I usually try to keep the trip reports to one per month at most because I know they can get boring, but this month I figured I would do a second one because this past weekend was the opening of deer season where I am.
I haven’t had any luck with deer hunting the past two years, so for this year I decided to make a change. The first change was to hunt in an area that didn’t have antler restrictions. That would immediately improve my chances. I wouldn’t be able to rely on calls as much, but the number of animals I could take would be greater.
The second change was to follow a tip I read from Steven Rinella in his book The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Volume 1: Big Game. The book itself is very well written and illustrated, and I highly recommend it. It doesn’t contain anything ground braking, but it has many excellent tips. Well, one of the chapters was on public land hunting, and what I got from it was that when hunting on public land you have to not only understand the behavior of the animal you are hunting, but also of the hunters who are hunting the are with you and how that interacts with the fame.
Keeping that tip in mind, I decided to change my strategy this year. Instead of hunting the low lands where deer like to be this time of year, I decided to do the opposite. I found the area most distant from any place that was easily accessible to hunters, and in that area I located the highest, most inaccessible point. My theory was that even though deer wouldn’t like such terrain, all of the hunters who tend to hunt close to roads and on the easy terrain, would push the game deeper into the woods and higher in elevation towards me.
So I got to the forest about half an hour before sunrise and set out. It would be a long trek to the area on the map that I had picked out so I wanted to get a head start.
Once it was officially sunrise (the legal time to start hunting), I loaded the rifle and kept it at the ready just in case I spotted a deer on my way into the woods.
I spent a good portion of the day backpacking in. I heard several shots from areas that I had already passed. I kept going in the hopes that those hunters would push the game to my chosen destination.
I didn’t encounter any game along the way, and when the sun started going down I set up camp near the location where I had planned to hunt.
Even though I was in a pretty exposed location, the wind wasn’t nearly as bad as last weekend. Overnight temperatures were about 20F (-7C). I was again using my three season bag, but I had my thick coat with me, so I slept in it and was fine. In the morning I again got up about half hour before sunrise, packed up, and set up on a ridge I had located the previous day, overlooking two intersecting ravines.
I waited for about two hours. Shortly after 8 am I spotted two doe making their way through one of the ravines. I was surprised that they weren’t aware of me because the wind was not in my favor in the direction from which they were coming, but they didn’t spot me. I was using Nose Jammer scent blocker, which I had sprayed the previous day. Maybe that’s what made the difference. I don’t know.
I positioned myself and took a shot from the knee at the lead doe at about 50 yards. I used my Savage 11-111 F rifle in .308 with a Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40 scope, which I have zeroed in at 50 yards. She rushed for about 20 feet and then dropped. I cleared the rifle, waited a few minutes to make sure she was dead, and then made my way down into the ravine.
It was a fully grown doe, about 150lb. I took it with a lung shot. Even though the entry point was the neck, it wasn’t a pure neck shot because I was up and in front of the deer. The bullet entered the neck and then continued down and back through the lungs, stopping in the far shoulder blade.
Now it was time for the hard work. I had to skin, butcher, and carry out the deer. I debated with myself about whether or not to gut it or to just bone it out without gutting, but ultimately decided to gut it so I can get the heart and liver.
All the processing work was done with my Mark Hill Mora #2 custom clone and a Bahco Laplander saw. The saw is obviously not great with bone because it’s too aggressive, but it got the job of cutting through the sternum and pelvis done. The knife performed beautifully. I know many hunters prefer the Havalon style blades, but I like a less delicate tool. I’ve been very impressed with the Mark Hill knife. I processed the whole deer with it without having to touch it up. When I was done I spent a minute on the fine side of my DC3 sharpening stone and it was shaving sharp again.
After I gutted it, I skinned it, and removed the meat from the bones. I packed it all in a T.A.G. game bag. The T.A.G. B.O.M.B. kit which I was using comes with several game bags, but they are large, and I only needed one. The kit was developed for elk hunters, so it was oversized for my needs.
I figured I would spare you the rest of the process. I placed the game bag in a plastic trash bag and transferred the tag to it. For those who don’t hunt, game bags are designed to keep insects away from the meet and allow it to breathe and cool off. They will let blood go through, so if you want your backpack to stay clean, you have to put them in a plastic bag. I am not a skilled butcher, so the process took me over an hour.
When I was done, I cleaned up, packed up all of the meet in my old Gregory Palisade 80 pack, and started making my way back.
It took me many very long hours to make it out of the woods. I’ll have to figure out a good way to attack the rifle to my pack, so that I can use my trekking poles. They would have really helped.
Overall, everything came together nicely. My strategy worked, all of the gear performed well, and I didn’t have any difficulties. It would have been nice to spend an extra day in the woods and cook up some of the meat, but I wanted to get home as soon as possible to make sure I can preserve all of it.