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Hunting When It Counts

There is a whole different outlook on hunting where a miss means youdon’t have food for the table. As I learned late last year.

In the beginning of October the wife and me hit on some toughtimes. We had invested most of our money in trapping supplies and theorders had fallen off. Money was tight. It looks like we had a $100 forfood for the whole month. Well if you have not shopped lately, a $100is a joke for food. So we stocked up with a 50-pound bag of potatoes,onions, carrots, flour and a few other things. I told the wife it wasgood Y2K training. We bought no meat. None. The meat had to come frommy hunting skill.

As I said, there is a whole different outlook on hunting wherea miss means you don’t have food for the table. I have done it before,but each time it is a learning lesson. As I scouted for trapping area,I start carrying my 16-gauge pump shotgun with #6 shot. After scoutingalong a stream for three hours I walk right until a covey of grouse.The leaves were still thick at the time and the birds disappear quicklybefore I could draw a bead. One landed in a tree about 100 yards away.I crept over and flushed a grouse — an open shot but I missed. Thesound of that shot scared the bird in the tree. It flew away and I wasstanding there with an empty game pouch.

Lessons learned: I should have stayed with the bird in the treebringing one bird home is better then none. The old saying one bird inhand is worth two in the bush rang true.

I set up a deer blind and baited it with apples. After two daysthe deer still hadn’t touched the apples. We don’t have a lot of deerin the far north because of the heavy deep snow. So I took a bottle ofmuskrat lure and pour about a 1/4 of a bottle high on a branch. Thenext day the apples were all gone. Good deal. I re-baited and sat withmy bow until dark nothing. Must be a morning stand?

The next morning before daylight I climbed on my bucket andwaited for daylight. If you have never sat in the woods before daylightand watched the sunrise, you are missing a special treat. As the lightcome in the forest wakes up and chipmunks start running all over. Thenthe squirrels start hopping and at a distance they sound like a deer.Because they hop and stop and hop and stop. Like a deer walking a fewsteps and then stop to look around. After a few like that and you arewaiting for a deer you started to ignore the sounds. A flock ofchickadee flew in and I watched then work the forest floor for food.One landed on my bow and I held perfectly still watching the bird.

How amazing the woods is! Even after all the years in thefield, I still enjoy being there. About one hour into daybreak, nodeer. I stretched looked around and opened a paperback. I will waitanother hour then was about to move on, when, I hear a squirrel comingfrom my right hopping stop, a few minutes later, hopping, stop. I justkeep reading ignoring the squirrel. Out of the corner of my eye I sawsomething large move. I slowly lower my book and set it down. Then IS-L-O-W-L-Y sat up and saw a doe was walking in really cautious. Nomatter what I do when I set up a deer stand, they come in on the wrongside.

I’m right-handed so I like the deer to come in on my left sideso I don’t to move as much to shoot. The light breeze was coming frombehind me to the left. I had to shoot before the deer reach my scent.When the deer took a step, I moved my bow. When the deer stop, I stop.For what seemed like an hour I was almost ready to draw my bow back.I’m sure it was only a few minutes. The deer had looked at me a coupleof times but keep scanning passed me not alarmed. The deer step behinda tree and I swung the rest of my body over so I could draw when shesteps out. She stepped out right when I finished moving and the bucketgroaned. She whipped her head around and stared right at me.

I never stare back at the deer eyes because it is a staringcontest and I have learned you will lose this one. The deer will starefor 10 minutes until your eyes water and then you blink. So I stared atthe shoulder. She turned toward the apple pile then took a step andwhipped her head around to see if I had moved. I almost bust outlaughing. She did this once more and then, satisfied it was nothing,started toward the apple pile. With her head past me, I drew back andthe bowstring scraped my coat. She whipped her around but it was toolate. Starring at me I ignore her and focus my complete thoughts onwhere I want the arrow to hit. When I was sure the arrow would hit the2-inch square just behind her shoulder I released. Before she couldreact the arrow was through her. A perfect double lung shot. She ranabout 60 yards and stood there staring back at me.

I know from pass bow hunting experience the best thing to donow is sit still and watch. A doe, unlike a buck, will watch for awhile then lay down after a while and will bleed to death so you canfind her easy. A buck, even a spike, will run forever until they die. Ihave tracked a buck for over a mile to find them. But if you spook thedoe when she is close you will be tracking for along time, just leaveher alone. After about 20 minutes I walk over slowly looking formovement. Nothing. I place my bow tag on and gut the deer.

I breathe a sign of relieve, the freezer has meat. The wife andI processed the deer and there is some great video footage on deerprocessing ready to go on the market. The next night we celebrate thesuccess with back straps, fried onion, fried potatoes and fresh gardentomato slices. That is living.

I switch to my .22 single shot loaded with Remington yellowjackets. I cut a load of firewood, then scout for fur. No wasted gas,firewood, scouting for fur and hunting every trip out. One day I seetwo grouse sitting on a down log. One was nervous and ran off but theother one turn sideways and the .22 cracked — one grouse for dinner.The other grouse flew off when I walked up. As I was driving out abouta 100 yard up on the logging road two gray squirrels run across.

I parked the truck, grabbed the old trusty single-shot andslowly walked up. I spotted one squirrel the same time he saw me and heran back across the road up a pine tree out of sight. I look for theother squirrel and finally spotted him at 35 yards, sitting on an oakstump. I can just see the squirrels through the leaves. I didn’t wantto move and spook him so I decide to shoot through the leaves. I shotand knocked the squirrel off the stump I hear leaves rustling thennothing. I work my way over to the stump no squirrel. I didn’t miss Isaw the squirrel get knock off from the shot.

I look all around no squirrel. The loggers had cut down a lotof trees and the tops were all over. I circle back to the stump andlook for where the squirrel hit. A blood spot. I stop and bend downlooking for disturbed leaves. About 5 feet away I see leaves all movedaround. I step over and look another blood spot. Then another bloodspot, a few more feet another spot, at 20 feet from the stump under alog is the tip of a gray squirrel tail. I grab hold and pull thesquirrel out. My shot hit him in the stomach instead of the heart lungarea.

A grouse and a squirrel — a good day! I walk back and hear asquirrel chirp. I slowly creep over and spot him on the tree one moreshot and it is two squirrels and a grouse for the day. Then the firstone I saw started chattering away at me, up in the pine tree. I lookfor 10 minutes for him. Finally way up on the top I see a branch moveand a clump. Through all the branches and pine needle it look like thegray squirrel. The .22 crack the clump rattle but nothing fell. Justthen about 10 feet away the squirrel decide this tree wasn’t a safeplace to be. He takes off running and jumps from tree to tree. I ranover, reloading as I run. When I saw the squirrel running on a longbranch with about a 3-foot leap coming up, I knew from past experiencethat the squirrel would hesitate before the leap. I aim at the end ofthe branch. I have seen this many times squirrels will stop for just asecond before they leap. Right on cue, the squirrel stops and the .22cracks — three squirrels and a grouse for one day’s hunting. I firedfive shots.

When I’m in a “have to have the meat” mood, I pass up some iffyshots. It is not good to spook game. But remember hunting in good timesis different when hunting is done every day by a whole crew of people.Animals quickly learn new tactics to hide from you. I have seenpheasant crawl passed me in an open field 2-inch high grass. I saw thegrass move but did not see the bird. Not until my dog flushed her.Rabbit will turn nocturnal and so will deer. I have walked up on somedeer and almost stepped on them before they moved. Deer learn that mosthunters walk too fast and don’t see them, so staying put works forsome. I have also tracked deer for 7 hours and never seen them.

That is why it is called hunting. You never know what to expect.

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