A Disappointing Opening Day Hunt

It was pretty brisk at ten-to-five Saturday morning. The sun was an hour and 40 minutes from coming up- not even a smudge of bright on the eastern horizon. I had packed everything into the car Friday night after work, and laid my camo out. Last year on the bow opener, I was sweating in light cotton. This year, it was 39F as I shouldered my pack, and trekked up the road in darkness.  Continue reading

Advertisements

Labor Day Weekend

Late Saturday evening, Matt and I drove up north to get to work on improving our duck hunting site, as well as hanging trail cams and various other odds and ends. We turned around and came back Sunday afternoon, hoping to hunt the opener Monday morning for early goose and teal, so we weren’t there long, and packed a lot of activity into a few hours. Continue reading

Hunting Season Draws Inevitably Nearer

I wanted to put together a bit of news while we’re in a lull just before hunting season. Early goose and teal both open on the 1st of September, and this year is Wisconsin’s first teal season. You used to just have to wait until regular duck season. We’re planning on canoeing and kayaking up to the very northern end of Cherokee marsh for the first time in almost two years, as that’s the only place we’ve seen them. I’ve asked a coworker if we can goose hunt in her family’s corn fields, since they already have people bowhunting. She’s getting back to me on that.

Matt went and bought all his permits at once this weekend. The roll of tags was about 3 1/2 feet long.

GE GE

 

Wisconsin really changed around deer tags this year. They cut the number of tags dramatically. We knew the zone up north by his grandfather’s land was going to be buck only this year and probably next, but they are also only handing out two tags, and they’re now these “Farmland Zones”. This year is also the first for crossbow hunting. He has a tag for that, and plans to get a crossbow in the next few weeks.

I haven’t bought my tags yet, but I plan on getting my waterfowl stamps and archery deer. I was invited back down to Illinois to hunt, so I hope to make a 3 day weekend some time in October once their season starts, and Matt hopes to come with this time.

He also has his bear tag. His hunt is coming up fast- it’s the second week of September, the 10th to the 17th. I hadn’t originally planned on going, since my classes will be on by then. But I also need to work that week, and all the rest of September as much as possible.

The reason for my needing to work is an exciting one. Come mid-January, I’m going to Germany for ten weeks. Back in May, I applied for an internship with the State Department. I found out late Sunday night (Monday morning in Germany) that I got one of the open positions, after interviewing with Leipzig, Düsseldorf, and twice with the Embassy in Berlin (Public Affairs Section and the Economic Section). The pool of German speakers was fairly small. I’m going to be assigned to the US Consulate Leipzig, pending receiving my security clearance.

This means I’ll miss almost all of ice fishing season, and the first week or two of Spring turkey. In fact, I may be heading out to turkey hunting within days of getting back stateside. The internship is done April 15th, and as of now, I’m planning on sticking around at least 2 or 3 days to get my stuff packed. Last time I went to Germany, everything was too rushed, and I left stuff behind, never to be seen again. There’s a lot of planning to be done. I’m waiting to buy my airline ticket until my clearance comes through, just in case. I need to find a place to stay, and I won’t be able to do that until about month before I go. And then I have to pack.

I’ve been looking in to fishing and hunting both in Germany, and both look tricky. I plan to do my homework  little more closely now that I know for sure where I’m going. I think it would be an amazing experience to see how the outdoors gets done in a foreign country, and to do it not as a tourist so much as a visitor with a decent knowledge of the culture and language. To do that, though, it seems I will need to both make some connections and very likely travel to either Austria or Switzerland (I do not speak Schwyzerdütsch). It’s a good thing Europe has a good train system. At the very least, I hope to travel at least a little while I’m there, and do some hiking, hopefully in the Alps. We will see how it pans out, I suppose.

Sighting in and Target Practice.

