Muzzleloader season

After I got home from my time off for rifle season I thought I was done? My blind was packed and was thinking of next year. I was bummed and thought I had 3 empty tags from 2017 season. After a couple of days passed I’m reading Michigan hunters guide and quickly figured out I had some time still. I own a muzzleloader that I don’t use often. I have a private anterless deer tag. I still have chances. I still might get a deer. My time is not up! I put the dates that worked with my schedule and BOOM! 2 more chances for meat. 2 weeks had past and rifle season came to a end and muzzleloader season began. December 2nd came fast and I was on my way. Instead of stopping for the night before at my fathers I just drove to camp. Setup camp in the dark, didn’t want to go out and put my blind up. I was unclear where I wanted to hunt? We have plenty of tree stands up but 3 of them are in spots that I believe are not traveled by deer. I wake up the next morning and decide to stay out and decide where the ground blind was going to be set. I had a great breakfast of eggs and walleye. Get my gear set and head out to find the perfect spot for the next couple of days. A spot that I believe will work, if deer are still recovering from rifle season. I set it up and make sure I use plenty of twigs and branches to hide the blind good as possible. I setup a trail cam about 50 yards away overlooking a trail I was hunting. I pour some acorn thick sludge crap for a attractant that just might take the deers mind off my blind. I get back to camp for a big lunch and load up for the night hunt, prepared to sit all day till dark. I know the acorn attractant won’t be effective till later days but hoping it helps. I sit and sit till the night with no sight of deer. Lots of squirrels and others such and birds. After another wonderful walleye dinner and reading a book on steelhead I hunkered down for the night, my friend called. He said his boy and him were heading up for some chats around the fire.

He got in camp around 10 and we quickly got a fire roaring and just talked. His son asked if we always talk? I said yes because we haven’t saw each other in a year or so. And I also said even growing up we chatted for hours. The moon was spectacular and kept us staring for hours.

I called some coyotes to let his son hear them and forgot about him possibly getting scared. We ended up staying up until 430am and just had a blast of a time. I told them I would skip the morning hunt to make a killer breakfast with eggs and walleye. We would take a hike off into the woods to teach him about the back forty. We loaded up some gear and went out after shooting the ruger 10-22. We pulled the trail cam card to see if any critters were around. I am really hoping to capture the coyotes on film.

The trail cam gave me my first view of any does in the area. This year I have only seen bucks or spikes. After the afternoon hike we parted ways and it was time to get back to the prize. Hit the woods about 230pm and just sat with nothing happening. It was getting depressing and it was starting to hurt. The trail cam shots gave me hope but nothing. I had the morning to look forward too. I had some hope. I had to believe I was going to get my chance. I ate dinner and just wanted to get to bed for the morning. Morning came and I slowly rose from my tent and sleeping bag. I gathered my stuff just going thru the motions of hunting but thinking of getting home to my family. I’ve put so much pressure on myself this year. I haven’t hunted in years and expecting to have meat in the freezer. I get the blind and it’s a little lighter out than I would’ve liked but hey I am looking at the drive home. No deer happened to come around. I gathered my sd card from trail cam and moved it to a buck scrap that has been there for more than 30 years. I say that because I have been hunting this land for 30 years and my uncle showed me the scrap when I was little. It’s close to my ground blind right now. In 2 weeks I will be back up for hunting this area for anterless late season. I’ve already am deciding on where to hunt next year and acquire about 3 more trail cams to keep a eye out for signs of making the right choice.

Next hunt is in 2 weeks.

Lets Do This!

The goal was to get after it! I had a set time off work for last week to hunt and fish over on the east side of the state. I had some really good feelings, even called a friend who does taxidermy. Asking about how much for a deer mount and how to skin it just in case. Loading my phone with some good old country music for the drive and just in case I wanted to hear some while there. I loaded a few offline areas onto my OnXmap app for no cell service areas. I left after work instead of leaving in the morning to get a jump on the drive. I made notes on the windage and temps for those days. I was planning so far ahead for greatness. Made gear checklist with my daughter. Made a grocery list for stopping in Standish. Made a list for stopping at Franks outdoors. I was loving the process! I was so excited to see what my uncles land looked like after not being there in 5 years. The last time I was there I was just told by my ex-wife to leave and we need to be apart for a while. I was craving what being out in the wilderness can do for someone. I had fishing gear just incase I stopped off at the Rifle River in Omer MI or fish the Au Gres River near camp. Shotgun, both bows, ammo, binos needed to kill a animal to eat. Sick and tired of eating farm raised things and slaughtered with no heart involved. Yes I do like to kill a animal, but I want to taste and feel what nature has to offer us as humans. I am a meat eater, I hunt to eat. I shoot a squirrel for a small meal and use the fur for tying flies. I prefer harvested feathers and fur from me or someone else, look into how all the fly shops get there furs and feathers. It’s a passion, it’s time with my father and uncle, it’s something I want to pass onto my children.IMG_3974

