Monday, October 24, 2011

Rainy Days and Sundays

In the words of the Carpenters circa 1971:
"Hangin' around, nothing do to but frown.  Rainy days and Mondays always get me down."

In this case it was Sunday, but the hangin around, rain, and frown part was about right.  Eric and I hit the woods again yesterday in northern MN.  The weather has been warm the last couple of days but was scheduled to cool off with a 30% chance of rain.  I should know by now that 30% to a weather man is basically saying it is going to rain but if it doesn't, I don't want to be blamed.

We got to the property early and pulled some trail cam cards and checked on our stands.  We had minimal pictures, which we expected due to the changing weather and deer patterns happening here.  The pictures we did have were good news.  In the area of our back food plot, we still have deer coming out and into the field even though most of the good clover is gone already.  In front of Eric's permanent stand we had another pic of a buck.  We have seen consistent buck activity on this camera and it is situated in the middle of the property.  The chance that we see those bucks moving in and out of that area are very good as we move forward.  We also took the time to get up a hanging stand in an area we have observed getting some activity that our current stands could not see.  It was a bold move so close to the gun season, but we really want to get some deer in the freezer, so we are doing what we have to do.

The portable hanging stand we have is not your fancy, light weight version.  I may have Eric do a review on the stand as a whole and how it worked being that he was the person who sat in it.  Just from the chore of hanging it in the tree, I can tell you these things take some practice just to hang them.  Climbing in is another story all together.  We were using screw in steps and watching Eric do this reinforced the fact that strap-on steps are worth the matter what they cost.  I'm sure a lighter weight stand would have made this process a lot easier, but you work with what you have, so we made due.  After the stand was hung we cleared some shooting lanes quickly and backed out to let the area calm down.

During lunch the rain started and didn't stop.  It was a light sprinkle, followed by a harder rain, and than light sprinkle again.  We waited for a few hours and the rain slowed and stopped, so we headed out to our stands for the evening sit.  Three quarters of the way to the stands it started to pour again.  Eric saw a pile of does on the way to his stand and a couple sitting underneath it that bailed when they saw him.  The rain stopped just in time for the sun to go down and it to get cold.  We sat out the night with no shots fired and went back home empty handed.

Over all it was a good day.  We hung a stand in clearly a great spot, than found out we need to work on our exit and entrance strategies for the stand.  We also continue to see the need to shoot as many does as we can on this property to try and get the herd managed some.  Gun season is in two weeks, the rut is going to kick off very soon and hopefully some deer will be hitting the ground.    

Thursday, October 20, 2011

No News is Good News?

WRONG!  We have finally started hunting our metro area and it has not been a friendly task.  Our stand is not in a very happy place right now.  The tree is to exposed and doesn't offer the shots we had hoped for now that the leaves are mostly down.  So, we have to move it.  In the mean time we have been sitting on the ground in a natural blind to try and get lucky.  The deer have been moving in and around us, but not in the places we can shoot.

The land we hunt is small and we do not have permission to hunt on neighbors land, so we are very limited with the options we have.  That means we have to do more waiting and hoping that they go where we want them to than we would like.  It also means we have to be in the stand a lot in order to make it happen.  At this time we are just biding our time and hoping it will pick up some and we can get our first deer on the ground soon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Deer 1 - Dennis 0

Sunday was our first day of actually sitting in a stand hunting this season.  As you can read here, it has been a tough start to the season but all of our work paid off in a big way.  The day didn't go perfectly as planned though.

The plan was to get up in the morning and make our way north without being in a huge rush.  We had a few things to get finished up on our gun stands, grabbed lunch and some fantasy football stats, and headed out to the stands to sit for the evening.  Upon arriving to my stand, which is over a small Evolved Harvest No-Till Easy Plot food plot that we planted back in June, I realized my first problem was the plot itself, at this point it is really nothing more than a really nice grass clearing with huge trails running into and out of it.  The deer have eaten any clover that grew, which may be a hint that we need to rethink our food plots for next year in order to get them to last to the season.  The heavy trail sign, great wind direction and perfect natural funnel of the location made me think it was still going to be a hot spot, and it was, just not as I thought it was going to be.  The second problem made itself known to me when I tried to tie my bow and back pack to the rope hanging from the stand, that had gone missing.  After getting into the stand and securing all of my gear, I got settled in, sat back and enjoyed my first moments in the stand.

