Now’s the time to start preparing for fall hunting

August 11, 2011

Faith Outdoors

The cool nights we’ve had this week are turning my thoughts to the fall hunting seasons. It promises to be a busy fall, as I go to three states to hunt both by myself and with my kids — Minnesota, Wisconsin and Montana.

Get on the web

Now is a good time to get on the websites for the state you’re going to hunt to look up regulations and, more importantly, find out if there are any lotteries you need to apply for. Some of the application deadlines are fast approaching — Aug. 19 for the archery hunts at Minnesota’s Camp Ripley, for example. I’m continually amazed at the number of hunters who don’t pay attention to deadlines and miss opportunities to hunt because of it.

For Minnesota, the DNR’s website has everything you need to know. Just go to the hunting section and you can look up anything you’re interested in. For example, I wanted to know if the special youth deer hunting season was going to be offered again this year. Last year was the first time this hunt was offered, and I was delighted to know the hunt is on again for this year.

No shortage of game

I took my son, William, out for one afternoon of this four-day hunt last year, and it was action packed. We saw a flock of 16 wild turkeys, plus two deer that were about 150 yards away. With the 20-gauge shotgun he was using, I felt the deer were out of range. This year, however, I am going to let him use my 12-gauge. Some of the new slugs that have a ballistic tip are said to effective out to 200 yards. I’d like to give them a try.

Before he does that, however, he is going on a special youth hunt in Wisconsin. Like Minnesota, the rules and regulations for this hunt are on the state DNR’s hunting section.

Gearing up for Wisconsin

The good news this year is that he will not have to buy an antlerless tag for the unit he will be hunting in, which he had to do last year. Not only that, the junior patron license I bought for him comes with three deer tags — one buck and two antlerless.

Unless something amazing happens, he likely won’t fill all three tags. On the other hand, I bought three spring turkey tags in Wisconsin this year and was able to fill them all, so you never know. The bottom line is William will have great deer hunting opportunities in two states, plus his junior patron license in Wisconsin also includes a fall wild turkey license.

Great opportunities in Montana

And, that’s not all. His third chance at a deer will come during the week of Thanksgiving in Montana. He will have a full week to try for an antlerless whitetail. These are the easiest licenses to get — and the cheapest. For $80, he can buy one over the counter.

There is no lottery for this license, like there is for whitetail and mule deer buck tags, and tags for other big game species like elk. He bought this same license last year, but did not get a deer. He went out a couple of times and saw deer, but did not get a shot. It was so cold that he eventually lost interest.

I highly doubt it will be that cold this year. On one of the days we were there, the temperature was minus-15 with a wind chill of minus-29. Usually, temperatures range from the 30s all the way to the 60s. If the weather is anything close to normal, William should have some fine days to hunt.

Don’t be misinformed

It pays to do some studying of the hunting seasons and regulations where you are planning to hunt. I recall a painful incident last year involving a friend who took his son out deer hunting for the first time in northern Minnesota.

He bought his teenage son a new rifle and was excited to take him out. And, he borrowed my 7mm rifle for himself. They went hunting with the boy’s grandfather and uncles. As it turned out, the boy saw two does well within range.

But, he never fired a shot. Why? It seems the other members of the party didn’t understand the regulations. They told the boy he needed an antlerless permit to shoot a doe, so he didn’t pull the trigger.

The painful truth

They were wrong. In the regulations, it says that youth under 18 may shoot a deer of either sex and do not need an antlerless permit. There were a few exceptions in some zones in southwest Minnesota that had very low deer levels, but the general rule allowing youth to take a deer of either sex was in effect where my friend and his son were hunting.

It was hard for me to see the painful look on my friend’s face after telling him that his son could, indeed, have shot one of the does. So, I hope he will get that chance again this year.

Good news for young hunters

One thing I have learned is that many states, including Minnesota, are highly dedicated to offering great hunting opportunities for youth. I have been fortunate enough to take advantage of the special hunts and licenses my kids have been eligible for.

In fact, my son, Andy, who is going to Winona State University starting next week, bought his final youth deer and elk tag in Montana. You can buy this half-priced tag all the way until your 18th birthday. He turned 18 on March 23, but the tags went on sale at the beginning of March, so he was able to hustle and get his application in before his 18th birthday.

After getting two mule deer bucks and one whitetail buck in the three previous years he bought the tag, he is hoping to get an elk this year. Last year, he saw an elk for the first time and took a shot, but missed. He had to shoot quickly because the herd was walking through a small opening. He thinks it was about a 250-yard shot.

Those are not easy shots to make. On that same trip, I had a group of whitetail does at 250 yards, and I missed three times. I didn’t have a good rest, which makes all the difference. The next day, I had a longer shot and made it because I was shooting from a prone position with a good rest.

Bring it on!

Can’t wait ’til the hunting commences. I will start with the archery season here in Minnesota. I am working hard to become proficient with my bow. In fact, I have been shooting so much that my arms and shoulders have been getting sore. I actually have had to back off on the practice.

To be honest, I’m chomping at the bit to get out there with my bow. I have some promising places to hunt, so I’m optimistic. I’m in no hurry for summer to end, but I will be glad when fall arrives!

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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