By the Fonz
Another deer season has come and gone. They seem to start running together as one gets older so I have to write them down on paper. On the trip up I stopped at an old Sefi’s house in the Minocqua area and bs’d for a few minutes. He doesn’t hunt anymore, I guess he got his share of shooting in Nam. This year started the same as most, arriving at my hometown mid afternoon the Thursday before season, gassing up the truck and after meeting up with my hunting buddy Elmo, headed towards the old shack. We hit our first bar out in the country seven miles from town, had a Leinie and of course got our names on the buck board. The owner was outside when we arrived and let us in, we being the first customers of the day. Our next stop was in the next town to the northwest. Again we had a Leinie and got on the buck board. The difference here was that most the people at the bar were old buddies from our hometown and several seemed to be in the buying mood. Never one to turn down a beer, I threw them down as fast as possible, but being somewhat of a present day leaker the chips started piling up and the stories got deeper. Finally, with a buzz starting to sneak into my head, we headed for the next town to the west. Here again we ran into several old friends including Bob. He is another of our group and after getting on the buck board had we had several more. Finally it was on to the shack.
My hunting buddies had conveniently cut and stacked a load of oak onto my deck for easy reach during the season. I was also pleasantly surprised that all of my water jugs had been filled. With nothing more to do other than unload the truck and build a fire, the next obvious next thing to do was sit down and open a La Crosse Beer. Now, I drank Leinie’s for years but found that the old Heileman Brewery was making a very good beer called La Crosse. Because my hunting buddies like it and it is not easy to find way up north, I have recently always brought some along with me. Sitting at the kitchen table I noticed the furniture had been rearranged in the living area. My buddies told me that it would make it easier for me to hunt out of The Window. In reality it made it almost impossible, so I had to put things back the way they were. We had a few more beers and turned in fairly early, the boys heading to their own shack a few miles south.
Friday morning found the temperature outside at a mild 30 degrees and no snow cover. I spent an hour or so putting my gear away and then went about killing flies. Being so mild this fall, the flies had not died and I ended up having to spray them. While the fly spray was doing its thing, I took the screen off The Window. After cleaning up the flies I proceeded to cut camouflaged burlap and make window curtains for the shack. I had a bit of lunch and went out to my buddies shack, ending up there and at another shack until 7pm. I then went downtown to the grand opening of an old bar with a new name and had one beer. On the way, I saw a very large 8 or 10 point buck cross the road. Not really knowing anyone at the bar, I came back to the shack, made some Dinty Moore and hit the rack at 9pm.
Saturday, the opening morning of the 2006 hunt and my alarm failed to ring. Being a habitual early riser I was up at 5:50. I quickly made a pot of coffee and headed to my favorite stand, The Window. Luckily the weather was warm and I was able to be fairly comfortable with The Window open, it being 70 in the shack. I found the couch was a bit low for providing good visibility to the bait pile so I piled up a couple of pillows to sit on and everything fell into place. Clouds prevailed this opening day and when the time to legally hunt came I found the back yard quite dark. I could see to the bait pile but no further. I had used my fathers Herters binoculars for most of my life but several years ago I invested in some very expensive $35 glasses. I glassed the trail and these wonderful lenses pulled in all the available light and much to my surprise, a very large buck was walking up the trail behind the bait pile. The bucks head was down to the ground, hot on the scent of a doe. All I could see were antlers sticking out both sides of the deer’s shoulders. Before I could even reach for my gun, the buck turned sideways with his head behind a large tree. Again, the antlers were impressive. My heart started to pound, sweat beaded up on my forehead and a noticeable tremble came over my body. I set down the binoculars and reached for my Model 70 XTR 270 Winchester. Finding that one arm was not enough to lift the mammoth piece, I slowly grabbed it with both hands and lifted it up into the open window. Glaring down the barrel of the scope I saw the butt of the deer disappear into the woods. What a bummer, I just knew it would not return this day. Why they make such miserably heavy guns is beyond me and why anyone including myself would buy one is also a sobering thought. I believe it is the result of mans subconscious consideration to have a weapon larger than anyone else. I mean look around. It is not uncommon to see the typical hunter next door with his 338 magnum, and the first thing he does is start bragging about its ability to drop a deer with one shot. Your shoulder is taking a mild wallop from a trusty old 30-30 of 11 foot pounds of energy. In comparison, a 338 magnum will jolt you with 30 pounds of ass kicking, shoulder separating energy that everyone will agree is enough gun to drop a whitetail in its tracks. The fact that is missing in this scenario is that you also have to hit the deer, and knowing your arm is about to be displaced a foot backwards in a nanosecond tends to short circuit the brain into a flinch mode. If indeed you do hit the deer, anything within a foot or more of the bullets path becomes a mushy bloodshot mess and god forbid if you hit bone, the explosion that follows is catastrophic. Getting back to the hunt, I saw a doe cross the trail about a half hour later and that was it for the day. I sat by The Window most of the day reading and glancing toward the bait pile but other than birds nothing came. I made some great ring bologna and kraut for supper and had no more than finished when Elmo and Bob pulled in. Right behind them was the neighbor Jimmy St. James a man who depends on music of all kinds for his livelihood. Jimmy brought a drink in a paper cup with him and soon requested that I fill it up with whatever booze I had available. I poured in about 4 shots of brandy which seemed to evaporate before my eyes. After filling the glass about 3 more times Jimmy said he was going to a party towards town. Elmo, Bob and I drank La Crosse until around 9:30pm when they left and I got to bed pretty early.
