take with Augie, our black Lab, along the trail that hugs the pond behind the Monroe County, Mich., house.

The snow had been a problem for getting back there but after a trial run last week on snowshoes, it looks like I can get around that hangup. Of course winter could just end making everything easier all together. The forecast shows promise for this week -- March 9-15 -- with highs hitting the 50s from Wednesday into the weekend. Rain is supposed to muck up the Friday plans and possibly into Saturday.

This last Saturday looked warmer and was expected to be at nearly 40 degrees, so out I headed with new gear and a Foxpro electronic caller.

But for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure for a second time, I saw a glimmering of a 'yote in the morning darkness dart off the trail and into brush lining the south side of the pond.

During our walks, Augie always has his eyes intently on something off to that part of the field so I'm sure he's onto their tricks. Or maybe the sneaky dogs are stalking us.

After our outing two weeks ago, a quick locator howl from outside the garage door drew a response back in the general direction the crafty coyote would have traveled. But Saturday, March 8, I heard only owls and doves and watched the jumbo jets flying overhead out of Detroit Metro Airport.

One time maybe two weeks ago I was watching "experts" during the Foxpro show on the Sportsman's Channel and the guru -- I forget his name -- said calls and camo aside, the most important aspect of coyote hunting is the setup -- when, where and how you go about it.

I've cut out the quad not only for the noise factor but for the stuck factor in the snow as well. I don't feel like burying the four-wheeler in the back field. No thanks.

In addition I tried a slightly different place to call from along the edge of the woods to take away from the predictability factor.

Yet, no Wile E. Coyote approach. (Yes there are coyotes there on property, not only have I seen them but along with the wife, we have both heard them, so it's not an exclusive hallucination to yours truly.) So I would say the only other thing is getting out maybe at another time other than a couple of hours before dusk, which I did Sunday when I ventured out into the "non" warmup predawn air. Again, no customers were to be seen but boy the Foxpro electronic caller sure did sound nice.

With regard to this, and I'm sure applies to dogs equally, deer guru Stan Potts was saying during one of his shows how the position of the moon, not necessarily the phase, affects whitetail movement with the most busiest times being either when it is directly above or below the horizon.

That is another trick I might try so I can look into the scope and see the varmint's fury vitals in the cross hairs.

Believe me, it's overdue.

On a more positive note, for the glorious spring turkey season, I was one of 10 drawn for Monroe County's ZD unit from May 11-31.

For this outdoorsman, spring gobbler is where it's at. I mean I like it as much as any other hunting or fishing endeavor, except bow hunting for deer in the rut. Those two seasons probably run neck and neck, then followed by muzzleloader for deer, regular deer firearms, bird hunting, bass fishing, and lastly, (gulp), predator hunting?


But really, I've been getting more and more into coyote hunting. I just wish I was having more success at it.

Maybe that's what keeps me coming back every winter to take another crack at it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A winter's walk

By Mac Arnold
RTO Editor

"We walked to the mounds before the dawn. Upon the frozen snow our feet stayed, except for the occasional sunken missteps.

"It was at the turnaround point that I noticed tracks had followed mine from the previous night's adventure in the woods to the back 40.

"Augie, our black Lab, had stayed off to the sides for the most part and had not ventured up front. The tracks in question were canine but appeared somewhat smaller, so he was ruled out as the culprit.

"A momentary pause was taken under the black sky and twinkling stars. The sting from below zero wind chills started to put a bite on my cheeks ... a coyote? Perhaps.

"Possibilities of a four-legged stalker danced around my mind until I hung up the dog leash once inside the shelter of the garage."

-- An excerpt from Mac's Night Travels

OK, there is no such literary piece but it is good fodder for a future work.

Didn't even really think about it until today (Feb. 23) when my wife told me of her morphine-induced dream at the hospital last night, where wolves jumped out of the wall and began to pounce while she was trapped in a bed that folded up on her.

The missus is recovering after complications from gall bladder surgery in the former Mercy Medical Hospital in Monroe, which now is ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital.