The first deer appeared about 1.5 hours into my sit.  It crossed about 40 yards in front of me (my longest comfortable shot is 30 yards) and moved past the trail opening I wanted her to come down and into the thick woods.  She was a good sized doe and trailing her was a fawn.  They wandered slowly into the oaks to my right and took their sweet time picking through the acorns and brush.  As I was watching these two, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  Another doe was walking past the opening, and she paused to sniff the trail I was sitting only 40 yards down.  I stood and watched her, ready to draw if need be.  After a minute or so, she turned and followed the same path the other two had gone.  I sat down and watched as she took the slow walk leading away from me.  My heart was racing at this point from just seeing my first 3 deer of the season.

Half an hour later I looked to my right and the second doe I had seen come by was heading back my direction.  She was slowly meandering through the woods feeding on acorns and broadleaf plants as she walked.  I stood and got myself ready, only to see there was really no place for me to shoot in the direction she was walking.  At 30 yards out, I was confident I had the distance, the direction was one we hadn't anticipated needing to shoot in.  The trails we could see when we had been doing our scouting and planning the last few months were thick and clearly used, but not the ones she was on.  She was walking a smaller trail in a direction we had no clear shooting lanes cut.  I scanned ahead of her frantically looking for a hole to shoot in.  As she closed the gap to about 25 yards, broadside, walking so slow it seemed like a pause in between each individual step, I found a small opening I thought I could squeeze an arrow through.

The confidence in my own abilities took a step back on Sunday.  My shot was right on until it hit a huge bush in front of the deer and was deflected harmlessly aside.  The deer took two steps backwards, collected itself and turned to walk directly at me.  After taking the shot and watching it bounce away, I was stunned to say the least.  When the deer started walking directly at me, I thought I was back in the game.  I fumbled around until I had a second arrow loaded up and ready to go.  I thought for sure she was going to feel me staring at her as she made her way within 20 yards.  She must have been able to hear my heart beating at 15 yards, and surely she was going to smell me at 10 yards.  At this point she is directly down wind of me, head down, giving me no good shot what so ever.  I thought about grunting to stop her, but I wouldn't have a shot even if I did.  I figured maybe I could just wait it out and she would pass right under me and I could shoot her on the other side, but that angle would be even worse.

In the end I just stood there watching as she got to about 6 feet out, winded me and bound off in the direction she came.  I lost an arrow and broadhead, missed my first ever shot at a deer with my bow, and we walked away empty handed for the group on the day and yet at the same time it was AMAZING!  I have gun hunted for a lot of years and have never had a deer get within 6 feet of me.  Not to mention I actually took a shot, missed, and the deer didn't take off like it was shot out of a cannon but instead turned and walked RIGHT AT ME.  It really doesn't get any better than this....until I shoot one of course....          

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Finally Final

We are finally, officially, really, actually hunting!  Ok, it was actually just a short visit to the stand to get organized, but I am going to call it hunting after the season I've had so far.

As I chronicled last week, the season has not started all that well for me.  I did get the arrow situation sorted out with some very easy to use broadhead adapters.  So now I have all of the gear I need, the stands are up, the pictures are rolling in, and the weather is getting cooler.  I still have a nasty cold that makes sitting for long times hard.  After a few hours I start coughing uncontrollably, which is not a great bow hunting tactic as far as I have seen.

Yesterday I got out and climbed into our metro stand for the first time.  We have a mineral site near by the set up that we decided to try Primos Red Spot in.  It was on sale, so we decided to give it a shot.  We didn't pay a whole lot of attention to shooting distances when we put up our stand as we typically have hunted it with shotguns in the past.  Amazingly, all of the shots we have from the stand are around 20-30 yards.  That is perfect for us beginners.  Now we just sit and wait for something unlucky to be our first customer!