Rain Corn Doe

The plowed field was soft under my boots. I walked toward a stand of corn in farm country north of my home on a deserted country road. A clouded sky and light rain painted a lonesome landscape. The stalks, waiting for harvest, swayed and rustled in the breeze.

I enjoy bow hunting in the rain, many experienced hunters will confirm that it is a beautiful time to tag a mature Whitetail. I agree. There is a memorizing effect on the individual who ventures out in contrary weather. I cannot confirm this, but it has been my experience that for some reason, deer like to get out and move during inclement conditions. My hope was based on this thought as I made my way across a discked field to the edge of a corn planting I was sure held deer.

My hopes were not miss-lead. I skirted the edge of the corn that butted up against a section of natural conservation grass which served as a popular bedding area. The corridor of rain-soaked earth between the corn and grass was a highway of deer activity. Well used trails connected the prairie reserve to the corn. I stopped often to watch, listen, and still-hunt my way to a prime location and set up my hunting stool in the corn. About one hundred yards into the hunt, the corn rows thinned, creating a natural funnel into the main plot. I could tell by the increased deer sign that this was a feeding destination. The deer had been pulling the corn husks right off the stalks. The hollow appeared to offer a sense of safety. I knew this was the place for an attempted ambush. I decided on a vantage point that offered a fifteen-yard shot toward the point of the funnel. The corn behind me was tall and healthy, while the rows in front of me were stunted, and tapered off, allowing ample cover with accessible shooting lanes.

I took on the form of a statue, a requirement, and practice of patience, for the ground hunter. The hundreds of hoof marks in the black soil filled with water, becoming tiny pools that rippled with each splash of rain. The movement of corn stalks and rain combined to create an orchestra of natures symphony. I watched the day slowly slip behind the steel gray of autumn sky and sharpened my focus after a two hour sit in the magical rain and corn. It was that golden 30 minutes of daylight every hunter plans around.

With each beat of my heart I imagined a buck or mature doe cautiously making their way down the edge of the field. At this point, the moist ground worked against me as the deer would be utterly silent in the wet sod and could potentially walk right up behind me without my knowledge. The anticipation was intense. With all the recent deer sign, I knew it was just a matter of time before things got exciting.

I fought to keep my composure during the last minutes of light. This is always the hardest part of the ground hunt for me. Everything in my body says move, stretch, re-position myself for a little more comfort. But I know staying rooted like a tree, and remaining motionless, is the key to success.

Then the atmosphere changed. A few feet over my right shoulder and only moments before a beautiful doe would have stepped into view, and my scent betrayed me. The wind swirled just slightly, or perhaps my camouflaged shape in the corn gave her pause, whatever the reason, the hunt was busted. The doe blew and bounded off toward the safety of her bedding area in the conservation grass. I saw the big animal silhouetted against the prairie growth, trying to determine what I was. The rain was unbiased. It continued to lightly fall as I walked back along the corn in a first minutes of night.

Peace

Perseverance Pays

I have an apple orchard in my back yard that is a remnant of an old farmer who exercised some foresight.

Every fall and spring the migrating Robins and other song birds stop in to feast, and build their stamina, before continuing their journey. It’s inevitable that these little creatures get caught in a Minnesota snow storm en route to the nesting grounds, and this year was no different. As I sat tucked in behind the protective walls and windows of my home I could not help but feel some empathy, and respect, for the winged wanderers who braved the elements.

I have learned a great lesson from watching the yearly spectacle of bird migration unfold in my yard and the wilderness haunts I hike and hunt. That lesson is to keep on going and never give up.

The formula for success in life is simple really. Be consistent. You see, the returning melody makers, powerful Canadian Honkers, and all the other woodland creatures that make a living at survival have one thing in common, they press on and overcome hardships at all costs. The forest engineer constructs dams to create an environment of safety in its backed-up waterways, the eagle tirelessly tends to its aerie and gathers food for its young, the fawn is hidden under the protective care of its mama, and on the tale goes, each following the instincts instilled within them.

In a way, the birds and animals have an advantage over us Homo Sapiens when it comes to managing their time and putting all their energy into what they were created for. They don’t have distractions. That’s where the lessons they teach have practical application, to help us discover our motivations and keep at it.

