Tag Archives: deer

Deer season was exciting, rewarding

December 27, 2017

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My deer season might be over for the year. After exciting encounters with bucks and does over the last few weeks, I’m a little hesitant for it to end.

But, three deer is definitely enough. I got my third last night, in the last hour of shooting hours as the temperature was falling to below zero. Wisconsin is having a special holiday gun hunt this year, which started Dec. 24 and goes through Jan. 1. In certain counties, hunters can take antlerless deer with any weapon, provided they have the appropriate tag.

I bought both an archery and firearms license this year. Normally, I just get the archery tag, as the nonresident fee is $160. But, if a hunter has never purchased a specific license, or if it has been at least 10 years since that license has been purchased, he or she can get one for half price. I qualified, so I bought the firearms license this year. Unfortunately, I only ended up hunting opening morning of the firearms season, and did not see a deer.

So, as of yesterday afternoon, I had both gun and archery tags in my pocket. Even though it was supposed to be cold, I decided to go out there with my gun and give it a try.

Short sit

I was hunting  a property in a county that qualified for the holiday gun hunt. I had had deer sightings on the property, and had taken shots with my crossbow, but was not able to bring home a deer. There’s one area where the deer like to hang out, and I had hunted from a stand there before. In fact, I had taken a shot at a very nice 8-point buck from this stand, but I rushed the shot and didn’t get a good hit. There was so little blood that I think I only grazed the buck. At least I know he walked away just fine, though clearly spooked.

As I drove in, I spotted two deer on the hillside near the landowner’s house. My stand is located just over the hill, and I figured I could swing around the back side of the hill and slip into the stand without these deer noticing me. Yet, the wind would be blowing toward where I had spotted them. It was a risk I decided to take.

When I got to the stand, I noticed a lot of deer tracks in the snow in front of it. The stand overlooks a large field of tall grass, with an area of shorter grass near the edge where my stand is. I could see the deer were traveling this edge heavily. That was very encouraging.

I climbed in around 3:30 and felt good about my chances of seeing a deer. After about half an hour, I saw two deer trotting across an open area to my right. They were about 200-300 yards away. I figured they were headed to the neighbor’s corn field. They disappeared at the tip of a narrow strip of woods that starts there and ends just to the right of my stand.

I didn’t see the deer go past the far tip and toward the corn. I thought maybe they had stopped to grazed near the tip of the section of woods, which is about the same size as a football field. After about 10 minutes, I began to think that maybe they had turned into the woods and might possibly come my way.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, I spotted a doe to my right. She was only about 20 yards away, but my gun was in my lap. She was super wary, walking very slowly and cautiously, and jerking her head up frequently to look around. I knew making a move with my gun now would only get me busted, and I would be left with trying to shoot at a deer running away.

I didn’t want that, so I froze. Eventually, the deer started walking on the path in front of me. She turned away, giving me my chance to shoot. I quickly put the crosshairs on her and fired. She jumped and ran, and so did a deer right behind her that I hadn’t spotted. I realized then that it was the two deer I had seen about 10 minutes earlier.

As the two deer ran into the woods to my left, I saw a few more deer in those woods run off. There were at least four deer total, and I wondered if the ones in the woods were the ones I had seen while driving in. I’m thinking if I hadn’t seen the two deer to my right, these others might have eventually come out.

It turned out to be a very large doe, and I was able to give it to my friend Bernie who did not get a deer this season. I know the landowner will be happy that I took a doe, as she feels that there are too many deer and that they eat food she is saving for her goats. This hunt was definitely well worth it. But, it wasn’t my best hunt of the year.

Minnesota gun hunt

The highlight of the season came on the Minnesota firearms opener Nov. 4. I was hunting near Red Wing in Zone 3. It has been managed for bigger bucks, with a rule requiring a buck to have at least four points on one side. The rule is definitely working, as my hunts will attest. Just a year or two in, I shot a nice 8-pointer. Then, in 2012, I shot a very big 10-pointer that scored 155. I had never even seen anything that big previously.

The nice thing is the people in my hunting party are the only ones the landowner allows to hunt his land. We stay away until the gun opener, so the deer are undisturbed. My friend Bernie wasn’t able to hunt opening weekend, so I decided to take the best stand we have on the property.

I went the afternoon before to trim some branches and brush to clear out shooting lanes, and that proved to be a worthwhile move. On my way to the stand, I saw lots of deer sign on the edge of the woods where the cornfield begins. The corn was still standing, but there were lots of deer tracks and droppings.

So, I was cautiously optimistic opening morning. I got into my stand before legal shooting hours, and was prepared to sit all day if need be. As dawn came and went, I did not spot any deer.

Then, around 9, I spotted a deer at the tip of a small point of woods that juts out into the field. This point seems to draw deer, and this deer was hanging around the point. I spotted antlers, then put my scope up for a better look. I knew the tip of woods was 100 yards away, so I thought about taking a shot if the deer was standing broadside. But, when I put the scope up, the deer had moved partially back into the corn, with only a small part of his body visible. I knew the rack was good sized, but I couldn’t see how many points it had. So, I held off.

I thought he might work the edge of the cornfield, and eventually come my way. I scanned beyond the stalks to the edge. No deer. Then, I shifted my eyes to the stalks right in front of me. To my surprise, there was a head of a deer popped up through the stalks and looking straight at me.

