Saturday, December 18, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Last night was last day of shotgun season for December 2010, and for the first time in over a year I was going to take my sister Sarah hunting. Between school and her job, she’d only been out one or two times this whole year. So, she took a day off of school to hunt with me.

I’d been seeing does every night this week, and though they weren’t coming in until it was too dark to film, I was hoping that maybe tonight one of them would give her a shot.

We got to the stand a little late. I had waited fifteen minutes while Sarah put on what seemed like every article of clothing she owned. (“What?? I get cold easy!!”)

Luckily, it wasn’t that cold out…or it wasn’t for me anyways, since I was used to sitting out in the cold. I scattered some corn a ways from our setup, then we climbed into our stands. Sarah was sitting in a ladder that I had set up early season and used all through the rut. I was in a lock-on that I had set up on the double tree slightly above the ladder stand so that I could film.

It was a good setup and I was feeling pretty confident that we were going to at least see some deer.

I got the camera set up and reaching in my pocket for my phone. As I did, I caught the scent of something maple. Reaching into my pocket again, I pulled out a bottle of Imitation Maple Flavor that I had used as a scent attractant during bear season. During a bear hunt with my friend Matt, I had handed him the bottle and asked him to taste it. He did, and confirmed my suspicion that it tasted absolutely disgusting. I of course thought itwas hilarious.

Now sitting in the tree with Sarah who was already getting cold, I reached down and tapped her shoulder.

“I got something for you,” I whispered, and handed her the bottle of maple flavor.

She grabbed it and opened the cap. “What is it?”

“Taste it,” I said reassuringly.

Usually when I tell her to taste something, she catches on that its something disgusting and won’t do it. I’m not sure if it was the fact that it smelled good or what, but she tilted the bottle back and took a gulp.

I wanted to fall out of the tree laughing at the look on her face. She spit out as much as she could, but somehow had managed swallowed some of it.

“That’s disgusting!”

Well, yea. I knew that.

We finally stopped laughing and calmed down. We returned to texting and the sun began to set behind the trees.

At 4:00, like clockwork, the deer showed up in the opposite field. I watched them through binoculars for a few minutes, then whispered to Sarah to look in the field. I handed her the binoculars as three more does came through the hedgerow.

“Awesome!” she whispered. “We’re seeing deer!” Did I mention that she hadn’t seen a deer any of the times she had managed to get out this year? Already I felt like our hunt was a success.

I continued to watch the deer in the field, then Sarah whispered something.

I leaned down, “What?”

“That maple stuff really warmed me up. I’m not cold anymore!”

We later read the ingredients and found out it had 12% alcohol in it. Not sure if it was the alcohol or not, but whatever it was, it did the trick of keeping her warm for a while. Something to remember…even if it did taste disgusting.

About ten minutes until the end of shooting light, the deer were still in the field. Sarah was shivering. I knew that if the deer did decide to head in our direction, they would never make it in time for her to get a shot.

We headed back to the truck, and even though we didn’t get a deer, we sure had fun.  Next month when Shotgun opens back up we plan on heading back out again to try to get her a doe. I’ll make sure to bring some maple flavor in case she gets cold.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Over the past few years, several friends who don’t hunt have told me that this time of year I have my priorities messed up. I tend to ignore those kinds of comments and go on my own way to my treestand. Being 21, single, living on my own and on unemployment, I pretty much get to make my own rules. But, yesterday when I was sitting in my treestand, I thought about it...

In the morning, I woke up at 5:30, got dressed, and left for the treestand. About 8:30 I got down and returned to my house for coffee and to change clothes. Then, passing by the insurance and rent paperwork that was all due next week, I went to the store to get new batteries for my trail camera, then stopped at the sport shop to pick up wax for my bow strings.

Mid-morning I decided I should start a new bait pile up behind my house so that I would have more than one option for late season shotgun, and look for a new spot for my ground blind…deciding to put off doing laundry for another day.

Returning to my house, I got something to eat and then decided to shoot my bow, then tried to get my trail camera to work, turned down a lunch invitation and an invitation to a party since I would be hunting, double checked my batteries for my video camera and found a warmer pair of snow boots for my afternoon hunt.

I then remembered my shotgun was still in my truck from last week, so brought that in to wipe down and leave in my apartment until Wednesday when shotgun opened back up.

