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!!!