Archive for December, 2011

What is Christmas?

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Many people think Christmas is a great day to relax and take in a football game, while enjoying some good food and drink.  Some think it evolves around office parties, consuming alcohol, and making merry with family and friends.  To others it’s all about giving and receiving the “right” gift from those we care about.  Many have bought into the rampant commercialization that has come to define “An American Christmas!”  The amount of money spent, with paper and plastic, on “Christmas presents” dictates whether most businesses end the year in the red or black!  To them Christmas is all about the “bottom line.”  Because of that, many well intentioned Christmas shoppers get caught up in the  bargains, that flood the stores this time of year.   Many end up spending way beyond what their budget allows.  Far to many children know more about Santa Clause, and all the “gift’s” he’s going to bring them, than on the true “gift” God gave to us in His Son Jesus.

In actuality the Christmas season brings about some the highest alcohol consumption of the year.  Suicides and attempted suicides take a dramatic upswing during this time.  For many it’s a depressing time of the year!  When the true meaning of Christmas is lost, it’s not unusual for families to quarrel and fight because of expectations not being met.

How sad that we as a nation, founded on Christian principles, have allowed the world an “open door policy” into our morals and values!  It was once said “Every generation of Christians is responsible for ever generation of sinners!”  To that I can only say the Church is failing.  Of course I believe there is still a remnant of “True Believers” in the world, but the luke warm compromised church keeps sliding down the slippery slope of being non-consequential.  Sadly it’s this over indulged, self absorbed, church that most unbelievers experience, and thus draw their conclusions about what a Christian is!   To those poor souls the Church needs to ask forgiveness, and pray that God will restore the Bride of Christ to her rightful position of faithfully fallowing Jesus The Christ.

The above picture was taken of me and my little family in 1983 at Redeemer Fellowship Church.  God was, and is, good!


Winter Golf – How Great Is That?

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

As Winston Churchill once said “December 22nd. is a day that will go down in infamy!”  Not quite, but Dec. 22nd. was a special day for my brother Randy and myself.  We were able to play 18 holes of winter golf at Green Meadows Golf Course.  The weather was a balmy 46 degrees with absolutely zero wind, with clear blue skies.  That in itself is rare for Michigan.

Actually it wasn’t bad at all!  I had a pair of long underwear on and two sweatshirts along with two pair of socks, and I wasn’t cold at all.  Randy and I had both been itching to play again, and I had actually put my clubs away for the year.  I can’t ever remember playing a round of golf in November, let alone at the end of December.

We were the last ones to get off the course as darkness was settling in.  We were both happy with our scores, but I was probably a little more joyful than brother Randy, cause I beat him by 1 stroke.  We play pretty even-Steven golf, and neither of us has the upper hand all the time.  It was just good to be on the links again after sitting idle for two months.  An added bonus is we didn’t have to walk, as golf carts were still available.  It could be many more moons before playing golf three days before Christmas ever happens again.  There’s supposed to be a good tracking snow on the ground-not golf balls!


Little Brothers Recurve Partridge

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I would like to say I taught this young “whipper-snapper” everything he knew, but actually all I did was get him started into bowhunting.  This is my younger brother Darryl, and not my “other” brother Darryl!  There is only one of this guy, and the “wild” critters are glad of that!  He is about the most proficient bowhunter I know of, and spends more time in the field than a John Deere.  He’s taken record bucks and record bears with his stick and string, but whats even more impressive is the small game he has taken with his recurve bow.  How many people do you know that have taken a fast flying, tree dodging, partridge with primitive archery equipment?  I can’t hit em with a shotgun!

