It's been awhile, and a lot has happened since the last blog. It's been a great fall so far (although it feels more like winter right now), but some of the best is yet to come. The number of quality outdoor experiences I've had this fall are far too numerous to list here. But between some fishing, duck hunting, and deer hunting let's see what I can remember.
Fishing went out on a high note with one last smallmouth trip in early November. Steady action and some solid fish including one over 5 made for some fun times. That trip really reiterated that being around bait is so important in the fall. If you can find a place that has food and an ambush point, they will be there! I had plans to make it to the annual jigs and pigs Portage Chain tournament but sadly there was a death in the family and that tournament would have to wait until next year. I heard the weights were up so they must have been biting. If you've never fished that one before it is a great tournament to end the season on. I've also snatched up a few pier walleyes although I haven't given that much effort. I've heard of some fish between 13-14lbs being caught so that has got my attention. As duck season winds down I may have to give that some more effort. I definitely think there are some 15 plus pound eyes that move through the Muskegon system this time of year and I would like to get a picture with one. We've also got the whitefish run going full on in Muskegon right now. I actually haven't been out yet but I may make the trip out there tomorrow morning for a bit. It is an absolute blast and we have the cold windy weather right now that typically makes it good. If you've never heard of it before it is a night time deal, they line the channel walls to spawn on the rocks. 3/4 and 1 ounce P-Line Laser minnows are my go to whitefish spoons. Just don't make big rip jigs or you'll snag a lot of fish and have to throw them back.
The main event this fall though has definitely been hunting. I spent more time deer hunting this year than I have in the last several. I could squeeze in 1 or 2 hunts a week at most so I would definitely need some luck on my side. I did see a bunch of deer early on, but they weren't particularly interested in traveling through the property I could hunt. It was fun watching them in the neighbor’s field though and if I see any deer activity I always consider it a successful hunt. I did have one really nice doe under the stand one evening, but I was losing light fast. With marginal lighting and the deer never presenting me with a broadside shot I decided against letting an arrow fly. I had big goals of getting 2 deer before duck season whether they be bucks or does it didn't matter. I had some pictures of some nice ones using the property at night. The property is a travel corridor between 2 different sets of bedding/feeding areas. So I was relying on them switching their patterns during daylight hours. I knew my chances would be few, so the only thing safe was this years fawns. I didn't want to waste any time sitting in a tree when I could be hanging out with Hutch hunting ducks.
I did eventually get lucky and have a 4 point present me with a shot on the day before duck season. It was my first hunt on the east side this year and it's funny how it all worked out. It had all the makings of being a great night and while I had every intention of going to one stand we jumped 2 deer on the way in that made me change my mind. My dad was in the next field over and I'd get a text every time they were coming my way. Which was nice because we had a light rain and you can never hear them coming on that wet ground. I thought it was going to go down on a group of does but they would never come quite within range. I got the text a group of 3 small bucks were coming my way next and instead of traveling the opposite way when they hit the field they came my way. I just zoned in on the closest one and got ready. My best opportunity was going to be about 25 yards and I let the arrow fly. I watched the arrow hit and by the deers reaction I just smoked him, I didn't expect him to clear the hill but he somehow did. My only concern was my shot placement was a little low, but his reaction made me feel like I was right in the heart. Since it was lightly raining I got down after a few minutes to assess the situation. I was a little puzzled when all I could find on my arrow was some watery blood. I wasn't sure if it was because the arrow was wet when I shot or what, but I instantly did not feel so good about shot placement.
I got back in the tree and didn't bother checking for blood in the field. I got down a half hour later and went right to the last place I had seen him. I could find nothing in those weeds anywhere. I assumed he kept heading down hill into a small cattail swamp at this point and finally found some blood. It looked like the right stuff but not much of it. A quick look ahead though revealed my deer and it was a relief having one to go in the freezer! It turns out my shot placement was perfect but all the blood stayed in the chest cavity on his short run. I've had couple encounters with does the rest of the season where I thought it was going to happen but they just never took the right steps. I spent opening day of shotgun season deer hunting (I love the tradition of it) but that was probably it for me this year. I may get back out a few times after duck season is over, but we've had some cold weather and we've got ducks. That is hard to pass up since I know if we have a warm year next year the duck hunting will be slow.
