Tag Archives: Fishing and hunting

Finally, flowers bloom!

May 16, 2013


FlowersSeems like we have waited forever for spring to arrive this year. Less than two weeks ago, snow covered portions of southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. And, on May 5, I walked through a snow-covered field to turkey hunt near Ellsworth, Wis.

Now, things are finally greening up, and I’m seeing the first flower blooms of the year. It’s a very welcome sight! As I was walking past the Cathedral on my way back to the office the other day, I spotted some flowers in the Cathedral courtyard.

Naturally, I pulled out my camera and zoomed in on the splashes of pink in front of me. Taking in the scene definitely put a smile on my face.

With the heat we’ve had this week, leaves on the trees have popped fast. Just a week ago, the trees were bare. Now, we’re near full foliage. With green as my favorite color, this is a beautiful display, indeed.

It also will be very helpful next week when I go turkey hunting during Minnesota’s final season. The H Season starts on Friday, May 24. The foliage will help conceal me so that I can move in closer on birds. That always helps.

And, hopefully, the hens will be done laying their clutches of eggs and will be sitting on their nests. They lay one egg a day up to about 15 or 16, then sit on their nests to incubate their eggs almost round the clock. The first few days this happens, the toms are actively cruising for hens and can be very eager to come to a call.

That’s what I’m hoping for. Eventually, their excitement will fade, but I’m hoping it will last into the H Season. In a normal year, the toms are more subdued by this time, but still have some interest in breeding. This year, they may be far more active, making Season H perhaps the best season of the entire spring!

Originally, I was going to hunt Season E down near Cannon Falls. But, that didn’t work out. So, I called the landowners of the two adjoining properties I was planning to hunt, and asked them if I could switch to Season H. Thankfully, both of them said yes.

Although you can buy the tags over the counter for Seasons E through H, and there is no limit to the amount of tags the DNR will offer, I think there will be fewer hunters in the woods, especially for Season H.

Generally, once fishing season opens, people put away their shotguns and bows, and pick up their fishing rods. I understand that, as I used to do the same thing. But, I have discovered in recent years that turkey hunting can be good in May. And, the fishing season goes a long time, so there is plenty of time to wet a line after my hunt is done.

So, starting next Friday, I will take to the woods in search of a nice gobbler. To me, there’s no better way to enjoy spring!

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Snow bird

May 8, 2013


A snowy landscape made for an interesting backdrop for this Wisconsin turkey hunt.

A snowy landscape made for an interesting backdrop for this Wisconsin turkey hunt.

As I arrived to my hunting spot near Ellsworth, Wis. on Sunday morning for a “spring” turkey hunt, the landscape was radically different from previous years.

I just finished my Wisconsin season, which ran for seven days. On the first evening, snow started to fall where I hunt. When it was finished the next morning, there was 13 inches on the ground. So, I did not hunt for the next three days.

I went back out on Sunday morning. Some snow had melted, but there was still lots on the ground. I hunted a very nice piece of property where my sons and I have killed birds over the last six years.

Turns out there was a fired up tom roosted just a few hundred yards from where I parked the car. The snow didn’t seem to keep the toms from doing what they like to do in the spring – court the ladies.

Making my move

It was tricky to slip in close because there were no leaves on the trees, and the blanket of snow added more light. I couldn’t get in as close as I would have liked, but I got into the section of woods where this gobbler was roosted. I ended up sitting down against a tree in a blanket of snow, which I had never done before.

The tom was gobbling hard on his own, then I heard a hen yelping. I mimicked her a couple of times, then she shut up. I was hoping he would fly down before she did, which is exactly what happened.

He was hot to trot and flew down into the field and continued to gobble. I called softly, then quit. He kept working toward me in the field, and I was convinced I would see him in an opening in the brush on the edge where he was walking. I wanted to sit right along the edge, but felt it would be too risky in terms of him seeing me from the roost. So, I tucked in around the corner, about 30 yards from the edge.

