Archive for the ‘Hunting Fishing and Shooting’ Category

There’s no such thing as an ‘assault’ weapon. There are weapons better geared to be used in armed assaults, but I wouldn’t take a deer rifle to a gun fight.

Let me expound on what I mean by that. Yes, there are weapons that aren’t suited to ‘hunting’. Most hunters hunt for the meat, or sometimes the hide, maybe the horns. (I personally have not found a good recipe for horn yet, so I hunt for my love of venison and wild game) You would not, for example, want to use a bazooka to shoot a deer if your intention was to get dinner. (that is unless you have a pallet that prefers bruised, blood, bone and hair speckled hamburger) But technically you ‘could’ use a bazooka to shoot a deer, just the results would not be suitable. So it’s safe to say a bazooka does not make for a good deer rifle.

Squirrel Hunting with an AK-47
But any time you create a ‘classification’ and intend to define things by way of that classification, if another classification equally applies, the stereotyping of that item is potentially invalidated. I know, for example a great many hunters who like to use AK-47’s because they are one of the most reliable weapons ever made. You can literally drop them in the mud, drag them through the sand, bury them in 12″ of top soil, pull them out and still get them to fire accurately enough to take down a deer. So although built to be used for armed assaults, they make very effective weapons for just about any purpose.

But let’s focus on those most ‘evil’ of weapons folks try to demonize. Weapons that are designed with the full intention of killing as many enemies as possible. Large round, full metal jacket, metal spraying machines who’s primary design and purpose is to hurl as much lethal stuff at human bodies as possible in the shortest span of time. They probably wouldn’t be suitable for hosing down deer if, as in most places, you are only provided 1 or 2 kill tags.

The problem is that any weapon created for the purpose of carrying out assaults works equally well for the purpose of defending against those assaults. Any weapon that poses a threat to others is capable of posing a deterrent to others as well. Thus any so-called ‘assault’ weapon is equally classifiable as an ‘anti-assault’ weapon. It’s all in how it is used.

Despite the desires of the anti-gun crowd to suggest otherwise, I have conducted multiple experiments. I have, for example, taken out my Ruger 10/22, thrown a fully loaded 30 round banana clip into it and set it on the table in such a configuration that it met one of the original qualifications as an ‘assault’ weapon. I set it out thus and left it there, properly supervised of course, for over 3 days straight. It never once got up off the table, ran out, and started mowing down innocent civilians and children. As I say, I have repeated this and similar experiments with my other weapons many times. Not once has any of them gone out and performed a killing spree on their own.

So the notion of an ‘assault’ weapon is nothing more than a rhetorical myth created by people who want to demonize something they do not wish to bear any responsibility for. But be damn sure, if they ever need that ‘anti-assault’ capability, they’ll be finding someone properly trained and throw those guns into their hands, all the while begging them “save me save me!” All I can say is ‘how pathetic!’

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We have all gotten soft.  We lead our lives in a sanitized way where we are able to avoid the thoughts of the blood that is on all of our hands.  We have built a society where it is possible for us to abdicate the job of ‘killing’ in our name onto others.  The job of killing for our food, the job of killing for our defense and public safety, the job of killing to build our homes.

This train of thought is one that I have visited before many times in regards to the practice of hunting, but was raised more recently after someone posted a video of police officers killing an aggressive dog in LaGrange, MO.  Many of the links and comments on this video follow a simple theme.  People are outraged.

Perhaps the outrage is justified, but I felt it necessary to take a contrarian role since most people will react to such videos based on the emotional ‘gut’ reaction of watching something die rather than stopping to think further.  My initial comments included:

Worthy of criticism? Of course. Condemnation? I can’t say – I wasn’t there. It’s easy to sit outside such a situation and pass judgement based on ‘feelings’ – but I try not to pass judgments based solely on feelings.

Anthropomorphizing is the real enemy here. We all see our pets as members of the family and transfer those feelings onto other animals that come to harm. I guess my experience has given me a more grounded approach when it comes to animals.

A=A – is what is. An animal is not a human – or to counter the Ingrid Newkirks of the world, a rat is NOT a pig is NOT a dog is NOT a boy.

There is obvious grounds for critique on whatever causes led these guys to this action, but that does not necessarily equate to critique of the officers themselves.

To paraphrase Ted Nugent, the truth is that we all have a blood trail and a series of gutpiles behind us.  Things have to die to make our food, things have to die to make our clothing, things have to die to build our houses and so we can drive our cars.

When I was very young, I used to often explore the Z Farms behind our house.  Before too long the Z Farms were sold to make way for a new subdivision.  For a number of years, the majority of the landmass remained undeveloped as houses slowly popped up one after another.  But the roads made it easy access to a kid on a bike.

I used to love running around Heather Lake (renamed from it’s prior name ‘Dennis Lake’ which didn’t work as well for the new sub’s marketing) and seeing the various wildlife.  We saw deer, quail, mink, rabbits, woodcock, partridge, pheasant.  One year there was an entire family of fox that we found living under a bunch of fallen logs.  They kenneled up there for 3 years straight, each year bearing about 3-6 kits.  The only reason they stopped kenneling there was – you guessed it – someone decided to build a house there.

Dennis Lake used to be great for fishing too.  There was one spot that would get so many pumpkinseeds bedding up, that you could literally catch them with a bare hook – not snagging, they were so hungry they would bite at just about anything.  Oh, I should also add that this bedding area was just below the fox dens and it too was destroyed when the house was built.

