Friday, December 23, 2016

Reality looms as deer season dwindles and Michigan now a white wonderland

By Mac Arnold

With the fields having been turned into snowy moonscapes, it is clear that I am truly up against the odds of putting a white-tailed deer in the freezer.

Dec. 18 was officially the last day of Michigan's muzzle loader season.

One in which I have had some success in over the years. In fact, this time around, on Dec. 9, it produced the only shot I've had at a deer during any of the regular seasons in 2016.

But this has been such a trying muzzle-loader season and deer season in general. When I got back to the camp cabin, I told everyone who asked "if I found (the deer)" that the shot on the doe "probably went left and over her shoulder." For some reason the .45 rifle had this tendency to hit like that despite me thinking I had fixed it the last time I had sighted it in. But this was confirmed when I wrapped up that final day of smoke pole nine days later by clearing the load with some shots at a practice target.

Not only were the rounds hitting high and to the left -- but the three grouped in the upper left-hand corner with each round an inch apart. After some tweaking on the scope, I got the round to hit where I wanted slightly above the bull and nearly dead center, which effectively squashed talk of getting a new muzzle loader for next year.

This $99 special -- a Knight Wolverine -- has always been one of the more accurate rifles to come out of the gun safe. I don't know what got the two of us on such a wayward path but it seems to have come full-circle back to good. And now the season's over.

 The slogan at this time of year that is usually "one more deer" is now a foreboding "wait until next year."

Sure, the family will survive but venison often does help to sustain our food lockers, or mine, however you want to look at it since I'm the one who primarily eats it. Again, I'll survive.

I'm more questioning why this year has gone so poorly, at least deer-wise. Whereas it's not uncommon for me to not shoot a gobbler some springs, deer have been taken in at least every season since I started hunting in 1993 except one: 2000.

I guess all streaks come to an end at some point as all good things eventually do too.

However, at the end of all this reflection, there is still season left. Even if I don't want to carry on in the frigid December temperatures with a bow, the late season antlerless firearms season took off where the muzzle loader ended.

Which is where I was hoping to add another hunt for the slim selection this year for the annual Mac's Top Hunts of the year installment.

But a Tuesday, Dec. 20, hunt out at the Sanilac County camp did not quite go as planned. The targeted deer decided to keep on going despite the hole in its side. After a two-hour tracking job it was decided I was putting myself and a friend at risk in the teen temperatures with the wind-chill factor, and I backed out ... but not before I got turned around and lost in the dark, everything-looks-the-same woods. Looking back now, I'm thinking maybe the Hornady SST slug didn't hit any vitals. Usually those 300 grainers drop deer in their tracks unless the previously mentioned scenario happens. It's rare indeed when the freezer-packer -- a 12-gauge Mossberg slug gun -- can't get the job done.

Anybody who questions how hard I looked for that deer needed to only look at my shredded hands. The doe's escape route through bramble tunnels was a bear to follow. One that I could not overcome this time around. Still it's not something that has me happy. In fact, I'm pretty bummed out.

But there will be other deer hunts.

Just maybe not in Michigan this season.