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Devin Ziegler
Devin Ziegler • 12/05/2012 • Venango County , PA • Gun

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Brian Reifschneider
Brian Reifschneider • 11/7/2011 • Jo Daviess County , Illinois

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Entries for 'Mike Handley'

When the Who in the Whodunit is YOU

I might’ve spent my days up a treestand in Pawnee County, Neb., Nov. 7-11, but my head was in Iberia Parish, La., for much of the time. To help pass the considerable dead spells, I read one of James Lee Burke’s paperbacks featuring protagonist Dave Robicheaux, the badge-carrying ne’er-do-well with a knack for catching bad guys as if they were fly balls.

Stephen King was my hunting companion near Snyder, Okla., the following month. The rut there was pretty much done, and the mature bucks were avoiding daylight like vampires. I should’ve gone a week earlier, I guess, but I needed a break after sitting in deer stands for two straight weeks.

Back in 2006, I spent three glorious weeks bowhunting the Dark Continent. I sat inside a water hole blind almost the entire time. I literally broke the hearts of about six magnificent animals, photographed dozens more, and I managed to read eight novels, all set in Africa.

Like most writers I’ve known, I’m a voracious reader. When I was a kid, I used to lie on my belly and pore over hunting magazines. I have to admit, too, that the writing back then -- mostly “me and Joe went hunting stories” -- was of a higher caliber.

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Accentuate the Positive

“How much did you pay for that new Silverado?”

“It lists for $31,000, but I got it for $22,000.”

“Has a V-8, right? What kinda gas mileage does it get?”

“Yep. With the windows rolled up and the cruise set, I get 18.”

I’m neither endorsing nor slamming Chevy trucks. I have one. But I’ve had this conversation more than once, and it has occurred to me that I’m incapable of answering any differently.

I cannot say $22k without pointing out my $9,000 savings. I can’t say 14 or 15 mpg around town.

It’s human nature, I guess, to accentuate the positive. Maybe a man thing?

The same is true among deer hunters.

If a hunter says he shot a giant 10-pointer and you ask what it scored, he’s going to quote the true gross, not a B&C net (after deductions) or the official BTR score (which doesn’t include the inside spread measurement). Heck, if you ask me about my biggest buck, I’m going to say 150 ... not 133, which is its official BTR score (sans the 17-inch inside spread).

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Tag Soup Seasoned by New Oklahoma Record

When my outfitter friend Jay Jack suggested I go to his personal spot that afternoon, where a trail camera had photographed a world-class Typical numerous times, I felt as if I’d been given the key to Buck City, Okla.

He’d placed a folding chair behind an uprooted and denuded mesquite tree about 120 yards from a stand of cedars where deer bedded. He hunted it at every opportunity. The one day he didn’t go is when the buck passed by the trail camera during daylight hours -- at least twice in the same hour.

Jay’s self esteem was as flat as a run-over cow patty after that.

Sitting behind the skeletal tree, I could see far beyond rifle range. I watched distant buffalo grazing on the slopes of the Wichita Mountains, the high-fenced national wildlife refuge flanking the 3,000-acre tract we were hunting. I also saw numerous wild hogs, but not the elk or deer that coaxed “Oh my gods” out of my breath while hunting the other side of the ranch.

“This place ... seeing all those great animals on the refuge side of the fence ... will make you cry,” Jay told me the first time we met. He was right.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Just keep walking toward that peak, and you’ll see the (low) fence. As soon as you see that, look to your left, and you’ll see the Oklahoma Sooner chair,” were the directions Jay gave me to his stand. He was going to climb a mountain of boulders -- no doubt a castle for dozens of denning rattlesnakes -- to glass the opposite side of the pasture.

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Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain

Thirty calendars have gone to pulp since I pulled my first mail-order “Eddie Salter” grunt call out of the box, put it to my lips and urrped. I still vividly remember the first time I tried it in the woods, while looking at a bunch of does. They ignored it, which astounded me.

I’d fully expected the gals to run. But instead of spooking, it put them at ease.

I was a stalk hunter back then. I prowled the edges, even the hearts of young pine plantations with a Remington 1100 stoked with buckshot. My deer encounters were close. Because I played the wind, they often heard me before seeing or smelling me.

When I started carrying that grunt call, my success improved greatly. Whenever I jumped deer that only heard me, I’d grunt, and many would come right back into my lap.

When I was publishing a hook-and-bullet tabloid years later, I became acquainted with numerous experts and, for the first time, began grunting as a means of attracting deer rather than soothing them. I remember that first attempt as well.

I was still-hunting the property of a wildlife artist I’d met. After urrping off and on for about 10 minutes, admittedly feeling like a fool for possibly alerting every deer in the county to my presence, the woodlot echoed with more urrping. I thought I was surrounded by other hunters. I almost called out to them.

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