Deer not so active on gun opener

November 12, 2013

Faith Outdoors

As always, I was brimming with optimism on the morning of the Minnesota firearms deer opener. I was hunting the property near Red Wing where I had taken the largest buck of my life on the last day of the 2012 season.

My plan was to hunt in my tripod stand in the middle of the property in the morning, then switch to a ladder stand on the south end where I had shot my big buck. Amazingly, I did not see a deer all day, and didn’t hear much shooting either.

My brother Paul and son Andy were on properties nearby, and neither of them saw a deer all weekend. We hunted all day on Saturday, then came back Sunday afternoon.

The wind, I believe, had a lot to do with the diminished deer movement. This was as windy an opener as I have every seen, with gusts of more than 30 mph throughout the day.

Sunday was quieter, so we were hopeful for a deer sighting. In the last half hour of shooting light, I finally heard something walking behind me. A small doe walked right past my stand and continued in the woods to my left. I didn’t have a clear shot, but figured she would turn right to go into the picked corn field in front of me.

I was right. She turned at about 15 yards and slowly walked toward the edge of the field. Finally, she stepped out, giving me a full view and a perfect broadside. I put the crosshairs behind her shoulder and fired.

She jumped and ran, so I fired again. I was expecting her to drop, but she didn’t. She continued to run around in the field, obviously confused by the loud noise that shattered the quiet and peaceful evening.

As it turns out, I shot four times, and all were off the mark. But, it was the first miss that was particularly disturbing. I have not missed a broadside shot at a deer standing still from within 50 yards since buying the shotgun and scope in 1997.

What’s the problem?

Something had to be wrong. I thought back to two years ago, when I took my dad on a special hunt for war veterans up at Camp Ripley. His guide for the hunt inadvertently ran over my shotgun with his pickup. I took it in to a gunsmith when I got back, and he gave it a clean bill of health except for some shifting of the scope on the cantilever barrel.

It seemed to work fine that year, as I shot three deer, a nice eight-point buck and two does. Then, last year, I shot the big buck with it. I figured nothing was wrong, and went to sight it in this year several weeks ago.

I ended up having trouble zeroing it in at 50 yards, with one shot hitting low and to the left after I had made adjustments. Finally, I thought I had it dialed in at 50 yards. I even took a shot at 100 yards, and it hit with two inches of the bullseye.

But, I think I should have paid attention to the errant shots. I called the company that makes the scope, Leupold, and described my problems. The guy I talked to said there definitely could be some internal problems, perhaps caused by the gun and scope getting run over. He recommended that I send the scope in.

I will definitely do that. And, I plan on using a different gun if I am able to get back out in the field during the rest of the season. I’m not too disappointed, though, as I already have one deer at the butcher. Actually, I was trying to get a deer for the landowner, who had a license plus a special landowner doe tag. He has health issues, and all he is able to do is drive around his lower field with his shotgun and look for deer. I promised to help him get one, so I wasn’t happy about missing that doe.

Oh well. That’s how it goes sometimes. Equipment problems happen, and I suppose I should have expected some damage to the scope and sent it in earlier. That one is on me. Fortunately, we have another shotgun that isn’t being used that I can take out into the field later this week.

More bow hunting action

Meanwhile, I decided to go out into the woods this morning closer to home for a morning bow hunt. The temperature dipped all the way down to 13 degrees, but I was comfortable thanks to a new set of Gamehide hunting clothes I picked up yesterday afternoon from my friend Steve Huettl. It was time for a new set, and the timing was great.

I planned to sit until about 9 a.m., if I could stand it that long. Actually, I think I could have lasted all day, except for cold toes. I ended up seeing six deer, four bucks and two does. The bucks came in close, and I think I could have gotten a shot off at one of them, except for the fact that you are only allowed one buck per year in Minnesota. So, I had to merely watch the bucks, which was fun. I always enjoy deer sightings in close.

The first deer I saw were two does that came in to about 25 or 30 yards. One of them turned broadside, and I took a shot. But, the arrow sailed low. I think it was a combination of the deer being farther away than I thought, and possibly hitting a branch. That’s the trouble with longer shots. You need to be sure of the exact distance of the deer, plus make sure there aren’t little branches in the way. With the foliage down, those pesky little branches are much harder to see. You can think you have a clear shot, but don’t.

That was my problem. Oh well. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s always nice to hunt on crisp November days, and seeing six deer definitely was worth it. Hopefully, I’ll get more bow hunting in before the season ends at the end of December.

Up next: Montana the week of Thanksgiving. We will buy $80 whitetail doe tags and, hopefully, have some action out west!

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About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek