The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Monday, November 16, 2015

Opening Doe

Opening Doe

I haven't been writing much, and unhappily neither have been reading that much. The usual justification would be that work and other earthly responsibilities are taking too much of my time, but maybe, just maybe, there could be other reasons.

From mid-September through the first weekend in November I've been doing as much bird hunting as I could afford, with the exception of a weekend when my friend Bob Scott came bow hunting. And we had fun even if we never saw a deer and spent some great time together.

To say that grouse hunting was challenging would be an understatement. There was very little fruit, and therefore birds did not concentrate in coverts, and finding them was not only difficult but almost accidental. I only shot two grouse so far (my friend Del shot more, but logged many more hours and miles for those). The first was in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in a beautiful early fall morning. We flushed that grouse at least twice before it flushed from a tree and I got it with a right barrel. The only shot that I fired that morning. In order to celebrate such a prize Del and I stopped at the Western Avenue Bar and Grill in Glenn Arbor, the small city that is still recovering from the destructive power of the August 2nd storm. I had their fantastic Lobster Seafood Roll and a couple Two Hearted Ales.

The other grouse came in a rather gloomy and wet late October Saturday after Del, a couple of his friends and I had lunch at Jodi's Tangled Antler where I had their excellent Rueben. We were exploring a covey that was productive in previous years. Our group split in two and I was engaged in good conversation when I heard a call of BIRD! I pivoted counterclockwise and fired two Hail Mary shots at the fast crossing grouse. Either because I am an accomplished shotgunner or less likely for being lucky the best tasting bird in the world came down. Probably from a single gloden BB, but who cares? What a beautiful bird.

For as hard as grouse hunt was, woodcock was a different story all together. We hit local birds in late September and the flight came strong in early October and we had no problem in getting limits almost everytime we went out. I even had a one of the great moments of my hunting life when I shot a true double on woodcock. The right barrel dropped a bird that flew straight away from me and the left barrel got a bird that flew to my right. The only problem is that the two witnesses, my "good friends" Del Whitman and Bill Berghuiss are considered less than reliable by some! And since Bill was not shooting that well that day...

(Bill had to have another stent roto-rooted in his heart and now say that is the reason his shooting was off. Some people will find any type of excuse!)

But the great goal this season was to collect rent from the deer living in Neverland. Last year I had a glimpse of a doe on Opening Day and that was it. The weather pattern was so strange that the deer probably took vacations to better climates.

Well, whenever I was not bird hunting I was bow hunting at Neverland and although there was a lot of deer signs (tracks, trail cam photos, and disappearing apples) my tenants were very unpolite and refused to meet me. To add insult to injury Del shot a doe on November 5th when I was working in Texas.

Last week I did my first complete circuit around Lake Michigan and logged 1,300 miles during four days. And the mileage along with long working days took their tool on me and I was only able to hunt the morning of the silent day (14th), again without seeing anything and I slept almost all afternoon. That evening my wife asked where I was going to process my deer and I told her not to worry since with all the luck I had so far I had no great expectations for Opening Day.

And not having great expectations I had the best night of sleep before any previous Opening Day and woke on time and almost rested at 5:00 AM. I was in Neverland just before 6:00 AM and waited for Del. I decided to hunt the tree stand by the beehives, in part because it is much more comfortable than the one by the feeder and also because deer hunting is the best alternative to gambling that I know: why should you pick red over black in the roulette?

The sunrise was majestic with each star fadding away one at a time until only Venus, which is not a start at all, was visible. During those early twilight hours the shadows and light play havoc with the hunter's imagination and we see gigantic deer floating over and around every bush and even among the crown of trees.

And when light was just strong enough the shooting began just to reassure me that Sunday was another Opening Day. First a single shot due west, then northwest, following shots, and several minutes later more shooting to the southwest. And my turn came just before 8:00 AM when a small group of deer started walking from the cedar swamp just north of the beehives and probably not fifty yards from our parked cars. 

There I was looking at the deer, all antlerless, and remembering how fast they can disappear into thin air I set the cross hairs of my 1949 vintage Winchester Model 70, of course in 270 Winchester Center Fire on the biggest of them and all hell broke loose. I did not see anyone drop and there were deer running towards cover and one dow took the other directions into the power line clear cut towards Del. But the doe stopped and at about 120 yards I aimed for the neck, the first shot did nothing but made her turn arounf and the second dropped her.

I came down from the tree stand, took off my heavy coats, reloaded and went after the doe, and even with two bullets in her she tried to run away. Del made two shots from his tree stand and at least one hit her. We found the doe just before the old railroad tracks, still trying to get away, but done for.

We gralloched (isn't this a better word than gutted?) the doe on the new trail that Del had cleared on top of the old tracks and I had her to the butcher by 9:00 AM, the first deer of the day. I was home by 10:00 AM with enough time to shower and shave before church. We had brunch at Bistro FouFou to celebrate France an undying symbol of LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FRATERNITY.

Vive la France!


  1. This is an exciting hunting trip. You are a talented hunter

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