2017-10-26 / Columns

Outdoors This Week in the Eastern U.P.

By Stephen King

It’s getting closer. Just over two weeks to go. The day that thousands await each fall, the first day of deer season is almost here. Are you ready?

This is not a question with an easy answer. There are a lot of issues here. First, the shooting iron. Have you gone out and tested it? And yourself, as well? If you have not, then you should probably head out to a range and do some test shooting.

Taking a few last-minute test shots is not the best way to get ready for hunting season. Shooting is something you should do all year around. Practice makes perfect.

Shooting at targets isn’t like drawing down on the 30-point buck, but you really need to be good at this if you plan to succeed. On opening morning, when all your plans come together and the trophy buck walks out, you do not want to send a bullet dead center into the old oak tree.

Bullets for big bore guns cost money. But you don’t always have to practice on big bore guns. Yes, you should pop off a few shots just before season, however, for the rest of the time, a .22 works just as well. If you want to go even smaller, go with the pellet gun, or even a BB gun. They don’t kick or shoot like a 30-06, but you get used to aiming and shooting. There is something called muscle memory. Your body gets used to shooting. Your eyes pick out the target, your arms and hands hold the gun. and your fingers and mind understand how to pull the trigger.

Next, pick out a spot where you want to hunt. If you have such a spot, all is well and good. But if you don’t, one way is to talk to people at bait stores and gun shops. They will give you some idea of where to go. Also, talk to the Department of Natural Resources, they, too, will assist you.

Then, find some maps. Go online and find the spot. Go to the part that shows the bird’s eye view. On the ones I have seen, you can literally see every tree and bush.

Next, think like a deer. They need food, a place to sleep, and a way to get from point lunch time to point sleepy time. They are a lot like people, they want the best food they can find and want to sleep as near as possible to it. (Such as when you go out for a burger and fries, you don’t head to Detroit, you head to the local eatery that has the best burger in town.)

Same with deer, they want good food at a good price in their neighborhood. On this, I was recently at a Straits Area Sportsman’s Club meeting where President Gary Gorniak talked about how he and other volunteers go out at night and do a spotlight count for deer.

They have been seeing the best numbers they have seen in quite a few years. But he also noted that he was talking to some of his counterparts in areas close to here that have a lot of farms and that these people are seeing way more deer. Gary is counting dozens. His counterparts are seeing hundreds.

Now, let’s say we’ve figured out where Mr. Deer lives. And, we have the shooting iron all ready to go, and have practiced. Now what?

Bait or no bait. Blind or no blind. In my younger years, most hunters did not use bait. From generations of experience and a firsthand knowledge of the land, we knew where the deer would be. My dad, for one, never built a blind. He either sat under a tree, sat on a stump, or stood behind some natural cover. He never baited, and got a deer just about every year. (Actually, I can’t remember him not getting a deer.)

As a kid, I remember standing out in the snow, rain, wind, or all of the above, thinking, “There has to be a better way.” Years later, after my dad had passed, one of my cousins, Don Frazier, took me under his wing and helped me find a spot to build a blind. It wasn’t the Taj Mahal, but it was warmer and I didn’t get rained on. And, I saw deer. Much better.

After I got my driver’s license, I went out by myself, and I baited and built blinds. But, I also picked spots where I knew deer were. I was not trying to fatten them up, just giving them a reason to stop on the way by. (Just long enough for me to invite Mr. Buck over for dinner, if you know what I mean.)

If you are baiting, place the bait close to the blind, about 50 yards or less. (I know, you can knock the ear off a gnat at 500 yards. But it is way easier when the animal is closer.) I have never set up a shot more than 50 yards away. I like to be around 30 to 40 yards away, close enough where missing is not an option.

Put in the effort to get the deer close to you. Then, don’t forget that your favorite outdoor writer enjoys venison with his pancakes. Good luck and enjoy the hunt.

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