Photographer heads out on rookie deer hunt
Deer hunting is a hallowed tradition in the Northland - a rite of passage. It's as much a part of Thanksgiving week as turkey and mashed potatoes.
After nine years living up north, I've never taken part in the festivities. It's true.
I went pheasant hunting with my dad when I was younger, which usually meant I walked up front with the dog to scare up the birds. I haven't touched a gun for a good 18 years.
Well this year is different. I got the bug last season when my girlfriend, Jenny, shot a deer on the last day of the season. Her dad came running into their home out in Oulu and told me to get my stuff because he thought Jenny got one. It turns out she did, a nice buck. Of course, I took photos of the whole process: Field dressing, dragging it back, Jenny with the deer, hanging it up and so on. Her photo ran in the Trophy Deer section in the Telegram and I want to get in on that this year.
So you might say there is a little competition - I say "little" because chances are I won't get a deer this year and she will, playing it off like it's no big deal when in fact we all know it is.
When archery season started, I went out to sit in a stand and take photos of deer. I liked the feeling, the rush of deer coming in. I wanted to give deer hunting a try. So, just to be safe, I got my license in September and began to grow an arsenal of blaze orange clothing.
Saturday, Jenny, her dad Brad, brother John and I took to the woods for the opener. Here are the highlights of my rookie hunting season:
3:27 p.m.: After walking down the trail near Oulu, I get to the ground stand we put in last weekend. I've begun my first ever deer hunt.
3:31 p.m.: I hear the first gunshot off in the distance. I just realize that maybe the water I had with lunch was a poor decision. My camera is ready with me in the stand. Made a note to myself, gun first, camera second.
3:39 p.m.: I think I hear something running through the leaves. My heart starts beating hard. It's a squirrel; I hate squirrels.
3:51 p.m.: I hear a loud gunshot to the east. Hopefully, I'll be making the loud noise next.
4 p.m.: Doe comes out of nowhere. It wanders all around my stand, getting so close I could almost touch it. Gun goes down, camera up.
4:08 p.m.: Doe finally wanders off. I took some photos of myself with the deer in the background.
4:13 p.m.: I heard something and I went to pick up my gun, hitting it on the shelf in the stand, again. I feel like Don Knotts out here; it's probably 18 years of rust that needs to be shook off.
4:32 p.m.: Water is not a problem anymore after a quick walk down wind.
5:05 p.m.: It's getting pretty dark so I left the stand. Still light enough to find my way back.
5:11 p.m.: Our group met up at the truck and unloaded our guns and just as the last guns was cased, two large deer came waltzing across the open field where we were parked.
Well, even though I didn't even take a shot today, I still learned some things out in the woods:
1. It's a good idea to go to the bathroom before you go out to your stand.
2. For the most part I think hunting terminology is kind of backwards. For example, the term hunting seems to be a little misleading. I think waiting might be a better term because as I see it we go out to the stand and wait for deer to walk by. But I guess saying, "I'm going deer waiting," probably doesn't sound as cool. Another term I don't get is the deer stand. You walk to it, then sit down inside, thus it's really more of a deer sit.
3. By some cruel twist of nature, wind mixed with fallen leaves can somehow make themselves sound like a large creature is walking near you.
4. Apparently deer are not at all affected by the clicks of a shutter.
5. Looking for deer in the woods is kind of like those Magic Eye things, it's best to just relax your eyes and wait for it.
5:55 a.m.: Wake up. I couldn't tell you the last time I was up before 6 a.m., I couldn't tell you the last time I was up before 8 a.m. for that matter. Working evenings means I'm not big on early morning hours.
6:52 a.m.: Got into my stand, it's still mostly dark. I had peanut butter toast and a Mountain Dew for breakfast, so I'm good to go.
7:11 a.m.: It's really peaceful in the woods as the sun comes up. A breeze blows with enough chill in it to remind me it's November and it should be a lot colder.
7:23 a.m.: I decided to keep a sort of deer tally on the wall of the stand to keep track of the does and bucks I saw.
7:32 a.m.: I hear the first shot of the morning. I hope I'm next.
7:46 a.m.: The sled dogs at the property to the south start going bezerk, could be feeding time, my hope is that a large group bucks are running north.
7:57 a.m.: What looked like three does ran behind my stand. I tried to turn in the deck chair I'm sitting in to see the deer but only catch a glimpse at one. Maybe my back cracking scared them away. It was the loudest noise I'd heard in a while.
8:07 a.m.: Four big bluejays land on a tree right next to me, I tried to get a shot of them (with my camera), but they flew off.
8:08 a.m.: A lone deer - or two - approaches. I've got to get better at seeing these things. One gets very close to the stand. Sadly both are does.
8:53 a.m.: I'm starting to think about wrapping it up for the morning. We are supposed to meet back at the truck at 9 a.m. I'm proud of myself for staying awake the whole time, but I'm not going to lie - a nap sounds great right now. My next obstacle of the morning will be to convince the Packer household to let me watch the Vikings game. Luckily, the Packers aren't on TV.
I don't know about other hunters, but man is it disappointing to finally see a deer and then have it turn out to be a buck. To put in non-hunter terms, it's like looking for a big screen TV while Christmas shopping. You spot a great big screen from across the store, you can see the price is unbelievably low so you hurry over to claim dibs on the TV, then on closer inspection you realize the TV is a Suny not a Sony. Disappointment looms.
3:09 p.m.: Get back to my stand for the afternoon hunt. Well, I ended up skipping the noon hunt to watch the Vikings dismantle the Seahawks. Possible interesting note - I played high school basketball against the Seahawks' tight end's brother.
3:46 p.m.: It starts to rain. I'm glad I have a roof on my stand.
3:47 p.m.: Rain stops.
3:51 p.m.: It starts to rain again. I sure hope Jenny has a roof on her stand. She had a bad morning hunt. The stand she was going to sit in got moved and no one told her about it, so she sat on the ground all morning leaning against a tree.
4:01 p.m.: I hear something approaching, but I can't see anything. I'm trying to use my Magic Eye method to find it, all I could see was a sailboat. Sorry, just kidding, it's a little boring out here.
4:28 p.m.: The afternoon hunt has been far from productive as I have seen just as many Sasquatch, Yeti and dragons as I have seen deer this afternoon. I'm packing it in for the day. I'll be back on Thanksgiving, hopefully seeing a lot of big bucks.
So far deer hunting reminds me a lot of watching a baseball game. It's a lot of sitting around without a lot of action. But then things can get real tense for a little while and then back to sitting around.
Will I get my buck? Will Jenny's be bigger? Will the turkey's tryptophan powers spoil my afternoon hunt? Tune into the Telegram next week for all the answers.
Good luck hunters.