Sunday mornings arrival was crisp, clear and 11 degrees. I had a bite to eat and headed for The Window. At 7:55am a deer walked across my trail at the end of my line of sight. Elmo and I had cleared a fairly wide path 50 yards back from The Window but this deer was about 150 yards distance. It was gone before I could reach for my rifle. By 10am it was 35 degrees and I had to spray the south side of the shack for flies. It was so warm in the sun you could sit in your shirtsleeves. I drove into town for coffee at noon and came back to the shack around 2pm. At 3:30 I decided that I might be able to actually make it into the woods. I grabbed my Winchester Model 94 30-30 which is so much lighter and easier to carry than the 270 and headed back to my blind at the back edge of my property. At 4:35 I looked behind me and there was a doe approaching the blind, oblivious to my being there. Slowly raising the trusty old “30”, I rested the barrel on the top of the blind and took aim. Much to my annoyance I found that I could not see the front bead with my new eyeglasses, everything was a blur. The deer was so close by then that the fuzz where the bead was took up the entire animal. I centered the fuzz on the deer and slowly squeezed the trigger. Ka pow! All I saw was a huge puff of what looked like a dust storm and the deer wheeled off to the west at breakneck speed. Getting out of the blind and walking to the spot of impact, I found hair everywhere but not a speck of blood. With no snow and darkness settling in, I headed back to the comfort of the shack and had a beer. I then took a drive out to Elmo’s shack and told him of my predicament. Elmo said they would be out after the morning hunt and invited me to stay for pork chops. Elmo also had wounded a deer, this one a 10 point buck. Elmo said he shot at the neck and being the first time he had ever shot his Winchester Model 94 side eject 30-30 with scope at a deer, he thought he missed due to unfamiliarity but upon closer inspection blood was found. Elmo is color blind and almost has to feel for blood when there is no snow, so he went and got Bob who tracked the beast on his hands and knees for 4 hours before loosing the blood trail. After supper we had a couple beers and watched a bunch of flying squirrels eating bird seed. I headed back to my shack around 9pm and hit the rack.
The next morning, Monday, found me again at The Window. The trip into the woods the day before really did me in so I popped several high potency super controlled substance pain pills which didn’t seem to help a whole lot. Nothing was moving out The Window with the exception of Chickadees and two varieties of Nuthatches, red and white breasted. They are almost more fun to watch than hunt deer. At 10am, Elmo and Bob came and we went back to look for the deer I had shot at. I somehow made it back to the scene where the hair was still covering everything for several yards around. The three of us looked and looked but could not find a trace of blood. My buddies hung around until 12:30 pm and then headed back to their shack. I swamped out the shack and put a squash and meatloaf in the oven. Around 4 pm I went out to Elmo’s shack and left a note for him and Bob to come for supper. Getting back to my shack at 4:15 I found an unfamiliar SUV parked at my shack and soon a hunter came walking down the trail. The man had brand new clothing, a huge beard and walked with the look of one who has been in the woods before. It turned out to be Tom, my old Sig Tau buddy from Stevens Point State. 36 years ago he had gone “Down Under” and that is the last I had seen of him. Turns out he had become somewhat of a bush hunter extraordinaire. He brought with him an album of trophy after trophy of deer, wild boar, kangaroo, rabbits and animals I had never heard of. He also had many pictures of giant trout the likes of which I had never seen before. Tom had killed more game than any 10 men I knew in Wisconsin or anywhere else for that matter. My shack with no electricity or plumbing looked like a mansion compared to the shack that Tom had Down Under. Apparently Tom lived in the city but spent every minute he could sneaking through the wild bush Down Under in search of the plentiful game down there. With freezers full of kangaroo he never had to worry about where his next meal would come from. He showed me photos of lobster he had caught and I asked what lobster cost “Down Under”. He didn’t have a clue, saying that he had never bought one, but told me of the way he used rabbits to catch his lobster. Tom could certainly be a survivalist even though I believe he had some type of job other than pounding the bush for trophies and food. My buddies from the other shack showed up right after dark and we had a good meal of meatloaf, squash and potatoes. After supper we started drinking La Crosse and brandy. Tom and I drank the La Crosse and Elmo and Bob the brandy. Well, we drank and drank and then drank some more. The stories got deeper and deeper until even farmer John couldn’t shovel it. It wasn’t long until we were all “Bloody Bosturds”. During the course of the night Bob forgot to open my screen door and walked right through it. Someone used my floor for an ashtray and several bottles of brandy sat empty along with a very large pile of La Crosse cans outside the door. I really don’t have a clue as to what time we finally hung it up, but it was quite a night.
