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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 12:06 PM Thread Starter
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Minnesota 2011

On Thursday evening, four of us loaded up a pickup and trailer, and headed west to Southern Minnesota. Three of us did this whitetail hunt in 2009 (huntforfood, Mack, and myself), and my brother (maybesomeday) was along for the first time. We bunk at the farm of a relative of huntforfood's, and hunt mostly public land while we are there. We hunt the first several days of the firearms season (shotguns and inlines).

After 17 hours on the road, we arrived late morning at our host's. After chatting a bit, unloading our gear, and setting up sleeping quarters, we spent the afternoon scouting. Signs of the rut were encouraging.



We saw a few deer, and checked out the stage of harvest for the local corn and bean crops. Most of both were already harvested, but a few fields of corn were still standing when we arrived, including those of a neighbor to the farm where we were staying. It was a sunny day, but chilly, and this guy was trying to warm up.



When I reached down and touched his tail, as if to pick him up, he came to life and whipped into coiled position, as if prepared to teach me a lesson!

Huntforfood and Mack found that last trip's stand locations looked to be seeing good action again this year, and they were upbeat as they strolled back to meet us through a cut beanfield (the field is public). Yes, Mack is kinda tall.



After a bit more scouting, I decided to hunt a riverbottom location that I'd hunted on the earlier trip, and maybesomeday settled on hunting the stand location where I killed a young 11 point in 2009.

We spotlighted for a few minutes that evening, and in a field adjacent to Mack & huntforfood's stands, we saw several bucks with a hot doe, the largest of which was a beauty of an 11 point, in the 140 class. We went to bed early, exhausted from the long trip, but excited about what the morning would bring.

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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 12:34 PM
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Re: Minnesota 2011

Cool narrative thus far. I want to hear more. Just crossed the ohio/pa line headed to indiana for the saturday opener of firearm. Good luck and keep us posted

Huntin Bucks and Crushin Ducks
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 12:37 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Minnesota 2011

Opening day: Up and getting ready to hunt at 4 am. Mack and huntforfood dropped maybesomeday and I for the walk in to our spots around 5 am. I was up the tree, completely settled and ready to hunt, a few minutes before 6. Shooting light would not arrive until sometime after 7. The sky was clear, it was a crisp 34 degrees, and the winds were calm. I saw two shooting stars as I sat and waited for daylight, listening for footsteps in the dry grass and leaves.

As the sky began to turn colors and the stars to fade, I heard something small pass directly below my stand. A short while later, I saw a dark shape moving in the grass at 50 yards, and glassed a big, single doe, crossing from left to right. She dropped into the depression surrounding a pond, and disappeared. I did not see her route from there, but heard her continue on towards the west. Light continued to creep in, and when another deer approached on the same route the doe had taken, I figured this would be a buck, but with the yellow/tan grass background and the low light, I did not immediately see antlers. Through my scope, I saw a decent set of antlers, but my initial impression was that this was a buck in the 100" range. I didn't want to shoot something under 120 this early in the hunt, so I lowered the gun and raised the binoculars. Just before he stepped behind a brushy tree, the buck passed in front of a small dark colored patch of grass, quartering away at 50 yards. In the glasses, I clearly saw a wide spread and a row of long tines.

Here's the area he crossed, a few minutes after the fact.



I immediately switched glasses for gun, but he had dropped into the pond. In the low light and tall grass, I was having serious difficulty relocating him. I hit the grunt call twice, and saw him turn broadside, still at around 50 yards, but across the pond, and about to enter the tall grass there. I found him in the scope and said "Mehh!". He paused for half a second, and as I squeezed off the hurried shot from my inline, he had already begun to move into the grass. I couldn't see what happened to him. I began to glass, and soon found him, 100 yards out, casually walking away through the brush, still following the doe's trail.

I was sure I had missed, but not sure how. I studied my view of where he'd stood at the shot. He was in the green grassy spot just left of center in this pic.



Those sticks and twigs are more numerous than I'd noticed at the time of the shot, and perhaps I got a deflection, but in the early light and in my haste, I just as likely pulled the shot.

I decided to give it an hour before climbing down to look. As I waited, a basket racked 7 pt passed at 8 yards. By the time I could get my camera trained on him, the quality photo ops were gone.



Some doe were on the move around me as well. At 8:00, I saw some locals arriving to drive the area, so even though it hadn't been an hour yet, I climbed down. At the place where the buck had been, I found a small patch of white belly hair, cut about 1/2 length, and no blood. I followed the trail that I'd seen the buck take, to the property boundary, and found no further evidence of a hit. I was bummed, but relieved that I'd apparently not drawn blood. Better a miss than a crippling shot.

