Still nothing

My first day of the 2016 Minnesota deer season is done, and the only deer I’ve seen were shot by other people.

This afternoon I struggled to stay awake, since I had a full belly and the sun was shining on me. After about two hours of power naps I pulled myself together and managed to stay conscious until the sun went down, but it clearly didn’t do me any good as I still have no deer that I can claim as my own.

Tomorrow I’m going to make an effort to hide my silhouette, since the stand I’m in is quite tall and I don’t think my human statue impersonation looks enough like a tree. 

In the afternoon I will take my new climbing tree stand for a spin. I bought it because I’m going to be hunting on public land in Wisconsin in about a week, and I think it will be to my advantage (both for hunting and safety) to be off the ground. I have never used a climbing tree stand before so I hope to figure out all the quirks tomorrow afternoon, so I don’t have to do it at dawn in Wisconsin.

Tonight I plan to drink beer, eat steak, and do my best impression of an American deer hunter. I’m already wearing a flannel shirt so I’m part of the way there, but I’m drinking craft beer instead of light beer, which when combined with my accent, may undermine my efforts.

Fortunately the deer don’t discriminate…I think.

Good morning from deer camp.

I have just returned to the cabin after hunting this morning. I was in the stand by 6:45am, and I stayed there until 11am. 

Here is a picture of me just before I called it quits:

I’m squinting because the sun was bright.

The morning started out cool, 35F (1.5C), but I was wearing enough clothes to avoid discomfort. There were no deer to be seen, but the sky was clear and the sunrise was beautiful, and apart from a bit of a chilly breeze that kicked up mid morning, I had nothing to complain about.

After a quick lunch I will head back out for the evening to try my luck once more.

Cold turkey, warm deer?

Fall turkey season ended like it began, with no turkeys. I only spent a few hours in the woods on my last day, but I heard and saw nothing that could even be mistaken for potential sandwich filling-but that’s okay. Fall turkeys were always going to be a challenge.

I ended my turkey efforts a week before the season was done, because I was going on holiday to visit family, and attend a friends wedding. Unfortunately my friend had chosen the 5th November as his wedding day, which is not only Guy Fawkes night, but also Minnesota deer season opening day. Which means instead of being in a tree stand looking for deer, I was in an English country hotel looking for beer…that was last weekend. 

This weekend finds me back in Minnesota, and back at my friend’s uncle’s cabin, laying in a sleeping bag ready to go to sleep ahead of my personal opening day. I am hoping that the remnants of jet lag from my return trip from the UK will help me get up tomorrow morning at 5:30, like it has every other day this week. 

Unlike previous years there has been a lot of deer activity already, and several have been shot, so I’m feeling quietly confident. I am going to use my Marlin 336 lever action in .35 Remington, because it feels right. 

Now I must go to sleep, because in just under 7 hours I will be hunting. 

Wish me luck.

Turkey hunting: day three

So it’s just after 9am on the 16th of October, and I’m back in the woods. It’s been a long week, but now I’m sat down in my blind with nothing but a shotgun and a day of quiet watching ahead of me, and I think that’s just what I need.

I’m set up on a different part of the property this morning and I only brought my hen decoy with me. I’m thinking that a gobbler in full spring colours, in the company of a hen, doesn’t look quite right for the season.

I’ve just had my first visitor of the day. A nice whitetail buck just ran past me looking on edge. I’d happy to see him again in a few weeks time.

Time to start calling for turkeys.

2pm update:

This morning was pretty uneventful; after the deer passed through the most interesting thing to happen was my lunch.

I thought my position was fairly good, and I was comfortable for the most part, but of turkeys there was no sign – so I decided to move positions.

The morning had its non turkey related pleasures though. The leaves are currently in the process of changing colour and falling, and when the sun was shining through the trees and the wind got up enough to gently move the branches, there was a beautiful shower of golden leaves floating through sunlight and pattering around me. It was quite lovely. If it wasn’t for my determination to eat wild turkey, I’d very likely have missed it on account of usually still being in bed at that time on a Sunday morning.

Here’s is a photo that doesn’t do it justice.

Despite the ultimate goal of my actions being the death of an animal, that is only one part of this experience. The effort and time involved in the pursuit of that final moment is rewarded with countless pleasures and new experiences that are easily reward enough on their own, and are no small part of what gets me out of bed and into the woods time after time.

The spot I am now in has more evidence of animal movements, but I fear it will mostly be deer. We shall just have to wait and see.