I drove down to Illinois this past weekend to see my newest family member. My sister had a little girl two weeks ago. I hung around with her for a while and distracted my nephew so sister could do human things like nap and shower. But after a while, everyone was tired  and I decided to clear out. I took the dog to my mom’s house, and after a quick hike to the river to let him swim and catch crawfish, I got my new sight zeroed in and did some practice shooting.

 

 

PicMonkey Collage

 

Target at about 15 yards.

Target at about 15 yards.

Shot a little high at 15, but my grouping is excellent. Adjusted the sight after this.

Shot a little high at 15, but my grouping is excellent. Adjusted the sight after this.

 

I can remember shooting every day after school for hours when I was a kid. With a longbow, and no let off point. My arm, in spite of being stronger, doesn’t have the endurance anymore. So I decided that since our neighbors that had kids moved out, and since my bow is dialed in pretty well (no wild arrows flying into their yard, field point or no), I’m going to set my target up in the backyard to shoot at when I have time. Our yard is not huge by any means, but practicing at 20 yards is much better than nothing. I might look a little bananas standing on the roof of the garage to practice elevated shooting, but I do need the practice.

Soft Water Fishing on Winnebago, Pounding the Drums

Last weekend, Matt had a family to-do up near Appleton. Since we’ve barely made it out to do anything this summer, we decided to pack up the fishing gear and take the boat for some fishing on Winnebago while we were up there. The last time we were there was for sturgeon spearing back in February. 

Anyway, that was how we hoped it would work. We towed the boat up to his brother’s place and stayed the night, planning to rise fairly early and get out for the last half of the morning bite. Figuring that ‘Bago is the the single largest lake in the state, we assumed we could just head to a launch and snag some bait on the way. My friends, it did not work this way in practice.

Our route took us from a little ways west of Greenville in the upper left corner of that map southeast to Neenah. Apparently, not one person in that corridor thought to open a bait shop. The first bait store our GPS took us to had been closed for what looked like several years. Our next try was ten miles away in Appleton, and the GPS location of it was off by a solid two miles. Once we stopped and got real directions to find it, it didn’t open until 9am on a Sunday (seriously, what bait shop in this state doesn’t open at dawn or close to it?) All the next closest shops were a good 15 miles away in Oshkosh or Winneconne, or even further away down in Fond du Lac. We were driving around for a good 45 minutes to an hour, trying to find anything we could throw on our hooks. Eventually, we found a gas station selling worms, and grumbling, settled for that.

Once we finally launched from the very, very nice launch at Doty park (next to a Coast Guard auxillary post), we headed out to open water and got to fishing.

By the time we got out there, it was well past 8am, and well past the morning bite. Our only luck came in the form of 6 small sheepshead, caught in quick succession the first 30 minutes we were out. I’ve eaten them before, and they taste fine- just very bony. But these were small. We threw them back. I had one small rock bass on towards the end, but they don’t get much over 6 inches.

The only other positive of this trip, besides the family to-do, was a trip to Scheel’s, a place I find to be better than both Gander Mountain and Cabela’s combined. We both got new bow sights out of the deal. I plan to zero mine in this weekend.

Naming sights and other hunting accessories seems to follow the same conventions as naming action movie sequels.

Naming sights and other hunting accessories seems to follow the same conventions as naming action movie sequels.

Early Spring Turkey Scouting

Sunday afternoon we finally got out in the woods a bit. The weather warmed up significantly this weekend- near 60 on Sunday, with a high of 62 for Monday. It’ll drop back down the rest of the week, but we got out while we could and hung trail cams and did some light scouting ahead of turkey season.

Hunting: Now With More Tornado Warnings!

We made it back from La Crosse on Saturday afternoon just in time to not see a damn thing. This weekend was a rainy mess. It wasn’t especially chilly until Sunday evening. Saturday we both got soaked through and neither of us saw anything. In spite of the rain, there were two other cars in the parking area.

