Thursday, November 19, 2015

Where They at Though?

Well, another opening day of rifle season has come and gone. All the deer camps have been packed up, everyone brags about who got the biggest deer, and mothers are covering the eyes of their innocent children as they drive by the local buck pole. This year, more than half a million hunters hit the woods on opening day. So, no matter how stealthy you think you are, the deer have definitely noticed that they are not the only ones tromping through the woods anymore, which can change their habits greatly. This can make it very challenging for late season hunters to get their shot at a trophy. However, it is possible, and here a few tips to help you connect with your late season buck.

Thick is good. I have said it before but it can become even more beneficial to hunt the thick areas of the woods after rifle season. The deer are typically a lot more skittish in the late season and don’t feel as safe, which means they tend to hang out in the thicker cover. Here they feel safe until nightfall, when they move out to feed.
Get rid of the bait. I have said this before, but after opening day of rifle season it becomes even more important. Most hunters in the woods on opening day are hunting on bait. So, after rifle season, the deer are conditioned (thanks to Ms. Neyer I know what that word means) to know that bait piles = danger. It is best to hunt where they are naturally traveling to get to bedding areas/ feeding areas. Now, you might go out to your hot spot from October where you would see deer every night, and not see a single one. With so much new commotion in the woods, this can knock deer off their normal patterns. They can completely change where they are during the day, in order to adjust to the new hunters being in the area. I always go out right after rifle season to scout again for where the freshest deer sign is.
Stay the extra hour. This tactic can be very rewarding for getting big bucks, especially during late rifle season. Quite often, if there are lots of hunters in the woods, after the sun comes up, the deer will find a thicket and bed down and sometimes just lay in that one spot all day! Well, when it comes to be about 10:00 a.m. most of the hunters will pack it up and head back to the truck. This can be a golden opportunity for you, if you stay for a while after the rest of the hunters leave. With all the other hunters walking through the woods, they often kick up the deer that typically would be bedded down all day and force them to move around, sometimes kicking them up to right in front of you!
Use these tips to get that big swamp donkey you have been after, because remember, even if you haven't gotten him before opening day, all hope is not lost!     

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Week 4
Fox Squirrel
So, last week I discussed how to find the bucks, where to find them, and what to look for. Well you’re probably thinking, “Hey, ain't nobody got time for that!” And besides, nobody (besides me) wants to just go walk through the wilderness looking for trees that have been banged up by bucks antlers and places on the ground where bucks have peed on themselves. (If this sounds weird to you, it means you didn't read last week’s blog. So go read it.) Though that doesn’t sound very fun, you can make it fun by using that time to small game hunt! Everybody looks at squirrels as these cute little bushy animals that chew on acorns and bury nuts for the winter. The fact of the matter is they are cute little bushy animals that bury nuts for the winter, but they are delicious. Squirrel season is commonly overlooked by many hunters, but it can be quite a good time and can actually be a challenge! Squirrel season opens on September 1st; however, I usually wait to hit the woods in pursuit of these tasty little critters until after the first frost. I do this because through the summer months, squirrels will gather ticks and fleas but when the frost hits, they disappear!
Where do I go? As I mentioned, squirrels love acorns so typically to start your search, find large mature oak trees that are producing acorns. Squirrels also like beechnuts a lot! They will forage where these nuts are found all day making them an easy find for small game hunters. Squirrels themselves can actually be a good hint at where to find deer because quite often, deer and squirrels often prefer the same habitat.
What do I shoot them with? Usually I use my .22 long rifle when hunting squirrels. Another common gun would be a 20 gauge with a game load. However, I prefer a .22 because you have an increased range, and with the shotgun, often you will have to pick bb’s out of the meat. On the contrary, shotguns can be good for beginner squirrel hunters because you are more likely to hit the squirrel at close range. Now if you really want a challenge, take your bow out with a blunt tip! It can be a great way to get in shape for bow season!
What squirrel do I shoot? There are four kinds of squirrels that are common to our area. There are red squirrels, black squirrels, gray squirrels, and fox squirrels. In my opinion, fox squirrels are the way to go. They are the biggest and least gamy tasting (which means they don’t taste like you’re chewing on their raw leg). Next, I would go for gray squirrels. They are the next largest in size and are also not super gamy. Now we are down to black squirrels and red squirrels. My advice would be to just let them walk. Black squirrels are typically not very big and the meat tends to be slimier than fox and gray squirrels. The problem with red squirrels is that they are about the size of a fat hamster. So, by the time you clean them, there is hardly any meat left!
Once you have got a good mess of squirrels, it's time to eat! There are hundreds of squirrel recipes out there, but usually I just fry them in oil and then mix them with flour and crushed up saltine crackers. However, if you are looking for a recipe a little more elaborate, Chef Bubba can hook you up! So next time you go on a scouting trip, make sure you have a .22 in your hand!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Food, Safety, and Women. These are pretty much all bucks think about, and their actions are all based around achieving these three things. However, this time of year, love is in the air and the bucks out there could care less about food and safety. They are all out there running to find the doe(s) of their dreams. That’s right, I’m talking about the rut. Just mention the word rut to any bow hunter, and he will start shaking in his boots because it’s the time of year when you have the best chance at getting a shot at that monster you have been watching all summer. The rut is what the bucks have been spent quite a while preparing for. They have been making scrapes and rubs all throughout the woods, which serve as vital puzzle pieces to hunters hoping to track down these monsters.

