Archive for April, 2008

Derek’s 2008 Longbeard

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Turkey season 2008 has been kind of different, but then some things never change. The weather didn’t cooperate the first hunt, and the Toms were still grouped together at the start of the second hunt, but that doesn’t seem to bother my little brother Darryl. His ability to bring in the “longbeards” is legendary in our family, and he proved himself a ‘winner” again this year.

Darryl’s boy Derek had a second period hunt, and Darryl has the last hunt, so Darryl was “calling for Derek last week. Darryl took his grandson Tanner with him, and Derek took his son Tristin along. Monday they tried a pop-up ground blind set-up, and saw several birds, but didn’t have the right set-up to score. Tuesday found father, son, and grandkids set up on two Tom’s that had been seen earlier in the week, in the late afternoon. Darryl was not only calling, but videoing also, and already had some good pictures. The boys were having a blast, and getting some excellent training on how to fool a hunter wary bird!

Darryl decided to split up, and try and call the birds past Derek, which is exactly what he did. Two mature Tom’s couldn’t resist Darryl’s sexy hen yelps, and came in, in full strut! Derek “popped” one with a 9″ beard, and spurs just over an inch long. The boys got to see the whole “show,” and can’t wait till they can try their hand at turkey hunting. That’s the way you add hunters to the sport-these boys are “hooked” for life!

I’m sorry to say my hunt fell through, and I didn’t even go, which really bummed me out. My brother-in-law had three turkeys in his back yard four days ago, and he only lives 300 yards from my house. Michigan’s turkey reintroduction program is a huge success, and a boon to the states economy. I hope to have a better plan in place next year-like hide in Darryl’s hip pocket.

Mike

Spring Cleaning

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Yesterday I was at my son-in-laws property, with my grandson Kyle. I had loaded up an old archery bale into my ranger pick-up, and was going to dispose of it at Tony’s. Over the winter the bale came undone, and fell on the ground. I’ve had it for about 8-years, so I guess I got my $45.00 dollars out of it! It was not easy picking up that wet, moldy, ant infested straw pile for sure. I couldn’t believe that three bales could take up my whole truck bed! My next bale will have a little shelter around it to protect it, somewhat, from the elements. I had to be careful, cause as I scooped handfuls of the straw up, I ran across one bear broadhead tip hidden inside!

You can see Tony’s hunting layout at the back of his 6-acres. This is proof positive that you don’t need 40-80 acres to have a good hunting spot. The pond is a haven for ducks and even geese, but most summers drys up by July. There is thick woods and brush surrounding Tony’s property, which the deer and coyotes, love. Three deer have been taken off this small chunk of land, but so far the “big boys” have eluded Tony! Were talking “big!” I was standing at his kitchen window one day, and a massive 8-pointer came strolling across his back yard. Tony has seen several huge bucks, but they didn’t get big from being dumb. A couple years ago, a neighbor took one that scored around 170, about a half mile away.

Tony has a feeder, and a tower blind strategically located. Pheasants, rabbits, squirrels, and deer visit the feeder year round, along with birds, and various predators. I thought the whole scene had a very serene look yesterday, so I snapped a picture. Thank you Kyle for all your help.

Mike

The Final Chapter Dream Hunt Conclusion

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Saturday morning Russ drove us to the airport in Bayfield to catch our connector flight to Phoenix. We were empty handed, as far as the elk and deer were concerned, but we all had some great memories. Bill and Ken knew I was really “bummed out”, and did their best to cheer me up, but I kept playing my ill fated attempt over in my mind!

Years earlier I had arrowed a huge Quebec black bear that probably weighed between 500-600 pounds. I had a complete “pass through” on the bruin, and my French guide assured me we would retrieve this bear. Well we didn’t, as the bear made it into a wet swamp, and we lost his blood trail. Movies of that bear, and now the elk, were playing in my head, and they were driving me loony!

I have gotten feed back from several readers, who have been following this Colorado adventure, but no one has suggested, what I am now going to reveal. As I pondered the whole elk tracking scenario , a light bulb clicked on in my “feeble” mind, and I wanted to tell the pilot to turn the plane around, so I could go get my elk. It was like “Duh”, how stupid can a seasoned hunter be. It wasn’t just me . but Ken and Bill “missed” this one also!

That darn elk wasn’t bleeding out of both sides! He had turned around, and was back tracking on the same trail! Thats why we lost blood at the end of the ridge, and couldn’t pick up his trail after two hours of futile searching. The blood was actually heavier on the left side of the trail (I hit him on the right side) which means he was bleeding more from the original right lung, after he turned around! Now I was feeling even worse about this whole deal! All we had to do was go back to where several trails branched off our blood trail, and we were sure to pick up were he was heading. Agony upon agony!