My friend Steve taught me years ago to freeze when this happens, and eventually the deer will look away and keep walking. It took just a matter of seconds for this to happen. He was to my right and then started walking to the left. I quickly put the crosshairs on the part of his chest that I could see and fired.

He dropped instantly and never got up. I started replaying the scene, then wondered if I had really seen enough points on the side of his rack facing me. It all happened so fast. What if I was wrong? I started getting nervous, then finally couldn’t stand it any longer.

I got down and went to the buck, which ended up being only 22 yards away. When I arrived, the first thing I noticed was a very big body. Then, I turned to see the antlers. Holy cow! It was a big 10-pointer with a beautiful, symmetrical rack. The main beams were heavy, and the tines had nice height. Plus, there was one split brow tine, which adds to the score.

I was thrilled to get this buck. The landowner came with his Mule four-wheeler. It’s a good thing. That would have been a huge chore dragging this deer all the way to my SUV. We loaded it up and I took it to Greg’s Meats near Cannon Falls. It closed at 3 that day, and I got there about 2:20. By the time I was done with all the paperwork, it was nearly 3. The guy said it was the biggest buck he had taken in that day.

I am having Corcoran Taxidermy in Hampton do a head-and-shoulder mount of this deer. I don’t know yet, but this one could top my 2012 buck. And to think that both deer were shot from the exact same spot!

The fun continues

I picked up my venison less than two weeks later. I had some venison summer sausage made, and it is delicious. Greg’s is known for its sausages, and this stuff is amazing. I have a bunch in my freezer now, and have been able to give some away, including to landowners where I hunt. This particular landowner likes deer heart and liver, so I gave both to him. I rarely hit the heart of a deer, as I typically aim higher and farther back to hit the lungs. I prefer a double-lung shot, as the deer expires quickly when both lungs get hit.

My friend Bernie and I went out on the following Friday. That’s the only day he could hunt. I put him in the stand where I killed my buck, and I went to a different property. Wouldn’t you know it? I saw a beautiful buck at 30 yards broadside, but had to let it walk because you are only allowed one buck per year, and there is no party hunting for bucks in Zone 3. The nice thing is, I got to watch this buck for about a minute before he turned and walked back over the hill and into cover. Meanwhile, Bernie saw several deer that day, but wasn’t able to get a shot off. I was bummed, but we both had fun in the woods, not to mention some fellowship before and after the hunt.

On the last day of the 3A gun season, I decided to go back to the stand where I had shot my buck. The corn was down now, and I would have more visibility. Once again, I climbed into the stand before legal shooting hours. A light northwest wind was blowing in my face, which is the wind I like to have when hunting this stand.

At about 7, I saw a deer trotting to the point of woods to my right. I figured it would come around the point and offer me a shot, which is what most deer do in this area.

Sure enough, it came around and started walking toward me. It was a doe, which I still had a tag for. She kept coming and finally stopped facing me at about 60 yards or so. It looked like she had been pushed, so I wasn’t sure she would stop again. Sometimes, deer that walk briskly can keep on going, and even start running. I felt like I could make the shot, so I fired. She turned and appeared to be hunched a little bit as she walked into the woods.

I knew I had hit her, but wasn’t sure how good the hit was. I decided to give her time. As I waited, not one but two bucks came in and crossed in front of my stand. The first one was larger and definitely legal. He walked in front of me at about 30 yards, then went into the woods to my right. He circled behind me and ended up coming to about 15 yards. I was turning to look at him, not caring about staying still. He saw me move and bolted. If I had wanted to shoot him, I’m sure I could have gotten a shot off.

Then, a few minutes later, another buck came, this time from my left. He crossed in front of me at about 40 yards, again offering an easy shot. I was able to take a few pictures of him, plus a short video. That was fun. I know I saw three points on his main beam. If he had a brow tine, he was legal, too. These are two bucks I will be watching out for next year. This second buck ended up milling around in the field for a while before walking over the hill and out of sight.

Then, I climbed down and walked to where the doe I had shot went into the woods. I got there and went in. It was the tip of a ravine, with cover on both sides. As I moved to the center, a deer jumped up and ran out of the woods and into the field. I was bummed. Its tail was up and it ran like it wasn’t hurt at all.

I couldn’t believe I had missed the doe altogether. Turns out, I didn’t. I walked farther into the woods, and the doe I shot stood up and started walking away. It only went about 20 yards, then stood with its tail flicking constantly. There was thick brush between the deer and I, plus it was facing directly away. So, I didn’t shoot. Instead, I circled around ahead of it to go for a finishing shot.

The deer went no further, dropping down where it stood. I did take a finishing shot, but probably didn’t need to. The landowner came with his Mule again, and now he had his deer. He took the heart and liver, and ended up cooking the heart for dinner that night. He later told me it was fantastic, and he wishes I would have stopped in to eat dinner with him.

Next time, I will. I had a lot of encounters with deer this year, and learned some important lessons. One is that bucks often will go into an area where does bed in the morning and wait for them to come. I think the deer that spooked and ran when I went into the woods looking for my doe was a buck that was doing just that. This means that the point of woods to the right of my stand is an important area. I may take a different approach to my stand next year, as I walked right by this point on my way to the stand both times I hunted there this year. If I come from a different direction, I won’t alert a buck that may be waiting in that section of woods.

