Sit still, keep quiet, and shoot a turkey.

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Shooting the turkey in spring was a significant moment for me. It had been a few years since I had successfully hunted a “big game” animal, and although it could be argued that a turkey doesn’t count, I decided to take it as a win. However, despite ending the day with meat in my freezer, the circumstances of my success were less than ideal…because I didn’t deserve it. Prior to my successful shot, I had for all intents and purposes given up. If it hadn’t been for the landowner interrupting me literally as I was about to turn the key of my truck, I’d have been sat in afternoon traffic instead of a ground blind when that turkey wandered by.

I have always struggled with the mental side of hunting: losing focus and enthusiasm as time and lack of comfort wore on. I have read enough to know that perseverance is an important ingredient for a successful hunt, but when your backside is falling asleep in freezing temperatures, or you’re being pestered by mosquitoes, ticks, and self doubt, perseverance can be harder to find than legal game. As frustrations builds, perseverance evaporates, further fueling the frustration in a depressing cycle that definitely doesn’t lead to tagged animals. During my spring turkey hunt, my rendition of this cycle was interrupted by that timely and humbling lesson in the value of perseverance. A lesson I took well and truly to heart in time for the fall turkey hunt this October.

According to the wisdom of the internet one of the most reliable calls to use in the fall is the “kee-kee run”. This simulates a lost turkey trying to get in touch with its friends and can be useful for drawing birds in. Unfortunately it’s not an easy call to make on a slate, which is as far as my calling experience had grown up to that point. So prior to the start of the season I made an effort to learn how to use a mouth call. The mouth call consists of layers of fabric tape, latex, and aluminium, and sits in the roof of your mouth and squeaks and wails as you force air between it and your tongue. I decided quite late that I should try to learn this call in time for the season, but since the process is not known to be pleasing to the ears I decided to keep it away from home and dedicated my morning and afternoon commutes to the process instead. After I got over my tendency to gag when I put the call in my mouth, and after getting a lot of curious looks from fellow commuters at traffic lights, I eventually managed to produce sounds that might not be an instant red flag to any wild turkeys that overheard me. If there were any turkeys living within earshot of my route to work, they might have briefly considered the possibility that one of their fellows had learned to drive.

Unfortunately, while my fortnight of intensive commuter calling had helped me reach the turkey equivalent of ordering a beer in a foreign language, it was a long way short of confidently whispering sweet nothings in a barmaids ear. Turkeys don’t have the equivalent of beer goggles to tilt things in my favour however, so my “kee-kee runs” never really made it off the starting block. By the last day of my season I had effectively reverted to the deer hunting tactic of trying to be in the right place at the right time.

Based upon my previous year’s experience of hunting fall turkeys, I started the season with little hope of tagging a bird. However I found myself heading out each day with more determination than I expected. On the final day I had only planned to be out till lunch time, since there was a Formula One qualifying race scheduled for the early afternoon that I had hoped to watch and I didn’t expect my enthusiasm to last much longer than that anyway. I also knew that it would be my last day of hunting whether I got a bird or not, since I wouldn’t have another opportunity before the end of the season…but when the time came to pack up and go, my perseverance got up and stopped me. This was extra surprising to me because not only was my arse numb and the rest of me cold, but I hadn’t brought anything to eat—and I am notorious (among those who know me well) for losing enthusiasm when I get hungry. This time it didn’t seem to make a difference.

When I arrived at my hunting location on the final day of my season I was greeted by a couple of inches of snow, and a temperature several degrees below freezing. The landowner had mentioned to me that he had seen a lot of birds on top of a certain small hill feeding on acorns in the evenings, and so that was where I had decided to hunt that morning. When I arrived on the hilltop the snow I had been preemptively begrudging for its butt freezing potential instead did me a favour by displaying ample evidence of the recent movement and feeding of turkeys. So I set up my decoy and sat down to wait with my back to a pile of snow covered logs.

Despite the surfeit of tracks, there was no obvious place to set up that would cover all possible approaches, and sure enough as the morning wore on I several times heard suspicious noises behind me that I had no way to check on without giving myself away. They were probably squirrels. If you hear suspicious noises when you’re hunting in the woods, 99 times out of 100 it’s squirrels—but you never know.

