2nd Annual Deer Hunter’s Journal

Tonight was a bit crazy.  My wife is out of town.  Two of my kids sang in their show choir at the tree lighting ceremony at the county courthouse.  My other kid had gymnastics class.  By the time all three kids were down it was nearly 10:00.  Finally time to finish preparations for Deer Camp 2019.  As I was going through my annual checklist to make sure I didn’t forget anything important like the cribbage board, I came across my hunting journal.

If you’re not familiar with the journal, please read this from a year ago.  To sum up, in 2017 I started writing the things I saw or thought in the deer stand.  I didn’t read them for a year, and in 2018 I posted them on this site with my thoughts after a year.  I did the same last year.  2018 was different for two big reasons: 1. Tyson and I sat together.  2. I shot a nice buck.  The 2018 entries will likely be less informative, but more entertaining.

Tyson and I leave for Deer Camp 2019 in less than nine hours.  I still have packing to do.  But, I have my journal in front of me and a new Coltrane record spinning.  I couldn’t leave without getting one more post on the site.  Before we start 2019, let’s recap 2018!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

7:10 – We’ve already seen more deer than all of last year.  The snow helps immensely.  Arrived at the stand shortly before 6:00.  Heard yelping shortly after.  At 6:15 saw three deer sneaking around to the south.  At about 6:50 had one deer running full speed from the south to the north along the bottom of the ridge.  Tyson thought it was decent sized.  I did not.  At 7:00 had a nice doe and three fawns come from Kneecap’s stand and get within ten yards of us.  That was fun.  Took some video with the GoPro.  Always cool to watch deer and see them slowly realize that you’re sitting there.  They caught on to us and went north.  So far eight deer.

Nothing terribly insightful here.  All I’ll say to supplement this is that there are few times as exciting as first few hours in the stand on opening day.  The anticipation is palpable.  Every sound makes your heart race.  If I don’t see or hear anything by 6:30 dread starts to settle in.  Maybe this will be a bad year.  The thing about deer hunting is, a bad day or season can all change within seconds.  The trophy buck might be coming up the trail at any moment.  Never does that feel more possible than the first three hours of that Saturday morning.  We wait all year for it.  Last year the first few hours were action packed.

8:10 – Deer count is up to 11.  Saw two on the ridge across the swamp.  Had one more briefly to the south.  Couldn’t have gotten shots at any of them but still nice to see movement.  Sounds like a lot of deer sightings all over camp but no bucks.  Beautiful snowy morning.  About 20 degrees with wind on and off.  The boys must’ve hit it hard last night.  Kneecap, Colin, and Brian aren’t here yet.

Forget about the deer stuff for a minute.  Let’s discuss the other three.  Colin and Brian were hungover and didn’t show up until later.  That’s not the story here.  The story was Kneecap, who 12 hours earlier confidently devoured the last piece of prime rib available at Tesora – a restaurant across the road from our hotel in Siren – despite its gray appearance and warnings from others.  Poor Kneecap spent Deer Camp 2018 flat on his back, puking in his hotel room, and wishing he was dead.  Uncle Dave deserves some kind of award for skipping his hunt and staying back.  Sadly, by Sunday morning Dave took Kneecap home and there was no hunt for them.  I can’t wait to have them back in the woods with us this year.  Also, let’s avoid any questionable meat this year, fellas!

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11:55 – Well, I got my buck.  At 8:40 I saw something moving by the big pine.  He went behind some trees and a doe appeared.  As I was explaining to Tyson that I saw another deer he stepped out.  I grabbed my gun.  Ty grabbed his binoculars and said, “You’re gonna want to shoot this one.”  He meandered up the ridge and gave me a narrow opening at 75 yards.  I shot.  He trotted off.  WTF?!?!?  He stopped 10 yards from where I shot.  I could see everything from his neck up.  So, I shot again at the base of his neck.  He did a backflip and rolled down the hill dead.  8-pointer.  Would’ve been a 10 but he has two busted tines.  Also has some gnarly, beat up brow tines.  The doe ran off.  When Tyson and I walked over we kicked up two more does. He’s a big buck with a small rack.  BBD!  After that things quieted down.  Ty spotted a doe at 11:50 that broke the cold streak.  16 total deer spotted.  One dead buck.  Plenty of time for more.

I conveniently block out the fact that I missed that deer last year.  What a strange moment that was.  Maybe it was buck fever, but I think I just rushed it.  I swear I looked at Tyson and said, “What just happened?!?”  Not to pat myself on the back, but I pride myself on not missing.  For a moment I was certain something was wrong the gun.  I still can’t believe I missed a broadside at 75 yards.  He never stopped completely, but it’s not like he was running.  He was sneaking around.  I could make a million excuses, but that’s all they’d be.  Excuses.  Thankfully he must’ve been rattled because he trotted a few steps and stopped completely this time.  I made the second shot count.

When we got to it the first thing I noticed was that this deer had both G2’s busted off.  If he had those, this would’ve had a much more impressive rack. His brow tines were also smashed down like like someone put them in a vice.  He must’ve been a fighter.  He was also a brute.  The guy who butchered it for me said it was one of the biggest deer he saw up to that point.  Nice to get more meat in the freezer from that deer than I did from the last two deer I shot combined.  