I also learned that freezing when a deer looks at you really works. I had it happen four times this year, and only once did a deer spook. It was in Wisconsin, when a doe and fawn came out to my left. She looked up at me and didn’t like what she saw, so turned and walked away. If I had been holding a gun, this wouldn’t have been a problem. I would have had time to take a shot at this angle. But I had a crossbow on his occasion and didn’t want to take a shot at a deer going straight away.

The final lesson is the importance of back cover. On my stand in Wisconsin, there is good cover behind me in the form of a thick trunk and branches if a deer comes from the right. If it comes from the left, I am more exposed. That’s why I think the doe spooked. One thing I will do is hang some fabric or something on the branches to break up my form. That should work.

This has been a very fun season that I have enjoyed very much. I do still have a buck tag for Wisconsin, and a doe tag for Minnesota. Plus I can buy additional doe tags for the county I hunt in Wisconsin. I probably won’t because I don’t want to take too many deer. I  want there to be plenty for next year, though there always seems to be deer on this property. With extreme cold coming, I may just hang it up for the year.

Soon, my thoughts will turn to turkey hunting. I already have big plans for this spring, and have applied in both the Minnesota and Wisconsin lotteries. The anticipation will keep me warm during the next couple of months when the temperature dips below zero.

April will be here before you know it!

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Deer escape on archery opener

September 18, 2017

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I felt very good about my first foray into the woods for the 2017 archery opener. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin opened the same day, Sept. 16. The weather was rainy Saturday, so I opted to sleep in and wait for Sunday.

My destination was Wisconsin, where crossbows are legal for all hunters. I wanted meat for my freezer, so I figured the crossbow would give me the best chance to harvest a deer.

Not only that, but my scouting trip Labor Day weekend revealed a white oak tree dropping lots of acorns. I saw evidence that the deer were hitting them, so I put up a stand downhill from the white oak about 25-30 yards.

All I needed was a west to northwest wind to blow my scent away from where I thought the deer would come to feed. That’s exactly the wind we got Sunday.

So, I was optimistic as I climbed into my stand about 4:30 p.m. It was about three hours before the end of legal shooting hours, but I wanted the be there nice and early so that the woods would be quiet when the deer chose to move.

It happened right around 6:30. I heard shuffling noises at the top of the hill, then saw the body of a deer. Then, a second deer came in behind the first. My heart started pounding as I cradled my crossbow in my lap. Very slowly, the two deer worked their way down hill and to my right. I was hoping they would cut left and hit my shooting lane.

But, they kept coming downhill to my right. Eventually, the fawn got to the bottom of the hill and still was to my right. It slowly started moving to the left, and I thought it might just make it into my shooting lane.

I’m not picky about what I shoot, so I would have taken the fawn if the doe stayed out of my shooting lane. For most of the time, the doe stayed out of view, and eventually popped up about 5-10 yards behind the fawn. I spotted movement as I was looking at the fawn, then turned my head toward the doe.

Big mistake. When I locked my eyes onto the doe, it had its head up and was looking right at me. It stared for a few seconds, then turned and took a few hops back up the hill. A few seconds after that, it snorted once and took off with the fawn behind it.

Game over. I had forgotten how wary mama does can be. They go through the woods always looking around for danger. I should have kept my head still and just looked out of the corner of my eye.

There’s nothing like consequences such as this to reinforce the importance of staying still. The lesson is painful, but I’m glad to learn it now while the season is still young. There will be more chances ahead. I have three more stands on the property to hunt, and I may move the one I sat in Sunday to a different spot. I think once a deer like this doe busts you in a stand, it’s time to move it.

I have one other early season spot to try. The landowner has seen them coming out of the woods and into her alfalfa field. I set up a stand overlooking an alley of tall grass that the deer go through on their way to the alfalfa. She said they were coming through almost daily during the summer.

If that pattern holds, I may get a chance there. One thing’s for sure — there are plenty of deer on the property. There are a good number of does around, and that will mean bucks before too long.

One thing I will be hoping for this fall is more cold. The last two Novembers have been ridiculously warm, with highs in the 60s and 70s, and lows in the 40s and even 50s. That’s just too warm for deer movement.

In the fall of 2014, we had a very cold November, and the deer movement was excellent. I won’t tell many people this, but I’ll be praying for a chilly November this year!

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Nothing’s easy in deer hunting

November 18, 2016

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What does a Jesuit priest have to do with deer hunting? Plenty, I think.

I recently started reading a book by Father Walter Ciszek called, “He Leadeth Me.” Starting at the end of World War II, he spent 23 years in Russian prisons and hard labor camps. It all started with a burning desire to do missionary work in Russia. But, the experience was far from the glory he had envisioned when he boarded a train and crossed the border into Russia.

I am at the part when he first realizes the horrible conditions that exist in the camps, and the extreme fear of persecution that leads the people there to not even want to mention God. Not encountering any openness, and not wanting to put anyone at risk — including himself — he starts off his time in the camps by going out into the woods after dark with another priest to celebrate Mass. The only person to hear each of their homilies was the other.

He writes about how disillusioned he was, and how he questioned his decision to go in the first place. He goes on to say that kind of questioning is what we all do — and that it’s a big mistake. God actually ordains such circumstances, and the best thing we can do is work to find God in them rather than wishing they were different.

