Friday, November 15th I couldn't wait to get back to the area I wrote about in the intro of my book, "Whitetail Success By Design". Making the early morning trek 40 minutes to the blind location through the swamps and brush, with only a compass and a flashlight is an adventure enough, but to do so with my 11 and 12 year old son and stepson really raises the bar!
I have to admit that on opening day we saw zero deer! This is not uncommon for the "deep" swamp and wilderness type setting we hunted, but with 2 boys the day seemed to drag a little slower than normal without any sightings. In fact, we saw more candybars...than any type of wildlife! I love sharing with the boys how to navigate purely by compass, with no markers, ribbons roads or trails to find our way. The last thing those boys like to do is to turn their lights off, but they are always impressed with how much more that you can actually see with the lights "off", than "on". When we approach the blind location through a large marsh a lone, century old white pine guides us in and if the flashlights are shining bright...the silhouette of that giant tree is lost.
During our stops to shut the light off and take in our surroundings, I also enjoy sharing just exactly "why" we are going to hunt were we do. We cross almost a mile of "nothing"; small conifer, marsh, and pockets of spruce. But eventually the habitat changes into a heavy line of conifer that extends for over mile, with connections of other habitat changes including a small ridge system, water, and open marsh. It is where these changes take place that define how bucks move through the area, and even more importantly where we should hunt. By not using any bait of corn, carrots, or beats that is so common throughout the region, we can expect to catch deer within their natural daily movements; in particular as bucks are cruising well away from the traditional baited blinds near roads and turn-offs in search of does. By avoiding other hunters and hunting the lines of habitat change we always enjoy a high level of success!
Today, on November 17th we spent the morning in the blind with my stepson Dante up to the plate as the "hunter" if a buck were to make his way through the funnel we were sitting by. At 10:30 a nice 2 year old 8 point appeared less than 30 yards away and to the left! I turned to Dante to wake him up (he was chin-up and "catching flies")...and he was eventually able to get the gun up. The buck traveled to our right and crossed at 40 yards...50 yards...and at 60 yards Dante appeared to put some pressure on the trigger; but, no shot! The buck was cruising by and when Dante thought he had a shot, the buck went behind a tree. The buck started to get closer to 100 yards away and behind several spruce trees. I grabbed the rifle to attempt to line the buck up for Dante and the buck crossed through the opening too quickly for him to fire.
A 2 year old buck is a true "trophy" on most of MI's public lands and this area is no exception, however what a great time we had trying to line that buck up for Dante! The experience was awesome...the sighting for Dante will be something he remembers for the rest of his life, and the pounding we felt in our hearts was very real! The only bad thing? My youngest son Sam had replaced Jake for the morning and he was fast asleep on the floor of the blind when the buck traveled by.
We will be back as soon as the rain lets up...and the experience that Dante gained will help him within many near future hunts to come. Best of all were the memories made of navigating in the "wilderness", a beautiful UP of MI 8 point, and time spent with my boys!