Nevertheless, I kept faith, resisted the urge to sneak a peek behind me, and soon enough two creatures that definitely weren’t squirrels appeared from a direction I could actually observe. They were two jakes (juvenile male turkeys) and they approached from my left and crossed in front of me. However despite being covered from head to toe in camouflage and having a decoy to draw their attention, they were obviously unhappy about something. I kept a bead on the most likely option of the two, but neither got close enough for me to be confident making a shot and they eventually wandered off. In hindsight I suspect that sitting with my back to snow covered logs left me nicely silhouetted and exposed even the smallest movement of my head. Shortly after that, while I was still second guessing my decision not to shoot the jake, I caught sight of the birds that would eventually make my day.

The flock appeared on the far side of a field below where I was sitting. They must have come out of a group of pine trees where I know they like to roost, but is on a neighboring property that I don’t have permission to hunt on. I watched them move through the field where I did have permission to hunt but wasn’t currently sitting in, and disappear into another wooded hill that I also couldn’t access. It was disheartening to see so many birds walking away from me and past a spot where I had been sitting the day before, but it was the first time I’d seen so many birds at once in a hunting situation, and I knew that eventually they would probably head back to their roost. The question was which route would they take?

Cue another round of second guessing, this time of all the other decisions I had made that day. Then partly out of frustration for the missed opportunity and a desire to feel more proactive, I got up and moved to a new location. I set up at the edge of the field, at the end closest to the pine trees where the turkeys like to roost. I found a great spot just outside the field in a patch of brush that offered good concealment but had good views of the field and my decoy. Apart from the turkeys passing through that morning, I had also seen their tracks in that spot the day before, so it wasn’t a terrible place to be. But I couldn’t get the acorns out of my mind, and before too long I third guessed myself and moved again.

After a little break to warm up and check in with my wife I returned to the pile of logs where I had been that morning, but set up on a different side that wasn’t covered in snow and so wouldn’t leave me silhouetted. Then I waited.

As time slowly slipped away, taking my body heat and the feeling in my rear end with it, I thought about my situation. Sitting in the middle of a lot of fresh turkey sign should be a good bet, but tracks only reveal where an animal has been, not where it will go. Maybe the birds only visit that spot once a day, and that once was in the morning before I arrived. Or maybe they were indeed repeat visitors, and like the proverbial stopped clock all I needed to do was wait and time would bring them round once more. When target shooting in the wind there are two techniques: one is to attempt to continuously read the wind and adjust your sights for each shot you take, the other is to decide which wind condition is most common, set your sights for that and wait for it to come back. I aspire to do the first, but often find myself settling for the second. Sitting on the ground waiting for the turkeys to return felt like the second technique. I had decided on a spot and was hoping the winds of fate and habit would blow the turkeys my way. As with the target shooting, I would rather be the master of the conditions. However another lesson I have learnt is that if you spend too much time worrying about the wind you make bad shots. Sometimes you just need to settle down, focus on the fundamentals, and do the best you can do. So that’s what I did. I couldn’t control the conditions, I didn’t have enough experience to figure out where the turkeys were headed and get ahead of them, so I determined to simply focus, stay alert and still, and make sure that if the wind blew my way I wouldn’t screw it up.

So I waited. I watched. I occasionally texted my wife because I have bad discipline when I lose feeling in my backside. And about an hour before the end of my day it happened—the turkeys came back. But when I say they came back I don’t mean they appeared in front of me, because that would be too easy. They appeared out of the woods I had seen them enter in the morning, on the other side of a field and with lots of directions they could choose to go that weren’t towards me. As I watched them for what was without a doubt a subjectively long period of time, it became clear that they had no leader: or if they did, he wasn’t very good at his job. What I wanted was a charismatic boss turkey who would decide that the future lay in acorns, tell his flock this was the plan, and see it through all the way to my freezer. What I got instead was frustrated. They were mooching about, pecking this, scratching that, doing what I suppose turkeys do when they aren’t deliberately avoiding me. For a good half hour they followed the path of whim and want, going nowhere in particular, and then something changed.

