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Hook and bullet club - A day in the woods

The 2004 Minnesota duck opener came just as expected - not a cloud in the sky. Called a “blue bird day” by devout duck blind habitants, it was a slow day for ducks in our neck of the woods.We decided cutting firewood would be a much better use of time and set about doing just that. With one chainsaw and a bunch of helping hands, we loaded up the trailer on the four wheeler twice and headed back to the shack to cool down. The temperature was now in the mid-70s - again, to be expected, after all it was the Minnesota duck opener. Hard work and fresh air sent Steve to the couch, Bill heading home and the younger set of Jake, Evan and Kelsey off on wheelers and dirt bikes to enjoy the afternoon. I managed to find a wheeler not being driven and decided to do a little riding myself. Actually I had a recon mission in mind so I made sure the shotgun was on board and headed up the road. My destination was an unnamed beaver pond at the end of a trail that veers off the main road. This is one of the larger ponds and in the past it has held ducks, even on a blue bird opener. I eased down the trail as the beaver dam that covers what would have been the road came into sight. The sun was beating down now, cooking all who dared to venture outside. Just before the water’s edge I heard the ducks. Well, they heard me would be a better way to put it. I just caught a glimpse of the last two mallards heading off away from danger. It was still worth the trip. I sat in the shade and took in the beaver pond and all that surrounded it. Near my location was a well-worn trail made by the pond’s furry residents as they traversed back and forth in the woods. Water trickled slowly out of the dam, built in a half-circle and nearly wide enough to walk on should one dare to venture across. Mike has dared to do just that before and even spooked up a grouse during deer season last year.As time passed I decided to head back up the hill and walk down to a small point and see if the ducks were still hanging out. Making my way through the brush the view changed but the ducks were long gone, likely heading off to another beaver pond for the night. The area at the top of the hill was open as far as underbrush went and a walk to the north seemed like a good idea. So I left the gun at the wheeler and headed toward the edge of the hill.It was there I found the deer stand up in the tree. Going over for a closer look I could see some recent repairs had been done. Early preparations? Probably not after I spied fresh droppings nearby. This was definitely bear poop and definitely fresh. I didn’t realize how fresh it was until I decided to use this outdoor rest area as well. Taking another step I heard the branch break to my right and a black bear start to high-tail it out of there. Luckily my bathroom urges went away instead of looking to move out as well. The bear wasn’t that big, just an unexpected sight. The stand was obviously for a nearby bait station that the bear was looking for and that no bear hunter was watching. I kind of wished the shotgun had been in my hands instead of back at the four wheeler but I think the bear wanted as much to do with me as I did with it. We had seen two guys on wheelers the weekend before with half a dozen buckets strapped on the racks so I figured there was somebody bear hunting, but I didn’t know where until Saturday afternoon. We spent a good part of the day Sunday in the woods as well. A long trip through the woods to a small lake should have yielded some grouse, but not a one appeared. In two weekends of grouse hunting we have seen one grouse and that one is likely still living since we never fired a shot at it. That’s to be expected since we are at the bottom of the 10-year grouse cycle. I can’t imagine it being any worse than this since I have now seen as many bear as grouse. Clean underwear not withstanding, I would still prefer to see a grouse the next time I’m off traipsing through the woods.

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