Many people are diving in to their New Year’s resolutions right now, with almost a full year ahead to test their resolve.
But, it’s not a bad time to look back, either. This year was one of my best ever in the outdoors. The highlights are many, and reflections of an outstanding year in God’s glorious creation continue to bring a smile to my face.
The wild turkeys got active earlier than usual this past spring, with March feeling more like May. I began the gobbler chase in April with my son, William, during the Wisconsin youth weekend.
Although we left the woods without a bird, it turned out to be an action-packed hunt. We had numerous birds gobbling on the roost not very far away, then had a group of birds come in our direction after flying down. They hung up, but eventually we had a group of 1-year-old toms (called jakes) come in, along with two hens. William got two shots off, but failed to bring down a bird. I would later redeem that hunt by getting what I think was one of those jakes a month later. On the same piece of property, I had four jakes come in, and was able to get one of them.
I added a Minnesota longbeard to the harvest, and it didn’t even take an hour. I heard a bird gobbling on the roost, then slipped in to about 50-60 yards from the bird. He flew down and came right in. As I stood over the nice tom after pulling the trigger, and my watch read 6:21 a.m.
A wonderful surprise
With the hunt over so fast, I decided to head over to Wisconsin to see if I could fill my other tag. The state went from a series of five-day hunts to seven-day seasons. That meant my Minnesota and Wisconsin seasons overlapped by a day.
So, I registered my Minnesota bird in Red Wing, then crossed the river into Wisconsin. I tried hard to get my second bird, traveling to three different properties. On my last stop, I saw hens but no toms. I decided to try one last spot on this small farm, and saw something brown on the ground in the corner of a field. It turned out to be a morel mushroom. And, there were many more.
I filled my turkey hunting vest with them and headed home with an unexpected bounty. I ended the day with fried mushrooms, plus a mushroom-and-cheese omelette at the home of Chris Thompson, academic dean at the St. Paul Seminary. He is an avid mushroom hunter, and he almost freaked out when he saw what was in my vest.
Saving the best for last
If someone had told me in early September that I would still be without a deer on Nov. 11, I wouldn’t have believed them. With the archery season beginning in mid September, I figured it wouldn’t be a matter of if I took a deer, but how many.
Yet, there I was in my deer stand on the afternoon of Nov. 11, the last day of the Zone 3A firearms season, hoping I would not get skunked. I had seen very little throughout the gun season, and failed to tag a deer during my numerous trips to the woods, despite hitting two deer with my arrows.
With gusty northwest winds pounding me all afternoon, it was a test of endurance. But, I still had hope, as the last hour of legal shooting hours can produce strong deer movement.
Sure enough, with only about 10-15 minutes left, a buck appeared out in a picked soybean field 180 yards away. Almost magically, he turned and trotted right to me, stopping and turning broadside at about 70-80 yards. I hit him several times, and when I found him just inside the woods, I realized I had just killed the largest buck of my life. He’s now at the taxidermist, and I can’t wait to see the finished mount.
I give thanks to God for some outstanding memories – and some great food in the freezer. Wild turkey, venison and morel mushrooms – who could ask for more?