By Fred Abbas
There was a time for many years when I was infatuated with big bucks. My son Greg and I probably hunted every big buck state in the country over the past 15 years. But we never bothered to register or measure any of our out of state trophy bucks in Pope & Young or Boone & Crockett, or any other record books. Nor did we write stories about them. Not so with our Michigan bucks though, we absolutely cherish our hunts here. We registered every Michigan trophy buck in Commemorative Bucks of Michigan… here’s why. Michigan is not known for big bucks, nor will Michigan ever be a destination for out of state trophy hunters, like say, Ohio, Kansas, Illinois, or Iowa, to name a few states. In Michigan big bucks are few and far between, and are extremely hard to locate and even harder yet to hunt, but that’s exactly why we love hunting Michigan, big bucks here are truly an enjoyable challenge. Each year we receive countless invitations from Michigan land owners to hunt their private grounds and farms, some big and some small parcels, these offers are almost always accompanied by trail camera pictures of big bucks. Some of these offers even come with detailed maps of the buck’s movements, every single one of the land owners invariably wants to share their knowledge of the buck’s whereabouts with us . We respectfully decline all invitations simply because to us the challenge of locating the buck and the enjoyment of the hunt would have been compromised, and besides, while we appreciate the offers we really don’t need, or encourage outside help. As the grandchildren started to show interest in hunting my mind set totally changed. Now instead of hunting alone on different farms and harboring long held secret tactics I now find joy in teaching them. No, I’m not giving up hunting big bucks, I’m just hunting them less. The two granddaughters are 14 years old. Kaitlyn, (my brother Allie’s granddaughter) has a little hunting experience and Alyssa (Greg’s daughter) has vast experience because she has been tagging along with us since she was a child. Her capacity to learn is boundless, so far she has taken 4 bucks. Michael who is 12 years old (my youngest son Freddy’s son), also has been tagging along with us for years, but this would be his first hunt. None of the kids hunt with a bow because none of them could pull the poundage needed for an ethical kill. Lucky for them though, It just so happened that Horton had sent us three crossbows and they were still in their boxes gathering dust in our store room. Greg and I have been sponsored by Mathews for many years and neither of us had any experience with a crossbow at the time. When we sighted them in for the kids we were extremely impressed by their accuracy. Ironically when we saw the growing popularity of crossbows, especially with rifle hunters we actually invented the “Dual Grunter” deer call because of them. In time and much practice we felt confidant that the kids were ready for the hunt. Like most kids today, they all have smart phones which of course takes up the majority of their time, playing games, texting, and such. We knew that this could pose a problem in a tree stand for the inexperienced. It was a dilemma that needed to be dealt with. Probably ( almost) every hunter under 50 spends time using their smart phones while in their tree stands, but the older hunters are much more disciplined and were more apt to maintain their focus on the hunt while multi- tasking. Rather than offering the kids an ultimatum banning smart phones on the hunt we offered them a compromise, just as the Michigan DNR had to do when they realized that today’s youth were losing interest in hunting in general, especially deer hunting , and wisely relented by lowering the age for hunting and allowing the use of crossbows. Our solution ? We bought each one, made in Michigan, Shadow Hunter blinds. We now felt secure that they could stay safe, be comfortable, and gain their independence if they wished to hunt alone, and still play their games on their smart phones, and whatever else they do with them.. As they grow older and acquire more experience and skill they then can choose the style of hunting that best suits them. During our out of state business travels we began to notice that more and more hunters in the Midwest and Northeast were trending toward blind hunting and it has created a host of companies now building blinds, but none could compare in quality to the Shadow Hunter blind. Shadow Hunter ( Summit Outdoors) produces several different style blinds but our choice was the 5′ x 5′ Crossbow blinds. Greg and I absolutely love these 100% maintenance free blinds. Since these blinds are designed to be more or less stationary, we carefully set each blind out months before the season to give deer time to get used to them. Notice the strategic location of each blind. One