Tag Archives: Fishing and hunting

Venison summer sausage: an annual tradition

November 18, 2014

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Yesterday, I made a detour on my route home from work to stop in at Stasny’s Food Market on Western Avenue in St. Paul.

I always love going there, and usually it’s for one of two reasons: 1. To drop off deer for processing; and, 2. To pick up venison that has been processed.

Yesterday, it was the latter. I picked up one of the does I shot with my bow. Along with the meat, I got what everyone in my family loves: venison summer sausage.

I immediately cut open a stick when I got home, and wasted no time sharing it with members of my family. We all started scarfing it down, and almost went through a whole stick. I asked my wife how she rated it on a scale of 1 to 10. Without hesitation, she exclaimed, “10!”

We all agreed. There just was no flaw in this delicious appetizer. In fact, my wife said she would have been fine to have it as the main course for dinner. Too bad she didn’t say this before I fired up the charcoal grill to make pork chops. I gladly would have feasted on cheese, crackers and venison summer sausage.

Oh well. We can do that some other night. We’ve got plenty of sausage left, which I will share with others. One of my traditions is to stop by homes of landowners whose land we hunt and give them a stick of summer sausage right before Christmas. They seem to appreciate it. One of them says he looks forward to it every year. Well, he will get some this year, and I’m very glad to swing by and hand it to him in person.

There’s lot of good eating ahead. I plan to make venison meatloaf for my co-w0rkers later this week at a potluck. Of course, I plan to be near the head of the food line!

 

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More deer hunting success!

November 14, 2014

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This nice doe walked by the stand at 11 a.m. on a cold, crisp day.

This nice doe walked by the stand at 11 a.m. on a cold, crisp day.

I had an amazing day in the woods on Wednesday. I went bow hunting in the morning in Wisconsin, then gun hunting in Minnesota with my friend Bernie Schwab in the afternoon. It was COLD. When I got out there in the morning, it was 16 degrees.

I didn’t get up in my bow stand until after shooting light, but there was no way I was going to climb in earlier in that cold. I was planning to be there until at least 1 p.m. or until I got a deer, so I didn’t want to get there early and risk getting chilled. I ended up waiting in the stand for four hours, then caught movement through the brush at 11.

I stood up and grabbed my bow,  then a doe came out right on a trail 15 yards from me. It’s the same trail the small buck came through the week before that I had missed. She was walking nice and slow with her head down. As she approached the spot where I wanted to shoot, I drew back. She got there and stopped, just like I wanted her to. I anchored the pin right behind her shoulder and made sure it wasn’t too far back, which is the mistake I had made just two days earlier. I executed a nice, smooth release and the arrow hit right where I aimed.

With the lighted nock, I saw the arrow hit right behind her shoulder, and it passed through. I heard the thump, then she jumped and started running. I knew the hit was good. She went about 60 yards, then slowed down and wobbled. She darted a little more, and fell over and died. It took less than 10 seconds, and it was the first time I have ever seen a deer fall that I hit with an arrow.

Unfortunately, I was so focused on her that I didn’t notice the small buck following her right down the same trail. By the time I turned around and saw him, he was coming into the clearing. I tried to grab another arrow, but he saw me and veered off. Then, another small buck came from a different direction and the two bucks were milling around for a few minutes before walking off. Very cool.

Just for kicks, I went to the blood trail and tracked it to the deer. A 5-year-old could have followed it. When you get a shot in the right place, an arrow can kill a deer just as fast and effectively as a gun. I registered the deer, took it into a processor in Prescott called Ptacek’s, then went down to Red Wing to hunt with Bernie.

He had been out that morning with the landowner and they got a nice 10-point buck that the landowner took in to a butcher to get made into his favorite venison treat — jalapeno sticks. So, it was time to get a deer for Bernie.

I climbed into a stand that had been productive, and began the wait. I saw a doe out feeding about 200 yards away, and hoped it would come my way. Instead, she went back into the woods after about 15 minutes.

Things were quiet until about a half hour of shooting light remained. Then, I heard movement behind me to the right in the woods. In a matter of seconds, I spotted a deer walking in the woods behind me very close. It swung around to my left and turned to go into the field. I got a good look at its head and body, and saw no antlers. We had antlerless tags left, so I was good to go. When the deer stepped out into the field at about 15 yards, I fired. The shot hit low, which meant the deer didn’t die right away. I had to go after it and make a finishing shot, which I did.

Here’s the great part — the landowner came out with his truck to pick up the deer, then invited us in for soup and hot chocolate. Can’t beat that!

We have been very blessed to hunt this property. We have killed some nice deer there, including a pair of 10-pointers Bernie and I shot there two years ago. Bernie’s son Dan got his first deer there, too, and my son Andy shot his first Minnesota deer there last year. Andy got another doe there this year, and my brother Paul got a deer, too, on a different property on opening day.

All in all, a great deer season, and it’s not done for me. I still have two archery tags left for Wisconsin, including my buck tag. I think I will wait until the weather warms up later next week, then try again. I would like to get a deer for some friends who don’t have one yet. I was able to give a deer to Bernie last year that we got in Montana, and I would like to help someone out again this year. With the deer herd down in Minnesota, things have been tough for hunters overall.

I think part of the reason for our success is we’re hunting properties we’ve hunted before and have stands set up in good spots. From what I can tell, the area we hunt seems to have plenty of deer, and I’m hearing the same thing from other hunters there.

It will be interesting to see what the DNR does with the deer limits. All indications are that they will relax the restrictions at least somewhat. I’m optimistic the herd will bounce back. For now, I’m counting my blessings and thanking the Lord for another great deer season!

 

 

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Deer opener report, plus bow hunting update

November 11, 2014

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The firearms opener for deer took place on Saturday, and I was in a stand I had never hunted during previous gun seasons. I wanted to see how it would produce when I was holding as gun in my hand.

Turns out, it’s a pretty good spot. I had a doe walk in around 7, and I thought I would have an easy shot. But, she saw me as I was getting my gun ready and turn and ran before I was on her. I fired as she ran off, but missed. That’s OK. I would much rather miss completely than wound it.

Having gotten a deer with my bow already, I wanted to get a deer for other members of my hunting party. Fortunately, two of the others, my brother Paul and son Andy, came through with deer. Paul got his first deer in four years, and Andy got one for the second year in a row. Around 11 a.m. Saturday, I saw a very big buck cross the corner of a soybean field near where I was sitting. He moved quickly and there was no chance for a shot. Actually, I wish I could have taken his picture with my camera. He had a very nice set of antlers.

Sunday afternoon, I was back in my bow stand in Wisconsin. I had a nice doe come in to 15 yards, but when I drew back, she saw me and jerked her head up. I rushed the shot and ended up hitting her farther back than I wanted to. When I checked my arrow, I was sickened to see that I had hit her in the stomach. It’s a long dying process for deer hit in this part of their body, and I didn’t wait nearly long enough before I started tracking.

I jumped her only about 50 yards away, and she ran toward the edge of the woods. I backed out and came back the next morning. I found her, but I was too late. Coyotes had gotten there first, and there was no meat left.

I got in my stand and endured cold and wind from 1 to 5 p.m. I had two small bucks come in during the last hour of shooting light. One of them came in close enough for a shot, but when I drew back, my arrow made a scraping sound against my arrow rest. Some ice had frozen on the arrow, and I didn’t realize it. Instantly, the buck jumped and ran off. Game over.

It wasn’t meant to be. Oh well. I have had plenty of action and close encounters. This has been a great learning year for me. I think I will walk away a much better bow hunt than when the season started. That is huge in this sport, where even one small mistake can cost you a deer.

But, the season is far from over. In fact, the best may be yet to come. Once the does start coming into estrous, look out. There will be a frenzy of activity for at least several days as bucks start chasing does all over. I have not witnessed that on the farm where I hunt in Wisconsin. Should happen any time.

I decided to stay out of the woods today, and I’m glad I did because target shooting caused me to discover a problem with my release. It wasn’t working properly, and my arrows were flying all over the place. I took it in to A1 Archery in Hudson, and the guy I worked with did some testing, then put some lube inside. Then, I went to the practice range and took some shots. It’s working fine now. So, I don’t have to worry about that. My Scott release, which is the only one I have owned, has been great, and I am so glad I can keep using it. I hope I can stop by A1 in the next few days and give them a deer success story.

I just have to figure out how to stay warm!

