Thursday, December 11, 2014

Late Season Hunting

With the season coming to an end very soon, I have not done enough yet again.  Every year I have this idea that this is the year I will get out more after gun season and continue to push through the late bow season.  Every year I do the opposite.

It really is a combination of things that keeps me out of the woods.  First off my kids wrestle.  So every weekend there are tournaments to attend for them.  We try and start the season slow so I could mix in some open weekends here and there which plays into the next problem.......weather.  Living and hunting in Minnesota means we could get -10 degree cold snaps, feet of snow fall, freezing rain, 40 degree heat waves all in the same day.  While I enjoy hunting, it is hard to do in some of those conditions.

At this point I am doing my best to try and get out still.  My plans and hopes for future seasons will hopefully continue to grow as we move forward.  I feel like the cabin will help that a lot giving me a place to stay and hunt out of.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Deep Freeze



So far I have made it through the early bow season and rifle season with no luck at all.  The weather for rifle season was not happy at all.  One of the mornings it was -11 degrees when we headed to our stands.  I saw quite a few does, but as our great state has dictated this year they are off limits to me with my gun in our area.

The late bow season has not been my specialty up to this point in my career.  I have seen some guys have great success in the cold and snow, one of those guys has not been me.  I plan on a Thanksgiving Day hunt next week as the next time I get out.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hunting Jacket Search 2014

My wife would tell you I have more hunting gear than I could ever possibly need.  From boots, clothes, guns, knives, ropes, hooks, hangers and binos, I seem to acquire quite a bit.  One thing I have been trying to dial in has been my clothing.

I started years ago with a bulky Gore-tex orange jacket and bibs from Fleet Farm.  I am sure I spent $150-200 on the pair and thought I was breaking the bank.  When I began bow hunting I invested in an early season camo shirt and pants, and a soft shell jacket and bibs from Gander Mountain.  For the late season I have been wearing many layers under the camo or switching to my orange jacket when it got to cold.  This year I am ready to step up and invest in a nice camo jacket that I can wear from Nov-Dec 31st.  

This has been quite an adventure in deciding which jacket to purchase.  It really has to be a hybrid of sorts in that I need quiet, warm, and yet still be able to draw my bow.  Instead of just running out and purchasing something I decided to research this purchase out a bit.  My choices are based off of personal observation, recommendations, and popular choices.  These are far from all that is offered, however some things are just a bit to hard to find info on to consider.  Here are some of my choices:

First Lite is most known for bringing camo Merino wool to hunting clothes.  They introduced some outerwear in the last couple of years and have gotten great reviews.  The jacket looks to have everything I am looking for and more.  Unfortunately First Lite does not have a great distribution network in place.  I have emailed three different places who claim to be dealers and none have any stock or do not have store fronts.  This means I have to shell out the $350 for a jacket I have not seen, nor tried on.  I am having a hard time doing that.  Price:  $330

Cabelas introduced its latest line of branded gear, Instinct, this summer.  It includes clothes, boots, arrows, and more.  This is the cold weather parka in that line.  I did get a chance to try on this jacket and I liked it.  My only question is in the arms.  The Cabelas website says the jacket has 100 grams of insulation in the upper arms and 150 in the body, there is no insulation in the lower arms.  I am a bit worried when we are talking frigid cold temps, this could be a problem.  Being a new product reviews are limited at best from users in the field.   Price:  $330  

Most of my clothing and gear up to now has come from Gander Mountain.  I drive past the Forest Lake store on my way into work at Coates RV every day.  It is the easiest place for me to shop and make exchanges if needed.  I have been happy with things I have purchased there and feel like I get good value for my money when they are on sale.  I also feel like I am not getting high end product.  For most things the mid level is fine, but in this jacket I really am looking to buy once and be done for quite a few years.  The Tech20 jacket I have looked at for 2 years now and cant get myself to pull the trigger.   I feel like it would do but is not as nice as I would like.  It does get great reviews for the most part.  Price:  $129