What’s a scrape? A scrape is a spot on the ground, usually in the shape of a circle about 1-2 feet in diameter, sometimes smaller, sometimes bigger, where a buck scrapes the ground with his hooves and clears the leaves and exposes the dirt. After he does this, he will hook a small branch that is about head level with his antler and pull it down, then let go and let it snap back, sliding across a gland in his forehead and then lick the the branch repeatedly. Then the buck will urinate on the glands located on its back legs, letting the scents mix and fall onto the exposed soil.  
You’re probably thinking, “Alright, these deer are completely mental. Why the heck are they rubbing the ground, making out with tree limbs, and peeing on themselves?” WOMEN! That’s why! Bucks do this to let does in the area know that they are single as a pringle and ready to mingle. They hope that a doe will smell the scent on the scrape and hang around the area waiting for the buck to return, and when he does return...well we will keep this blog pg, we all know what happens.
Bucks can get very territorial and fight
throughout the rut.
Okay, so what’s a rub? Rubs are a little more simple. A rub is a spot on a small tree, typically trees only 2-3 inches in diameter, where a buck rubs its antlers on the tree repeatedly. Why, you may ask? Usually bucks make rubs earlier in the year than scrapes, and typically they do it because they are itchy! When bucks grow their antlers, they are actually soft, and surrounded by blood, which is all encased in velvet. This velvet is what you see in the summer months when the antlers look fuzzy. In the fall, the antlers start to harden, and the blood dries which makes the antlers itchy to the deer, which makes them rub their antlers on little trees to itch them and take the velvet off.
If you are out in the woods and see several scrapes and rubs, you know you are in buck territory. Bucks will make these scrapes and rubs off of deer highways and make several different scrapes and rubs which can make the deer easier for hunters to find.
Hunting these areas during the rut can be greatly rewarding because bucks that are typically cautious and nocturnal, are now chasing does all day and can be completely unaware of their surroundings when they are zeroed in on a hot doe. I once had a buck run across my driveway chasing a doe while I was getting into my car for school. He was so focused, he never even knew I was there! So, if there is one time of the year that you have the best chance of getting a monster, it's during the rut.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hope For the Best, Plan For the Worst

