Pictured Rocks–Picture Perfect

October 5th, 2015

FullSizeRender (67)FullSizeRender (62)FullSizeRender (65)FullSizeRender (58)FullSizeRender (68)My wife had been asking me for years to go on the Munising Pictured Rock cruise.  I am not much of a fan of the water, as I tend to get a little nauseous out on a boat.

Well last week we were in Marquette for our annual fall bear hunt, which is 44 miles from the boat docks in Munising.  My wife and our friend Linda Baltrip made the necessary phone calls and arrangements to do the cruise while we were in the area.  They made a reservation for a 10 a.m. trip that would not interfere with our evening bear hunt.  The trip was scheduled to last for 2 hours, so we even had time to grab a bite to eat once the cruise was over.

We were able to get some very good seats on the open top deck of the boat which held about 70 passengers.  The air was brisk, but the waters of Munising Bay were calm, as were the open waters, once we left the safety of the bay!  I had taken a Dramamine, but probably never needed it as the big boat plowed effortlessly through the blue/green waters of Lake Superior!

The Pictures Rock cliff were alive with color, and one can certainly see how they got their name.  Caves, colors, and carvings (created by wind and wave) adorned the shoreline as we made our way down this National Treasure of Superior grandeur!  Indian Rock, the Three Ships, Castle Rock, waterfalls, and a variety of many other images, begging to be caught on camera, as you cruise these crystal clear waters.  On the way back our guide gave us a history lesson about the area, which included Grand Island, to the West of Pictured Rocks.  An old wooded lighthouse gives tourist an opportunity to “click” away on their cell phones or camera’s as we slowly sail past.

The Bay itself provides chances for some very unique photo’s, and there is a nice gift shop on the docks to purchase memento’s of your trip.  We were so glad our wives “forced” us to do this, but I’m not telling them that “They were right again!”  I highly recommend this cruise to anyone venturing into the Upper Peninsula!  Trust me you’ll be glad you did!


Opening Day Tree Stand Death in Huron County

October 1st, 2015

My bear hunting partner, and friend, Bob Baltrip knows all to well the dangers of hunting from a tree stand.  Many years ago he took a tumble from his stand some 16-20 feet, and ended up in the intensive care unit of the Ann Arbor University of Michigan Hospital.  Only by Gods Grace is he here today.  Today was the bow season opener here in Michigan and already we have a tree stand fatality!

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said a 45-year-old Ohio man died after falling from his tree stand this morning in Huron County. The name of the man is being withheld, pending notification of family members.

Even wearing a safety harness is no guarantee you are totally safe getting in and out of your stand!

At about 10 a.m. a DNR conservation officer arrived at the Verona State Game Area, responding to a call made by the victim’s hunting partner.

The officer and personnel responding from Central Huron Ambulance in Bad Axe performed CPR. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Preliminary investigation revealed the victim had shot a deer and had unfastened his safety harness to climb down from his tree stand. He was found lying next to a tree.

The complete circumstances surrounding the fall are still being determined. The cause of death is pending conclusive determination by the Huron County medical examiner.

The roughly 7,700-acre Verona State Game Area is located about 6 miles east of Bad Axe.

Bear Hunt 2015

September 30th, 2015

FullSizeRender (88)FullSizeRender (50)FullSizeRender (78)FullSizeRender (81)Just got in from my week in the Upper Peninsula trying to get my friend Bob a black bear.  Bob had a third hunt license which opened on September 25.  We arrived at the Baldwin Camp a day early so we could freshen the two baits we had going.  One bait had been getting hit on a regular basis, but the other had not seen any action for several days.

The bait that my friend Gregg Baldwin had started for us had several bear on the trail camera, but a ground blind had to be used in the thicket that Gregg baited in.  We set up a portable blind but were only 20 yards away from the bait.

The evening of the 25th. may have been the most boring night I have ever spent in a blind!  There was no breeze, no birds, no animals, no nothing!  Not even a loud beaked blue jay!  Four hours of total silence, limited movement, and the same scenery, still, silent, and unchanging.  Was so glad to get back to camp that night.

On the second day we decided to hunt bait number 2, even though it had not been visited by a bear recently.  Windy, stand creaking, and only a squirrel and a couple of thrushes visited the bait.  Back to the cabin!

