As another year seems to be slipping by I try to enjoy every hunt that is remaining. As every hunter knows, you plan for nine to ten months out of the year just waiting for the opportunity to watch those green heads fly into your decoy or watch the buck of a lifetime come walking through the woods. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in North Dakota dreaming of the season to come. Now I look back at all of the great opportunities that have been provided to me over the last few months and I am very grateful. No I didn’t limit out on ducks every day, as a matter a fact I only had one day where I was able to scratch a limit. The other days were just as special. Watching the sun come over the trees in the morning sitting with great anticipation of what may unfold that day. Even though many days we spend in a field are not always successful they each seem to bring something special with them. So please enjoy the season you have left as we will all soon be waiting for next year.
After Ella passed her hunters safety course I was excited for what the deer season would bring. Unfortunately, she had a little accident and broke her foot. I felt really bad for her because all she has talked about the last couple of months was providing food for her family. She is so excited to contribute to the family meat supply it makes me grin from ear to ear. I mean seriously what 10-year-old is worried about providing for her family? It sure warms my heart that she feels that way. Of course, Ella and I both tried to talk mom into letting her hunt during shot gun season, but she was worried that with a medical boot, it would be hard for her to walk to the stand and no way she was going to get into it. I knew she was right, but I could see the disappointment in my baby’s eyes and it’s not something I handle well. She is such a good kid that it broke my heart we couldn’t spend the time in the outdoors together for the next few weeks.
So, first firearm season was upon us and it was time to spend some time with friends in Deer Camp. There is something magical about deer camp. Since I was 14 I have been coming to the same deer camp. Now many things have changed over the years. When we were first invited to deer camp it was kind of nerve racking. We were invited in by one of my dad’s good friends Paul Diebel. When we arrived to this little cabin in Marshall County there was a least ten people. We were introduced and everyone there was related. There were several generations hunting together and I just thought that was the coolest thing but boy, did I feel like an outsider. As years went on we became a part of the family and we look forward to spending time together every year. It really wasn’t about the hunting at all. It was all about the camaraderie of playing cards, telling jokes, picking on the youngsters and of course too much drinking. I have so many memories at deer camp and most of them have nothing to do with hunting. See in every family we have some unique people well when you put a whole family together you know there is going to be one in the crowd. During our second year there everyone was sitting around talking and playing cards when one individual Donald, sat down and the table and started telling stories. Oh man did he have some doozies. See we had been warned about Donald. If you get him talking you will be up all night just trying to get away. Of course as a kid I was like no way he could be that bad. Its just not possible. Well as we sat at the table there was seven or eight of us sitting there we were talking and someone brought up turtles. As my dad sat there discussing how we loved turtle and was always trying to catch them in strip pits. As soon as that was out of my dad’s mouth Donald says “Chuck do you know how to build a box trap for turtle”. Dad replies “No”. Well at that very second you would have thought a bomb went off everyone at the table jumped up and went to bed. It’s like 9:30 and I was like what the heck is going on. Well I soon found out. After sitting there for about an hour listening to Donald explain how to make a turtle trap I said I am out. My dad however who could never tell anyone no, sat there for the next six hours listening to Donald rattle on. Needless to say we now knew why everyone scattered.
Well, that just took a turn down memory lane. Now back to first season of this year. Everything seem to be coming together perfectly for the first firearms season. We were seeing deer every day leading up to it, so we knew our chances at one of our target bucks was going to happen. As I arrived at my stand Friday morning the conditions were perfect. For once on opening day it wasn’t 70 degrees, windy and a full moon. The sun rose, and the activity of deer soon followed. Our group saw several deer on opening day, but everyone was trying to hold out for a big one the first day. As the second day comes everyone starts thinking maybe we should at least get some meat for the freezer since most of us were out. Saturday morning was really slow not much deer movement and I wasn’t hearing any shots anywhere around us. Finally a shot from our area and 12 year old Landon Diebel had harvested his first buck. To see the smile on his face was worth a million words. He was so excited and for the first time in his life he was hoping school was the next day so he could tell all of his friends. After retrieving Landon’s deer, we all met up at lunch, and all had the same story. Everyone seem to see deer but nothing worth harvesting. Now everyone was starting to get anxious and no one was really seeing any. I decided to try a stand I don’t usually sit in along a cornfield near a bedding and food source. As the day drew on I never saw a deer. It was about ten minutes to shooting time and I finally hear a shot in the valley. All I could think is I not sure one deer split between five of us is going to give you much to eat. As I looked around it was getting pretty dark, so I thought I would call it a day a few minutes early. As I stood up to unload my gun, out walks four does at about 25 yards. I figured it was now or never to put some meat in the freezer. You just never know about second season and I didn’t know how much bow hunting I would be doing after firearms season. So, with the squeeze of the trigger I harvested a nice doe. Now we had a couple of deer to go into the freezer we should be able to be more selective on our next harvest. As Sunday morning came it was really hard to get out of bed. For the first time in my life I have been hunting deer for over a week and I kept thinking “how do people hunt every day of duck season?”