Hook and bullet club

by Nick Wognum

The 2004 deer harvest was down in the Ely area, especially in Babbitt. You can blame the weather, the deer population or whatever you want, but I’ll give you another one: time.<BR><BR>Hunters are suffering from an immense lack of time to spend out in the woods. That is why more deer weren’t shot this year, I’m sure of it. This is a problem the DNR needs to look into right away.<BR><BR>At a basketball game last week I talked to a retired coach and school teacher who told me he spent 40 hours sitting in his stand during the 2004 season.<BR><BR>Plus he spent additional time out still-hunting, travelling around the woods and he even wemt out to a friend’s shack to hunt there. <BR><BR>This guy is a model hunter for no other reason than he has the time to put in trying to kill the elusive whitetail. <BR><BR>I know this was my problem this year. It had to be - mainly because it’s the best excuse I have been able to come up with.<BR><BR>Now we’re in the midst of the muzzleloader season and I’m stuck in the same situation. Another 16-day period to hunt and I have yet to spend a full day in the woods. <BR><BR>This must be the problem, this time thing. But what to do about it? <BR><BR>The easiest thing to do is blame work since most of our daylight hours are spent on the time clock. But that’s what vacation time is for, right? <BR><BR>So let’s say you were able to sneak out for a good part of the rifle season without getting canned. What was waiting for you when you got back? More work than you could have dreamed about in your worst nightmare. <BR><BR>Now, if a guy was able to find an afternoon when the grind wasn’t so bad, there are other issues to contend with. Those of you with kids in sports, you can raise your hand - you know what I’m talking about.<BR><BR>And for those hockey parents, I can’t imagine how in the world you can find time to hunt. Basketball isn’t as bad but with three kids playing, gym time exceeds woods time 10 to one. <BR><BR>Plus you need to get one of those kitchen passes so you can come home and not find the locks changed on the front door. <BR><BR>All of these issues zoom around the clock, acting like roadblocks to getting out in the woods. <BR><BR>I started buying the new All Season licenses a couple of years ago just in case we had another year like we did in 2001. <BR><BR>And with no snow during the rifle season, 2004 was all too familiar. <BR><BR>So on Nov. 27 I grabbed my in-line muzzleloader and headed off for the promised land bright and early. <BR><BR>I loaded the gun in the dark after driving into the shack and had some serious misgivings about whether it would actually fire or not. <BR><BR>Had my head been clear I would have remembered the advice of shooting off a couple of 209 primers before loading the gun to clean out the firing mechanism. I remembered this after I put in the gunpowder and the bullet. <BR><BR>So I climbed up in a stand and sat in the snow, hoping a deer would come and visit me and wondering whether his or her life would really be in any danger. <BR><BR>With an appointment hanging over my head, I climbed down, did a little scouting and headed back to the shack which was still pretty cold since I didn’t get a chance to get a fire going after driving out in the morning.<BR><BR>This seemed like a good time to fire off a practice round and see if there would be a puff of smoke and a hole in the beer box or not.<BR><BR>So I took aim, pulled the trigger and heard a .22 shot-like sound as the primer ignited but nothing else did. Hmmm. The deer were safe after all. <BR><BR>I fished out another primer and took aim again. This time the powder ignited and a new hole appeared in my target. A lesson had been learned here. <BR><BR>Now what I need to figure out is how to make some time in this last week of the season to get back out in the woods. <BR><BR>This whole muzzleloader season is really a different experience. For one, it really does seem as if you’re the only one out in the woods hunting deer. During that opening weekend I never saw another orange hat or even another human while out patrolling around the shack.<BR><BR>Plus there is no shack excitement to fall back on. Cards are only an option if solitaire is your game of choice and I’ve noticed the cooking leaves a bit to be desired. <BR><BR>So it almost seems like you shouldn’t really be out there. Other than knowing that freezer looks pretty empty with just one deer trying to fill it up. <BR><BR>I’ll give you one thing this season offers that the first one didn’t: snow. <BR><BR>Wow, how much nicer is it to be able to see what has been going on before you got there. No guessing if a deer had come down a trail before you, the tracks are there for all to see. <BR><BR>Plus I’ve still got Bob Cary’s infamous recipe for Deer Track Soup. At least now I can get the prime ingredients. <BR><BR>The DNR does make it a bit tougher by closing Permit Area 116 to muzzleloader hunting. The thinking there is to protect the deer yard near Fall Lake. <BR><BR>That would be a good idea if the deer had migrated already but the warm weather kept a lot of them up north throughout the rifle season. <BR><BR>Luckily for me our shack is in 115 so I can hunt our regular stomping grounds. I just need one thing in order to do that: time.<BR><BR>I’ll be watching for the DNR study on how to make more time to hunt. And if you have any ideas, feel free to let me know. If I’m not at work, you’ll know I came up with a few of my own.