The weather looked just ok for the weekend. I left Thursday night and stopped at my fathers for the night. He lives about a hour from The Property. Allowed me a quick shot Franks outdoors and see about any equipment I am not aware of, yet. I chose not to purchase anything and made my way to Standish MI. There I stopped in at the grocery store for eggs, cheese and coffee. Stopped off in Omer MI to see the Rifle River at a public access ramp, river looked real nice and just wanted to get going. I made it to the dirt road to the Property and checked out the Au Gres river which looked pretty fishy, but just needed to see the Property.IMG_4030

I found a spot to park and setup my tent, get everything in order and made lunch.IMG_3992

It was a beautiful sunny day with temps a smidge warmer than I wanted. I was eager to get out back and see what the tree stands looked like, where were the new ones I have been hearing about. I heard a friend of my uncles son has been prepping the land. Some new spots with tree stands and some older stands moved. He was starting to set in a food plot which I have always wanted and he put it in the exact spot that just seems right. I loaded my pack with hunting clothes and a make shift ground blind just incase it was needed. I love hunting in trees but I have to feel 100% comfortable for me to use it. I am slightly afraid of heights, it’s the climbing up and coming down that gets me nervous. Once I am up in a stand I really love the view. I headed straight back to my uncles old tree stand that has been repaired many times. It looked solid still, had 2 milk crates for a seat and I climbed up. looked around and didn’t want to put my smell everywhere so I decided to give it a sit. wind was coming from the north hitting my dead in the face, gusts 13mph and up. I pulled my jacket out of my bag and threw it over my sweater I was wearing. My pants had no long underwear under them and brought my hunting pants also. I was just to scared to put them on up in the tree. So I sat in the tree for about 4 hours with squirrels everywhere, man I sure wanted the fat grey one that hung out around me. Didn’t want to screw up my chances on spooking a deer so I just kept letting them run around. The one thing that I forgot was batteries for my headlamp, still had my flashlight. So I just sat until dark and quietly got out of the tree with no sight of a deer. Saw 2 different types of woodpeckers, making a shit tone of noise. a couple of crows making a noise that I have never heard, sounded like it had a chunk of food in its throat. Another one sat in the same tree after the first one left and made the same noise. Heard some turkeys off on the other properties near. A great sit for nature but no deer. As I started to walk out I began to shiver horribly, legs were just really cold. should have put on the pants at the bottom of the tree before climbing up. I was so cold I had to make sure I kept my tongue out of the way of my teeth, they just start to shiver at any time. I was cold and needed to warm up fast. made it back to camp and changed into warmer gear, the temps dropped pretty fast, not super cold just didn’t have what I normally would wear hunting. Went off into the pines to collect fire wood but all of the wood was soaked, it had rain a day before and a week ago. I could not get anything to stay lit in the fire pit, that was all I had to do while waiting for bed. So I made dinner and started to enjoy the dark sky. Watched a big moon rise above the trees and just enjoyed myself. Heard a pack of yotes multiple times cruising thru the forest.IMG_3996

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So I started to get a little bored and decided to get in my tent for the night, it was around 830, never go to bed at those times. I fell asleep fairly fast and was woken up by a car pulling into the property. I checked the time and see who it was, around 1am and it was my uncles step-son. The dude was hammered and he always is. I felt a little bummed I wasn’t gonna be alone but Ill need to make the best of it. He invited me to sleep in his RV that had been parked there, I took the invitation and fell asleep. The next morning I was going to need a different spot because he had been sitting in the stand I sat in the night before. I was unclear where to go so I opted to lay in bed and sleep a little more. Its super easy for me to skip the morning hunt because sleeping is fun. I woke up around 9am after the other guy went out for the hunt. was woken up by hearing a car pull up, looked out the window to see my father. My father and I talked about him driving over Saturday to hang out, good to see him do that. The other guy came back with no good news and we all just walked around trying to light the fire pit, all wood was way to wet. Around 11 I decided to get after those squirrels with my shotgun. headed out for a walk and some sits till 1. The squirrels were quiet and none to be seen. I was hoping for squirrel for lunch. after I got back my father and I took a drive just check out the area. I have found a HAP from my OnXmap app that I wanted to see what the rules are. IMG_4003

we found a cow skull and just as I was about to pick it up we noticed a trap went off. Earlier I chatted to my uncle and he has let a local trapper trap on a chunk of land. I felt really bad setting off his trap, the trapper let us know later. We get back to camp and I set out for the evening hunt. earlier that day I walked around looking for squirrels and found the other tree stands. I was checking my notes on windage and set out for a stand. walked up to it and climbed up but felt uneasy with getting in and out. I went to another stand that was 10 feet taller, I am calling the Hightower. Climbed up that and felt right at home getting in. So I was there for the night.IMG_4007

