Hook and bullet club

by Nick Wognum

We are now in the final week before deer season and already there are spouses across the North Country ready to throw their husbands out in the woods. <BR><BR>For some hunters the itch to go is so great, the anticipation is almost too much to bear. This is especially true if you live in the Great White North. <BR><BR>One of the members of Camp Cholesterol told me last week he’s still working on getting the itch to go. But now that I think about it, I can understand why.<BR><BR>Half of our camp spend their normal lives driving interstate highways in the Twin Cities area to get to work every day. They deal with traffic that’s worse than the mosquitoes up north during a wet summer.<BR><BR>For those of us who find a way to make a go of it up here, we’re immersed in the outdoors almost every day. Even if you live in town, you know that the tamaracks have been in full color for three weeks now. <BR><BR>And if you enjoy chasing whitetails, you know that there’s patches of forest floor scraped down to the dirt by a buck making his mark. You don’t have to see the scrapes and rubs to know they’re out there. But then again, it doesn’t hurt to go take a peek before the season starts.<BR><BR>We have a rule that says for the last two weeks before deer season we pretty much stay out of the woods. This is our time to say to the deer, go ahead and enjoy yourselves. Get used to walking by that empty stand without a care in the world because come opening morning… bang!<BR><BR>So before our woods moratorium went into full effect I found an opening to sneak out for some reconnaissance in an area near the shack.<BR><BR>It seemed to be the perfect time to go. Mike had taken the dogs and the three youngest boys on a bird hunt. I knew they were bound to be gone for awhile trying the new .410 that Mitchell won at the Grouse Banquet.<BR><BR>Bill had found the recliner to his liking and was dozing peacefully as the afternoon wound down toward another super sunset. <BR><BR>Jake was taking full advantage of not having to share time on a wheeler by heading off in his own direction. <BR><BR>That left me and a good hour of free time. After jotting down a quick note I headed out the door. I didn’t even put boots on. Clad in sneakers I headed west, walking softly on a carpet of downed leaves still wet from a brief mid-day shower. <BR><BR>We had cut this trail open a few years ago but rarely use it for some reason. There’s a mighty steep hill in one part that the trail angles up and the grips on my sneakers were put to the challenge. <BR><BR>Using the balsams as vertical railings I crested the first ridge and turned left, following the lay of the land down to the next swamp crossing. <BR><BR>Here was one of those weird areas where there’s a roughly 30-40 foot wide area of bare boulders. This is ankle-twisting country for sure so I took my time to find sure-footing.<BR><BR>Now I knew I was far enough away from camp for there to be some good deer sign. And there it was. Cut into the next hillside were deep hoof prints and a steady trail heading out to the main tamarack swamp. This was a good sign.<BR><BR>Up on the next ridge the underbrush is not as pronounced and the sightlines increase greatly. This is good and bad, of course. You can see farther but you can also be seen from farther away so you need to be on your toes. <BR><BR>I wasn’t carrying a gun. In fact my only weapon was a pocket knife, but this was a hunt for deer sign and it was starting to look very promising.<BR><BR>At the center of the ridge I hit the jackpot. Here was a massive scrape where a buck had likely kicked off the moss to reveal the black dirt below. I gave an arm pumping worthy of a Red Sox batter who had just pounded out another hit over the hapless Cardinals.<BR><BR>But it didn’t end there. Our trail had come to an end by now but the deer have their own trail system that connects to a small sandpit area. <BR><BR>Three more spots, all in a line, had been kicked open by this buck. My hunt was now a success. <BR><BR>This area will now be debated, discussed and divided up over the dinner table at Camp Cholesterol. <BR><BR>“Maybe I’ll just go on that trail to the west,” I can already here someone volunteering innocently. “Probably won’t be anything there, you know you can’t count on those scrapes.” <BR><BR>That’s fine with me because I wasn’t looking to stake out new territory. I really just wanted to get a little taste of what the 16-day deer season holds in store for us. A chance to get out in the woods and take it all in. <BR><BR>From the squirrels to the chickadees to the ravens to the deer and moose, there’s plenty of company for hunters to enjoy. And there’s sights, sounds and smells to take in while you’re in the woods this season. The deer - well, yeah, they’ll be high up on the list but the season doesn’t depend on banging the biggest buck.<BR><BR>Getting out there in the woods. Getting away from phones and computers for a time is often the greatest benefit of deer hunting. <BR><BR>So get out there and enjoy it. Good luck to you and your camp this deer season.