When I got home I called Russ’s ranch manager, and told him my story. I asked him to look for my elk, and explained, as best I could, where to look! He said he would, but next time I called it had rained really hard, and there wasn’t much chance of finding a blood trail now. He assured me the coyotes and mountain lions wouldn’t let the elk go to waste, but that really didn’t cheer me up any.

As you can see from the picture below, there is no elk hanging on the walls of my den. To this day it “bugs” me when I think of what could of been, or should I say” what should of been?” The hunt “was” truly a once in a lifetime trip, but now I’m stuck with a lifetime of “could of, would of, and should of’!” I did learn some important lessons from this “dream hunt,” and I hope you readers may of learned something also.

I still want to put an elk on my wall, and in the freezer, but I’m getting to the point where, physically, there are only so many years left in this body! I hope someday to redeem myself, or at least have my dreams become a reality, and not a “nightmare!”

Dream Hunt Nightmare Conclusion

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Pictured from left to right is me, Russ, Mary, Ken,and Bill.   Russ has quite a few horses, and keeps some cattle as well.  Mary and Russ love to ride their horses, and have a big trailer with sleeping quarters, for overnighters!  They had left the ranch, during the middle of the week, to explore some beautiful country, with a group of fellow cowboys and cowgirls.  We assured them we would be able to manage without them, even though it was going to be tough-yeh right!

Now back to Thursday morning.  We had decided to explore the ranch in the morning and elk hunt in the evening.  We packed allot of adventure into that day!  First we went to the Pine River, and caught dinner for that evening.  On our trip we saw a flock of Merriman turkeys (first I’d ever seen,) and one nice mule deer buck.  Once back at the ranch, we took a hike, and came across bear scat, and a huge lion track.  This track was over top of my boot prints from the day before.  Now if that don’t get your heart pumping, your already dead!  Mountain lion are rarely seen, even though there is a viable population around the ranch.  During our stay we came across the remains of a mule deer, clearly taken down by a lion. (scat in the area)  A side arm would of been nice to have,, were my thoughts, as I gripped my now puny looking bow!

That evening, before I went to my blind, I took some cow elk scent wafers with me, as I walked about a quarter mile past my blind.  every 100 yards or so I placed a wafer in the trees.  As I started back to my blind I had a stick, and was “smacking” it on the low tree branches, as I ran, squeezing my “Hoochie Momma” elk call!  Once at the blind I gave a series of cow calls, and then waited.  It wasn’t 5 minutes later that I saw the tawny brown side of an elk coming down  the ridge they had been using.  He was a lovely 5×5, and I’m sure he was the same bull we had seen the first evening on the ranch.  He came trotting into the clearing, I was watching, then stopped 30 yard out.  I was confident at that yardage, and the angle was quartering away-perfect!  He stood still looking for the cow that was inviting him for a rendezvous.  I put my 30 yard pin on his chest, aiming for the last rib.  Upon release I knew before the arrow hit it was going to be a “good” shot!  “Smack!”  The distinct sound of ribs being penetrated echoed through the little valley floor.  As he took off in a semi-circle back toward where he came, I noticed more arrow sticking out than I felt comfortable with.  I also saw blood appear, around the shaft, upon contact.

In my head I’m thinking “ok you only got one lung, but that should be enough if you don’t push him this evening!”  I did go over to where he started back up the ridge, and found blood, so I headed back to give the other guys with the good news.  What a sleepless night I put in.

Once we had enough light, it took about a half hour to pick up his trail.  He was on a game trail, and heading toward the ranch on top of a ridge.  During the tracking process he started to bleed from both sides of his chest.  We assumed he pushed the arrow all the way through, and it wasn’t going to be long until we found him piled up.  When we got to the end of the ridge, we lost the blood trail!  We fanned out in all directions trying to think like an elk, to no avail.  For two hours we tried to pick up the trail again, but he seemed to have vanished into thin air.  We were now cutting into the evening hunting schedule, and we still had to pack for the flight home.  Needless to say I did not hunt that evening.  I have never before, or since, been so depressed about a hunting experience like I was about this one.  How?  Why?  What could have been done differently?  Was I shooting enough poundage? (68#)  If I knew that elk was going to survive I probably wouldn’t have felt as bad, but in my heart I knew he was lion bait!  I even considered giving up hunting-for about five minutes that is.  This was not the happy ending to the dream hunt of a lifetime!  To this day I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of not cleanly taking that magnificent animal.

