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Hook and bullet club

“You finally got a deer, Dad?” Evan asked incredulously. 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.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. 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.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. 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. 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. That turned out to be a good thing. A small stretch of road separates the logged area from the main road. 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.Now what? Stay? Move forward? Stop or go? I decided to stop and look for a shot from where I stood. 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. So I stood stock still and waited. There was no wind, so that played in my favor. And in addition to the field ahead of me there were two shooting lanes to my left so I held tight. The deer appeared in the first shooting lane, stopping broadside around 100 yards away. A long muzzleloader shot especially with open sights, a requirement under Minnesota state law. 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. 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. The smoke cleared and the deer was still there. A clean miss. Now came the tricky part - reloading in the field in a hurry. First take out the old primer and insert a new one without dropping it in the snow. Next, open up the bag containing the gunpowder and with the butt of the gun on my boot, drop down two pellets. 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.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.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.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. 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. After going through the reloading procedure again, I walked over to take a look. 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. 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. The ravens flying overhead voiced their approval, perhaps knowing a meal of innards would be waiting for them soon. 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. 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. 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. Evan was apparently growing skeptical of my hunting skills and/or didn’t think I was really hunting deer. He ended up coming with me the next day when we went to Babbitt and grandpa’s garage to debone the meat.Bill and I had hung the deer and taken the hide off the night before to let the meat cool. By Sunday night the meat was close to freezing and we wore thin gloves to keep from getting frostbit fingers.Outside the snowstorm raged, dumping over eight inches of snow and blowing in gusts up to 35 miles per hour. 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.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. 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. With some other leftover venison we had enough to have breakfast sausage, deer sticks and my favorite wild rice brats made.Our freezers would be full again and all seemed right again.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. So yes, Evan, I finally got a deer. And the book can be closed on the 2004 season. Just think, the 2005 deer season is less than 11 months away. I can hardly wait.

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