Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Foggy Ducks!

Ok, It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m ready for work to let out so I can finish packing for the grand trip north for deer season with my daughter! Just then, I get a call from Mike, from Chico, from Mike and then again from Chico…. Some how I have now thrown packing to the wind because I’m going DUCK HUNTING! Wahoo! ….I have to be at your house at WHAT TIME?!? …and I thought the ducks were the Quackers! OK, ok, I’ll be fair… I’ve been after Chico and Mike all season about getting me out duck hunting. I’ve been slowly gathering the necessary gear and had everything except waders, shells and a Duck Blind camo coat. Also, after talking with Chico, Mike, Mack and George Lynch (!!!) Sunday, I was really aching to get out and whack some quacks! So duck hunting is on and deer packing is on the back burner. Chico has some waders for me and Mike has a coat! They said something about a boat and sitting in water… sitting??? Must have heard wrong, they said boat too….

I get home and tell the wife the “good” news. The look she gives me when I tell her I need to get up at 2 am is censored (go figure). We have parent teachers conferences tonight and voice lessons after wards. Then I get to load up my gear, have dinner and grab a couple hours sleep. I guess I’m just a little bit excited since I don’t fall asleep until about 11:30 and I wake up at 1:15…wide awake. That’s ok with me, I need to stop on the way to Mikes and get gas and then swing by Meijer’s for a box of shells. (I also grab some long johns since I couldn’t find mine…) Now, at Meijer’s they have 3 ½” steel shot in #2 and BB size…hmmm… Chico said #2, Mike said BB… BB is on the top of the stack so that’s how I decided. I have since learned that for ducks, I’ve just load up like driving a tank at a tracker pulling contest… just a little on the heavy side. …and Man, are those shells big! (should be fun!). Off to Mikes!

Ok, since I got up earlier than planned, Meijer’s had everything I needed and no lines (2 am is a good time to shop!), I get to Mikes at 2:40. He did say we had to leave no later than 3:20…so I’m good. Instead of banging on the door I decide I’d better just sit a few minutes and look at the stars (and put on my new long johns). Around 3:00 I decide I should turn on my headlights just in case Mike looks out the window. He did, and gave me a funny look too when I said I was there, awake and ready to GO! It did take him a few more minutes to get his coffee and put his pants on. We loaded my truck and were on the road by 3:20, just as planned! (Mike stilled looked a little sleepy though) The drive up to Chico’s took about 40 minutes, or so… fog is starting to set in pretty good. We park in front of his house and dump all the gear by his truck while Mike knocks on the door. A quick load and we’re ready to go…. Except that Chico can’t find his license…! Yikes! I’m thinking to myself that this guy duck hunts like mad and he lost his license…o k. (just kidding Chico!). Eventually it’s found in his duck bag and we climb in and start driving. Chico puts in his lucky sound track of country hits and tells us he’s worried because we don’t have time to stop and get his lucky coffee… We’re going to the Shiawassee River, Shiawassee Federal Waterfowl area and have to check in at the St. Charles office for our hunting spot draw by 5 am. We get there in time and Chico gets the second choice for our blind area. Now, we can stop and get Chico his lucky coffee. (every thing we can do to increase our luck, I’m all for it!).

We pull into the boat launch area and I’m starting to get a better understanding on the waders part… we’re going to be taking the boat to our location and then “sitting” in the corn rows of a flooded corn field. Might be wet. Should have said, might be deep! We load the boat, get it started and head down the drainage canal to our spot. Did I mention that it’s foggy and the gas line has a vapor leak…? Did I mention that it’s a 14’ boat with three large men in it…? And I’m in the front, watching the water running awfully close to the top of the boat… I’m thinking “light” thoughts…

Even though it’s just under 30 degrees out, it’s crisp and cold, foggy and I don’t have a clue what we’re doing… I am having the time of my life! And the ducks and geese are making tons of noise already!!!!

Anyways, we finally make it to our area. We pull the boat over the canal edge and walk it to the corn rows. Chico picks a spot and starts setting out the decoys while Mike starts to set up his camera and I help (what little I do) were I can. Now I understand what they were talking about sitting in the water, in the corn. The water is just to the tops of our knees. Chico had told me the day before to take a couple of 2x4’s and make a seat. 30” with a short piece “T’d for the seat part….hmmmm sounds a little iffy… I decide to make my own since Chico was a little vague on the height vs. water part. In 30 minutes I have a steel tube with a detachable support arm and a 12” adjustable seat, swivel seat. Turns out to be a good design. I “plant” my seat in the second row of corn, between Chico and Mike and adjust the seat to put me just above the water (after it settles in the dirt). Chico walks the boat back a ways and into the corn, covered it up and once he’s in his seat we load the guns. Mike’s got the camera ready, Chico is asking for minute by minute calls for shooting time and I’m sitting in 30 degree weather, in a field of corn/water, listening to a zillion ducks and geese, holding my new Remington 887 and happy as could be! And I haven’t even shot anything yet!

