Tag Archives: hunting

Thinking ahead to spring

February 10, 2014

0 Comments

Only minutes into taking my dog for a walk yesterday, I knew it was a mistake. It was really cold, and the winds started biting into my face right away. I went ahead with the full 3 miles, but the last mile was brutal.

I needed a dose of spring after that, and I simply turned my thoughts to the upcoming turkey season. No doubt there are people who are worried about turkeys freezing to death in these sub-zero temperatures, but 30-plus years of turkey hunting have shown me that these birds are tough!

I have hunted after some of the worst winters we’ve had, and the birds always seem to be present in good numbers come spring. I once talked a wild turkey biologist, and he assured me the birds can withstand the coldest weather we face, as long as they can find food.

In the areas where I hunt, it’s not a problem. There’s always spilled corn and soybeans left over from the fall harvest, plus at least one landowner I know feeds the birds in the form of spreading manure on his fields. What I learned years ago is that there’s a lot of undigested corn in the manure, and the turkeys know it. In fact, one farmer I know says the birds always come running out of the woods when they see him spreading manure.

I think bird numbers will be just fine this spring. In fact, I expect a high number of mature gobblers when I get out in the field in May. The early and mild spring of 2012 put a lot of jakes in the woods last year. Those birds will be mature this year. And, the poor weather throughout the spring cut down on the hunting and resulted in fewer birds taken, which means more survivors.

So, I think it could be a very good year. Of course, it all depends on weather. I do NOT want another spring like last year, when there was cold and snow during just about every time period in Minnesota and Wisconsin. That made the hunting unbelievably tough. I managed to get a bird in Wisconsin, but struck out in Minnesota.

As long as we don’t have a nasty snowstorm in April or May, I think I’ll be fine. I have been working on securing permission to hunt my usual properties in both states, and am close to being all set. One more “yes” in Minnesota and I’m ready to go there. In Wisconsin, I’m good to go.

Sometimes, staying on good terms with landowners and getting permission year after year is a challenge. One guy I talked with brought up some bad experiences he’s had with hunters. A hunter one year asked for permission to hunt, then brought others with him to hunt. This landowner didn’t like it, and let me know that such a tactic will not work with him.

I’m grateful that he was honest in telling me about it — and was still willing to let me hunt. He’s got an excellent piece of land to hunt, and it is adjacent to another property I have permission to hunt. One of the best spots is right near the property line, so it’s good to have permission on both properties. Plus, this landowner has a great roosting area on his land. The birds roost there regularly, and now I can move in on them.

I have done a little practicing with my calls, but not much. Some years, I have practiced very intensely, which can drive my wife crazy. I’m going to back off on the practicing this year. I certainly don’t want to be rusty when I hit the woods, but I also have learned that there are many factors that determine success, and there are things every bit as important as being a good caller. In fact, if you focus too much on calling, you can end up neglecting other important factors.

My seasons in Minnesota and Wisconsin are almost exactly three months away. I cant’ wait!

 

Continue reading...

2013 Outdoors highlights

January 2, 2014

0 Comments

As I look ahead to outdoor adventures in 2014, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look back on 2013 and recall the blessings of the year. There were many highlights, and I offer this list of the best ones:

Snow bird

It might seem tough to name turkey hunting in the snow – in May! – as a highlight, but May 5 will go down as both a unique and awesome day in the turkey woods. Just days earlier, the area I hunt in Wisconsin was blanketed by 15 inches of snow. It was very strange driving out to my hunting spot and seeing snow everywhere. It looked more like December than May.

I must admit, I had to fight off feelings of despair during my hour-long drive to Ellsworth the morning of my hunt. Would the turkeys be radically affected by the snow? Would they still be interested in breeding? Would they gobble?

Turns out, the birds were quite active indeed. In fact, I had a nice 2-year-old tom on the ground in less than an hour. He gobbled very eagerly on the roost, and I coaxed him in with some aggressive hen calling followed by some soft calling at the end. The bird was standing in the snow when I shot him, and I was sitting in the snow against a tree. It was the first time in almost 30 years of turkey hunting that I had hunted in snow that actually was accumulated on the ground.

It was a very unusual hunt, and a very cool experience overall. But, I NEVER want to hunt in snow again in May. Let’s hope this is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

I did continue to hunt after that because I had bonus tags that the state offers. The hunting was extremely difficult and the toms had lots of hens around. I believe this was caused by the fact that the snow destroyed eggs the hens had laid, so they went out to breed again. Thus, I had very little success calling another bird in. I had some jakes (young toms) come in fairly close, but they ended up not being in gun range. I fired, thinking they were, but they were too far and merely ran off at the shot.

The good news is I spent a lot of time in the woods and learned the properties well. So, i should be in fine shape this year. I look for it to be a good spring season. Two years ago, the early and warm spring caused a very good hatch, and there were lots of jakes running around during the 2013 season. That means lots of mature 2-year-olds this year. I can’t wait!