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Bow hunting success at last!

November 7, 2014

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I was extremely frustrated Wednesday night after missing my second chance at a buck in a span of five days. I made up my mind to try again yesterday. I needed to get back on the horse and see if I could get things to go right this time.

I had purchased six new carbon arrows and NAP Killzone mechanical broadheads from A1 Archery in Hudson, Wis. These guys have never steered me wrong, and their customer service is second to none. They are very high on these broadheads, and the guy I talked to said everyone on staff who bow hunts uses them.

That’s good enough for me. I got six new Beamon carbon arrows and Killzone broadheads, so I would have a full quiver to start the morning hunt.

I went out to one of my favorite spots yesterday morning, the stand where I took my first deer with a bow (Nov. 6, 2013). This would be exactly one year later. I knew the woods would be quiet and there wouldn’t be anyone else out there hunting on a weekday morning.

But, it was tough to get to my stand because there were a lot of fallen trees and brush, and it’s very hard to navigate through all that in the dark. I eventually got to my stand, and was sitting up in it ready to hunt about 15 minutes before shooting hours began.

Things were quiet until about 7 or so. I heard shuffling in the leaves behind me and I knew it was deer. It sounded like more than one. At first, I thought they would go out into the tall grass to my right, as I have seen them do before. But, when I turned right to look, I didn’t see anything.

Then, I thought maybe they would swing around to my left and come by my stand. So, I turned my head and started leaning to the left. I heard shuffling in the leaves and looked down and saw a doe only about 10 yards from me. She had two fawns behind her.

I reached for my bow, then she raised her head up, so I froze. But, she quickly lowered her head again and kept walking. I grabbed my bow and held it in front of me so I could be ready to draw. She then turned to her left, right in front of my stand. It was a pretty steep quartering away shot at that point, but I could still see her vital area. Her head turned to her left to look back at her fawns.

You have to process so much in just seconds in scenarios like this, all with the deer very close to you. What to do? Should I take the shot? If so, when?

She was standing exactly 15 yards away, which is well within my effective range. She was frozen looking back at her fawns, so I knew I had plenty of time to shoot if I wanted to attempt the quartering-away shot.

I felt it was worth at least trying to draw, which I did. I made sure to relax my bow arm and bend it slightly, then I tried to put my pin on the vitals to see if it would be a good shot to take.

I absolutely anchored the pin and I was extremely calm. So, I released the arrow. The lighted knock flew right at the deer and I heard it hit her, then saw the arrow sticking out of her. She jumped and ran off and I could clearly see the arrow sticking out of her body, a little more than halfway back. With a quartering-away shot, you have to aim pretty far back so that the arrow will go into the vitals at that steep angle.

I got a good look at my arrow position in the deer when she ran off, and the placement looked excellent. But, there was a fair amount of the arrow outside the deer. I figured about half to two thirds of it was sticking out, but I have a 29-inch arrow plus broadhead, so that means I had at least 12-14 inches of the arrow in the deer. That certainly would be enough. The question was: Given that it wasn’t a pass through, how much blood would there be?

Turns out, there was no blood at all, which is the downside to a hit like this. But, as my friend and mentor Steve Huettl and others have often said, a deer hit in the vitals won’t go far. So, I was hoping if I walked around enough, I would eventually spot her.

I was getting discouraged, and I called people to ask them to pray for me. One of them was my good friend Jim Grill, who also gave me a few tips, like paying attention to possibly bumping the fawns. He said if the mama doe is down, the fawns will still stay near her.

At one point, I gave up looking for blood and just started going in the direction she was heading when I lost sight of her. I walked back into the woods about 10-20 yards, then heard a crashing sound like a deer jumping up after getting spooked. I thought of Jim’s comments and wondered if it might be the fawns. So, I walked quickly to where I heard the sound and saw the doe lying dead with my arrow still in her. She had probably gone a total of about 70-80 yards.

Success at last! Previous heartaches melt away when you’re standing over a deer you have just found. That makes two bow kills for me in my short time as as bowhunter. I dropped off the doe at Stasny’s in St. Paul, my go-to deer processor. It was one of the bigger does I have shot, and there should be lots of good meat. Plus, it was nice and cool yesterday and I field dressed it as soon as I found it. The arrow came right out, so they won’t have to worry about finding it inside the deer.

