Warning! Graphic photos ahead! If you are a softy, you may want to just move along now.
You win some, you lose some.
This sums up our hunting season for the most part, and we definitely won…eventually!
But that win only came with countless hours of trial and error.
September 1 marked our first ever season of bow hunting.
Okay okay, this isn’t entirely true I suppose. I should back this up a bit here.
Spring 2019: We are hunting black bear via bow. The entire bear season was a barrage of learning lessons. From choosing a location, figuring out where to put bait stations and how to protect trail cams. We asked (and subsequently) figured out questions we had like:
What do bears eat?
SPOILER ALERT: It’s generally not humans. They tend to favor popcorn and donuts.
Do bears shit in the woods?
Yes, yes in deed. We witnessed this quite a few times. Want proof? ↓↓↓↓↓
Do they make noise when they fight?
No, not overly. They are quiet, very very quiet. We now like to call them bush ninjas, because with the blink of an eye they appear or they are up your tree! Calm down, I will add we never had any come up our tree, but they sure did come up all the trees beside us! And I say calm down because that is what you need to be in these situations CALM….phew!
Wait, was that a bear?
Nope just another effin squirrel! remember bears are bush ninjas, you most likely wont hear them!
Bear season was one for the books. So, so many nights sitting in the tree stand watching, learning and absorbing.
Side note: bears are an amazing animal to just watch!
In the end, only one of us tagged out on bear. Troy waited and waited and finally the brute that was on our trail cam, that we named Sam Tarly wandered in while he was there. He took his shot and ended his season with a perfectly placed arrow on a beautiful black bear, one that filled our freezer and unknown at the time, also put Troy in the record books with a Boone and Crockett score of 21-15/16. And this also meant that Troy and our friend Colin were up for about 25 hours by the time they got the bear out of the trees, back home, skinned and in the freezer) Yes, most bears are excellent to eat! There is a huge stigma about bear being terrible to eat, but it’s a misconception. The only thing to realize is that you need to cook the meat to a minimum 165°f as that will kill the potential bacteria called trichinosis!
Fast forward to September 1 and we are back to walking with our bows in hand. For bow season we had tags for Mule Deer, White Tail Deer, and the prairie unicorn (in our area of the non-woods anyway) Elk.
We spent our first week out walking, learning the terrain, sitting and glassing hillsides, meadows and fields with some good friends of ours. We saw a few deer, a couple of those elk, but nothing ever close enough to make something happen. Because the thing with bow hunting is that you need to be close. I personally would feel most comfortable taking a shot, only if it was within 40 yards.
Weeks turned into months and while we saw lots and had many opportunities, nothing ever panned out for us. But we are ok with it! We learned so many lessons during bow season. Next season will be epic!
November 1st we roll over into rifle. We spent 2 days checking known spots for Mule deer. On day 3 Troy decided we should walk into one of our little honey holes and sure…
**Pause here for a minute, remember those two months of bow season that we were unsuccessful with? Well, we gained a little knowledge as we learned just where to go!**
Continue: Sure enough there was the big bucks we were looking for in bow season, but that is not what we are after for rifle, as we had been drawn for Mule does.
“So, where were the does?” I asked
“Be patient” said Troy, “they are he….”
“Oooh I see them!” I said.
Troy was already setting up to take a shot lol.
“Did you get her?” I asked.
“Yes” he said.
“Why is she still running?”
“Shes not!” he said.
“Oh I see… Way to go!” I said.
She only ran like 20 yards, it was a perfectly placed shot, double lung, she did not suffer at all.
Now rifle season probably doesn’t seem like a huge deal to most, but to me rifle season was scary and intimidating. I went with Troy last year and sat and watched… I fired the gun once at a target. Guns used to scare the jeebus out of me. So this year when it was time for rifle, I was a bit terrified. I didn’t know what I was doing, but Troy had complete unwavering confidence in me. He taught me gun handling, how to aim and properly shoot, and I took 3 practice rounds at a target. “You’re good! ” he said. But I’m still not fully confident in myself, he reassures me again and we continue on.
