Monday, October 27, 2014

Hunting/Life Stages

Yesterday was another very unproductive day in the woods for our group.  It's one thing to sit and see deer without getting a good shot.  Maybe even passing up small deer for the big bucks.  It's another one entirely for four guys to sit most of the day and see one little, small deer between the four of us.  That was our day yesterday and I'm not ok with it.  I woke up this morning with tons of thoughts pouring through my head.  Did we do all we could in the off season?  Is this just the October lull?  Do we smell?  Do we make to much noise getting into our stands?  Are the deer just not in the area?  All questions I couldn't shake as I got ready and made my way into work this morning.  All of this got me to thinking about where I have come from and where I am going within the cycles of hunting.  Some of these stages relate to some specific ages but mostly it is experience and dedication that moves me from one stage to the next.

We all start somewhere and our hunting lives are no different.  With me it started like a lot of kids, sitting in the woods with my Dad.  We hunted deer during rifle season only in MN and grouse during the early fall.  My Dad had taken a bad fall out of a tree stand when he was younger so we mostly sat on the ground or in heavy duty constructed wooden box stands.  I remember the days being a lot more napping than serious hunting.   My Dad also liked to walk in the woods to try and "stalk" deer.  While I never witnessed this tactic produce any opportunities for a shot, he seemed to enjoy it.  There were many years of going home with no deer in the beginning stages but the few times we did get one, we were extremely happy.  

During the boy stage of my hunting career I started to break out on my own a little.  I chose and set up some stand placements on my own, began to sit and hunt myself and even tried to stay awake most of the time I was in the woods.  My Dad and uncles became mentors to me during this time and my brothers/buddies started to form my hunting party.  To this day the biggest buck I have ever shot came in the form of an 8 pointer shot during this period of my life.  My mentors taught me to track wounded deer, take humane shots, anticipate movement and pattern deer.  It was fun and exciting time to be in the woods but the pull to branch out and do things "my way" was strong.

Entering into this time of hunting was a stretch for me.  I had the draw to do things my own way but had no idea if it would work or not.  I feel like I am still in this stage, however looking to move up once more.  My small, inexperienced party, broke off on our own and started looking for places we could hunt the way we felt was best.  There were a few years I had to sit out a season because of a lack of hunting property.  We started buying mobile stands we could put up quickly and move if we needed to.  The lessons learned in the woods alone were critical to me growing as fast as I did during this stage.  I shot a lot of deer in this stage of my hunting life, most were small and should have been passed up.  Many times I shot deer just so I could fill a freezer.  I started branching out and bow hunting with Eric and Matt, soon we were followed by my Dad with his crossbow and that event brought him back into our party for most of the season.  

This stage I feel like I am ready to move into right now.  We have started to look at not just hunting deer, but managing a herd and hunting a more targeted animal.  I don't just mean shooting big bucks but mature deer, more consistently.  With the recent cabin and land purchase I feel this process of moving to the next stage has begun.  In the past we have consistently felt like we were limited with what we could do to improve our hunts by not having land we owned or had full rights to make improvements too.  Now all of that has changed and the excuses are gone.  The future is bright for our party and we have many great times to come.  

Moving through life has its ups and downs and hunting mimics those movements in many ways.  I have already started the process of teaching my oldest son many things he will need to know in his own hunting life.  Watching someone else start the infancy of their hunting life is an amazing experience.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Year!

I don't know what the criteria is for the worst bloggers in the world, but I think going a year in between posts may just qualify us for that prize.

The year has not been a wasted one.  We have been in the woods hunting, have some promising stand set ups and bought a cabin on 77 acres.  What!?  Yep you read that right, I took the plunge and bought a hunting place to call my own.  I am going to hug it and squeeze it and call it George.

It is a one room cabin on 77 acre mixture of high and low land.  We have a trail system started, 6 stands out and have been running cams at times.  The property we have been hunting is still in play and has gotten most of our attention this year in terms of hunting.  We got into our cabin late so scouting and what not was minimal.  We are relying mostly on info from the past owner and neighbors.

Over the years I hope to use this space to show you guys things we do to improve the property and what comes of that.  Hang in there, hopefully we are not the worst bloggers again this year and actually do some updating.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Deer Moving and Arrows Flying

Well the second weekend of hunting came and went and we finally have deer sightings.  Opener didnt go as planned as we had ZERO deer moving around us and some serious questions on our set ups.  Sunday was a different story and there were even shots fired.