Sunday, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees over the afternoon. My hunting gear also didn’t dry overnight, so heading out late Sunday morning to hunt the gap between storms, I had a head start on my soaking. We waited out a particularly bad downpour in the truck, and then headed out. I called it for myself around 3pm in some rain, and ended up waiting in the truck for Matt until around 5. I headed back up the road to meet him at our usual spot, and saw just one deer, well past shooting light, heading up the field towards him. He never saw it though, and we made it back to the truck in 30mph wind gusts.

We had some tornado warnings up here in Wisconsin, however the storms hit worst down in Illinois. Some funnel clouds were sighted near home, but they missed my town (this time- three years ago they were hit very badly). Washington and the Pekin area, 60 miles to the southwest, were hit. A friend of mine from home found a piece of a Washington municipal sign in his back yard. Washington, apparently, was flattened. The storms also crossed over into Indiana. Hopefully those places can recover quickly.

Rifle season for us starts Saturday. There’s no hunting at all the day before (Friday). I’m hoping to make it out maybe Wednesday or Thursday night for one last bit of bowhunting until after gun and muzzleloader.  Saturday and Sunday will be the days to really get deer. After that, pretty much everything lays low until the season ends. We’re heading up north for Thanksgiving and the last weekend of rifle season. If there’s a lot of Matt’s cousins and family hunting at the cabin, we plan to hunt his grandfather’s back pasture. Gun season is the time we really count on to bring home deer. Hopefully we get some.

 

♪ Shot In the Dark ♪ ♪

Matt and I decided to head out Thursday night for deer. Figuring that most of the yahoos that run all over the place on the weekends probably hold down weekday jobs, we hoped that the deer had settled a bit.

I honestly wasn’t expecting must, given our abysmal luck so far. I didn’t even take pictures. It was about normal weather- high, thin clouds, a bit of sun. Mid 40s, temperature-wise- much warmer than Monday. The snow has melted off by now. The wind was straight out of the southwest. Matt took his normal spot (which has to be getting overused by now), and instead of trekking all the way to the back of the property, I opted to use the tree stand I found a couple weeks ago. Like I texted Matt, the wind was wrong for it, but since I didn’t expect to see anything, I wanted to at least be comfy.

Just in case of a fluke deer sighting, I put out some doe estrus in both my little resealable container, and I made a little trail of it in the field, to lure any bucks present closer. And then I sat. A little gray squirrel ended up getting quite close- I was still enough that he began climbing my pantleg before I moved my head and scared him.

And then I sat some more. Around 4:50, I drew just to see if I could see my sight pin. I could, sorta, so I gave it just a little longer. About ten minutes later I was thinking of finally packing it in, when I heard crunching behind me. Over my right shoulder. At first I dismissed it as the little squirrel, but then I listened closer- no scurrying, no digging. Slow steps. Deer.

I watched her come up the hill and sniff at my scent lure. I must have stepped in some of the stuff I dropped on the ground, because she followed my tracks. I haven’t seen a deer even remotely near me since September 25th or so. And here is a deer, no more than 20 yards out. I draw in silence. She doesn’t notice the movement. I look down my peep sight. Shit, I can’t see my sight pins. Right then, I should have let it back and not even tried, but I was too excited. I tried to eyeball it in the increasing darkness. And I missed. A near miss, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

She jogged away, only to come back closer. You have got to be kidding me. Hoping I might get lucky, I tried again, and missed. This time I think she finally winded me (she was downwind, after all) and bounded off in no real hurry, flag up. I found one of my two arrows in the dirt. I’ll have to look around for the other one in the daylight.

Matt didn’t see anything, but the trailcam he left up caught images, unfortunately, they’re all there while its dark. They’ve got to be in the rut by now, if this slight uptick in activity keeps up. Hopefully we do better this weekend- I might set up farther down that hill to catch one while it’s still light enough to shoot.

SUNP0003 (2)

This deer appears to maybe have a scar on its hindquarter.

