My expectations for a successful 2015 deer season were not very high. After all, I spent 10 days hunting the 2014 Minnesota whitetail season near Staples and Remer and never saw or heard anything that resembled a deer.
Two years of bonus permits and one very harsh winter really thinned the herd where I hunt so deer numbers are still quite low. Regardless, that first morning still brings the excitement of the hunt like no other outdoor event in Minnesota.
I hunt along the edge of a sprawling swamp lined with a narrow but deep creek that borders new growth pines and aspen trees. It is a spot I have been hunting for many years. I hang an eighteen foot portable tree stand in a 75 foot balsam tree with large branches surrounding me. The creek is directly behind me and meanders off to my left as I look into the new growth trees in front of me. Forty yards of thick brush lie behind me and the creek. It is a good spot where I have shot a number of deer over the years.
The opening morning was too warm and dead still. Not even a slight breeze. I heard very few shots around me. It didn’t seem like a very good day for deer to be moving around. It felt a lot like the slow opener of 2014 only much warmer.
I sat motionless in my tree stand from 6:30AM until 7:45AM when suddenly the silence was broken when I heard a huge splash in the creek directly behind me. My first thought was deer but why is it jumping in the creek? Silence. No more sounds of any kind for ten minutes. Did it swim downstream, lie down, slip into the woods, what happened? It seemed to have just disappeared!
Suddenly the silence was broken with the cracking smashing sound of brush being flattened 30 yards directly behind me. Wow!! This animal was coming through the brush, the last place I expected to see a deer. I slowly stood up in my stand so I could turn around and get a better look. I spotted the buck, no, I spotted his rack! It was a dandy! He was running through the brush with anger. Had something scared him? I slowly turned around to get a better look though the pine boughs. The sounds stopped. I lost him in the brush. Where did he go? As I stared into the tangle of branches I saw two eyes staring right back at me. I was busted! He was watching me too. My heart sank. I didn’t have a shot. He would surely turn and go back to the creek. But just as quickly as he stopped he turned and started running through the thick brush off to my left side along the edge of the creek. Unbelievable!
How could an animal run through brush like that at that speed? I had seconds to make a decision. There were two spots I had a shot. Do I shoot or let him go? There was opening 90 yards away where I had a full view of the animal. He hit the spot. I pulled the trigger. The bullet hit him broad side. He staggered but kept going. I heard him running, then silence. My heart was pounding. Did I get him? If he got to the swamp on my left I might never find him.
I waiting for 20 minutes, climbed down my tree stand and quietly went to the spot where I hit him. There was a huge blood trail. I followed it through the brush for only 15 yards. There he was. A beautiful 12 point buck. His spirit had left him. It was a five minute heart pounding adventure but a lifetime of memories. I can’t wait until next year!