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home : outdoors : fishing May 26, 2016

12/14/2012 5:00:00 AM
So, now what to do with myself?
The truck sits at the trail to the deer stand for one of the last times.Craig Turk photograph 

The truck sits at the trail to the deer stand for one of the last times.

Craig Turk photograph 

Craig Turk
Outdoors Writer/Photographer

One final weekend to tote that rifle in the deer woods. The statewide doe-only hunt. I caught the final weekend. I guess it was fun.

Saturday, the day was nice. A mere dusting of snow was on the ground – just enough to indicate zero deer tracks near my stand behind my house. The sun was shining, the temp in the upper 20s. The wind was even lighter than my expectations.

I try to enjoy the ritual of it. The routine. Gathering the gear, tossing it in the truck and heading down the small roads through the woods back here. I drive slowly and look for tracks, sipping coffee or water.

The gear includes blaze orange garments – pleasing to the eye, at least for those of us that associate the color with good memories. The last such time I’ll be required to wear them for some time. 

My coat is old – actually a hand-me-down from my Uncle Loopy. Its canvas-like construction is quieter than the coat I previously wore. Plus, it’s roomy, and has allowed plenty of space while I experience my middle-age growth spurt.

There’s my trusty .30-06 of course. And my backpack. My backpack contains only the essentials. Like my field-dressing kit.

My field dressing kit: A folding knife with about a three-inch blade, shoulder-length (for a regular-sized person – elbow-length for me) plastic gutting gloves and also surgical-type “one-size-fits-all” gloves, but I am not in the “all” category so I don’t bother with them, a drag-rope which is formerly a safety strap for a tree-stand, two plastic bags (refuse and heart), rags and string for fastening tags. I do sometimes carry a skinning knife with a gut hook. The gut hook is nice for that initial incision.

Other essentials: A 32-ounce bottle of water, two extra pairs of gloves, three or four flashlights (I like flashlights), chemical hand warmers (which I seldom use), a “Bore Snake” (handy if snow or mud should invade your rifle barrel while afield), more string, pruners, folding saw, scent, bleat call, multi-tool, Packers schedule, MP3 player, a notebook, extra pen, lighter, did I mention flashlights?, toilet paper (no room for a toilet, unfortunately), a schedule of hunting hours, one celebratory beer, a lucky porcupine foot, scent-killer (not that useful on the porcupine foot, as it turns out), cough drops, sinus medication, topographic maps, rattling horns, grunt tube, a few miscellaneous items and a book.

I know what you’re thinking: “A book?”

Part of my routine on stand means keeping myself occupied, so I spend much of that time reading. Read a paragraph, look at the woods. Repeat and nod off for a minute. Fewer than a hundred times has this resulted in me seeing just a glimpse of a deer as it passed through a shooting lane, I’d guess.

Louis L’amour’s “Bendigo Shafter” was my companion over the final gun weekend. It’s frontier fiction set in the 19th century, not completely unlike my own life, except the heroic actions and the somehow making do without an Internet connection.

I sometimes carry a Pat McManus book of short outdoor stories, but he’s a master of humor and I’ve found laughing to be counterproductive while on stand.

Reading a part in which characters in  “Bendigo Shafter” come upon and kill several elk got me looking up to scan the woods more frequently Saturday, though I still doubted an elk would show.

It was comfortable on stand Saturday, though.  

I like just sitting in the stand, too. When I was younger and I hunted a lot, it was especially hard to give up going to a favored stand. Sometimes, I’d go after the season just to sit and watch the woods. I don’t generally do such frivolous things now. I am way more disciplined. Don’t listen to the detractors that call it “laziness” – it’s discipline.

Right now, the snow will likely grow in depth, and I’ll not want to try and get the two-wheel-drive pickup I use back here for much longer and it’s a bit of a walk – though not too bad if I keep the trail broken.

I guess I can dust off my bow for some late archery action – something that was once a specialty of mine. It’s a good time to see nice bucks.

I guess I don’t approach it with the vigor I did in my younger days, as late-season is best when it’s coldest, and I have grown to dislike when my fingers threaten to fall off while grasping a bow string or release.

If I do go, I should probably fling a few practice arrows and, hopefully, no practice fingers.

There are other consumptive outdoor activities, of course.

There’s ice fishing, which I love, but there’s that risk of a cold swim, something I don’t love, associated with that activity right now. My bulk suggests that I should stay on terra-firma, at least for the short-term.

An inquiring text from a friend a few days ago asked if I “do the early ice thing.”

I usually don’t, but mostly because I’m pursuing deer. I eventually replied that I like five inches of ice. Really, on a familiar lake, or one with biting walleyes or crappies or northerns or big perch or bluegills or trout, three would do. 

I fear the early ice a bit. I recall, from my younger years, watching hundreds of perch follow my jig to the surface in 30 feet of water on a sheet of ice that was so thin that it was as clear as glass. A person would have to be crazy to be out there in conditions like that.

During late ice, with the warmth of spring and the longer days, it seems less merciless. Then you’ll find me seeking the south shores as the ice rots from the north ones that see more sun. Maybe the early ice, really, is no more dangerous, but I don’t have my “ice legs” yet.

Hopefully, my addiction will save me. At least that one specific addiction.

As I in a way admitted, I am in the clutches of an addiction that leads to pursuing deer well after one should consider themselves formally “licked.”

It’s not as bad as when I was younger and more spry. Now, at least, the cold and physical strain help keep the addiction at bay. Still, I can pursue deer. I like fish, but a deer takes up a whole lot more space in the freezer. And I like filling the freezer almost as much as I like emptying it.

Even that walk out at dark, listening to the sounds of the night that don’t include cracking and splashing noises and cries of “Help!” that seem so close that you’d swear they’re coming from between and just below your ears, are nice.

Whatever happens, I’ll never be bored. Actually, I admire those that say they are bored. Really? Let’s trade. The confines of tedium are where I want to reside. 

Maybe that’s why I hunt deer from a stand, regardless of results. Tedium was at an all-time high there this year – so thick, in fact, that it was palpable. Really, I could have harvested it in bulk and sold it to like-minded individuals, such was its abundance. Pretty nice, really.

Sunday brought snow, deer tracks in the driveway and even some by my stand. The snow was light on that final day of doe-only season and I could get the little truck back there easily.

I read the adventures of Bendigo and had none of my own while on stand. I saw a grouse and a red squirrel. The bliss of tedium.

See you on the ice when it’s “You shoulda been here last week” time.

Craig Turk may be reached at cturk@lakelandtimes.com

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