On my last hunt of the season with only 30 minutes left of shooting light, my first deer season ended with a successful harvest. The preceding hunts that season were filled with hard lessons, poor decisions, and Murphy's law. I may have been a novice deer hunter but, I’m not new to hunting which should have made some of these mistakes avoidable. I’m sharing these lessons hoping they may aid you in your next hunt. However, like me you might already possess or have the knowledge and simply fail to apply it correctly or at the right time.
Here are some quick bullet points to setup the back story
· We were hunting private land
· Two of us came from out of state and had never seen the property in person
· There were three of us hunting
· It was the first archery season for two of us
· It was the first-time hunting deer for two of us
· This was a 40-acre piece of land
· We had three trail cams setup on the property for scouting
· We were hunting out of homemade ground blinds
The night before our hunt we went over images using OnX to plot out a plan on how we intended to get into our blinds. We checked the weather and attempted to get as much sleep (which wasn’t much due to excitement) as possible. This may have been my first deer hunt but I was not new to hunting as I have been hunting since the age of 10. You would think this would qualify me to make proper clothing choices for this hunt and you would be wrong. The temperature was supposed to range in the 40’s that day. Our plan was to park at the land owner’s home and walk down a road to the back of the property before we cut into the field to get to our blinds. We reached this decision in hopes of limiting the noise and scent while working our way into our spots.
We had to walk down the road about six hundred yards and had another three to four hundred yards across the field to get where we needed to be. I knew walking that far fully dressed in cold weather gear and carrying equipment was going to lead to sweating which wouldn’t be good for scent or staying warm once we started our sit. These logical conclusions lead two of us to dress fairly light and carry in our cold weather gear. Looking back, we probably should have brought an extra undershirt to change into once we had finished our hike.
We arrived about two hours before legal shooting light and started off down the road. We arrived at the spot where we were supposed to cut into the field and we noticed something peculiar. I said “Huh that sounds like there is a stream running through this field.” We had head lamps and there was no running water that we could see. This was our introduction to Wisconsin wetlands aka the bog monster. I was wearing regular old winter boots and the first 200 yards of this field was wetlands. Being an avid waterfowl hunter all my life and having hunted plenty of water with a not so solid bottom, I knew working our way through this bog was going to result in a nice sweat. I also knew that having ankle high boots on meant I was probably going to get my feet wet. This was a wonderful start to our first hunt and both of my predictions turned out to be true when we finally found solid ground. I might have been able to avoid this situation if I noticed that the pictures and maps of this property only showed agriculture on about a quarter of the land. This little detail should have raised the question “Why wasn’t the farmer using the entire plot of land for crops.”
When we hit the corn field, we silently made our way to our blinds with about an hour left until shooting light. We put on our coats and overalls and got settled in waiting for the sun to rise. What we didn’t realize was that we had basically walked in right on top of the deer. Within 15 minutes of sitting we could hear the deer blowing at us and then crashing through the woods running away. It wasn’t even dawn and we had blown up our spot. Holding on to thin strands of hope that they might return, we sat in the dark with wet feet and wet base layers as the cold started to work its magic. By 8:30 am two of us had become so numb that if a shot on a deer presented itself, we weren’t sure if we would even be able to draw our bows. We got together and came to the conclusion that we should end the hunt and try again in the evening. As I went back to my blind to gather up my things I saw the three deer standing 70 yards away in the back corner of the property. They had saw me too and I had managed to spook the deer for a second time in several hours. These were the first of many mistakes and misfortunes we would experience during our first deer season.