The irony of it all is, that the people that moved into that house turned out to be rather outspoken pro-animal “rights” types, a reporter for a local news station in Detroit.  (I took great joys stopping by every now and again and pointing out that their driveway used to be a fox den and their new sand beach used to be a breeding area for the fish)

Swear off meat, give away all your leather and fur, ride a bike to work and start living in a tree – and stuff will still die so you can survive.  Ask any farmer how many small animals die below the tilling blades of their combines to make room for those soybeans and sprouts.  Ask any biologist how many animals have to be killed or displaced to build our neighborhoods and yes, even farms.

By the time I got to college, I had become an outspoken hunting advocate.  One of the projects I helped sponsor for a hunting, fishing and shooting club I started on campus was to encourage all of our members to keep track of ‘roadkill’ they saw as a means to raise awareness to just the sort of thing I am talking about here – stuff dies so we can live.  Oakland University was a commuters campus (where most of the students drove to college from home) and each of us came from a different direction.  There were five of us regularly keeping track of what we saw, trying also to not count any dead, roadside animals we had seen previously.

By the time we were done, the numbers even shocked me.  With five of us keeping regular track over a period of about 2 months, we didn’t just see dozens, or hundreds.  We literally counted THOUSANDS of animals.  The largest category was one I dubbed ‘UFO’ for ‘unidentifiably flattened organisms’.

The entire concept was culminated when someone chose to challenge me one day on the ‘morality’ of my hunting.  The person in question was wearing leather shoes and a leather jacket.  Upon questioning, they were not a vegetarian.  The crux of their argument was ‘how can you kill your own food?’  My question was, how can you challenge the morality of my killing my own without looking at the moral question of abdicating the job of killing yours?  Killing my own food (whenever possible) IS my moral code!

How many of us stop to think about the animal(s) that had to die to make our Whopper (and fries and coke) or the animals that were evicted to dig the foundation for our homes?  I do almost every time.  But, more importantly, how many of us cringe and immediately jump with an urge to shout foul any time we run across something that requires us to look upon the killing of an animal at all?

Death isn’t pretty.  But to reword a popular cliche, death happens.  (or if you prefer “Shit Dies!”)  It’s easy to try to see animals anthropomorphized as ‘human-like’.  But animals are not humans.  They can’t rationalize, identify, reduce, integrate, retain or conceptualize.  Animals do not have morals, are not sentient and do not have “rights”.

The goal of ‘humane’ behavior should be to keep unnecessary harm coming to animals.  But rational behavior is to know that sometimes, like it or not, the death of animals may be necessary or us humans to survive.

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Back when I was in high school I was doing quite a bit of bird hunting.  That also meant I was doing quite a bit of shooting practice.  I had gone out and picked up an entire box of 20 gauge shells to use for both practice and for hunting.

Bald Mountain recreation area was the closest range to where I lived and all they had for shotgun shooting was a skeet range.  So once a week I would stop by to shoot 2-4 rounds of skeet.

Skeet involves shooting at various ‘stations’ at a total of 25 targets.  The score is based on the number of targets hit.  The targets are launched from two towers on either end of a half circle.  Some targets go one at a time, depending on the station, some are launched simultaneously from both towers, one high and one low.  The final station is in the middle and thus involves half the distance and therefore half the time to hit the target launched one at a time from each of the two towers.

Although the rotation around the various stations provided different combinations of target motion and shooting angles, skeet is not the best possible practice for hunting type scenarios.  For one thing, the targets are rather predictable and they are launched when the shooter calls ‘pull’.  But, I wasn’t there as much to shoot a flawless round of ‘skeet’, as much as I was to keep my shooting skills up.  The end result was that I would usually shoot around 18-19 out of 25 targets on average.

There were young guys that worked out at the range who would load the ‘houses’ full of the clay pigeon targets and then serve as the range ‘puller’, pushing the buttons to release the targets when the shooter called ‘pull’.  (it was kind of a standing joke that the guys guy so used to pushing the button on the word ‘PULL’ that if you walked into the office and shouted ‘pull’, their thumbs would involuntarily twitch as a result)

Most of the young guys were easy going and a fun bunch, but there was one young guy that I didn’t particularly like.  He was a good shooter, and he knew it, but he wore it like a chip on his shoulder and it tended to rub me the wrong way.  But there was a fun bunch of guys that would show up regular on the days I would shoot and we’d have a good time regardless who was pulling for us.

Well, one particular day we get lined up with the arrogant young kid.  I tended to avoid him so as a result I tended not to have him as my puller.  I missed one of the targets on the second station and showed a little frustration and he decided to proffer me some advice without my prompting it.

Mind you, I’m there to practice for hunting.  So my shooting style wasn’t the same as most of the other guys.  I would hold my gun at my hip not much unlike I would walking through the woods.  You don’t hunt walking through the forest with your gun at your shoulder waiting for a bird to pop up on command!

His advice dealt with this unconventional stance.  Without knowing (or caring) what my motivation was for being there shooting, he decided to criticize my stance first then suggest that I start with the gun on my shoulder.  He was right, but he took no consideration for my goals in being there.  I was in fact frustrated at my miss so this just irked me off more.

I decided that I had to shoot better than I ever had.  But I had to do it my way.  I wasn’t going to walk through the woods with my gun already on my shoulder and my finger already poised on the trigger.  But the thought had occurred to me that if the bird dog got on a scent or a bird had already gone up, I wouldn’t walk around with my gun at my hip either.  Instead I would hold it in a ‘ready to shoot’ position part way between the two.  So this was how I shot the rest of the round.

