Thursday, November 29, 2007

Deer Season 2007 - Update

I am happy to say that I got a deer!

Last Monday afternoon, Arlene and I looked at the weather for the week and it looked pretty bad; lake effect snow, cold and high winds. We decided that we didn't want to wait for the weekend to take the utility trailer back up to camp to store for the winter. So we got off work a little early, and hooked up the trailer. Since we thought we might have a couple hours of hunting time after we got there, we dressed in our hunting clothes and just took my gun. We got the trailer situated and parked the car in the meadow near Cadillac II and walked in.

After only a half-hour, Arlene could see a deer coming in from the East. It was a small button buck. He was in eating for quite a while when a car on the road spooked him and he left. About 20 minutes later he was back, and munched some more until another car sent him off into the thick woods.

Not too very long after that, I spotted a doe walking in from the road to Skyview. She came right to the food and began to eat. She was a real nice doe, not too small and not too large. I had the gun ready in the window and when she finally offered a good shot, I took it. She ran parallel to the road and towards camp and made a sharp left turn and disappeared. Arlene was sure she was down. It was 3:50 pm. We gave her about 20 minutes and then went to look.

She was about four feet from where we saw her turn and down in a small hollow. I knelt beside her and apologized to her for shooting her and thanking her for her sacrifice. I've been doing this since I learned a Native American teaching that says that when you go hunting, one animal will always sacrifice itself so that you and your family can eat that winter. When you see that deer, you will know, deep inside your heart that this is the animal that you are supposed to shoot. The deer will offer you a broadside shot so that you can shoot it in the best possible place so that it will die quickly.

After I learned about that legend, I thought about all the deer I have taken and realized that every one of them came in and offered me a perfect broadside standing shot. They were sent to me. So now when I sit down to a delicious meal of venison, I say a prayer and thank the deer for it's sacrifice and honor it's memory.

I was very lucky to get the doe because since then our weather has been awful. We've had heavy lake effect snows, high winds and near blizzard conditions for the past week and a half. I was hoping to hunt our Michigan Muzzleloading season which is Dec. 7 to the 16th but with Pickford getting a lot of snow all last weekend it looks pretty doubtful. The road to camp is considered "seasonal" and the county rarely plows it.

We will have to get in to camp at some point to check the level of snow on the trailers and shovel it off if it is too deep.

Time to break out the snowshoes!!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Camp Chicken Deer Camp 2007 Week 2

Dan couldn't go to camp for the Thanksgiving weekend so Arlene and I packed up and headed to camp Friday morning about 8:30 am. It was really cold, about 10 degrees. We got the generator going and turned up the heat in the trailer to get it warmed up. We had dressed at home in our hunting clothes so all we had to do was grab our backpacks and guns and head to the Cadillac II. Soon we had the Mr. Heater pumping out the heat and we were toasty warm. The day was crisp, calm and dry but by early afternoon it started to snow. We didn't see anything but big does and babies all that day. By evening we had about 2 inches of snow on the ground.

This is "Red", he lives in the remains of the Cadillac I, that we tore down and stacked up right beside the Cadillac II, when we built the new shack. He is a cute little pest and has gotton pretty fat eating our corn for the last month and a half.

We had our Camp Chicken traditional "Day After Thanksgiving" dinner that night. Arlene takes the leftover turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, turnips and baby carrots and puts in all in a 13 x 9 inch cake pan, smothers it in the turkey gravy and we heat it up like a big TV dinner. It is delicious!! Cindy came up for dinner and we played three handed Attack Uno until about 9:30 and she headed home.

Saturday morning we found 3 more inches of snow on the ground and headed out at 6:30 am to hunt all day. The day started okay but the weather got worse as the day went on.

The snow really started to come down pretty heavy and the wind got up and it was an old-fashioned UP snow storm. Naturally, deer don't move in that kind of weather.

Arlene seems to think that this is the reason I don't see any deer. I don't understand what the heck she's talking about. In this weather, there weren't any deer to see!

Finally, about 4:30 pm as the wind died down they started coming in to eat. We had a big doe and her fawn in eating and three other big does wanted in to eat. Something was snorting right behind the Cadillac and suddenly one of the big does spooked and we had deer running in every direction and in a heartbeat they were all gone.