Day three of our 4 day hunt saw us back at spot number one, and wouldn’t you know it the bait pile was gone, and our trail cam showed a nice bear had been there at 6:37!  Wow! Prime time!  Boy were we kicking ourselves in the behind.

To make a long story a little shorter we sat two more evenings and saw nothing except a very large raccoon. End of story end of hunt!  You don’t get em every year, that’s hunting.  We had a good time none the less with our wives and the Baldwin family, and the use of the beautiful (off the grid) family deer hunting camp.  As always Gary Baldwin, his wife Nancy, and Gary’s dad Dick made us feel at home with their caring hospitality.  Just sitting on the camps front porch, as Big Creek meanders by, is worth the drive in itself.  Thanks Baldwin Clan!  In the immortal words of the former Governor of California “I’ll Be Back!!!”


Youth Hunt 2015 Yields Huge Monroe County Bucks

September 21st, 2015

FullSizeRender (45)IMG_1847IMG_1872The youth hunt weekend is now history, but my two nephews and brother are going to forever be part of that history!  My brother Darryl has been guiding his grand-kids ever since it was legal to take them afield.  He has a slew of boys and even one grand-daughter that loves to hunt.I don’t know if I have all of the facts correct, but this one thing I do know, two of his grandsons scored on 10 pointers on the same day, (Saturday) in the same field, 20 minutes apart! Caleb Smiley (11 years old) shot a beautiful 10 pointer on opening day.  He was using his dad’s 20 gauge slug gun, and put a “dead on ‘ shot at 75 yards.  This nice buck didn’t go far before piling up.  Grandpa and Caleb could not wipe the grin’s off their faces as the hugged and gave each other high fives!  What a beautiful symmetrical buck!  No doubt will score 120-125 and is probably a 2-1/2 year old.  Southern county deer have so much more to eat than there northern cousins, thus more protein bigger racks!

Then just 20 minutes later Tristan (Derek’s son) shot a monster of a 10 pointer.  Grandpa figured they better give this deer some time, so they waited till morning to go after this “bruiser!”  It wasn’t easy, but in the end a record class 10 pointer laid at Tristan’s feet.  More celebrating and plenty of picture-taking.  Hows that for a one day hunt with two cousins getting 10 pointers on the same day.  Tristan’s deer will no doubt go around 150 Boone and Crockett points, which is most hunters “deer of a lifetime!”

Congratulations you two deer slayers, and way to “guide” those boys grandpa!

Bass Therapy

September 20th, 2015

FullSizeRender (33)FullSizeRender (35)Just yesterday I ventured out for what was probably my last bass outing of the year!  I’ve been fishing a small 40 acre pond my daughter lives on, and been having the time of my life.  Never a dull moment here.  The lake is teaming with sunfish and blue gill and bass are voracious!

A few weeks ago I tried using chubs for bait and they worked extremely well.  Problem is the bait shop I bought them from burnt to the ground, and I can’t find another bait store in the area that has chubs.  So yesterday I did what I’ve been doing all year.  Catching small sunfish and using them for live bait.  Quite effective with a big bobber, big hook, and a lively “decoy!”

I only caught one bass before dark, and that was actually on the pole I had rigged for sunfish!  After the sun set things started heating up as I caught three more nice bass in just 30 minutes of fishing.  I actually missed one fish, but that happens sometimes.  I had two poles with sunfish attached about 30 feet apart, and they both had a strike at the same time.  Boy that was fun!  I actually landed both fish within seconds of one another.  My wife was ready to leave for home so I had to wrap things up, but not until I tied into another “jumper!”  Landed him, took a couple pictures, and returned them to the pond to fight another day

That made 31 bass that I have landed this year.  By far the best year ever!  Some call it fishing, but I call it therapy!  Works for me!


Black Bear Prelude!

September 16th, 2015

WGI_0003Just 8 more days and my friend Bob Baltrip and I will be heading to the Upper Peninsula for Bob’s bear hunt.  We’re taking our wives this year which has never happened before.  Bear camp isn’t what it used to be, so I think these lovely ladies will be alright.  A few years ago Gary, Gregg, Dick, and the rest of the Baldwin crew put up a bear camp that was wife friendly.  It’s completely off grid, but with hot and cold water, heat, phone service, and a large screen t.v., plus a full gourmet kitchen they may not want to come home.

