Hook and bullet club

by Nick Wognum

“You finally got a deer, Dad?” Evan asked incredulously. <BR><BR>With that kind of confidence from a five year-old in your hunting skills it’s no wonder it took 31 days of legal hunting time to knock one down.<BR><BR>I saw a doe on the first day of the firearms season and nothing for the next 15 days of that season. Then there was a short break before the 16-day muzzleloader season. <BR><BR>Heading into the final weekend of that season, my luck was still holding true. But I had a hot tip and a full-day kitchen pass to go out in the field on a Saturday.<BR><BR>My plans included getting in the woods before legal shooting time, sitting on the edge of the cutover for a few hours and crossing a frozen lake to hunt a reported hot spot. <BR><BR>Of course those plans were going to fall into the “best laid plans of mice and men” category. But this time they went right instead of awry. <BR><BR>Getting in the woods in the dark can be an adventure and this was only the second time I had hunted this area. So by the time the gun was loaded and I was walking in, legal shooting time of one-half hour before sunrise was minutes away. <BR><BR>That turned out to be a good thing. A small stretch of road separates the logged area from the main road. <BR><BR>This buffer area was filled with fresh tracks and things were looking good. As I entered open ground I could hear a deer running through the grass up ahead of me.<BR><BR>Now what? Stay? Move forward? Stop or go? I decided to stop and look for a shot from where I stood. <BR><BR>Actually this was a pretty good spot to see from even if I stuck out like a sore thumb. But I’ve seen deer nearly ignore you if you don’t move and they can’t smell you out. <BR><BR>So I stood stock still and waited. There was no wind, so that played in my favor. <BR><BR>And in addition to the field ahead of me there were two shooting lanes to my left so I held tight. <BR><BR>The deer appeared in the first shooting lane, stopping broadside around 100 yards away. <BR><BR>A long muzzleloader shot especially with open sights, a requirement under Minnesota state law. <BR><BR>But it was a clear shot and I decided to take it. Slowly the gun came up and immediately a deer took off to my right in the woods, crashing away from me. <BR><BR>Trying to ignore what was likely the big buck escaping, I pulled the trigger and watched the deer disappear behind a cloud of white smoke. <BR><BR>The smoke cleared and the deer was still there. A clean miss. <BR><BR>Now came the tricky part - reloading in the field in a hurry. <BR><BR>First take out the old primer and insert a new one without dropping it in the snow. <BR><BR>Next, open up the bag containing the gunpowder and with the butt of the gun on my boot, drop down two pellets. <BR><BR>Then find a bullet and plastic jacket in another pocket and insert the pair into the end of barrel, using a short-handled wooden tool to press the bullet into the barrel.<BR><BR>The end was in sight now as the ramrod came out from under the barrel and a T-handle was screwed on. The bullet was then pushed down to the mark on the ramrod where it would stop just above the powder.<BR><BR>Reloaded and the deer was coming up the other shooting lane. Wait for a step and readjust my footing to be ready for a shot.<BR><BR>The doe came up out of the brush and stopped 35 yards away. A nice-sized deer, she turned her head for a second and the gun was at my shoulder. <BR><BR>The fiber optic red and green sights met at the right spot and another puff of smoke blurred my vision. The deer was gone but this time I felt good about my shot. <BR><BR>After going through the reloading procedure again, I walked over to take a look. <BR><BR>At first there was only hair in the snow but a few steps away the snow was sprayed red, a heart shot which meant the deer wouldn’t be going far. <BR><BR>I decided to walk back to the truck and wait a few minutes. When I came back I followed the blood trail to the deer and I knew we would be eating wild rice venison brats again this winter. <BR><BR>The ravens flying overhead voiced their approval, perhaps knowing a meal of innards would be waiting for them soon. <BR><BR>The deer was lifted into the back of the truck and I decided to skip crossing the frozen lake and instead head for a spot I had wanted to see all season but never found time to explore. <BR><BR>There’s a good feeling when you achieve success deer hunting. We kidded around at Deer Camp that the best time to shoot a deer is on the last weekend of the season so you can spend as much time in the woods as possible. <BR><BR>This was the sixth weekend of deer hunting if you include the three in firearms and the three in muzzleloader so I guess the best time was achieved, but it was the phone call home that put me back in reality. <BR><BR>Evan was apparently growing skeptical of my hunting skills and/or didn’t think I was really hunting deer. <BR><BR>He ended up coming with me the next day when we went to Babbitt and grandpa’s garage to debone the meat.<BR><BR>Bill and I had hung the deer and taken the hide off the night before to let the meat cool. <BR><BR>By Sunday night the meat was close to freezing and we wore thin gloves to keep from getting frostbit fingers.<BR><BR>Outside the snowstorm raged, dumping over eight inches of snow and blowing in gusts up to 35 miles per hour. <BR><BR>In the garage we cut up the third deer of the season. Bill whittled away on his workbench while I sat at the picnic table.<BR><BR>A save box and a box for undesirables sat next to each of us. We trimmed meat and talked, enjoying the end of the hunt. <BR><BR>Steaks were cut, butterflied and packaged for freezing. The rest of the meat was boxed up and weighed to get an idea of what we could have made. <BR><BR>With some other leftover venison we had enough to have breakfast sausage, deer sticks and my favorite wild rice brats made.<BR><BR>Our freezers would be full again and all seemed right again.<BR><BR>We never had snow during the firearms season and it almost seemed like Mother Nature waited for muzzleloader season to start to paint the forest white. <BR><BR>So yes, Evan, I finally got a deer. And the book can be closed on the 2004 season. <BR><BR>Just think, the 2005 deer season is less than 11 months away. I can hardly wait. <BR><BR>