While bow-hunting this year I came across a partridge in a pear tree.  Not hardly, but he was in a pine tree.  About 30 feet off the ground.  Now it is ill advised to shoot a $5.00 dollar aluminum arrow with a $12.00 broadhead attached at a bird perched high in a tree in the middle of a big woods!  Only an idiot would do such a thing, and only a real moron would do it more than once.  In fact it would take a complete imbecile do launch three errant missiles at this quite safe bird.  You do the math, cause I sure didn’t-till after it was to late!  That’s right I unloaded $51.00 dollars of “furry” at this “fine feathered friend” who eventually took a “dump” and flew to parts unknown.  Actually I had another arrow, but wasn’t going to be foolish enough to shoot my last arrow towards the clouds, as there might be a deer in the area.  What a joke!  I probably couldn’t of hit a deer either.  I mounted a search and rescue mission for my arrow “loot,” but only stumbled onto one of them.  Man what a waste of my hard earned aluminum and “Razor Dobbs” broadheads.  Sometimes I wonder about myself, but then I knew if Darryl could do it so could I-NOT!

I have refilled my quiver with some slightly used arrows, and some reconditioned bear razor heads since then.  I figure if I can’t actually hit anything, I might as well miss them with the less than premium stuff – right?  I got to quit trying to keep up with little brother, as it’s just to expensive, and besides that it litters the woods.


Tony’s Muzzle-Loader Buck

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

These pictures are proof positive that you can’t get a big buck setting in your rocking chair.  This is my son-in-law Tony Russo, and the “monster” buck he took this evening.  It was a night not fit for man or beast.  The wind was swirling and gusting to 20 miles an hour, and it was pouring rain.  In fact we’ve had so much rain lately the deer have had to move from their traditional hiding places.  Water is up to 3 foot deep in some spots around Tony’s ground blind!

Tony had caught this particular buck on his Cudde-Back trail cam, but never in daylight hours.  He was bound and determined to hold out for this bruiser, as he had passed on many doe’s and a nice 6 pointer.  He almost didn’t attempt hunting this evening, but decided time was running out for muzzle-loader season, so he better make good use of what he had.  Bingo Tony hit the “Mother Load!”

Five doe came by at about 10 minutes after five.  When they suddenly spooked this huge buck stepped into view a mere 30 yards away.  Tony didn’t waste any time settling his cross hairs on the bucks shoulder, and gentle squeezed the trigger.  Tony was worried about the rain washing away a good blood trail, but he didn’t have to worry about that.  A double lung/heart shot made tracking child’s play, as the buck only went about 40 yards before piling up.

Tony needed help getting this 235 pound giant back to his barn, so he gave me a call.  I was there in a flash, and it took my breath away when I saw this monarch laying in the brush!  Tony and I aren’t weaklings, but we could not lift him on the back of  Tony’s Razr.  We got a hold of Tony’s son Quinn, and with his help got  him loaded.

This is the largest bodied deer I have ever laid my hands on.  The left side of his rack is a huge mainframe 5 pointer with the G-2 being 10 inches and both the G-3 and G-4 going 8 inches.  The mass is also impressive.  I’m estimating this left side alone would score between 70-75 points.  The right side was unique to say the least.  It  had only three points (as in 6-pointer) but had the identical mass of the opposite side.  Beam length is shorter of course, and that will most certainly knock down the total score of this huge buck!  I’m guessing he has an injury (wound) somewhere on his left side, causing the right side horns to be malformed.  I would guess this buck to be 5-1/2 years old, and in his prime.  How he has outsmarted hunters for so long gives one a clue to their elusiveness.

Well there’s a good lesson for all of us to learn.  The worst weather scenario could  certainly turn out to be the best hunting day of your life.  It was for Tony, and no amount of water and rain could dampen the ear to ear grin on his face.  Congratulations my man.  You are “The Champ!”



Do Deer Decoys Really Work?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

That’s me in my pole barn/work shop behind my cabin standing behind Matilda, my doe decoy.  This year I decided to give her a try again, but not because she’s worked in the past!