The moment of truth?

Had he walked right along the edge, I would have had a nice 30-yard shot. But, as it turned out, he walked about 20-30 yards out into the field. That put him at about 50 yards or so. Had he stopped in the opening and ran his head up, I would have taken the shot. Instead, he walked right through it and continued toward the corner. I did not shoot because I wasn’t sure I could knock him down.

He reached the corner, but there was a lot of thick brush between me and the bird. I turned to the right hoping he would round the corner and come on in. He only needed to go another 25-30 yards and I would see him again.

What did he do? He stayed right at the corner and continued to gobble. I waited, then did a little more soft calling. Over the years, I have used soft calling to lure the bird the final steps into range and into a clear spot for a shot. He gobbled right away, but stayed put. More than likely, he wanted that hen to come out and show herself.

Time to wait

I’ve played this game before, and knew it was time to shut up. A lot of guys can’t stand it when a bird hangs up, so they keep calling. I have learned that staying quiet usually causes a bird to get curious and come in looking.

I knew he didn’t have any hens with him, and he already had come this far. Plus, there was absolutely no obstruction between him and I, so there was no reason for him to hang up.

Then, he went quiet for a bit, and that’s usually when the bird is moving. So, I got my gun up and ready, then took the safety off. He gobbled again, and seemed a bit closer, but still had a little ways to come. I kept my gun up, and finally took the safety off.

The final steps

Only about a minute later, I caught movement to my left. He walked out into the field about 20 yards and finally cleared the brush and reached an opening. I should have done what my friend suggests and made a call to get him to stop and raise his head.

But, in my excitement, I put the bead on him while he was walking and fired. With his head pulled in toward his body and not raised up, I ended up putting more pellets into the body than I would have liked. In fact, I broke his wing. But, the end result was good – the bird went down! My shot was about 30 to 35 yards, which was well within the range of my shotgun.

I was worried that that the breast on the side facing me would be riddled with pellets. That happened last year on a similar shot. Amazingly, when I breasted out the bird, I didn’t find any pellets on either side.

The two breast halves are now in the freezer. The only tough part was I sliced my thumb when I was breasting out the bird. I had just sharpened the fillet knife, so it went right into my thumb. I went to the Urgency Room and they actually used some type of glue. Oh well, a small price to pay.

Another bird in the snow

Steve Huettl sits in the snow with the bird he took in Wisconsin last week.

Steve Huettl sits in the snow with the bird he took in Wisconsin last week.

My friend, Steve Huettl, hunted the same season and went out into the snow like I did. However, he did not wait until Sunday. He went out Friday afternoon and actually stalked in on a nice gobbler that had hens with him. He snuck in close and shot the bird.

That’s not the way the game is usually played, but you have to adapt to varying conditions. Last year at this time, the trees had leafed out, and the hens were sitting on their nests incubating eggs. With the ladies absent, the toms were left lonely in the woods.

This year, Steve says the birds are “henned up” right now in the areas hit hard by the snow. He believes the snowstorm wiped out all the eggs the hens had laid, meaning they had to start breeding all over again.

That makes for very tough hunting. So, he told me to count my blessings that I was able to get a bird to come in, and come in without any hens around.

I say “Amen” to that. God is good, and I give credit to him for helping me get my Wisconsin “snow bird.”

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It’s turkey time!

April 29, 2013


My wild turkey season in Wisconsin begins Wednesday. I will be hunting with Bob Guditis, who is the father of my first wife, Jennifer, who died of cancer in 1995. I still call him my father-in-law. That’s what he’ll always be to me.

We went out scouting yesterday and enjoyed a fabulous afternoon, with temperatures in the upper 70s. I’m sure the warmth will get the breeding going strong. I talked to one of the landowners, and he says he has been hearing turkeys gobbling along a ridge regularly. I’ve got my blind close to that ridge and near the edge of two large agricultural fields that have some waste corn from last fall.