I’d already missed two targets by that point in time so the best I could possibly shoot the rest of the way around the course was a 23.  My end score was 22 of 25.  After that incident I only missed a single target and there was some doubt as to whether or not I didn’t put a pellet through that one as some of us saw dust fly off it but it didn’t ‘break up’ as they were supposed to do.

Initially I rebuffed the puller for opening his ‘trap’ when it wasn’t solicited.  I stuck by that.  As I pointed out, he had no idea of my motives and he didn’t care.  So my hackles going up as a result of it I still considered justified.

As a general rule they put a puller out with 3-4 guys to shoot a single round of skeet.  As a general rule, each of the guys throws in a buck at the end of a round to give the puller as a tip.  I can’t remember the exact conversation I had with the kid when I came in (I say ‘kid’ – at the time he was only 3-4 years younger than I was) but it went something like this.

I set a $5 down on the table in front of him and I told him:

“Your ‘pointers’ took no consideration for my reason in being here.  I’m not here to shoot skeet, I’m here to practice for hunting.  I don’t hunt with my gun on my shoulder so I sure as hell am not gonna do it here, skeet or no skeet.  I wasn’t seeking advice, didn’t ask for advice, and your advice was and still is unwelcome when it takes no consideration what-so-ever for my own goals and desires.”

“But this $5 is yours because that’s the first time I’ve ever shot a 22 score, and I want you to know right now – now that you know my goals and desires, don’t EVER be afraid to give me advice again.  But if you ever want a tip from me again, don’t EVER say another word that only serves to air your own opinion of my style.”

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In that both of my parents were school teachers, we used to spend our summers up at the Canada Creek Ranch during the summer break from school.  Many of the other kids that were up there for the duration of the summer were also children of school teachers.  Sure, there were other groups of kids that would come and go, but the one’s that tended to be up there for the entire summer tended to all be teacher-kids and thus we ended up hanging around together a lot  more than any of the other kids.

One such kid was my friend Mark.  He was an outdoors dork like me.  In fact, Mark could be a bit more of an outdoors dork than me sometimes.  We were both skinny little guys at the time, but Mark had dark, thick rimmed glasses, brown curly hair and was seldom seen without wearing a fishing hat like something you’d see Marty Stouffer wearing.

That particular summer, Mark had picked up a nickname.  Both his older brother and my older brother got to calling him ‘Ulee’.  Mark had taken to reading any magazine on fishing, hunting or the outdoors that he could get his hands on, and doing whatever the article said.

He drilled out all his crank baits and put BB’s inside. He started re-painting all his jigheads in flame orange and chartreuse. He broke the barbs on some of his fish-hooks to make it easier to set the hook. He stuck reflective tape on his spoons. He started building special rigs for perch fishing even though there were very few perch in any of the lakes.  He even started learning and tying all sorts of knots for practice.

…and this here knot used to be used to tie indians to posts for target practice…” (ok, that’s a tad of an exaggeration, but you get the idea)

Someone – it may have been his dad, one of his many older brothers or maybe even my dad – suggested one day that if Mark saw one of Ule Gibbons TV shows that told you how you could eat tree bark, Mark would be out there scraping at the trees with his pocket knife inside of 10 minutes.  My brother Tim and Mark’s brother John were within earshot of the comment and the nickname stuck.

Mark’s and my families both had canoes.  With a little coordinating, we figured out how we could canvas any of the three main lakes in the cabin area by keeping each of our canoes on a different lake and fishing together.  For example, we found out one day that it wasn’t horribly difficult to carry my family’s Michicraft up over the hill between the Lake Geneva beach and down to Wildfowl lake.  From there, it was a short paddle over to the docks and then just a short portage across the road over to Horsehead lake.

On this particular day, we had a plan and we were on a mission. I’m not sure which one of us had gotten the crazy idea first, but we had both seen a bunch of snakes hanging out sunning themselves on a beaver mound near the back corner of Horsehead lake.  Neither of us had seen any rattles on any of them so we determined that they must be northern water snakes.  The only snakes with any kind of venom to worry about were the rattlers.  (Massasauga rattlers are the only pit viper in Michigan)

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Our idea was to clobber one of those water snakes to get it’s skin.  I was already diddling in leather work at the time and Mark kinda liked the crazy idea as a change of pace.  It was like huntin!!!  And we were frankly getting bored with fishing every day.

So we hauled the canoe across the hill, then over to Horsehead and set off for the Beaver mound.  We weren’t disappointed either.  Even before we got close we could make out a whole slew of snakes already slithering down into the branches or off into the water.

We pulled up along side the mound and scanned the remaining visible snakes.  We wanted to make damn sure we didn’t see any rattles on any of them.  After looking good and hard but not seeing any rattles, we picked out a snake and proceeded to clobber it over the head ‘but good’.  (of course, not without a few misses, a whole lot of splashing and nearly tipping over the canoe twice)

The snake ended up in the water just off the edge of the beaver mound. Since I was the one that would likely get the job of skinning it, I got stuck with the job of scooping it up in the net.

I got the snake into the net and picked it up out of the water, pausing to let the water drip out of the mesh, then moved the net into the boat.  The next thing you know, the snake starts to move around.  Both of us panic!

Even though the idea of a northern water snake didn’t really skeeze either of us out, the thought of a snake squirming around inside of a wobbly canoe wasn’t the most pleasant notion to consider.   Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was to donk it over the head again.  But I didn’t want to rip a hole in my net either so I told Mark to get his paddle ready because I was going to dump the snake out into the bottom of the boat.