One week later we get some Intel from a friend about where we can find a whole herd of mule does. We go out one evening and tracked them down. From there we formulated a plan for the next morning. 7 am, its -23 with the windchill and Troy and I head out. We spot them where we hoped they would be, but we are about 600 yards away across an open pasture, not a great shot to take. So we crouch hustle walk across the pasture staying in the low spots to try and get closer. The doe spots us so this takes time and patience, and we manage to get to about 250 yards from her, then we wait for the right shot. FINALLY she turns broad side. I’m nervous and my fingers are frozen solid. I get her in my cross-hairs, and in what feels like a split second- I hear Troy say “shoot when ready” I don’t even remember pulling the trigger. I heard the boom, I heard Troy shout that she was down, but I wasn’t going to get too excited. He reassures me she was down, but I was still so nervous that I had made a bad shot. I will add that I was confident that I put my cross hairs right where I thought the vitals should be but that looming thought and self doubt of a newbie kinda took over. As we went over and found her, I realized she was not 10 yards from where she was standing. A perfect double lung shot, I was now a bit more excited. But I was still feeling like it may have all been a fluke lol!
The next week, we are out again. This time scouting to fill our general white tail tags. This means we can take either a doe or a buck. We decided to go out, just for a drive with the kids one night, just to see what was out and about. And what do you know? White tail buck, chasing a doe across a field and into a bush. Troy was anticipating it coming out of the bush and across the field. It did just that, but not towards us. We were quite a ways away for a shot. So we load up and head around the field to get over to it and intercept it at another bush. He was not there. So we continue along the bush line and what do you know Troy spotted him. Since I was lagging, he went for it! One buck down. Another double lung shot. This was super exciting because all the kids were with us and got to see first hand what we were putting so much time into and what it all entails to get that deer from the field to freezer.
A few days later….
My turn to find the white tail. We were able to go out during the day while the kids were at school. We knew where the white tail would be, as we have been seeing them since September in the same area. The problem this day was getting there. A steep icy/muddy hill was in our path, and after sliding backwards down the hill in the truck in 4 wheel drive, we decided to walk in from there. Up the hill, across the canola, and over another knoll and there they are! 2 does. We sat and watched them for a bit, waiting for the buck to come out. He never did, and the does started to wander away. This was pretty much our last opportunity to go out, so Troy left the decision up to me. Did I want another doe, or wait it out and see if we luck out on a buck? As I was contemplating, this I was watching her in my scope. She turned broadside, and I don’t think it even registered when I pulled the trigger. She hopped and went about 10 yards then stopped. I thought I missed, but then she stumbled and down she went. Another double lung shot, and I think I validated myself… slightly.
Troy now calls me “old dead eye” and I am pretty proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone, and learning something that literally scared the shit out of me. I still have a long ways to go, but I can confidently say that I have stepped 100% into a world I never thought I would be in.
Now the real work begins! There is a lot of work I never went into detail over in this write up. From getting the deer gutted, skinned and hung to processing the meat yourself or at a butcher. And work it is! As we choose to do all of it. It is time consuming and when you have four deer to process it can take awhile. The end result is so worth it though. A fully filled freezer with wild game meat can not be beat. And knowing that you helped to put it there is a major pat on the back.
In closing I will leave with this: Hunting may not be for everyone, and we fully understand that. We however take great pride in the fact that we were able to set a goal of learning, understanding, and committing to an adventure that not only filled our freezer for our family, our friends and ourselves, but also aids in the conservation of these animals so that there are healthy herds for our Eco-system and future hunters alike.
We submitted all of our heads to the conservation office for testing and surveillance of Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD. Two of them have come back negative. (Still waiting on the last two). We truly believe that testing and monitoring of this is vital to future generations of deer populations.
Tell us about your hunting season this year! Send us an email or leave us a comment! Please feel free to share this blog!