Tom slept over on my couch in front of The Window. We didn’t get up very early that Tuesday morning. Tom suggested we go to town for breakfast and that was fine by me. After breakfast we went out to Elmo’s and found Bob still in bed at 10:15 and Elmo up but looking a bit pale. We came back to my shack and finally at 11:15 Tom headed up into the woods hunting. He asked if I wanted him to shoot a deer for me but I said no. I really wanted some venison, but only if I shot it myself. In reality, I wasn’t excited about having to cut up a deer that I didn’t shoot or even one that I did shoot. I retired to The Window, hunted for a bit and then swamped out the floor which was quite a sticky mess. Tom came back after several hours and had quite a story about a woman who apparently was my new neighbor and let him know in no uncertain terms that he was trespassing. Tom tried and tried to find directions from the woman on how to get to the land I told him to hunt on but all she continued to do was tell him he was trespassing. Finally after practically pleading with her she told Tom that the land he was looking for was “right there” and that her husband was hunting on it. Typical newcomers, they post their land and hunt on someone else’s. Tom and I bs’d a little bit and then Tom headed up to my blind to hunt until dark while I retired with a cup of coffee to The Window. Tom came back at dark, both of us seeing nothing but chickadees. We had a couple beers and some friends, Dozer and EJ also stopped in for a couple. I needed to charge a battery so we went down the road a short distance to Stuko’s shack and bs’d with him and his gang for a while. Stuko had gotten a 6 pointer opening morning. I left my batteries overnight with them and Tom and I came back to my shack. I had forgotten my pills that day and was feeling pretty bad so we went to bed early.
Wednesday is typically the chili feed at my shack. That morning I made bacon and eggs and Tom headed up back to hunt the ridgeline. Elmo and Bob stopped in for coffee. Elmo had of course gotten up late yesterday and finally headed out on his ATV in the afternoon to at least put in the appearance of hunting. He was driving down an old pulp road and there laid his 10 point buck dead, right in the middle of the road. There was a wound in the neck but nothing that appeared anywhere near fatal. Perhaps the deer’s throat swelled and he suffocated or perhaps he just died of a heart attack. It was an old buck with a very gray snout. It had been dead for some time so I don’t know what the quality of meat is going to be on that trophy but Elmo was proud as hell that he had found it anyway. They headed out with the deer to register and weigh it in at the buck boards. Tom came back around noon and packed up to leave. He planned on hunting about 50 miles to the south near Ashland for several days and then possibly heading out to the western US to give it a try out there. Earlier he had hunted the CWD area of Southern Wisconsin. I could tell all he lived for was to hunt or fish. The temperature was 56 degrees out, a record for that day. Tom was just leaving when another old buddy I hadn’t seen in years pulled in. Van was an old forester who was more than ready for retirement. He figured to take the day off hunting and hit a few shacks in northern Wisconsin. I asked him if he would like to stay for chili and that sounded good to him. I told him to grab us each a couple beers because I was running late and had to get to town to pick up burger for the chili. We headed to town and after picking up the burger, hit the local joint and wolfed down 2 or 3 beers and got one for the road. I started cooking the burger and cutting up vegetables for the chili and soon the chili feeders started arriving. Van, Elmo, Bob, Dozer and EJ were sitting around drinking some cold ones and I was down to cutting my last onion. I happened to notice that I had cut the tip of my finger just about off. Actually, I saw the blood before I felt anything. The finger was hanging on by just a little bit of skin. I told Elmo to go to my dresser and get some gauze and tape. Elmo couldn’t find any so I had him try a different place to no avail. I then ran out to my truck and found a first aid kit. It had tape but no gauze. The blood was flowing quite freely so I wadded up some Kleenex and Elmo taped the tip of the finger back on. Elmo then finished cutting the onion and we sat around bs’ing and drinking beer and brandy. When the chili was done we all ate and agreed it was quite tasty, possibly with a little extra flavor from the finger. EJ had noticed the Virgin Mary in one of my pieces of firewood and was holding it pretty close. He informed me that he was taking it home with him and by the look he gave me I wouldn’t have tried to stop him. I was pretty tired after a trying day so we broke up the party fairly early and I hit the rack.
