By: Keith Kinyon.
The second day of Michigan’s muzzleloader season, 2022, I harvested a 4 point buck, using my dad’s muzzleloader & overlooking a cedar swamp next to the Thunder Bay River in Atlanta Michigan. I took a half day off work on Thursday and drove up to put my shooting sticks and seat cushions in the pop up blind. I sat all day on Friday, from 6:30 am until 5:30 pm and never saw a deer. Not one. Long sit. Thankfully, there were birds, squirrels, and even a few partridge that kept me company throughout the day. Overnight on Friday into Saturday morning it rained and rained hard. I could hear the rain drops pelting the cabin at Crooked Creek overnight. It melted the snow which was good for a quiet entry to my blind, but the weather forecast predicted the rain turning back into snow and blustery winds for most of the day. The alarm sounded Saturday morning and led into breakfast. Wind buffeted the cabin and rain slapped the siding…it was suggested that maybe I just stay put and go out at noon. ‘Idea’ sounded excellent to me. Wouldn’t get soaked walking out to the blind, gun would not get wet, and a warm cabin. However, another comment was made that you can’t shoot a buck in the living room, either. So, I went out in the garage, layered up my heavy clothes and went hunting!!! After driving to my spot, the walk out to the blind was very quiet due to the rain and wet leaves. I settled in the blind and it did start snowing which provided for a very pretty landscape. It was still blowing like crazy and the tops of the trees clicked and popped and, to be honest, it looked pretty bleak from a hunting perspective. I generally make it a rule to silence my phone and put it away permanently when in the blind but I started texting my dad around 8:30am or so. As I texted, I had my muzzleloader resting on my shooting sticks and the butt of the gun in my shoulder, just like I always do. At one point, at 9am, I looked down at the long, slender shooting lane and I saw a buck standing and licking his nose. I dropped the phone and eased my head down to the scope. The buck circled around and came back from my right and walked out partially into the shooting lane about 50 yards away, his ribs covered by a big tree. He was very skittish as he put his head down and he looked up at the blind several times. I knew I had to shoot quickly or lose the opportunity. I tried to hold the scope’s crosshairs as close to the tree as possible. I felt that if I could hold still, I could squeeze the shot right tight behind his shoulder. However, a serious case of the shakes set in, just a little touch of buck fever to make things interesting. I tried to hold steady as I applied pressure to the trigger and “Kaboom!!” White smoke filled the air and I saw the buck mule-kick and run off toward the left…that was it!! I was shaking like crazy and I was super excited as I got out of the blind and tried to quickly reload my muzzleloader. I dropped two pellets down the barrel and then got the bullet started down, but it stopped about 8’-10’ down the barrel so I moved my right hand up higher on the ramrod, pushing down hard and it bent 90 degrees!! Wow! I struggled to straighten the rod and I finally straightened it enough to get the bullet seated all the way down and then I could not remove the ramrod from the barrel. So, I left my gun at the blind and walked down to where I shot to see if I could locate any hair or blood and I actually found both. Blood looked good. I walked back to the blind to grab my gun and walked back to the truck where I reached out for some help.
I texted my friend, Gary, for help. I decided to shed my heavy clothes and put on lightweight tracking clothes and rubber boots. After drinking some water and eating some mixed nuts at my truck, Gary arrived with the Jet Sled and we made our way back to the place where I shot. I was so focused on looking for the blood that I had seen, I almost stepped on a porcupine!! Whoa!! Gary efficiently dispatched our prickly friend with his trusty .40 cal and we took up the blood trail. Some snow had continued to fall and the blood was covered somewhat. We worked together, slowly, methodically and careful not to rush ahead or clumsily destroy the sign. Gary marked our progress with strategically placed toilet paper on the trees. The middle part of the tracking job was fairly slow; Gary was picking up sight of the blood, even underneath the snow somehow. The farther we went the more blood I saw until eventually Gary pointed and said, “Right there at 10 o’clock.” I was looking way too far out in front of us. Part of the back was sticking out of a small running creek that looked like it fed into the Thunder Bay River not five yards from us. I went over and lifted the buck out of the creek and dragged him over to a place I thought I could field dress him. I was ecstatic!! Just sheer excitement for me. Gary and I high fived and I felt a sense of pride that comes from diligent tracking. It was fun. I have tracked a lot of deer and helped other hunters recover deer and some people want to have too many trackers, or some people just barrel forward, ignoring signs and losing deer in the process. It was not the biggest rack or largest body deer that I have ever shot, but just a cool cedar swamp buck! When you think of all the hunting pressure Michigan deer endure, from September early hunts, October and early November bow hunts, and firearm season… to be able to harvest a buck during the muzzleloader season is special to me.
There was a time not too long ago when I was working two jobs and 70 hours a week and just didn’t have the time or energy to go muzzleloader hunting at all. Consequently, I truly appreciate being able to go out and hunt that time of the year. Also, the Thompson Center muzzleloader that I’m using is a gun my dad won in a raffle years ago and has been a good luck charm for me. I’m already looking forward to next year!