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Bow Hunting and the 'Jacket'
A Hunt Story From Todd's Early Years
By: Todd Schotts
BOWHUNTING AND THE JACKET
By Todd A. Schotts
As many of you may know, or if you don’t, I do a lot of fly fishing. Besides fly fishing though, I also
partake in many other outdoor activities. Such as bow hunting, rifle hunting, and small game hunting.
Let’s go back now quite a many moons (about 26 years) for this hunting tail. My story takes place
during late in the season of bow hunting, right around the beginning of November. I was just in my third
year of being legal in attempting to take one of Michigan’s whitetails with my trusty bow and arrow.
Before my dad and I headed up to our sacred hunting grounds, my mother came home from shopping,
where she had bought me this brand new blue winter jacket. The last words from my mom was “don’t
mess up that jacket” (more on that later). As we arrived on Friday during the mid afternoon, we meet up
with my aunt and uncle at our sacred hunting grounds in Newaygo County. We hurried up and all of us
got ready and headed out to either our tree stands or ground blinds for the evening hunt As the cold
November winter winds howled and the coldness pierced the air, I was glad that I had my new jacket on
under my hunting outfit. About a half hour before dark, my dad whistled to get my attention, (that was
how we communicated in the field-no hand held 2-way radio’s). As I worked my way over to my dad’s tree
stand, he was marking the beginning of a blood trail from a whitetail buck he got a shot. He then
mentioned “we will head back and get the mantle/camping lights to aid us in our tracking this blood trail”.
As we headed out into the dark through the swamp and hills, my aunt and I took one light and we
headed out. As we were tracking the deer, the blood trail would disappear, then in the distant glow of
the light we would find it again. I was the light keeper for us as we were tracking. That is important. You
will find out why later. About 40 minutes into this challenging feat, my aunt and I could smell something
burning. But we just shrugged it off and kept our eyes to the ground. Now an hour and half into tracking,
the trail was getting weaker and weaker, but, we kept pushing on still smelling that stinky burning smell.
We kept wondering what the smell was from, but, I wasn’t too worried because I was preoccupied and I
wanted to prove to my peers that I had the skills to find and follow this blood trail. Then, after what
seemed like an eternity (almost 3 hours), we finally located the fallen whitetail buck. He was down and
not moving. As he lay there, his antlers shone from the glow of our lights. I believe we all were very
excited on finally accomplishing our mission of locating this creature. As we all meet up at the prize, my
dad looked at me and asked me what in the world did you do? (That is the clean version.) I was sort of
wondering what he was talking about when I looked down. Do you remember that stinky burning smell
that my aunt and I kept smelling? Well it was my brand new jacket. It must have hit the top of the
mantle/camping light. Not once or twice, but quite a few times. The front of my jacket was blue, with a lot
of white (stuffing) coming from the many melted burn holes that took over the front of the jacket. OOPS.
Well at least we now could say that we had answered big question, what was burning. But now we had
another situation on our hands, as those famous last words from my lovely mother echoed through my
ears, and most likely through my dad’s ears also, “Don’t mess up that new jacket!”
As this weekend wrapped up there were actually two kills, my new coat and a nice whitetail buck.
However, there could have easily been another one or two added to that list, as mom wasn’t really
pleased about my new jacket. Well I did end up with another new jacket, but that one never went out
THE BATTLE OF STEEL & WILL POWER!!
By Todd A.Schotts
The day started out early for me as I was going to meet my fishing companions on the Muskegon
River. As I rolled over to take a glance at the alarm clock, the dim glow that partly illuminated the room
was showing me 4:01am. I figured that my military experience would have prepared me for such an early
rise, but, this would be different. There would be no getting yelled at, no running, and no doing bends
and thrusts (glorified pushups). Only the casting of flies, and hopefully, landing the offerings that the
Muskegon River has to offer.
Upon arising I could smell the aroma of the fresh brewed coffee as its wonderful smell wafted
through our rustic family cabin. When I got up there was a crisp feeling in the air that filled my cozy
surroundings. After finishing my hearty breakfast, I placed the arsenal of flies that I had tied the night
before into my trusty fly boxes. I was ready to face the river.
As I arrived at our destination I noticed I was the last one to make it to the landing. Everyone else
was all suited up in their uniforms of waders, vests, nets, and wading jackets. They had their weapons of
various fly rods all strung up awaiting my arrival. I hurried up and got into my uniform and loaded up my
vest with the necessary items for this fishing trip; fly boxes, leaders, tippets, dry fly goop, and water. We
were now ready to attack this part of the Muskegon River.
