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 canoeingbasics.com, 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.