Tag Archives: deer

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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Deer hunting 2015: a bountiful harvest!

November 16, 2015

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This nice doe was taken with a crossbow in Wisconsin.

This nice doe was taken with a crossbow in Wisconsin.

On the crisp afternoon of Nov. 13, I sat peacefully in a deer stand in Wisconsin with my hands tucked into a camo muff.

Some important items were inside the muff — chemical handwarmer bags and a blaze orange rosary.

Never heard of a blaze orange rosary? Well, you obviously have never been to St. Hubert in Chanhassen. I procured my set of beads there Nov. 8, the day after the firearms deer opener and the day the parish celebrated the feast of its namesake, who also happens to be the patron saint of hunters.

I was first introduced to my deer hunting patron in 2012 by my oldest son Joe, who encouraged me to pray to St. Hubert. I did and was rewarded with a 10-point buck in the final minutes of the 3A firearms season, the largest I have ever taken.

Father Bruno Nwachukwu of St. Hubert in Chanhassen dresses up as St. Hubert and passes out blaze orange rosaries the weekend of Nov. 7-8.

Father Bruno Nwachukwu of St. Hubert in Chanhassen dresses up as St. Hubert and passes out blaze orange rosaries the weekend of Nov. 7-8.

Thus, I was highly motivated to come to St. Hubert parish to claim a set of blaze orange rosary beads. I also was treated to the sight of Father Bruno Nwachukwu, the associate pastor who dressed up as St. Hubert and handed out the rosaries and posed for pictures with a blowup deer.

By then, my hunt was well underway, and I was celebrating the success of the previous day. My friend and hunting partner, Bernie Schwab, and I both had tagged button bucks on the opening day of the 3A firearms season Nov. 7. They were considered antlerless deer, and were legal in this zone under the Hunter’s Choice rule, which allows hunters to tag one deer during the entire fall season, buck or doe.

With that accomplished, I was now trying to fill one of my archery tags in Wisconsin. I sat for six hours in a stand on one piece of property I was hunting the morning of Nov. 13, then switched to another farm after seeing no deer.

When I climbed into my stand at 3 p.m. with a little more than two hours of shooting light left, the high winds were starting to calm. I was optimistic that a deer would step out near my stand. I was hunting with a crossbow, which I had decided to do for the first time this year. Crossbows are legal in Wisconsin, and I wanted to try one out. Thanks to the generosity of a friend, Gary Altendorf, I had one in my hands on this cool afternoon.

Throughout the first hour of my sit, I fingered the rosary beads and said a few prayers to Mary. I don’t know how much pull she has in terms of bringing a whitetail my way, but I thought a Hail Mary or two couldn’t hurt.

A little after 4 p.m., I heard some rustling in the thick brush to the north of my stand. I knew this was a bedding area, so I started to feel anticipation. The noise got louder and closer, and I sensed a deer was near.

Then, only about 20 yards in front of me, a nice doe emerged from the brush and walked right at me. This is a fine shot if you’re holding a gun, not so much if you have a bow in your hands, even a crossbow. There’s a lot of bone in the way of the vitals when a deer is coming straight toward you.

I wondered if this deer would walk right under my stand. Then, a few seconds after this doe popped out, another one emerged behind it. It followed the first, but then turned slightly away from me to nibble on a branch.

That exposed part of its front flank, and I saw my opportunity. I put the crosshairs of the scope on it and popped the trigger. The arrow (called a bolt) found its mark and hit the deer in the spine. It went down immediately, which meant there would be no tracking required.

Most bow hunters will say that tracking a deer after it’s hit is the hardest part of bow hunting. After having done it a few times, I would agree. So, I was very relieved to not have that chore ahead of me.

I did put a second shot into the deer to make sure it was down, then I went and told the landowner. She offered to drive her tractor up to the spot where my doe was. I quickly and eagerly accepted.

Within an hour, I was on my way back to St. Paul and Stasny’s Meat Market, where I get my deer processed. The guys there do a great job, including owner Jim Stasny, who almost always is there to check in my deer. Their summer sausage is legendary, and I always make sure to order some.

I now have two deer at Stasny’s. Both were young, which will make for some good eating.

The good news is I have more tags left to fill in Wisconsin. I still have my buck tag, plus a county doe tag. I can buy more bonus doe tags if I want, which is a nice option to have.

But, I have not been seeing nearly as many deer as last year, so I’m not sure how many more shot opportunities I will get. I think the warm weather in October and November severely curtailed deer movement overall, especially during the daytime.

That’s why the cooler days are so important. A chill is in the forecast for later this week, and I will take Friday off to hunt. It’s the day before Wisconsin’s firearms deer opener, so it will be the last day of quiet before guns start blazing in the badger state.

After shooting my compound bow year round, it sure would be nice to draw back on a deer. Maybe, Friday it will happen!

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Don’t forget about turkeys this fall

October 2, 2015

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Hunting seasons are open in Minnesota, and I have been focusing my efforts on bow hunting for whitetail deer. But, a package that arrived in the mail yesterday pulled my attention toward another game animal — the wild turkey.

The fall season for turkeys opens tomorrow, and will stay open until Nov. 1. With a new call in my hand, I want to go after these birds. It’s a simple mouth diaphragm call, but it’s wickedly good at producing the full range of hen calls, including the kee-kee run they use in the fall.

I have tried and tried to do this call over the years, which is a series of short, high-pitched whistles, but have failed miserably. That is, until I tried a mouth call from a company called Tom Teasers in Georgia. The company makes one called Cracked Corn, which I got several years ago and hadn’t gotten around to trying yet. I picked it up earlier this summer and decided to try it out. I gave the kee-kee one more try, and to my surprise, I did it beautifully on this call!

What’s more, I was able to do all kinds of other hen sounds really well, too. Just like that, I found my new go-to call. I decided to call the company to say how much I like this call. I ended up on the phone with Tommy Walton, the owner and founder. We talked for a while, then he generously offered to send me some more Cracked Corn calls, plus several other mouth calls. He even threw in two beautiful box calls!

I felt like I was in heaven. When I got ready for bed last night at 11:30, I couldn’t resist trying out the new box calls. I worked them softly, then decided I would really fire them up this morning.

In a word, they’re awesome, too. So, thanks to Tommy for getting all of these great calls in my hands. We talked about turkey and deer hunting over the phone, and I told him he should come up here to hunt sometime. It’s a long way from Georgia, but we have some good opportunities up here.

Maybe he’ll take me up on that sometime. If he does, I know what calls I’ll be using on our turkey hunts!

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