An area like this is excellent for turkeys and I have killed several birds in this spot over the last six years. I’m confident that there will be birds around, which is what you want.

Another good sign is seeing a few turkeys tracks, plus wild flowers blooming, a sure sign that spring is here. We did see a few patches of snow as we drove around, but it will be gone soon. I think we’ve seen the last of the white stuff.

Bob, meanwhile, got excited when I showed him the piece of land he’ll be hunting. It’s got a nice trout stream running through it, and he’s an avid flyfisherman. So, he’ll have both a shotgun and a flyrod with him. If the turkeys aren’t active, he’ll head to the stream for some trout fishing.

I just hope the weather is decent for at least part of the time. It’s looking like we won’t see the 70s during our week-long hunt, but I would be OK with 50s. After all, turkeys are not nearly as temperature sensitive as humans are. In fact, the most gobbling I ever heard at dawn came on a very cold morning in early April when the temperature was 22 degrees, and only warmed to the low 40s.

This gobbling fest took place on the same property Bob will be hunting. I hope and pray he can get a nice tom to come in close enough for a shot!

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Get ready for spring turkey hunting

March 14, 2013


Steve Huettl shows off a nice tom he shot in Wisconsin last spring

Steve Huettl shows off a nice tom he shot in Wisconsin last May, while hunting with the author.

There’s plenty of snow on the ground, and it looks like more shoveling lies ahead, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the upcoming turkey hunting season. The truth is, now is an important time for getting ready to chase gobblers in April and May.

I will be hunting in both Minnesota and Wisconsin this spring, as usual. Lottery results for both states have been available for weeks. I was picked for Season D in Wisconsin, and plan to buy a license over the counter for Minnesota’s Season E (only the first four seasons, A through D, are by lottery). Back in January, I made calls to landowners to secure permission to hunt properties in both states.

If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to make those calls. The longer you wait, the more risk you run of having others get permission before you do. Then, you’ll have to scramble to find other properties to hunt.

Pick up those calls

With that accomplished, turned to another important task – practicing my turkey calling. Much to the chagrin of my wife and kids, I have been sounding off for several weeks now. I’ve been turkey hunting nearly three decades, and I have become proficient at several types of calls – box, slate, mouth and push-button.

It’s not a task I need to spend hours on, but I don’t want to neglect it entirely. What I have learned is that when a turkey is gobbling and coming in, I tend to get nervous. My mouth gets dry and my hands tremble a bit. So, calling can get more challenging. That’s why I like to keep my calling simple, and go for the easiest calls to use during those tense moments.

My go-to call for pulling a gobbler those finals steps into gun range has been A Pushpin Pro Yelper by Quaker Boy. It’s a pushbutton-style friction call that is very easy to use. I have called in several birds with it, including a nice mature tom in Minnesota last year. This call works!

Yet, I felt I needed to add something more, something hands free. The obvious thing is a mouth diaphragm call. I have used them over the years, but they can be stiff and tricky to operate. I wanted something that is easy to use and can produce the soft calls – clucks and purrs – that I like to use when a gobbler is close but not visible or in gun range.

How to tease toms

I found a call recently that fits the bill. The company is called Tom Teasers and what caught my eye was the name of one of its mouth calls – Butt Naked Hen. When I ran across this name while surfing the Internet, I just had to go to the website and check it out.

I discovered that the calls are hand made, not mass produced. What’s more, each call has a short video demo that you can click on to hear what it sounds like. So, there’s no guesswork.

That was what really sold me on the calls, and I called the company to get my hands on one. I ended up talking to the founder and owner, Tommy Walton, whose company is located in Georgia. How often is it that you can get on the phone with the guy in charge?

Interestingly, the only other time that happened was when I contacted another Georgia company, Comp-N-Choke. The owner took my order back in 2009, and I have been very happy with the results. I have made shots from beyond 50 yards, and it’s highly unlikely I will ever switch to another choke.