As I flipped the net over, the snake’s “fangs” hung up in the net.

Mind you, I already mentioned that northern water snakes don’t have fangs.  Massasauga rattlers have fangs.  Massasauga rattlers are the only snakes in Michigan that are considered deadly poisonous.  So, obviously, this snake must be a Massasauga rattle snake and not a northern water snake.

This is approximately the same thought process that was running through both of our minds at that very moment; me holding a fish net out at arms length with a half stupefied snake hanging off it by it’s fangs, Mark holding his paddle dangling out over the side of the boat.  Both of our eyes scanned down to the tail at the same time as we continued our thought process in sync with one another.  Nope, no rattle – what the…. ?!?!?

Now is about the time a real panic started to set in.  Now is also about the time it would have been appropriate for someone, anywhere nearby to start the song ‘Dance of the Cuckoos’ because events quickly degraded into a bad scene from a Laurel and Hardy movie.

Ahhhh, why does it have fangs?” I said.

uh… uh… crap! THROW IT OUT – IT’S STILL MOVING,” stuttered mark.

*wobble wobble* said the canoe.

“No wait, I have an idea!” I responded as I slowly lowered the snake’s body back onto the floor of the boat.

“What the heck are you doing?!?!” cried Mark, “Get it out!”

“No trust me…. He’s stuck in the net.  I’m going to stretch him out see?”  Realizing the snake was still somewhat out of it, I stretched his body out in a straight line using the net to keep him ‘hung up’ so he couldn’t move – much.

“If I stretch them out like this they can’t coil to strike.  Right?”  I asked the question in part to put Mark a bit more at ease, in part hoping he might answer it and do the same for me ” He’s still dazed anyway!” I added, hoping that if it wasn’t so, that saying it might just make it so somehow.

At that point I grabbed for my paddle with my other hand.  Before I completely set the snake down, I stuck the blade of the paddle right across the middle of it’s neck behind the head.

“Just like that see?  Now hit my paddle.”

“OK, now hit my paddle with yours!”

Before I could say anything, Mark swung his paddle out to the side and gave a hefty lateral swing.  In his panic state he almost took out my fingers in the process, not to mention that he made me lose my hold on the snake with the end of the paddle.


I quickly moved the blade of my paddle back onto the neck of the snake.  My shouting seemed to snap Mark back to a reasonable level of sanity and he made sense of the idea.  He gave the top of the paddle a good 4 to 5 thumps with his.

We both stood back as I released the pressure off of the paddle and placed the net over the top of the snake, keeping it’s fangs hooked up in the net for ‘additional safety‘ I thought.  After a few seconds we looked at each other and nodded.  Without needing to say a word, we quickly sat down and paddled back to the dock.

I’m not sure which one of us landed on shore first, but we were leaping out of the canoe at the same time without any need for further instruction.

After a few minutes passed, we determined the snake was really a goner this time but still didn’t have the nerve to take it back to skin it right away.  Instead we stuck it down in a shallow marsh puddle behind where we pulled the canoe up and resolved to go hit the ‘Trading Post’ for a pop.  Then we would see if it was still wiggling by the time we came back.

It was a good 15 minutes, even from Horsehead lake, up the hill to the front gate of the Ranch on foot. So we figured that would be more than enough time to make sure it was dead.

Now I don’t know if those 4-5 whacks didn’t do the trick or if someone (or some critter) came by and spotted the snake, but there was no trace of it when we came back a half-an-hour later!  For the next few weeks we were extremely wary any time we fished Horsehead lake for fear there was an irked off rattlesnake wearing a neck brace lurking somewhere back in the bushes!

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8-trackI remember growing up, dad was always a bit of a square peg. (and I loved him for it!)  One such time, we were spending a typical day shopping – mom going through Sears (back when it was still coupled with Roebuck), dad stuck watching me and my brother.  Poor dad.  So dad heads for the electronics department.

We’d recently gotten a new blue Ford van to replace the old white one that finally needed to go.  My dad opted for the latest in technology and had it fitted with a brand spanking new stereo 8-track player!!! (everyone can ooooo and ahhhh now!  Yeah, I know – I’m old!)  He didn’t opt for much else.

Dad didn’t have any 8-track tapes.  So we get to the electronics department and lo, there is a bounty as good as gold to an eclectic man on a school teacher’s salary, that just spent most of his money on a new van and has to also pay to feed two kids!  An 8-track bargain bin!!!!!!

So as my brother and myself look about the various gizmos and gadgets doing our best to behave (and no doubt failing miserably), dad scours the pile of fools gold.  He came out with three tapes that day:

  • Everly Brothers - Pass the Chicken and Listen

    Everly Brothers – Pass the Chicken and Listen

    Roger Whittaker – All My Best

  • The Everly Brothers – Pass the Chicken and Listen
    (a bluegrass album they did produced by Chet Atkins)
  • Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits (pre-1968 ‘hits’)

Now mind you, I already eluded that this was back when 8-track tape players were considered ‘new’ technology.  And since the tapes were in a ‘bargain bin’, most of them were old titles already.  The Neil Diamond ‘hits’ album for example had all the old classic hits (including his own, original version of I’m a Believer and even a few covers like his version of the Gary U.S. Bonds New Orleans and the song Hanky Panky with the girls at the beginning begging him to ‘do it, do it!’)

