Do Your Housekeeping…in the Woods!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll do whatever it takes to avoid doing housekeeping chores. It’s boring…it can waste a good portion of your day…and let’s face it, the work is not easy, either. Still, I think we can all agree on the importance of keeping our house in some semblance of order.

But today I’m not talking about keeping your house clean…I’m talking about doing your “housekeeping” chores out in the woods. There is no better time of the year than to spend some time now out in the deer woods doing some of the putsy things that need to be done. Furthermore, I’m convinced that with anything in life…you get out of it how much you put into it. Investing a few hours around your deer stand now can pay big dividends later this fall.

This year my schedule is just too busy to find time to bow hunt…so I’m focusing all my energies on the November firearms deer hunt. That doesn’t mean I must wait until late October to get serious about the hunt. Now is the best time to accomplish the following:

1. Check over your deer stand. Has any of the wood become rotten since last year? Perhaps a board or two is missing and needs replacing. Now is the best time to disrupt the woods so that the deer have at least four weeks to get used to those changes you’ve made before firearms season begins.

2. Locate your deer lanes. Where are the deer trails? Not only will it help you anticipate where you might see a deer this fall when on stand…but maybe you can make it easier for the deer to travel thus increasing your chances. I always bring a saw and pruning shears with me and make the little cosmetic improvements necessary. I figure if I can move more easily on the trail…so can the deer. Hint: Try not to walk directly on the deer trails, if possible.

3. Bring a broom. You probably think I’m kidding…but I am completely serious. Once you have “improved” your access trail to the deer stand take the finishing touches necessary by sweeping the trail. Get rid of all those little sticks that go “CRACK” at the most inopportune time when you are sneaking into the woods.

4. Mark your access routes. There is nothing more frustrating than walking carefully into the woods and then getting disoriented in the darkness. I use biodegradable flagging material making little trails by tying pieces to twigs every 6 feet or so. Alternatively, you can buy the little reflective pushpins that will reflect light from even a small flashlight.

5. Avoid making one of my biggest pet peeves in the woods. Don’t spit, don’t pee, don’t do anything that is going to unnecessarily serve as evidence that you spent a few hours in the area. Nature has such acute senses that it could literally take weeks for your scent to completely dissipate. Take a lesson from a trapper who owes his success on odor management. Most trappers use rubber gloves and NEVER touch any of their trapping equipment with bare hands. Likewise, they wear rubber boots when they walk their trapline and would never think of wearing tennis shoes or leather boots. Why then does it make any sense to urinate next to your deer stand when you are taking all these special efforts to fool one of the wiliest critters in nature? Well, it doesn’t!!!

I’m not saying that housekeeping in the woods is any more fun than it is in your living abode. But I can assure you one thing…that party I’m throwing the first weekend of November (Minnesota Firearms Deer Opener) has some special guests on the invite list…and I’m not taking any chances that some little detail might go wrong.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

Take Steps To Ensure You’re Fit For Hunting

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit it. At 41 years old I’m not in the best physical condition of my life. I certainly know better…but taking the time to get into a “fitness routine” has not been something I’ve been able to accomplish successfully during the past 8 years.

I must also confess that during these past eight years I have worked part-time for one of Minnesota’s largest private ambulance services – North Memorial Ambulance. While I’ve let my body slowly deteriorate…I’ve also witnessed countless heart attacks and other serious medical conditions befall individuals who were just not as lucky as me.

Case in point was last fall when I was “off-duty” but my pager alerted me to a “hunter having a heart attack” in the woods about two miles from my home. I did the Good Samaritan thing and responded to help out however I could. After driving my truck back into the woods about ½ mile (in deep snow, I might add), I finally located the hunter lying in the snow on the road. He was in his early 50s, looked quite ashen in appearance and was definitely having a serious acute medical condition. I safely drove him out of the woods…met up with the ambulance…and knew right away this guy needed help…AND SOON!!!

As things turned out…he wasn’t having a heart attack. Instead, he was having a “brain bleed” which required immediate surgery to evacuate the pressure this was causing in his head. At the scene he was in such denial and simply refused to go to the hospital. Eventually, however, I wore him down and explained the seriousness of his symptoms. Had he not listened to me…well, there’s a good chance he might now be dead.

Denial is one of the signs we are trained to look for in medical patients. It is particularly present in men (who are stubborn) and will not accept the reality of a situation. On top of that add the fact that deer hunting season only lasts a few days each year…well, most hunters quickly reason they do NOT have time to get sick during hunting season.

Well, I am announcing publicly that I am making some changes to my once-upon-a-time mostly sedentary routine. What am I doing? I purchased one of the neatest little devices that is slowly adding some “wellness” back into my life. I purchased an Omron Digital Pedometer that is truly an awesome little device. My goal is to add 10,000 steps daily to my routine. This device even measures aerobic steps (that would be walking at a pace of 100+ steps/min.), distance, calories burned, etc. Check it out here.

To complement this new toy I have also signed up at This is a wonderful web-based fitness journal that can help you track your progress and set important weekly fitness goals.

This fall, when I’m out pheasant hunting or tracking a deer, I don’t expect to get winded quite as easily as I may have in the past. I’m accepting the reality that I have plenty of work to do to get this decrepit old body back into its mid-20s physical condition…but to better enjoy the outdoors somehow seems to be an incentive making it all worthwhile.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

Give Babe Winkelman A Break

Last fall, Babe Winkelman, a nationally known outdoorsman and communicator was cited for the alleged illegal use of two-way radios while deer hunting on his property in northern Minnesota. He claims that the use of the radios in his hunting party was for safety reasons…which, in my mind, is a perfectly legitimate reason for their use.

Yet, a local conservation officer who had been monitoring those communications saw it differently and made a citation. Eventually Babe petitioned the court with an Alford plea which essentially doesn’t admit to guilt, but concedes that the evidence of the case would likely point towards a conviction. Babe paid his dues which included a $200 fine and a community service component consisting of writing an article about hunting ethics. Click here to read more.

But this posting isn’t about whether Babe was right or wrong with the use of his electronics last fall. Certainly with the evolution of technology we will all be faced with new challenges that might at times put us on the wrong side of the law. Indeed, I am frustrated with the folks who are now condemning poor Babe as a lawbreaker. I’ve read that several of these individuals are calling for groups, such as the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, to “cut all ties” with the Babe. These are the folks who truly disgust me.

Let me state that I do not personally know Babe, although I once heard him give a lecture to a group of outdoor writers at a convention in Maine. It was truly one of the most inspirational talks I have ever heard. Babe described how early in his career he was to lecture a group of fishermen…but that things started off all wrong. As I recall the details, Babe was so nervous…that he tripped and fell face-first on the stage. Talk about a dramatic entry!! The entire audience was laughing…and this budding outdoors communicator was suddenly at a pivotal point in his career. His choices? Well, he either must pick himself up and now overcome the tremendous stage fright or walk off to never be heard from again.

Obviously, we all know which choice was made by Babe. He didn’t give up…in fact, over the course of 25+ years as writer and TV host I dare say he has inspired many of us to explore and better appreciate the great outdoors. Babe’s enthusiasm for the outdoors was evident whether you saw him in person or on TV.

I ask you this question…do we need more Babe Winkelmans in our outdoor world or should his illegal, albeit unintentional, actions from last fall be used against him to castigate a truly great outdoorsman? Consider this…place all of the positive things Babe has done to encourage enjoyment of the outdoors experience on one side of the scale. Now place his alleged law violation on the other side of the scale. Do the two even come close to balancing out? I DON’T THINK SO!!!!

To those individuals who choose to cast stones at this great outdoorsman I have but one thing to say. Babe Winkelman promotes the outdoors positively and touches the lives of more people in one week…than any of the nay Sayers will achieve after a lifetime of whining about another person’s success. Rather than bring a person down for making an honest mistake…let’s encourage him on, to learn and to grow from the experience.

I wholeheartedly encourage the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association to continue their alliance with Babe as their official spokesperson. He’s a man of great character who deserves far better treatment than some individuals in the outdoor world have given him after his mistake.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.