2:30 – We went back to the truck to get some cookies.  When we did Jo shot at a buck and missed.  We saw the buck and a doe but never got a shot.  Talked to a few guys at the truck.  Rick has seen 20+ deer.  We think Kristen got one.  Time for some late-day activity.  Gotta get a buck for Tyson.

I don’t remember going back to the truck.  I rarely leave the stand on opening day.  This is surprising to me.

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4:00 – Our day is over early.  The ATV battery died so we have a deer to drag.  Quiet afternoon.  No deer.  Total for the day: 18.  An amazing morning, though.  Gotta get a buck for Ty tomorrow.

I keep talking about a buck for Tyson like I knew something was about to happen…

Sunday, November 18, 2018

7:27 – Tyson just broke a long silence by asking, “Where the fuck are all the deer?”  Good question.  So far a very cold, quiet morning.  A TON of shooting to the south.  We couldn’t get sandwiches from Dave this morning so we’re surviving on cookies and candy bars today.  Tyson is already two fun size Snickers deep.

It just occurred to me that I have no idea if anyone made sandwiches.  A little late now at 12:12 AM to start thinking about sandwiches.  Might be making a St. Croix Falls run on Friday for lunch meat and bread.

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Noon – Where to start?  At about 7:40 a beautiful buck came through by Gary Moultrie.  He was coming our way.  Tyson got his gun ready.  The buck turned toward the swamp instead.  Before Tyson could get a look he did a 180 and vanished.  We grunted at him and he responded but never came back.  I had a clean look at him broadside at 80 yards but didn’t have my gun out.  Could’ve had a second great buck.  After that I wandered for a while.  Tyson is now in Rick’s stand.  I pushed a doe to Brett.  I sat in dad’s stand and talked to Brett, Phil, Pat, and Dan.  No action today.  I then circled the swam and am now taking a break in my stand before I go wander again.  I wish everyone didn’t leave.  Gonna be a quiet night in Siren.

I’m still sick about that buck.  That’s the hard part about sharing a stand with someone.  It’s far more fun and it’s nice to have two sets of eyes up there because deer could come from any direction when you’re in that stand.  Still…how do you decide who gets the shot?  On Saturday the deer was directly to my left and Tyson was directly to the right.  Unless he was going to shoot through me I had to take the shot.  On Sunday I had a clear shot at that buck’s chest at 80 yards, but I didn’t even consider picking up my gun.  I had my buck.  It was Tyson’s turn.  The problem is, even though we sit right next to each other the angles can be completely different.  The same tree that was blocking the deer’s lower half for me was blocking his upper half from Tyson’s angle.  He could’ve gut shot it, but that would’ve been foolish and unethical.  He was smart to wait for a better shot. I’ve seen deer take that trail dozens of times and there’s always another opening another 50-100 feet to the south.  The deer just did a 180 for some reason.  Shitty luck.

This I promise you: Tyson gets the first shot this year no matter what.  I will grab my gun in case of a strange situation, but I’m deferring.  I want to see him knock one down and try to record it. I also don’t see any reason why we can’t both get shots at decent bucks again this year.  Why not?

Another thought: It’s a lot of fun when you get your buck and the pressure is off.  I typically like to sit in my stand, but if it’s a slow day and I got my deer I feel like it’s my obligation to get up and try to kick up deer for everyone else.  I spent more time on my feet hiking around those woods on Sunday last year than I can ever remember and I loved it.  It keeps you warm, too, because it was damn cold.  Did you see the trail cam pic above?  5 degrees.  You’ve gotta move around in stuff like that.  Or buy a heater for the stand, which I did this year!

One last thing: Last year everyone did head back to Green Bay early except for Tyson, Uncle Rick, Joe, and I.  The four of us had a great time eating dinner at the Pour House in Siren that Sunday night.  I look forward to going back there this weekend.

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3:45 – Strange day.  Only saw the buck eight hours ago.  No other deer…yet.  I’m having a blast.  Fun conversations at the truck.  Nice, but cold, weather.  Just loving my day outside.  Hopefully I can see a deer in the next hour and cap it off.  I wouldn’t mind another shot at that buck.

What a greedy bastard.  That’s Tyson’s buck.  It was a beautiful Sunday despite the bitter cold and lack of deer.  I only get to do this once a year.  Sitting in that stand is as close to meditation as I get.  Even when it’s slow I enjoy myself.

4:37 – Barring a miracle in the next 15 minutes today will be one of the quietest days I’ve ever had.  One deer, but that one was one of the nicest bucks I’ve seen while hunting.  Still a great day.  Can’t wait to get back tomorrow before dawn.

There was no miracle.  It was a bad day for deer sightings.

Version 3

Monday, November 19, 2018

8:15 – One of the prettiest mornings I’ve ever seen.  Snowfall, sunshine…but no deer. Everyone from GB left so it’s just Ron, Joe, and I.  I got my buck so I’m pulling the plug so I can get home before the kids.  Another great opening weekend in the books. More to come next weekend.

That’s right.  More to come next weekend.  I brought the journal with me to New Lisbon for the second weekend last year as well, so I’ll save that entry for next week.  It’s very late, Tyson will be here in less than eight hours now.  I still have a few things to pack and I should probably sleep tonight.  Tomorrow night there will be lots of cribbage and Kraken and I must be at the top of my game if I’m going to take Dave and T-Bone’s dollars.

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