Turns out, Tommy Walton knows about Comp-N-Choke and knows the owner. I had a great turkey chat with Tommy, and he graciously agreed to send me some samples. I waited eagerly for them to show up in my mail box, which they did less than a week later.

Perfect fit

To my delight, the Butt Naked Hen was among the samples Tommy sent. I have tried three of the five and like them all, but I especially like the Butt Naked Hen for the soft calls. It makes great clucks and purrs, and I’m sure this call will be with me when I hit the woods in May.

I noticed two things about these calls right away – they’re very easy to use, and they work great right out of the box. So often, I have found, mouth calls are stiff right out of the box and require a break-in period. That’s not the case with Tom Teasers.

On one of the calls, the tape came loose, and I called Tommy to let him know. Very graciously, he sent me a replacement call that arrived just a few days later. He also told me that he has since discovered a flaw in some of the tape he buys to make the calls. He is aware of the problem, and says all mouth call manufacturers are experiencing it, as the tape company sells to a lot of different call manufacturing companies.

So, anyone buying a mouth call should be aware of this, and be prepared to contact the call company if there’s a problem. Tommy said he will replace any call with this problem free of charge. I did not have this problem with the other four calls he sent me, and the replacement call has worked fine.

How good is good enough?

I will be the first to admit that I do not sound nearly as good with a mouth call as Tommy and the other guy who does the demos on the Tom Teasers website. But, the good news is, I don’t have to. It’s all about cadence and rhythm when it comes to producing hen sounds. If you get that right, you’re good to go, especially up here in the Midwest, where birds aren’t pressured nearly as heavily as they are down south.

Tommy told me that, down in the south, birds are hunted hard and can become call shy. So, hunters need to sound as realistic as possible. He added that any bird you get in the south is well earned.

My turkey hunt begins May 1. That’s only a month and a half away. As always, I’m optimistic about the season. Looks like the breeding could happen later this year, like it did two years ago. That’s one reason why I like to hunt in May. It’s very rare that there’s cold and snow then. In fact, two years ago, the weather was great, despite the late spring.

As I wait for the snow to melt, I’ll keep practicing my calling. Who knows? Maybe I can become almost as good on a mouth call as Tommy Walton. Then again, maybe the birds up here can’t tell the difference!

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The bow hunting offseason is now!

February 6, 2013


I have always marveled at stories about professional athletes who describe the work they do to try and win a championship.

A common thread is that the campaign started during the offseason. A familiar comment goes something like this: “The day after the season ended last year, I got right to work on my offseason conditioning, and right then and there I set my goal on winning a title.”

Look at Adrian Peterson. The recently announced NFL MVP has said many times that his campaign to be the best running back in the league began minutes after he tore his ACL in a game against the Washington Redskins last season. In fact, before he even left the stadium that fateful day in December 2011, he vowed to play the next season.

And, he did just that. Not only did he lead the league in rushing, he fell just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record. And, in the process, he led the Vikings to the playoffs for the first time in three years. It is well documented how hard he worked to rehab his injured knee. He ended up playing in every single game. And, he left little doubt that he was the hardest working player on the team this year, maybe in the entire league.

I think about that now, with the bow hunting season closed and a seven-month wait until the start of the 2013 archery deer season. Unlike many other hunters, I don’t put my bow on the shelf at this time of year. I continue shooting, mostly to keep my muscles in shape. And, just as important, I am using this time to make improvements on my bow setup.

The biggest tweak is getting a new string on my bow. The old one was showing serious signs of wear, including some cut fibers that could hamper accuracy and lead to breaking of the string. So, I decided to replace it.

For advice, I visited an archery shop in Hudson called A-1 Archery. The guy I talked to recommended one made by a local company called Vapor Trail. I did some checking and saw some great reviews. I even called the company and talked to one of their technicians about the strings they manufacture. I love being able to call a company and actually talk to someone about the products. Seems like companies in the hunting and fishing industry understand this. It’s by no means the first time I have talked to a person at a company about its products. In fact, one time I talked to the company president about a turkey choke and he took my order over the phone! The turkey choke I ordered, called a Comp-N-Choke, has worked great for me, and it likely will be the last turkey choke I ever buy for my Remington 11-87.

