Hunting When It Counts

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How To Survive Tough Times - Introduction

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Hunting When It Counts

There is a whole different outlook on hunting where a miss means you don't have food for the table. As I learned late last year.

In the beginning of October the wife and me hit on some tough times. We had invested most of our money in trapping supplies and the orders had fallen off. Money was tight. It looks like we had a $100 for food for the whole month. Well if you have not shopped lately, a $100 is a joke for food. So we stocked up with a 50-pound bag of potatoes, onions, carrots, flour and a few other things. I told the wife it was good Y2K training. We bought no meat. None. The meat had to come from my hunting skill.

As I said, there is a whole different outlook on hunting where a miss means you don't have food for the table. I have done it before, but each time it is a learning lesson. As I scouted for trapping area, I start carrying my 16-gauge pump shotgun with #6 shot. After scouting along a stream for three hours I walk right until a covey of grouse. The leaves were still thick at the time and the birds disappear quickly before I could draw a bead. One landed in a tree about 100 yards away. I crept over and flushed a grouse -- an open shot but I missed. The sound of that shot scared the bird in the tree. It flew away and I was standing there with an empty game pouch.

Lessons learned: I should have stayed with the bird in the tree bringing one bird home is better then none. The old saying one bird in hand is worth two in the bush rang true.

I set up a deer blind and baited it with apples. After two days the deer still hadn't touched the apples. We don't have a lot of deer in the far north because of the heavy deep snow. So I took a bottle of muskrat lure and pour about a 1/4 of a bottle high on a branch. The next day the apples were all gone. Good deal. I re-baited and sat with my bow until dark nothing. Must be a morning stand?

The next morning before daylight I climbed on my bucket and waited for daylight. If you have never sat in the woods before daylight and watched the sunrise, you are missing a special treat. As the light come in the forest wakes up and chipmunks start running all over. Then the squirrels start hopping and at a distance they sound like a deer. Because they hop and stop and hop and stop. Like a deer walking a few steps and then stop to look around. After a few like that and you are waiting for a deer you started to ignore the sounds. A flock of chickadee flew in and I watched then work the forest floor for food. One landed on my bow and I held perfectly still watching the bird.

How amazing the woods is! Even after all the years in the field, I still enjoy being there. About one hour into daybreak, no deer. I stretched looked around and opened a paperback. I will wait another hour then was about to move on, when, I hear a squirrel coming from my right hopping stop, a few minutes later, hopping, stop. I just keep reading ignoring the squirrel. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something large move. I slowly lower my book and set it down. Then I S-L-O-W-L-Y sat up and saw a doe was walking in really cautious. No matter what I do when I set up a deer stand, they come in on the wrong side.

I'm right-handed so I like the deer to come in on my left side so I don't to move as much to shoot. The light breeze was coming from behind me to the left. I had to shoot before the deer reach my scent. When the deer took a step, I moved my bow. When the deer stop, I stop. For what seemed like an hour I was almost ready to draw my bow back. I'm sure it was only a few minutes. The deer had looked at me a couple of times but keep scanning passed me not alarmed. The deer step behind a tree and I swung the rest of my body over so I could draw when she steps out. She stepped out right when I finished moving and the bucket groaned. She whipped her head around and stared right at me.

I never stare back at the deer eyes because it is a staring contest and I have learned you will lose this one. The deer will stare for 10 minutes until your eyes water and then you blink. So I stared at the shoulder. She turned toward the apple pile then took a step and whipped her head around to see if I had moved. I almost bust out laughing. She did this once more and then, satisfied it was nothing, started toward the apple pile. With her head past me, I drew back and the bowstring scraped my coat. She whipped her around but it was too late. Starring at me I ignore her and focus my complete thoughts on where I want the arrow to hit. When I was sure the arrow would hit the 2-inch square just behind her shoulder I released. Before she could react the arrow was through her. A perfect double lung shot. She ran about 60 yards and stood there staring back at me.

I know from pass bow hunting experience the best thing to do now is sit still and watch. A doe, unlike a buck, will watch for a while then lay down after a while and will bleed to death so you can find her easy. A buck, even a spike, will run forever until they die. I have tracked a buck for over a mile to find them. But if you spook the doe when she is close you will be tracking for along time, just leave her alone. After about 20 minutes I walk over slowly looking for movement. Nothing. I place my bow tag on and gut the deer.

I breathe a sign of relieve, the freezer has meat. The wife and I processed the deer and there is some great video footage on deer processing ready to go on the market. The next night we celebrate the success with back straps, fried onion, fried potatoes and fresh garden tomato slices. That is living.

I switch to my .22 single shot loaded with Remington yellow jackets. I cut a load of firewood, then scout for fur. No wasted gas, firewood, scouting for fur and hunting every trip out. One day I see two grouse sitting on a down log. One was nervous and ran off but the other one turn sideways and the .22 cracked -- one grouse for dinner. The other grouse flew off when I walked up. As I was driving out about a 100 yard up on the logging road two gray squirrels run across.

I parked the truck, grabbed the old trusty single-shot and slowly walked up. I spotted one squirrel the same time he saw me and he ran back across the road up a pine tree out of sight. I look for the other squirrel and finally spotted him at 35 yards, sitting on an oak stump. I can just see the squirrels through the leaves. I didn't want to move and spook him so I decide to shoot through the leaves. I shot and knocked the squirrel off the stump I hear leaves rustling then nothing. I work my way over to the stump no squirrel. I didn't miss I saw the squirrel get knock off from the shot.

I look all around no squirrel. The loggers had cut down a lot of trees and the tops were all over. I circle back to the stump and look for where the squirrel hit. A blood spot. I stop and bend down looking for disturbed leaves. About 5 feet away I see leaves all moved around. I step over and look another blood spot. Then another blood spot, a few more feet another spot, at 20 feet from the stump under a log is the tip of a gray squirrel tail. I grab hold and pull the squirrel out. My shot hit him in the stomach instead of the heart lung area.

A grouse and a squirrel -- a good day! I walk back and hear a squirrel chirp. I slowly creep over and spot him on the tree one more shot and it is two squirrels and a grouse for the day. Then the first one I saw started chattering away at me, up in the pine tree. I look for 10 minutes for him. Finally way up on the top I see a branch move and a clump. Through all the branches and pine needle it look like the gray squirrel. The .22 crack the clump rattle but nothing fell. Just then about 10 feet away the squirrel decide this tree wasn't a safe place to be. He takes off running and jumps from tree to tree. I ran over, reloading as I run. When I saw the squirrel running on a long branch with about a 3-foot leap coming up, I knew from past experience that the squirrel would hesitate before the leap. I aim at the end of the branch. I have seen this many times squirrels will stop for just a second before they leap. Right on cue, the squirrel stops and the .22 cracks -- three squirrels and a grouse for one day's hunting. I fired five shots.

When I'm in a "have to have the meat" mood, I pass up some iffy shots. It is not good to spook game. But remember hunting in good times is different when hunting is done every day by a whole crew of people. Animals quickly learn new tactics to hide from you. I have seen pheasant crawl passed me in an open field 2-inch high grass. I saw the grass move but did not see the bird. Not until my dog flushed her. Rabbit will turn nocturnal and so will deer. I have walked up on some deer and almost stepped on them before they moved. Deer learn that most hunters walk too fast and don't see them, so staying put works for some. I have also tracked deer for 7 hours and never seen them.

That is why it is called hunting. You never know what to expect.



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Randy Salars

Randy Salars

Copywriter and marketing consultant. Author of ‘Stories And Recipes From The Soup Kitchen.’ Freedom lover, adventurer, and treasure hunter.
Silver City, NM, USA