Now, I can just relax and hunt the gun season tomorrow. It will be cold and windy, but that’s not all bad. That’s much better than warm and windy. I have definitely killed deer on cold and windy days, like my buck two years ago. If the deer are active, something will move.

I am going to a hunt a stand that I put up on a nice funnel spot that I found two years ago. Then, in the afternoon, I’ll go to a different spot to hunt a meadow where we have had success over the years.

The key will be to dress warm, as it’s supposed to be cold and windy tomorrow. I have hunted on days like this, and it’s important to do the right things to stay warm. Here are some tips:

  • Cover as much exposed skin as possible. Wear a warm hat, even if it impacts your hearing. With the leaves down, you’ll see deer and have plenty of time to get your gun ready. Another good item to have is a neck gaiter, so that the wind doesn’t penetrate.
  • Use the handwarmer resin bags to put inside your gloves and boots. Better yet, get a hand muff that straps around your waist. I use it for bow hunting and it keeps my hands nice and warm. The handwarmers only cost $1 for a package of two, and they’re worth every penny!
  • If you need to climb down to warm up, wait until 1 or 2 if you can. Good deer activity happens between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., especially when it’s cold. And, a lot of hunters climb down from their stands for lunch, and they bump deer in the process. That could get them moving to you. On a cold and windy day like tomorrow, you can bet hunters will be taking a break between 10 and noon to get out of the cold. If you stay in your stand, you could be rewarded. I’ve read that deer notice when hunters leave and start moving after they have left, knowing the coast is clear. On opening day, I ALWAYS stay in my stand until at least noon. One year, I decided to stay put until 3, then killed a nice 8-pointer at 2:50. If you’re in a good spot, especially a funnel area in the woods, deer can move all day long.
  • If you can turn away from the wind and put it at your back, do it. You’ll stay warm far longer than if it’s blowing in your face. If you have to face the wind, pull your hat down and your neck gaiter up as much as possible. And, you can at least look down from time to time to keep it out of your face.

Tomorrow won’t feature bone-chilling cold, but if you haven’t sat in a stand when temps are in the 30s, it can be a rude awakening. I’ve been out when it’s colder, but haven’t dealt with high winds yet. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be ready.

Let the hunt begin!

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More bow hunting heartache

November 5, 2014

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Just when I thought I had my lowest moment in the woods, it got worse. After failing to get a buck on Saturday, I went out again this morning hoping for redemption.

What I got instead was more misery. Things were looking good when I climbed into my stand well before dawn under cloudy skies. I settled in and watched the landscape lighten with the coming of sunrise. It’s a more gradual process under cloud cover, and less dramatic.

Not long after shooting hours began, a doe walked by about 40-50 yards away. She circled around and I thought she might come in, but no dice. She stayed out of bow range, then eventually ran off. Don’t know what spooked her.

Always nice when there are does in the area. That means bucks will be around, too. Sure enough, less than an hour later, I spotted movement in the brush to my north. I saw a deer moving through and headed toward me. Just a few seconds later, I spotted antlers. Not a big buck, but definitely something I wanted to shoot.

He paused behind a tree, then I quickly stood up and grabbed my bow. The buck kept moving toward an open area, completely oblivious to my presence. As he got into the clearing, I turned and held my bow in front of me, ready to draw. He took a few steps, then I grunted to stop him and drew back. He was 15 yards away, standing broadside. I quickly put the pin on his chest and released.

What I saw next can only be described as sickening — completely sickening. The arrow flew toward the back end of the deer and hit the ground behind him. Somehow, the shot went left about 3 feet from where I aimed. It never touched the deer.

I was stunned. The buck jumped and turned away from me. He walked a little ways, then turned to go back the way he came.

How could this be? I don’t ever miss like that in practice. In fact, in all the years I have shot a bow, both in practice and while hunting, I have never been this far off the mark — ever.

For goodness sake, the buck was only 15 yards away! I kept going over and over the whole shot sequence as I sat in the stand. I think what happened is the arm holding the bow was straighter than normal, and the string probably hit my jacket. That will deflect an arrow every time.

I had several conversations with other hunters, and that seems to be the best explanation. But, the problem was not my jacket, it was bad form. I should have taken my time to anchor the pin and make sure my form was good before letting the arrow fly.