As you notice there is not a victorious picture of me with a dead deer at the top of this post.  It wasnt for lack of effort or opportunity.  We started off early Sunday morning to the stands in a light rain, which is always nice.  I climbed into my ladder and got ready for a wet morning.  An hour into the sit I heard a crack and stood up.  A head popped out of the pines in front of me and to my surprise there were antlers attached to it!  It walked into my small opening and hooked off to my right.  The one trail I do not have a shot at is the one it was on.  I had plenty of time to take a good look and I didnt like what I saw.  It was a young 6 that we have pictures of from over the summer.  I decided I would pass even if it did present me a shot.  Of course the 6 decided to press his luck by turning around and stepping back out into my opening.  He stood broadside at 23 yards taunting me to shoot.  I stayed strong and let him walk.  He walked up the trail right under my stand and out of my life.

After an afternoon of being ripped by my Dad and Eric for passing, we were back in the stand with no rain.  The wind had kicked up and it was really hard to hear anything.  In front of me and to my right a doe stepped out and started eating in an area I have no shot.  She was a good size and I decided I was going to take her if she gave me a shot.  I stood and got myself ready while she grazed around behind some trees.  She slowly started moving towards my opening without a hint that she knew I was there.  Her front legs and head peaked out behind the last tree she had to clear before I could shoot and I came to full draw.

That's when she stopped.  She stood still eating, licking, flicking her ears, looking around, eating, licking, looking around, eating and standing STILL.  After what seemed like 10 minutes I decided I was going to have to let down if she didnt move forward.  My eyes were blurring from staring so hard at her and my arms were starting to get the shakes.  When she had me on the ropes begging for mercy she took that last step forward.  I tensed up and yanked the living day lights out of my trigger.

The whacking sound the arrow made when it smacked the tree above her head was really loud.  She jumped back a few feet, looked around and walked off into the pines.  I sat down in my stand and stared at my Lumenok in the tree in front of me.  It was glowing like a little beacon reminding me of where my arrow hit.  My first chance at a deer this year, early in the season and perfectly timed.....dead.  

Cant wait to get back out there in a week.  I have to redeem myself now.  Plus it cant get much worse.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

We are on the home stretch!

Tomorrow JR and I are taking our families up to the property to pull pics from the cams one last time before the season starts. Not many times do we get up there with our wives and kids, so it will be fun showing them what we have done and what we hope will be the place where some excitement occurs!

This could result in some increased excitement (like we need any of that) or some additional anxiety over whether we made the correct stand choices or not.

Next week we will have a recap of the pics we have gotten over the past two weeks and an outline of the plan heading into the opener!

Keep checking back for new updates!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2013 Stand Preview

We are on the final countdown to opening day.  To say we are a little antsy may be the understatement of the decade.  Heading into the 2013 season I want to give everyone a preview of the stands we will be hunting this year.  Hopefully this should help as the season progress's and we continue to post updates with our success's (hopefully) and our failures (that's why they call it hunting and not killing).

Existing Stands 
These stands are all in areas that we used in the past.  For various reasons, mainly seeing and shooting deer, we have decided there is a need to continue our stand placement in these spots.  We have made a couple of adjustments with some new knowledge of what we believe is the deer pattern as well as some things we have learned about shooting our bows.

Girls Food Plot Stand - This stand was one of our original stands.  We moved it last year but have placed it back in its original location for this year.  Due to the sheer number of deer and the consistent number of bucks in this area that we have seen on our Wildgame Innovations cameras this season in we are very excited to see the results soon!

Main Food Plot Stand - This stand is still in its original location.  We have done some adjusting as to the exact direction it faces based on the sun, the direction of the deer in previous years as well as taking into account our "power zones" as shooters.  These changes have resulted in a quarter turn around the tree to maximize the area of shooting to the left of the person in the stand as most of us shoot right handed.

Muddy Stand - This was a new stand last year.  Although we did not see a lot of deer from this stand it helps us cover a corner of the property that is very difficult to hunt.  It sits about 60 yards above the top of the natural field that contains the main food plot.  Our cams over the summer have shown many deer coming and going from this upper corner, so hopefully with some good timing on our side this stand will be successful.

Matt's Stand - Also sometimes affectionatly refered to as the nursery, this is another original placement.  This year we did adjust to a different tree but the area is still the same.  Hopefully the change will open up some new parts of the area and better opportunities based on where we have seen deer in past years.

Double Stand - This was the killing zone last year.  All but one of our deer came from this stand which was new to us last year.  When choosing this stand we had scouted the area pretty hard and found what we believed to be a travel corridor and our hunch was correct.

New Stands
On to the newbies.  Based on what we learned last year in the woods as well as what we have seen on the cams, we have placed stands in 3 new locations.