Sunday morning was clear and beautiful with a full moon still pretty high in the sky at 6:30 am. It was so bright on the new snow that we didn't even need flashlights to walk back to the shack.

We had deer in early to feed but nothing nice enough to shoot. This little doe came in to eat and if you look closely, you can see "Red" right under her feet eating too. He gets so close to the deer's feet, that they sometimes kick him accidently.

By 9:00 am, the wind got up again and we called it a day. Rats, no deer again.

We had to close up Camp Chicken for the winter Sunday, so that means a lot of work. Arlene does the inside of the trailer and I do the outside chores and hook up the utility trailer to haul the 4-wheeler back home for the winter. I cut down a nice little spruce for our "Outside" Christmas Tree. We put up an artificial one inside but it just doesn't seem like Christmas without a real tree so we decorate one outside too. We actually finished in record time and were home by about 2:00 pm.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Camp Chicken Deer Camp 2007


Deer Camp 2007 was a fun, relaxing time at Camp Chicken. Arlene, Dan and I arrived on Wednesday night and were so excited about the next four days. Mom and Cindy came up to visit us that night and to bring Arlene a birthday present as November 14th is her birthday.

We could hardly sleep that night and I was up at 4:34 am to get ready.

Dan was itching to get going too and was all dressed and over to fill up his new Stanley thermos by 5:15 am.

Dan and I were in Skyview at 6:04 am, which was a tad early as you really can't see until about 7:00 am.

We saw quite a few deer that day but none we really wanted to shoot. Friday proved more of the same. We are pretty picky about what we take anymore. When you think about the work involved in shooting a deer: tracking it, dragging it out of the woods, field dressing, hanging it so that it ages properly and then butchering it; you want to make sure you take a good one.

After we got in from hunting Friday night we found my sister Cindy trying to figure out the gas oven so that she could get the lasagna cooking for us. Arlene's daughter Janet makes us a big pan of venison lasagna for our dinner during deer camp. Yummm! After a great meal we got out the Attack Uno game and went a few rounds. 10:00 pm is bedtime during deer season so Cindy reluctantly left so that we could get some shuteye.

Friday, while hunting with Dan in Skyview, I popped something in my neck and suffered the rest of the day with muscle spasms. So I decided to hunt Saturday from the Taj Mahal right by camp in case the spasms got so bad that I had to put some warm compresses or ice on my neck. Arlene convinced me to hunt with her at Cadillac II on Saturday as it is within easy walking distance of camp so I agreed.

Saturday was perfect UP deer weather: no wind and a steady soft snowfall. We saw a good buck at 7:45 am and Arlene was ready to pull the trigger but he never stepped out of the bushes for a good shot. I couldn't get a good look at his head but I saw a lot of antlers. The last we saw of him was his hindend headed East.

It was chilly that day so Arlene had her "Mr. Heater" going all day in the Cadillac II, to keep me warm . It really puts out the heat. I wanted to make sure my neck was warm so the muscle spasms didn't return so I dressed in lots of layers; poly-pro long underwear, heavy camo sweatpants, a heavy thermal underwear top, hooded sweatshirt, camo insulated bib overalls and my camo/blaze orange reversable vest.

At least that is how I started the day. Here I am, alert and watchful and the Cadillac II is now warm enough that I can take off the bib overalls and hooded sweatshirt. It's getting pretty toasty in here.

About an hour later, the Cadillac is really warm now. Those Mr. Heaters really put out the heat!! It is snowing and about 28 degrees outside but inside it must be about 75 degrees. I've shed the camo vest, insulated underwear top, camo sweatpants, and hunting boots and am down to just my poly-pro black long underwear.

Okay, it's really getting warm in here. I had to shed my heavy wool hunting socks next. I told Arlene that all she needed in there were some rocks and water to pour on them and I could take a sauna (it's like a steam bath for all you non-Yoopers out there).

I guess the heat finally got to me because about a half-hour later, Arlene took this photo:

Arlene was hoping a deer would come along so that I could shoot my buck in barefeet and long underwear. She thought that would be a great story.

For some reason, Arlene was quite comfortable and didn't seem to be bothered by the heat in the shack at all. She managed to be quite a bit more alert than I was, as you can see.