Back in the stand, I watched the drive unfold. Behind me I could see does bee-lining across the grassy bottomland, straight towards waiting standers.

My view of the grassy area, through some trees:



The standers waited, with raised, open-sighted shotguns, until the deer were in spitting distance then opened fire. I watched from several hundred yards, fascinated by the lag time between when I could visibly see the muzzle blast and when I heard the report. After quite a bit of hubbub, it seemed pretty apparent that no deer were down. We watch this happen often in Minnesota, and have come to realize that more often than not, the shots we hear there are not resulting in filled tags.

The rest of the day was rather uneventful, as the wind kicked up to 20 mph soon after 9 am, and deer movement was very slow. I did end the day having seen 13 does and three bucks, the last of which was a small fork horn, just before dark.

As the four of us assembled after dark, we compared notes. Huntforfood had seen nine does. Maybesomeday had seen about 9 deer, including three or four bucks, but the shooter buck he saw had already crossed onto private property and was making tracks across the open fields. The last buck he saw was also a shooter, but had been shot at, and just before he could get it in the scope, it button-hooked, lay down, and died. Mack had seen a number of deer as well, but the highlight of his day turned out to be not-so-high, as he missed several shots at a very big buck. None of the shot opportunities were closer than 100 yards or so, and the Minnesota brush saved that deer's life. After scouring the area for blood and finding none, Mack spent the day replaying the shot sequence in his head.

After dinner with our host's family, we again turned in early, listening to the wind blow outside.

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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 12:54 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Minnesota 2011

Sunday morning, Day 2: Up just as early this morning, but due to the time change, had an hour less to wait in the stand for daylight. That was a good thing, because the wind was blowing constantly, gusting 25-30 mph. Fortunately the temperatures were in the 40s this morning, or I would have been freezing cold the first hour of the hunt.

The morning started slowly for me, but a doe and fawn moved through around 8.



The strong wind was squirrely, and the doe must have been catching bits of my scent, even though she did not seem to be down wind. She finally came to investigate, and at one point, looked up at me in the tree from 7 yards, but must not have identified me as a threat, as it was 15 minutes before they moved on.



The locals showed up around 10:30, but today's drive produced less shooting, and fewer deer sightings. The only shots fired were by a stander who had moved into position 100 yards behind me. Before the drive started, he fired at something over on the private property, but when the drive came through, I watched a couple of the hunters look unsuccessfully for evidence of a hit. While they looked, two does came sneaking along the pond at 20 yards, staying in the depression where the hunters couldn't see them, until they moved into a very small brushy patch about 75 yards from the hunters. About 30 minutes after the hunters were gone, they fed out of the brush, and I saw them on their feet off and on through the afternoon. Around noon, the wind slowed, and shifted from south to west. The sun came out, and it was finally comfortable to sit. My wind-burned face and dry eyes welcomed the change.



The afternoon was pretty uneventful. Just before dark, a couple of does worked out of the brush toward a cut cornfield, and the small y-buck swaggered in from the opposite direction to check on them. I did see a mink, coon, bald eagle, a couple of horned owls, and the usual fox squirrel and common birds, so the day was still a good one.

Met my brother, and found that he'd only seen a doe and a fawn. He was upbeat, but was ready for a change of scenery.

When huntforfood and Mack arrived to pick us up, huntforfood was in street clothes. We knew what that meant! He was very happy with the buck he killed that morning, one of his best, size-wise. If he wants to tell his story, he can add it, but here is a pic.



His buck was already skinned and hanging. Mack had a buck in the bed of the truck. I don't think Mack is a member here, so I'll post his pic as well. The shot was at 20 yards or so, in a brushy thicket. Both were killed on public land, with shotguns.



Since huntforfood and Mack had both seen multiple bucks that day, they volunteered to escort maybesomeday and I to their stand locations in the dark the next morning, and we switched from our inlines to their shotguns.

That evening we ate in town at the local sports bar, and watched the Eagles for an hour or so. We celebrated success, and looked forward to more!

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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 01:13 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Minnesota 2011

Day 3: Up a little less early, as hunting pressure seemed to be lessening, just as it had been at this point in our 2009 trip.

The weather was perfect: Mid-30's, clear, and dead calm after two days of strong winds. Mack and huntforfood showed us to their stand trees, and maybesomeday and I climbed up and got settled while they headed back to cut up deer.

I settled into huntforfood's tree about 10 minutes before shooting light. I again saw a shooting star, and sat there just soaking up what seemed to be perfect conditions for rutting whitetails.



This stand location overlooks a lot more real estate than I am used to trying to cover, and the tall grass and thick brush kept me very busy as the light came up.