I pondered this as I reflected back on a few recent unsuccessful deer hunts. Three times in the last couple of weeks, I had deer in range of my crossbow, and ended up spooking the deer all three times. Then, I had two chances with my shotgun during the gun season and missed both. In fact, I found no evidence that I even hit either deer.

I have felt bummed and humbled by my failures, and wish I could have done things differently to achieve success. But, that would change the learning process that deer hunting is. After reading the most recent few pages in the book, I realize that I shouldn’t be cursing my failures, but embracing them, enjoying them and learning from them.

For one thing, all of the failures make the successes all the sweeter. For another, they give me an important chance to grow in humility. If we’re honest with ourselves, we would admit that this kind of lesson is not something we really want to learn. In other words, we want to be humble without being humbled.

It doesn’t work that way. That is why it is important for me to say, after yet another failure: “I blew it.” Or, as my dad likes to say, it’s another case of what he calls “pilot error.”

The good news is, there are always more opportunities ahead. A friend of mine, who is an elite bow hunter and made a critical mistake just the other day that cost him a big buck, likes to say that bow hunting is mostly about avoiding mistakes.

Bottom line: I’ve got plenty of mistakes I need to avoid. And, more pages in the book I need to read.

 

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Nice buck down in Wisconsin

November 7, 2016

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img_0793I really like it when the calendar flips to November. That means it’s time for the annual whitetail rut.

I was filled with optimism and excitement when I took to the woods last week. I had heard reports of good deer movement, and I was going to find out firsthand on a trip to one of my hunting spots in Wisconsin. Crossbows are legal in this state, and I was heading out with my Parker Bushwacker.

My bolts were tipped with a broadhead I was trying for the first time, the Spitfire Maxx. It’s a wicked three-blade broadhead with a cutting diameter of 1 3/4 inches, and made by New Archery Products (NAP). I was hoping to get a chance to see how these broadheads would do in the field.

Though it has been unseasonably warm throughout the fall, last Wednesday morning was supposed to be cool. If temps are 45 degrees or below, deer movement usually is good. Warmer weather, however, hampers activity level.

It was supposed to be in the low 40s for about the first two hours of shooting light, so I figured I might see some action right away in the morning. I decided to hunt a small piece of property near Prescott that I first hunted two years ago. I tagged a doe that year, and then last year was slow due to warmer weather. I saw fewer deer, and none of them presented a shot.

I was hoping to get back on the board on this property. The wind was very light, almost nonexistent, when I climbed up into my stand. I had a very good feeling about the morning.

The chase is on

It was confirmed right around the start of legal shooting hours when I heard commotion about 50-60 yards away, following by the unmistakable sound of a buck grunting. I knew that meant a buck was chasing does.

I was hoping the deer would come my way, but the noise died down and faded. Soon, all was quiet again.

No matter. The deer were moving, and I figured something would come my way eventually. I was sitting on a nice spot, which was a funnel along the bluff overlooking the St. Croix River. Three plateaus stairstep from the top, and I had put up my ladder stand where the first one drops down to the second. If a deer traveled on either one, it would give me a shot.

Little did I know how close I would come to three deer. I turned and leaned hard to my left to get a better look at the plateau below me, then sat back straight again. No sooner did I turn slightly to my right than a doe whizzed past me at only 10 yards.

At first, I thought she was running because I had spooked her. But she never turned her head toward me and never flagged her tail.

It was then that I realized she was being chased by a buck. I waited for him to show, but nothing happened. Then, about 25-30 yards at the field edge, I saw a doe being chased by a buck. Again, I heard the grunting sound, and I figured it was the same deer I had heard earlier.

Then, not even a minute later, the doe and buck ran by my stand, also at 10 yards. That was three deer in one minute, and I did not fire a shot. I don’t believe in taking shots at running deer with archery equipment, whether it be a bow or a crossbow. Plus, it happened so fast that I didn’t have time to raise my crossbow.

I was a little bummed to not get off a shot, but felt confident that a deer would walk past my stand at some point and give me a good shot. It was still early, and the deer obviously were moving.

Shot opportunity comes

Around 9 a.m., I heard a twig snap down along the lower plateau. Instantly, I concluded it was a deer. Sure enough, not long after, I caught movement through the tree branches. A deer! My heart started pumping, and I got my crossbow ready.

The deer was walking slowly and stopping intermittently. It was headed right down the trail I had found when I put up the stand. The nice thing is there is a big fallen tree that the deer have to go around. And, when they do, they have to quarter slightly away, which gives me the shot I want as the angle takes the front shoulder out of play.

This deer was moving according to the script. I had ranged a tree at 20 yards, and this deer was walking like he was going to brush up against it. His head was down and he looked completely relaxed. He never even looked up in my direction. As he strolled along, I caught sight of antlers.

As he came fully into view, I raised the crossbow and put him in my scope. I slipped off the safety and got ready to shoot. I made a grunting noise and he stopped. I hit the trigger and released the bolt, hitting him right above his front legs. The lungs actually go forward of the leg, so when I saw and heard it smack right above the front leg, I was sure I had hit the lungs.

He jumped and ran in the direction he was going, then circled back and eventually disappeared as he began to go downhill. He was noticeably hobbling as he went, and his head was down. I felt good about the shot, although the bolt was sticking out of his body, indicating that it had not passed all the way through.