As I told her: she dreamt it. I lived it.

OK, not wolves. But maybe something.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I can dream, can't I?

By Mac Arnold
RTO Editor

After my shift here in Toledo on Tuesday night, I will be swinging by the mailbox to send out the annual miracle draw that is the Maine moose lottery.

Couldn't tell you exactly how many years it's been since I've started putting in for this chance of a lifetime, but I'm thinking it's been at least a decade.

The scenario starts out in rugged back northwoods of  "The Pine Tree State." It's a chilly and damp November day. Specks of white from a recent snowstorm dot the hillside. There I am set up along a cut muddy two-track and out steps a monster bull. Seconds later I raise the Mossberg slug gun and drop him with a perfect shot straight into the boiler room.

I stand over the fallen beast in disbelief from his monstrous proportions and wide palms that make up his rack.

Honkkkkkkkkk!!!! Honkkkkkkkkk!!!!

Then I snap out of this tremendous moment and realize the light is green and someone behind me is ticked off because I haven't moved for 20 seconds.

Oh, well, a guy can dream can't he?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Staying on watch

By Mac Arnold
RTO Editor

Now that the February "Super Storm" has hit, now what?

How am I going to stay on watch for coyotes in the back 40?

It may be time to invest in snowshoes. Or I could just wait until the late winter to spring thaw. Not sure how long it'll be but I'm not one to just slip into a Rip Van Winkle slumber.

Thoughts of wading in a roaring river for steelhead sounds appealing. That can be a chilly endeavor as well.

But on Saturday, Jan. 31, back in the Monroe County coyote woods, the only signs of life were a couple of determined squirrels and nonstop hooting great horned owls.

A late start and bumpy quad drive over the torn up field probably didn't leave the gig to covertness. So what the thinking is for future dog gigs is a nice hike to the back 40 ... in March.

The snow definitely has made for an arduous walk, let alone with the frozen plowed field.

Might be time to try another venue, such as the Sanilac County camp. The 'yotes roam in numbers out that way.

Although more snow is expected this weekend. Ugh! Not a lot. Accuweather is calling for 1 to 3 inches. Yeah, sure, pile it on Old Man Winter.

Guess it's time to purchase the H.S. Strut DVD to while away the time until mobility returns to ye olde hunting grounds.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lifting the January doldrums

By Mac Arnold
RTO Editor

A couple of beautiful things happened over the past two weeks: one was a couple of coyote gigs and the other was putting in for spring gobbler.

Nothing soothes the soul from midwinter cabin fever in Michigan like planning for turkey when the dogwoods bloom.

Ahhhhhhhh. Just saying, "spring gobbler season," brings warmth to my soul.

Yes, I went outside the box and applied for a unit where there are only 10 tags available, but if I do score I will be the only swinging Richard out there and that is very appealing. Last season was duel at the Sanilac County camp with another guy who has the personality like that of a squeaking styrofoam cooler in the backseat of the Jeep.

If it's not to be, then so be it. I'll live. The chucklehead won't make every gig I'm on, and the action is always fairly decent there. And if it heads in that direction again, I ought to pay a visit to Dairy Farmer Dave's just down the road, which has paid big dividends for me in thunder chickens and fall birds a few years back.

It's just that Dairy Farmer Dave can be a tad cantankerous at times.

Despite no coyotes being heard or seen, I was quite happy I finally got out on a predator hunt behind the
RTO photo by Mac Arnold

For sure I thought a coyote would be
prowling up from the gully below just 
like on the hunting show I saw the 
night before. But alas, none showed.
house Jan. 16 in Monroe County, Mich.

Even a couple inexplicably walking their dog in the adjoining field in the MIDDLE OF JANUARY didn't lower the happiness level. Well ... much. I'm sure that didn't help my cause. They are very wary. Something like that will close them down. 

I didn't see any tracks headed out there either so the thinking now is that I need to be in the back woods where I watched him come out a couple of times during deer season. And also, one time, where he howled 40 yards from my setup. 

We will meet again.

