Autumn is my favorite time of year, and this year’s fall season has been one of the best that I can remember in a very long time. The temperatures we have been having in Northwest Wisconsin have been warmer than usual for this time of year, not too warm, but a good ten to fifteen degrees warmer during the day. The evenings up until recently have not been very cold either, as we have only had a few evenings so far with hard frosts. Rain has not been too abundant, but for the most part we have had a lot of rain overall for the year – all of these factors mean the fall colors on the trees have been plentiful and have lasted longer than usual. Another bonus is that the bugs have not been bad, and after a few light frosts a four weeks earlier have been pretty much non-existent.
This past weekend I got away and headed up to the cabin in the woods I own with several other family members. I have written about our ‘lodge’ before on this blog. It is a fantastic place to get away from the daily grind and relax. It is completely off-grid, secluded, and oh so comfortable. With that said I actually didn’t spend much time in or around the cabin, instead I was in the woods to do some pre-season deer scouting, do some work on my ground blinds I like to hunt from, and get a little more comfortable with a new rifle I purchased earlier in the year that I plan to use moving forward for most of my North American hunting.
The cabin is surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of public land, and it does get hunted heavily during the Wisconsin bow and deer gun seasons. As such, the opening weekend of the deer gun season is the busiest with the most hunters in the woods during that time. On public land you cannot setup permanent stands or blinds. You can carry in portable tree stands to use, or perhaps find a nice tree to lean up against or sit next to, or gather up dead trees limbs and build a ground blind.
I’m all about ground blinds, they do a great job of breaking up a hunter’s profile while out in the woods. I actually maintain four different ground blinds in the general area of the public woods I hunt in, and typically only use one to hunt from. By maintaining the other blinds it makes it appear to other potential hunters out scouting that there are actually more people in my section of woods than there really is. Sneaky, I know, and it usually works to keep other hunters a little further away.
The key to success in hunting public land on the opening weekend of gun season in Wisconsin is not to move from your stand. I walk into the woods just before first light and get myself situated in my blind, and then I will sit all day long on that one spot, never getting up to walk around, or go back to my truck to get warmed up, or back to the cabin for lunch. The best way to see deer on the opening weekend is to stay put. Other hunters will get cold and need to walk around, or go back to their vehicles – and that is precisely when you start seeing deer, when the hunters are moving them around because they can’t sit still on their stands. And because my section of the woods has less hunters, it is quieter, and the deer get pushed my way.
When I sit down in my deer blind I am ready for a long day of staying hunkered down. I dress in layers to help stay warm, and bring with me hand warmers and a backpack full of day supplies. Usually I will have a nice lunch prepared that I can eat without to much fuss or commotion, as well as a few snacks to nibble on throughout the day. And of course a thermos full of hot chocolate and a bottle of water. Along with my food items I also carry some emergency items like matches, a compass, thermal blanket, para-cord, and a compact first aid kit to name a few.
As well as working on my deer blinds this past weekend I also brought my newest rifle with me. For the past twenty years I have always carried a Marlin lever action rifle chambered in 45/70 when hunting big game. Earlier this year I bought a Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle and plan on using it from this point forward. I wrote about this new rifle earlier in the year on this blog, and you can follow this LINK to read all about it, and what makes this gun so special to me. If you could only have one rifle and that rifle had to do a great many things equally well…what rifle would that be? Well, when I answered that question my answer is the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle (RGSR).
I have spent a lot of time at the gun range with my RGSR getting familiar with it there, and I have also spent some time taking it with me on walks in the woods and practicing my field shooting positions with it. I am really starting to feel comfortable with the new gun, much like I felt with my big-bore Marlin over the past two decades. But this last weekend was one last chance to spend some quality time carrying it with me in woods prior to the opening of the Wisconsin gun deer season coming in a few weeks.
I spent the first few hours of the day on Saturday adding some brush to my various blinds. It was a perfect day with a slight breeze of the Northwest, mostly sunny, with temps in the upper 30s. After the work was done, I started walking. It was a such a nice day out that I spent the next six hours just hiking around the woods and scouting for deer sign. I sat down a few times under various trees to take in the scenic woods, and even find a comfy place to have lunch. I was well prepared for the day, as I knew that I was going to be out in the woods for the majority of it. I had with me a shoulder bag with some of my basic emergency gear like I mentioned above, as well as a larger back pack that I used to carry along an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat), a light blanket, some toilet paper (just in case), as well as a couple bottles of water, a few extra snacks, and some other goodies such as predator calls.
It was good being out in the woods. It certainly has a way of revitalizing the soul. And I have to admit I am looking forward to the coming gun deer season eagerly and can’t wait to put some venison in the freezer. I’m not a trophy hunter, never have been. It’s more about just being out with nature, putting some food on the table, and spending some time with family and friends.
Want to read more about the Scout Rifle Concept, check out this link here: SCOUT RIFLE FORUM
Want to read about deer camp and what the fuss is about: WHAT IS DEER CAMP?