2016 Deer Hunting

November 23rd, 2016

Successful Deer Hunter

Deer Hunting.  A northern Michigan tradition.  Many years of history, stories, and hunting adventures passed down in the generations of family hunters. Another year of tradition within my family has passed, and it has been a very memorable one.  This year, the weather was warm through opening day and a few days though the hunt.  I talked to several folks with mixed reports of deer movement activity; some reporting lots of movement, and other reports of little or no movement. Whichever your experience or theory, plenty of deer were harvested this season in Michigan.  Winter came in quickly by Saturday, and I’m sure that held up some of the movement for the next couple of days after that.   

I started my hunt this year two days late.  That’s not unusual for me, I was unable to make it a four-day hunting excursion away from work and falconry responsibilities.  So as I arrived on Wednesday eventing to a temperature of 58° F, there was nothing on the buck pole.  Not surprising, given the warm temps.  The two deer that had been taken at deer camp so far were hung, gutted, and processed as quickly as possible to save the meat. My first evening was filled with laughter and stories with family and friends, as we packaged up some of the bounty harvested the day before.  Always a good time.  

I awoke abruptly out in the camper to the sound of a started pick-up truck.  It seems that my alarm did not go off as expected. No worries, I had plenty of time to get a cup of coffee, pack up my lunch, and head out to my blind.  The preparations this year were very easy, as I had planned everything to make it especially easy.  I suited up halfway and drove out to the *NEW* Death Valley deer blind that had been restored the previous month.  

The morning started like every other one: dark. The exception to this morning was the left-over “SuperMoon” was waning and still brightened up the landscape a little.  The beauty of sitting out in a deer blind so early in the morning is the solitude that you get when you finally get your gear settled.  The silence of the woods early in the morning is incredibly peaceful and it’s one of the few times where you can hear the trees whisper. As the morning progressed, a few deer crossed my viewing area across the meadow.  Typically, a doe, followed by her yearling were the usual visitors through the valley.  Occasionally, there was a spike-buck following the pair, or a larger 4-pointer.  The key to watching deer cross the valley is to be keen to the bucks trailing the does a few minutes later, after they pass. Always be ready for them, for they are walking with a purpose.  So with a total of 10 deer spotted before lunch time, I was satisfied with the activity and movement in the area,  and still hopeful to be successful on my first day.  The lunch period was slow, and there was no activity until about 2:30 pm.  A pair of does ran up the valley from behind the blind and veered off to the right.  I was ready for the buck following them, but he never appeared.  I waited intensely with my gun to the ready, holding out for the buck that should have been pursuing them. After a little while, I heard some rustling off to my right.  The river runs through the area, about 150 yards off to the right of the blind, and I noticed a deer browsing.  It wasn’t until he lifted his head up that I could see the 8 points above his ears.  I lined up the shot, and waited until he showed me his shoulder, and I pulled the trigger. 

I gave him enough time to lie still, dragged him about 30 yards or so out of the woods and drove back to deer camp with an 8-point buck on the trailer. What a great day of deer hunting!  The next day,  a couple of us drove into town for some provisions at the local market.  We stopped by the DNR office the next day, even got my successful deer hunter patch! 



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November Squirrels

November 14th, 2016

November Squirrels

Hunting adventures with Team Austringer have been very successful and exciting.  Over the weekend, Cedar was successful on a great big Fox Squirrel that bailed out of the second tree she was scouting.  There is such a thing as watching your hawk and trusting that the reason they flew across the field to *that* tree was for some game that she saw.  Sure enough, after a few minutes of carefully laddering-up the branches, she scraped a squirrel off the main trunk.  When the squirrel maneuvered higher up in the tree, she gave it enough room to make a mistake.  As the squirrel traversed the canopy, it moved over a tree and scurried down the trunk in the hopes of making it to a shelter a few trees away.   When it hit the ground running, I was sprinting after it, full speed right behind it, yelling the game call at the top of my lungs.  Cedar dove from her high perch, sailed over my shoulder and nailed that squirrel in a tumble of sticks and leaves.   I was right there to prevent the squirrel from biting her in rebuke.  It was an awesome chase and Cedar earned her prize that day. 

The next day’s hunt was truly a team effort.  Kelly, Kida, Cedar and myself found a new hunting area close to the house that needed a good walking to scout out the entirety of the landscape.   Plenty of good area for both rabbits and squirrels, Cedar flew hard and found some squirrels to swipe at. We are definitely going to give it another try someday. Until next time, Good Hawking! 