Week 4: Hope For the Best, Plan for the Worst
         Well, another annual deer camp with the boys has come and gone, and this year was probably the most exciting one yet! After meeting up with the guys at midnight on Friday and not getting to bed til 2 am, it was pretty clear the only thing we would be hunting Saturday morning was our pillows. We finally made it out to the woods Saturday night and boy were the deer moving! Not 20 minutes into the hunt and we were already seeing deer! After the woods became too dark to see, we all met back at the truck and shared our sightings. The total was 15 deer seen that night! Lucas saw 7 does and a 4 point, I saw 5 does, Travis saw 1 doe, and Sam saw a 6 point. Though none of us decided to fling any arrows down range, it was an exciting night! The next morning we woke up and were sitting in the stand at 6:30. It is very important to be in the stand at LEAST 15 minutes before it starts to get light at all, that way you do not spook any deer on the way in. At about 7:30, I heard the crunching of leaves behind me which is a tell tale sign of either a deer coming your way, or a couple of squirrels having the loudest wrestling match imaginable. I stood up and got ready just in case and out of the brush popped two does. The bigger one was in the lead and I decided that if it presented me with a shot I would take it. They meandered their way through the woods just out of range until they left my sight. I thought they were gone so I sat back down. However, 30 seconds later, they made a 180 degree turn and were heading straight back to me! I stood up and readied myself for a shot. The lead doe was walking through the thick brush, heading towards an opening big enough for me to weave my arrow through so I drew back my bow and waited. It finally got to the opening and I let it fly. The doe bucked and flicked its white tail in the air and ran off in the woods. I couldn't see my arrow so I thought for sure I had missed. I nocked another arrow and sat in the stand wondering what went wrong the rest of the morning. That morning I ended up seeing another doe and a 4 point work their way through the woods. At 10 o'clock, I decided it was long enough and went down to where the deer was standing to look for blood, and sure enough I saw splotches of red in the yellow leaves. However, the blood was not foamy and bright red like you would hope. Instead, it was darker colored. This is a tell tale sign of a liver or kidney shot, which means a longer, sometimes more difficult recovery. We painstakingly tracked the faint blood trail for about 120 yards before we kicked up the deer, and it went jogging away through the woods. This is about the worst possible situation. We knew the shot had been a little bit far back which is why we waited that 4 hours to track it, but unfortunately we did not wait long enough. This can be a devastating mistake because often when deer are gut shot they will run a ways and then lay down until they die. However, if you walk up on them and spook them in this stage they will just run and run and run, sometimes for miles! Discouraged, we went back to the house to wait it out and took a long nap. About four and a half hours later, we went back to the woods, bow in hand, to where we last saw the deer. At this point the deer had stopped bleeding externally and was only bleeding internally which means no more blood trail. So, my dad and I spread out and slowly worked our way through the woods in the direction the deer ran, looking for kicked up leaves, dirt, or any sign of where it ran. We had only walked about 30 yards, and my dad shouted that he saw the white belly! We went over to it and tagged the trophy! After examining it, we discovered that the shot was only about four inches farther back than what would have been optimal, which meant the broad-head had just missed the lungs and struck the liver, We were glad to finally have the deer in our hands!
             Lesson Learned: Always take your time. If the shot didn't feel good, it is always best to wait it out so that you don't jump the deer and lose it! Patience is key in everything from waiting for a quality shot to tracking your deer. Always take your time tracking because one misstep onto a leaf with blood, your next clue, could mean a loss in the blood trail and an unrecovered deer.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Where the Heck Are the Deer?!

Week 3: Where The Heck Are the Deer?!

So, now that you are pretty much robin hood after using the tips we discussed from last week it’s time to get out in the woods! Like every other hunter out there, I have spent countless evenings and mornings in the woods not seeing a single deer. This can get pretty boring because talking to the squirrels and counting squirrels can only entertain for so long! Here are a couple tips for finding the honey hole.
  1. Cover is Important: Lots of hunters are afraid of setting their stand in the thick part of the woods which can be a big mistake! Just like we feel more comfortable in our room than standing in the middle of US 131, deer quite often feel more comfortable in the enclosed thick parts of the woods where they are more concealed. While lots of hunters look for large openings in the woods, I look for the thickest, nastiest part of the woods.