It’s shooting time. We see a few ducks and geese flying up from the sanctuary but nothing coming our way. Around 7:20 Chico calls duck, take’m! there is a solo duck flying in from Chico’s side across in front of us. Chico shoots, misses, I shoot (not even sure if I had the gun all the way up I’m so excited!), miss, Mike shoots, misses, I shoot again and watch the duck just fold right up and drop! I got my first duck!!!! WAHOO! Mike goes and retrieves the duck out of the corn row, so we can’t see him until he gets back. He asks, “now, who actually shot this duck?”.. I said, I pretty sure it was me…. A little hesitantly because I’m not sure if I did something wrong or not…. And Mike holds up the duck…It’s got a BAND! My first duck and it’s banded!! WOW!!!! A beautiful Mallard drake with a band! ( and I did not even feel those 3 ½ inch loads!) I tuck his head under his wing and set him right next to me in the water. Cool, Cool, Cool! I can hardly believe my luck! Maybe after I’ve put in a lot more hours of waterfowl hunting I’ll really understand how lucky I am to have dropped a banded bird! Chico’s lucky coffee and CD really work!!!

After that, we’re not really getting any birds flying our way. A couple come cruising in but we can’t connect. 8 am rolls around and I mean Rolls…the fog rolls in and we can hardly see the decoys! Chico spots a hen mallard fly in and she lands just out side of the decoys. He calls a few times and she gradually comes a little closer. Mike is the only one who can see her at this point and he tries to put the smack on her but she’s too hard to line up on and she takes off… in front of Chico and me. I can’t hit her, Chico can’t hit her and she swings around Chico. He still can’t connect and I try one more time. Unfortunately, I’m still a little to close to Chico’s zone and he gets a little “powdered” by my last shot… Chico, can you hear me? Chico? Chico, I’ll use hand signals…? (I think Chico wanted to use a “hand” signal to me….) Sorry buddy, at least I was not the first one to get you… “sounds” like you’re everyone’s favorite powder point! I do feel bad about not opening my zone more and deafening Chico that way.

That hen was the last bird we saw until about 10 am the fog was so thick. You could hear birds flying by, low, but you could not see anything! Speaking of hearing birds, when a whole flock takes off the water….WOW what a sound it makes!

Once the fog moved out, we did find out were the hunters in the area we wanted were…. Twice we watched ducks on “approach” to our decoys, only to watch them fold up over the corn in front of us as they flew over that group of hunters. Oh well, that’s how it works.

We decide to call it a morning and gather up all the decoys, case the guns and load up the boat. We push it back to the canal and get in only to find that we really have a gas line problem. Chico figures out he can keep us moving if he keeps the speed down to prevent the vacuum from choking the line. Back to the truck with my banded mallard and we load up and head back to the DNR station to drop of the hunt card.

I think Chico has a thing for bands… he kept trying to get the one off my duck for some reason…!

Mike, Chico, I can not possibly thank you guys enough for getting me out on my first waterfowl hunt. It was new, exciting and I actually got extremely lucky with my first bird being banded! Thank you!

Chico buddy, thank you for getting everything together and getting us out! You can shoot the next one with a band! Anytime you need someone to hold down the line, give me a call!

Oh yea, the Remington 887 performed flawlessly!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I've been Lynched!

Well, this weekend sure was an interesting one. First, instead of getting out and doing any bow hunting I was down in Dundee at the local Cabelas working for Mossy Oak at the Deer Classic show. Kind of a tough weekend to be working, the weekend before Michigan’s Whitetail gun opener. Business was a little slow and it certainly seemed like there was almost a 3 to 1 ratio of women to men in the store. Business looked a little brisker on Sunday, the day I got Lynched…

Now, if anyone has been listening to the podcasts you know that Mike has been working on a project for George Lynch, you know, Lynch Mob Calls. George was stopping in to meet up with Mike and Chico on Sunday and I happened to luck out by having lunch with them when he stopped by. Our listeners (and readers) will also know that Mike and Mikey and Chico have all been trying to get me out waterfowl hunting this year. I’ve bought a new Remington 887 and even bought my waterfowl license. Besides that, I’ve been serenaded by Mikey and his variety of calls time and again… I even think he’s now called the “Bling Master” or something like that. To actually meet the man responsible for Mikey’s “vocal” obsession and a large proponent of many of the waterfowl conversations, I’ve listened to was very exciting.

To see George walking through Cabelas, you’d never know the man behind the product without realizing he’s one of those folks who just does not need to be anyone other than who he is to do what he loves doing. He looks like anyone’s country neighbor, laid back, friendly to a tee, welcoming and I’ll bet someone you could sit on the porch with over a beer or two and talk until the air ran out. Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s not one of those folks who’ll talk your ear off and bore the saints out of you. George just has so much information, ideas and stories worth listening to, he’ll never have enough time to get them all out. I’d love to sit on that porch, listening and talking until the air ran out, I’d just be ticked that I’d have to pass out from lack of sleep and miss something. (I don’t think George would sleep, he seems like he’s got too much energy).