Final update:

Unfortunately there was no sign of turkeys this afternoon. I’m hoping that’s because there were simply no turkeys in the area, but it’s hard to shake the suspicion that I’m doing something¬†fundamentally wrong. So I’m feeling a little dejected. However I have uploaded a video that I made when the leaves were falling this morning, so I’ll leave you with that.

Turkey hunting: day two

Day one ended as expected, with no turkey having been seen. But I’m not bothered. I saw a lot more deer, and apart from getting a little cold towards the end it was a very nice way to spend a few hours.

I am back in the woods again this morning, although not as early as I had planned. Last night, just as I was thinking about going to bed, I realised the qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix was happening at 1am. And since I’m kind of addicted to formula one, I couldn’t not stay up and watch it. Which means I wasn’t here until almost 9am. 

That’s okay though, because the land owner (Ron) said the turkey are most active in the afternoon, and I’m not sure I have the stamina to hunt from dawn to dusk without a break anyway. That said, even with my late start it will still be a pretty long day.

My plan today is to hunt in the same stand I spent most of yesterday in, then move to the other stand around lunch time. The other stand overlooks a small pasture that should get some sun later today, and I’m hoping the turkeys will head there to warm up. This might be wishful thinking, because it’s not really that cold today, but you never know.

I’ll update as things happen…

11am update:

My plan to stay still till lunch has been scuppered by the extra cup of tea I had this morning. So I went for a short stroll and didn’t see anything to report. I don’t think there is much point trying to sneak around in search of birds today since the ground is covered in dry leaves and twigs, so I’m falling short of the requisite ninja level stealth necessary for that option to pay off. I’ll just sit still and hope for the best.

We just had a brief rain shower, but luckily I’m sheltered enough where I’m sitting that I’m still dry. The forecast says the rain will pass quickly, and the sun is due to make an appearance around 1pm, so I’ll plan to be set up in the other blind by then.

1pm update:

I have moved.

This is the view from my new position. I have set up my decoys just inside the pasture in front of me. I am fairly well concealed, but there is more wind here and I’m worried I will get too cold to last the afternoon. Have to see how it goes.

A couple of thoughts on my experiences so far: one- sitting on the ground is painful, seemingly no matter how many cushions you have (currently 2). It makes it hard to stay still, and since I’m not very good at that to begin with, its a problem. Two- squirrels are dicks. I had one squirrel yesterday that sat on the trunk of a tree nearby, and yelled at me. I didn’t know they yelled at people. The same squirrel (I’m fairly certain) was staring at me today and making weird noises, at least it wasn’t yelling. I’m pretty sure turkeys are smart enough to know what a grouchy squirrel sounds like, so I’m glad I moved.

The sun has come out as I had hoped, and if I can just stay mostly still, and make relatively convincing turkey noises for the rest of the afternoon, I will consider the day a success. A dead turkey will just be a bonus at this point I think. Modest goals.

3.30pm update:

My decoys are finally getting some action, unfortunately it’s a horse and he doesn’t seem convinced.

I have also seen a tractor, and a model aircraft being flown in a nearby field. I thought I heard a turkey at one point, but I think it was just a bird that sort of sounded like a turkey. 

I think it might be time for a cup of tea and a short stroll.

Day two final update:

After my stroll I rearranged my decoys, adjusted my cushions, and settled in again. The air temperature had come up slightly when the sun came out, and with that and a rare lack of pain in my backside, I promptly fell asleep. It was lovely. Napping under a tree on a warm autumn day feels pretty decadent, and if I thought there was a remote possibility that a turkey had come by while I slept, I might have felt guilty about it. But hunting is often difficult, and usually uncomfortable, and so any time I only have to deal with one of those things I’m going to treasure it.

I stayed in that blind until around 5pm and the only thing I saw was a local farmer who drove past me. He was briefly interested in my decoys, and when he realised they weren’t real he joined the dots and looked around for their owner, so I gave him a wave.

By 5pm the sun had sunk enough that it was shining right on me, and whatever concealment I had been enjoying to that point was rendered null by the solar spotlight. If a turkey had shown up then, I wouldn’t have been able to get my gun up without being spotted, so I called time on that setup.

I took down the blind, and went to collect the one I’d left in the other location. On my way I does spooked a couple of deer that I hadn’t seen, once again reminding me that it’s either not possible to walk quietly on ground covered in dead leaves and twigs, or that I’m just not trying hard enough. 

After dropping the blind and decoys off at my truck, I decided to explore a part of the property I hadn’t been to yet. I wandered around a bit, occasionally sitting against a tree and calling, and then gave up and called it a day. I think I will concentrate on that part of the place when I go back next weekend.