blind was positioned between a huge bedding area and a large food plot planted with Imperial Whitetail Clover, (we can’t say enough about the amazing drawing power of this particular clover, and it lasts for up to 5 years). The second blind was positioned near a cluster of white Oak trees and a small isolated food plot planted with the Whitetail Institute’s Chicory Plus which includes Whitetail clover. The third blind was situated near a well used river crossing, just below a ridge topped with acorns, along with another small food plot planted with Alfa-Rack, which has a mixture of Forage Chicory. The common denominator in all three locations are the variety of food sources, which gives each blind equal opportunities. Deer are like people, they have different personalities and they have different food preferences. But they all have one thing in common, all deer love a variety of foods. By giving them choices the deer will rotate from one food source to another. It wasn’t only the deer who rotated, the kids did as well. If one were to become successful then another has their choice to hunt that blind’s location. They also have a choice to shoot a doe (without fawns), or a buck. Like most school age kids their hunting time is severely limited, especially since all three are involved in after school sports. Alyssa is also involved in horse racing competitions which further afforded her even less time for hunting. Because of these limitations Greg and I would do the scouting for them, but that would be the extent of our involvement. All three were taught shot placement, the importance of wind direction, how to, and when to use deer calls and deer attractant scents, along with using range finders, even setting out yardage markers. They were given the opportunity to use their own skills once the hunt started, and they were given a choice if they wanted someone to hunt with them. Wisely, all three choose to have a parent or grand parent to hunt with them. Since Alyssa had seniority, she had the hottest blind location, and it didn’t disappoint her. Even before day light Greg and Alyssa could see the outlines of deer parading from the food plot toward the bedding area, all of them having to pass in front of the blind. As shooting light rapidly approached they could see a nice racked buck making his way from the food plot, he was using a trail that would put him on her 30 yard marker. Earlier Alyssa had sprayed “She-Duction” on each of the deer runs in hopes of stopping deer exactly where it would give her the best shot, and that’s exactly what happened. The moment the buck hit the scent line it was as though Alyssa was reeling him in. The buck ended up over the scent with his head down sniffing the powerful scent while standing perfectly broadside, totally oblivious of his surroundings. Greg whispered to Alyssa, asking her which cross-hairs are you using? She whispered, the second one, it was her 30 yard pin. Moments later I got the call that I was hoping for, Greg said Alyssa hit a nice buck, it won’t go far, come on over. Believe it or not, this blind is only 75 yards from our camp and I was there to congratulate her in mere minutes. I was thrilled to witness this success two more times before this amazing day was over. At lunch Kaitlyn drew the longer straw and despite seeing numerous deer at her blind, (but out of range) she chose to hunt Alyssa’s blind for the evening hunt, and she wasn’t particular what she shot for her first deer. Barely one hour into the evening hunt Freddy radioed that Michael had shot his first deer and it was a nice buck, and that they would stay in the blind until after the evening hunt. Just before dusk Kaitlyn spotted a big doe coming out of the bedding area traveling down the exact 30 yard trail that Alyssa’s buck had taken and astonishingly the doe stopped to sniff the scent that Alyssa had sprayed there in the morning. I soon got the call from my brother Allie, ( who was more excited than Kaitlyn) that Kaitlyn had shot her first deer, a doe. This worked out perfectly, now I could take the quad and pick up both deer at one time. After all the hugs and congratulations, the elation came to a screeching halt when the kids were each handed a knife. Truly a day that will live on in their memories forever, and ours as well.
Fred happens to be Michigan’s # 1 top ranking trophy hunter with 56 Michigan trophy bucks in the record books of Commemorative Bucks Of Michigan, Pope & Young, Buckmasters and Long Hunter Society. Fred also is the inventor of the famous “BowGrunter” and “Dual Grunter” deer calls, along with “Scent Web”the worlds most powerful deer attractant scents. Fred and Greg are joint owners of A-Way Hunting Products and A-way Outdoors Invention Consulting, and are long time contributors to Woods-N-Waters New
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