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It’s the tallest stand I have ever been in but super easy to get in and climb down. It started to rain on and off. My notes said rain was due for the night, spot on in the forecast. I sat for a few hours and had a porcupine and a small spike to my right. I was unable to shoot but really wouldn’t have taken a shot anyways, just a little guy.IMG_4005

I spooked the porcupine up a tree on my way into the stand and he came down to get after dinner after I was in the tree. The spike kind of came out of nowhere. I had been using my binos and had been thinking no deer was gonna get close without me seeing it, I was wrong. The spike was eating 5 feet from the porcupine for about 20mins. Just before dark he wondered off when the rain picked up, I didn’t want to give away my spot so was really glad he walked off. Made it back to camp and my father and I headed into town for some pizza, ground beef and green olives. Dropped me off and he headed back home. I settled in and watched a movie with the other guy, Jurassic Park. Got up for the morning hunt this time, besides it was my last day. Rain kind of stopped and the wind was still in my favor that hightower stand. Real foggy out, it just seemed like I was going to see a big deer this morning.IMG_4023

It wasn’t raining but drops fell from the trees all morning. The night before and this morning I was using my Patagonia fly fishing jacket, it’s the nicest rain jacket I have ever owned.IMG_4017

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The woods were freaking cool, any minute I expected to see a deer. I did not! Duty called and the morning hunt was cut a little shorter than normal, hurried back to camp.

I packed up everything, taking my time to leave and head back home. Stopped by Franks to get a ground blind, I chose Barronett Big Mike blind. hoping to get my father out in a cozy old man set-up. I plan on laying wool blankets down and having a sleeping bag so I can sleep all night and be ready for open day rifle. I have 2 spots in mind depending on the wind. one is a open field that will give me a long range shot and the other is a close encounter attack, which one do I set-up in first?

So I only saw one deer, didn’t fish. I walked away with another great memory of hunting. Yes I could ask for more but I don’t need to, I loved every minute of it. Next chance is rifle season!

The Night Before

Today I had my usual day off and really needed some outdoors time. So last night I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do? The 2 things that I have been thinking about was small game hunting and fishing. Bow season is happening so I hate the idea of messing up other hunters, public land. The weather has turned kind of into fall. We had some rain last weekend and the river was up. I saw some pics on Instagram of steelhead near Lansing. So things were pointing towards fishing. The night before is probably one of my favorite happenings. You set a goal or activity and get ready for it. I haven’t needed to tie any flies because I got a good stock pile of them. I gather all my stuff set it aside and mentally prepare. The one thing that I forgot was my Bripe. We just got them in at GRBC

I have been dying to go out fishing and spark up my Bripe. But where I spent most of my time was assembling my fly boxes. I have a few and always reorganize them before a outing. Its the fun part of guessing what might work and what I will not use. everything in my fly box I have made or purchased and then tied myself. I try not to buy many flies, usually 1 or 2 to see if I like it or I catch some fish. Pretty sure everyone else does the same, I heard the saying is to buy 3 or more for loss to nature. I never have, usually 1. I have a carp ton of tying supplies and get a bunch of fur, hair, and feathers from friends. When I find a fly to tie and go to the fly shop for materials they almost always don’t have the exact materials I am looking for. They usually say well this material will work just as good. So they have taught me to not go there as often, smart. I use what I have! Lately I have been thinking most of my boxes are to natural. Not enough blacks or flashy stuff. I like the more natural stuff to catch fish on, it gives me a sense of greater satisfaction. So I unload all of my fly boxes and look for anything that I wanna eat. Think of the past years and check my notebook to see what worked around this time.

