Outdoor Notebook: Reflections on a successful deer hunt
There are many hunters among us who spend the entire year thinking about the Annual Wisconsin Gun-Deer hunting season. They are always looking at the back portions of fields to see if any deer might be feeding. I must confess to be among that group and enjoyed spending nine consecutive days hunting deer. After searching the woods for so long it seems as though those nine days pass by quickly.
The morning of Nov. 23 saw six of us getting our equipment ready to head out. Usually on opening morning we will hear several shots as early as a half hour prior to legal shooting hours. This year, I heard the first shot of the season at 15 minutes before noon.
Between that time and 4:30 p.m. we heard fewer than 10 shots. Beyond a doubt that was the quietest opening I have participated in. Incidentally, the 2013 Wisconsin deer hunting season was the 60th season that I have participated in. We were aware that the deer population across Northern Wisconsin is low.
We began to filter back to the shack shortly after 4 p.m. and began to compare notes. Our son, Craig, jumped an antlerless deer around noon and that was the only deer that he saw all season. My frequent hunting and fishing partner “The Osseo Jinx”, Tom Twesme, saw three deer from his ground blind during the morning. The rest of the group did not see a deer on opening day.
Tom was trying a new piece of equipment this season. His stand is on a ridge where the wind can pound him. He bought one of the nylon pop-up tents to sit in. Tom put a small L.P. heater on the floor and was able to stay quite warm and the tent blocked the wind.
Earlier in the year I had tried to use one of those little tents. Much to my surprise when I checked the tent I found it smashed flat with broken stays and tears in the nylon from a bear. We saw fresh bear tracks each day but apparently they were not interested in Tom’s tent since they did not cause any problems.
Anyone who hunted Sunday of opening weekend will remember how cold it was that day. The thermometer on the deck of the shack read minus 12 degrees as we left to sit on our stands. On that day no one in our group saw a deer.
Monday our group had shrunk to three of us as others in the group went back to work. We spent some time Monday checking several areas for deer sign. This year many of the woods roads were blocked off by the company that now owns the land formerly owned by Consolidated Paper Company. In some areas access was limited to walking from the gates to a variety of locations.
Late Monday afternoon I was sitting in my ground blind, which is essentially several wind breaks with pine boughs positioned to break up the outline of a hunter. During the week I had spent a lot of time in that blind and got fooled by red squirrels as they dug for hidden acorns under the snow.
I sat in my blind listening to what I thought was some squirrels. I was obviously surprised when I realized that the source of the noise was a deer. I carefully picked up my rifle, put the scope on the head of the deer and was pleased to see a very nice rack. I squeezed the trigger and was covered by snow that was on the upper edge of my blind. When the snow quit flying around I slowly and quietly walked over to where the buck had been standing when I shot. I was extremely pleased to see an 8-point buck lying on the ground. That was the only deer that was killed by our group of hunters.
Prior to the deer season, many hunters were predicting that there would be a post-rut situation since the season was so late in the year. We saw very few scrapes and rubs during the first few days of the season. By Tuesday and Wednesday we were seeing more scrapes and rubs. On Monday morning, I went for a walk to warm up. When I returned to my blind there was a fresh scrape within 30 yards of the blind. By Friday we were not seeing any signs of the rut.
As we have talked with hunters, who had hunted across Northern Wisconsin, it is apparent that our deer population has been over estimated. It is my opinion that drastic action should be taken to hopefully increase the size of our deer herd. We have too many predators to permit a rapid increase in the size of our deer herd.
Each day we hunted we saw bear tracks, wolf tracks and coyote tracks. We found several areas where there was some deer sign. By mid-week we noticed wolf sign in these areas and it was obvious the deer had moved out.
On some lakes the ice thickness is adequate to support anglers but if you venture out use caution and check ice thickness as you move around.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.