I can apply the resilient consistency of the fragile songbird to my pursuits of archery and writing. There are days when I feel to tired, after a long work day, to sit and crunch out a few hundred words or step out when the weather is not favorable to keep my shooting form and accuracy intact. But then I think of the hardy Robin gathering those crab apples in the driving snow. I press into what I was wired to do. When the storm passes, and I am still practicing what I love, with the people I love, overcoming the daily hardships becomes well worth the effort.

What motivates you? Find your passions, work at them daily, and you will discover joy.

Peace

Late Season Outing

I was kept company by an occasional lonesome Crow, busy Woodpecker, and haunting winter wind. Snow clumps dropped, dissipating in a swirl from pines that towered over me.

Tucked in a stand of Norway’s, I watched a clearing which served as a well used feeding ground for area deer. It was an uneventful day with one flurry of adrenaline after hours of sitting. That is bow hunting.

Time slowed and a sense of natures patient but steady process filled my thinking. Here, there are no second chances, every day is an activity of survival for the woodland creatures that live in the vast winter expanse.

Eventually, daylight slipped and a massive Whitetail ambled down a distant hillside, out of bow range, a hundred yards out. Ten anxious minutes passed with futile attempts to draw the animal towards me using a few grunts from my call. With all shooting light gone, and the cold that follows a long sit gripping me, I gathered my gear, rose from my ground ambush, and slogged through the dark snow covered forest towards my waiting rig.

Another late winter outing before season’s close.

Peace

Still Movement

Captured in frozen stillness

I move through boundaries

Highway in the wilderness

I dance within these lines

Alive

Within these confines

I have learned

Peace

Power

Presence

There are no shackles for the soul content

I am River

Photo: Matt Bernier

Peace

The Porcupine Sit

I rolled into the Twenty Eighteen Round Lake Bow Camp with just enough time to walk out for an evening sit. This would be the third annual gathering at my old stomping grounds with my buddy Bill at his cottage. We spent our summers on the same shoreline, when my family had a cabin just down from his, on Round Lake in north central Minnesota. It is always a great feeling to get back!

The half mile walk on a trail we call Ruby’s Road served to ramp up my anticipation. I took in the aroma of the mixed hardwoods, scattered wetlands, and faded colors of the fall setting. After crossing an old, untended Beaver Dam, I arrived at a thin strip of ground, about fifty yards wide, between the marshy edge of Sucker Creek, and the long grassy formation we call Ruby’s Slough. Bill had dubbed this spot the Narrows Stand, and it is a great pinch point for all sorts of critters. The wind was beginning to pick up, which was not a good indication of the weather to come, but I hunkered down in the ladder stand Bill had set up and enjoyed the scenery.

The views were spectacular from this vantage point. In front of me the narrows offered open terrain, and just beyond a wall of brush, the sides of Ruby’s Slough could be seen for several hundred yards. To my rear the Sucker Creek floodplain sprawled out for another couple hundred yards, and the Oak Ridge I shot a nice buck two years before, jutted up from the grass like a timeless fortress wall. As I scoured the swap edge and crossing trails, a chubby Porcupine waddled past my stand in a moment of comic relief. This proved to be the only action I witnessed for my first stand of our three day camp.

Back at the cabin I discovered the afternoon sit was slow for Bill in the wind as well. After getting my gear situated, we cooked up the traditional first meal, a Papa Murphy’s pizza, enjoyed a few hunting shows, swapped well-worn stories, and planned our attack for the weekend. Everything was good with the world.

I was back in my favorite place, at my favorite time of the year…Round Lake Bow Camp.

Peace,

Photo Credit: The Narrows; Bill Berquist

Twas The Night Before Rifle Season

“Twas the night before rifle season,
and all through the land,
orange garments appeared,
while hunters dreamt of their stand.
And inside the homes,
preparations were laid,
guns, ammo, tags,
and sandwiches made”.

A Safe & Merry Hunting Season To All…
And Peace On Earth!

The Trilogy

A Bear, a Beaver, a Buck? This was how I thought the evening would play out.

I was driving to one of my hunting spots on the Tamarac Refuge when I witnessed a big old Black Bear sitting on his haunches and pulling down corn stalks for supper next to an empty county highway. Latter, while I walked to my ground hunting area, a Beaver scooted across the path and plunged into its run, splashed, and disappeared to the safety of a pond. I took these sightings as a sign I would close the evening with a set of three, and bag an early season buck!