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other side same more Darters
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Tube flies
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Classic small flies and Darters

I felt good about these flies. I never use everything but these boxes might not get changed until the next year. I usually carry 3 boxes but wanted to downsize to 2. 1 box for my tube flies and the other for normal. I was all done going thru the boxes and this is where I keep thinking and thinking, oh the sleepless night of hooking that sliver chrome. I watched a little more TV but kept thinking of the morning hunt for chrome. The Flat River doesn’t see a ton of Steelhead but they are there. It’s shallow with not a ton of cover, some for sure spots when they are in the river. I generally fish 1 location but cover a bunch of ground. I use a Cabalas switch TLR 7wt rod, Lamson G3.5 reel and rio short scandi, it does the job well. I do wish I just had a 2 hander 13ft rod, don’t care for the switch characteristics. I decided to not take a net, most of my steelies are landed by beaching. I hop in the river at a good location of not spooking to many fish. I use to hop in at another spot and walked all the way across and around to start. This entry spot gives me some quiet time to sit and get ready. choose which fly I am gonna start with and maybe think about when I do change again. Able to sit and just take in the beauty of the flowing river. Its a urban spot next to a dam but I fish facing south so all I see is woods and river. Second cast I got hooked up in a tree right above my head, wasn’t spot on with my spey cast. I started to get in the groove and take a few steps after 1 or 2 cast. First felt tug of the morning wasn’t strong but wasn’t tiny. IMG_3858

I just couldn’t tell exactly what it was but then it had no major jolt of a tug. It was wishful thinking. It put up a real nice fight on the 7wt and just kept shaking its head. I snapped a quick pic and released the smallmouth back in the water. I couldn’t tell if it followed my fly from the faster water or was sitting in the calmer water. It hit my line at the end of the swing. A few more cast and steps down stream I hooked into another one. This one put up a bigger fight but it was slightly smaller. Just a riot on the swing. I text my fishing buddy with a pic to have a celebration with someone. I had to tell him I started to tie my flies to my line the way he does, give a fist bump. Non slip mono loop I have always watched him use it or he would share a fly with me. They would always have a tag still on, it’s a good way to attach a fly to your line if you are looking for a active fly. So after 2 runs along the spot and using 2 different flies I went to check out the Honey hole. That side of the river had less flow and the Honey hole doesn’t work well with little flow. Actually the biggest problem is me. When I use my switch rod the head on it is a little to long for stripping. I always wish I had brought my other rod for those moments but truly love swinging with that switch. Yes I could run across the street and grab it but it was time for lunch and get ready for the day. A wonderful day on the water, sun was out. Fish were biting and just Pure Michigan.

I am still putting together my hunt for out west. I have found some different locations for research. Im close to just giving up on trying to find the perfect location and go for a spot that I see as the perfect location. I feel with some time and walking I can find deer where ever I choose. The spots I am drawn to are hard to reach spots. Lots of elevation and steep canyon walls. Its what I picture is sitting with my binos and just glassing for hours. Growing up in Michigan you don’t have that. Viewing this open country and taking it all in. Not just for a giant trophy deer but a lifetime of memories in one swoop. I do feel I need to find a hunting buddy. I have a few that are open to the idea but no true takers yet. I usually do all of my activities by myself and enjoy it but love the chatter about the experience with someone else. I just keep thinking about Idaho. Anytime I google somewhere else I am right back to Idaho and checking another unit. It’s my calling to see Idaho for the first time in all its beauty!

A little rant. So I have been listening to a podcast called The Meat Eater and the last podcast of this week really pissed me off. I have read 3 books by Steven Rinella and met him at a dinner about his book American Buffalo, one of my favorite all time reads. The dinner was in Grand Rapids, MI with some of his ideas of cooking and recipes. We tasted the buffalo that he killed and prepared in a way that was, ok. It was like dried ground beef that he handed around the room for everyone to try. I left the dinner thinking he was a dick! Still really enjoy his writings and thoughts on conservation and hunting. I lost some interest in him after the dinner.

I was notified about the Meat Eater show, podcast etc from my fishing buddy. I have read the American Buffalo and The Scavengers Guide To Haute Cuisine before of hearing about Meat Eaters. I recently picked up The Complete Guide to hunting, butchering and cooking wild game volume 1, its more of a reference book than a read. So I have been enjoying the podcast and on Netflix and would recommend any of his writings, podcast, and shows to anyone who hunts or just loves the outdoors. It’s close to a nature show with sometimes a dead animal being butchered.

So the latest podcast ended in a way that Steven was so honest and direct that he would punch a guy if he did this to him. But he does it anyway. I don’t get if you believe in something deeply but still do it? Im leaving it really blank and unfinished but you should listen to the podcast just to see what he does.

We need some rain

This weekend I was supposed to head up north and hunt some small game and swing some flies for steelies. Family got in the way so I canceled the trip and switched the Monday day off. It ended up being perfect for getting Thursday off for my beautiful girlfriend. It’s her graduation for a leadership program she has been taking all summer. So overall things worked out. 