Buck for the fireplace

Just weeks after finishing my turkey hunting season, I got a call from Lee’s Taxidermy in Prescott, Wis. to let me know that my whitetail buck mount was done. It was the largest buck I had ever taken and I’m not sure if I will ever top it, or even match it. I took Joe, my oldest son, to the taxidermy shop to pick it up. Then, when I got home, I put it up on the fireplace.

Joe has a nice buck mount, too, and we discussed whose was better. Lee Schommer, the taxidermist, said his scored 151, and mine about 153. He did not take exact measurements of mine, but says whenever he tries to estimate the score of a buck, he’s usually within 2 inches of the exact score. So, bottom line is that our bucks are very even. The rack on Joe’s is thicker, but my rack is wider and has taller tines. Honestly, Joe and I are not competitive when it comes to trying to get the biggest rack. It was just fun to compare our buck mounts.

Claire’s first walleye

My 11-year-old daughter Claire caught her first walleye in June on Upper Red Lake. Due to a very busy schedule, we were able to run up to Upper Red for an evening of fishing. We contacted Bear Paw Guides and hired Tyler Brasel to guide Claire, my wife Julie and I for the evening. Just days earlier, the protected slot loosened to allow the taking of fish up to 20 inches, versus 17 prior to that. So, we were very optimistic about being able to catch fish to take home.

The trip did not disappoint. We had our four-fish limit for the three of us (12 fish total) in an hour, and Claire caught lots of fish, starting with her first-ever walleye. Tyler set her up with a bobber rig and it worked beautifully for Claire. Tyler has young kids of his own, so he is very good at helping children catch fish. He did an awesome job with Claire, and it’s a trip we will never forget. Hopefully, we can get back up there again this summer.

‘Tonka bass

I went out to Lake Minnetonka on the Fourth of July with my son Joe to try for some largemouth bass. He was home for the summer and wanted to do some fishing. I wasn’t sure how it would go, as I hadn’t been on the lake in years. However, I did very well on the lake when I did fish it regularly, and wanted to hit my old spots to see if they produced.

Turns out, one spot in particular was as good as it used to be. We caught several nice bass on it, including a feisty 18-incher, and I went home very satisfied. Joe got some action, too, although he was a bit rusty at fishing with plastic worms. Near the end, he started to get the hang of it, and pulling a bass over the gunwale put a smile on his face. I would definitely like to do some bass fishing in 2014!

Breakthrough with a bow

Of course, my top highlight of the year has to be getting my first deer with a bow. Everything came together on the morning of Nov. 6. A young buck with a small eight-point rack came walking by my stand at just 10 yards, giving me a perfect broadside shot. I drew back as he stepped past me and I quickly found his vital area with my 20-yard pin. All of my practice and preparation paid off with a perfect pass-through shot. Tracking was easy in the snow and I found my buck about 100 yards from where I took the shot. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of finding my deer after the shot. I had hit about a half dozen deer previously, but didn’t find a single one, including a small doe that I hit in late September. Ask any bow hunter, and they’ll tell you that failure to find a deer that’s hit is a very sick feeling. Hopefully, I’ll be able to duplicate my success next year.

Sons come through

It was also a good deer hunting year for my two oldest sons, Joe and Andy. Joe got a small whitetail doe on the last day of our hunt in Montana over Thanksgiving week, and Andy ended up taking a doe in Montana plus a doe in Minnesota. So, our freezer is full, plus we were able to give venison away. Our family has been feasting on venison in the last few weeks, and I’m sure our supply of meat will last into the spring and summer. There’s nothing like venison steaks on the grill!

One intriguing possibility for 2014 would be taking Claire turkey hunting. She has expressed interest, and I have said I will take her if she wants to go. She turns 12 in April, and that would be very fun to chase gobblers with her. She’s not sure if she actually could pull the trigger on an animal. But if we go out and call a bird in, and she decides not to shoot, that’s fine with me. I like going out into the woods, especially in the spring, so she won’t disappoint me if she decides to hold off on the shot. We’ll see what she says as we get closer to the turkey season.

The next thing I’ll do is contact landowners after the Wisconsin turkey lottery. I have been blessed to have several landowners who continue to let me hunt, and I can’t wait to get after those birds in 2014!

Continue reading...

Shotgun problem solved… probably

December 19, 2013

0 Comments

I picked up my shotgun today from Joe’s Sporting Goods in Roseville. I missed a shot at a deer at 15 yards during the firearms season and I wanted the store’s gunsmith to check it out. I suspected maybe it was my scope, as my brother had experienced a similar problem several years ago.

But, the gunsmith did not find a problem with the scope. He fired three test rounds at 25 yards and got a very tight group, with the holes touching each other. He even gave me the target he used for the test shots, along with the box of ammo he used, which had two rounds left in it.