All of a sudden one of the turkeys just had to be somewhere else. I don’t know why it went, but for whatever reason it took off running, then took off literally, and flew across the field. It didn’t head my way exactly, but it was more my way than not and the movement seemed to motivate the rest to get on with their day. Despite the lack of a strong leader to call the shots the collective bird brain nevertheless voted with its stomach, and started to mooch in my direction.

Their progress was slow, and as they got closer to me they moved under the “horizon” of the curve of the hill and I lost sight of them. I kept my fingers crossed and my gun ready, because if and when they came back into view they would be almost close enough to shoot, and definitely close enough to see me if I made any sudden moves. As soon as it became clear to me that the odds of getting a shot were improving I had been refining my position. From my usual splayed legs low energy lounging position with my gun across my legs, I moved to a more alert posture with my knees raised and my gun propped on them. I also turned slightly to my right to orient myself more towards the direction I was expecting them to approach from. I was set up behind a lightweight ground blind—a short camouflage screen attached to stakes—and in my reclined position only my shrouded head and gun were visible over the top.

Despite my adrenaline-fueled focus the turkeys still caught me by surprise. There were no distant scratching noises growing in volume, or glimpses of movement to give me warning, they were just there: first one, then suddenly the whole flock was in front of me. I am pretty much a complete novice when it comes to turkeys, and until I arrived in the US I had never seen an actual turkey that wasn’t on my plate or in a sandwich. I grew up on a chicken farm, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with poultry, but having a flock of the largest birds I’ve ever seen suddenly milling about a short stones throw in front of me is a surreal experience to say the least.

Much like other game species turkeys appear simultaneously relaxed and alert as they go about their business. At any one time there are at least a couple with their heads up eyeballing their surroundings. As the flock in front of me gradually moved closer I tried to pick a bird that was near me, had no other birds behind it, and didn’t require me to move my gun far to draw a bead. While their usual slow progress is generally frustrating, for the purposes of making a considered and careful shot it was actually quite useful. Once I had picked a likely bird, I could keep my aim on it, moving slowly, until a safe shot presented itself.

Just a few minutes after the flock appeared over the curve of the hill a bird came in range, stood with its head up, and had no other birds behind it. A few seconds after that I was alone in the woods again and there was blood on the snow.

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Epilogue

In 2017 I marked my fifth anniversary in the USA. Prior to shooting my spring turkey I had been actively but ineffectively hunting deer since November 2014, and to say I was frustrated by my lack of success is an understatement. I wanted to hunt, I needed to hunt, but every day I spent in the woods without a chance of a shot added to the pressure I was trying very hard to deny existed. My unsuccessful fall turkey hunt in 2016 did nothing to improve my mood, and I came into 2017 struggling with motivation and dreading another year of tag soup. I don’t hunt just to kill animals—I always enjoy the many benefits that come from time spent in the woods—but the ratio was starting to get a little extreme. It’s hard to think of yourself as a hunter if all you ever do is take your gun for a walk, and I was rapidly approaching the need for a new descriptor.

Shooting my spring turkey changed all that. The cloud of self doubt and anxiety that had been steadily growing over my head for three years evaporated when the feathers flew that day, and that set the tone for the year. When I set off to start my fall turkey season I carried with me a little glow of warmth and optimism that I hadn’t felt since my first American deer season in 2014. It was there every day I hunted, and from it came the unexpected determination that kept me in the woods, despite my discomforts and plans, until a turkey fell under my gun. I felt it through deer season (which is another story), and I feel it even now.

The 2018 spring turkey season is just a few months away, and I can’t wait.

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I don’t know anything about Ernest Hemingway

I have been thinking about Ernest Hemingway recently, because I think I would probably enjoy reading his books. I don’t know that I will, but since, as I understand it, he often writes about his hunting adventures, there ought to be a good chance. I have even looked up a few of his books on Amazon, but I always get a bit confused and never buy anything. One of his most famous books is about an old guy in Cuba chasing a tuna fish (or some other sort of sport fish)—”The old man and the sea” I think it’s called—sounds a bit like Moby-Dick with better weather. And although I quite enjoyed Moby Dick when I read it, I’m not sure I’m into fishing enough to risk my first Hemingway on it. Another book I thought might be a promising place to start was called Hemingway on hunting (probably), but according to the reviews it’s a compilation of passages from a bunch of different books, padded out with commentary from people who knew him, or at least thought they did. I think I want my first Hemingway to be an authentic Hemingway, not a sort of literary clip show.