  1. Hunt the Highways: Deer have travel patterns just like people do. Just like we travel to get to food and sleep, so do deer. They will often use the same routes to get to food and bedding area. Map out this deer sign to decipher their patterns. While it is very popular to hunt right on a cornfield, apple orchard, or food plot, I have always found it more beneficial to hunt the routes they use to get to these food sources. If there is woods surrounding the food plot, or cornfield, hunting in the woods can be greatly beneficial! Not only will the deer commonly use the woods to travel through, they will also sometimes hang out in the cover of the woods if they don’t feel safe exposing themselves in the field. They will hang out in the woods until dark and then they will move into the field to feed. It is also good to hunt the routes they use to get to their bedding area. If you find a part of the woods that you don’t even want to try to go into because it is so nasty, chances are deer bed in it.

  1. To Bait or Not to Bait: While baiting is extremely popular with many hunters, I have found baiting to have very strong negative effects to my hunting results.
  • It’s Not Natural: I mean how many times have you been walking around and a giant pile of burgers and pizza that wasn’t there before just appears on the ground? As soon as you see it you would look around and think that something’s up wouldn’t you? Deer do the same thing. I have seen this happen countless times. the deer will come to the bait and before they even get to the bait pile they stand still, rotate their ears, and look around, looking for anything out of the ordinary and the whole time they are there they remain extremely cautious and are just waiting for you to make a mistake.
  • Night Time Feeding: Quite often deer that come into bait piles will become nocturnal and only come in at night because that is when they feel most comfortable.
--- Though I think baiting is not very smart during bow season, it can be okay during rifle season because the deer are farther away and there is more room for error with a rifle. Now, if you are a die hard baiter and won’t do anything else, I would suggest putting out bait and studying what trail the deer are using to get to the bait. Then hunt the trail instead. That way they will be less suspicious.

So this bow season when you are looking for the deer hunting honey hole, remember to not be afraid of the thick part of the woods and to hunt the highways. The most beneficial bow hunting I have found will come from hunting deer trails and areas where the deer roam naturally. Go to the deer, don’t bring the deer to you.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Week Two: How to Become the Real Robin Hood

Week Two: How to Become the Real Robin Hood

Well, October is here which means so are all the pumpkin carving posts on Instagram, the stores filled with various Halloween decorations and sales, and most of all, the pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! While that is what most teenagers look forward to about fall, personally, October means bow season! Breathing the crisp air, and watching as the morning sun breaks through the trees in the woods, glistening off the frosty leaves from your tree-stand is a feeling you want to live over and over again. However, before you can get to this point, you should feel comfortable and confident in your shooting abilities. Bow hunting is a completely different ball game than rifle hunting. Rifle hunting, you can go out with your rifle a week before season opens, run two shells through it, and if they are accurate, you’re good to go! Now, some people have this same mindset about bow hunting, but in order to be a humane and responsible hunter, practice is essential! It is best to consistently shoot throughout the summer to keep your skills up to date. However, lots of people are busy through the summer so they don’t have that much time to commit to shooting. I think that at a minimum, If you want to be in the woods on opening day of bow season, you should be shooting by at least September 1st. However, some people shoot all summer and still are not happy with their results. Here are a few tips I have found helpful to improve my shooting accuracy and consistency.
  1. Breathing: It seems pretty simple but having the right breathing technique can dramatically improve your consistency! After you are at full draw take three deep breaths and on the exhale of the third breath, hold your breath, shoot, and then exhale fully. This will minimize movement or shaking while you shoot.
  2. Floating Pin Strategy: While exercising this strategy, as you are focusing on your target at full draw, instead of focusing on holding your pin dead steady on your target, let it float on and off of your target. When your pin crosses your target, calmly release the arrow. This strategy will reduce the amount of shots that are “pulled” at the last second because it will keep you steady through your shot.
  3. Follow Through: My grandpa always told me, you should see the arrow hit the deer through your sight. This is an excellent piece of advice. After you shoot, keep the bow up. Too often people will lower the bow as soon as they release the arrow. This alters the flight path of your arrow at the last second which leads to extreme inconsistency.
  4. Practice at Different Distances: In the woods, not all your deer are going to walk into your setup at exactly 20 yards every single time. That is why it is important to know how your bow will shoot at different yardages. It could shoot 6 inches higher at 15 yards than it does at 25! Who cares if you can split arrows at 30 yards but nowhere else, because if Bambi’s dad comes in at 15 yards, and you shoot with a bow that is only sighted in at 30 yards, you just shot right over his back!
  5. Find Your Pocket: This is probably one of the most important fundamentals of being a consistently accurate shooter. Just like Ethan Baker, (the best quarterback to ever play for Cadillac High School) gets in his pocket after the ball is snapped, all bow hunters should find their pocket. This refers to your shooting position at full draw. Find a comfortable way to shoot, and take note of how it feels so you can do it again. For example, “Is my nose touching the string, how far back is my hand on my face, etc…" Find a comfortable pocket and shoot that exact way every time. It will greatly improve your consistency and accuracy, I guarantee it.