We did see deer all that Saturday. Our skinny resident doe came in to eat. She normally eats at the Taj Mahal and is so used to our presence that she merely raises her head to look at us while we are outside the trailers at Camp. I hadn't had time to put out food at the Taj, so she came down to the Cadillac for her meal. She had found a boyfriend too, a young muscular spikehorn that Arlene had seen the previous day. They made a nice couple. He's going to be a really good buck next year.

When we came in from our shacks after dark we had a nice surprise; Arlene's daughter Judi (Dan's wife) had driven out from the Soo to spend the night and go hunting with Dan the next day. We had leftover lasagna and macaroni soup for dinner. Just as we were finishing up, Mom pulled in to visit and brought treats. My Mom is so great! Every weekend that we are at camp, she bakes some great treats for us to eat: ginger cookies, brownies, peanut butter and jelly bars, and lots more.

Sunday morning was cold, calm and very clear. The stars were just brilliant in the early pre-dawn sky as we made our way out to hunt. Dan and Judi took his big 4-wheeler out to Skyview and I hunted with Arlene in Cadillac II. It was an odd day. We never saw a single deer all day long but Dan and Judi saw 13. We decided to call it quits at 1:30 pm so that we could get in early to pack up camp and get home to unload in the daylight.

So the sad story is that for the first time in a very long time, there were no deer hanging from the old Camp Chicken Buck Pole for Opening Weekend. But that's ok. We had a great time, great food and great company. And, there is still this weekend!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Deer Season Preparation at Camp Chicken

Busy weekend at Camp Chicken as the final preparations were done for the deer season opener on Thursday, November 15th. We arrived at camp Friday, about 5:30 pm and Mary and Tiny arrived shortly after. Dan was already there and had started the generator and run the extension cords to the trailer and motor home. Cindy came up for supper as Dave had left that day for sunny California to visit his family for 3 months.

After dinner, we had a rousing game of Attack Uno. We are so addicted to that darn game. What fun we have playing it!

Thats Cindy and Mary during a lull in the game. We hate to let them sit beside each other as they tease each other so badly. After Cindy left for home, Dan, Mary, Arlene and I stayed up visiting until past 11 pm.

I was up at 5:30 am to go sit in the Taj Mahal for a couple of hours but no deer. We all had coffee and planned the days chores. Why is it that coffee tastes so much better at camp? Actually, everything tastes better at camp.

We all went down to Mom and Dad's to help Dad carry in his new wood stove he got at Tractor Supply for his garage. We had quite a time getting the stovepipes all hooked up but managed to get it all set for him. Mom rewarded us with homemade brownies. Yumm!

Mary's brother was flying in from North Carolina Saturday afternoon for deer season. He hunts just a short distance from Camp Chicken at his father's property. So she left to pick him up at the airport and we went back to camp.

Dan and I went to Skyview to put our chairs, heater and extra little propane tanks in the shack and to replenish the feeding station. Wow, what a muddy mess! The deer have it all torn up back there. We found that a big poplar tree had come down right across our path to the shack just missing it by about 10 feet. If it had hit Skyview only 5 days before deer season, I don't know what we would have done. I took down the camera to download the deer pictures and he went to get the chain saw to clear the tree out of the way.

Next, I brought beets to Arlene's shack, Cadillac II and took out the card from her new deer camera. It takes really sharp photos but the settings between pictures are can only be 30 seconds, 1 minute or 2 minutes. It took 241 photos in just three days!!

Arlene's camera caught a nice sequence of photos of a good looking 4-point.

There were some really beautiful shots of deer on the camera but I especially liked this one of a graceful doe in a fresh snowfall.

Arlene took some nice shots of Dan and I on our 4-wheelers riding back and forth from camp to Skyview from her shack. Dan's 4-wheeler is quite a bit larger than mine.

This is me on my little Honda 300. My neighbor Ronnie calls them "Buggies". Well, I just love my little "Buggie". It is a little workhorse around camp and uses less gas than those big machines.

Arlene was getting her things ready in the Cadillac II and trying out her new chair. She bought this really comfortable leather office chair for her shack. Talk about going First Class, LOL. It reclines and has comfortable armrests and you can adjust the height with just a touch on a lever. I just hope she doesn't fall asleep in there.