I heard some shuffling, and I wanted to climb down and look for him right away. But, I waited an hour. Just as I was going to climb down, the other hunter on the property came up to my stand. I had called the landowner, and the landowner called him.

I was grateful to have his help. Turns out we didn’t have to go very far. I walked down to where I had last seen him, and he was laying at the bottom of the next plateau down, the third one. There was a massive blood trail, and a gaping hole on each side of the deer. Turns out the bolt did punch through the opposite side of the deer, it just didn’t make a complete exit. The Spitfire Maxx had done its job!

img_0722The real work begins

But, the bad news was the job ahead.. Getting him up the steep hills going up from each plateau would not be fun. In the end, we couldn’t pull him out. Fortunately, the landowner recalled that one of his neighbors owns a tractor and some long cables.

That ended up being the ticket. He connected two sections of cable, then I ran one of them down to the deer. I wrapped it around his hind end twice, and the neighbor drove his tractor away from the edge of the woods, pulling the deer up in the process.

The deer came all the way up with ease. I was thrilled. Then, I had to get him to the meat market right away. It had gotten warm, so we loaded it into the truck and took him into Prescott to a place called Ptacek’s.

I have had deer processed there before, and we got there within minutes. It was almost 6:30, nearly nine hours after I had shot the buck. When I told the guy at Ptacek’s how long the deer had been dead, he offered to skin and quarter it right there, and then put the pieces right into the refrigerator.

That was the greatest ending to this hunt I could have asked for. That’s two deer I have at Ptacek’s, which is more than enough for me and my family. My hunts going forward are strictly to try and get deer for other hunters I know. I tried and failed on the opening day of the firearms season, taking a shot through thick brush at a doe about 30-40 yards away. It ran off unscathed, but the season goes through this weekend.

With two gun tags left, plus archery tags for Wisconsin and Minnesota, I’ll be back out in the woods again this week. I just hope it gets cold!

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Two-year bow hunting drought finally ends

October 21, 2016

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The last time I drew my compound bow on a deer was November 2014. I did it several times, and was able to tag two does, one in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin. I also killed a third doe in Wisconsin, but the coyotes got to it before I found it the next morning.

Last year, my only archery kill was in Wisconsin with a crossbow. I never even got an opportunity to draw my compound bow back on a deer. I saw deer on a few occasions, but a shot never presented itself.

I had a feeling the drought would end last night. A friend offered me the chance to hunt on a metro property where he has permission. Eagerly, I jumped at the chance.

He had the stand all set up, and hadn’t hunted out of it yet this year. But, he said the deer move through the area regularly, and he felt I would get an opportunity in the last hour or so of shooting light.

Turns out, he was right. About 10 minutes before 6, I heard some noise out in front of me in the brush, then I heard a twig snap. I always know that sound is made by a deer, so I put my senses on full alert. My heart started pounding, so I took some deep breaths to calm myself.

A few minutes later, I heard more rustling in the woods, this time closer. I knew a deer was coming at this point. Not long after that, I saw movement — a deer!

It was slowly walking toward me, feeding as it went. It was heading straight for the shooting lane to my left. Perfect! It only lifted its head to look once, then flicked its tail and kept walking.

Finally, it reached my shooting lane. It was walking very slowly, and I knew I would have time to draw my bow and take a shot. Magically, it stopped in the shooting lane and turned slightly away from me to nibble on some branches. That, in my opinion, is the perfect shot — slightly quartering away with its head turned away from me. That gives me a good angle on the vitals, plus pulls the front shoulder blade away.

In that moment, I became very calm as I drew back and put my pin on the deer. I settled it behind the shoulder and released. It was a much quicker shot than I normally take in practice sessions, but the good habits I have learned from shooting year round kicked in.

I released the arrow, then watched it fly toward the deer. I have lighted nocks so I can follow the arrow. It hit right where I aimed, and the deer jumped and ran. I didn’t see antlers, and it seemed like a nice doe. I heard it run for just a bit, then things went quiet.

I texted my friend, who came over about 15 minutes later. I knew I had made a good hit, plus he’s an expert tracker.

I wasn’t too worried. He reached the stand, then went over and stood where the deer was when I shot. He looked around for a bit, then motioned for me to climb down and come over to where he was.

Turns out, he told me later, he found the deer before my feet hit the ground. It only went about 50 yards and fell. The arrow did not pass through the deer. It went into the vitals, then hit bone on the other side. That made the blood trail smaller, but there was steady blood all the way to the deer.

I was super excited to put my hands on this deer. Two years is a long time to wait. It ended up being an antlerless buck, but decent in body size. I took it to the processer right away, and it got put into a cooler right away.

The meat should be in fine shape. I field dressed it only about an hour after it died, and it was in a cooler about an hour after that.

This should be some fine eating. I hunt strictly for the meat, and nothing is better than a young deer. Of course, everyone likes to shoot a big buck, but I was not about to pass on this deer. My friend thinks another deer would have come through eventually, but this deer offered the perfect shot. Plus, it was to my left, which meant I could shoot while sitting, which is always good.

All in all, it was a fabulous hunt. It more than makes up for the heartache I had two weeks ago, when I shot a buck with my crossbow in Wisconsin in the last few minutes of shooting light and never found it. That is so disappointing, but I was hoping I would get another chance at a deer.