I hope these tips help you to become a responsible and skillful bow hunter! Remember, practice makes perfect!

Pictures: Google Images

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Welcome to the Outdoor Experience!

My name is Caleb Mitchell, and I am a senior at CHS. In the fall I run cross country, but in every ounce of my spare time I am either in the woods or on the water. Being in the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing has been a passion of mine for my whole life. In this blog I will share hunting and fishing adventures that I have endeavored through the years that might teach you lessons so you can make the most of your future outdoor experiences!

Week 1:
We will start this journey with a humorous story.
            Fisherman's Instinct 
Frankfort Michigan. This is the port
we were fishing out of  that day.
One of my dad's and my favorite pastimes is salmon fishing on Lake Michigan. One particular day after fishing for a few hours it got to be almost dark. We hooked into a monster on one of our rods so my dad took it and I went to move a pole out of the way so I could net the fish, and when I put the went to put the pole in the pole holder, apparently I missed, because I heard a splash, and sure enough, I looked and there was the $220 fishing rig sinking very rapidly to the bottom of the lake. Now, keep in mind we are currently in 200 feet of 55 degree water trolling at 3 mph with no way to turn around for the pole because we had 6 other lines fishing in the water. The way I saw it, my only option was to abandon ship, I mean that's an expensive pole! So there I went, no life jacket, fully clothed, shoes on and everything, into Lake Michigan! So, just like we couldn't turn around for the pole, we couldn't turn around for me either! So my dad, amidst calling me all sorts of colorful names not suitable for some of the young ears reading this, managed to turn the motor off! I managed to snag the pole so now I'm trying to swim back to a boat at dark that is floating away from me, while holding onto a fishing pole! And to make it better, one of my shoes fell off during my stunt, and the reel on the pole has copper line so it weighs almost 10 pounds! I finally made it back to the boat and got a good whack on the head from a freaked out dad! (I thought it was funny a lot sooner than my dad did). But the good news is that I saved the pole! Which is a good thing because if my mom found out we had to replace an expensive pole like that, we probably would never be able to fish again! A little bonus to the story is that after this whole 20 minute shebang, we somehow still managed to land the fish that sparked this episode! (And by the end of the night, my dad finally saw how stupidly funny it was too). So it's all good in my book!

Lesson Learned: No fish is worth dying for, and always take your time and pay attention to what you're doing! Even if you hook into the Loch Ness Monster, don’t rush, because that is where you will make crucial mistakes!