After our chores were done we went back to camp to look at the deer photos. Dan had to go home that night so Arlene and I went to Hessel casino for supper.

Sunday, I got up early again to hunt. We had our coffee and went to work finishing our chores.

Everything is all set for deer season and we are getting pretty excited. We have things to do at home Monday and Tuesday and then Wednesday after work we'll load up and head for Camp Chicken Deer Season 2007. We can't wait!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Beautiful Camp Chicken Weekend

Mary, Tiny, Arlene and I went to Camp for the weekend. We left early Friday at 2:40 so that we could get to Camp and hook up the utility trailer for the trip to Pickford's Feed Mill for a load of sugar beets. When we got back we went to Arlene's shack's feeding station to put up the new Bushnell Trail Camera that I bought her for her birthday and Christmas present. It is a nice camera and uses SD memory cards so all you have to do is unlock the camera and swap out the memory card. Saves alot of time mounting and unmounting the camera.

I had put my camera up at Skyview the weekend before so I fired up the 4-wheeler to run back and collect the camera and download pictures.

Arlene decided that it might be our last weekend warm enough to grill out so she made grilled pork chops, fried potatoes and boiled baby carrots for dinner. Cindy and Dave came for dinner and afterward I downloaded the camera photos. Mary waited impatiently for the photos to download while we cleaned up and did dishes. Excitedly she announced "There's a buck". Once the pictures were all downloaded, I transfered them into Corel so that we could all look at them and sure enough, there was a buck.

He is the biggest buck I've seen on our property since we started coming up here 10 years ago and certainly the largest one captured on camera. He actually has a piece of rotton wood sticking out of his mouth. The wood is saturated with "Buck Jam" a gooey apple-flavored jam that has minerals in it that deer really like. We had used it three years ago but discontinued it when we thought it was attracting bears. When so few deer were visiting the stations, Arlene remembered how much the deer loved Buck Jam and started using it again and within two days we started seeing lots of activity at the stations again.

Saturday morning was very cold, about 25 degrees but I went out for a few hours to hunt in the Taj Mahal. Didn't see a thing. After the girls and I had coffee and donuts for breakfast we went to work. Mary and Tiny helped Arlene drain the water out of the trailer and put away our swing and lounge furniture while I used the 4-wheeler to bait all of our spots. Mary and Arlene built a nice fire so that when we took a break we would be warm.

Mary and Tiny had to leave early Saturday so R and I continued our chores until Mom came about 2:00 PM. She brought treats and we had a nice visit. At 3:30 I got dressed and Arlene and I went back to the Cube. She sat in the Cube and used the doe bleat call and rattled while I set myself up in ambush spot but no love-sick buck visited us.

Afterwards, we went to Hessel casino for dinner and to play a little while.

Sunday morning was as cold or colder than Saturday and I was out in the Taj Mahal about 40 minutes earlier than usual. I hadn't been in there 10 minutes when I could hear footsteps on the frozen leaves and then the sound of the crunching of sugar beets. It was too dark to see more than shadows so I used my binoculars and picked up a deer eating at the beets. It was quite large but I couldn't make out it's head so don't know if it was a buck or not. It left before it was light enough to see.

After breakfast, we went out to check the camera and found that we had it too far from the bait pile for the flash to take good pictures. So we moved it to the tree that I used with my camera and set it up again.

Afterwards, I cut up a nice dead maple limb and R built a fire while we worked at packing up stuff to take home that we don't use in deer season. Space in the trailer is at a premium during hunting season so any unnecessary items are taken home.

I don't know which I enjoy more actually. Hunting season is great fun but I enjoy the month before when you are keeping the feeding stations stocked at each shack and out walking the woods looking for tracks, rubs and scrapes. Arlene carefully checks around each feeding station, looking for tracks or signs of bucks and to see what direction they may have come from and where they went when they left. Of course, the trail cameras make it much easier. You can see exactly what time the deer came in and how long they stayed. Some of the newer camera models even have the moon phase info on them. It's all high-tech hunting now. But even with all of that, the deer are pretty good at outsmarting us humans. Bless 'em.