Oh did I mention that a large bear is hitting one of our bait’s?  We have a few pictures from a trail camera and he even came it at noon one day.  That is quite unusual in itself!  I don’t know about Bob, but I am pumped, even if I don’t have the permit.  We just hope he will continue with his appetite at our “local diner!”  Stay tuned for further updates to our quest for a Michigan black bear.


Bear Hunt 2015

September 13th, 2015

IMG_1502The Ansel family has been bear hunting the hills of Marquette since 1973.  Our father (Norm Ansel) got his six boys involved in the sport through his boss Herman Fowler, who knew the Baldwin family in Beaver Grove.  Dick, Gary, and Gregg Baldwin taught us the ropes about bear hunting, and we’ve been enjoying this special time of the year ever since.  We could write a book about our adventures in bear camp.

Well just a few days ago another chapter was written!  Brother Randy and his son Justin drove the 450 mile drive to do some scouting and set a couple baits.  Justin had to come home to the Lansing area, and left his dad at camp to take care of the baits and report on bear activity.  Not long after Justin left Randy got hurt in a tree cutting accident and was out of commission for several days.

Opening day for bear is Sept 10th and Justin his wife Jill and children Daisy, and Seth did not arrive in camp until noon on the 11th.  Justin checked the baits, and set stands so they could hunt that evening.  Justin would take Seth with him and Jill would go with Daisy and Randy to a stand site with multiple tree stands surrounding a hillside spot we have been using for years.

Sometimes things just go according to plan as both stands produced results on that very first evening.  Seth took a respectable bear with a 30/30 while his dad watched.  He made a perfect double lung shot and the bear only traveled about 40 yards before piling up.  The father and son team could hardly believe their good fortune, when a text came in that Jill’s spot produced a bear also.  A crossbow did the job on the jet black bruin that is sure to make for a very nice “bear rug!”  What an adventure for Mom, Daughter, and Grandpa.

In all the years we’ve hunted those hills it is a rare occasion to bag two bear, on the same evening, just minutes apart! Congratulations to the happy hunting party on your quick and successful hunt.  And remember this is not the norm!  It hardly ever falls in place like this extraordinary bear hunt of 2015!


Black Bear With A Blue Head?

September 11th, 2015

FullSizeRender (9)FullSizeRender (11)Black bears come in more colors than any other North American mammal. They can be black, brown, cinnamon, blond, blue-gray, or white.

East of the Great Plains, nearly all are black. These were the first bears early settlers saw, hence the name. The melanin in black fur makes the fur resistant to abrasion in the brushy understory of eastern forests. In forested states that border the Great Plains, 5% to 25% are shades of brown rather than black. About 5% are brown in Minnesota. Blond or white individuals are rare in Minnesota, but a young white male was seen near Orr, MN, in 1997 and 1998.


In western states that have mountain meadows and open park-like forests, over half the black bears (Ursus americanus cinnamomum) are brown, cinnamon, or blond. Light colored fur reduces heat stress in open sunlight and allows the bears to feed longer in open, food-rich habitats. The lighter colored fur may also camouflage them from predators in those open areas. Ice Age predators undoubtedly used to kill black bears in open areas where the bears couldn’t escape up trees. Grizzly bears still do that in some areas today.

Honey, the resident female black bear here at the North American Bear Center, is cinnamon colored. She came from captive stock of unknown origin but likely has roots in the west.

Some non-black black bears bleach in the sun. New dark brown fur can bleach to nearly blond by the time it is shed the next summer.

white_phase.jpgTwo rare color phases are found in coastal British Columbia and southeastern Alaska where populations are isolated by mountains. The Kermode bear, a subspecies of black bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), lives on a few islands along the coast of British Columbia. Most of them are black, but in some areas up to 20% are creamy white and called Spirit Bears.

blue-gray_phase.jpgFarther north, another subspecies, the Glacier Bear (Ursus americanus emmonsii), lives in southeastern Alaska. Again, most are black, but a few are dark bluish gray with silver-tipped guard hairs. Mountain glaciers that isolated this subspecies during the Ice Age are now gone or greatly reduced. The subspecies is now only semi-isolated from surrounding populations. As these bears integrate with surrounding populations, dominant black genes will make the rare blue-gray color phase even more rare.