SUNP0002 (2) SUNP0002

Anyhow. Tonight we’re packing for the ball. By the time this goes up, we’ll hopefully be on the road so I can make my appointments for hair and makeup on time. Friday night is for celebrating, so there won’t be any hunting stories (but hopefully nice pictures of us in something other than camouflage). We’ll head back down to Madison Saturday morning to hunt in the evening. We’re supposed to have warm weather, but rain. Hopefully it discourages some of the other hunters.

First Snow and We Catch A Break with Trail Cams

This post is way late, as I had a burst of motivation this morning to get some stuff done, and one does not squander that kind of motivation. Especially when it occurs early on a morning that’s about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Granted, part of it was seeing ice on the inside of our old windows, and the resulting imperative to get the shrink plastic up on them, stat. But then three loads of laundry and three sinkfuls of dishes just kind of happened on their own. My motivation around the house almost always overflows.

Anyhow. Monday was Veteran’s Day. Matt had a 76 this weekend (3-day weekend). So we made it out to hunt again last night. I was looking forward to it- the temperature had dipped the night before, and most of the morning, it had been snowing. Granted, it turned out to be just a dusting, but the low over night was forecast to be in the teens (it was) and Tuesday’s high only in the 30s (it will be). We hoped like nothing else that the deer would be moving.

So, I took Matt’s climbing stand back to that watering hole I mentioned. Never again. First off, I saw one guy dawdling his way up the road. I think he was trying to move quietly and not spook the deer, but at 2 in the afternoon, he would have been better off moving more quickly and trying to keep the noise down than dragging out his noise-making. There’s leaves all over, and if they aren’t dry, they’re frozen. Crunchy either way. Second off- I didn’t have a great grasp on how to use a climber. Getting it around the tree was difficult and noisy. Then, I nearly fell to severe injury not once, but three times. It just sort of slid a few inches each time, sending a jolt of adrenaline through my entire body and giving me a tiny heart attack each time. At least I was only about 8 feet off the ground.

Snowy woods and the watering hole

Snowy woods and the watering hole

I clunked around and made so much noise that I doubt I’d have seen anything anyway. To top it off, that particular stand doesn’t bolt together or anything to pack it out- I didn’t tie up the straps or something, and it slid apart. And smacked against the backs of my legs so much that I had to hunch forward and take baby steps out of the dark woods. Adding insult to injury was the guy walking out, while it was still light, smoking a cigarette.

Winter definitely peeked in on us a month early.

Winter definitely peeked in on us a month early.

Anyhow. I finally got the stupid tree stand out of the woods and to the truck. I’m never using it or any climber again. I’ll keep hunting on the ground, even. By the time I reached the truck, I was ready to cheerfully set it on fire and melt it into slag. So, I stuck it in the truck, and trudged back up the path to meet Matt. He’d not seen anything, but he had swapped out the SD card in a trail camera. When we got home, we checked it. And finally- a deer showed up.

Random deer butt one night

Random deer butt one night

And a little button buck at a different time.

And a little button buck at a different time. Edited to add that if you look at the right side of this picture, there’s another deer. I’d be willing to bet my favorite socks it’s a doe.

Not helpful that they’re near his stand location at dark. But with the height of the rut coming, maybe he’ll finally get lucky. Plus, once gun season starts, all the deer will be running around in a panic, so one might happen by his stand then, too. As for me, once we get back from the Ball this weekend, Matt promised to get me a set like his so I can sit in a tree, too. And I’ll hunt a south-facing hillside towards the back of the property. Maybe I’ll get lucky, too.

He’s even planning not to drink very much this Friday. Which, for anyone familiar with how USMC balls generally go, should be astounding. Last year, I had to push him down to the lobby on the luggage cart the next morning. He played a punching bag machine so hard he punched off his medals and bent the stack. The year before that, he crashed a random wedding at our hotel, and nearly ruined his dress blues with pizza. I had to tell him about all three the day after. So, he’ll be relatively coherent the next day just so we can hunt the peak rut. He’s that serious about it.