Then, last minute double check to make sure I had everything I needed for the afternoon muzzleloader hunt, make sure I had bait to put out, and I headed back to the treestand.

That night after hunting, I returned home to dirty dishes in the sink, laundry that needed to be done, 3 unanswered phone calls, 2 annoyed voicemails,  and paperwork that needed to be filled out that night.
I still don’t think my priorities are messed up. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Not Over Yet

For one whole day after hearing that Mr. Big had been shot, I didn’t hunt. I sort of felt like there was no reason to. Then, after a day and a half of not hunting had passed, I realized that there were other deer in the woods so to speak. It was time to stop moping around and try to put some meat in the freezer.

 Even if I couldn’t shoot Mr. Big, there were still other bucks around, and some of them were pretty big. Most of them wouldn’t be dropping their antlers for another month or so, so this was my chance to get back out there and fill my buck tag, and as many doe tags as I wanted.

Now that it’s mid-December, the rut is over, the cold weather has set in, and up in the mountains where I live, we’ve had several inches of snow. Once this first week of firearm season is over and the drivers go back to the city, a handful of corn will ensure deer under your stand most mornings, and every night. Filming a doe kill shouldn’t be a problem; it all comes down to which will come first, the deer or the darkness.

And so, that afternoon I headed back out to my stand, a little under the weather but hopeful. It was supposed to snow so hopefully if the pressure of the drives hadn’t messed up the movement too much, some deer would show.

I climbed into my stand and set up my camera and remote, then took my shells out of my pocket to load my shotgun. Since it was so cold out, I didn’t feel like taking my gloves off, so the shells rolled out of my hand and all three of them hit the ground.

I sat in my treestand for a full five minutes, looking down at the three red cylinders on the ground.

Taking my gloves off, I climbed down, picked them up, climbed back up into my stand and loaded my gun.

Putting my gloves back on, I reached into my pocket for my cell phone.

Instantly it slipped from my hand and fell the 20 feet down out of the treestand to the snowy ground below. I sat there and stared down at the light blinking “new message”. I had two options. I could leave it there and wonder who had sent me a text and wonder what it said, or I could go down there and get it.

I climbed down and retrieved my phone.

That afternoon I saw nothing. I heard some drives going on a few miles away, but no deer were pushed my way. It started snowing, and the wind picked up. I put my hood up and leaned back against the tree.

It wasn’t the best day I’d ever had in the stand…but it felt good to be back out there. Sooner or later my luck will change, and when my deer walks by I’ll be ready. This season has been one of the worst I can remember, but it’s NOT OVER YET.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Opening Day of Firearm

Monday, December 6 was opening day of New Jersey firearm deer season, and also opening day of the 6 day bear season. It was cold, windy, and spitting snow. Getting out of my warm bed at 5:00 in the morning wasn’t on my list of top ten things to do, but you have to be in it to win it.

For most people in North Jersey, opening day (and for some this whole week) was more important of a holiday than Christmas.  Those who work take the day off, and the local schools shut down. But, it isn’t so much about the hunting and the deer as it is about spending time with family and friends, eating at the local diner, talking about previous seasons and drinking hot coffee by the gallon.

This week isn’t about stand hunting or sitting in a blind waiting for deer to walk by; pretty much everyone does drives. I’m not a huge fan of drives, but on private property it can work to your benefit.

That afternoon I noticed that I had missed a call from my dad, who was working at one of the local deer check stations. Calling my voicemail, I listened to the message….

SOMEBODY HAD SHOT MR. BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :(

Just the thing I didn’t want to hear….

My heart sank.

A local group of hunters doing drives had pushed him out onto nearby property and someone had shot him. My worst fear had come true: my months of hardcore hunting for Mr. Big had been ruined in one morning. Somehow, I felt I hadn’t tried hard enough…though there really was no way I COULD have tried harder. It looked like this season was just going to have to end a little different than I thought.

And it was ending. For me, now that Mr. Big was no longer available, my energy for late season hunting had somewhat disappeared. Time to look for more spots to hunt! And also time to move on.

My plans for the rest of the NJ season is to shoot a few more does, and possibly a nice buck if I get my chance. No more passing up bucks that aren’t “big enough”. The time for me to put a deer on the ground is long overdue since my last deer back in October, and its time to finally film some kills now that the pressure is over. 

So, we’ll see how the rest of the season pans out for me, hopefully my luck will change and I’ll get a chance at another nice buck.