Lisa Goodwill with a Spanish goat. / Submitted photo
Tess Gugel with a hog. / Contributed photo
The off season for those of us who bow hunt is a ridiculously long one. It's comparable to those that are football junkies. Both seasons start at about the same time and after the season there's not much in the way of a 'fix' until fall again.
Football fans (of which I am one too) have the draft and highlights from the season to watch or, perhaps, a public appearance by a favorite player. Bow hunters may enjoy year-round practice and attending hunting shows. Maybe they shoot in a league or in a tournament during the off season.
Searching for shed antlers gives guys hope a certain buck or two may be hanging around. Adding some new gear like a new bow or other gadget can also help bowhunters get through the downtime, but few things can take the place of getting in the woods and hunting. Sure, there is some hunting a person can tackle, like turkey hunting in the spring or bow fishing for rough fish like carp.
But a lot of people, like myself, will take it a step furthern for our 'fix.'
On March 1 I hooked up with a bunch of friends from around the country to meet at Ted Nugent's place in Michigan known as Sunrize Acres for a hunt. Sunrize Acres is a 340 acre, high fence operation where hunters can chase hogs and other exotic animals. This wasn't the first time for many of us, with a few who were actually trying it out for the first time.
High fence hunts tend to be controversial. These areas don't offer a fair 'chase.' I've heard it said that hunting at these areas isn't hunting at all.
The common threads I find in many of these critics include:
1. They have never been on a hunt like this.
2. They buy into the rhetoric from the critics in the media or other places.
3. They assume you can just walk into one of these places and corner an animal and simply shoot it.
4. They say it's just killing and that's all people go there to do.
Before I go into details of our hunt, I will address each one of these points.
1. I'm usually right with this point. Either they have never tried it or they had a bad experience.
2. Critics abound, but based on my own actual experience, I can honestly say, I've never had a bad time at one.
3. Some hunts are easier than others. There have been times where we've actually had to really work hard at getting a shot at an animal. Just like when I bow hunt at home, some years are tougher than others, and other times I can barely get in my stand, and I get a shot off.
4. Like any other hunting, it's not just about the kill, it's what you put into it. Is it a certain animal you want? Is it the time with friends or family? Is it the thrill of the chase? For me it's all of the above. This most recent hunt was in the works since October.
Here are some of the high lights.
Upon our arrival, it was cold, but not the brutal cold we had experienced in the weeks before. The temps were in the high teens and even pushed into the mid twenties during the day. Our guides Paul Wilson, and "Big" Jim Lawson (both incredibly hard working guys) prepared all eleven hunters for the hunt by giving us the standard safety speech and telling us what to expect through out the day. Some people were using gunsand some of us used bows.
With the amount of snow on the ground, Paul thought taking most of the gun hunters out first would be a better option, since they aren't as limited to the kinds of short shots bowhunters are. Four of us waited back at the shack and even took a few warm up shots with our bows while we waited. When it was our turn to leave, Paul informed us that while dropping the other hunters off, he noticed where some pigs were hanging out, and thought doing a spot and stalk would be a good option for those of us with archery gear.
So off through the woods we went. Paul led us through some pines,on downhill to an open lane where he spotted the hogs earlier, and sure enough they were still there. We came up with a plan and decided to let first time pig hunter Tess Gugel go first, while myself, Michael Gelermino and Frank Harkless watched.
Tess and Paul crept up through the brush, and after a brief wait, Tess got a shot off and while the black beast ran off, another one moved in our direction. Michael and I whispered back and forth, and decided he should take the shot. He drew his, bow and somehow missed. But no worries. When Paul and Tess got back to us, the pig she had shot needed to time to lay down and not only did the black one Michael targeted hang around, but three others along with a Spanish goat didn't seem to be too worried about us.
Paul, an experienced guide, knew what we should do. It was now my turn. I started to sneak up on the three pigs sitting there. There were two reddish/brown hogs, the black one Mike missed and the goat. It took a little time, but I finally got a shot off when the pigs separated enough for a clear shot, and drilled one of the more red colored ones. He also ran off and stayed in view and Mike once again had another chance, and this time made it count in a big way. That hog piled up in view and died pretty fast.
Then it was Frank's turn. He also had to wait patiently for a shot with his 30/30 but made it count when he got one off. Four kills in a matter of a half an hour in our little group, and three of them with bows. Paul told us it was the first time things went that smoothly that he could remember, and if there was one thing he was sure about, it was the fact the group we go with over the years, knows how to shoot.
But the day wasn't over.
Lisa Goodwill, along with her husband Bob and son Bobby, had visited Sunrize Acres several times with us and had done it successfully. But Lisa and Bobby were the ones hunting this time, with the old man a spectator. Bobby scored on a giant hog with my best guess weighing well over 300 pounds and Lisa, on her first hunt, scored on a gorgeous Spanish goat which is now at the taxidermist. In all there were a total of nine pigs taken, a Spanish goat and a Barbarosa ram taken by my friend Greg Prodanas who flew in all the way from Boston.
There were all great stories from everyone there. We had a great hunt, enjoyed some extra time in the woods, chased something other than the local deer, got out of town for a while and time with some of the best hunting buddies a guy could ask for. And all due to a hunt for exotics.
If you ever get the chance, consider trying one of these hunts. Whether it be at Sunrize Acres (which I highly reccomend) or any other high fence operation, take advantage of one of the many oppurtnities out there and try it like thousands of hunters do each year. Try one or try a place where they offer year round bird hunting.
Hunting season doesn't have to end with closing day each year. Check out one of these places, and and get some extra hunt time for something different.
Read more from Shawn Clark.