It was a sucessful firearms season for my family, but it didn’t seem like it would be when it started.
Two days before the firearm opener in Minnesota, both of my parents tested positive for COVID-19. There is never a good time to get COVID, but the opening of deer hunting is the absolute worst possible weekend for this to happen to my family. So these positive tests threw our hunting party for a bit of a loop.
My original plan to stay with my parents, turned into us standing outside to determine how we would go about the weekend. Cory and I made the decision to stay at his mom’s house just down the road, and Saturday morning I would wake up, drive over, grab my gear and my gun and head out to my stand, making as little contact as possible with my parents.
That ended up working out just fine, and I got to my stand Saturday morning ready for a day in the great outdoors, as it as projected to be 60 and sunny. Not bad for the first weekend of November.
As I scanned the area around my box stand before the sun came up, I was visited by a curious bard owl that landed in a tree right next to me and gave me a look as if to say, “who are you and what are you doing here?”. The rest of the early morning was filled with a giant flock of wild turkeys roaming the area, and a bald eagle flying over head.
Around 9 am I suddenly heard jumping in the swampy area behind my stand. I grabbed my gun, ready to take aim and a doe came jumping out of the brush. I heard a buck hot on her heels and a split second later there he was. I didn’t have much of a shot at him, but I took one when I could and missed. He stopped for a second and took off again after that doe.
I sent a text to my dad warning him of what was running his way. I had no more than put my phone away when I heard my dad take two shots, and got the news he bagged the buck. A super exciting start to opening morning.
Not too long after that I had a group of three does appear in the thick brush behind my stand and hang out. None of them were willing to come out to a place where I could get them in my scope, so they lived to see another day.
Some time passed, and a few more does came through, but the story was the same. They hung out in the brush where they knew I couldn’t get a shot.
Just before we came in for lunch a doe ran past my dad’s stand toward me. Again she was on the popular path of brush cover.
Overall it was the msot active morning of hunting I had ever experienced in my life. I had never seen so many deer, most of the time I sit in the woods all weekend seeing only squirrels so this was a refreshing change of pace.
We broke for lunch, ate a band hoagie, and went back out for the afternoon/evening hunt.
It was back to the regularly scheduled programming of seeing nothing. Except for the turkey flock that made it’s way back to where it came from in the morning.
I got up early at Cory’s mom’s, drove over to my parents to get my gear, just in time to run into my dad who was heading to our hunting land in a rifle zone. We wished each other good luck and I headed out to my stand.
Another warm silent morning went by, the sun came up but there were no birds this morning. Only some loud cows in the pasture next to me.
I had to be out of the stand at 9:15 am Sunday in order to get ready for a photoshoot my friend Lindsey and I booked in Brainerd. I was in full hunting mode, and it as going to take a lot of showering and primping to get into glam mode.
I didn’t see a single thing all morning, and at 9:15 as I was gathering my snacks and sweater, I see two does emerge from the thick brush. Of course it had to be at the exact moment I was planning to get down.
I could hear some rustling behind them and figured I would wait for whatever was back there just to see what it was. I had decent shot at the first doe, but I knew there was something more coming, be it a buck or another doe.
As the does wandered around for a minute, the biggest buck I have ever seen came out from the brush, nose to the ground. My heart started racing. But as fast as the buck came out, he went right back in and my heart sank to my feet. That was my one chace to shoot at something huge.
A few seconds later another doe popped out of the brush, and she as followed by the buck! I did my best to calm my breathing and wait for the buck to move into the only sliver of a shooting lane I had. He did and I took the shot.
I’m not as confident with a shotgun as I am a rifle. I’m not sure why, as I’ve only ever missed once with a shotgun, and it happened 24 hours prior, but forwhatever reason I was convinced that shot didn’t touch that buck.
He ran off into less thick brush about 10 yards from where he was when I shot. I found him in my scope again and knew I had to take another shot, this was a once in a lifetime buck for me and I couldn’t let him get away.
I took that second shot, his back right leg kicked up like it was hit, and he ran, doing a little circle and disappeared into the brush.
At this point I then frantically called my mom to loop her in on the situation. We then made a plan to call my dad and get him looped in, but he hadn’t answered any texts or calls all morning. We chalked it up to him not having phone service, but it turns out he had actually just left his phone on the couch that morning.
I then called my uncle, who I knew would be close by (and he’s an expert deer tracker and I was on a time crunch, because remember, I still had a photoshoot to be at.) He told me my cousin had just woke up and they would get ready and head over. Perfect.
I then proceeded to have the biggest adrenaline dump of my life. You know that feeling when you start shivering uncontrollably even though you’re not cold? Adrenaline dump. Every limb on my body was quaking wondering if I got that deer.
An hour passed by and my uncle and cousin came out to my stand with my mom. I gave them the rundown of what happened and where I thought the deer ran, but all we could find was a small tuft of hair. No blood. No sign of a hit. My heart sank again. As we walked through the brush and tall grass my dad showed up out of nowhere. Just in time. We looped him in on what was happening, and that it didn’t look good.
As we all walked the way I thought the deer ran, my cousin Gavin wandered off a different way, and thank goodness he did because all of a sudden he said “it’s over here!”. I walked over and gave him the biggest hug ever because there was the buck laying in the tall grass.
I immediately started crying. I’ve been hunting since I could legally have a firearm license and never in my life had I seen a deer this big, much less harvested one. Next thing you know my dad was crying and we were all so excited.
A flurry of pictures then started with every combo of person there. I turns out my first shot was the only one that hit it. Right in the heart too. I still got my touch.
But remember, I was still on a schedule, so we made haste gutting it, and getting it drug out of the woods.
I had the absolute best swamp donkey recovery team helping me out that morning, and I can’t thank them enough for helping me get the biggest deer of my life.
I’m the first person to say, you can’t eat the antlers. For me, hunting has never been about getting the biggest deer, or trophy hunting. For me, hunting is all about the group of people you get to spend the weekend with. It’s carving out time to be in nature with the people you love. No matter what happens in life you can always count on the opener of firearms season to be quality time with the best people.
But I do gotta say, it does feel pretty good to finally have a rack to show off.
PS: For those wondering, I still made it to my friend Lindsey’s at the exact time I said I would be, and we arrived early to the photoshoot. How’s that for time management?