Actually, I was hoping to take a deer with my compound bow this year, so last night’s success is especially sweet. The good news is, I have more tags to fill in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including a fall turkey tag in Minnesota. I plan on going after a bird this weekend. I can’t wait!

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Turkey broadhead should prove deadly

March 17, 2016

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Ever since I started bow hunting in the fall of 2011, I have focused my efforts on trying to execute pass-through shots on deer in the heart-lung vital area.

To that end, I landed on a mechanical broadhead manufactured by New Archery Products called the Killzone. The two blades open up to 2 inches, and I have gotten pass-throughs on two of the three deer I have shot at with these heads.

This spring, I will be armed with another NAP product, this time for turkey hunting. But, I will not be aiming for a pass-through. In fact, the product is designed not to pass through a turkey.

That’s right: it is NOT built for pass-throughs.

How can this be? Well, I have done lots of reading up on this head, called a Spitfire Gobbler Getter. From what I can tell, it has been around for about 10 years, and it has most of the features of the conventional Spitfire — three folding blades, with the ends pointing forward and hugging the ferrule.

The Gobbler Getter features a blunt, rounded head versus a sharp, pointed head that the conventional Spitfire employs. The idea is that the blunt point will result in more energy being released into the bird. So, in addition to the blades slicing the bird, you’ll also have blunt-force trauma. This is designed to help keep the bird close to the point of impact.

That’s a huge advantage for the bow hunter. One of the common problems with bow hunting for turkeys is having the birds run or fly off after being hit. They can travel more than 100 yards, and often there is little to no blood trail. Add to that their tendency to crawl into thick cover and you have instances where the bird is never recovered — or at least requires a huge effort to recover.

Thus, the designers of this head tried to come up with a product that can hit a bird hard and anchor it near the point of impact. The research I have done online suggests that hunters have been achieving this effect.

The conventional three-blade Spitfire has been a highly successful design that creates a big wound channel, plus it has a history of consistently opening on contact with a deer and getting lots of pass-throughs. The reviews have been great on this head, and it is a personal favorite of Chris from NAP, whom I talked to about NAP broadheads recently. He and I had a lengthy conversation, and I got a chance to pick his brain about broadheads for both deer and turkey hunting.

I decided to get my hands on a set of Gobbler Getters, and I am planning on using them on future archery hunts, with my crossbow in Wisconsin, where they are legal for all hunters, and in Minnesota with my compound bow. Chris from NAP said they should work just fine with my crossbow.

One thing to be careful of with mechanical heads is the danger of having them open in flight because of the higher speed of crossbows. But, Chris said I shouldn’t have to worry about this for two reasons: 1. My particular crossbow, the Parker Enforcer, is relatively slow, shooting at 285 feet per second (some compounds with 70-pound draw weights can approach or match this speed), and, 2. the Spitfires are held closed with tension springs versus o-rings or rubber bands, so they are less likely to open in flight.

Bottom line: I am not going to worry about using the Gobbler Getters with my crossbow. I eventually hope to try them with my compound bow, too. I thought about it this year for Minnesota, which now allows turkey hunters with an archery tag to hunt throughout the entire spring season, rather than just one seven-day period.

But, I applied for the first time period for firearms and got picked, so I plan to hunt the first season with my shotgun (though I might bring my crossbow and try it out if a bird comes in really close). Had I not gotten picked, I would have bought the archery tag. I likely will keep applying for first season, and there probably will be years when I don’t get picked. So, that’s when I might buy the archery tag and hunt with my compound bow. But, at age 54, I am only six years away from being able to use a crossbow for archery hunting in Minnesota.

I really think NAP has a winner with the Spitfire Gobbler Getter. Having these heads also makes me want to try to conventional Spitfires for deer. Chris said that the three-blade design consistently produces nice blood trails. He said it’s very rare that you get a poor blood trail on a deer shot with a Spitfire.

He believes that you can get great results with a two-blade head, which I have, but if the cut is more horizontal than vertical, you can get a lot less blood coming out of a deer.

I see his point. That exact thing happened three years ago on a deer I shot with a Rage two-blade mechanical. A doe came walking down a trail near my stand, and I took a 25-yard shot at her (I had measured the distance from the trail to my stand, so I knew it was 25 yards).

Because I had a lighted nock, I saw the arrow hit the doe right behind the front leg and in the vital area. I watched her run off with the arrow sticking out of her. I couldn’t tell how much penetration I got, but it looked like the arrow at least hit the right spot.

Unfortunately, I found a small blood trail that eventually dried up. To this day, I am convinced that I hit the deer where I was aiming and that it eventually died.

But, in that instance, I may have had the trouble Chris described. The good news is I have had some great blood trails since then, and I am confident in the Killzones I have in my quiver. I have six of them, three brand new and three with replacement blades. Plus, I also have three Killzone crossbow heads. I now see that, based in my conversation with Chris, I may not have needed to buy the Killzone crossbow heads. But, that’s OK. I killed a deer with one of them, and I am massively confident in them.

I would like to deer hunt with Spitfires someday, but to be honest, I am so sold on Killzones that I am reluctant to switch. I first tried them on a recommendation from the guys at A1 Archery in Hudson. These guy are serious hunters, and nearly all of them use Killzones and love them. They have always steered me right, so I easily chose to buy Killzones. Plus, one of the guys at A1 installed replacement blades on three of my heads when I bought the blades there. That’s customer service you can’t beat!