I ended up ordering a Vapor Trail string, and got it installed at A-1 earlier this week. The technician there put it on while I waited, then I was able to take some test shots. They put on what’s called a peep sight on the string, which allows you to look through the same opening every time you shoot. Plus, I no longer need special tubing to keep the peep aligned correctly. Vapor Trail says there is no peep rotation in the string, therefore no need to install tubing to keep it in proper alignment.

I had problems with the tube breaking about once every month or two. That means you have to reattach it before you can see through the peep and shoot again. I always feared that it would happen when I was drawing back on a deer. Now, those worries are gone.

Next on my list is sighting in my bow with the new string. After that, I will look at stabilizers. I have a cheap one on my bow now, and would like a high-end one to make sure I can shoot more consistently. It’s all part of being prepared.

I’m really hoping to tag my first archery deer next season. I have gone two seasons without doing so, and the mistakes and failures have fueled my motivation to be successful next time around. I will do all I can to address the little things because that could make all the difference come September.

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Looking back on 2012

January 2, 2013


Many people are diving in to their New Year’s resolutions right now, with almost a full year ahead to test their resolve.

But, it’s not a bad time to look back, either. This year was one of my best ever in the outdoors. The highlights are many, and reflections of an outstanding year in God’s glorious creation continue to bring a smile to my face.

Turkey time

The wild turkeys got active earlier than usual this past spring, with March feeling more like May. I began the gobbler chase in April with my son, William, during the Wisconsin youth weekend.

Although we left the woods without a bird, it turned out to be an action-packed hunt. We had numerous birds gobbling on the roost not very far away, then had a group of birds come in our direction after flying down. They hung up, but eventually we had a group of 1-year-old toms (called jakes) come in, along with two hens. William got two shots off, but failed to bring down a bird. I would later redeem that hunt by getting what I think was one of those jakes a month later. On  the same piece of property, I had four jakes come in, and was able to get one of them.

I added a Minnesota longbeard to the harvest, and it didn’t even take an hour. I heard a bird gobbling on the roost, then slipped in to about 50-60 yards from the bird. He flew down and came right in. As I stood over the nice tom after pulling the trigger, and my watch read 6:21 a.m.

A wonderful surprise

With the hunt over so fast, I decided to head over to Wisconsin to see if I could fill my other tag. The state went from a series of five-day hunts to seven-day seasons. That meant my Minnesota and Wisconsin seasons overlapped by a day.

So, I registered my Minnesota bird in Red Wing, then crossed the river into Wisconsin. I tried hard to get my second bird, traveling to three different properties. On my last stop, I saw hens but no toms. I decided to try one last spot on this small farm, and saw something brown on the ground in the corner of a field. It turned out to be a morel mushroom. And, there were many more.

I filled my turkey hunting vest with them and headed home with an unexpected bounty.  I ended the day with fried mushrooms, plus a mushroom-and-cheese omelette at the home of Chris Thompson, academic dean at the St. Paul Seminary. He is an avid mushroom hunter, and he almost freaked out when he saw what was in my vest.

Saving the best for last

If someone had told me in early September that I would still be without a deer on Nov. 11, I wouldn’t have believed them. With the archery season beginning in mid September, I figured it wouldn’t be a matter of if I took a deer, but how many.

Yet, there I was in my deer stand on the afternoon of Nov. 11, the last day of the Zone 3A firearms season, hoping I would not get skunked. I had seen very little throughout the gun season, and failed to tag a deer during my numerous trips to the woods, despite hitting two deer with my arrows.

With gusty northwest winds pounding me all afternoon, it was a test of endurance. But, I still had hope, as the last hour of legal shooting hours can produce strong deer movement.