Over the next half-a-dozen years, those three tapes got burned into my brain every summer when we would make the four hour trip ‘up north’ to the Canada Creek Ranch (where my parents are currently retired – CCR is a property owners association for hunting/fishing/camping)

I never once hated any of those songs and have a copy of Pass the Chicken and Listen as well as a few of those old Neil Diamond and Roger Whittaker tunes in my mp3 collection.

Oh I don’t believe in ‘if’ anymore…..

A few interesting asides about the ole blue van:

  1. The van itself was kinda low-frills.  It had a plastic covered floor that we of course threw mats on top of, and nothing but a white paneled fiberboard ceiling with alternating rows of punched holes.  My brother and I figured out on one of those four hour trips that if you hung your head back over the (vinyl) seats and stared at the dots, over time your two eyes would confuse the dots and little by little it would look like the ceiling was coming closer and closer to your face.  Funny, because this is the same method modern ‘stereogram’ images use, yet I can’t seem to get any of them to resolve for me.
  2. It was one of those vans with the little fold out windows in the back that opened no more than about 2″.  This made for an interesting dilemma the time that dad’s friend Bob discovered completely by accident that the coffee candies he brought along for a fall hunting trip created the most devastatingly putrid farts you have ever smelled in your life!  To this day, nothing has ever topped those coffee candy farts and I think I still have an impression in the side of my cheek from the metal frame of those fold-out windows as I tried desperately to fit my entire face through that 2″ opening for fresh, unspoiled air to breath!
  3. I picked up a number of behaviors – either through genetics or proximity – from my father.  One of my father’s typical things was a ‘knee-bob tick’ when he was idle.  He’d sit reading a book or a magazine and he’d start bounding the heel of his foot causing his knee to bob up and down.  I do similar things.  Many a time while riding shotgun in the blue van, I’d dangle my foot down inside the step rail of the  passenger’s side door but since my foot was dangling I’d twisted it left and right instead of bobbing it up and down.  Often I’d ever-so-lightly touch the inside edge of the step rail’s metal side creating the slightest little *tunk tunk tunk tunk* sound.  As with my father, I was seldom aware when I was doing it.  This gave poor old dad many a gray hair as he would suddenly become aware of a slight ‘tunking’ sound and strain to hear if the engine was missing or something else in the engine or drive train had gone awry.
  4. Although we were still quite young, as the van got older we were often allowed to drive it down the two tracks at CCR.  So although we seldom went faster than 10 miles per hour while out deer spotting prior to hunting season, both my brother and myself essentially learned to drive in the ole blue beast.  This was, of course, before the days of adjustable steering wheels and those old vans had almost a bus’s angle on the wheel – which was a good thing because as a no-frills package it also had no power steering!  Also, being an automatic transmission, one of the nice things was that at idle, it would generally go that 10 miles per hour without touching the gas at all — which was great for a 11-13 y.o. something as you only had to worry about steering and when to apply the break.  (and when driving on a two track, you often didn’t have to worry about the steering part either)

I could probably write 100 of these, so I’ll leave it at that.  Of course the 8-track as well as that trusty old Ford van eventually became relics.  But a few years ago I chased down the CD release of the Everly Brothers album for my dad’s new Dodge pick-up that he had equipped with a CD player!  (although it’s now available through Amazon and others, at the time I had to order it all the way from Great Britain!)

I miss that old blue van!Blue ford van

(the pic is just one I found on the web of a similar van.  I’m going to see if I can get mom do dig out one from her albums to post later – if this disclaimer is gone, it’s will be a real pick of the ole blue beast)

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Rye #4

Back in my late teens, we went hunting out near Rye #4 in the center of the ‘outback’ area of Canada Creek Ranch.  As per usual, it was my father, his friend Bob, my brother and myself.  I originally hunted out behind the rye field but was aware that my father was hunting south of the road just east of the parking area.  So when not much was going on, I headed east of the field doing a slow stalk hoping to come out near the road about the same time he did.

I ran across a few cow elk on the way but not much else.  Eventually I was just about north of where I thought I would need to be so I started to turn south toward the two track.  As I was walking along, I wasn’t noticing anything particular.  There was a slight rise before the road became visible and a few trees just the other side of the road.  I threw my bow over my shoulder and started to crown the hill when one of the trees started to move!

It turned out not to be a tree but a rather large bull elk we had been seeing all summer.  This guy was a monster!  We had some big bulls up in this part of Michigan, but this one was the exception and had a rack that was at least twice the length of the largest bulls we’d seen.  To say he had a tree on his head was an understatement!  I continued to watch him as he walked just south of the road heading in the same direction I would soon be going as I stood waiting to see if my father would come out of the woods to the south.

To give you an idea as to just how big this guy’s horns are, first realize that this was a large bodied bull to begin with.  Yet, as I stood watching him, he lifted his neck, not really pulling his head back over his body at all.  Instead he just tipped his head a little and scratched his hind quarters with his horns.  Most bull’s horns would be lucky if they made it half way down the length of their bodies and most bulls didn’t have a body as big as him.  His horns extended another 2 feet behind his rump while he scratched.

After waiting a good 20 minutes, the bull and his harem of cows worked their way down to a small clearing in the middle of a turn in the road.  The cows moved around about him and he just stood there.  I figured I had waited enough time and didn’t know if dad was waiting around later than usual or perhaps was on a stalk somewhere himself so I decided to head back to the truck.

As I approached the turn in the road, instead of following it around the bull to the right, I decided to cut straight through.  The bull was still standing firm, but most elk are very leery of humans and I fully expected him to get out of the way well before I got to him.

