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
I’ve spent the better part of the last five days working my way closer to the turkeys on our public land spot. Things were going really well all the way until Saturday. Saturday morning, we set out and got parked about 20 minutes before sunrise. We got to our spots, and waited. At dawn, 6:09 on the dot, I heard a hen drop from her roost, land, and do a bit of quite clucking. Maybe 15 yards from me considering I could hear her footsteps. Minutes later, a bigger whompf as a tom dropped to the ground. He made the world’s softest single gobble, and I never saw them. We called our hunt around 8:15, and quickly discovered the reason for our difficulties that day: the third pull-in spot had one SUV parked on the gravel near the road, and two pickups that had actually driven down onto the field and parked on the treeline at the bottom of the hill, more or less directly behind where I had been sitting. Small wonder the birds’ schedule was disrupted. As we left, we took a look at the part of this land parcel that covers the marshy headwaters of Black Earth Creek, and spied the turkeys sitting several hundred yards from the road on the edge of a private field/pasture.
Sunday morning I had to work, and Sunday afternoon we had yard and housework to do in the the lovely 75 degree weather. That was a wash. This morning, however, I dragged myself out of bed before daylight again. Luckily it was 59F, even at 5 AM. Downright balmy. However, my Monday morning hunt was spoiled for much the same reason as Saturday morning’s- that SUV was parked and someone was on the back side of my hill again. And once again, the turkeys were over in that private field.
To some positives. Saturday, Matt had a hen milling around in front of him for a solid 15 minutes. Someone was screwing around in the woods, though, and scared her off- she flew right over my head. And Monday morning, I watched a hen from quite a ways off. So the turkeys are still using this area, I’m just betting that all the people running around this weekend have them all out of sorts. I’m ready for it to cool back down and keep some of these people at home. I have two more days on my original permit.
Since we came back from up north late on Saturday night, we were in Madison for the closing evening of gun season. Matt had to do a little work Sunday morning, but we made it out by about 3 that afternoon. And what a change was wrought by warmer weather. I mentioned how very cold opening weekend was. And how cold it was during the week. Sunday was in the mid-thirties. As we came around the bend at Sunny Slope, there were five cars in the small parking lot. Remember that this piece of land is just about 250 acres. Cramped, when everyone has a gun.
I won’t gloss over it- it pissed me off. I’m not sure exactly what it is that forms the basis of my hatred for fairweather people, but it’s there. Maybe it was growing up and being a fan of Chicago sports- I get grumpy when the Packers fans up here turn off their TVs when they start to lose. I don’t know. It’s definitely translated to disliking people who fairweather outdoor sports as well. Opening weekend, there were two people out there besides Matt and myself. And I didn’t even see them- Matt did, and they hunted, then left. Since the weather had warmed up- Saturday had hovered right around freezing- I had halfway expected there would be more people out. But it still astounds me how inconsiderate people are.
I saw two other hunters and Matt saw one or two himself. From what I saw, and from what Matt told me, they probably had never been out to this area, much less scouted it. Of the two I saw, one lollygagged around for about ten minutes, and the other set up after I did, and we got there a bit late. He didn’t have a blind- he just sat in some scraggly tall grass across the field from me. He was facing entirely the wrong way to see deer where they tend to come out in this field, and to top it off, he was rotating every so often. Taking his coat off, putting it back on. The cherry on the top of all this was he left at about 4:45- about 25 minutes before dark. With a flashlight, when there was still enough visible light to read easily. I hoped he’d spook a deer out to me, at the very least, but no such luck.
I did hear and just barely see one deer Sunday evening, but with how many people were kicking around, I doubt I’d have ever gotten a shot- it was crunching around on the steep backside of the hill I sit on. And I only saw its neck at a distance between some trees. Our gun season definitely went out with a fizzle. Someone got a deer out there- we saw bloody drag marks in the snow and dirt.
I didn’t end up hunting Monday evening. Many fewer people use black powder rifles, given how difficult they are to load, and the extra cleaning required. I figured at the very least, I’d give the deer some peace and quiet. The DNR’s gun season numbers are in- statewide, the harvest appears to be down about 30%. After just opening weekend, it was down 18%. They’re blaming it on the intense cold and fewer people being out, but given how many tags are purchased each year, I don’t see why it couldn’t be a both/and between cold weather and a smaller deer herd over all.
One upside, however, is that we are finally, finally seeing migrating geese. I counted upwards of 100 overhead on Sunday, and have since seen more, as well. Hopefully, we’ll make it out for our first geese for the year soon. The season ends the 21st. Duck is done already. Many of the lakes and rivers up north are actually frozen. The Wisconsin river just north of us had decent ice when we crossed it headed north. We’re getting plenty of skim ice up here. Or we were, when it was still cold. When it dips again, it will restrict landing spots for geese. Our hunting spot has a current strong enough to slow skim ice, so they will hopefully be forced to land near us.
There isn’t very much to report from the weekend. Not from me, anyhow. I had to work both Saturday and Sunday morning, missing the duck opener for the southern zone of Wisconsin. Matt got out, though. He only ended up taking one other recruiter with him, so he didn’t even need to take the canoe out. At least it’s fixed for next weekend- we’re headed back north, and this time Matt doesn’t have shippers on Sunday, so we won’t have to cut out early and zoom back to town.
