Sunday, January 1, 2017

Season wrap-up: Top hunts of 2016

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

After nearly four months of insanity and mostly frustration, Michigan's white-tailed deer season will come to close Jan. 1.

Yes, sadly, and maybe with relief, when the sun dips below the horizon this chilly winter evening that is going to be it until mid-September.

The weapon of choice for this hunt by this worn, gray-bearded hunter will be a crossbow -- the same one as when the season began Sept. 17 for early antlerless deer.

There was some debate as to whether to go out instead with the freezer-packer -- the 12-gauge Mossberg slug gun -- but what if a decent buck chooses to come into range? So with that, the Parker crossbow made the grade, or at least we hope it does.

But most likely that is not to happen as few ... well, one antlered deer was seen on the hoof this past season, and it was hardly a nice buck. It was very much so a yearling buck, possibly a six-point, and if seen tonight it will be left alone to roam until next season.

So it is with this season wrap-up combined with a Top Hunts of 2016 post we hold promise for the new year with the knowledge that Michigan's lottery opens for Spring Gobbler from Jan. 1-Feb.1.

Goodbye 2016.

Starting in order from bottom to top:

No. 3: CAIDEN STAYS IN THE STAND -- It was all talk for most of the late November deer season with the 7-year-old grandson until we were to climb into the blind for that evening's hunt at the Sanilac County, Michigan camp. Once the young man got to the top of the ladder and a mere step inside the wooden enclosure, that was it. He was having nothing to do with it. "Whoaaaa, I'm coming down, Mac." Guess heights aren't his forte. But that's not how it ended. After a stern talk of "oh, no, you're a staying," from his Papa Mac, the hunt went on until dark. No deer came in to look over but some knowledge was passed on, and he learned how to use the grunt call ... um, ad nauseam.

RTWO Photo by Mac Arnold
While not everything might have gone to plan this
hunting season, we did bag our first mallard drake. 
And for being a part-time waterfowler, it was a
big deal. Augustus shows his approval.
No. 2: GOOSE FROM SEAT OF MY PANTS -- By early December, with the cupboards bare from few opportunities not only in the deer woods but along the duck pond, expectations were low as Augie and myself took point just outside the Monroe County, Michigan pothole. Despite the timing being right as many -- if not hundreds of ducks and geese -- picked up from their comfy confines inside the madly swaying cattails. The wind was howling on this day, but the only problem was our setup, which was back too far for a good shot. After a move to the edge of the pond, up went three mallards and once the Browning reported, one went down, which was my first-ever bagged mallard drake. A short time after that, a small flock of geese swirled overhead. While the others were wise to the nonsense behind the bush, one dipped in for a closer look despite the discombobulated hunter being twisted around to his backside in an effort to get a shot. So while practically lying down, with the first shot missing, the second shot rang true and down rained a goose.

No. 1: DAIRY FARMER DAVE'S PAYS OFF AGAIN -- The top hunt of 2016 was actually months ago on the very last day of May. Spring gobbler took me to three different states that provided a handful of decent opportunities but none of which that ended in a bagged tom. After mulling how to get the job done with the season down to its last days and securing a return invite from the Sanilac County dairy farmer, there I was back along the famous woodline where I shot my best-ever gobbler in 2010. Despite being late to the best place to sit for this hunt, the bunch of four or five birds that sounded off as I walked in eventually appeared with two nice toms in tow. Yet, not everything went as planned because the 1993 Mossberg Ulti-Mag did its occasional misfire gag not once but twice. That was enough for the wily big boys to say "uh-uh" to that and start turning around but not before one was dropped on the third attempt. It had a nine-inch beard and was pretty heavy, probably 20 pounds or better.

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