Duck season has been an absolute blast this year. We've had some slow hunts and a few pretty good ones by my standards. One thing that has made this season a little different than the last few is the rig I've been able to use. My dad has let me borrow his 16 footer with a longtail motor for the year. Talk about making it way easier to hunt our bigger waterways over here. I'm extremely thankful for that so if you are reading this dad THANK YOU! We've shot a wide variety of birds this year (I can think of 12 off the top of my head) and that always makes things fun. I still am waiting on a good mallard beat down but I'm not sure if that is in the cards or not this year. We've still got a few weeks and this cold weather has been the best thing for lakeshore hunting. There have definitely been a few memorable hunts this year, and of course opening day was one of them. This year we had our public lake all to ourselves and that made things so much more enjoyable. Not that we have ever had anyone ruin a hunt at that spot, but we have seen some dumb stuff. Anyway poor Hutch had to make some long retrieves on cripples through some nasty weeds. I guess you chalk that up to rusty shooting but man did he work hard. Between my dad and I we ended up with 7 ducks and 4 geese. I expected to do better on the ducks, but the geese over water made up for it. It just so happened that I decided not to bring goose decoys this year either so it’s a good thing they are still suckers for a goose call early in the season like that. We did some pretty bad missing too, but either way it was a quality hunt for us. I had also been planning a "big adventure" to visit my bud Cameron and his crew at LSSU for some hunts. The winter switch turned on that weekend and we had a white knuckle drive through the UP. Thankfully "The Dragon" was on his A game and got us there safely. Man did we see some birds the first day, unfortunately we were off the X. But after some moving the spread we got some decent shooting in. We also had to spend a portion of prime time towing a boat who had broken down. I will say those guys deserved it though, they were absolute clowns and I mean that in a bad way. I have no patience for unethical hunters and some of the BS they were doing.
We salvaged our hunt though and had a decent day on Sunday too. The trip definitely lived up to expectations even if we had to sleep on the floor of LSSU townhouses. It's a good thing Cameron will be a super senior next year so we can come back. I had a 3 day weekend because of Veterans Day (huge thank you to all our veterans) so naturally I was going to hunt locally with Hutch that morning. It's not often that just Hutch and I hunt together so I was looking forward to that. Plus I was going to pick up Mabel from daycare afterwards and spend the day with her. I'd been gone all weekend so I definitely needed some Mabel time. The day started off with a mallard that I thought was stone dead coming back to life. As soon as Hutch got close to it the duck rolled back over and started diving to evade him. When this happens Hutch will get his head up high and tread water much like a human would. This one proved to be a tough one and after a couple minutes of the duck diving and resurfacing, Hutch got his mouth on it. As soon as he brought that duck back I had 2 hooded mergansers in the decoys. While they aren't good to eat on their own they do just find ground up into diver duck sausage. He went back out to fetch them so it was a solid stretch of activity for the dog. I probably should have been more patient for some mallards after that but I ended up filling my limit with buffleheads and was picking up before 9. Which meant I was going to get a lot of Mabel time after a quality hunt with the dog, it was a great day. It isn't often I'm leaving west Michigan public land with a limit or that a limit even matters, I usually don't hunt by myself and it's tough to kill 12 or 18 for us. So it was nice to pick up early for a change.
It's interesting to look back on things as we are nearing the end of season 3 for Hutch. He knows the game, his role, and it's cool to see his readiness to hunt before shooting hours. Patience has been a big thing that has improved, he is so much more content to sit there for long periods of time and scan the sky. Sure he's still going to go sniff some bushes and what not when things are really slow a couple times a morning. I've got no problem with that either, he might as well do something fun when nothing is happening. The cool progression for me to see is that he would rather sit there "hunting" than get up and move around now days. That’s all I’ve got for now, my mini vacation from blogging is over so expect another one soon!