I was still thinking this as I closed within 50 yards.  I still thought this at about 45 yards and kept the same walking pace.  I still thought this at about 40 yards but started now to slow down.  By the time I got down to about 35 yards, I stopped because the bull tightened up the muscles in his haunches and lifted his head to stare straight at me.  I began to get the feeling he had no intention of moving.

I thought it wise at this point to pull my bow – slowly – off my shoulder and threw a broadhead arrow on as I slowly backed up until I was far enough back that I could keep a good distance between him and me as I went around the road to his right.  He stood and watched me walk all the way around but still didn’t move.

Just about the time I got up to the pickup and put my bow away, I noticed my dad coming out of the woods south of the road back where I had started.  The bull still stood in the middle of the half circle curve and sure enough, my dad decided to cut the corner too.  It was like watching myself on rewind.

50 yards, still walking.  40 yards, still walking.  Dad was apparently more confident than me.  He didn’t slow his pace until he hit about 30 yards and didn’t come to a full stop until at about 25 yards.  Then bow off the shoulder, arrow on the string, tip toe backwards and go around.

He kept watching the bull his whole way around following the road to the bull’s right.  When he finally turned around he found me sitting on the tailgate laughing my ass off.

“What the hell are you laughing at?” dad asked.

“Oh, not much.  But if you came out about 10 minutes earlier you would know!” I said in response.

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For another installment of hunting stories, I thought I’d take a number of small happenings of interest and combine them into a single post.  Sometimes the little things make all the difference on an otherwise slow morning of hunting.

Hualing ass (in shrew terms)

One of the big things with hunting is keeping your senses peeled to pick up even the slightest sound, movement and even smells.  Back around the same time period of the Owl Staredown, I was hunting the same chunk of swamp surrounded by slight oak ridges.  This time I was out in mid afternoon sitting up further on the hills looking for some of the squirrels I’d seen scurrying about.

Northern shrew

northern shrew

I found a nice big tree to squat under, and waited to see if anything started moving.  It wasn’t long at all and I heard a sound.  But it was very faint.  I listened closer and realized it was very close.  My first thought, based on the dainty nature of the sound was some kind of insect.  I watched the thick bed of oak leaves where I heard the sound and waited.

Eventually, up pops a weee little northern shrew, not much longer than 1/2 inch long.  He was hauling balls too – moving as fast as his little legs carried him!  Up above one leaf, down under another, over a stick, under a chunk of rotting bark.  He was hunting harder than I was by far.  I watched him on and off over the next 30 minutes or so until he eventually ended up too far away to follow.  In that entire half hour, he kept moving at a hyper pace… all of about 5 yards total!

Dinosaurs of the forest

Another hunting trip in that same stretch of swamp, I was doing some stalking.  I get board of sitting in one spot, but when archery hunting you still have to keep very still as most archery shots are within 30 feet of the animal.  Stealth hunting involves a moving hunt, but you’d have a hard time knowing it.  On an average stalk, I will move about 25 yards every hour.  That little shrew could probably keep pace with me.

One morning while stalking, I heard a sound.  I often hear sounds of squirrels and it sounded kind of like a squirrel but squirrels seldom move in groups and when they do it is obvious because generally they chase each other around.  I started hearing lots of sounds like a herd.  Squirrels don’t herd!

Wild turkeys

wild turkeys

The sounds were obviously coming from behind some thicker  pines and were moving to my right so I decided to use the opportunity to lay flat on the ground.  By then I’d already determined they weren’t deer because the sounds just weren’t right – heavier than squirrel or rabbit hops but not quite as heavy as a deer’s.

It wasn’t long until I saw some of the feet under the pines so I started clucking.  It was a large group of wild turkey hens and young jakes.  At that time, my father was getting into calling techniques and I kept  insisting I could do a sufficient enough call to pull in a group of hens.  (I didn’t think it would be enough to fool a wise old tom)

Sample hen turkey gather call

After a little clucking they turned and as many as a dozen turkeys ended up completely surrounding me until one of the older hens got wise to something strange being about.  I, myself was getting nervous as they have some sharp talon hooks and strong muscles!  But prior to that, they lingered about me long enough for me to see them up close and personal.  That was right after Jurassic park came out in theaters and I couldn’t help but think how these were the dinosaurs of the north woods!

Chipmunk Chirps and Chickadee toes

By far, when it comes to little things, nothing beats one of the first time I hunted at Bishop lake recreation area just outside of Brighton, MI.  I had scouted the area during small game season and found there to be a few partridge, woodcock, squirrels and plenty of deer sign.

I found a couple of low, wet, swampy areas and chose one in particular due to a large number of deer runs converging at one end.  I put my tree stand midway between the start of the cattails and where the hill started to climb up between the converging runs.  There was an area just behind the tree stand that served well as a way to walk in through a grassy field that also served well for stalking at the ‘grayline’ of dusk. (the time when the suns light is just passing from night is known as a ‘grayline’ in amateur radio. It serves well for stalking as it allows you just a bit more freedom of movement when moving through gray surroundings)

Aggitated chipmunk

This particular morning the wind was wrong so I decided to just pick a spot somewhere to squat on the ground on the other side of the cattail swamp.  No sooner do I sit down and some chipmunk found me.  Now, if you’ve never been still hunting around chipmunks, this is the most annoying thing that can happen to you.

Sample chipmunk ‘anger’ chirping

Chipmunks are so annoying that even the deer ignore them so it’s not a worry about you being seen because of them, but they will sit in place and chirp non-stop until you find some way to discourage them.