In talking things over with someone in the gun department, it looks like the problem most likely is the new ammo that I tried this fall. I used to use Federal shotgun slugs, called Barnes Expanders. But, the company quit making them earlier this year after Barnes was bought out by another company and terminated its contract with Federal to supply the sabot slugs used in this round.

So, I tried a new offering by Federal, and it appears that it doesn’t work well in my gun. I had trouble sighting in these slugs two weeks before the season, but finally seemed to get them dialed in.

But, I didn’t hit the deer with them when I used them in the field. I fired four times at the doe and never touched her. That’s enough to convince me to try another slug.

I plan on going with the slugs the gunsmith used, also made by Federal. The company has made these for a long time, the guy in Joe’s gun department told me, and it’s very likely they won’t be discontinued any time soon.

And, the best part is they are very modestly priced – $6.99 for a box of five. That’s several dollars less than I paid for a box of Barnes Expanders. Even though I was happy to pay more for the Barnes Expanders, I’m tickled that these slugs cost less.

Hopefully, they will work just as well when next firearms deer season rolls around!

Continue reading...

Not too cold for grilled venison!

December 18, 2013

0 Comments

I’m sure my next-door neighbor was giving me a funny look when I went outside the other night to fire up my charcoal grill.

He was shoveling his driveway. Usually, shoveling and grilling don’t happen at the same time. For most folks, the grilling season ends by Thanksgiving and doesn’t start up again until the snow melts and the birds start singing.

I’m a little different. My grilling season never ends. That does not mean I have no limits. When temperatures plunged down into the single digits recently, my grill stood idle on my back deck.

But, the mercury pushed up to a balmy mark near 30 degrees on Monday, so I decided it was time for grilled venison steaks. The cold didn’t bother me as I poured charcoal into my metal cylinder and stuffed two pages of newspaper underneath. It did take a couple tries, but the coals eventually heated up to a beautiful red glow.

This meal was going to be special, featuring the first meal of steaks from the buck I killed with my bow in early November. Because I was trying for my first deer with a bow, I chose to take a smaller buck. The decision was made easy by the fact that this deer presented a perfect broadside shot at 10 yards, which is every bowhunter’s hope while sitting in a stand.

Now was going to be the payoff, I said to myself as I pulled the marinated steaks out of the refrigerator. Every deer hunter likes to take a big buck, which I did a year ago. But, true meat lovers like me know that the best tasting deer are the younger ones. And, a young buck is the best of all because it has a larger, adult body, but is young enough for the meat to be tender.

So, taking this deer was a no-brainer. The good news is, the area I hunt in the metro seems to have lots of small bucks. I have seen eight so far this archery season, and I’m sure there are even more roaming the woods. Interestingly, I have read recently that metro areas, particularly those off limits to hunting or open only to archery hunting, can have more bucks than areas that allow gun hunting.

I think a major reason for this is that the younger bucks are often very active in the fall, roaming the woods looking for does and often getting run off by bigger bucks. Plus, they are less wary and educated than older bucks, which are highly adept at avoiding hunters.

Thus, I am optimistic that I will continue to see small bucks on this property, though sighting a bigger one would be just fine, too! On the other hand, it’s very hard to argue against harvesting a young buck once the meat ends up on your plate.

And, I have to say, the grilled venison steaks from this young buck did NOT disappoint. They were delicious. I cooked them medium to medium rare, and I used a marinade created by some friends of mine, Bob and Christine Brickweg. Christine would not call herself a gourmet chef, but she definitely knows how to prepare venison!

Her marinade, which I simply call the “Brickweg marinade,” is very simple to make. You buy packets of Italian dressing and make it according to the directions on the back of the packet. But, you need to make two key substitutions. Instead of regular vegetable oil, use olive oil. And, instead of vinegar, use balsamic vinegar.

I usually make a double recipe with two packets. Then, you pour over the meat and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, flipping the meat over halfway through the process to make sure the marinade soaks into both sides. I usually do the marinade right before I go to bed, then flip the meat the next morning. But the time the coals are hot, I’m good to go!

If you were fortunate to get a deer this fall, give this recipe a try. I am convinced that you will not be disappointed!

Continue reading...

Wisconsin turkey lottery deadline is today!

December 10, 2013

0 Comments

For those thinking ahead to spring, it’s time to act if you want to hunt gobblers in Wisconsin. Today is the deadline for applying in the Wisconsin wild turkey lottery. Those who go to the wild turkey page on the Wisconsin DNR can apply online as well as learn all of important details about the spring turkey season.

I have gone every year since 2007 and have failed to tag a tom just once. Six out of seven years isn’t bad! Even last year, when a monster storm hit right during my season in early May, I managed to take a nice mature tom. It was a very unusual hunt – in the snow in May. But, I happened to set up near where a very eager gobbler was roosted. I started walking toward the woods at about 5:15 a.m. and had my bird just a little before 6. It was my fastest hunt ever.