You see I’ve tried using Matilda on numerous occasions, and at various times during the deer season, to no avail.  I don’t know if I’m using her improperly, or if decoys are just another way to get sportsman’s money?  For me it’s really been an exercise in futility.  I even added a real doe’s tail to my decoy, and put doe pee on it when the rut is in full swing.  All that seems to do is make the deer in the area “spooky” and extremely nervous.

Case in point.  I used Matilda this year in early December, when the rut was in full swing.  The first night out I set her about 10 yards in front of my blind, but off to the left of my shooting lane.  She was about 30 yards from the food plot.  A small buck and a doe started making their way into the food plot, but stopped in their tracks when they saw the decoy.  They became extremely nervous, and skirted the food plot, moving away from Matilda, circling to my right.  They never were at ease and just melted into thicker cover, not working the food plot at all.  The next evening two yearlings did the same thing, but where able to sneak a few bites from the food plot, before exiting stage right again!  Just before dark a large doe came to about 50 yards and stomped her feet a few times, then “blew” and ran away.

I decided to put Matilda back in the pole barn where she wouldn’t ruin my evening hunts.  I’ve seen the video’s and read the stories about hunters having success in using decoys, but not this old buzzard!  Maybe I just haven’t found a nice friendly deer that’s lonesome for some fellowship, but whatever the reason Matilda is staying “in the house” from now on!


Michigan Winter Wonderland?

Monday, December 12th, 2011

By now Michigan should be a Winter Wonderland, but that moniker is not even close to being true this year.  We should be the Water Wonderland.  A little over a week ago we had torrential rains that flooded several parts of our county (Monroe) as the Raisin River rose several feet above flood stage.  Small creeks and ditches were transformed into raging torrents of muddy brown water.

In the picture you see about an inch of snow, but under the snow is three inches of water.  The snow didn’t last the day, and so far I have none around my cabin, located 230 miles North of here.  It’s supposed to be in the snow belt of the upper part of lower Michigan, but so far it’s a no show!

I was planning on getting some muzzle-loading in this week, but the absence of the white stuff has kept me home.  It is highly unusual to be snowless by this time of the year!  I checked the 10 day forecast at “” and they are calling for some more rain instead of snow (Global Warming?)  Around here it’s supposed to be in the high 40’s to lower 50’s by the end of the week.  That is so discouraging to those of us that like living, and hunting, in the Winter Wonderland.

My last hurrah will be after Christmas with my bow, and it’s iffy for snow even by then.  My hope was for the bucks to start moving before dark in order to fuel up for winter survival, but so far food hasn’t been covered over, and my food plot is just drawing doe’s and fawns.  This is just another instance as to how weather plays a part in your (my) success as a hunter.  I’m still hoping for it to happen, but it looks more like a wet Christmas, rather than a white Christmas, is in store for us this year!


A Real Buck-Pole

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

This, my friends, is the reason Michigan deer hunters pay southern Mich. farmers big bucks for lease property.  Pictured is nine of the 10 bucks taken from a lease my brother Darryl and his boy Derek are in on.  You won’t see any spikes, or forkhorns, in this group.  From left to right are George Hoppert (8-pt) Rich Zebkoff (9-pt) Dan Grahms (6-pt) Rich Zebkoff (8-pt second buck) Joe Chleboski (8-pt) Darryl Ansel (8-pt) Derek Ansel (7-pt) Jason Hoppert (8-pt) Mike Russo (8-pt) and a tenth buck not pictured was taken by Jaime.  These were all shot the first couple days of season, and the stories about the “monsters” that got away are numerous.

Meanwhile guys like me are hunting the northern woodlots, and in my case, not seeing one darn buck!  It is definitely different hunting the south zone farmlands vs. the far north pines and maples.  That being said there is just something about the deer hunting mystique of the north woods that grabs my soul.  Sure I could probably have much more success hunting the croplands close to home, but the memories of past hunts (with my dad) are all “up north!”  Sitting all day on a well used runway, and just anticipating that big buck  strolling my way is far different than “popping” one at 150 yard, as it stands in a bean field.