There is a post script to this story-stay tuned.

Mike

Colorado Continued

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Russ and Mary Meloche’s Piney Ridge Ranch in Bayfield Colorado turned out to be the “stuff” dreams are made from!  Not only do they own 2000 acres, but they lease another 4000 acres of BLM land, so we had a pretty good chunk to hunt.  The Meloche property sits in the southwest corner of the state with elevations around 7000 foot maximum.

Ken, Bill, and I only had 5-days at the ranch, and we were just getting the lay-of-the land when it was time to catch our flight home.  The first few days we all kind-a stayed around the perimeter of the field, where we saw the elk our first evening.  The third day I set off by myself, and saw six elk, including a spike bull.  I could of shot a cow, but was holding out for a bull, which has to have at least 4-points on one side of his rack.  I made myself a little blind behind a bush, and placed a bunch of thorn branches around me for cover.  I started cow calling around 5:00 in the evening, and had turned my head for a few seconds, when a long tined spike poked its nose right into my blind.  I was glad I had a barrier of thorn’s between us, as he had the look of “love” in his “wild eyes!”  Because he couldn’t get through the blind he came around my right side, and stopped two yards away from me.  The wind was in my favor, blowing behind me, as he stood there looking for “his” cow!  The saliva was dripping from his mouth, and his chest was heaving in and out.  I’m glad he didn’t bugle, cause he would of blown me right off my little stool, and into the thorns.  After awhile he walked behind me, and finally got my scent, as he melted into the landscape.

I was pretty pumped when I got back to the ranch that evening.  Ken had missed a nice mule deer buck, and Bill had a pack of coyotes within 5-yards of his position.  Right before dark he had a couple elk working their way into his shooting lane, when they caught wind of something they didn’t like, and spooked.  Bill figured they got wind of the coyotes that had passed through earlier.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of our dream hunt.

Mike

Russ and Mary’s Pine Ridge Ranch

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Maybe just once in a lifetime your dreams do come true.  The “cowboy” in the picture thought He’d died and went to heaven, when he entered the gates of the Meloche ranch in Bayfield Colorado!  Russ and Mary Meloche are the brother and sister-in-law of my longtime friend Ken Meloche.  Ken played softball for me for many years, and our families ran around together as our children were growing up.

A couple years ago Ken asked if I would like to go with him, and mutual friend Bill Michaud, on an elk hunt at his brothers ranch.  It took me about 2-seconds to say “when we leaving?”  Ken described his brothers little spread (2000 acres) to me, but he could not do the beauty of this place justice!

Upon entering the property you pass through a huge timbered gate, as you drive up the right side of a valley.  Soon your eyes are drawn to one of the most gorgeous homes you could ever gaze upon.  Sitting on the side of the hill,about 60 foot above the circular driveway, this architectural masterpiece took your breath away.  Life size bronze horses and elk greeted you, as the wood, stone, metal, and glass complimented their natural surroundings.  The inside of Russ and Mary’s home was even more impressive than the outside, if that’s possible!  Huge original works of art were on display in all directions!  Skylights, waterfalls, balconies, and a stainless steal kitchen that would rival any you’ve ever seen!  This place was beyond our expectations, or hunting fantasies.

That first evening we enjoyed a fine meal, prepared by Mary, and the warm hospitality of our gracious host.  When the conversation turned to “Are there any elk around here?”  Russ responded “go take a look in the
‘lower’ pasture!”  As we stood in the driveway and watched the valley below, one elk after another grazed into the field, and headed for the water hole.  We were in awe at the sight before us!  Thirty three elk were milling around us, as one nice 5×5 bugled several times, just to get our attention.  Russ explained the bigger “boys” were still up higher, and would no doubt be coming down once some cool weather set-in.

The three of us stayed in Russ and Mary’s “guest cabin” which was 100 times nicer than anything I had ever slept in prior to this adventure.  The whole 5-days we were there, I felt I was going to wake up, and it would all be just a dream!  This adventure will be continued in a latter blog, as we all enjoyed our “hunt of a lifetime!”

Mike

Two Turkey’s?

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

My brother Darryl and his son Derek (pictured) are leaving tonight for Gaylord on their Spring turkey hunt. I am confident Darryl will call Derek in a “Tom!” Darryl is one of the best I know with a diaphragm call, and works his box call just as well. He will not only be calling for his son, but filming too. They have quite a collection of quality turkey hunting film, as well as deer and bear hunting video’s.