I firmly believe this year will be excellent. There were lots of birds around last year where I hunted, but very few got shot. I think the cold spring turned many hunters away. And, with good reason. The birds were not very cooperative overall, and lots of hunters went home empty handed.

That just leaves more turkeys for this year. Not only that, the hatch was very good the year before, which should mean lots of 2-year-old toms gobbling in the woods. Last year, I saw a group of seven or eight jakes (young toms) on one of the properties I hunt, and none of them were taken, even though I shot at them several times.

So, those birds should be back this year – and I can’t wait!

Continue reading...

Trying to solve a tricky shotgun problem

December 6, 2013

0 Comments

I bought my Remington 11-87 shotgun in 1995 from Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul, which now is located on County Road B near Rice Street just off of Interstate 694.

Within a year or two, I bought a Leupold Shotgun scope, at the recommendation of Jim Rauscher, one of the owners of Joe’s. I have not been sorry for that decision, having killed at least a dozen deer with that scope and gun combination.

In fact, last year with that shotgun, I killed the biggest buck I have ever taken. Thus, I was brimming with confidence again this year when I went out into the field with my trusty 11-87 on opening day of the firearms season Nov. 9.

Alas, the gun failed me for the first time. On the second day of the season, a small doe came around behind my stand and stepped out into the picked corn field in front of me. I had a perfect 15-yard broadside shot to my left. Amazingly, after I pulled the trigger, the deer ran out into the field and stood there. I shot again, then it took off. I fired two more times, and the deer crossed the field without a scratch.

Meanwhile, I was left scratching my head trying to figure out how that could happen. I thought back to when I had sighted in the gun two weeks earlier. I had some trouble getting it zeroed in, with a few shots unexplainably missing the mark. I finally got it dialed in – or so I thought – and figured I was good to go.

I was wrong. I ended up getting only that one shot opportunity, so I walked away from the firearms season a bit frustrated. Today, I decided to take action. I took the gun to Joe’s and handed it over to the store’s trusty gunsmith, Bob Everson, to take a look at it.

I also plan on sending the scope in to Leupold for a thorough examination if need be. The guy I talked to at Joe’s said the people in the Leupold repair shop strip down the scope and go over it in fine detail. If something is wrong with the scope, he assured me, they will find it and fix it.

The good news is that Leupold has a lifetime warranty for all of its scopes. So, in all likelihood, whatever may be wrong with my scope will be covered under the lifetime warranty.

That’s why it pays to buy a product like Leupold. These scopes cost a little more than some others, but the quality plus lifetime warranty are more than worth it. I’ve had the scope about 17 years and this is the first problem I’ve had with it. Other cheaper brands sometimes don’t even last this long. So, the $220 I spent on this scope has proved to be a worthwhile investment.

To others who have had equipment problems this year, I say now’s the time to do something about it. The frustration and disappointment are still fresh, and there’s plenty of time to resolve the issue before next season. If you put away a faulty gun or bow into storage, you may not pull it out and take it in for repairs until it’s too late to have it ready to go before the next season.

Don’t wait. Trust me, the disappointment of seeing a deer run off unharmed after taking what should be a sure kill shot is a bad feeling. I hope it never happens again.

Continue reading...

Finally… some deer in Montana!

December 2, 2013

0 Comments

After days of tough hunting, Joe Hrbacek finally takes a whitetail doe in Montana.

After days of tough hunting, Joe Hrbacek finally takes a whitetail doe in Montana.

When I hunt whitetail deer in Montana, it’s usually not a matter of if I get a deer, but when. This year was different, however.

Vastly different. I went to Great Falls with my wife Julie and four kids, and three of us bought whitetail doe tags. With the price of a buck tag set at $500-plus, going after does is the only affordable option.

Unfortunately, this year featured a severe outbreak of a disease called EHD, which is spread by a midge that hatches in water. Massive whitetail die-offs were reported across the state in late September and early October. Some areas saw death rates as high as 90 percent.

We normally hunt about an hour east of Great Falls. My father-in-law, Bob Guditis, said he saw only one or two whitetails in the area the entire fall before we got out there on Nov. 24. His outlook was bleak, to the point of suggesting that we try hunting for something different, like ducks and geese.

We contemplated this option, but in the end, felt like we wanted to try for whitetails. The allure of venison is just too strong for us to resist. Besides, we were trying to get deer for people here in Minnesota who walked away from the firearms season empty-handed.

So, my two oldest sons, Joe and Andy, and I all bought the doe tags and decided to struggle through the tough conditions. We found out very quickly that Grandpa Bob was spot on about the whitetails. On the first morning of our hunt, we went to the usual places where we had killed deer in the past, and saw no whitetails anywhere.