Sure enough, with only about 10-15 minutes left, a buck appeared out in a picked soybean field 180 yards away. Almost magically, he turned and trotted right to me, stopping and turning broadside at about 70-80 yards. I hit him several times, and when I found him just inside the woods, I realized I had just killed the largest buck of my life. He’s now at the taxidermist, and I can’t wait to see the finished mount.

I give thanks to God for some outstanding memories – and some great food in the freezer. Wild turkey, venison and morel mushrooms – who could ask for more?



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Deer hunting at night?

November 29, 2012


I read a shocking article in the StarTribune yesterday, in which outdoors writer Doug Smith described the attempt by Chippewa tribes in Wisconsin to allow night hunting for whitetail deer.

My first thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Then, as I continued to reflect on this disturbing action by the tribes, I recalled that this is exactly the kind of thing I have feared all along in the ongoing treaty rights debate.

I wondered if the victories won by the tribes would lead to more actions like this. It’s understandable that, after winning a major victory, they might try to win more rights.

But, where do you draw the line? That’s the question I keep asking. I understand that we have to honor whatever rights the treaties have granted. But, I think it can be very hard to understand just what rights the bands are entitled to. And, with so many more people using the resources now than when the treaties were signed 150 years ago, the implications are more dramatic.

For me, a big issue is the whole concept of “sovereign nation” status that the tribes have. I would like to see that come to an end and have everyone in the country governed by one set of laws. I don’t necessarily mean just take over the bands and forces our laws upon them. But rather, enter into intense and determined negotiations to settle the matter once and for all.

If we don’t, things like the night-hunting proposal will keep popping up. And, I don’t believe things like this do one bit of good in helping build relations between Indians and non-Indians. Building bridges between the two cultures is desperately needed and long overdue. I don’t think it is a good long-term solution to continue to have sovereign nation status. If the bands continue to get more rights, there is going to be a pushback. Imagine deer hunters setting up camp on the eve of the firearms opener, then hearing shots in the dark and seeing flashlights shining in the woods.

Thankfully, a judge in Wisconsin temporarily blocked the band’s plan to night hunt for deer. But, the issue is far from over. There still must be a final ruling in the case, which sets up the possibility of night hunting in Wisconsin for deer.

I, for one, hope this never happens. Deer hunters – and the deer themselves – deserve better.


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A doe with my bow… almost

November 26, 2012


After shooting my biggest buck ever this fall, the only thing left to accomplish in the woods is getting my first deer with a bow. I would have to try for a doe because Minnesota allows hunters to tag only one buck per year.

I went out twice last week on a metro property that is archery only. The first time, I saw nothing. The second outing, which took place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, nearly gave me an opportunity to take a nice doe.

I knew that the cold weather would get the deer moving, so I put on heavy layers and climbed into one of my ladder stands that morning. Things were very quiet until about 8:30, when I heard something walking in the snow behind me. I turned to look and saw a doe and her fawn coming in at about 25 to 30 yards.

They walked around a deadfall, then turned and started coming directly toward me. Their line of travel would take them almost right underneath my stand. Then, they stopped at about 15 yards or so.

The doe, walking ahead of her fawn, turned broadside and started nibbling on a small tree branch. Unfortunately, she was standing behind a small tree. The trunk was right in front of her vitals. There was room on either side, but I didn’t think I should shoot. She looked relaxed and content, and I figured she eventually would take a step forward.

That’s all I needed – one step. But, she ended up jerking her head up and spooking. I was flabbergasted. I thought I was motionless. Thinking about it later, I figured she probably saw my breath. Her head was up because she was munching on the twig, so my breath must have alerted her. That’s the problem with hunting in the cold – you can’t hide your breath.

She did what most spooked whitetails do – she ran about 25 to 30 yards, then turned and looked back. It was a great shot opportunity for a gun hunter, but I had no shot with my bow.

