2017-11-16 / Outdoors

Flight, deer hunters run amok

Weather birds arrive; Empire hunter tags out
By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor


LAKE LEELANAU St. Mary student Nate Smith is pictured after a successful hunt on a Leelanau County lake. Photo: Chris Smith LAKE LEELANAU St. Mary student Nate Smith is pictured after a successful hunt on a Leelanau County lake. Photo: Chris Smith Not all county sportsmen are in the woods this week, believe it or not.

“I really enjoy deer hunting, but there’s more to life than deer — like ducks,” said Suttons Bay duck hunter and wildlife artist Chris Smith, reigning champion of the Michigan Duck Stamp competition.

Smith said on Friday that flight birds are finally passing through Leelanau County after what he billed as a decent October.

At least to his standards.

“That’s the key there,” Smith said. “I go out there and see five to 20 ducks and maybe get three or four, but I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and still practice my shooting and calling.”

To Smith, it’s quality over quantity.

He said he’s perfectly content to set up for about two hours on a remote lake, shoot one mallard and watch his lab make a nice retrieve.


JOHN NUTT of Empire shot his second buck in a 10-day span, an 8-point, on Friday. Nutt was pictured last week with an 11-point. JOHN NUTT of Empire shot his second buck in a 10-day span, an 8-point, on Friday. Nutt was pictured last week with an 11-point. “(Leelanau County) is just not the best place to be a duck hunter if you need to shoot your gun a lot,” he said. “We always say ‘you can’t do a lot of missin.’ Some people are only happy if there’s a limit in the boat. There are a lot of guys like that, trust me.

“This is not the best place to be a duck hunter if you want to kill a ton of birds, but there is very little competition with other hunters compared to many places in Michigan, and the beauty up here is tough to beat.”

The recent cold spell is just what the duck-hunting doctor ordered, although Smith said many southbound ducks flew right over the peninsula this year.

“For the most part, a lot of birds — what we call calendar birds — have already flown through,” Smith said. “I think a lot of them are moving at night and hunters obviously never see them. They end up in Lake St. Clair the next morning. My friends in Tennessee and Arkansas have already gotten a big push of birds.”

Still, a seasoned waterfowler like Smith knows where to look.

And there’s time to do it. According to the Department of Natural Resources “2017 Waterfowl Hunting Digest,” hunters in the state’s Middle Waterfowl Hunting Zone can target ducks, coots, mergansers, dark geese and light geese until mid-to-late December.

County deer hunters, meanwhile, opened firearm season yesterday before press time — although John Nutt of Empire wasn’t one of them.

Nutt, who was pictured in the Nov. 9 Enterprise with an 11-point he shot Nov. 1, shot an 8-point on Friday.

He’s already tagged out.

“I knew this one was around,” Nutt said. “This particular one, the 8-point, I missed him in early October. I shot underneath him. I had seen him eight or 10 times after that but could never get a good shot at him until the other night. He was chasing does. ... He was on my radar for a long time.”

Nutt was true on the shot from about 30 yards. He said he watched the buck tip over about 50 yards later.

“This one here was about 115 (inches),” he said. “We didn’t put a tape to it, but somewhere close to about 115 and about 130 on the 11-point.”

Nutt is no stranger to success in the great outdoors. His name appears atop the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Master Angler Awards list alongside the longest northern pike entry in Leelanau County waters. He caught and released a 44-inch fish on Armstrong Lake in 2000.

The semi-retired owner of Traverse Bay Log Homes tagged a pair of bucks “a couple years ago,” as well, and was pictured in the Nov. 10, 2016 edition of the Enterprise with an 8-point.

“I’m 67 going on 68,” Nutt said. “It’s time to have some fun.”

He said he can’t speak for all hunters in the area but that “there’s no shortage of deer” in his neck of the woods.

“There’s a lot of guys getting them,” he said.

Editor’s note: Successful sportsmen are encouraged to email photos and information — name, date, points, score, township (if they’re willing), etc. — to jason@leelanaunews.com.

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