The third time has to be a charm, doesn't it?
It's that time of year again, when adults in rural areas show up at the grocery store or gas station wearing three shades of blaze orange.
I've spent some time out in the woods near Oulu, helping my father-in-law move stands to spots we've scouted and think will be good for rifle season. I'm optimistic that my third hunting season will be successful.
Really, it can't get any worse than last year. I didn't even see a deer the whole season. I spent my time freezing in a little hut, waiting to go back to the house.
But this is a new year and good things happen in 3s, right? Jaws 3, Major League 3, Rocky 3...OK, so maybe those aren't good examples, but nonetheless, the time has come and the third time has to be a charm.
5:41 a.m.: We wake up. To non-hunters, this may seem early, but this is about the time I wake up to play basketball twice a week, so the early factor doesn't bother me. I'm more concerned about the cold and hoping the weather helps me a bit.
6:51 a.m.: I'm walking out to my stand after grabbing a bite to eat. I'm pleasantly surprised the weather is actually quite nice -- no snow, light winds. I think I may be overdressed for hunting this morning. I hear the first gunshot of the morning off in the distance.
6:56 a.m.: I get up into my stand. I'm sitting in an open stand this season after two years of sitting in a hut. I like the view; I'm sitting much higher. I just hope the wind doesn't become an issue. All-in-all, I'm feeling confident. I've got a gnarly beard growing to help me out.
7:06 a.m.: I hear a loud shot to the southwest. That could be my wife, Jenny. She did a ton of bow hunting this year so I hope she gets the big payoff.
7:23 a.m.: A loud shot behind me rings out. That could be my father-in-law, Brad.
7:30 a.m.: I see my first deer -- a doe -- wander out from the south. I'm already ahead of last season.
7:40 a.m.: I can see the head of a second doe just past and little to the west of the first deer. That's a 200 percent improvement over last year and it's only been an hour.
8:29 a.m.: I can hear something getting closer and closer to me. I pull up my stocking cap to hear a little better. I still don't see anything, but I can still hear leaves crunching with each step. It sounds like it's almost underneath me now, and then I spot it. It's a partridge -- stupid bird.
8:58 a.m.: Something takes off running behind me. I'm wondering if maybe a wounded deer is nearby.
9:09 a.m.: I hear another noise similar to the last noise, so I turn to look behind me. From the southwest, I spot a buck running to the east. Holy cow -- a buck! My mind scrolls to a discussion with my wife -- how to stop a running deer. Instinctively, I make a clicking noise. The deer stops cold in its tracks. My gun is up. Through the scope, I see antlers, and bring my gaze to the kill zone. I drew a breath, pulled the trigger -- bang -- and looked up to see the deer go up on his back legs and disappear to the west.
Was it a good shot? Did I get him? My hands are shaking and adrenalin's spiking. I have no idea what to do; we've never covered this in our hunting plans.
9:16 a.m.: I walk to the spot where I hit the buck. I take a napkin from my pocket, attach it to a stick in a tree and point it in the direction the deer ran.
9:27 a.m.: I looked around a little for blood -- that's what they do on TV. I'm going to head back to the house to find Brad and Jenny. I still have no idea what I'm doing. They'll know what to do.
9:58 a.m.: I'm back at the spot with Jenny and Brad. I told my tale of how I stopped the running buck and now I need to find my mighty deer.
9:59 a.m.: Jenny finds the initial blood trail a few steps from where I thought it was. I get to track it myself. There is tons of blood to track. Brad says it must have been a good shot.
10:06 a.m.: I wander up to the buck; it seemed much bigger through the scope. The massive rack I thought I saw was in fact a four pointer, but it did have a big body. I pose for a few photos with it.
10:09 a.m.: Brad starts to field dress the deer. I'm not going to lie: I have no idea how to do any of this. I'll leave this to the pro. I enjoy complements on my great shot, right through the lungs and heart -- if my head gets any bigger I'm going to need a bigger stocking cap.
10:23 a.m.: Jenny takes more photos of me posing with the deer. I break out the Clay Matthews pose, the Aaron Rodgers championship belt pose, the Tim Tebow pose and my favorite, the Jared Allen hogtie pose.
10:31 a.m.: I get to drag my deer out so Brad can pick us up in the truck. It's funny how much easier it is dragging my own deer rather than any of Jenny's deer. Yes, I know, Jenny's deer are typically all bigger than this one. Well beggars can't be choosers.
11:39 a.m.: After going back to the house to eat and tell more tales of my epic hunt, I'm back at the stand as the snow is falling and the wind is howling.
1:06 p.m.: I get back the truck. It's funny that not seeing any more deer can't dampen my spirits this afternoon. However, my clothes are quite moist from the snow. Time to go dry out.
1:57 p.m.: Brad and I register the deer at O'Brien's C-Store in Iron River. The man who checked it says the buck is a year and a half old. And it's real big for its age.
6:05 p.m.: After braving a blustery evening hunt, I help Brad hang the deer in the barn before skinning it. We have a small memory lapse as to where we put the spreaders after hanging deer last year. I head out to the garage to try to find them.
6:40 p.m.: Brad begins to skin the deer. He has skin halfway down the back when the deer's left tendon snaps and the deer drops to the ground. We find some rope, tie it around the legs, and re-hang the deer. Brad finishes the skinning and cuts out a few pieces of choice meat.
7:14 p.m.: We head back into the house and I give my folks a call to report on my hunting exploits.
After three years of trying, I not only see a buck, but I'm one-for-one with the kill. I'm glad to have gotten my first deer under my belt, and hopefully end the friendly -- and unsolicited -- advice on what I should do or where I should go to hunt.
I feel like a real hunter, like I've earned my blaze orange.