As I sit here with some windows open, no need for heat or air conditioning. I hear the rain and keep thinking about the steelhead and salmon that have been waiting for the fall push. I don’t travel far for fall fishing. I put my waders on and walk across the street to the Flat river, which flows into the mighty Grand river. Salmon and steelhead leave  Lake Michigan to make there way to the Flat river for some spawning. Is it a spot to come across the United States for? NO! But for me to go and wet some lines in, it is perfect! I don’t fish for salmon but for the fresh silver bullets they call steelhead. Last 2 years I have had good success with catching a few on the swing. I don’t chuck n duck or use a classic nymphing style for them. I find those ways really boring. Yes I do believe they are the best ways to catch dinner. I just can’t stop swinging flies, hoping for that angry bullet. I’ve hooked a couple King salmon but never landed them. They have taken me for a ride that would make a awesome movie. 

One day around 5 pm I was throwing flies and started to lift up my rod to do a snap-t and cast again. All of sudden my line ripped completely straight across the current about 30 yards, throwing a rooster tail off the line. I tugged a couple of times with the weight of a giant at the end of my line. It quickly turned and headed straight back following the same line it just dragged raced from. Moved about 30 yards and then headed down stream at a alarming rate. My reel was singing like angry bees, ( King hubs ). I started shifting my feet just in case it was going to split the beams in the river. It did and I moved fast to keep tension and try to pull it back thru the beams of a building that protrudes out from King Mill. I kept reeling, moved to help, maintained tension. Then the line went limp and my jaw dropped. I reeled the line in thinking I lost the fly. I didn’t, kind of a win. The fly just happened to fall out and I lost a freaking fast fish. I’ve got a better story but that’s later. 

One reason I don’t go for King salmon is by the time they finally reach the Flat river they start to get zombie like. It’s a killer fish to catch but I would rather see it spawn and die than me pull it out of the water for half dead meat. The steelhead I catch in the fall I keep, love me some fresh steelhead! Spring steelies need to lay eggs so I really don’t target them and it’s a time the river deserves some respect with the flowing madness of high waters. 

I might try to get out Sunday for some fun in the water. Haven’t had the switch rod out in a few months. I swing for smallies thru the summer on the Flat. After steelhead leave and the water gets lower in the spring the smallies come up for spawning. That’s one of my favorite times for smallmouth. Bass season isn’t open yet so no keepers but let the good times roll. So hopefully we get rain here n there and the temps drop lower at night. Water needs to come up a little. 

It’s a good fly that has landed good smallies and steelhead in the fall. I don’t have every step but you get the idea. I don’t claim to invent it. Just tying what I see in the river and use patterns from others. Let’s see if I get out for some tight lines?

Unit 48 Idaho

Just got a call back from a wildlife biologists that works unit 48 in Idaho. He gave me some good insight on the land. I’m looking at a area that doesn’t see a lot of hunters but a lot of recreational use. I’m not sure to take it as a positive or a negative. One piece of info is hunt it early in the season, high altitude and snow comes around November. So far the information he gave me was a positive. Need to call on some units in Colorado, got a tip from a friend about some areas.

 I struggle with giving to much info on public land. While learning how to fly fish and where to. Dudes were dicks on helping me. They would give all sorts of techniques but where is a big no. Mostly fishing shop and fly shops, a place that makes money on me catching fish. I work at a bike shop and people ask me all the time where to ride? I’m happy to help them. A fly shop wants to keep the sweet spot to himself. When customers ask me where do I fish? I am damn happy to tell them where and the exact location and what to use. My idea is get them out and enjoying life to the fullest. None of my spots are blown up and not usable anymore. 

One spring day around 10 or so. I hit a spot I call the honey hole. Every cast I was catching a keeper size of smallmouth. Hearing people on land saying oh he caught another one. Seeing them getting frustrated with me catching awesome smallies and they were kind of catching fish. I’ve stayed in that spot for 2hours or so and began to get hungry. I watched a younger adult stroll over to me and ask me if I care if he fishes here? I said no and I’m getting bored of catching all the fish and need to eat. I told him to stand right in the exact location and cast right at the 2 rocks, let it swing for about 5-10 seconds and the strip in. Even gave him a few flies. I left to get a snack roamed around town to check on a few carp spots. I came back as the kid was leaving and asked how he did. He said it was a riot and he was done and satisfied for the day. He told me thanks and we parted ways. The honey hole is still there people know about it, I still fish it. It’s a river I or we don’t own spots or locations. I know I’m out of the norm on this but let’s all play nice and teach all to everyone. 

This was a smallmouth I caught almost every day of a week in the same spot with the same fly. I named that spot smallville. The day I didn’t catch it and I noticed some caddis being taken off the top I switched to a muddler style fly and caught my first steelhead.