For the next hunt, Friday, Jan. 23, I did make it all the way to the back 40 in behind the house in Monroe County. 

Unfortunately, I think all the other errands I ran via the quad, stirred up too much noise. 

After having a handful of fall hunts disturbed by oblivious trail walkers from the adjacent property, I finally posted the back lot line with a blessing from the property owner. Enough is enough.  Especially when on two high-profile hunts -- opening day and second day of deer firearms season -- the hikers came cruising through without any blaze orange on at all.

It's just plain ridiculous. And disrespectful.

Anyway, again no coyotes came out to play but questions in my mind about whether the H&R .223 was still on were eliminated when I did a little varmint control on a opossum 80 yards out. Dead critter.

I thought that it could provide bait for later in the hunt but later I saw conflicting information on the Internet on whether they'll even go after pink-eyed satin rats.

But by far the highlight of the hunt that afternoon was after I cruised over on the quad to confirm the kill, up flew a snowy owl from the oaks lining the frozen plowed white field. The enormous wingspan was awe-inspiring. The giant owl must have been scoping the opossum the whole time, which was acting strangely by pacing around in circles.

With late winter and milder weather approaching, more hunts await.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Best of 2014

By Mac Arnold
ROA Editor

It may seem a bit harsh of me but this veteran outdoorsman is quite happy to put 2014 in the trail behind me.

Additionally, I now consider the 2014 hunting season a wash.

It's too bad because it showed so much promise early. But the end was so ... disappointing.

I don't know how else to put it. Maybe frustrating also would be fitting.

This unveiling of Rockin' The Outdoors with Mac's Best of 2014 in mid-January is quite belated, most likely from disgust and maybe some lethargy.

Lethargy has taken over likely from putting in some serious time in the deer woods over the autumn months and into winter. With the Monroe County countryside in Michigan covered in a layer of white and daily temperatures hovering around zero, now is the time for relaxation and hope for spring, mainly with spring bringing heavy, long-bearded toms.
RTO Photos by Mac Arnold
Well lookie here, guess what was 
just a step ahead of Augie and me
during a chilly walk one night?

It won't all be curling up under a blanket, with hot joe watching football and hockey. There will be time allotted for attempting to knock down Wile E. Coyote, which is one critter I've yet to bag. This is a very necessary endeavor with much evidence and howling providing the incentive, along with a desire to keep them off the deer herd behind the house.

So let's get this list out of the way first, shall we? And I'll stop my bellyaching.

3. AUGIE LEARNS THE ROPES: Holding up the bottom, was an uneventful Dec. 1 bird hunt at Petersburg State Game Area, yet one that has big ramifications for the future. It was Augie the black Lab's first time out under live conditions. Although we didn't have any flushes, I still got an opportunity to see how he would handle ranging in the field and live fire. He passed with flying colors.

2. MAC LEARNS THE ROPES: Coming in at No. 2, was a grouping of three successful goose hunts -- one in September and two in October for a total of three in the bag -- at the new hot spot at the sub's pond, which is a huge draw for all types of waterfowl. More importantly, I learned how crucial the wind's role is for setting up in the right position so when the geese liftoff from the pond, they fly past the setup. They prefer to take off and land into the wind. Also, I found great success in the Browning 12 gauge with Black Cloud's No. 2 shot. It was very effective.
1. ARCHERY SUCCESS: At the top of the Best of 2014 list was the first archery kill I've had since 2011.  And we're not talking crossbow here, which I imagine would be acceptable for someone of my circumstance with having two torn rotator cuff surgeries and all. About 15 minutes before legal shooting light the evening of Oct. 23 in walked a nice doe and right into one of my prearranged shooting lanes between a tall oak and a sapling a mere five yards from the stand. (Just how I like it.) I really couldn't have drawn it up any better. Despite the shot ... let's just say it was a little high, the big girl dropped right in her tracks. When I got down, it freaked me out how big she was. What a horse, but those seem to be rule these days at the Sanilac County deer camp. The freezer is full.

Augie tears it up in a DNR
planting at Petersburg
State Game Area.