Amazingly, she stood there for a few moments, then turned and came all the way back in. I thought I would get a shot at her this time.

I was wrong. She stood facing me with her head up, looking right at me. Then, she did what no deer hunter wants to see – she stomped her foot.

I was hoping if I sat still, she would calm down and resume feeding. Instead, she did the worst thing possible – she snorted, then ran off. Game over.

Sure looked like things were going to come together for me this time. If it wasn’t for the small tree, I would have had a perfect broadside shot. But, that’s bow hunting. You can have a deer in range, but not take a shot.

I was bummed for a while, then reminded myself that I shot the buck of a lifetime earlier this month. That has a way of melting away the disappointment.

I hope to get out again, but not sure if I will. The archery season lasts until Dec. 31, but I don’t know how to hunt the post-rut period. From what I’ve heard and read, it’s all about food. So, finding food sources and setting up near them is the key. Don’t know if the two stands I have set up now are in the right place or not. One of them was in a good spot on Saturday, but I don’t know if deer movement patterns will change after the rut comes to a close.

I will do some more research on that. One thing appears likely – I definitely could end my second year of bow hunting without putting a tag on a deer. I can’t say that I failed to kill a deer. I hit two and don’t know if they died or not. All I know is I did not recover either one.

What I can say definitively is this – bow hunting is extremely hard, and any deer taken with my bow will be a well-earned  trophy!

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Big buck appears in season’s final minutes

November 12, 2012


I was sitting high in a ladder stand yesterday near Red Wing during the final day of the 3A firearms season. In several days afield, including several dawn to dusk sits, I had seen only two deer – a buck that was too small based on the Zone 3, southeast Minnesota four-point antler restriction, and a doe that spooked and ran before I could shoot.

So, it had been a frustrating season. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out hunting yesterday, but my friend and hunting partner, Bernie Schwab, persuaded me to give it one last try. He was gearing up for an all-day sit. I didn’t know if I wanted to hunt that long.

From the outset, the weather was brutal. It was cold, very windy and it rained some. I couldn’t sit all day, so we got down for lunch and came back at 1:30 for the afternoon sit. In the morning, I had been sitting in the stand  where he had shot a nice 10-pointer the previous weekend, plus seen lots of does. After lunch, I decided to sit in a stand on the far south end of the property that I just put up last year. Bernie saw a buck from it last year, and only sat in it once this year. I thought that might help, as the deer would be less disturbed.
This buck came out with only about 10-15 minutes of shooting light left. I ranged him out in the picked bean field at 180 yards, which would have been a very long shot with a shotgun, and one I would prefer not to take. I decided that I would try it in the last five minutes if he didn’t come in.
But, guess what? He turned toward me and trotted right at me. He passed the tip of a finger of woods that I had ranged at 100 yards, and he kept coming farther, then turned and gave me a great broadside shot. I shot more than once, and am not sure which one was the kill shot. He came right to the edge of the woods where my stand was and went in just a few yards and died.
I knew he was nice when I saw him come in, but was too busy getting ready for a shot to examine his antlers. He’s a beauty! He was a 10-pointer originally, but he broke off one of this brow tines, plus another small point near the tip of one of his main beams.
Fortunately, the five points on the opposite side are intact. He’s got a 19-inch inside spread, and I’m going to have him mounted. That was the only deer I saw all day. I just kept telling myself, “I only need to see one deer.” Frankly, I would have been very happy with a doe, as it would have provided some venison for the freezer.
This afternoon, I called Lou Cornicelli of the DNR to tell him about my hunt. I also asked him to delete an email I had sent last week, in which I railed on the four-point rule because it keeps me from shooting a deer for the table.
If I had shot the small buck I saw on opening day, I never would have had a chance at this one, which will be at the taxidermist very soon. And, just as important, I will have lots of venison to enjoy in the months ahead. Praise God for this great blessing!
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Deer stands are up… bring on the rut!

October 22, 2012


I almost got a deer yesterday evening the way no one wants to – with my car. Coming back from a fruitful day of stand preparation, the buck jumped out of the ditch as my brother Paul and son Andy and I were headed home from the Red Wing area.

There was no time to react, so I braced myself for impact. I got a good look at the deer as I zipped by it, then heard a thump as it made impact with the back end of my van. Fortunately, both deer and van made out OK. In fact, there was not a scratch on the vehicle.

I thanked God for that, and for the enjoyable day in the woods. We visited two farms where we had permission to hunt, then put up a stand for each of them. I think they all are in good spots, and I think we should have some action on opening day. The other member of our party, Bernie Schwab, got his stands ready the day before. So, we’re set for the firearms deer opener Nov. 3.

Tips for hunting success

For those still in the process of putting up their stands – especially those who haven’t picked a spot yet – I offer four tips for where to put your stands, how to access them and how to hunt them on the opener and throughout the season. When I follow these rules, my success goes up.

1. Hunt funnels. If you don’t know what a funnel is, now’s the time to learn. Deer movement picks up dramatically during the breeding season (known as the rut), and the best place to be is where they travel. Specifically, you want to be in areas where bucks are cruising as they look for does, or are chasing does that aren’t quite ready to be bred.

The good news is, funnels are not hard to find. You can look on satellite images (think Google Earth) and see areas where wooded areas get narrow. That’s a great place to start. Another is where deer cross steep ravines. We found a dandy funnel yesterday that we couldn’t see on a map. It’s only about 25 yards wide and the deer trails already were there, not to mention a buck antler rub and a ground scrape. Andy will be positioned there waiting for deer to come through.

By the way, last year I shot a beautiful 8-point buck while positioned in a classic funnel. He chased a doe right in front of my stand, and I shot him at only about 20 yards.

2. Play the wind. This is far more important than many hunters realize. Observe a deer catching your scent even once, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. If deer see or hear you, they will pause and try to check you out. They may even get fidgety and nervous. But, if they smell you, they’re gone. Right now. No questions asked. That happened to me two years ago. I saw a doe’s head pop up in a cornfield, then she moved from left to right. After only a few steps, she was straight downwind of me, about 25-30 yards away. I looked down at my gun and slowly lifted it up for the shot. But, when I put my scope up where the doe had been, she was gone. Then, I saw her running nearly full speed to my left in an adjacent field. That was the end of that.

So, try to place your stand upwind of where you think the deer will travel. Better yet, have some obstacle like a cliff or pond behind you so that they have to go upwind of you. Also, don’t forget about scent as you go to your stand. If your scent drifts into the woods where the deer are, they may never come your way. In other words, you could end up spooking deer that you never knew were nearby. I think that happens a lot more often than hunters think, and could be a reason some hunters don’t see a deer all day.

3 Stay put. I know it’s tempting to climb down out of your stand to take a break for lunch. But, if you’re serious about shooting a deer, don’t do it. Deer move around a surprising amount throughout the day, and climbing down out of your stand takes away the chance to capitalize on this activity. Remember, it’s the rut and bucks can’t stand to sit still for more than about four or five hours at a time. They get antsy, then get up to keep on chasing does. The nice buck I shot last fall crossed in front of me at 2:55 p.m. Things had been quiet for a while, but I knew I was on a funnel, so I waited. The reward was worth it. Besides, the weather was so nice that it was not hard at all to stay in the stand.

4. Sight in your gun. Lots of hunters fail to do this. Some of them believe that it will shoot the same as last year. Maybe so, but not always. It takes so little time to go to a range and fire a few shots to make sure. Then, not only will your gun be accurate in the woods, but your confidence will go up as well. We were able to get our shotguns sighted in yesterday, and that was the last part of our trip down yesterday.

I’m getting excited. Next week, I will try to get out in my bow hunting stand once or twice, then it’s on to the firearms season.

I can’t wait!


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