Shortly before 7, I caught movement to the southeast, in the tall trees. An adult doe was heading north, on a heading that would take her within 50 yards of my position. As I glassed her, she looked over her shoulder, and my hopes climbed. She disappeared behind some brush. A few seconds later, I spotted a second deer, following the first. I quickly glassed the deer, and saw long G-2's and nice 3's. My first thought was "shooter!", but as I looked at him in the scope, he seemed smaller than I first thought. He took a few steps the side, and stopped in a small opening at 90-100 yards. For the next 10 minutes, he stood there broadside, waiting for the doe to make a move. I kept glassing him, debating. My goal was 120+. This buck looked good to me, but he was obviously inside the ears, and that made me think I was likely overestimating his size. Finally his long 2's, heavy mass, and curving brow tines made me decide that, even though I had almost 2 days left to hunt, I'd be very happy filling my tag with this buck. I could have shot him where he was, but felt he would come closer, so I waited.

Finally, two young deer came skipping in from the southeast, and the big doe made a decision. She broke from her previous line of travel, and headed west, crossing into a golden rod field at about 60 yards. The buck came too, walking casually, but on a route that would keep him at 80 yards. I had some branches to deal with, as the buck crossed in front of the darker brown weeds, just to the right of the woods edge, near the center of this pic. He didn't stop, and I didn't think the chances of stopping him were good, at least not without a branch or trunk in the way.


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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 01:44 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Minnesota 2011

As the buck eased through the opening, the crosshairs found his shoulder and the shotgun cracked. The goldenrod is 4'-5' tall, so the buck was immediately hidden, and the trees between him and I complicated my efforts to relocate him. I leaned right, and found antlers moving above the golden rod. He was walking west, towards the property line. In the scope, I could see antlers and, occasionally, ears, as he walked, now at 100 yards.

I should interject here that, after I fire an initial shot at a deer, my standards for an acceptable shot opportunity change for any followup shots. Even though I have done my share of missing, my natural assumption when I pull the trigger is that I have hit my target. The fact that he may still be on his feet does not negate my feeling that he is hit. Because of that, I do all that I can to get additional lead in him, in case my initial hit was marginal.

I couldn't see the bucks body, but he was walking steadily, quartering away, so I moved the crosshairs down and back to where his chest must be, and pulled the trigger. This time deer scrambled through the weeds in reaction to the shot, but I only saw does cross the property boundary. I glassed for a couple of minutes where the buck had last been.

Finally I saw the top of a dry golden rod bloom shake, pause, then shake again. Hmmm. Either two deer just walked past (and brushed against) the same stem, or maybe the buck was kicking his last at that spot.

I climbed down, and headed to look for blood. I found none. I could follow the buck's route through the weeds because of disturbed frost where he had passed, but I'd also mentally marked the quaking golden rod stem. I eased over to that spot, and spotted the buck lying dead in the tall grass. There was no blood anywhere, except under his body.

Where he fell:



The first shot connected perfectly left to right, but 3" to 4" low, as it clipped the back of his front leg, went through just below the sternum, and exited without ever entering the chest cavity or breaking a bone. The second shot was perfect, entering back in the rib cage, and lodging under the hide of his lower neck, taking out a bit of liver and destroying lungs.
I should explain here that I don't have any more pictures of my own after this point. When I climbed the tree to retrieve my gear, I discovered that my camera had somehow been broken during the action, in my coat pocket. The camera has taken thousands upon thousands of shots, and has been a good one, so I was disappointed at the loss, but even more annoyed by the timing of the failure. Regardless, from here on, the pics you see are courtesy of my hunting partners.

It turned out that the locals, who hadn't driven the area in the first two days at all, drove the spot right after I shot this buck, and that little patch of public was driven out multiple times over the next two days. maybesomeday stuck at it, sitting dark to dark all four days, but with only opportunities at young bucks, he finally filled his tag with a fawn of the year, with an hour of shooting light left on the last day (and with a drive coming through again, so little hope of further natural deer movement before dark).

All in all, it was a really great trip, and I can't wait to do it again. Great friends and fellowship, quality hunting in spite of high hunter pressure, and safe travel across the midwest. Hard to beat an early November vacation like that!!

A few more hero shots:





My buck ended up grossing 122, in spite of an inside spread of just 14". I love the character though, and with the dark colored, massive antlers, I'm looking forward to hanging him on the wall as a European mount.


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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 02:26 PM
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Re: Minnesota 2011

seems like a great trip. congrats to you guys!
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 02:34 PM
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Re: Minnesota 2011

great story! very nice bucks!
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 03:27 PM
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Re: Minnesota 2011

Great story! Congrats.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 03:32 PM
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Re: Minnesota 2011

Congrats on the nice bucks, i just drove through there on 90, some very nice country there and in Wisconsin.

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