Instead, I rushed everything and had a very quick release. That is exactly how bad things happen. Hopefully, I’ll get another chance. I’m going out again tomorrow, this time to a different piece of property. I will try to learn from my mistakes and do it right the next time.

Please, God, let there be a next time!

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A buck comes in. . . heartache follows

November 3, 2014

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I’m sure every bow hunter knows the feeling of heartache when they have a chance at a deer but go home empty-handed.

Try as we might, failure rears its ugly head just when we think we’re on the verge of success. Such was the case on Saturday, when I hit the woods to take advantage of a cold morning that I was sure would have deer moving.

Interestingly, the first sign of life I saw was about 20 turkeys roosted just down hill from me. They started yelping and sounding off, then flew down shortly after it got light. They were scratching around nearby, and it was cool to watch.

Then, about 8 a.m. or so, I heard some rustling in the leaves a short distance to my east and slightly uphill. I turned just in time to see two does trotting behind me about 30 or 35 yards away. They were acting skittish, which can mean that there’s a buck behind them.

Sure enough, as they went downhill behind me, I caught sight of a buck coming in behind them with his nose to the ground. I’m sure he was sniffing to see if either doe was coming into estrous. He looked like an 8-pointer.

The buck was about 30-40 yards away, too, which is out of my range. The does swung around and then caught sight of me as I stood up so that I would be able to turn around for a shot if any of the deer came into range.

One of the does saw me and turned its head right at me. She bobbed and weaved and looked up trying to figure out what I was. Meanwhile, the buck slowly started working his way toward them. He angled toward them and closer to me. I was hoping he would eventually come around and go past my stand. Instead, he stopped between two trees and just stood there. I then realized he might be in range and his vitals were exposed. So, I drew on him and put the pin where it needed to be. I held steady, then hit my release.

The nock lit up and I saw the arrow sailing toward the deer. It went perfectly between the trees, and then I saw it hit the ground on the other side of the deer. I could see the nock, then the buck jumped, and I turned my attention toward him. He started walking slowly away with his head down and eventually went over a hill.

I pondered what to do next, while the does kept trying to figure me out. Eventually, a third doe appeared and, after about 20 or 30 minutes, all three of the does left.

I knew I needed to find my arrow and see if it went through the deer. Alas, after climbing down and looking, I could not find it. I looked four different times and never found it. I then headed in the direction of the deer and tried to see if I could find it. No luck. I uttered many fervent prayers to the Lord, but I didn’t find anything — no arrow, no blood, no deer.

So, I walked away puzzled. I still don’t know if I hit the deer or not. I know my left/right line was good, but not sure about the vertical path. I used my 20-yard pin and aimed about a third of the way up from the bottom of the deer’s belly. I think I would be fine up to about 25 yards. But, if the deer was farther away than that, more than likely I shot under him.

I should have tried to use my range finder. What can happen is, on a bigger deer like a buck, you can be fooled into thinking it’s closer than it really is. If your estimate is short by 5 or 10 yards, that can spell a miss.

The tough part is I may never know what happened. That’s just how bow hunting goes. I have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week off, plus I’ll be hunting the firearms opener on Saturday. So, I’ve got some chances left. My goal right now is simple — one deer, any deer.

Lord Jesus and St. Hubert, please help me!

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Finally! A close encounter with a deer

October 30, 2014

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Yesterday morning, I decided to spend a couple hours in a deer stand with my bow. It was my sixth time out, and I was hoping for my first close encounter with a deer. I had seen what I think was a deer far off on the opener, and nothing since.

As I walked through the woods to my stand, I was hopeful. It was almost the end of October, and the weather had finally turned cold. Those two things usually spell the start of the rut, when deer get much more active overall, and finally start moving regularly during daylight hours.

As I climbed into the stand and settled in, I didn’t have to wait long for action. About 60 yards or so back in the woods, I heard the unmistakable sound of leaves shuffling as what I know was a group of deer moved through. They never showed themselves, but I was happy to know there were whitetails in the woods nearby.

Unfortunately, things got quiet after that. I did some buck grunts on a call about  every 20 minutes or so, with my final series of the morning taking place about 9:10.

