Hunting stories from WO students and staff

Hunting stories from WO students and staff

Meagan Rockafellow

   The sun was rising on the field as she stared through her scope. Her eyes were trained on the back south west corner where specks of brown were emerging from the woods. Next to her, her brother and dad sit silently watching in anticipation. Her target, a fat seven point buck, walks toward the group of does and starts eating grass. “That’s the one, get him,” her dad whispers. After a few minutes, the buck turns broadside. Their excitement builds as her brother covers his ears and she takes one final breath before firing.

   Hunting has been a tradition for many WO families and this has not changed despite the recent COVID-19 pandemic. This year, hunters continue to make memories in the woods. Below are some hunting stories from the 2020 hunting season from West Ottawa students and staff.

 

Instructor Paul McNitt

   During bow season, McNitt and his sons traveled down to Hillsdale, MI, to hunt on a friend’s property. McNitt had gone hunting before, but he had never gotten a deer with his crossbow. Not expecting much, McNitt gave his ghost blind to his sons to hunt in. After they parted ways, McNitt walked around looking for a place to set up his makeshift covering. He wandered until he found a good spot in the corner of a nearby bean field where he decided to set up some netting to act as coverage. After hanging the netting behind him, McNitt sat in the open waiting for a deer. Time went by and the sun had started to go down when he spotted a doe about 40 yards from his stand. McNitt normally did not risk shooting anything over 30 yards. However he decided to take the risk.“I had kinda given up; for me it was a difficult shot because it was facing me. So I only had the width of the deer to hit. I almost didn’t shoot but to be honest I did because I was so mad that we had just watched Michigan State beat Michigan that I was just ornery,” McNitt said. 

   The risk paid off and McNitt and his sons found the doe only a tenth of a mile away from the spot at which she had been shot. After finding the deer, McNitt called up the host of the property to share the news. The host always came out to help the McNitts because he was more experienced at hunting and gutting deer. However, the host was unavailable, leaving McNitt and his two sons to field dress the doe by themselves. After finding a youtube video, the inexperienced family got to work. They debated on who would cut, and finally one of the sons volunteered “We watched the video and then he would start to cut. There’s all sorts of odors when you open up a deer, even if you don’t cut the wrong place. So we would all kinda just take off running (whenever we smelled the odor), all with the inexperience of thinking that maybe he had opened the stomach. Because that is really bad,” McNitt said. In total the McNitts were out in the field a little over an hour… the video was 8 minutes long. 

 

Jr. Andrew McComb

   This year, McComb and his dad went duck hunting in Zeeland. McComb was no stranger to duck hunting and was eager to be outside again. When they arrived at the bean field they would be hunting, they walked quietly over to the treeline where they hid in their homemade blind. Soon the pair realized that this would not be a regular hunt. The weather was rainy and the wind was uncooperative which would mean the chances of seeing ducks were lower. After hours of seeing nothing McComb and his dad were losing hope. “There was definitely a temptation to call it when there is no action during the middle of the day,” McComb said. However McComb knew there were ducks in the area and the two decided to stay for the rest of the day to see if the conditions would get any better. 

   They had only one hour left of legal shooting time when their luck finally turned around. “When birds start to fly there is always that sense of excitement and joy that things are going as planned,” McComb said. By the end of the hunt McComb and his dad left the bean field with their legal limit of mallards and a great lesson in patience. “It was a good lesson that good things come to those who wait,” McComb said.

 

Sr. Madi VanOmmen

   Traveling all the way up to Neebish Island in the Upper Peninsula, VanOmmen was excited for her senior hunting trip. The second morning out, VanOmmen and her dad walked to her blind in the dark. After they reached her blind they parted ways and he walked to his blind that was about 200 yards away. Other than this trip, VanOmmen had never hunted alone. “I was freaking out because I was by myself,” VanOmmen said. She sat quietly for about an hour and a half before she finally saw a doe walk out and start eating the bait pile that they had set out. “In the UP we could legally bait, which in the lower peninsula you can’t, so it was eating the corn we had out,” VanOmmen said. 

   After an hour and a half of watching that single doe eat, she had had enough. She was in the process of packing her things when another doe walked out and scared the other doe into the woods. After a few minutes, the doe returned and ate alongside the second doe. VanOmmen decided to stay and after a few minutes she looked up to see a buck standing five feet away from the deer. He was a three point with one horn knocked completely off and a large body. “I put my scope up and thought ‘I can’t get a good shot because there is a pine branch in the way so I hope he moves forward a little bit’ instantly as I am thinking that he inches forward about two feet,” VanOmmen said. She quickly aimed at the buck, turned her safety off of her gun, took a deep breath, while squeezing the trigger. BANG. He dropped right there, kicking up snow that showered her blind. The does walked over and sniffed his body before resuming their lunch at the bait pile. 

 

Instructor Cody Ryan

   Hunting in Van Buren County, MI, Ryan started his morning off at 5:30 with a long and miserable mile-long walk to his tree stand. As he trekked through the cornfield and flooded swamp, he was equipped with thick chest waders, two full backpacks full of supplies for an all day hunt, and his heavy 12-gauge shotgun. He had tripped twice over fallen logs and was sweating buckets when he finally reached his tree stand. “I’m not going to lie, I was miserable,” Ryan said. After reaching his stand at around 6:00, he quickly took off the waders and slipped on his regular boots. Then he climbed up into the stand, relaxed, and waited quietly for daylight. Before he knew it, an hour had passed, the sun peeked over the trees, and gunshots started going off all around him. “I still didn’t see anything besides the usual group of pesky squirrels,” Ryan said. 

    He waited another hour before he heard a noise in the swamp. He turned his head over his right shoulder and stared into the swamp where he saw wide antlers walking through the brush. The buck was about 40 yards behind his right shoulder, so Ryan had to limit his movement to avoid scaring it. After what felt like forever, the buck started to walk closer. Ryan patiently waited as his adrenaline grew. Finally the buck turned to his left and stood broadside 30 yards away from Ryan. “I shouldered my 12 gauge slowly, took the safety off, and settled the scope crosshairs behind his shoulder. I slowly exhaled out when I squeezed the trigger, BOOM!” Ryan said. The buck dropped right there and excitement filled Ryan. After about ten minutes, he climbed down and walked over to his buck. “After putting my tag on him, I took some pictures and sent a few text messages to family and friends. There was no better way to celebrate a great hunt,” said Ryan.