When you write, it can often come across that every time you go out it’s a success ……. but it kind of depends how you define success. If it is game in the bag, you have your misses like everyone else. As a hunter, I consider myself ahead of the curve everytime I get to spend a day in the field. But when I have my writters hat on and testing new equipment while up against a deadline, success is often measured against getting the material you needed to write your article and meet the deadline.
I’ve mentioned that my family and I are in the process of moving from Indiana to Minnesota, and while waiting to sell my house I’ve been flying back and forth every week, which has been cutting into my hunting season this year. I keep telling myself that once relocated I’ll have access to tons of hunting opportunities in the Dakotas as well as Minnesota, but it’s put a premium on my hunting time. What compounds the problem for me is that I have several new guns, pellets, scopes, calls, and other gear to test. So I try to make the most out of every chance to get out; where I used to hunt three to four time per week I’m now lucky to get out on a morning or afternoon hunt during the week. Against this backdrop, a failure to bag my game has ramifications on my writting assignment. So rather than base this article on an earlier hunt, I thought that in the name of balanced reporting I’d share a recent hunt where I struck out……. no matter how good you are (or think you are), no matter how much time you spend in the field. or how honed your techniques are, this will happen from time to time.
I was flying back on a Friday night with my plane arriving at 10:00 pm, and knew that I’d get home at 11:00, spend an hour getting my gear together, and catch a few hours sleep before a 5:30 wake up call. That would be the signal to throw on my camo, pack my guns and gear, for the drive up to one of my squirrel hunting spots. My plan was to drive a couple hours north, to a local public hunting area that is comprised of several thousand acres of woods and lakefront that I hunt quite frequenly. I grabbed two guns that I’ve been shooting, one of the new .30’s and a .25 rifle in which I was trying out some newly release pellets. My plan was to head out with the .25 to bag a few squirrels, then hike back to my vehicle and swap out guns, grab my Fox Pro E-caller and work the margins where the harvested cornfields ran up against the woods and try to call up a coyote. I got on site before the sun came up and set up in a stand of hardwoods where I always see bushytails. It was a cold morning and there was snow on the ground. I wore my warm snow patterned camo overalls and coat, and was feeling that this was going to be a good morning. Sitting with my back against a tree, which let me overlook a gently sloping hill with a lot of deadfall, I waited. After 15 minutes I sensed motion to my right, and slowly turning spotted a couple does walking off to the side. After they’d wandered by I herd some noise and saw a flash of movement, and after a few minutes spotted a red squirrel about 40 yards away moving down a tree, then digging up nuts and feeding. I tracked him through the scope, but as I don’t hunt these little guys, satified myself with watching. After a few minutes, another squirrel ran down the trunk of a tree 30 yards to my left …… another red! I sat this stand for a half hour and saw nothing more, so decided to move on.
Hiking 15 minutes on, I spotted a fox squirrel moving through the trees in my direction, closing in from about 100 yards away. I sat down and prepared to shoot when he popped up in range. I never saw him again. But 10 minutes later a nice little four point buck came walking right past me. It figured, now that I was squirrel hunting I couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a deer! Funny how that works. I waited another few minutes and caught the outline of a squirrels head peering over the fork of an oak branch about 40 yards away. I brought the gun to shoulder and found my target …… another bloody red squirrel! I spent the next two hours in what should have been great conditions, in a place I knew head squirrels, and there was nothing to be found. I decided to give up on squirrels and give some predator calling a try before giving up altogether.
I drove a couple miles down the road to an area where I’d heard coyotes when I was out a few weeks earlier, parked, grabbed my gear, then hike about a half mile to a harvested corn field surrounded on three sides by woods. I worked into a spot that gave me a wind advantage and tucked into a snow dusted bush along the border. With the call positioned about 20 yards in front of me, I started with a soft rodent squeal before changing to a cottontail distress and increasing the volume. 10 minutes in I saw a yote pop out of the woodline about 200 yards away from me. He started charging in to the call on a dead run, then at about 100 yards he started circling into the wind. I don’t know if he saw me bringing my gun around (I was moving at a painfully slow speed) or winded me, but he turned tail and bolted back to where he’d come from. And that was all she wrote, a couple more sets but no more action followed.
So there you go, those of us that write about hunting may give the impression that we never come back empty handed, but that’s not the case. Especially for those of us that hunt public land as well as private property, you take the strikeouts along with the home runs. After a couple days off for the holidays, I’ll get back out for some hunting before I go back to work. If all goes well, I’ll have a success story for you in my next post ….. but you never know! That’s why they call it hunting!