They also hunt Ohio for long bearded Tom’s, and have a real “hot spot” lined up this year. Darryl has taken four turkey with his bow, and is the only guy I know to accomplish that “feat” on a semi-regular basis. He has earned the Michigan Bowhunters “grandslam award twice, which includes a deer, bear, and turkey all taken in the same calender year, using a bow! Darryl’s turkey permit isn’t till the last hunt, but he has a good spot picked out in the southern part of the state, and I’m sure he’ll have plenty of action. Good hunting guys, and bring me some pictures of your success.

Mike

The River Queen

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

I love to fish, but I have never owned a boat, except for my 14 foot Sportspal canoe! I have had this great little vessel for almost 25 years, that is up until this last winter. I had been keeping it at my brother-in-laws cabin in Wellston, and this past winter a limb broke off a oak tree and crushed it. Canoe’s, in general, are a shaky proposition, but this one was almost impossible to tip over. If you can imagine I once dove into the lake, from my canoe, and it didn’t tip! Now crawling back in was much harder, but I did it without flipping it.

I rigged up a couple 2×4’s on the bow, so I could mount my electric trolling motor. That worked great, and “wide open” throttle would push that little baby through the water just fine! In fact, in the above picture, my son and I were trolling Bird Lake, and caught several nice rainbow trout.

I’ve owned a couple other canoe’s, but they didn’t stay in my possession long. They were to unstable. When I bought my Sportspal I knew it was going to suit me just fine. My kids, and even my wife, have enjoyed this wide beamed little craft, and we’ve eaten many a fish dinner because of it. I know this summer I’m going to really miss the “River Queen”, but I can’t see spending $800.00 bucks to replace it. Back when I bought it I only paid $200.00 dollars for it. I’d say I got my monies worth out of it-may she rest in peace!

Mike

The Perfect “Shot!”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

This picture was taken on one of our Colorado vacations. I like to take pictures, and usually I have a very good camera to take them with. When out west the scenery will take your breath away, and by all means you want to try and capture, what you see, on film! It is though, next to impossible, to capture the depth of the beauty that your eye’s behold. Maybe Ansel Adams could do it, but I’m not capable of such talented photography. Anyway I took several photo’s, of this nature, with my four daughters (number 5 was left at home-to young) and my lovely wife Lorna. These pictures are priceless to me, and even now I can relive, that moment in time, when life wasn’t so complicated! I think sometimes, without photos and video’s, I’d forget half my life!! Take pictures, lots of pictures, you’ll never regret it.

There is one secret though I probably need to let you “novice” shutter bugs in on. When out roaming Gods wonderful handiwork, remember it can “rain” when you least expect it! I lost one movie camera and two fairly expensive 35mm still camera’s to foul weather, as I couldn’t keep them dry. Now when I’m in the wilds, I carry a waterproof case with me for such emergences.

One other thing, is always keep one or two extra sets of camera batteries with you. You never know when that photo of a lifetime is going to “run” across in front of you. Dead batteries could keep you from taking that “perfect” shot.

Mike

Timberline Lodge Mt. Hood

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

While we were in Portland Oregon a few years ago, we drove up to the ski lodge on Mt. Hood. Pictured is my daughter Meghan, grandson Logan, my wife, and yours truly. My son-in-law Mark took the snapshot. On the drive up to Timberline Lodge we saw quite a few deer, and even had one run across the road in front of us. I swear they weren’t white tail, and I know they weren’t mule deer, so I assume they were blacktail. I know blacktail are found in Oregon, but I’m not familiar with their range. What I do remember is they looked like a combination between a whitetail and a small mule deer. Some of you Western readers set me straight on just what species we did encounter.

Getting back to Mt. Hood. It is an awesome sight, and the Timberline Lodge is one of the most impressive log structures I’ve ever seen. And to think it was build during the depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps is amazing in itself. I used to work with a welder who helped build this great landmark, and wish I would of listened more intently to his stories about his days on Mt. Hood! We ate lunch in one of the mountain view dining areas, and enjoyed our tour of the museum. One of my wives favorite treats was getting to pet the two St. Bernard’s on active duty there.

If you ever get a chance to visit that part of this beautiful country, by all means take in the Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood. Do yourself a favor though and take a jacket, even if it’s 80 degrees when you start your climb! Once at the lodge it can be sunny and warm one minute, and snowing the next. That’s the voice of experience speaking.

Mike