Telling myself that since I’ve never waterfowl hunted I probably will get totally lost talking with George, I sat and listened and did my best. I got lost on a few points in terminology (heck, I can barely tell a mallard from a wood duck…sitting still) and a few discussions on decoy placement had me wondering what those guy’s had been eating, but I sure started to get fired up about getting out. Hunting ducks and geese is really starting to sound like a great time to get out with friends. It sounds like it’s really a social hunt, the best type of hunting if you ask me. I used to wonder what was so much fun when you see pictures of waterfowlers in the rain and snow, freezing and wet… then I thought of what I’ll go through to be in the deer woods with a bow or gun… Time to get off my behind and go sit in the water or the fields and look up, instead of down.

So George, I just need to pick up some Duck Blind camo and I think I’m ready to go. Mike, Mikey and Chico had better watch out cause I’m probably gonna start buggin the duck snot out of them to help get me out. I might even ask Mikey to teach me a few tunes on a call or two. (Yikes and sorry to anyone in range when I try…) ...Also, my daughter has already asked me to take her Goose hunting... Guess I can make it a family outing!

Some day I hope to have the proficiency to use one of George’s calls and do it justice. He’s put his heart and soul into them and I’d be ashamed to do any less.

Thanks for shaking my hand George, hope we can do so many more times down the road. Honk, Quack and a story or two.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Building a blind for Up North

With today’s economy, building a nice permanent deer blind (or shack as we call them) can get a little pricy. But, as luck would have it, I was helping my cousin out at his building when they had 8 new roof top A/C units delivered, delivered on pallets. Now these are not A/C units you’d have by your house, these are units about 8’ long and 6’ wide…and the pallets are just as big. When I was asked to break the pallets apart for trash pickup light bulbs began to flash and I carefully disassembled them instead. Loaded them in my truck and brought them home, visions of deer shacks in my mind.

Deer shack time. I now had piles of 2x4’s, 2x6’s, 2x8’s and tons of 1x4 and 6s from 6 feet to 8 long (much to the dismay of my wife). Now that I had all the lumber, I needed to design the shack. One of the first considerations I had to plan on was how to pre-build a blind so as not to spend too much time disturbing our hunting area. Then I had to design the shape and how high it needed to be. I figured it needed to fit two hunters (daughter and me) and allow me to go to full draw on my bow, standing…so…about 7’ 6" in the front and 6’ 6” in the back.

With the pallet boards being 6’ long I figured they were already cut for me! So the blind is 6 x 6. I built the platform/floor out of the 2x6 and 2x8’s framed out in two 3’ x 6’ sections that would get bolted together once in the woods. I used the remaining 2x6’s for the flooring. This would be one heavy but very solid blind. I built it so that once the two sections were bolted together down the center, a center floor board would be finished in and two 2x8 frame boards would be bolted to the sides to complete the structural re-enforcement. Hey, I’m a big guy and I don’t want to fall through the middle….especially with my daughter there (she’d probably be ok and would just laugh at me…)

I built each wall in two parts, the primary (bottom) being 6 wide and about 3 tall, and the upper which size would depend on which wall it was on. With the frame being made of 2x4’s I used all the 1x6 and 4’s to make the exterior sheeting. To help prevent rain and snow from coming in, I ran all the boards across my table saw and put 45 degree angles on all the edges. I built the primary sheeting with the boards running horizontally and the 45 degree cuts let them lock up perfectly. I built 3 primary sections and temporarily attached them to the base. I then built each upper wall section, leaving the window areas open until we set the blind and decided the best shooting lanes. I ran the 1x4’s horizontally above the windows to provide a good drip edge for rain. With the 3 uppers built and attached to the primaries, I built a frame for the back that would include the door. The door would only be just wide enough to allow me to get through without making noise. The “back wall/door” section is the largest piece since it needed to have the door frame. I once again attached the 1” stock vertically for the lower portion and left the rest open until we set the stand. A couple of 2x4’s notched for roof support and a couple sheets of ply on top that would be covered in roofing paper and shingles later… and it’s done!. The daughter and I use some spray paint to make dark breakup lines on the blind and she paints the inside a bit in red " A Team" ... Up north it's pretty much me and my buddy against the kids and his dad. We're the B Team and they're the A Team. I think we're ahead in points but the A Team seems to have their own point system ... age, gender, age ...who knows. We're still ahead.

I mark all the boards for location and within 15 minutes the blind is in about 12 pieces and ready to haul up north. It’s late Sunday night so I clean up and head to bed.

The wife is happy all that lumber will soon be out of her driveway too…

The first thing next morning I get a call from my hunting buddy… He threw out his back Sunday.

Today, I’m ordering a Smart Air blind from Gorilla Blinds (http://www.gorillablinds.com/). It’s tall enough for me to shoot my bow out of.

I'm holding off on lots of pictures for now. We're still going to haul the blind north, just not set it up until after the season is over. We've got a new 30 acres that is being timbered over the winter and it will open up new shooting lanes so we might change were we're going to place the blind anyways. When we set it up, I'll take pictures of all the pieces and the finished blind and post them... like I was going to do this week.

Still, the blind only cost me some time and a box of bolts/screws. I can't complain...one mans trash is another mans treasure!