Final weekend tally:

  • Days hunting – 2
  • Turkeys seen – 3 (1 while driving, and 2 decoys)
  • Shots taken – 0
  • Shots I thought about taking – 6, mostly squirrels, and 2 turkey decoys.
  • Deer seen – probably more than I’ll see in November
  • Birds seen – mostly songbirds with the occasional woodpecker. Might have seen an owl in the distance. 

Despite the lack of dead turkeys in my freezer, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I’m a better turkey hunter after this weekend than I was before it. And to top it off, I can now actually call myself a turkey hunter.

Turkey hunting: day one

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Greetings from my turkey blind. Today is my first time ever turkey hunting, and I don’t expect to get anything. I’d say I don’t expect to see anything either, but I already saw one. It was flying into a tree as I drove here. Looked tasty too.

I arrived around 2pm, the landowner gave me a quick tour. Then I set up a couple of blinds and my decoys, and now I’m waiting. 

When I first day down I was wearing some new earplugs that I had hoped would be good for hunting, and fit under my various headgear. They are supposed to let normal sounds through, but block loud noises. Unfortunately they cut out too much of the normal noise, and so I took them out. I’m keen on having some kind of hearing protection, and I have used my electronic ear defenders in the past, but they limit the headgear I can use, and the pressure they put on my head usually gives me a headache after a couple of hours. So I’ve been experimenting.
Here is a partial view from my blind:

You can just see my decoys.

Hunting turkeys in autumn is not the easiest task, since the birds are not mating and thus don’t really respond to calling. However, unlike shooting, both males and females are legal to shoot, so I can happily shoot the first thing that gets within range.

I can’t shoot this beastie though. If it were November and I had the right gun, it would be a different story. Good to know my camouflage is working.

Fun times in the woods. I’d better start paying attention if I want to have a hope of seeing something legal.

Bye for now.

Be careful what you wish for

I finally got to shoot some sporting clays the other day. It’s been a while, maybe even a year.

I went with my recurring shooting buddy Jason. He likes to encourage my shooting habit, which often just means he tells me to buy something I’m looking interested in but I’m not sure I should buy, and I’ve decided that’s not necessarily a bad thing, so I keep him around.

We went to the Minnesota horse and hunt club, which has particularly good sporting clays courses, and I decided to take both my Beretta over/under (because I haven’t used it in forever), and my weatherby pump (because I’m going to be using it for turkeys and felt like I should get more practice handling it).

On the day the weather was dreadful, pouring rain with no sign of stopping (it’s been doing that a lot lately). But we don’t like to waste our limited opportunities to shoot, so we decided to just try and make the best of it.

It didn’t start out well. I put on my expensive waterproof jacket over my shooting vest, but as it turns out it’s not waterproof anymore, not even a little bit. We pushed on anyway, getting wetter by the minute. 

To start with I was shooting my Beretta. I had put on a recoil pad, and with that and the barrel porting it was, for once, nothing but a pleasure to shoot. I pulled out the weatherby towards the end, but I was having so much fun hitting clays with the Beretta that I only used it on one stand. Jason was shooting a first world war vintage, 16 gauge side by side hammer gun, that he recently got for not very much at all. And he was doing pretty well… even if he shouldn’t have been shooting modern ammo through it.

Here’s picture of him posing with it under a tree.

Despite the rain I was enjoying myself quite a lot. I was grateful that I had thought to bring Wellington boots, but frustrated that my ammo was almost floating in the pools of water growing in my vest pockets.

Then the rain started to ease up. 

Great news, you might think, and so did we -but it wasn’t. As soon as the rain stopped, I took off my jacket and rolled up my sleeves just in time for my nemeses to come out to play, all ten million of them. And the mosquitoes were literally and figuratively out for blood. They were landing on me almost faster than I could swat them. It must have sounded like we were playing patti cake out there, there was that much slapping going on. 

But we kept going. The one upside to the situation was that the mosquitoes didn’t seem to like the shooting, and gave me peace at least while I was firing my gun. Of course that could have been an illusion, because I was actually still having a good time and I may just not have noticed them while I was concentrating on the “birds”.

At the beginning I had planned to try and keep score, but the score sheet quickly began to fall apart. This was probably a good thing, because now I am just left with the memory of a fun day had despite the weather, the vague but pleasant impression that I might have been shooting pretty well, and no evidence to prove otherwise.

Here is a picture of me having fun anyway: