Monday, December 01, 2014

Deer Hunting 2014

It's unlike fishing in that one generally can't "go get" the quarry.  Assemble all observations and information; knowledge of the landscape; data gained via various means.  Then set up to allow early and quiet entry and ascent of a tree.  Be quiet and watch carefully.  I appreciate this very much.  There is a good plus/minus discussion to it.  Deer may not come within your sphere of vision.  However, everything can change in the course of one second: from failure to memorable success and maybe even legend with the appearance of one creature.  So this has the potential to frustrate (e.g. 23 hours in a stand seeing no mammals that are not squirrels) but also provides the reason to keep on.  I listened to a guy tell a story once that was approximately this: The other day I was five seconds from the biggest deer of my life.  I was leaning against a fence post kind of hidden for maybe half an hour watching a trail.  I decided to call it quits and go home.  As I stepped forward my view increased such that I could see a little further beyond a rise and there I saw the buck that I'd been tracking and watching.  But he saw me too, because I moved.  If I'd waited another few seconds he would have walked right to me.  He proceeded to run away.  Never saw him again.
Overall I know very little about deer hunting.  A person can't study every facet of outdoor adventure with intensity; there is only so much energy and time afforded.  I met with failure for many years, trying to hunt public lands at ground level.  Quite a few years with no shots fired.  I believe that southeast MN is approximately 97% private ownership.  Lately I've been fortunate be part of a very small group that plans a private land hunt.  I've learned a lot and enjoyed the study.  Also, the act of leveling a firearm at a large mammal and firing it, while often reduced in discussion to a word or two (and sometimes spoken with incredulity at the barbarism [do try to avoid those crowds though]), is no small thing.  Lasting impacts; lessons; thoughts.  We did shoot a lot as kids - rabbits, armadillos, squirrels, grouse.  But the handful of times I've fired guns at large animals are imprinted.
The quick summary is that according to the deer I saw last year, I moved my stand about fifty yards to afford better view lines.  I was very pleased with the oak tree and what it offered up.  I could see the main ravine (up which last year's shot buck had walked) but I also gained firing range to the tributary ravine (several deer had turned off short of me last year, and walked up this way).  I could still see up to the ridge top too, which is a true highway and showed a number of emphatic rubs on pretty big trees.  So I sat this stand for twelve hours on day one and eleven hours on day two of the first firearms season in SE MN.  No deer observed at all.  Despite intense wanting of a deer and careful looking, be sure.  Our party broke up Sunday night, due to the storm that did cover all in ice.  I was able to return Tuesday night, and head out again Wednesday; world now covered in snow.  This alone was fascinating: all the deer sign further amplified and evident to even hacks like me.  It was cold too: 13 F when I climbed into the stand at 6:12 AM.  After 3.5 hours I got down because (1) I wanted to walk around, (2) I'd reached 26.5 hours in one stand without seeing a deer.  I struggled with the one more second clause but in the end figured I'd better change up.  The third man of our three-man party was not present on this day, so I started toward his stand.  He had seen two truly giant bucks on opening weekend (neither of which were shot).  En route on the ridge top I saw a number of trails in the snow coming from the other sidehill, over the top, and then down past his stand.  I disallowed overanalysis and just figured that'd be a good reason to get up in that tree.  After ~25-30 minutes I both saw and heard a deer coming down through the conifers (a plantation up near the top) toward me.  Same as last year, I immediately got the gun up.  Not the same as last year (when I thought for a long time that the buck I was watching was illegal), I started to shake a bit because my thoughts went to giant buck (given that a couple had been sighted here).  After maybe 30 seconds I could see it was not a giant and I got my normal breathing back, give or take a bit.  I strained to look closely due to the antler point restrictions and in the course of doing so I confirmed that one antler was missing.  But the other clearly had four points.  Interesting to note that even while one can look, count, repeat, etc. one still must draw a line at which you simply trust your senses.  Your senses can betray you; this is understood.  But I literally had to say just count the tines and then stop counting the tines and accept the count.  Then I decided I would shoot this deer.  It was not broadside but more or less facing me at maybe 25-30 yards.  If I'd required movement at this time, it would have made me and run.  But gun was already up.  Basically only my eyes were moving.  He wouldn't turn much so when he did at all, quartering away, I pulled up a mental diagram of the angles one must consider to get a projectile into the vitals cavity.  It required a shot through the front leg or maybe just behind it.  Pulled the trigger and the deer bucked up in shock, ran horribly awkwardly maybe 40 yards and piled up in the head of a ravine.  That was it; from zero to success in the course of a few seconds, but I suppose a few seconds buttressed on the hours leading up to them.  I'd say it was a challenging, fun, interesting, beautiful hunt; also further forged some bonds with people.  Filled our family stock with good meat.  I'm very thankful for the guidance that friends and family offer up; especially for the welcome I get to hunt this remarkable land.
View from second stand, looking downslope.  Many oaks.

Looking upslope toward the pines.  The deer was shot at the center of the photo.

It's impactful to see the black hole these slugs can punch.  After he crashed into the ravine head, I took out a clock and watched his one visible leg (sticking up at odd angle) for twelve minutes.  It did not twitch.  I got down at that point and walked over to this image.   

It was a long route to get the deer out of the woods, but it was downhill.  Plus I was very happy so no logistics or difficulty really mattered much at that point.

I came back on the last day of firearm season A and went out with the landowner, trying to fill third of three tags.  Walking out I took some alternate routes along the ridge top.  It is well known that many deer take refuge in the cedars along the steep slope (top of which seen here).  Too rugged for people to manage it.  The trails in and out are obvious, as is the "highway tunnel" through the sumac, which I am walking here.

Where one river meets the Big River.

Good country.


Anonymous PF said...

Congrats on another successful hunt and a great report. Good country indeed. That picture of the river mouth from a distance is just primal.

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