So, with all due respect to Chris, I probably will be taking my Killzones back into the woods this fall for deer. Now, if he wants to send me a set of Spitfires to try, I would be happy to do so. I’m sure they would perform admirably.

On the other hand, I’m not looking to fix something that isn’t broke. I have shot at three deer with Killzones and killed them all. One of them I did not recover until the next day, which was too late because the coyotes got to it first. That’s on me for not the greatest shot placement (a little far back that resulted in the deer jumping up and running when I went to track it).

So, if I just make sure to execute proper shot placement, I think my Killzones will do a great job. But, it sure is nice to know there are other great options, too. But, whatever NAP mechanical broadhead you choose to use, Chris wants to offer one CRUCIAL tip: Replace the blade after every animal you harvest with it, NO MATTER WHAT. Chris was emphatic on this point, and NAP offers replacement blades for both the Spitfire and the Killzone. They’re about $15 for a pack of three, and worth the money. To me, it’s like sharpening your hook after every fish you catch.

My Spitfire Gobbler Getters arrived in the mail recently. I’m excited to use them!

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Sighting in new crossbow a breeze

February 11, 2016

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Got my hands on my new Parker Bushwacker crossbow last week. I didn’t wait long to put it together and sight it in.

I found it simple to put together and easy to use. I really like the way it feels in my hands, and it was amazingly easy to sight in. I started out at 10 yards, and it was very close. I moved back to 20, and it was just a tad low and to the left. A few clicks on the scope adjustments and I was dialed in dead center.

I took a few more shots to make sure, and every one hit the bullseye. I am supremely confident about hunting with this weapon. And, my hat’s off to Parker for making a solid crossbow that I’m sure will take down some animals for me.

I plan to use it this spring for turkey hunting. There’s a place in Wisconsin where I bow hunt where the landowner only allows bow hunting. And, with crossbows being legal for any hunter in this state, I plan to try mine there.

Should be fun. I feel confident I can make a shot on a gobbler out to at least 20 yards, even though a tom’s vital area is only the size of a tennis ball. The crossbow certainly is capable of hitting the target.

But, a critical decision is what broadhead to use. After doing some research online, I plan on trying the Spitfire Gobbler Getter by New Archery Products. It’s designed specifically for turkey hunting, and it has features to help put the bird down where he stands or close to it. Many hunters agonize over birds they hit with an arrow, but run or fly off. My brother-in-law just recently told me about a friend of his who hit three turkeys while archery hunting last spring, but didn’t recover any of them. That’s definitely an outcome I would like to avoid!

I may also try archery hunting for turkeys in Minnesota with my compound bow. An archery tag is good for the entire spring, so that would give me lots of time to try for a gobbler. I applied for the first season in the lottery. If I don’t get picked, I’m seriously thinking about buying an archery tag. I consider getting a turkey with a bow to be the supreme challenge in archery.

I need to decide if I’m up to the task!

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Archery season ends quietly

February 3, 2016

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It’s finally over. I went on my last archery hunt of the season Sunday, Jan. 31. In Wisconsin, one piece of property I hunt is located in the Hudson Metro Subunit, with an extended season that goes through Jan. 31.

I hadn’t hunted there since November, so I went on Saturday morning and did some scouting. There was deer sign aplenty throughout the property, including fresh droppings. I found a promising spot and threw down some corn, as baiting is legal in Wisconsin.

I went back to the spot Sunday afternoon for one final sit, with my friend’s crossbow in hand. When I got there, I checked the corn pile and did not see any fresh deer tracks indicating that deer had found the corn.

So, I went to a different spot where I had seen a good amount of tracks on Saturday. I set up in a cluster of pines and waited.

Nothing showed, and I spent the last 10 minutes of shooting light walking around to see if any deer were moving. None were, which resulted in a quiet ending to the archery season.

It was a season of peaks and valleys in terms of deer movement, with mostly valleys. There were many hours in a stand in both Minnesota and Wisconsin when I didn’t see a single deer. I blame the unusually warm fall, which may have been the culprit again last night, with temperatures near 40 degrees in the afternoon.

No matter when it is during the archery season, the colder the weather, the more deer move during daylight hours. I am hoping next year won’t be this warm. I talked to a lot of hunters during the season, including some who spent many days in the field, and they all reported drastically reduced deer sightings.

I know some people think the problem is lower deer numbers, but I hunt in areas with healthy deer populations. In fact, the deer sign on the property I hunted yesterday was very good. The deer are there, they just haven’t moved much during the day.

Well, I can’t complain. I had a good season overall, and was able to take two antlerless deer, one in Wisconsin with a crossbow and one in Minnesota with a shotgun. There’s plenty of venison in the freezer and my family is enjoying it. We had venison meatloaf just last week, and I will be making venison stew later this month.

So, I give thanks to the Lord for the blessings of this archery season!

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New Parker crossbow on the way!

January 29, 2016

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After lots and lots of research, I finally made a decision to purchase a crossbow. I had used a friend’s Excalibur crossbow in the fall and took a doe with it in Wisconsin, where crossbows are legal for all hunters with an archery license.