This was a tough one for me to add to this list.  I want to like Under Armour's gear but it always seems like it is made for warmer weather.  The Gunpowder is another new jacket to hit the market so the reviews are minimal.  Gander Mountain has started carrying the UA line so I have personally checked this jacket out.  If I knew this jacket would hold up in the cold weather I would probably own it right now.  Price:  $279

At this point my decision is probably between the First Lite and Under Armour jackets.  I feel the need to try on the First Lite jacket before making my decision.  I also would like to talk to someone who has worn the UA jacket in the field to test it.  

Anyone else have any recommendations for cold weather jackets to consider?

*********UPDATE**********
After getting feedback from this post I have decided to toss up another option in the discussion.  Many people have said I should consider something along the lines of a Heater Body Suit.  Personally I do not like the idea of wearing a sleeping bag in my deer stand.  However I found the IWOM version to be interesting:


Basically this is a jacket with a leg and boot cover attached to it.  The system can be rolled up and packed in as a fanny pack or worn as a parka with the bottom part rolled up.  It has a built in face protector and hood, hand warmer pockets and breast pockets.  I feel like this would be a great really cold weather solution, however for those slightly cold days I still feel like a heavier jacket would be plenty.  Price:  $399



Monday, November 10, 2014

The Orange Invasion


It's that time of year again.   Every year we hunt the first two months of the Minnesota bow season with the knowledge that the first week in November our tranquil woods will be invaded by a swarm of orange.  I want to preface this post by saying for years I was part of this swarm.  The things I am about to talk about I lived, and therefore know full well the thought process behind them.  You can read about it in my last post here. If that disclaimer isnt enough and you still get offended, bummer, move on.

Lets look at some statistics,  In 2013 roughly 173,000 deer were killed by hunters in Minnesota.  An estimated $400 million dollars is spent annually by hunters.  60-70 percent of MN firearms harvest typically occurs in the first 4 days of the season.  Only 30-35 percent of firearm hunters typically shoot a deer in any given year.  An estimated 475,000 hunters hit the woods every year.

With all of that going on, most of it in the span of 4 days, you can see why we do not look forward to the opening day of rifle season.  There are also some personal observations.  Many rifle hunters do not appreciate any kind of scent control.  Spraying yourself down with no scent spray is not scent control.  Like the title picture, people wear their hunting suits into restaurants, gas stations, and as night out on the town clothes after hunting all day.  The next day they head right back out into the timber with their smelly gear.  This leads to deer being very skittish and jumpy in the woods.  I have seen deer step on a stick themselves and take off running from fear.  I like to have deer nice and close for my shots, that way I can assure a clean humane kill.  This is not from needing them close as I am proficient with my rifle out to 300 yards.  It is just what makes sense.  Getting them in nice and close becomes a lot harder with 475,000 stinky pumpkins in the woods.  The orange army also seem to use a "brown is down" philosophy.  They spend 5 days in the woods on average, so are willing to shoot the first thing that walks past them in order to claim a win.  In years past when we have been allowed to purchase multiple tags, I have listened to many hunters brag about shooting 2-3 does (some would be called fawns in my book) and they do so with bravado like I should be proud of them.

One would almost think I should stay out of the woods during rifle opening weekend, however I just cant.  The opportunity to have all of these people pushing deer to me, along with the buck rut that coincides about the same time as the rifle season push me into the stand.  This year was no different.  While I did see a few deer over the weekend, I did not take a shot.  Now its time to bundle up for the cold weather and see if we cant put a buck down still this season.  As I write this we are getting 6-10" of snow, so the next few weeks should be interesting at best.

****A little update for you, the MN DNR has reported a recorded harvest of 54,000 deer in the first three days of the season, which is down 30,000 from 2013.


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.

Boy:
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.  

Teen:
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.

Adult:
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.  

Hunter:
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.

-Dennis