Do You Remember Your “First?”

Do you remember your first deer?   Do you remember your first pheasant, grouse or dove?   Seriously, for many of us our “firsts” were quite a few years ago, but does the memory still play vividly in your mind?   Or has there been so many other experiences since that first time that your mind has long since forgotten that momentous achievement.

During an idle moment the other day I thought about my first deer.   By trophy standards it was nothing spectacular.   In fact, it was a small button buck.   At the time I didn’t even realize it was small…quite the contrary, your first always seems big to you.   It took me until my third season deer hunting until I finally scored, and dare I say you would have been hard-pressed to find another 16–year old who was happier during the fall hunting season of 1979.

I also remember my first duck.   I was jump shooting along the river that runs through my farm.   We had spotted a bunch of woodies perched on some logs protruding from the river, and our sneak stalk on them was a success.   I bagged a hen woodie.

Likewise, my first grouse was something quite special.   I shot numerous times into the densely wooded landscape only to discover disappointment on most occasions…but not this time.   Finally a nice ruffed grouse succumb to my persistence and I proudly joined the ranks of being an honest to goodness grouse hunter.

My first antelope was also quite special.   I laid on the rugged country of SE Montana with prickly pear cactus seemingly everywhere (including stuck in my body).   Indeed, I felt like I had paid a painful price for that ‘lopester…and finally it was mine.   I’ve shot several other antelope since that first, but none have the same special meaning to me.

I also remember my first brown trout on a fly rod.   Heck, I was a farm kid who really didn’t know what I was doing, but I was determined to figure it all out.   After casting what surely had to be hundreds of times I finally figured out that with a little finesse’ the technique for catching works much better.   That first trout likely only fought me for 20 seconds or so…but the memory has played in my mind so many times it virtually seems like it lasted for hours.

SLD_854One of the most glorious moments in my outdoors career happened when I trapped my first mink.   Walking up to my water set and seeing that furry tail made me want to scream to the high heavens with excitement.   It was made that much more special because that very same day my good buddy, Mitch also scored on his first fox.   Yes, that is us shown in the picture.   Mitch is wearing camo, and I’m in the blue windbreaker holding my precious mink like a new puppy. [NOTE: don’t be too critical on the hair…remember, this was the mid-1970s]

Suffice it to say the sportsman’s life is full of memorable firsts.   Some might even be forgettable, but most were likely the fuel that intensified the passion we all have for living the outdoorsman’s life.

I’m glad to say I am far from finished with experiencing my outdoor firsts, either.   I’m still looking forward to winning a new gun at a conservation banquet someday (up until now I’ve been snake-bitten with bad luck).   I also want to go coonhunting during the nighttime with dogs someday soon.   I also want to go deep sea fishing off the coast of Florida someday.   In other words, the outdoors still has lots for me to experience if I choose to open my mind to new opportunities.

I’ve heard some folks say your first kiss is always the most special.   While that may be true for some, it’s not necessarily so for everyone.   No doubt about it, when I contemplate my important life’s “firsts” the ones that truly put a smile on my face are the ones that have some sort of outdoor adventure associated with it.

2008 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

From Deer Camp To Broadway? Hmmm….

A few days ago I noticed a small ad in my local newspaper promoting a new theater show called DEER CAMP.   At first glance I must say it certainly caught my attention.   But honestly, a theater production about deer hunting?   Can they be serious?   Well, of course, if you want to poke fun at the nimrod mentality of deer hunting I suppose there are lots of gags and punchlines that would turn an audience into stitches, but what type of stereotypical message does this perpetuate about us hunters?   It makes me wonder.

So, I checked out their web site and came across this excerpt from their media release:

DEER CAMP hilariously follows four fearless deer hunters from Elmwood, MN on their annual trek to deer camp. But things are looking bleak this season, after decades of hunting trips, the guys have yet to bring home a single deer and the wives are getting suspicious. This season they need to show their wives that they are the mighty hunters they claim to be, which is not so easy when the thought of drinking beer and hanging out in the deer shack is more appealing than freezing in a deer stand. Luckily for our guys, what happens at deer camp stays at deer camp. Laugh and sing a long as they try and hatch a plan to save their northern paradise without firing a shot.

Now don’t get me wrong…I can laugh at self-deprecating humor as much as anyone, but I can’t help but picture in my mind’s eye a bunch of pompous, high-falutin’ theater goers attending this musical only to more deeply foster a negative attitude about a sport I deeply love.   While I admit, there can be lots of humor in the things that we do in deer camp…the beer drinking, card playing, lazy portrayal of us hunters is something I can certainly do without.   It might be the lifestyle that non-hunters believe of us, but it only cheapens the overall image of the experience for those of us who take deer hunting much more seriously.

Granted, having not seen the production and to write a review is somewhat unfair.   Yet, is it any more fair to portray deer hunting, at least to the non-hunting public, as an activity wrought with laziness and deception?   I certainly think not.   In some ways it takes the worst example of how a small minority of hunters might act and makes the behavior appear as if it’s commonplace throughout our ranks.

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a lot of hilarity that takes place in the typical deer camp.   The stories, the tradition, and the camaraderie is ripe for exploitation.   And while I’m sure if I went to the show I would likely be laughing at the antics right along with the audience, but there’s one big difference.   I have the hunt camp experience to discern what is fact and what is fallacy about the real deer camp.   My biggest fear is, although theatrical performances like this may be nicely staged and well written, they create a storyline for a certain arts-enjoying segment of our population that already believes we are all nothing but Elmer Fudds still wearing red plaid flannel.

2008 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Don’t You Just Hate It…

When the only picture you get from your trail camera is something like this?


Actually, I’m pretty sure I know what deer is PARTIALLY pictured here, but still why can’t they just cooperate a bit more by walking directly in front of the camera without being such teases?

Oh, and for those of you who think deer are scared off when a trail camera goes flash…here’s proof this doe didn’t seem to mind.   She stuck her nose right into the picture.   Not just once…but twice!


Only 7 seconds apart.


As this deer casually walks away you have to wonder what is going through its mind.


During 2008 I have taken close to 600 deer pictures with my trail cameras and based on my experience if you are buying infrared cameras to eliminate the flash for fear of scaring the deer…it’s a waste of money.   On the other hand, if you buy infrared just to get more enhanced nighttime shots it probably is a good investment.

Just a couple of final thoughts on what I have learned from the trail cameras this spring/summer/early fall.   Almost all of the bucks I have captured have been moving quickly.   You can tell by the fact the pictures more often than not show motion blur.   As a hunter, this tells me that a nice buck is not going to lolly-gag near my stand when it moves through.   I need to be ready for a shot at a moments notice, if I want to score on a buck.

I’ve also learned that the bucks seem to stay clear of the well worn trails running directly on the clearcut.   Instead, when I see buck action they appear to be cutting across the clearcut.   Often times the bucks have popped out from behind the camera only to make a brief appearance in the more open areas.   On my land, at least, the bucks definitely use different trails than the does…trails that seem to keep them under cover a bit more.   Just my two cents.

How have others done with their trail cameras this year?

2008 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.