Friday, October 9, 2009

Hunting report Michigan 11/14/2008


Mike, Bob and I went pheasant hunting Friday afternoon at the Hunter’s Creek hunt club in Michigan. The day was marked by mild rain as we drove into the property from Detroit. The lodge sits on a grassy area on a lake that I would estimate at 75 acres. There is a nice patio, with an International Harvester stainless steel BBQ equipped with the largest tires ever affixed to such a culinary device.

We all had bowls of truly superb venison chili before we met up with our guide Jamie, and his eight year old Brittany. We were taken to the trap range to warm up and then we went to a location where our hunt began.

The terrain consists primarily of rolling countryside, with a lot of tall grass divided by two track dirt/grass roads and stands of trees that were mostly skeletonized by the fall weather. There were blocks of cane stalks every so often and enough irregular topography to give our walk just enough challenging footwork to make us sweat a little beneath the coats and waterproof clothing.

The dog was the most magnificent little beast I have ever hunted with. It located and retrieved every bird we hit. If several were brought down in succession, which happened multiple times, the dog would get all of them. He was trained to drop a bird he was already retrieving in the event more shots rang out. He would then tear off after the newly shot bird and bring it back before unerringly returning to the site of his dropped bird to fetch that up as well.

The countryside and the dog made our experience like something straight out of American sportsman. We never saw another hunter and we were allowed to use #6 shot, which I found most refreshing when compared to the restrictions on shot size that are often dictated by the proximity that has to be accounted for on most of the hunts I have been on in California. The #6 shot allows one to take the birds at a proper distance and not rush the shot. Everyone had a pretty good day as far as hitting what we shot at.

We hit a couple of spots where the birds had really bunched up and then launched rapidly in many directions. The shooting and barrel swinging was fast and furious – perhaps the most thrilling part was hitting what you shot at, breaking the action open and then snatching two more shells to jack into the breech just in time to torch it off at another erupting bird. I was using a side-by-side double I borrowed from Mike and it was quick and fun. At one hot corner I was involved in at the very active edge of some cane, I felt like a member of Michael Caine’s trapped British garrison at Rourke’s Drift, blasting charging Zulus as fast as I could pop the breech of my Martini-Henry. I suppose angry Zulus would probably be more hazardous game than fleeing pheasants, but they probably would be a lot more trouble to clean and properly prepare for dinner.

We shot our fill, which Jamie stacked up like cordwood before cleaning it all up. We retired to consume some excellent beverages after getting dry and cleaning up.

We did have one unfortunate incident, which the lodge membership was able to handle with the kind of discretion one could only hope for at this level of sportsmanship. It seems that the adjacent property, which is quite expansive, is owned by wealthy middle-eastern big game hunters, who keep the property well stocked with all types of exotic game.

The property is surrounded by an electric fence, which keeps the zebras, impalas, elands and other creatures confined where they can be conveniently harvested by the owners. The stock also includes a troop of baboons, which have adapted quite well and radically increased their membership to the point that they have become quite numerous and aggressive. The baboons are the only creatures on the big game side of the fence that have figured out that if they hop completely onto the fence, as opposed to touching it while they are on the ground, they will not be shocked. The fence is therefore not much of a barrier to their raiding.

We were enjoying some 12 year old single malt scotch in the main lodge when we heard what sounded like an air-raid siren. The other occupants leapt to their feet like firemen, grabbing their guns and heading for the fence. We followed. It seems that an advance party of these aggressive primates had smelled the chili. Baboons love chili – especially with cheese. The members lined up like civil war skirmishers and filled their guns up with rock salt loads to drive off the invaders. I didn’t know about the rock salt and instead I had a couple of boxes of copper-plated magnums I grabbed off the counter at the ammo station.

Tragically, I was on the end of our line and was outflanked by four of these hairy beasts. They blew past me, fangs barred, and headed straight for the International Harvester BBQ, which I did not realize until that moment was a fully motorized, self-propelled vehicle equipped with a fifteen gallon propane tank.

They got on top of it, switched it on and began driving it toward the lodge. I whirled toward them and lit off both barrels almost simultaneously. I must have hit the tank, because a blast of flame shot out the back of the BBQ like an afterburner. With those big tires smoking across the lawn, the BBQ cleaved a set of tracks toward the water that only became visible when the contrail of smoke cleared. That was right after a truly spectacular explosion blew four flaming monkeys high above the water, and right before they all landed on the lake in a rapid series of hissing sizzles. They glugged beneath the surface, leaving only bubbles bursting in the expanding rings that marked their point of entry.

Well, I was embarrassed by all this. The senior members of the club told me that I just probably should get back to the suburbs as quickly as I could. They advised us that they would handle the owners of these dead monkeys, should there be any inquiry. They assured me that this kind of thing happens all the time, but I couldn’t help but think that they were just saying this to make me feel better.

They hustled me into the car and Mike and Bob got me out before I had a chance to thank anyone for the great time I had shooting. We went out for a nice meal and some good wine. Thus, the events of the day were blended into a more sublime recollection as we dined in comfort.
Apparently, after we left in all our haste, some of the members broke out the fishing poles and cast some snagging gear in the general area where the BBQ astronauts made their re-entry. I heard that next week the club is featuring “game chili” instead of venison chili, so maybe it’s just the circle of life.

These are the days.

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