How Do You Play The Deer Hunting Game?

I’m often amazed each fall at the many strategies deer hunters employ in pursuit of the whitetail.   After observing hunters in action for nearly four decades, I’ve concluded the actions most deer hunters take in the woods can be compared to one or more popular board games.   Here’s what I mean:

Some deer hunters hunt deer like they play CHECKERS.   They look for a hunt where the rules of the game are kept rather simple and the strategy to win is hardly complex.   In other words, when this deer hunter takes to the woods they don’t dwell on strategy so much as they figure sooner or later good things will come their way as long as they’re in the woods playing the game.

Completely opposite is the deer hunter who hunts like they play CHESS.   This hunter understands the importance of being one step ahead of the opponent (or deer, in this case).   They enter the hunt with a well conceived game plan that has been formulated after several months of careful study and planning.   The chess-playing deer hunter only achieves satisfaction when the king deer is brought to checkmate so the hunt concludes with a decisive victory.

Of course, there are also the hunters who hunt deer like they play CHINESE CHECKERS.   These are hunters who lack the patience to sit still as they always seem to be on the move through the woods.   For this type of hunter action is the name of the game.   They figure if they move around enough they are bound to observe deer—especially when the deer seem to be sitting tight.   Hunters who pursue deer this way can be either helpful or a hindrance to the rest of us playing a different deer hunting game.

Unfortunately, I know far too many deer hunters who hunt deer like they play CANDY LAND.   To this type of deer hunter the fascination is more the journey and not necessarily the destination.   This hunter gets wrapped up in the excitement of buying all the latest hunting gadgets—scent free clothing, high-tech guns or bows, treestands, decoys, you name it.   The Candy Land deer hunter places great emphasis on all the tangible, touchable aspects of the hunt.

Then there’s the deer hunter who hunts like they play the game SORRY.   For this sort of deer hunter it’s seemingly a mad dash to get out of the woods and back to camp (or the truck).   What’s important is not how long they stayed in the treestand, rather, it’s simply the fact they made it out in the woods at all.   In essence, this type of deer hunter is usually satisfied simply to have donned the blaze orange and to have been in the woods for even a short amount of time.

It’s likely we all know the deer hunter who chooses to hunt as though they’re playing MONOPOLY.   This hunter takes special pleasure in securing as much private land as possible so only their family and friends may hunt it.   Unfortunately, the negative nature of this deer hunter hinges on the exclusivity aspect of what one hunter holds over another.

And finally, the hunter who deer hunts as if they’re playing SCRABBLE knows how to make the best of the situation at hand.   Through years of experience, they’ve discovered how to study the woods carefully before making the next strategic hunting move.   Deer rubs, scrapes and other tell-tale sign all has a point value determining how this hunter ultimately makes the next hunting decision.   And while this hunter might rely on luck to a certain extent, this deer hunter also achieves success only by learning how to out-score the opponent.

The point I’m trying to emphasize is each hunter taking to the deer woods is likely motivated by playing a different personal game.   How one hunter achieves satisfaction through the deer hunting experience is not necessarily the same way another hunter will appreciate it.

At times we may not even like the way another hunter plays their particular deer hunting game.   And that’s okay.   Yet, through tolerance and understanding it’s important to accept how one of the great fascinations about the sport of deer hunting is the unique manner in which we annually come together to enjoy it.

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Frustrated Farmers (And Hunters) Must Cope With The Crops

Each week the USDA tracks farmer harvest activities in their Crop Progress and Condition Report.   At the beginning of this week Minnesota’s statewide soybean harvest was 34 percent complete.   Compare that number to this same week last year when 81 percent of Minnesota’s soybeans were already on their way to market.   In fact, the five-year average is for 83 percent of Minnesota’s soybean crop to be out of the fields by this period of time.

Now, let’s look at corn.   Currently 3 percent of Minnesota’s corn crop has been harvested.   When comparing that figure to the previous year we see that 17 percent of the corn was already out of the fields by this time in 2008.   The five-year average shows that farmers usually have about 1/3 (or 31 percent) of the corn crop harvested by this point in time.