Hunting, Squirrel Hawking PDF

Halloween Hunting

November 1st, 2016

Halloween Hunting

Happy Halloween!  The evening is full of tricks and treats.  Cedar’s first successful TRICK was to catch a rabbit on an afternoon hunt and the TREAT was to have him for dinner.  The whole team, Kelly, Kida, Cedar and myself went out for an afternoon hunt before all the spooky creatures came out in the evening.  We flushed the first rabbit within the first 10 minutes and Kida was hot on the trail.  She’s getting better at following along with the hunt and is definitely keyed into flushing game.  Cedar gave chase after the “HO-HO-HOOOAAAH!” game call but had to pull up due to the thick underbrush.

After exhausting the effort to flush him again, we moved on to another part of the forest.  The dog was on scent and Cedar flew ahead of the crew.  The rabbit flushed, and Cedar hit the brush hard and connected with the bunny!  After pulling Kida back so as not to crowd the hawk, we soon had a bunny in the bag!  A great coordinated effort by “Team Austringer!”

Bonus props to my lovely apprentice, Kelly, for the great assist out in the field and for the great photography!

 



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Peregrine Falcon

October 14th, 2016

Introducing “Sabre”

Passage Female Peregrine Falcon

Falconry has been a part of my life for approximately 7 years now. 8 years if you count the first year of ‘preparation’ that occupied every waking moment for the first year before I was licensed. This journey has no destination in mind, and the furthest thing from my falconry aspirations were falcons. Red-Tailed hawks hold a certain place in the wilderness and after working with them for the past 7 years, I’ve come to rely on their steady hunting style and the ease of hunting them in local areas with an ample supply of wild game to chase. I will continue to enjoy the walks in the woods with a trained Red-Tailed hawk, my trusty companion, Cedar for as long as she is willing to do so.

The trapping of a wild Peregrine Falcon was certainly an exciting adventure this fall. In order to get enough trapping time in, we spent a few days camping on a private section of shoreline on Lake Superior with a trapping blind setup. We also took a trip over to Whitefish point for a day. The WhiteFish Point Bird Observatory (WPBO)  had been spotting Peregrines daily for the past month, so we figured it was a good place to look for Falcons. Our beach trapping setup was very simple: a mist net and a pigeon lure setup with a ground-blind about 50 yards away. We ended up seeing more falcons down at Lake Erie as the massive hawk migration made its way across Canada into the US across the Detroit River.


On a bright afternoon, one of the Peregrine Falcons flying high overhead, hit the pigeon and got caught in the net. A successful capture of a passage peregrine falcon was the beginning of another realm of falconry. Passage Peregrines are prized for their ability to hunt as well as the calm demeanor and quick pace that they man-down into a mild-mannered game falcon.

Once I was able to get through rush-hour traffic on the way home, she was able to perch on the glove and even do so without the bate-fits. Her manning progresses well to date and I’m thrilled to be lucky to have her. Her dark coloration, full dark head ‘moustache marks’ give indication that she is an ‘anatum’ subspecies. The description of the Continental falcon ‘anatum’ is provided by the Canadian Peregrine Foundation. Positive identification of the subspecies can be a tricky business without doing some level of genetic screening via feathers. I’ve had varius ID suggestions, but she is most likely an anatum.

‘Sabre’ is the given name to her as she is fast, pointy and cuts through the air like a knife. Like a big, sharp, deadly curved sword used in medieval times. I have every confidence that she’ll live up to her name. Sabre is also the first wild-trapped passage Peregrine Falcon in Michigan with an approved permit from the Michigan DNR. I am looking forward to continuing this falconry journey with my newest addition to the Falconry crew. There will be more on this aspect of “Team Austringer” coming up soon.



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Improved Deer Blind Construction

October 12th, 2016

New Deer Blind

The trusty deer blind that had served me for several years in the woods had deteriorated beyond repair. The inside of the blind had been covered in black mold, the roof was no longer protection from the rain, and the walls had rotted beyond stability. So, this year a new deer blind was constructed in it’s place with a few new amenities, like additional headroom. The construction of this blind was the brainchild of my brother, who put together a brilliant plan and orchestrated the entire construction effort at Deer Camp.

We are going to let it ‘blend in’ to the woods, finish up a few additional details in a couple of weeks, and then we’ll ready for deer camp in November. Shelter from the wind, rain, and snow is minimal, at best, but a necessary shelter for hunting the elusive White-Tailed Deer in Northern Michigan in the fall. Wish me luck this year!



Deer Camp, Hunting PDF