I enjoyed it so much, I decided I wanted one for myself. I shot several and really liked ones made by Parker. They have two lower-priced models that are nearly identical — the Enforcer and the Bushwacker. The former sells for $500, the latter for $400.

That’s low when it comes to crossbows, but still more than I had hoped to pay. I was hoping to pay $300 or less, but the more research I did, the less that seemed possible. I did see one for less than $300, but a guy in the archery department at Cabela’s advised against it. He was high on Parker crossbows, saying he does not see them get returned, plus they are made in the U.S. with a lifetime warranty.

I tried one out in two different stores, and they just felt good in my hands. The next task was trying to find the lowest price possible.

Today, I got a nice blessing when a guy from Parker emailed me that the company had some older Bushwackers (pre-2015) that they were closing out. The price was great — $225. Needless to say, I jumped all over that and ordered one right away.

It should come in the next week or two. I’m excited to use it, and may try it in Wisconsin during the turkey season this spring. One landowner where I hunt only allows bow hunting, so I’ll be good to go on his property with my new crossbow. Plus, I likely will be the only turkey hunter on his land this  spring.

I can’t wait to try it. And, of course, I will use it in the fall. My journey to crossbow ownership all started with some nagging shoulder pain that significantly influenced shooting with my compound. Now, I have the option of using the crossbow in Wisconsin. And, at age 54, I only have a few more years to reach the age requirement of 60 in Minnesota for crossbow use.

I’ll  be sure to follow up with more information about how the new crossbow shoots. Stay tuned!

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Bow hunt yields surprise sighting

November 24, 2015

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A surprise encounter with Donnie Vincent led to a photo opp with this hunting video producer.

A surprise encounter with Donnie Vincent, right, led to a photo opp with this hunting video producer.

The best thing that happened on my bow hunt Sunday morning took place after I climbed down from my stand at 11:15 at Mr. Snowman’s Christmas Tree Farm near Prescott, Wisconsin. I had seen five deer but failed to get a shot opportunity.

Would have been nice to draw my bow, which I haven’t done this fall. But, three of the deer were running (a small buck chasing two does) and out of range, and the other two were behind the stand and did not walk down the trail and past me.

That’s OK. I have two deer at Stasny’s Meat Market in St. Paul for processing (one taken with a gun, the other with a crossbow), so I don’t need venison. I was planning on donating any deer I shot to friends who need the meat. In the end, I was happy with the morning, and with seeing the five deer.

But, the best was yet to come.

I was coming back to my car, and happened to strike up a conversation with someone who was there with his wife and three dogs to cut down a tree. Turned out to be Donnie Vincent. He produces what I believe are the best bow hunting videos on the planet. My son Joe got me started watching them last year. His wife shot a photo of Donnie and I with my iPhone. It was very cool. I texted the photo to my son Joe, who thought it was awesome. He replied that he felt a little jealous.

What’s even better is Donnie agreed to go into the woods with me and check out my stands and the ridge I have been hunting for two seasons. Turns out he found a tree that was rubbed multiple times by what he believes to be a big buck. The trail goes right past my stand. He also found a spot where I could set up my ladder stand and get shots at the trail the buck was using, plus a flat area down the hill from my stand that the deer also use. Both would be about 20 yards.

How cool is that, having Donnie Vincent scout my area and tell me the exact tree to set up my stand? I feel like I can’t go wrong. I will move one of my stands to that spot very soon, and I will be ready to go for next year.

In the meantime, I am thinking ahead to Dec. 25. Donnie said he is going to release another video right before Christmas. You can bet it will be on my wish list. His videos are unlike anything I have ever seen. They are about way more than just the kill, featuring spectacular cinematography. The landscapes of the places he hunts are absolutely stunning, and are well worth getting the videos for.

I also like how Donnie captures the entire hunting experience, including failures and disappointments. He is not afraid to include missed shots in the videos, in addition to his personal thoughts about those failures and about hunting in general. It is clear he is a highly reflective person when it comes to hunting, which is a big reason why I like his videos so much.

I also like the fact that he is very humble. He comes across that way in the videos, and in person. I had no idea who he was when I saw him on Sunday, and I just walked up and started talking to him. He showed no trace of pride or arrogance, and eagerly agreed to take a picture with me and take a brief walk in the woods to look over my hunting area. And, his wife was very gracious in not only taking the photo of Donnie and I, but letting him step away from their Christmas tree search to do a little scouting with me.

As a person, as a hunter and as a video producer, I give Donnie Vincent five out of five stars. He’s a class act! And, I hope all  serious hunters —especially bow hunters — will take the time to watch his videos.

If you have a hunter in your family, I believe you can’t go wrong in buying him or her one of Donnie’s videos. They are a nice thing to watch during the long winter months.

And, for those who are interested in buying a Christmas tree, Mr. Snowman’s is a great place to go. It’s just a little more than 30 miles from downtown St. Paul, so it’s not far. The owner, Charles MacDonald, a retired physician, said this year was a great growing year and his trees are robust and healthy.

So, for those who maybe have had artificial trees up to this point and are thinking about getting a real tree, this year is an excellent time to make the leap. Mr. Snowman’s features the opportunity to cut down your own tree, or get a tree on display that already has been cut.

Looks like the weather will cooperate over Thanksgiving weekend. Just be sure not to wander into the woods beyond where the trees are, in case I am sitting in my stand.

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