Hey to each his own I guess.  No matter the buck pole is impressive, and year after year yields about the same results.  No winter die off in farm country.  The deer grow big and fat down here, and as I stated in my last blog, the horns of a corn feed southern buck are much bigger than their smaller northern cousins.  Personally I think there is even less of a “wild game” taste to farmland venison, which is no doubt a plus for the freezer.  None the less you’ll find me hiding in the northwoods pines come muzzle-loader season hoping one just happens to pick the wrong (right) runway.


Where’s The Horns?

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Believe it or not, there are three bucks in these two pictures.  Not only are there three bucks, but two of them are the same age (1-1/2 years old.)  My brother Darryl just returned from his southern Ohio deer hunt with the nice 8 pointer on the left.  His buddy Dan also downed an 8-pointer in the same area.  In the other picture is MaKaylee Smiley (Darryl’s grand-daughter) and her dad Scott.  She is posing with her first deer, a year and a half old, northern Michigan buck.  Darryl’s buck (15 inch inside spread) is also a year and a half old buck, so whats up with that?  Mac shot her deer on my property, and it was actually a bigger deer (body wise) than her grandpa’s!  When I saw Darryl’s deer hanging in his yard I was sort of taken aback by the smallish size of the deers body, in comparison to his “head-gear!”  I know the Ohio deer had all the corn, alfalfa, and soybeans he could possibly eat, while Mac’s deer had to rely on what nature provided.  But body size goes to Mac.  The horns on her deer were about 1/2 inch long, and didn’t even go past the hair line.  I could understand the difference in antler growth if Mac’s deer were malnourished or injured, but does the quality of feed make that much difference in antler growth?

I guess if your hunting for horns rather than meat, the southern farmlands are your best bet due to the available food sources.  That being said I have seen, and wrote about some monster deer coming from the north country.  Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are all heavy timber, with very little agriculture going on, and yet produce some of the biggest racked deer in the record books.  That leads me to believe it’s not all about the food source.  Maybe genetics and minerals come into play, but either way Mac got short changed in the antler department!  It certainly makes no difference to her.  She couldn’t be any happier with her buck.

I just though the lack of horn growth, on Mac’s deer, may be a sign that something is missing in the deer’s food supply in my area.  Maybe it’s just an aberration, but it’s definitely something that stands out when you see these big six and eight pointers, from the farm belt, compared to the small spikes and forkhorns of the north country.


Three Cousins – Three Deer

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

My little brother Darryl has three children and nine grandchildren.  Three of those grandkids took deer this year, with Tristan and MaKaylee getting their first deer.  Mac (10 years old) is pictured with her dad Scott Smiley with her fat 1-1/2 old spike.  The horns were only 1/2 inch long, and didn’t hardly make it past the hair on this deers head.  She shot it for a doe, as spikes and button bucks are off limits around my place.  I’m planning a follow up story on her buck and the differences in deer antler growth per the amount of nutrition they receive.  Tristan (12 years old) is pictured with his dad Derek Ansel and his nice doe he shot during the youth hunt in September.  The third cousin is Tanner (T.J.) McElvany (13 years old), who is an old hand at taking wild game.  He is pictured with his grandpa Darryl Ansel along  with the second seven pointer of his short deer hunting career.  He shot this one in October for his first buck taken with his bow.

I would have to say that the Darryl Ansel family is doing its share of placing new “blood” in the fields and forest during Michigan’s hunting seasons.  We need more families (dads and grandpa’s) that will put forth the time and effort to recruit and train up young ones in our beloved shooting and hunting sports.  My brother used to say “Take a kid hunting, and you won’t be hunting for your kid!”

Congratulations to you MaKaylee, Tristan, and Tanner.  You shed a glimmer of light on Michigan’s hunting future, and make your old Uncle Mike proud of your accomplishments at such a young age.  I was much older than you guys before I scored on my first deer, but that’s ancient history.