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Hook and Bullet Club

Deer season is now just three weeks away. That’s right, the time you thought you had to cut that new trail or put up a couple more stands is rapidly passing you by. We had talked about several projects out at Camp Cholesterol but so far our plans have been filed under “the best laid plans” more often than “we got that done.”The biggest weekend of the year for getting stuff done in the woods has to be MEA. I know they call it something else now, but basically the state teachers’ union holds its annual shindig in the Twin Cities and school is out across the state.This is when the deer hunter infestation begins. With Thursday and Friday off, students get a chance to spend some time in the outdoor classroom hopefully learning the difference between a rub and a scrape.We’ve seen buck activity for the past three weeks now, starting with an active scrape under a big balsam with drooping branches three weekends ago. Fresh hoof prints in the dirt can be seen by human eyes, but our olfactory senses aren’t strong enough to pick up the scent left on the branches just above the fresh dirt. Last weekend we found a fresh rub just off a main trail. The bark shavings were piled at the base of the two-inch popple, evidence of a buck getting in some antler work and leaving his mark and scent for others. Other than piles of poop on the forest floor and tracks in the mud, seeing a scrape and/or rub gives you that sure-fire feeling that this is going to be a good deer season.We know what the DNR says, “the numbers are up” blah, blah, blah. But where are those numbers when it’s 15 below and you’re freezing to death 20 feet up in the air in a metal high chair? The longer you hunt, the more you come to understand how important it is to get out and scout before the season. We’ve been hunting our neck of the woods for five years now and we’re still learning how the deer move through. We know where they like to bed down and some of the trails they use, but we’re far from being able to know exactly where we should set up each year.That’s the thing about deer stands in northeastern Minnesota. You can have the best spot in the woods and not be able to see an area 20 yards away. Farm country is nowhere to be found, just woods and thick brush - ideal cover for whitetails. So each year we adjust to where we think we should have been last year and hope this year’s spot will put venison on the meat pole.There’s a big Norway pine my one-man stand has leaned up against for three years now and it looks like the perfect spot. A trail runs in front and another runs behind it. But the only buck shot out of that stand came in from the left side through a brutally thick section of balsams that is hard to even crawl through. There is a definite advantage with the new portable stands. Don’t like where you’re at? Loosen the straps and move it. But is that tree 20 yards away any better?Last year we tried one of the new pop-up “doghouse” blinds. These floorless tents have zip open windows and can be set up in a minute or two on a spot roughly five feet in diameter.We put ours in the sandpit, a spot where there’s always deer activity but never a good shot when you do sneak in there undetected. No shots were fired from the “doghouse” last year, but I’m thinking it will be back in the same location again come MEA weekend. All of those decisions on where stands should be put up will make for good discussions at the shack on MEA weekend. Talking deer hunting and getting set up in the woods is really part of the whole experience. Some may say the Minnesota firearms deer season lasts for 16 days, but I beg to differ. Once you get hunting in your blood, the season can last all year long. You just tend to get in to it more once MEA rolls around. Three weeks from now the first shots of the season will ring out in the forest. Better get ready. Hook and Bullet Club

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