Just minutes later, I heard footsteps behind me to my left. I slowly turned and caught sight of a small buck walking right at me. He got within about 15 yards, then looked up at me. I froze, then he kept on walking. He veered directly behind me, finally turning somewhat broadside, although still quartering slightly to me. Would have been a reasonable shot to take, but I was not in position to draw and would have had to reach around the tree.

Instead, I chose to wait and see if he would come around the tree to my right and give me a shot. He didn’t. He walked out into some tall grass, and I never got the shot I was looking for. Oh well. It was nice to at least see something. And, his rack was very small, a forkhorn I think.

There will be more opportunities to come, especially as the rut kicks in. The weather is finally going to be seasonably cool, and that should get the deer moving within the next few days. When that happens, sightings increase and, hopefully, that will translate to shot opportunities.

Today, I got out into the woods with a fellow employee in the archdiocese, Bill Dill, who has taken up bow hunting with his oldest son, Christopher. Bill and I went to a piece of land he has permission to hunt, and found a nice-looking spot for him. It is the head of a small ravine with one spot at the top where the deer are crossing. That’s a great funnel, and something I always look for when setting up for the rut. Bill is excited, and I sure hope he gets some action there.

Tomorrow morning, I am going to be on Relevant Radio (1330 AM) for a full hour with Jeff Cavins. The topic will be the upcoming firearms deer opener, and we’re going to have three guests — Father Michael Becker, rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary and an avid deer hunter, plus Jon and Kalley Yanta. Jon is a highly skilled bow hunter, and Kalley has said she would like to try it. It will be a fun show. Be sure to tune in at 9 tomorrow morning!

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Prime time for bow hunting starts soon!

October 24, 2014

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We are fast approaching what is the best time for deer activity in the fall — the last few days of October and the first two weeks of November. As each day goes by, I’m getting more excited about climbing into a stand to try for a deer with my bow.

I have gone out a total of five times this season and have yet to see a deer. As discouraging as that is, I know things will change for the better starting in about a week. The deer, which move mostly at night throughout the year, will start moving during daylight hours as the rut kicks in.

Interestingly, although most deer hunters know that the rut takes place, many don’t know what exactly happens and how you can use that information to help you get a deer. I have studied it extensively through material in magazines and online. The good news is, there is no shortage of things to read on this topic!

Based on what I have read, this is what happens: Throughout the month of October, the testosterone level in bucks continues to increase, which gets them moving more and more. They begin to travel more and do things like make tree rubs and ground scrapes. Meanwhile, the estrogen level in does also increases. That is the key to rutting activity.

As that level increases in does, a few begin to go into estrous in October, triggering bucks to start pursuing them. But, the vast majority of does don’t go into estrous until sometime in November. And, it’s that event that really gets things going as far as the rut is concerned.

As that time approaches, triggered both by decreasing length of days and the full moon phase, bucks get more and more antsy. Think ADHD. Just like a child with ADHD can’t sit still, a buck can’t bed down for very long come late October and early November. He can go three or four hours and that’s about it. Then, he gets up and starts cruising for does.

This is what hunters are waiting for. By Halloween, testosterone levels are at or near peak and bucks are on the move. They cruise through the woods and check doe bedding areas both day and night. They can easily go one or two miles on their cruising routes. They follow their noses to try and sniff out the does. As they hit a doe bedding area, they root around in it and sometimes bump the does and get them moving, too.

About two days before a doe goes into estrous, she will emit a certain smell in her urine that tells bucks she is getting ready to ovulate. And, when a bunch of does start emitting this smell, the woods come alive, with bucks running all over the place trying to track down the does. They call this the chase phase. That phase picks up even more when the does actually go into estrous and start emitting an even more distinctive smell in their urine.

It’s a great time to be on stand, but it can be tricky because the deer often are moving too fast for a bow hunter to take a shot. Thus, deer sightings go up, but shot opportunities can still be limited.

That’s why the experts recommend being in the woods just before the chase phase starts. This is called the seeking phase, and the last few days of the seeking phase are now understood to be a prime time for hunting.

Troubel is, it’s tricky to know when this starts because the does will not be emitting their pre-estrous smell yet. And, it marks a dramatic transition from what is known as the October lull. For some reason, deer often decrease their activity in October for several weeks before the end of the seeking phase starts and deer get moving again.

