Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day in Michigan

Typically, Memorial Day weather in Michigan is nothing to write home about. If my memory serves me correctly, the last four Memorial Days were either cloudy or rainy and not particularly warm. However, this Memorial Day seemed to really kick off the summer.

This year, I took the family to the in-laws for the weekend to help out with some projects and to relax (and to play some golf). I'm not one to check the weather forecast on a regular basis, but it might have helped this past weekend. My father-in-law and I proceeded to move a small tree in the blazing sun, which caused my back to turn a nice shade of red. I guess it would have helped had I put on sunscreen, but I didn't think that we would be out in the sun for so long. Taking a break from moving flora around the yard, we decided that we needed to rip out the toilet on the first floor. Needless to say, that turned into a fun fun adventure of PVC pipe, which ended with the toilet back in its original spot and working perfectly, much to our relief. The other major project was installing the three air conditioners in my in-law's house. Two of them were not too bad, but the third was a gigantic beast which took the both of us to carry and install. The rest of our time was filled with smaller chores of cleaning and getting ready for Monday's yearly grilling of burgers and tube steak (hot dogs). Speaking of which, Monday was the original topic of this post, so I guess I'd talk about it.

Well, Monday was the hottest day of the extended weekend. Fortunately, we hadn't planned to do much except to grill and enjoy the company. This year, it was decided to have the picnic inside the large garage due to the heat, which happened to hit the mid-90s. My father-in-law and I set up a couple of fans and we had the garage door shut and it was pretty comfortable in there. Well, the party had started and we had been eating for about 25 minutes or so when the power went out. My father-in-law thought one of the breakers had been tripped, so he checked his electrical box. However, to our dismay, the electricity was out for a wide area of homes. This forced most of us into the house which had been pretty cool thanks to the air conditioners, but it did dampen the mood a bit. Once my father-in-law and I got his generator up and running, we had one air conditioner and the refrigerator working.

As I stated earlier, this Memorial Day really seemed to kick off summer, and the events of the weekend confirmed just that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Paul goes hunting

Yes, I realize this post is about six months late, but I've been busy. Enjoy!

Note: Follow the fun with the image below. Just match up the number next to the time to the number on the satellite image.

6:30 a.m. (1)

I was anxious to get out to the deer blind. I had gone hunting the previous year and bagged nothing, so my nerves were racing as I finished donning my bright orange jacket and hat. I grabbed my tote bag filled with snacks, extra shotgun shells, and a thermos of coffee. And for those of you who may wonder, the coffee smell does not seem to deter the deer. I loaded five .20ga shells into the shotgun and headed out the door.

6:40 a.m. (2)

It was still rather dark as I walked out to the blind. When I was about halfway there, I saw some deer about 50 yards in front of me run into the woods. I hoped they would return soon to finish their eating.

6:50 a.m. (3)

I got settled into the blind and got all of the carpet flaps opened so I could view the field in front of me. I hesitated to have some coffee because I didn't want it to make me too jittery. I checked my gun to make sure the safety was on and I settled back waiting for the sun to rise over the horizon.

7:30 a.m. (4)

The sun had risen and I was getting anxious to see some movement in the field. I was also wanting to have some coffee, but something told me to hold off for a while. My heart skipped a beat as I saw some movement from the opposite side of the field. I raised my gun to watch the deer through the scope. The deer was still a distance away, but I noticed that it had something atop its head. Again, my heart skipped a beat when my common sense kicked in and I realized those were antlers. I kept praying that the buck would slow down before he reached the other side of the field and disappeared into the woods. About 15 yards before the woods, he came to a
stop. I thought to myself, "This is it, you've been waiting for a chance to bag a buck, and here it is". The buck was about 70 yards away from me, which is still within the effective range of a .20ga shotgun. I put the crosshairs right above the shoulder and a little to the back with the thought that I was aiming for the lungs. As the gun fired, my left eye opened to watch the result. I saw the buck jump about 4 feet into the air and then run into the woods. I was sure I had gotten him. I called back to my in-laws house and quietly told my mother-in-law what had occurred. She said she had seen the buck jump too, and that she was sure I had gotten him. She told me to stay put for about 5 minutes and then she would meet me out in the field to help look for tracks or a blood trail. The house is about 300 yards away from the blind, so we quickly met up and began searching for a trail. Nothing. No blood, no tracks, nothing. The ground was still frozen so we couldn't tell where the deer had taken off, and none of the leaves along the edge of the woods showed blood or appeared disturbed. We both looked into the woods to see if we could see the buck laying on the ground, but again nothing. We couldn't walk into the woods because they were owned by the neighbor next door, and he was still asleep, so we couldn't call him to ask if we could walk around in the woods. Needless to say, I was disappointed. My mother-in-law told me to head back to the blind and keep a sharp eye out for more deer. I settled back in the blind and finally had some coffee.

8:45 a.m. (5)

I was still miffed about not bagging that buck and was not really paying attention to the field when suddenly a doe ran out in front of me from along the woodrow. I quickly brought my gun up to my shoulder and took a shot. Mistake #1: never take a shot in a hurry. The doe was about 40 feet away from me and I missed. Remember, I had a scope on this gun, and I still missed. Mistake #2: I was always told to squeeze the trigger and not pull it. I pulled it.