. I did it for seven days and I felt like I was ran over by a truck. I definitely wasn’t the fastest to the woods Sunday but I did make it before shooting time so at least I wasn’t too late. As I sat there in the stand watching the sun rise, I would see my friends across the field in their blind and sure enough I was startled by a gun going off. As I looked over, I saw Matt had harvested a doe. Later, as I was playing on facebook in my stand, I hear another shot and low and behold Matt shot a nice young buck. At this point we all knew we had plenty of deer meat for the group so we all decided to get out of our stands and help Matt retrieve his buck. Luckily, we didn’t have to go far. About 50 yards from where he shot laid the majestic beast. A beautiful deer that wasn’t but a couple of years old but this was Matt’s first buck. Matt has hunted off an on over the last several years but within the last couple he has become a deer addict like the rest of us. It was great to see his son Landon shoot his first buck on Friday and then to watch Matt get his first buck on Sunday. That is really what it is all about. Getting kids and adults into hunting. You are never to old to start. I truly believe you can take just about anyone hunting and any age and they will be hooked. There is so much more to the hunt than the harvest. The camaraderie amongst the group and the stories that seem to grow year after year. Getting to spend the evenings with friends talking about the day’s hunt and everyone wondering where the heck they should sit the next day. As the deer season is winding down my excitement begins to grow for next year. My only goal next year is to spend as much time in the woods with my daughter as I can. She has become quite the shot with a crossbow so I feel it is time to spend my time teaching her the sport I love. The right way to do things and teach her my love for the outdoors. I know she is excited for this journey as much as I am. The crossbow laws have made this possible. So get your son, daughter, mom, dad, grandma and grandpa to the woods where they can spend quality time with you.
As my duck hunting season is coming to a close I decided to try a hunt on my old stompen grounds in Canton. I grew up around Double T in Canton. Of course when I hunted there is was long before the State bought the land. Many of the surrounding fields were owned by my family so I provided me with many great hunts. We wouldn’t really have any luck at all until everything froze. When that happened we had two weeks of great duck and goose hunting. The ducks would tornado in by the thousands and there were many days it took longer to set decoys then it did to harvest a limit. After we would duck hunt and get our limit we would load the truck back up with decoys and grab our other guns and blaze orange and walk the fence rows to harvest a few pheasants, rabbits and the occasional quail. I wish I would have known then that I was going to lose one of my favorite places because once the state bought Double T then all of the sudden there were pits in every field. I was so excited with the State first bought this land. I thought man they now own all of this in my back yard and I felt like I knew this area better than anyone. Little did I know that once all of the other fields had pits in them me would be the next to follow. I hunted there for a couple of more years after the state bought the property but soon fell to the all mighty dollar. I was a young kid in my early 20’s so I didn’t have the money to compete with these guys from Chicago. Heck they would drop $5,000 per pit and only hunt it a couple of weeks out of the year.
This was my first experience of how money talks whether your family or not it just doesn’t matter when it comes to potential income. After loosing this area, I was very bitter. I spent many of days hunting around this area only to pushed out because I didn’t have the extra money to spend on hunting. As time went on I learned to let it go but this place has always had a special place in my heart. This is where me and several of my friends learn to love duck hunting. Now we had to find new avenues to hunt ducks. It has been several years since I even thought about going to hunt at Double T. In the summer one of my friends put in for a permit at Double T and was able to get it. He had the permit for Saturday Dec. 16th. This should be good. Many small ponds have frozen and Double T has added some very nice pits over the last few years. As Friday rolled around I decided I should go scout the are and see how many birds were in the area. To my surprise there was more speckle bellies than I have ever seen before. Hardly any ducks but there was definitely enough huntable birds. The one thing I didn’t like was having to get up at 3:00am to get to Rice Lake for the draw at 4:30am. We were the only permit, so we had our choice of pits. We went to pit 4 and to say we were excited was an understatement. As the sun came up we watched thousand and thousands of speckle belly, snows, blues and Canadas flying over the refuge. This went on all morning. I thought for sure at least one group would make a mistake and we would at least get a chance to harvest a bird. After five hours of watching the birds hop around the refuge and the one that did leave got up high and off they went. The transformation of Double T from just a State area to where it is now is amazing. They have several pits and a few blinds. It is a very well-maintained area and offers opportunities for many hunters. So, when you do go hunt a state area there is one thing I would like everyone to remember. Leave it better than you found it. If you are in a blind or pit, please pick up all of your trash. I was disappointed with the amount of trash that people leave in the pits. For heaven’s sake the provide you with this great pit to hunt. A garbage can and liners so there is no reason to not pick up after yourself. We are lucky enough to have opportunities like this that don’t cost us anything to hunt. Get out there and take advantage of what our state has to offer, and you may even learn a few things.
May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!