Permanent Deer Stands Develop Character With Time

Throughout my farm is scattered about a dozen permanent deer stands that now serve as lasting monuments to seasons gone by and the hunters who first built them.   Some of the hunters have come and gone only to pass their abandoned stand on to a new hunter who is now privileged to carry on the original hunter’s dreams for scoring on a deer at that location.   Indeed, while permanent stands can be both illegal and an eyesore on public lands…on my private land these features have developed a unique hunting-related character all of their own.

Many stands even have their own name.   Take, for instance, “Gary’s stand.”   Obviously the stand is a namesake for the person who built it…but it’s much more than just that.   Three years ago we lost Gary as a deer hunting partner due to a nasty disease known as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).   Now the deer stand is a permanent reminder of the person who absolutely loved to hunt deer.   No other hunter on this farm has ever spent as much time perfecting his deer stand as did Gary.   A stairway (not a ladder) walking to a platform that has a hip-style roof, walls, and even a swivel boat seat to make 360 degree scanning for deer completely quiet and effortless.   Now that Gary is gone the remaining hunters pull seniority rank just to see who gets to occupy this plush stand each season.

DSC00708Then, of course, we have what’s known as the “sleeper stand.”  Aptly named because it is so damn comfortable that once a hunter gets nestled into it you could almost guarantee if the action was slow that a hunter could safely catch a little shut-eye.   The hunter who first was noted sleeping in the stand didn’t recognize my approach on one particular day.   With a hand full of rocks and carefully hiding behind a nearby tree…I was able to create woodland sounds on all sides of the hunter to abruptly awaken him.   Turned out to be a funny joke as the hunter could not figure out what the sounds were…but henceforth the deer stand became famous in our minds for providing certain creature comforts conducive to an afternoon deer hunter’s nap.

I would certainly be remiss if I failed to mention the stand with perhaps the most unique name.   Our group calls it the “widow maker” because you have to damn near kill yourself to get into it.   The stand has been long ago abandoned because of the poorly thought out design and safety issues associated with it…yet the name continues on as a reminder of that particular area of farm where the stand was once located.

In some ways you could say that the seasoned hunters within our group have a code for where we are talking about when out in the deer woods.   If we mention the “fence-line stand” most hunters can quickly pinpoint that location.   If we talk about the “bottom-lands stand on the point,” …no need for a map.   Likewise with the “thicket stand,” “the eagle’s nest stand,” “or the “leaning tree stand,” to name but a few others.   No doubt about it our deer stands, much like the hunters who use them, take on a fascinating character all their own.

That’s part of the problem with the new portable or ladder-style stands.   Of course, as a hunting implement they are popular and effective, but they lack so much character because they don’t have the element of permanency.   We use several of them on the farm, too, don’t get me wrong…but they are not always my favored stands.   In most cases the portable stands represent a hunter’s hope for being in a new and perhaps rarely tried area of woods on the farm.   In most of the prime hunting spots you’ll find permanent stands because at one time some hunter felt the investment of time and effort was well worth it to be positioned in that particular location.

There are so many elements that comprise the overall deer hunting experience for most of us.   Certainly the deer stand is only one small facet of deer hunting, but, oh, what an important part it is, at least for the way we choose to hunt.   Each stand develops an interesting character based on its location and history, but long before that…at about the time when the first nails are being pounded…some hunter invested a lot of hopes and dreams into that makeshift structure.   Now only time will tell if the efforts will continue proving to be worthwhile for the hunter.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

Yes, I’ve Got Deer Hunting On My Mind

Maybe you’ve noticed lately that my mind seems to be focused more on deer and deer hunting this year than in years past.   I guess there’s simply no disguising the fact that of all years I am really looking forward to the Minnesota Deer Hunting Opener this year.   In my mind the countdown is already underway with only 9 more days to go until the firearms season officially gets started.   This year…more than ever…I’m excited because I expect many positive, fun things to be happening in the deer woods during the hunting season.

I’ve been asked by a few folks why I’m thinking this year will be so much different.   Some have speculated that perhaps I have the prospect of a big buck sighted and I am holding out hope of shooting it during the season.   Could be.   My neighbor just described a big buck he saw yesterday morning while driving the tractor near his farm.   He stated it was one of the biggest-racked animals that he has ever seen.   Now that’s always positive news to hear just days before the season begins.

I guess the truth is the older I get the more I appreciate the process of the hunt.   I mean, let’s face it…this time of the year how can you be a serious sportsman and not get downright excited about the season we are in.   So much of our lives is predictable…but not with hunting.   When you go to work each day most people have a pretty good idea what they can expect to be doing.   Not so with hunting.   When you lace up your boots and head out into the cold, darkness…you are entering a world where just about everything is unpredictable.   You don’t know if this will be the day you score on the trophy of a lifetime…or if you will eventually leave the woods feeling skunked having seen nothing at all.

I call it excited anticipation.   The gradual build-up to the hunt where the crescendo hopefully occurs sometime mid-morning on the opener when you begin to ease the safety off on your chosen firearm.   Let’s face it, when the thrill of hunting is gone you might as well stay at home and perform various household chores in preparation for winter.   For the hunter, anticipation is the fuel that replenishes the soul and builds intrigue to continue on desiring to hunt another day.   I can honestly say that there have been some years when deer hunting has not been a top priority in my fall plans…but certainly not this year.

Indeed, in just over a week’s time much of this rambling will begin to make much more sense to you.   My goal is to take you on a deer hunting odyssey that further fosters your interest in the sport (if you’re a deer hunter) or at least peaks your curiosity about the social aspects of the hunt (even if you’re not a deer hunter).

So, Sportsman’s Blog readers…bear with me on this topic…indulge me for a bit longer as I continue to focus on deer-related topics.   In fact, next week I plan to devote the entire week to deer-related features leading up to the big opening day.   Deer hunting is such a great sport it truly deserves to be celebrated…and rightly so.   A week from now hunters from all walks of life will be gathering up there gear and rushing off to the sporting goods store for a few more last-minute purchases.  It’s a tradition that has occurred this way in many families for years…and I suspect, will continue to do so for quite a number of years still to come.

If you’re an upland bird hunter, varmint hunter or the like…I’ll be talking more about your respective sports very soon.   But the time draws near for deer season…and the excitement I feel this year for the sport is very palpable, to say the least.   I suspect this year’s opening day will not be the typical first day of the deer hunt…at least not for me.   The raw excitement for the moment will undoubtedly make sure that does not occur.   Stay tuned.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

What If Hunters Went On Strike For A Few Years?

Pick up the newspaper on almost any given day and you will likely read about someone threatening to go on strike.   It seems to be a popular tactic in the airlines industry, in particular.   Name just about any major carrier and there will be a history of strike activity or talk.   Heck, even our professional sports teams occasionally go on strike sometimes leaving us without summer baseball or winter hockey.   No doubt about it the talk and threat of going on strike is a hard-core tactic employed by a large number of workers out in the work force.

But what about hunters?   What if we threatened to go on strike?   Sounds ludicrous…maybe, but consider the impact that action would have on our society.   Society in general takes hunters for granted and we’ve learned by watching the media that one of the best ways to gain attention to a cause is to start talking strike.   Okay, now granted getting people to lay down their guns and bows for a few years would not be a popular request…but it would have considerable economic impact.

Consider this:

“According to a report released last year by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Potential Costs of Losing Hunting and Trapping as Management Practices, four percent of the nation’s 6.1 million auto accidents reported to the police—or 247,000 incidents—involved direct collisions with animals, as indicated by the Center for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deer are involved in 86.9 percent of injury cases. If hunting were lost as a wildlife management tool, state wildlife agencies estimate an additional 50,000 injuries per year, and $3.8 billion in additional auto repair costs.”

Do you think with an extra 50,000 injuries per year due to wildlife-related car accidents that would spur a public outcry to get hunters back into the woods?   Do you think with all of us paying a bit more for our vehicle insurance because of the increased repair costs this would prod the public to encourage hunters to get back into the woods?   Hard to tell…but the point I am trying to make here is as a group sportsman have some definite clout and perhaps it’s time the public realizes that our actions in the woods accomplishes much more than just a little relaxation on the weekend.

Truth is hunters are indeed a very important management tool helping to control wildlife populations.   Game departments regulate the seasons…but hunters operating within that established framework regulate wildlife levels to keep population levels healthy and manageable.

Indeed, I believe sportsmen have more clout than perhaps we sometimes realize.   If we didn’t hunt for a few years think of how out of control the deer would get eating the farmer’s corn fields.   Think of how disease would start running rampant among many wildlife populations because that’s what often happens when numbers get out of control.   Imagine how the tourist industry would be impacted by hunters suddenly not traveling to their old hunting haunts and spending money in the community while they are there.   Life would suffer for lots of folks.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not about to start a crusade suggesting hunters should go on strike just to prove a point.   Still, it remains an interesting concept in my mind how some classes of citizens will do just that to showcase some plight in their industry or workplace.   I have to believe if ever hunters chose to use that tactic OR if society mistakingly shuts down our beloved activities…there would eventually be a big price to pay by everyone.

When a hunter treks out into the field or woods to bag a pheasant, waylay a deer, or perhaps even to shoot a cunning canine…there is much more than just sport involved.   In some small way each hunter contributes by performing a very necessary population control function in our wild world.   As wild lands become more scarce with each passing year…and many animal populations continue on the rise…the hunter is society’s single most important resource to maintain some balance in our natural world.   Let there be no doubt about it without hunting we would all be paying a much higher price to exist—one way or another.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.