Time for Plan B

So, we had to formulate a different option. Because hunting for whitetails was closed north and west of the Missouri River, which cuts through Great Falls, we had to stay south and east. We found some state land and Block Management Area parcels to hunt, and went at it on Tuesday. Plus, Grandpa Bob owned a small piece of land right on the Missouri, on the side of the river open to hunting.

We did see some whitetails, but the sightings were way down from previous years. It’s a spot-and-stalk game in Montana, and we were able to go on just four stalks the entire week. I was trying to help the boys get their deer, so when we were together, I always tried to let them be the shooters. When we split up, I could take my turn on the trigger.

Problem was, every time we split up, the result was always the same for me – no deer. That didn’t bother me, as long as the boys still got their chances.

They had a nice opportunity on Wednesday evening, when a doe and fawn came out into a field. However, they couldn’t get as close as they wanted, and had to take long shots, which they missed. I was about a half mile away and heard the shots, but nothing came out for me.

Finally, on Friday about 1 p.m., we saw a group of does with a buck on a piece of state land. The three of us began the stalk, with the conditions being favorable. The deer were facing away from us and the wind was in our face. Plus, there was just enough contour on the land to allow us to move in undetected.

However, about 200 yards in, a doe jumped up to our left and ran behind us. We figured it was one of the deer in the group we originally spotted, and that it had seen us and spooked. The others were sure to jump up and run, too, we thought. But, they didn’t. And, amazingly, this particular doe eventually stopped about 500 yards beyond us and stood there. Not only that, she was looking away from us.

Time for action

So, Andy decided to try and stalk in on this deer, while Joe and I went after the others. Andy got to within about 150 yards and laid down for a shot. Meanwhile, Joe and I snuck in on the other does and buck. Joe made it to a post that was well within rifle range and sat up to get ready to shoot. I hung back to make sure I didn’t spook any deer before he got a chance to pull the trigger.

I alternated between watching Joe and watching Andy. Eventually, I saw Andy get ready to shoot, and then heard his shot. I watched the deer through my binoculars as it ran off. It went about 75 to 100 yards and dropped. Then, I turned my attention to Joe, who was still lining up his shot. I found out later the strong winds blowing in his face were making it very difficult to steady his rifle. Unfortunately, it was not possible to lay down for the shot, which is one effective way of dealing with wind.

Finally, Joe took a shot at one of the does, which was bedded in the grass. He thinks his shot went low. The two does and buck jumped up and ran off. He shot again, but didn’t connect. It is about impossible to hit a deer that is spooked and running at full speed.

The good news is, Joe got another chance the very next day. This time, the deer was only about 80 yards away and standing broadside. Joe didn’t miss this time, and that pushed our deer total to two for the trip.

As for me, I never fired a shot the entire time. That’s OK. I wanted the boys to get a deer way more than I wanted one for myself. I have been in the woods quite a bit this fall, and was able to take my first deer with a bow. That makes my season a success, no matter what would happen after that. Joe, on the other hand, had only the six days of this trip to deer hunt. When we spotted the two does on Saturday, he offered me the chance to stalk in on them, based on the fact that he had shot at deer twice already.

But, there was no way I was going to take this chance away from him. And, the smile on his face after the doe went down confirmed that I had made the right choice. It meant that all three deer hunters in our family got a deer this year.

Tough season overall

That’s an amazing feat, considering how tough the season has been this year. Theories abound as to why, but almost every deer hunter in Minnesota this year is saying that it has been a tough season and that deer sightings are down. And, of course, the disease outbreak in Montana is making its whitetail hunting even more difficult than in Minnesota.

So, I am VERY happy with our results this year. And, deer hunting is not over yet. There is the archery season here in Minnesota, which goes until the end of the month. I hope to get out a time or two before it closes. I’m thinking it would be nice to get out after we have some snow on the ground. Then, you can see where the deer are moving. Plus, tracking is a lot easier with snow on the ground. That was the case when I shot my buck with a bow in early November.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll get another deer with my bow. That would be fun. And, it would give me more venison to eat and share with family and friends.

Continue reading...

A nice doe, and fixing my bow

November 19, 2013

0 Comments

The 3A firearms deer season was very, very tough this year. Deer sightings were down from last year, which meant few shot opportunities. I missed a shot at a small doe on Nov. 10, and didn’t see a deer on Nov. 14 when my friend Bernie Schwab and I went out for an afternoon hunt.

The next day, my son, Andy, went out for an all-day hunt. He hunted one stand in the morning, then switched to another after not seeing a deer. Near the end of the day, he decided to climb down and walk the edge of a picked cornfield. His decision paid off when a doe jumped out of the woods and ran out in front of him. She stopped at about 50 yards, and he took a quick shot while she was stationary.

She turned and ran, and he wasn’t sure if he hit her or not. Then, on the far side of the field, he heard what he thought was a crashing sound in the woods. He walked over, then spotted her on the ground just a few yards into the woods. Turns out he made a perfect shot, and in the process, harvested his first deer ever in Minnesota.