Okay, so after I missed the doe from 40 feet, she ran straight away from me about 30 feet and immediately turned left. I took another shot at her. Missed again. Just then, I realized that a small buck was chasing her. I guess he was too busy thinking about getting some, to realize he had just ran into Paul's re-creation of Metal Gear Solid (a stealth/sniper/shoot-em-up game for you non-gamers). Keeping with the developing pattern, I took a shot at him...and missed.

For some stupid reason, I left the blind thinking that I might have actually shot the doe. I wandered around the field in the general area she was, just to see if there were any blood trails. Why I actually thought I might have shot her, I still don't know.

Okay, I've been in the blind for nearly two hours now. I've seen three deer and taken four shots. Refresh my memory again, how many deer have I bagged? Oh yeah...NONE!

10:00 a.m. (6)

Still feeling disappointed about not yet bagging a deer, I was surprised when a large doe started walking across the field from my left. Apparently she didn't get the memo about the crazy hunter in the SE corner of the field. She was walking slowly across the field until about midway when she broke into a trot. I start praying for her to slow down or even stop. She stops about 30 feet from the woods, about 60 yards straight in front of me. I set myself up for the shot and got her lungs right in the crosshairs. Apparently I hadn't remembered my lesson from about an hour ago, because as soon as I got her in the crosshairs I pulled the trigger. I don't know if the shot went high or low, but the doe ran into the woods. However, to my surprise, she only went in about 15 feet, and about a minute later, she wandered back out into the field. I think to myself, "Cool, I get another shot at her". Again I get her in the cross hairs...again I miss. This time, the doe runs about 30 feet into the woods. And, a minute later, she comes wandering back out into the field. Now, you can just imagine all the thoughts running through my head, "Cool, another chance", "I'll get her this time", or "Third time's the charm". Nope, the consistent thought running through my head was, "She's mocking me, she's actually daring me to take another shot at her". Having missed the doe twice now, and her giving me another chance, I thought that maybe the sights were off on the gun. So, I aimed just over the back of the doe...and missed again. This time, she didn't come back out of the woods. She kept on going and I lost sight of her.

Thoroughly fustrated with myself, I call up to the house on my cell phone. I start telling my mother-in-law about what had just occurred, and she told me that the gun was not off and that I needed to take more time before taking my shot. She reminded me again that I needed to squeeze the trigger and not pull it. The conversation settled me down and I decided to stay in the blind until noon.

11:00 a.m. (7) (8)

Okay, quick recap. I've seen four deer, taken seven, yes SEVEN, shots, and not bagged a single deer. It had been an hour since I last took a shot, so in keeping with the theme of the day, a large doe appeared at the far edge of the woods in front of me. She was about 200 yards away, so there was no way I could take a shot at her. I kept watching her and praying that she would keep wandering my way. Slowly but surely, the doe kept walking closer and closer. Now, as you can well imagine, having taken seven shots and not hit anything, I wanted to make darned sure that I was going to bag this doe. So, I waited until the doe was about 15 yards in front of me. I
talked to my mother-in-law later on in the day about this event, and she described herself as yelling though the picture window for me to "shoot the deer!". Well, the doe was facing directly toward me, so I wasn't going to have a clear shot at her lungs, but I decided that instead of waiting for her to turn, I would take a shot along her spinal column. She bent down to eat some grass, and I put my sights right on her spine and behind her neck. This time, having learned my lesson, I squeezed the trigger. The first thing the doe did when the slug hit her was to drop to the ground on all fours. However, that lasted about two seconds, after which she shoddily scrambled to her feet and took off towards the woods, which happened to be about 35 feet away. Well, after my long morning of shooting and missing, there way no way I was going to let this doe get away, despite having a slug in her back. In a split second, I racked my pump-action shotgun, and in an unprecendented moment of brillancy and accuracy that would make any shoot-em up video gamer proud, I promptly buried a slug in her neck while she made a dash for the woods. Her momentum carried her into the grass just on the edge of the woods and she flopped to the ground, kicked her legs for a couple seconds and then it was over. I waited a moment before leaving the blind to catch my breath and to put the safety on the gun. When I got over to the edge of the woods, to my surprise, the doe was not a doe at all, but a button buck (a male deer that was born that spring). A couple of phone calls and 20 minutes later, my wife's grandfather came out to the woods in his pickup and helped me gut the deer. I've never gutted a deer before, but I won't bother you with the details. Needless to say, nothing on ER or those other hospital shows bothers me anymore.

2:30 p.m. (9) (10)

My wife's grandfather and I have managed to load the button buck in his pickup, bring it back to the house and string it up in a tree. I'm in a very good mood because I've just bagged my first deer, and it happened to be a buck. We finish having a late lunch and are just sitting down to rest when my in-laws' neighbor stops by. Apparently my father-in-law, who went to work at 4:00 a.m., had heard about my exploits and called the neighbor because he thought the first buck I shot at might be dead. As I detailed earlier, my mother-in-law and I did not see anything that would indicate that I had shot the buck, and we couldn't call the neighbor because he was still sleeping. Well, my father-in-law called the neighbor up around noon or so, and the neighbor came over to tell me that he had a dead buck in his woods. I quickly ran back into the house to tell my wife the good news. So, my wife's grandfather and I went back to the woods, located the buck, which happened to be a 5-point, gutted him and strung him up next to the button buck.


Thinking back on that fun but busy day, I don't think that I would have changed a single thing about it. Yes it was fustrating missing all those shots, but the excitement that followed more than made up for the disappointment. Now I've got to decide whether I want to go hunting again this year!