All I can say is, pick several days in late October and go sit in a stand. You will know in just a couple hours or so if the bucks are actively seeking does. What I recommend is sitting in your stand at dawn until about 9 a.m. If you don’t see anything, climb down and come back again in a few days. Every day that passes in late October brings us closer to prime time.

Another thing to pay attention to is weather. That is a HUGE part of the equation and I can’t stress this enough. Research has shown that, while deer activity is always strong at night, it varies during the daytime in direct relation to the temperature. When the daytime temperature is 45 degrees or less, deer will be active. When it gets above 45, daytime deer activity decreases significantly.

So, when you’re planning your hunts, look at the forecast. If it is below 45 for at least a little while in the morning, get out there and hunt. If not, wait for a colder day.

Keep in mind, if the high for the day is 50 0r 55, the hunting can still be good if the temperature stays below 45 for a while in the morning. That’s why I prefer to hunt mornings at this time of year. If you look at daily temperature readings, it is always coldest in the mornings, usually right before dawn and for a bit after the sun rises.

Deer know this, too, which is why they often are active in the mornings. As each year goes by in my young bow hunting career, I gravitate more toward morning hunts.

Surprisingly, many hunters do just the opposite. Research has shown deer hunting activity is much higher in the afternoons and evenings. The weather’s warmer, hunters can simply leave work a little early, and they can walk to their stands in broad daylight.

In contrast, mornings require getting up early — often earlier than on a typical workday — and walking to the stand in the pitch dark. And, as mentioned above, it’s colder in the morning.

These factors have proved unpleasant for deer hunters, which I think explains why more people hunt afternoons than mornings.

But, I have made the adjustment to mornings. It hasn’t been easy, but doing it repeatedly has made me much more comfortable with it. One of my tricks is marking the path to my stand with trail tacks. These reflective pins cost just a few dollars per package, and they work very effectively in the dark. I have a flashlight with a red beam, which is dimmer than the regular white light but is plenty bright enough to see the tacks.

Make no mistake, it’s challenging to walk to your stand in the dark even with a flashlight and trail tacks — not to mention being a tad bit spooky. But, I have repeated the task enough times to feel very comfortable and confident in doing it. Plus, the action I’ve had on morning hunts does wonders for my motivation to turn off the alarm clock at 5 a.m. and head out into the cold. The other thing I like is that I know I will be able to track deer during the day, which I prefer over night-time tracking.

So far, things have been unseasonably warm this month, but a change is in the forecast for next week. Looks like things will start to cool off on Tuesday, and last throughout the rest of the week. I’m circling Wednesday and Thursday as possible days to hunt. On Friday, I will be on Relevant Radio in the morning doing a special show on the upcoming firearms deer opener. I will have as my guests Father Michael Becker, rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary and an avid deer hunter, along with Jon and Kalley Yanta. Jon is a passionate bow hunter, and Kalley has decided to try it. Will be fun to hear how that’s going for them.

It might be awkward for Jon and I, as we may be sitting there wishing we were in a deer stand instead of a radio studio. But, there will be lots of good hunting days ahead after that, so I’m not worried. I don’t think he is, either.

I’ve got stands set up in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, and have archery tags for both states. All I can say now is: Bring on the rut!

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Final prep for firearms deer season

October 13, 2014

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I slept like a rock last night, as I knew I would. Fitful slumber came as a result of a full day of hard work in the field.

Our deer hunting party spent the day making final preparations for the firearms deer season, which begins on Saturday, Nov. 8. Our stands that we have set up near Red Wing are now ready to go.

It’s a nice feeling to get the work done four weeks before the opener. I think that’s the earliest we have ever gotten things ready. Now, we can leave our stands alone and allow them to be undisturbed for almost a whole month.

But, that’s not the whole story. One thing I have learned is that human presence plays a HUGE role in what happens on opening day. On a few occasions, deer will act they way they do when they’re undisturbed, but come opening day, that often is the exception rather than the rule.

First, there’s activity before the gun season from other hunters in the areas we hunt, either bow hunting or doing work on their stands for the gun season. Second, and far more important, there’s the activity of other hunters in the field once the hunt begins.