So, what’s the problem?   In two words—“the weather.”   After coming off an above-average September where many crops gained valuable late season growing days before the first freeze, October has been sort of a Jekyll and Hyde by comparison.   Simply put, a lack of drying days (warm, dry, sunny weather) has kept farmers out of their fields.   Not only are many fields too wet to get equipment into, the bigger problem is the moisture content of the crop is so high it’s just not suitable for harvesting.   At least, not if the farmer wants to maintain a profit and avoid the high cost associated with artificially drying the commodity.

Of course, if you’ve driven through farm country lately none of this information really comes as a surprise to you.   By the numbers we see the harvest is currently running about three weeks behind schedule.   Unfortunately, the weather forecasts do not look promising and this slow harvest trend will likely continue for many more days to come.

Okay, so how does all this news affect those of us who enjoy hunting?   Well, first of all most farmers have as a main priority the soybean harvest which at this pace could easily mean another solid two weeks once the weather starts improving.   That likely means that seeing any meaningful harvest progress soon on the corn crop is highly unlikely.

Guess what opens in just 15 days.   That’s right, the Minnesota Firearms Deer Season is fast approaching and it’s quite likely that those of us who hunt in Minnesota’s agricultural belt will encounter LOTS OF CORN.   Perhaps a near historic amount of still standing corn will be in the fields during Minnesota’s most popular hunting period.

Does it make deer hunting tougher…you bet!   Will lots of standing corn make it impossible to experience a quality deer hunt…certainly not!   But firearms deer hunters who spend opening day hunting the agricultural areas might as well start preparing themselves to contend with corn.

In my area where small woodlots are scattered here and there with cornfields intermixed…here’s what usually happens.   After the first several shots on opening morning the deer head for the corn which provides them safe refuge, among other things.   Once the deer find security in the corn, future sightings in the woodland hunting grounds can grow rather challenging.

Now, certainly a person can hunt corn fields and do it very successfully.   I’ve done it where I’ve literally walked within spitting distance of a bedded deer (under favorable conditions).   Problem is hunting corn is not my preferred method of spending time in pursuit of deer.   Moreover, hunting deer in a cornfield demands extreme caution.   Corn stalks don’t stop bullets or slugs so hunters need to recognize the potential safety hazards involved.   Not only does corn hide the deer…but it does an effective job at hiding fellow hunters, as well.   When hunting around standing corn be safe and don’t take chances!!

No doubt about it those of us who hunt in agricultural areas—whether for deer, pheasant or even Hungarian partridge—have a vested interest in watching the progress on the 2009 Minnesota crop harvest.   Think of it this way…for every corn field that gets combined that’s one less field in which our quarry is likely to use to evade us.   Fewer fields of standing crops resulting in more concentrated wildlife haunts always makes for much better hunting.

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Sportsman Channel Reaches Additional Households In Twin Cities

Good news for Twin Cities cable viewers.   The Sportsman Channel has moved from Comcast’s premier sports package to now become part of their Digital Preferred service package.   That means more households throughout the metro area who subscribe to more basic cable programming will now have access to some great outdoors television.

Indeed, the Sportsman Channel has an array of quality cable programming satisfying that appetite for most things hunting, fishing and shooting.   With over 15 new shows in 2009 and over 500 series episodes, this equates to thousands of hours of entertaining television viewing.

“With millions of sportsmen across the country, the Sportsman Channel will bring original and quality programming to our customers in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas,” said Nick Kozel, Comcast’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Twin Cities Region.

In Minneapolis tune into Comcast channel 738 and in St. Paul Sportsman is being carried for Comcast subscribers on channel 278.

While you’re at it, be sure to vote in the 2009 Sportsman Choice Awards.  It takes just a few minutes and voting qualifies participants to be entered into a drawing to win a $1,000 prize package.   Plus, the first 500 voters will receive a FREE Sportsman Channel hat.

Get familiar with the Sportsman Channel and I think you’ll agree it’s a very informative and entertaining network for the hunting, fishing and shooting enthusiast.

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.