Fortunately enough, one had tried this mind-torture on me a few days earlier so I was prepared.  In with my regular arrows I threw in my small ‘ninja’ style blowgun and a few darts.  I didn’t expect to hit him but I didn’t have to.  A shot a few inches below him was enough to shut him THE HELL UP!

It wasn’t too long after that and things started to settle back to normal.  After a few more minutes of silent, I started hearing incoming chickadees.  I like chickadees!

Sample chickadee sounds

A whole bunch of them were flying around me.  I was having fun watching them as not much else was going on, when all of a sudden I noticed something on the brim of my hat.  Two sets of three little grey toes.  I tried to sit still as I could and two times he peeked down to say hello.  It looked sorta like this:

OH! Why hello down there!

Yeah, sometimes it’s the little things that make your day while hunting!

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As archery deer season approaches, it’s time to get out the hunting gear as well as some of the hunting stories.  So I thought I’d post a few of my favorites over the next few days from the hunting days gone by.

One of my best experiences was with a great horned owl.  It up on Metamora road at Dodge park #10 in NE Oakland County.  I was still going to Oakland University and worked an afternoon shift in the computer lab.  There was one day when I didn’t have class, and if I left about 20 minutes before dark from hunting, I could get to work with about 10 minutes to spare.

The night in question it was about 25 minutes to dark when I got a sudden and creepy feeling.  Less than a half second later there was this shadow and a silent WOOSH!!!!  A great horned owl missed hitting the back of my head literally by less than an inch and had to make a last second flap of his wings that blew the hair on the sides of my head as he barely made it over my hat!

I was way back in the swamp and was using one of my dad’s ultra-simple tree stands.  It consisted of nothing more than  four foot span of 2×12 with a semi-circular cut out of each end.  The idea was to wedge it in the ‘v’ of a tree which was just what I had done.

I have a feeling this particular ‘v’ was part of this owl’s regular route as he seemed as surprised as me due the fact he had to correct at the last second and he couldn’t quite seem to sort out what was wrong.  Mind you, this ‘v’ of tree trunks actually consisted of ‘3’ main trunks.  The two I was between and the third about 8′ in front of me at a height of about 6′ off the ground.  The owl landed on that other branch just a few feet from me.  So here I am in full camo including face paint, 6′ from a huge great horned owl.  I didn’t want to move it was so awesome to be that close.

He could still sense something was up and could obviously tell something was there in front of him (me) but hadn’t yet made out just what I was.

It took everything in me not to move, not to breath too deep, not to even blink.  It felt like about ten minutes but was probably only a minute and a half before my eyes were screaming to blink.  I started thinking non-stop “either turn your head or blink.  turn your head or blink!

Now let me make something clear right now, never get in a staring contest with an owl.  THOSE FUCKERS CHEAT!

After sitting there that long, my eyes now on fire.  And wouldn’t you know it, that little bastard first closes one eye, then the other.  Inside I was screaming ‘YOU FUCKING BASTARD, YOU GOD DAMN CHEATING BASTARD!!!’ Outside I was fighting to keep from breaking out laughing.

I eventually had to break down and blink which of course grabbed his focus.  He only stayed about another 20 seconds then before flying off.

I ended up getting to work just in time to start, but was still in full camo including face paint.  And was still hopped up on adrenaline even after the 25 minute ride.  Although people were at first a bit shocked to see me donned in full camo regalia, they were soon riveted to my telling of the experience for the first time.

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Someone reminded me today of some of my experiences as a kid growing up in a house with a respect for firearms.  There’s no real political motivation to this posting (as with many of my others), just some insightful reminiscing and perhaps a few lessons to be learned.

As stated, my household was open to the discussion and teaching about and in regards to the existence and safe use of firearms.  I knew where the ‘house gun’ was stored by the time I was 4 years old.  I also knew it was not something to be touched, but that if I was curious, I could ask at any time to explore that curiosity under the appropriate supervision.

“Oh, but can you trust a 4 year old with such knowledge” you might suggest?  Well, this calls to mind one such scenario at about that age – in fact it is the instance which allows me to recall that I knew of the ‘house gun’ by that age (and perhaps was even made aware of it before then, but cannot state as much as this is my first real recollection of it).

As is the case with most parents, from time to time we would have ‘sitters’ so my mom and dad could go out and do grown-up things by themselves.  Generally it would be one of the girls from the neighborhood, but one time my parents decided to give a young boy up the street a chance at doing the job.   He blew the chance quickly!

Knowing that my father had firearms, he suggested to us that he heard a strange noise outside and asked my brother and I to tell him where my dad kept the family ‘gun’.

My then 6 y.o. brother told him it was none of his business!   Furthermore, upon my father coming home, he immediately informed my father of the sitter’s interest in knowing where the gun was located.  (believe it or not, I tended to be the quiet/shy one at that age) Needless to say, that boy never sat for us again and my parents had a considerable talk with his parents about the incident.

An important point I often tell parents (back when I was doing my NRA safety certifications and in general discussions about the topic of gun safety and kids to this day) is the fact that we were also brought along and allowed to see guns shooting and even shoot them ourselves at a very early age as well.  By the time I was about 8 my father had bought me and my brother both a Savage 220, 28 gauge shotgun that we could use and were taught extensively to behave safely around.  We, again, were allowed access to it under appropriate supervision whenever we desired.