All that being said I don’t think anyone has ever heard of a black bear having a distinctively “blue head!”  Recently Arron Smith of British Columbia was riding home and took pictures and a video of a black bear with a blue head.  Office Paul McFadden of the British Columbia Conservation Service said the bear does not seem to be in any distress from it’s condition.  “The bear appears to be healthy and fine- it’s foraging with a cub”, he explained.  One can only guess how this unique bear got its blue head, but you have to admit it looks “natural!”  No dye job here!


Barnett Crossbows

September 9th, 2015

As Popeye used to say when he had enough “That’s all I can stands cause I can’t stands no more!”

I bought a Barnett Predator Crossbow 4 years ago and have been quite successful with it in the field.  I did have to have a string replaced just a few months after I bought it, and until recently I have been happy with my purchase.

At the end of last deer season I noticed my cable string was starting to unravel, and my cable guide was missing.  I put the bow away thinking I would just run to the Dundee Cabela’s store and have them replace everything for me before next season.  I took it to Cabela’s a month ago and was told I would have to order the parts directly from Barnett.

I got on line and in about 20 minutes had a new cable, string, and cable guide ordered.  I was told it would arrive in 5-7 business days!  After 10 days had passed I called Barnett customer service and after finding my order number, was told it had not even been shipped yet.  Michelle told me that my order would be expedited asap!  After 7 more days I was getting a little nervous, and then the package appeared on my front porch.  Wow! Was I glad!  I brought it in the house and opened it only to find a “quiver” and no cables, string, or guide!  The invoice had the right part numbers, but completely wrong on what was shipped to me!  Another call to Barnett Customer Service!  I get an apology and sort of a song and dance routine, but am assured not to worry that my order will be taken care of promptly.  I’m frustrated, but what are you going to do?  I need those parts!

Another 6 days goes by and I email customer service and let them know that I am a writer and have written a few articles praising Barnett products.  I let them know I wasn’t a happy camper and that the power of the pen is mightier than the sword! Just a few days ago my mailbox has the package from Barnett and low and behold there is a cable, string, and cable guide in the package!  I’m frustrated, but very glad my ordeal is over, or so I thought.

I then take my crossbow and the replacement parts to Cabela’s to get restrung.  A friend of mine (Frank Costello) was working in the archery department and tells me he’ll have it done in a half an hour.  I wonder around the store picking up a few odds and ends for deer camp, then go to get my bow!  Its all done, but Frank tells me the string Barnett sent is the wrong one.  He just happened to have one that would work, and returned the wrong string to me!  I was flabbergasted!  The string had the right part number, but whoever packed it put a 50 inch string in the packing tube.  Inexcusable!

Another call to Michelle was in order.  I was now concerned about the charges to my credit card and asked for my invoice.   I explained that I better not be charged for parts I didn’t order or want.  When I got the invoice I saw I “was” charged for the wrong string ($30.00) I thought “That does it!”  If this is how Barnett treats their customers they will never have to worry about me again.  Don’t need the aggravation, as there are many other brands to choose from.  Probably no big deal to Barnett, but I will no longer sing their praises on my blog or to my family and friends!


Destination Glen Arbor

September 7th, 2015

IMG_1231IMG_1227IMG_1154Traverse City Michigan always gets a lot of attention all year round in Michigan.  It is a favorite travel destination for tens of thousands every year, and rightly so.  We have been to the Traverse City Cherry Festival the last two years, and enjoyed the downtown shops and eateries.  But that is not what I intend to draw your attention to.

Just West of Traverse City, right off of 72 is the charming little hamlet of Glen Arbor.  Shopping, food, Sleeping Bear dunes National Seashore, Bed and Breakfast, house rental, fishing charters, and of course the Sleeping Bear Dunes themselves are but a sample of the good things that await you in the Glen Arbor area.

We stayed just a short walk to a Lake Michigan bay, from which we could look across and see the northern most point of the dunes.  We had kayak’s at our disposal and put them to use on the cool, blue, waters of the bay.  The shore was rocky where we were at (not much sand) and the water dropped off fast!  Twenty five foot off shore it was over my head, and it took some time getting used to the chill when entering.  We had a great time with the kayak’s as 6 of us tried our hands at paddling these crystal clear (and calm) waters.  No one tipped their craft, but I did experience sore shoulders from the paddling.  I wanted to take some photo’s from out in the lake, but I was afraid I might lose my Canon, so decided against it.

My family and I highly recommend this beautiful part of Michigan, but if you plan on staying you must book early.  This little secret is out of the bag and vacancies are rare!