I digress, though. Matt got two birds on Saturday. He woke up at 3:00 in the morning to go do it- with how crowded the duck hunting spots here get, you have to get out early and stake out. Even on opening morning, when shooting time is 9 am. He said they had plenty of time, and ended up napping a bit on the little island they were on. Apparently, there were ducks teasing them from 10 yards away all the way until shooting time. He told me there were also 9 or 10 boats that passed him, with 2-3 hunters each. That’s a lot of people. But, they had to bail earlier than planned- this spot also happens to be a bit of a party cove. The warm Fall has meant they’ve still been going out on the weekends, in spite of the gunshots.
So, I came home on Saturday afternoon to Matt and his buddy sitting in the front yard, smoking some cigars someone had dropped off at the office and drinking Mickeys. We were all pretty low on sleep- when Matt had woken up, he’d left lights on that woke me up, and I didn’t really get back to sleep before about 5, when I had to be up for work anyhow. Plus, we’d never really caught up from last weekend, and hadn’t slept much during the week.
His buddy left, and Matt and I tried to nap around 4:30. We ended up sleeping for 14 hours. He missed Sunday morning’s duck hunt. I went to work at 6:30, got home around two. We went to Gander to see if they had any of the nice neoprene/Thinsulate chest waders Matt had gotten himself in anything close to my size. One pair of women’s, in size 10. My shoe size is about 7. And then a plethora of large men’s sizes- 9-13s, when I wear about a 5 in men’s. We went home empty handed, and got ready for an evening deer hunt.
Even this hunt would prove to be uneventful, though. Around about 6 o’clock, we began hearing gunshots, behind Matt. A little while later, two guys with rifles walked into my field. I waved at them, but they didn’t see me until they were right on top of me. By then I was not impressed at all, but they just sort of stared at me until I said hi, and told them to get on their way. I don’t think they spoke much English. They moved off, but I could hear them shooting the rest of the evening. I was sitting much closer to where that buck came out of the trees, but I couldn’t watch the rest of the field from here. I didn’t see any deer.
I won’t be able to make it out any of the evenings this week, sadly. I really want to check out the part of the property that’s oak forest, to see if I could set up over some acorns. If I don’t get to it this week, I might get a chance next week.
There isn’t really a whole lot to report from opening weekend. We made it out both evenings. Saturday, there were more tractors and trucks out there, picking up the mowed clover. We also saw a guy walking in carrying a rifle- the area around Madison is shotgun only, and it’s only bow season. Not clear on what he was hunting. Matt took his climbing stand one way, I went another. I ended up sitting up in the tree where we placed one of our trailcams. It hadn’t captured anything, but I’d seen deer here a couple times. I saw another bow hunter walking in, and warned him about the guy with the rifle, and told him Matt’s location. Other than that, all I saw or heard was a little chipmunk, some bees, and a buck just across the nearby property line snorting at me. He would have been downwind of me, on the Christmas tree farm on the other side of the fence. We’ve seen them flee over there a number of times. By sundown, my butt was pretty sore.
Matt was the only one of us who saw deer that afternoon. He saw three does, all about 60 yards out, just out of his range. When I was walking out that night, I would see some eyes reflecting my flashlight. They were at the top of the hill I’d end up sitting on the next day.
Sunday, we got out a bit earlier in the afternoon. It was another fairly uneventful day. Matt kept to the same field, opting to sit in a popup blind. I took the ground on top of that hill, behind that portable blind I favor.
It had been raining all day long. On the walk back, I scared out turkeys (this seems to be a trend). If I’d had my bow ready, I might have had a chance to fill my tag. But I didn’t. We were out more than 45 minutes when we began to see other people. Kind of a lot of them, actually. I first saw another hunter wearing a white ballcap. With a rifle. He tromped back and forth down the cut line for the power lines you can see in the second photo. I saw him walk in front of me three times, during prime shooting hours. Matt and I would both hear gun shots alarmingly close to my location. To his practiced ear, they sounded like a .22 and a .410. I only knew they were smaller guns. After the genius with the white ballcap tromped back past me the third time, Matt told me he saw a pair of hikers on the access road. Not long after, they walked across the bottom of my hill, about 300 yards away.
I saw the one deer between the two of us yesterday. At the bottom of the hill, not too long after the hikers passed, I saw movement in a break in that line of pine trees you can see just right of center in the first photo above. Definitely a deer, and definitely a very large one. Without binoculars, I couldn’t see far enough to definitely say it was a buck. Eventually, it wandered off as well, and the rest of the evening passed uneventfully, except for hearing coyotes howling.
I have tonight off from the golf course. After I make a grocery run and pick up the house a bit, I want to make it out there, and sit in those pines. I’d like to also put a camera up in there. Who knows. Maybe I’ll have a little luck.
I posted a while ago about putting up our trail cams. Well, Saturday we were feeling antsy in advance of deer season and went and took them down to see what kind of footage we had. They’d been up for about two and a half, almost three, weeks.
I know I was really, really hoping to see an image of the big buck we’ve seen out there. This is what we had.
Only the one camera got any images. The other camera was probably too high up in the tree, and it burned through its batteries. Still, I’ll totally take images of does. They’re just as edible. And this is better than the images we got last year on a different land parcel.
We know there are deer out there, so this won’t hold us back. If anything, we still have a little over a week before bow season starts. And we can still scout around a bit before gun season in late November.