As we approached the river we noticed that some kind of hatch was coming off the surface of the
water. With a keen eye we noticed that the hatch was Michigan’s famed tiny mayfly, the Blue Wing Olive.
These tiny aerial dancers were teasing the local residents of the Muskegon River as they flew a
sporadic up and down flight pattern. Some of the dancers weren’t so lucky though, and you could hear
the slurping of various fish feeding on these tiny aerial acrobats. Just hearing all the slurping made all
of us excited and we couldn’t wait to get into the river and make our attempt at landing the offerings
that we heard going on. (Thinking about it, we were probably as excited as former President Clinton was
when he was interviewing his future Interns).
Soon I was in a real nice position. I noticed that just behind a huge rock, which was framed by some
downed trees, I could see some movement in the slack water. Even though my first attempt at a cast fell
short of my intended target, I let the size 18 Blue Wing Olive go through its drifting pattern. Just before
the end of the drift I got a hit that caught me off guard. However, I was still able to hook into one of the
Muskegon River’s feisty inhabitants. The fight really didn’t last long and there was no need for a net to
land this fish, as it was a small Rainbow Trout. The tape showed it was a mere 9”. Well, I thought to
myself, at least I wouldn’t be skunked today. As I always do, I practiced catch-n-release by returning this
beautiful creature back to Mother Nature. Now, before I got ready to cast the fly out as another offering,
I decided to check my knots on the leader and the fly. I learned a long time ago that when I didn’t do this
after fighting a trout, my fly line would go limp as I brought in the next sizeable fish. Then, in the place
where the fly should have been, all that I would have on the line would be a tippet that had a bunch of
wiggles in it. So that is why it is always a good practice to just check your knots to make sure that
everything is still tied down.
With my next cast, I landed the fly exactly where I had wanted it to be placed. As the fly started to drift
through the area behind the debris there was a monstrous explosion of a splash; and then the line
tightened with the fly rod bending with the arc of a hooked Rainbow. The next thing that I heard was the
scream that came from my reel (and probably from myself as the reel handle was thumping into my
knuckles) as this Muskegon River monster started to dance (almost resembled something from Dancing
with the Stars); running to get away from the strain and tension of the fly, the fly that was now hooked
securely into the fish’s mouth. This run was not a dance but a fight. A fight that pretty much resembled
the famed ‘fight of the century.’ I was doing all I could do to not break off this Hercules of a fish. Still, at
this point, I was not sure of just what kind of fish this was. I thought that maybe I had hooked a bountiful
Brown or perhaps a mighty Muskegon River slab of Steel (Steelhead). As the fight wore on, the tension I
was keeping on the line started to set in as the muscles across my upper chest and arms started to
burn. I was beginning to feel the stress of fighting such a wonderful fish (I felt like I was in the Ultimate
Fighting Cage match with Ken Shamrock]. With all of the runs that this fish made to try to dislodge my fly,
I was starting see my backing more than I really wanted to. My fishing companions were in awe that such
a battle was taking place. They all offered to take over at the controls behind the fly rod if I got tired. But,
I wasn’t giving up this battle for anything. It would be either me or the fish, as only one of us would walk
away the victor. I was hoping it would be me. I finally was able to start making considerable progress in
subduing this Muskegon River inhabitant. Soon, we got to see that this creature was a Muskegon River
Steelie. Lucky for me, one of my fishing companions offered to net this huge fish. But just as we were
attempting to land this Steelie, we found out he wasn’t done with us yet. As I kept him in the area of the
net, the battle raged on, as attempt after attempt to land this giant steelhead came up short. It was like a
tied football game where there was only a minute left with the ball in the Red Zone on the 1 yard line.
Finally, as we started to land this beautiful creature, the pungent smell of burning oil filled my nasal
passages. The sounds of gunfire and the roar of distant jets crept into my ears. As I awakened, I wiped
the sand and grit from my face as I realized that fighting such a wonderful fish was only a dream. I was
not on the famed Muskegon River fighting a beautiful steelhead, but in the middle of a desert in a
foreign land sacrificing my life for my country. Instead of posing for a picture with a Steelhead a call
came in from command. As a Marine Corps Forward Observer (FO), my radio operator and I were headed
back toward the sounds of gunfire behind enemy lines to call in a series of fire missions for the big guns
(mortars). That steelhead would just have to wait for another day. Semper Fi.
Until next time - Tight Lines and Snazzy Flies
Battle of Steel & Will Power
Featured Flydogs writer Todd Schotts shares
with us a story of a 'dream' of a steelhead
fishing trip on Michigan's Muskegon River
article by Todd