The first time Hemingway appears in my memory is one of the times I hung out with a guy called Mike. He was married to a friend of my wife at the time, and we got together during one of our trips to the US (we were living in Scotland at the time) to shoot some guns and catch up. It might even have been the first time I met mike, maybe. Mike is into duck hunting in a big way, and I think Hemingway was also, which might explain some of Mike’s interest in the man. Mike had a sort of study-slash-man-cave in the condo they lived in that I think he referred to as his Hemingway study, and that stuck in my mind. I think I only put the duck hunting thing together later, or maybe even just a few weeks ago…or possibly even just now. I have been meaning to try and get back in touch with mike since I moved to the states, partly because he was a pretty great guy to hang out with, and I like people like that, but also because he was seriously into duck hunting, and I think I’d like to try and get seriously into duck hunting as well. I even had his number in my phone for a while, but the idea of calling people out of the blue makes me want to hide under a table in a dark room, so it hasn’t happened and since I have now lost his number it probably never will. The reasoning behind my decision that Mike is seriously into duck hunting came from several observations: he owned a dog that was a trained retriever (no small thing), when shooting clay pigeons he made sure to try a few that approached from behind and over his head (a duck style manoeuvre I believe), but mostly I decided he was serious about ducks because he owned a 10 gauge shotgun just for shooting at duck. 10 gauge shotguns are serious shotguns, if someone buys a 10 gauge shotgun specially for something, they have to be serious. If I ever go after ducks it will be with a 12 gauge, and I might even use 3 inch shells, but I wouldn’t use a 10 gauge. This either makes me a wimp (entirely possible), or maybe just not that serious about ducks. That might change if I ever get a chance to go. The serious part, not the wimp part. That probably won’t change.

I was listening to an episode of the Meateater podcast recently. I don’t much go for podcasts if I’m honest, they mostly just irritate me unless they’re about science and I’m driving a long way. I think it’s something about the pacing and the sound effects or something. But I can listen to the Meateater podcast since it’s mostly just Steve Rinella talking: and if hunting can be called a religion, then he is it’s prophet, and I listen when he speaks. He wrote an especially good book on Buffalo, called “American Buffalo”, that made me very interested in Buffalo but not in a hunting way, because he wrote about that in his book and it seemed like something that was probably more fun to read about than do. I saw buffalo, or Bison I suppose, when Amanda and I camped out in the Badlands national park in South Dakota. We were driving down the unpaved road to the campsite and a Bison-alo was standing in the middle of the road. We stopped the car to wait for it to move, then a local came by in his pickup truck and just careered straight past us and the Bison-alo in a cloud of dust and gravel like it happened every day, which I suppose it did. It also convinced the Bison to leave the road so we could continue on our way, which was convenient. We got even closer to a Bison the next time we camped in the Badlands. We took some Scottish friends there for something to do, and when we woke in the morning there were two just outside the campsite. I observed from a distance of about 75 yards, standing behind our car. Others didn’t, but the Bison didn’t seem to care. Steve Rinella has this TV show about hunting and fishing called Meateater, and he does a podcast too where he invites friends and experts to sit and chat about hunting and conservation and things, and they are generally very interesting, especially when I’m at work and all I have to do all day is paint and sand things in a gallery with a lot of white walls and no windows. On this one episode the conversation wandered onto the subject of Hemingway because it was being recorded in the town of Ketchum, Idaho, which according to Rinella was where Hemingway lived when he killed himself. The shotgun he did it with was rumoured to have been cut up by a local man at the behest of the family, and then buried in a nearby field. There was some discussion as to the true identity of the gun he used: discovered in the end to be one of Hemingway’s favourites that he had used all over the world: and so it was probably a shame that it was destroyed. Better to fill the barrels with lead and put it under glass for posterity. There aren’t many guns come with a story like that, but perhaps an old gun with a story isn’t as good and a missing gun with a legend.

