Hook and Bullet Club

by Nick Wognum

Sitting in a deer stand during this year’s opening weekend grew tougher by the hour. As the mercury dropped and the wind speed increased, going back to the shack becomes an easier decision.
There were four hunters at Camp Cholesterol and we were spread out on Sunday afternoon. My two youngest, Evan and Megan, had hopped on a wheeler and headed for stands where they would sit until the end of the day due to the rules on wheeler travel.
My son Jacob and I decided to take his truck around the swamp and climb up into two ladder stands, creatively named Two Old and Two New.
The drive gave us a chance to talk, about hunting, about life, about work and about vehicles (we are guys). Soon we reached our destination and switched to hunting mode.
We walked down a trail until we reached a logging site that has been a good spot to hunt for 20 years now. I dropped some doe scent as we walked toward the Two Old stand.
Jacob unloaded his gun and prepared to climb up the ladder. “Good luck, shoot straight,” is a common phrase between hunters at our deer camp. I watched Jacob climb up, shouldered my rifle on its sling and headed for Two New.
There were no fresh tracks along the route and the wind eliminated using a doe bleat call or trying to call in a deer with some contraption. This was a sit and wait hunt, pure and simple.
Across the swamp, Megan stood in a stand and kept a 360-degree view in sight, hoping to see a buck walk by. There are hunters who sit and hunters who walk. Megan stands for hours at a time. In the world of deer hunting, patience is beyond a virtue.
Evan was the furthest from camp. He had dropped his sister off and continued to the east. He would park the wheeler and walk the rest of the way. Evan is a good sitter and saw a big buck Saturday.
To fight the cold he used an old Army sleeping bag to stay warm in the stand. Bob Cary had done the same thing when he and I hunted together on the Fernberg. The warmer you are, the longer you can sit. The longer you sit, the better your chances are.
For me it was time to get down around 4 p.m., with an hour left to shoot. Walking to stay warm and to take a look around, I was a ways away when the two shots rang out. The first one very loud, the second a bit quieter. Jake had shot at a deer.
I waited for a third shot and instantly thought of Bob’s line he used to credit to Al Ito, his friend and neighbor.
“One shot deer, two shots maybe deer, three shots no deer,” Bob would say.
There wasn’t a third shot, just text messages from our wheeler hunters wondering who shot and if a deer was down.
Finally Jacob broke the digital silence.
“Need assistance. And a knife!” read the group text.
Jake had left a knife on the table at the shack. He would say later he thought it was bad luck to go back for a knife before we left. It would’ve jinxed him.
The buck was an eight pointer and had dropped not far from the stand. The first shot had found its mark, the second wasn’t needed.
We donned gutting gloves and got the job done as darkness enveloped the woods. Evan and Megan decided to bring the wheeler over so we didn’t have to drag the deer as far.
When they arrived we were all together in the woods. A story was told and congratulations were given. The deer was lifted into the back and a memory was ingrained.
Camp Cholesterol would have fresh venison tenderloin for lunch the next day.
That tasted pretty good as we finished up and headed back out to the stands. Wind or not, cold or comfortable, the hunt continues.