We have been messed up by this so many times over the years. Things look all nice and quiet during our scouting trips, then the woods come alive with hunters once the firearms season opens.

In fact, it almost never fails. Thus, I am not misled by the peace and quiet we experienced yesterday. In just four weeks, the armada of deer slayers will descend upon the whitetail’s world and create lots of chaos.

Of course, it can get very frustrating when other hunters show up nearby, like last year, when my brother Paul had a guy walk along the edge of the woods, look up at him, then duck into the woods and set up just down the hill. Paul later heard a gunshot from that spot, and instantly recognized that this guy had set up very close to him.

But, it can work the other way, too, like the time my friend Bernie heard some shots over the hill on a neighboring property, then saw a beautiful 10-point buck bound over the hill and right to him. The two shots he took to bring down the buck likely wouldn’t have been possible if that deer hadn’t been bumped by the hunters on that property.

Bottom line — the behavior of other hunters is often the wild card that can make or break the hunt. We have been hunting these properties for about a dozen years, and we have seen other hunters come and go. We’ve had some good opening days, and some really slow ones. The one card I play during the firearms season that often works is hunting on weekdays. There are a ton of “weekend warriors” who stay out of the woods during the week, and that often provides some great opportunities. I have scored on deer often enough during the week to view weekday hunts as a great Plan B for filling my tags.

This year, things could be even quieter during the week thanks to a one-deer limit in the zone where we hunt. We are in Zone 341, which this year is called Hunter’s Choice, meaning only one deer can be harvested for the entire season, either buck or doe. That means if hunters get a deer with their bow, they won’t have a tag for the firearms season and can only party hunt for a doe. And, gun hunters who get a deer on opening weekend will have the same situation.

So, by the time the weekdays of the gun season arrive, a lot of hunters could be tagged out. And, more than likely, they’ll have a tough time finding someone with a tag to join them in the field during the week.

In fact, I may be in that situation myself. If I tag a deer with my bow before the gun season opens, my only option will be party hunting for a doe. The good news is, with five of us in the party plus one of the landowners with a license, we should have plenty of tags available. We have never filled out yet, so I’m sure we’ll have tags for whoever needs them.

With the rut most likely peaking in early November, I’m hoping for some good hunts ahead!

 

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Enjoying the weather!

September 29, 2014

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I was able to get out and enjoy the gorgeous weather we had over the weekend. It started with trap shooting Saturday afternoon at the home of a high school classmate and friend, Tim Kiminski. I had organized the event as a fundraiser for Trinity School at River Ridge, where my two youngest kids, Claire and William, go to school.

We had a fabulous time, then went to a wild game dinner at the home of Al and Anne Nicklaus in Burnsville. We had lots of good food, including two of my specialties — venison cheeseburger on a stick, and wild turkey/wild rice casserole. Anne added her famous venison pot pie, and Al offered a pheasant appetizer. By the end of the night, I was stuffed!

Of course, we talked hunting quite a bit during evening. Al showed me his new bow, and I drew it back to check it out. To my surprise, the draw length was perfect, and the peep sight on his string aligned perfectly with my eyes. Amazing! I could hunt with that bow. At the very least, I plan on taking some practice shots with it.

Yesterday, I took my son Andy down to Red Wing to work on deer stands. We moved two of them to what I hope will be better spots. The weather was a little warmer than I would have liked, and the mosquitoes were absolutely terrible. They swarmed us from beginning to end, and it felt like I had 100 bites on my body by the time we were done. Thankfully, one of the landowners had some repellent on hand, or I might have needed a blood transfusion.

The good news is, we got the two stands set up. Now, all we need to do is cut some shooting lanes. I will go back and do that in the next few weeks. I may wait until the leaves fall. Sometimes, with the leaves gone, visibility is much improved, and I see that I don’t have to do a lot of trimming. It’s not as critical for gun hunting as for bow hunting. Shotgun slugs go through small twigs and branches with no trouble, whereas even the smallest obstacles can deflect an arrow enough to miss the deer.

I’d like to get out and bow hunt soon, but I’m more interested in sitting in the stand in late October and early November. That’s when the rut really picks up steam, and that’s when I want to be out there.

Give me a day in the 30s or low 40s in early November, and I’m confident that the deer will be moving. Can’t wait!

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