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.