Hemingway was also something of a drinker I understand. That might be an understatement, but I don’t really know. All I know is people bring alcoholic tributes to his tomb in Ketchum (also learned from the Meateater podcast), which also happens to Jim Morrison in Paris I think, so calling him something of a drinker is probably a safe statement. In the abstract I think there is something kind of romantic in the idea of an alcoholic artist, which probably gets less romantic in direct proportion to your proximity to the artist in question. Being something of an artist myself I will admit to having the occasional bout of envy for those of my peers who can cultivate an honest drug dependency. It adds a certain legitimacy to the lifestyle of the struggling artist everyone likes to imagine when they meet you, and struggling with alcoholism is definitely more romantic than struggling with the gas bill. But since alcoholism and gas bills are not mutually exclusive life experiences, I think I would just as well stick to the gas bill and leave the alcoholism to someone else. I don’t know what was going on in Hemingway’s life to make him drink and ultimately end it, but it was there, and it did, and that’s that.

I heard something said once, it was probably a quote, that a person isn’t dead until the things he started on this earth come to an end. In another way of thinking, you’re alive as long as you’re remembered, and that makes a kind of sense to me. Each of our lives are lived from the perspective of the Plato’s cave that is our grey thinking sponge, and since memories are just another kind of shadow cast on the wall of the cave, a memory of someone is probably a lot more alive than it isn’t. Of course most people alive now don’t have any direct memory of Hemingway, but stories are almost as good, and legends are possibly even better since they are usually a lot more exciting. And since Hemingway, being a celebrated writer, was in a position to create his own legend, it ought to be a pretty good one. And of all the arguments I’ve heard in favour of reading Hemingway, that might be the best one yet.

 

Happy New Year

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This is my favourite photo from the few days I spent deer hunting in Wisconsin last November, and although it looks like it could have been edited, it wasn’t. The weather was cold, but not desperately so. There was snow on the ground, but not too much. And it was fairly overcast for much of the week we were there, as you can see.

Although I went to Wisconsin with the plan of hunting from my climbing tree stand, that actually never happened. On the first morning, before Jason arrived from Minnesota, I elected to head out to one of the locations we had scouted a few months earlier. But when I got there, there was obvious evidence of previous hunter activity on the trail and I wasn’t particularly surprised when I was disturbed by hunters making their own way down the path. It was also apparent that these guys perceived this path as just an access route, so that was the end of that plan.

Jason arrived at lunch time, and since it was clear that we didn’t have a clue what to do, we decided to head out, find new areas, and hope for the best.

The area we headed for first was a place we had tried, and failed, to access on our scouting trip. However this time we approached it from a different direction, and hiked in from the main road. One of the interesting things about this area is that there is a small population of Elk (American Elk that is, not European Elk which Americans call Moose) that is part of a repopulation program. Which meant we frequently encountered very large tracks, and impressive piles of droppings that could only come from Elk, but very few tracks and dropping from animals we could legally hunt.

On that first day we decided to spend our time hiking around looking for likely hunting spots. This made a lot of sense, but I was wearing clothing intended to keep me warm while sitting still for hours on end, so after not very long at all I was a hot mess (as you can see below).

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The following day we decided to use Jason’s truck to drive back into the area, but we came in via a track that must have been intended for snowmobiles, because the truck barely fitted through, and we were very glad to have 4 wheel drive more than once. We made it to the spot, parked, and hiked our way in, but what had looked promising on a satellite photo turned out to be very far from that in reality. What we had interpreted as a grassy meadow with a gentle ridge running along one side, was in fact a bog, and the ridge was covered in such dense foliage that I couldn’t find a single spot that offered a view longer than about 20 yards. When I stepped off the ridge into the open bog I was immediately at risk of sinking into an icy sludge, meaning even if I saw a deer in the open and shot it, I would most likely be unable to retrieve it safely. That morning was probably the closest I came to seeing deer that week, because as I was stumbling through the dense brush, I heard a number of them running away.