That’s two deer for our family, with both getting processed at Stasny’s meat market in St. Paul. The buck I shot with my bow on Nov. 6 is already in the freezer, and Andy’s will end up there soon.

I went out one last time on the final day of the gun season on Sunday. I saw a doe and fawn enter the field with about 15 minutes of shooting light left. They were very far away (about 150 yards) and it was very windy, so I felt the shot was too far. It didn’t seem like they were going to get any closer, so I decided to climb down and stalk in on them. But, I think they saw me climbing down from the stand because when I crested the hill, they were gone. Oh well. That’s how it goes.

Bad bow decision

Meanwhile, I had a problem to deal with. On Saturday, when I went out to take some practice shots with my bow, I committed the cardinal sin of archery – I drew back and hit my release with no arrow nocked. That’s called dry firing and it can damage or even ruin your bow. It was a sick sound when I released the string, and an even sicker feeling after realizing what I had done.

Immediately, I called A1 Archery in Hudson to tell them what happened and ask what I should do. The guy I talked to said to bring my bow in so they could look at it. He said the guys there should be able to fix it, but there could be damage to the string, cams or limbs. I was very nervous, but hopeful that I didn’t ruin the bow.

I took it in yesterday (Monday) and one of the guys gave it a thorough check. Turns out, the only problem was that the string twisted, causing the peep sight to move out of position. He put my bow on a press, and fixed the problem in a matter of minutes. And, as a bonus, he fixed another problem on my bow – stripped threads where my stabilizer screws into the bow. Here’s the best part – they did not charge me a penny for the repairs! Not only that, they let me shoot some arrows at their indoor range to verify that the bow was working the way it should.

It definitely was worth the trip, and I say a big THANK YOU to the guys at A1 Archery. I was already a loyal customer before I went in, and now I will be an A1 customer for life. Not sure when I will need to get a new bow, but if and when I do, you can bet I’ll be going to A1. My brother-in-law did, and he’s very happy with the Mission bow he bought there. In fact, he took a doe with it several weeks ago. Maybe, he’ll take a nice buck with it someday. I sure hope he does.

I never would have imagined that I would go home from A1 yesterday with a bow in better working order than before the dry firing. That proves the truth of one of my favorite Scripture verses, Romans 8:28, which says, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

I’m especially glad to have the bow working again because I plan to hunt later this week for a doe. I have two bonus antlerless tags left, and I would like to fill at least one of them so I can give some venison to people who didn’t get a deer during the gun season this year.

St. Hubert, please help me!

 

Continue reading...

Deer not so active on gun opener

November 12, 2013

0 Comments

As always, I was brimming with optimism on the morning of the Minnesota firearms deer opener. I was hunting the property near Red Wing where I had taken the largest buck of my life on the last day of the 2012 season.

My plan was to hunt in my tripod stand in the middle of the property in the morning, then switch to a ladder stand on the south end where I had shot my big buck. Amazingly, I did not see a deer all day, and didn’t hear much shooting either.

My brother Paul and son Andy were on properties nearby, and neither of them saw a deer all weekend. We hunted all day on Saturday, then came back Sunday afternoon.

The wind, I believe, had a lot to do with the diminished deer movement. This was as windy an opener as I have every seen, with gusts of more than 30 mph throughout the day.

Sunday was quieter, so we were hopeful for a deer sighting. In the last half hour of shooting light, I finally heard something walking behind me. A small doe walked right past my stand and continued in the woods to my left. I didn’t have a clear shot, but figured she would turn right to go into the picked corn field in front of me.

I was right. She turned at about 15 yards and slowly walked toward the edge of the field. Finally, she stepped out, giving me a full view and a perfect broadside. I put the crosshairs behind her shoulder and fired.

She jumped and ran, so I fired again. I was expecting her to drop, but she didn’t. She continued to run around in the field, obviously confused by the loud noise that shattered the quiet and peaceful evening.

As it turns out, I shot four times, and all were off the mark. But, it was the first miss that was particularly disturbing. I have not missed a broadside shot at a deer standing still from within 50 yards since buying the shotgun and scope in 1997.

What’s the problem?

Something had to be wrong. I thought back to two years ago, when I took my dad on a special hunt for war veterans up at Camp Ripley. His guide for the hunt inadvertently ran over my shotgun with his pickup. I took it in to a gunsmith when I got back, and he gave it a clean bill of health except for some shifting of the scope on the cantilever barrel.

It seemed to work fine that year, as I shot three deer, a nice eight-point buck and two does. Then, last year, I shot the big buck with it. I figured nothing was wrong, and went to sight it in this year several weeks ago.

I ended up having trouble zeroing it in at 50 yards, with one shot hitting low and to the left after I had made adjustments. Finally, I thought I had it dialed in at 50 yards. I even took a shot at 100 yards, and it hit with two inches of the bullseye.

But, I think I should have paid attention to the errant shots. I called the company that makes the scope, Leupold, and described my problems. The guy I talked to said there definitely could be some internal problems, perhaps caused by the gun and scope getting run over. He recommended that I send the scope in.

I will definitely do that. And, I plan on using a different gun if I am able to get back out in the field during the rest of the season. I’m not too disappointed, though, as I already have one deer at the butcher. Actually, I was trying to get a deer for the landowner, who had a license plus a special landowner doe tag. He has health issues, and all he is able to do is drive around his lower field with his shotgun and look for deer. I promised to help him get one, so I wasn’t happy about missing that doe.

Oh well. That’s how it goes sometimes. Equipment problems happen, and I suppose I should have expected some damage to the scope and sent it in earlier. That one is on me. Fortunately, we have another shotgun that isn’t being used that I can take out into the field later this week.

More bow hunting action

Meanwhile, I decided to go out into the woods this morning closer to home for a morning bow hunt. The temperature dipped all the way down to 13 degrees, but I was comfortable thanks to a new set of Gamehide hunting clothes I picked up yesterday afternoon from my friend Steve Huettl. It was time for a new set, and the timing was great.

I planned to sit until about 9 a.m., if I could stand it that long. Actually, I think I could have lasted all day, except for cold toes. I ended up seeing six deer, four bucks and two does. The bucks came in close, and I think I could have gotten a shot off at one of them, except for the fact that you are only allowed one buck per year in Minnesota. So, I had to merely watch the bucks, which was fun. I always enjoy deer sightings in close.

The first deer I saw were two does that came in to about 25 or 30 yards. One of them turned broadside, and I took a shot. But, the arrow sailed low. I think it was a combination of the deer being farther away than I thought, and possibly hitting a branch. That’s the trouble with longer shots. You need to be sure of the exact distance of the deer, plus make sure there aren’t little branches in the way. With the foliage down, those pesky little branches are much harder to see. You can think you have a clear shot, but don’t.

That was my problem. Oh well. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s always nice to hunt on crisp November days, and seeing six deer definitely was worth it. Hopefully, I’ll get more bow hunting in before the season ends at the end of December.

Up next: Montana the week of Thanksgiving. We will buy $80 whitetail doe tags and, hopefully, have some action out west!

Continue reading...

Finally, a deer with my bow!

November 7, 2013

0 Comments

After three seasons of challenges and heartaches, success finally comes on Nov. 7.

After three seasons of challenges and heartaches, success finally comes on Nov. 6

As I climbed into my deer stand for a day of bow hunting yesterday, Nov. 6, I was greeted with a spectacular sight – a fresh layer of snow on the ground.

It had snowed overnight, creating a winter wonderland. It was cold, quiet and beautiful, and I was very thankful to be enjoying God’s work of art on this crisp fall morning.

Of course, I was hoping the icing on the cake would be the sight of a deer walking past my stand and giving me an opportunity to harvest my first whitetail with a bow.

It didn’t take long for the landscape to come to life. Less than an hour into the hunt, I saw a doe racing into the field just to the south of me. She circled around, then dashed back into the woods. I knew what was going on – she was being chased by a buck.

A very good sign! The rut seemed to be taking longer to kick in this year, and this was an indication that things were finally happening. My optimism skyrocketed as I continued my vigil.

Only about 15 or 20 minutes later, another doe came dashing out into the field, this time with two fawns in tow. Then, a fourth deer came out behind her. This one was a small buck, and it was grunting as it tried to keep pace with the doe.

This was going to be a good day, I figured. Although I was planning to sit all day, I had a feeling I wouldn’t have to wait that long for a deer to come close enough for a shot.

A third sighting

Would I see something close enough for a shot? That’s the question I asked myself as I continued standing watch over the trail coming east from a thicket nearby. I just had a sense that something might come out of there.

As the clouds cleared around 8 a.m. and the sun made an appearance, the snow began to melt. The snow that had coated tree branches began sounding like rain as it let go and fell to the ground. It was a lot of noise, and I wondered if it might make the deer nervous.

I also knew it would make it harder to hear whitetails approach. So, I would have to be on my toes. As the minutes ticked by and it got close to 9, I thought I heard some noise coming from the thicket. It seemed like more than just the snow melting and landing on the ground like raindrops.

I decided to keep an eye on the thicket, and continued looking that way. Then, when I looked back there to my left once again, I was startled by the sight of a deer walking from the thicket toward me. Its head was down, so I didn’t know if it was a buck or doe at first. After a few seconds, it looked up and I saw antlers. A buck!

Close encounter

My heart raced momentarily, then my mind kicked in and started thinking about what to do next. With the buck’s head down as he continued to walk, I slowly reached over and grabbed my bow, which was sitting strategically in front of me on a holder. As soon as I put my left hand around the grip, the buck shot his head up and looked right at me – pretty unnerving at only about 15 yards!

Fortunately, I remembered what my friend and mentor Steve Huettl had told me to do when this happens – freeze and wait for the deer to lower its head and resume walking. I did so, and the buck eventually dropped its head and kept coming toward me. He looked up one more time, then worked his way to a perfect broadside position.

He stopped one last time just before getting even with me, and I knew I was just seconds away from a shot opportunity. I could have thought about all of the other shots I have taken at deer with my bow over these last three seasons – eight total, with five hitting the deer, but zero recoveries. Instead, I pushed all of the previous failures out of my mind and got ready to draw.

The moment of truth

After nibling on a small bush almost barren of leaves, the buck slowly took a couple of steps and drew even with me. I could have drawn and shot at this point, but I decided to let him walk a step or two past me. This does two important things: 1. Gets that pesky front shoulder out of the way, and 2. Puts me out of the deer’s field of view, allowing movement of drawing back without being seen.

This is a point that I think some bow hunters miss, but it causes such a tremendous advantage. The buck got past me and stopped. I drew back, anchored my 20-yard pin behind his front leg and released the arrow. Thanks to a lighted nock with my NuFletch system, I saw that the arrow had passed through the deer. It was sticking in the ground, clearly visible in the snow. Also, I happened to catch a spot of red on the deer’s body as it jumped and bounded off.

Everything looked and felt right. Would this be the time that I would finally recover a deer and put a tag on it?

Time for tracking

Experienced bow hunters will say it is after the shot that the hunt actually begins. I watched the buck run out of sight, then I sat still for a minute to contemplate what had just happened. Then, I called Steve and told him the news. He suggested that I take my binoculars out and look at the arrow to see if there was any blood.

I pulled them out of my backpack and locked the lenses onto the arrow. Sure enough, there were drops of blood under the fletching that were easily visible in the snow. This is a GREAT sign, and my hopes soared after seeing this.

I waited for about 45 minutes, then climbed down to start tracking. The first thing I did was go over to my arrow and take a look at it. I pulled it out of the ground and saw that it was soaked in blood from end to end. I also saw that the Rage two-blade mechanical broadhead was fully deployed. I had a very good feeling about this!

I went over to the last place I saw the deer and began looking at the ground for blood. I saw a few drops in the snow right away and started following them. There wasn’t a lot of blood, but it left a steady trail that I was able to follow without too much trouble. Then, I hit a large spot where the snow had melted, and my heart sank. Had I waited too long to track?

I called Steve and asked him what to do. He told me that it’s not uncommon for deer not to bleed too much initially, and said I just need to keep looking for more blood, and to take my time. So, I paused, took a deep breath, and walked past the bare spot to the snow beyond it.

Not this time

But, a question started to nag at me: Would this search for a deer turn up empty like all the others? It was hard to shake this doubt, even though there were plenty of encouraging signs. I decided to take Steve’s advice and work slowly and methodically, even if it meant getting down on my hands and knees to look for blood.

That maneuver proved unnecessary. I spotted blood quickly after that, and there seemed to be more of it. Then, I got to a thicker spot of woods, and looked at a couple of downed branches covered with snow. There was blood on the branches, and I started to develop a clear sense of anticipation. The buck couldn’t be far away, I thought.

I spotted more blood as I continued walking, and finally noticed it higher up on some shrubs. It was glistening against the snow, and I just felt I would find the buck soon. I plowed ahead, picking up the pace a bit as the blood trail started to get heavier.

Finally, I looked ahead and saw something brown laying on the ground. I stepped ahead quickly, still not fully committed to believing it was my buck. After all, I had been fooled by logs before.

This was no log. It was him! I knelt down and put my hands on him. Shortly after that came my prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, which is my custom. In that joyful moment, three seasons of frustration melted away along with the shrinking snow pack on the ground. A beautiful morning just became perfect for this hunter!

Hardest task ever

I have always had a deep respect for bow hunters, especially those who are able to harvest a deer. I found out firsthand how difficult this can be. I was just hoping that on one magical occasion, things would all come together and I could have a successful bow hunt. This was the day.  Thanks be to God!

Of course, with the deer recovered, the real work began. I went back to my car and got my camera. I took some pictures, field dressed the deer, then began the journey back to the car. Fortunately, my good friend Bernie Schwab had loaned me his deer cart. Otherwise, I might still be dragging that buck out.

I got it back to car, then went home and exchanged the car for our van and hooked up the trailer. I picked up the deer, then headed to Stasny’s Food Market on Western Avenue in St. Paul for processing. The owner of the store, Jim Stasny, was there, and I gladly put in an order for some of his awesome venison summer sausage to make from my trimmings.

A happy ending to a wonderful day in the woods!

 

Continue reading...