Not too long after, my dad bought me a Savage 219 in a .410 gauge as I was still a tad small for the 28.  I quickly became quite efficient at shooting, going so far as to hit 48 out of 50 clay pigeons one afternoon shooting trap in spite of my brother and father’s attempts to make each one more challenging or otherwise ‘trick’ me into missing one by making them spin or fly awkwardly.  (I recently patterned that gun – yes, I still have it – with similar shells only to discover it holds about a 6″ pattern at 25 yards making me realize just how much of a feat that was for a kid, especially in that many of those 48 weren’t simply hit but disintegrated into a dust cloud by a mere 2 3/4″ .410 shell that doesn’t carry a lot of #9 lead shot in it)

One of the reasons I was so adept at shooting was also another of my father’s ideas that I praise to this day.  Thus the title of this piece.  He bought us a BB gun and kept us well supplied with BBs for it.  I remember it to this day, a Daisy ‘Woodstock’ (most likely a model 96 like the one pictured below).

Daisy "woodstock" model 96

I modified this picture slightly to reflect what my father had done to ours.  The first thing he did upon getting it was to take it downstairs to his work bench to remove the front and rear sights.  The goal being to get us used to shooting, but more specifically to build shooting instincts rather than a reliance on the mechanical sights themselves.  This was an invaluable teaching tool for my shooting skills as it required me to learn to shoot based on where the BB actually went as opposed to where the sights were aligned.

I remember many an afternoon running around the side yard shooting at various things floating down the creek that ran by our property.  Sticks, the occasional bug (my brother and I could eventually take bugs out in midair with little problem) – I remember in particular shooting at individual pieces of ‘duckweed’, small green plants resembling teeny tiny lily pads all of about 3mm across, with regularity.

We also had our fair share of mock battles, setting up our little green army men at about 10-15 yards and shooting it out with them until they were all knocked over.  There was one set of army men we had in particular that were especially fun for this.  A small set of revolutionary war soldiers that consisted of multiple parts put together to form the full soldier — removable guns, wigs, hats, two piece bodies and other various clothing and gear components.  When you would shoot those they would often times fracture into pieces that you would have to collect and re-assemble before going at it again.

I know, kind of morbid shooting at little men but it’s what boys tend to do and we were well aware they were just plastic little targets.  And as a result of having such targets, neither me or my brother ever had the desire to shoot at things we shouldn’t.

The familiarity and proximity to guns in a ‘supervised’ atmosphere of incessant habit re-enforcement also went a long way in teaching both respect and proper care and safety around guns.  Being around dad shooting as a very young sprite was more than enough motivation to avoid touching those things that made those really loud ‘BOOMS‘!!!  Being able to explore curiosities about these devices dispelled any desire to explore said curiosities without supervision.  Being entrusted — with well laid out rules and corresponding ‘consequences’ for irresponsible behavior — with our own guns (and airguns as the case may be) helped foster that responsible behavior around guns.  It was re-enforced to the point that a couple of interesting situations took place.

One such instance involved a group of neighborhood boys.  Mind you, I was kind of a late bloomer – small and awkward and often times the subject of teasing due to a lesser ability to ‘defend’ myself proficiently.  We were shooting with some neighborhood boys once when one of them kept resorting to what I intrinsically reacted to as ‘bad behavior’.   Mainly, he had a very bad habit of not paying attention to where the end of his BB gun was pointed.

I commented on this a number of times, especially when the way it ended up being pointed was at my head.  Finally after he again turned it to point at my head one more time I pushed the end of the barrel away from my face and told him in no uncertain terms (in essence), “knock it off already, I’m tired of you not listening when I say stop pointing your gun at people!”

As boys of that age (especially the idiotic ones) are prone to do, he came back with a smartass comment.  “What are you griping about?  The safety is on!” at which point he purposefully turned his body as to point the gun back in my face again.

My mind immediately took this not only as stupidity but a direct intent to be reckless.  Something in my head switched gears.  Before I knew it, I had wrenched the gun from the kid’s hands, tripped him by pushing him back over my own foot placed behind his so that he ended up falling flat on his ass.  Then I pulled his gun to my shoulder and squeezed the trigger so hard as to ‘break‘ the plastic safety mechanism, shooting a single round right between his spread legs about 5″ below his private parts.

The group of boys stood mouths agape!  It was very out-of-character for for me  to suddenly lash out like that, not to mention surprising that someone as diminutive as myself could do it as effectively as I did.  It frankly surprised me.

I threw the gun down onto his chest and said rather pointedly (something like) “There’s your damned safety for you!  Now stop pointing your gun in people’s faces dumbass!

Needless to say, he ran home to his mom both complaining that I almost shot him and that I broke the safety on his gun.  When the situation was explained she had no room to argue in regards to my actions in that he was making a habit of (intentionally) behaving recklessly and then trying to justify that recklessness when called out on it.  (and he never went shooting with any of us again – by our prohibition as much as his own disdain for me as a result of that event)

Another situation I still jest with my father about to this day.  My dad loves to collect firearms and when I visit he often takes me down to show me his new acquisitions or various improvements he has done to guns I had already seen.  Without exception he will pick a gun up off his own gun wrack (for which he has the only key to the door outside it), open the action and check that the gun is unloaded.  He then hands the gun to me to look over at which point I immediately open the action and check that it is unloaded…. again!  In spite of the fact MY OWN FATHER just did the exact same thing right in front of me!

Good habits start with common sense approaches.  Good behavior becomes instinctual with repetition and persistent re-enforcement.  I guess that’s my reason for writing this post.

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