After wasting a couple of hours on that fruitless exercise, we made our way back to the truck and decided to just drive around, stopping every now and again to explore the area beside the track. It was on one such exploration that I took the picture at the top of the page.

The most memorable moment of the week came as I was making my way slowly through a recently clear cut area. I was carefully stepping through the branches and debris that covered the ground, when I heard a noise and looked up and came face to face with some local wildlife. Crossing my path less than 20 yards away was a family of Bobcats. They didn’t seem to notice me at first, which was odd because I was standing out in the open and wearing bright orange, but when they did they froze, hissed at me, and then ran away. I have never seen a large cat in the wild, nor really expected to, so that was pretty amazing. And despite my otherwise lack of deer success, on the basis of wildlife encounters in general, I count that week a success.

We continued to hunt like that until Wednesday night, the day before thanksgiving, then Jason had to head home. That night the rest of my wife’s family arrived and so I switched from hunting mode to family holiday mode, and with the exception of a rifle propped in the corner of the cabin in case a deer walked past outside, that was the end of my 2016 hunting season.

 

It ends, and it begins.

This weekend is the last weekend of the Minnesota deer season (rifles), but it is also the opening weekend of the Wisconsin deer season.

As you may have guessed by the lack of pictures of dead deer, my 2016 Minnesota deer hunt went about as well as my 2015, and 2014 seasons. In terms of deer shot on the property I was hunting on, it was a great season. Four deer were shot this year, but they were taken solely by Larry and Amber, who accounted for two each. I should get a decent amount of meat out of it though, and that’s half the reason I do it.

This weekend I had been planning to drive up to the Minnesota cabin on Friday evening, but a big snow storm hit northern Minnesota on Friday and so I delayed my departure until Saturday morning. I got there in time for the evening hunt, and I had just got myself into an appropriate tree with my climbing tree stand when I heard Amber shoot her second deer of the season. I climbed out of my stand at 6:30, having seen nothing.

I had decided to use my climbing stand this weekend in order to get practice with it ahead of my Wisconsin adventures. And by doing that I learned that it is heavy, noisy, frustrating, slightly terrifying, and if there is more than a few inches of snow for me to hike through, I will be drenched in sweat by the time I finally get up in the tree. Also, because I didn’t have a chance to scout out decent trees in advance, the trees I found myself in offered less than optimal shooting positions.

But that’s okay (This is rapidly becoming my hunting motto).

On the plus side, these are all useful lessons. And Wisconsin didn’t get 15 inches of snow, so I don’t have to worry so much about the sweat.

However, whilst I am currently sitting in the cabin in Wisconsin, starting my second movie and my fourth (or maybe fifth) beer. My hunting partner for the week, Jason, is still in Minnesota and won’t get here until late tomorrow morning at the earliest. So I won’t be using the climbing stand in the morning.

Other lessons I learned this weekend are that I should get scope covers to keep the lenses of my sight clean, and I should put tape over the muzzle to stop snow and debris getting in there. I bought tape at fleet farm on my way to Wisconsin, but the scope covers will have to wait.

In the morning, since there will be no one around to save me if I get into trouble, I will leave my stand behind and hunt from the ground. Assuming I don’t get a deer, it will give me a chance to select a good tree to hunt from for the rest of the week.

I find it easy to get frustrated by my continuing lack of success in Minnesota, and one of the sources of that frustration is the lack of control I have over my hunting situation. I feel powerless to affect my chances of getting a deer. I know it will happen; Amber waited longer than three years to get her first, and I feel like I’m being ungrateful to feel so frustrated about it. I do enjoy hunting there though, and I want to keep going because I like being part of that group.

However I also relish the chance offered by hunting public land in Wisconsin. There are no tree stands ready for me to climb into, and I don’t know anyone with knowledge of deer movements in the area, so in truth my chances are probably even lower than they are in Minnesota. But that also means there is a lot of room for me to learn. I have dreams of hunting even further off the beaten track than northern Wisconsin, and I won’t get there until I first get comfortable walking beside the beaten track.

So tomorrow I will step out into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory, alone (if only briefly), and ready to learn from my inevitable mistakes.

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.

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.