The wind was right for an afternoon hunt. It was the same location I wrote about from an outing last year with a story titled, The Rattled Deer. On that hunt, I was busted trying to lure in a buck while hiding up against a downed tree, when I employed an old set of rattling antlers. I hoped for better luck this time around.

I was ecstatic, and filled with the wonder of being in the field again with my bow.

I left my vehicle on a maintenance access and set out on a ski trail that led to my destination. The area offered two big wood formations with a large field of wild grasses and Willow stands which served as a divide. Tamarac Lake hugged the far end. It was a mystical place. After a half mile of slow walking along the tree-line I slipped into a funnel that jutted off the field, found my ambush, and settled in.

Autumn Sit

Burnt orange ceiling

Suspended

Over yellowed green

White Pines tower

Wait for winter rest

Impatient Geese break silent anticipation

The day spent itself. I waited until the last glimmer of shooting light dissipated, gathered my gear, and hiked through the dusk laden field with a full heart. I was immersed in timelessness.

The trilogy did not materialize, but these images, and this complete joy, never become weary.

A part of me,

remains in the wilderness.

A part of the wilderness,

remains in me.

Peace

Archery Target Panic: A Real Deal

Target panic on the shooting range can be a real deal. When I heard of target panic in my first year of bow hunting I thought this could never happen to me, I had focus, and years of off-hand rifle shooting and hunting under my belt. Well, a few rough outings this pre-season, an arrow or two launched into the weeds, and confidence began to elude me with struggles of flinching hounding my heels. I began to doubt myself and the joy of shooting arrows escaped, being replaced by concerns of losing an arrow or bad groups. Now, I understand that this is common for every archer and may determine if a person will keep going or hang up the bow and go back to firearms deer hunting. I have never been one to go down without a fight for something I believe in… and I believe in archery!

So here is my solution to target panic.

Slow down the negative thinking, breathe, and get back to the basics of following your shot sequence.

For me this process included these four steps.

1) Draw – see the target and make a smooth draw back to my anchor points.

2) Sight – Acquire the target in the sight field. This applies to traditional or compound archery.

3) Relax – Make a conscious effort to relax your arms, hands, and settle into good posture while letting the bow float on the desired mark.

4) Release – Gently loose your arrow with whatever release method you are using. You should get to a point where you may seem surprised at the string release. Let it become instinctive, or sub-conscious, regardless of your weapon of choice.

The most important part of the equation for me is relaxing before the release. If you follow these simple steps, or something similar that suits you, and flush your mind of negativity, you will regain your confidence and re-discover the joy of archery.

Target panic can be overcome. Focus on your sequence, establish it, be consistent, and your groups and accuracy will improve.

 

Peace

Acorn Munching Yearling

The wait was over. It was my first outing of the two-thousand and eighteen Minnesota Archery Season. I took in a deep breath of the sweet afternoon autumn, mingled with lake-shore fragrance, and struck out for a greatly anticipated bow hunt.

The hiking trail I planned to maneuver skirted the empty water access on Pine Lake. I had walked up on a doe here two weeks ago. Imagination was thick, like the meadow grass which interrupted the woodlands, remnants of long gone farm land hewn from wilderness, and gave contrast to the aspens, pines, and oaks that held promise of bow hunting adventure.

I crept into a steady north east wind, still-hunted as I went, and sat down on a log scouted out in pre-season. My view overlooked a gentle hillside. A large slough hid in thick cover at the bottom of the slope. After an hour, with the forest alive in the breeze, I decided to move as I thought deer would be reluctant to venture through the dancing foliage.

I retreated to the leeward side of the rise and hunkered down in a pine clearing littered with acorns from a massive oak tree.

After a dreamy hour, a healthy yearling materialized into the opening. My heart began to pump. I was amazed at how an animal can move so effortlessly and just appear. The youngster walked under the aged oak and crunched acorns for the next ten minutes, just beyond a thin veil of brush, twenty yards from my ground position against a bordering pine. It’s head bobbed up every several seconds, checked for danger, and occasionally peered back to the direction it emerged from. I knew Mama was close.

I sat in wonder and hoped the mature animal would follow. The adolescent looked back one last time as the older doe winded me and sent the relaxed yearling bounding away with a series of quick blows. The game was over.

With a grin on my face I quickly relocated to another pine stand further down the path with the slim chance of ambushing a buck coming out to the acorns.

Mesmerized by the haunting wind, the last minutes of light slipped through the treetops.

It was a memorable first outing of the two thousand and eighteen season.

Peace