Thanksgiving morning I somehow cleaned up the dishes and the shack with one hand. The finger was bleeding a little bit but not bad. I sat around for awhile and had coffee while gazing out The Window. It was quite peaceful for a change with no one around. Looking in a drawer in a table by The Window I found stacks and stacks of gauze. I decided to make a first aid kit out of an old meatloaf pan I had. At noon I left for town where I was invited for turkey at Sawbones, an old retired forester’s house. Before going there I stopped at EJ’s house and he called a neighbor of his who was a nurse. She came over and after soaking the Kleenex off the wound, taped it up a bit better than we had done the night before. I had quite a few blackberry brandies waiting for the nurse to show up and then again after the finger was bandaged. I then put on a gutting glove and took a shower and headed down to Sawbones. Sawbones gave me several huge oak timbers and we then had a great meal, some wine and a few more brandies. I found I was about drunk out and located my daughter tending bar at the Burning House Bar. She made me several cups of coffee and after about 4 hours of coffee I headed back to the shack.
Friday morning I didn’t feel real chipper. I sat by The Window drinking coffee for several hours but nothing came by. I then decided to scrub the floor real good. I had just finished and Bob showed up. We went to town for coffee. That afternoon it was very warm, shirtsleeves being the uniform of the day. The neighbors were swarming all over the field next door so I walked into the field to talk with them. They said they were having a drive. They told me that Jimmie St. James had gotten up with a terrible hangover last Sunday, shot a huge 9 point buck and went back home downstate. I managed to get back to my blind just in case they kicked something up, but nothing showed. I was going to take it easy and hunt The Window until dark when EJ and another fellow named Miner showed up. Miner was pretty blasted and drank all the La Crosse I had left which rather ticked me off, especially when I found that he had beer with him but told me he was out. Finally EJ got a bit perturbed at Miner and told him to get in the truck. Miner wanted to stay with me but I put a quick end to that and told him he could stay only if he slept out on the deck. While all this was going on, Elmo came and he and I sat up until 2am drinking almost the last of my brandy.
Saturday began clear and cold. I had gotten up during the night and finally saw a deer at my bait pile. It was almost certainly a large buck or at least I made it out to be. I picked up around the shack and did some packing. Elmo came and we put the screen back on The Window and took off the broken screen door and put it in the back of my truck for fixing. We got a few pine boughs for me to bring back. Just as Elmo was about to leave, another old buddy of mine, Calico and his son Jay showed up. He just happened to have a 30 pack of Old Dog so we had to try some of those. A bit later my daughter and her boyfriend and dog showed up. The dog decided it would be fun to go over into the neighbor’s field where another drive was being organized. The dog was just having a blast going from one hunter to another and barking at them over the entire 40 acres. Finally they got the dog back and decided it was probably best they leave. I ate some left over food. I offered some to Calico and his kid but they refused after seeing me smell it. Calico left around 4pm. After doing up the dishes I decided to go into town for the first time since last weekend for a beer. I ran into a bunch of old friends and chatted with them for awhile. I found that another buddy of mine had totaled out his new truck in the driveway of the shack he was staying at. I don’t know how he will explain that to his wife, it couldn’t be explained to me. Also, EJ had kicked Miner out of his truck miles from nowhere in the middle of the forest with no flashlight or jacket last night. Miner walked back to a house of someone he knew and stole his truck to look for him. Not finding him he crawled in his bed to wait for his return. The owner came home when the bars closed and found Miner in his bed. He was not too happy but let him spend the night there until he could catch a ride in the morning.
Sunday morning I finished packing up and headed home, another rough hunting season brought to a close.
(Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent from prosecution.)
Copyright 2008 Kurt Larson--Last updated April 10, 2008