Ridge Stand - The choice to place this stand on the backside of this ridge came from information we obtained while hunting out of the Double Stand.  Multiple times last year we had deer come out of the swamp and cross in front of the double stand, just on the opposite side of the ridge that splits the property.  Even during rifle season this does not allow a shot.  Once they hit the top of the ridge they are able to go multiple ways, many of which we did not occupy with a stand.  This new stand sits atop the ridge, overlooking an area where 5 or 6 heavily used deer trails combine. 

GS2.0 (Grandpa's Stand, new and improved) - This stand is a replacement for my grandpa's old stand.  We were unable to use my grandpa's stand any more as of last year due to unsafe conditions.  Because of this we had to move the stand down the ridge line a bit into a large pine tree.  Again there are multiple trails that combine in this area, as it is the major pass through across a large portion of the property.

Swamp Stand - Come hell or high water we were getting a stand back into this location.  Although getting here will be interesting if we get rain, this stand could hold the key to the monsters we are chasing.  As far as we can tell the big boys like the swamps on this property and this stand is on a small high land area in the middle of the swamp.  We did not place any cams back in this area so all of our hunts will be off of in person scouting and map research we have done.  

This year should be exciting.  We are seeing some large bucks and a very large number of does.  Keep checking back for updates to any last minutes adjustments and once the season begins.

As always, we love seeing your pictures and hearing your stories.  Please email any of us your pictures and stories and we will get them posted for all to see!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stand placement begins!

This past weekend Sr, Mike and myself made a last minute decision to run up to the property and work on getting some stands in place for the upcoming bow opener.  Seeing that we have multiple weddings and all the functions that go with them upcoming, saying our weekends to work are limited is an understatement.

I have decided to place three stands this year.  The first is in my traditional spot off the corner of the food plot.  Last year produced my first ever deer when I shot my doe in the evening of opening day.  We are hoping that our continued work on the food plot will bring more deer to this area.

The second stand we were able to get up and ready for the season is in a new area that we have never hunted before. I have always wanted to get back in this area, as my grandpa's old deer stand used to overlook it and my took a very large, nice 8 pointer from that stand.  Due to age of the tree that stand is in it is no longer safe to hunt from.  We were able to find a nice tall pine tree that has some cover provided by other tree's around it.  There are quite a few trails that appear to be heavily used that all come together in an area right out in front of the tree.  One change we made when hanging this stand was we decided to go up about an extra 4 to 5 feet to hopefully keep me high enough and out of the deer's normal vision range.  I am always crazy about my scent control, but this stand will really put this to the test.

After getting these two stands done in the 90 plus degree heat and the massive swarms of mosquitos we decided to scout out the stand placement of my third stand but not actually hang the stand.  Once again I have decided to get myself into an area that we have not traditionally hunted.  It is on the backside of the ridge that Sr's double ladder stand is on, leading right out of the swamp and almost right behind the cabins.  My hope is that if the deer are continuing to travel in and out of the swamp but not crossing across in front of the double stand this stand will give us the opportunity we have been missing.  Over the past couple of years we have seen quite a few deer traveling this corridor so I am quite excited for this stand.

I am planning another trip around the 28th or so.  I plan on getting my last stand done as well as helping work on any of JR's stands that are not up yet. Hopefully the heat will tone down a little for the next trip, although I doubt it. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

12 Days Later

12 Days Later

Our work on the food plot was done and the waiting was killing me.  Crops do not grow over night.  That might be the only thing I know for certain about planting crops.  I have never had a garden of my own, my grass is probably average at best, and my food plots in the past have not done well.  These reasons are why the waiting was not going well for me.  

Day 5 seemed to come fairly quickly.  We had time to study our trail cam pics and discuss the upcoming success of our food plot growth.  The first week ended and Eric started calling me about going back up again to check on the growth.  We planned to go 12 days after we had first planted.  We had no idea what to expect 12 days later.  Would the field be flush and green with tiny clover and greens popping up all over?  We had plenty of rain, in fact maybe it was to much rain.  Can you get to much rain?  What if the field washed out and all we had was a huge mud puddle?  Do we need to fertilize?  So many questions and all hinged on what we saw 12 days later.  

Eric got to the property before I did and started cutting grass.  When I finally arrived we took the trusty Polaris out and made our trek to the field.  I can tell you I was apprehensive when we rounded the last corner to see what all of our work looked like:

Not exactly what we were hoping to see.  I wasn't entirely positive we were going to have lush green crops flowing forth from our field, but I was hoping to see something positive.  Now this may just be the growth cycle, I really have no idea.  The deer may have eaten all of our crops before they came up.  Hell it may be on the verge of exploding into a lush tropical jungle full of pizza trees and jelly bean bushes.  For this guy, 12 days was not the holiday I was hoping it would be.  

Stay tuned!