I have seen far more pictures of harvested deer from opening weekend this week than I did last year at the same time.
It was really looking like the firearms deer season for 2019 was going to be really difficult. A few weeks ago, there was more corn standing than was harvested, and this leaves deer thousands of aces to hide in. For all practical purposes, the outlook was pretty bleak.
It all changed over the past 21 days, and on opening day there were less places for deer to hide.
Minnesota sets its firearms deer seasons to coincide with the rut. The rut is the breeding time of year for deer and, like many other wildlife species, deer can be so overcome with the desire to procreate that they don’t think very clearly.
I have often seen a buck chase a doe right past my truck, within 20 yards, and the buck did not even realize I was there. It is with this diminished self-preservation thought capacity that many bucks are harvested that would not get harvested if the season was held one month later.
There are many hunters who wish the season dates would move in order to allow many smaller bucks the chance to grow into much bigger deer. The possibility of this change looks very slim to none. Minnesota sells about 500,000 deer licenses in the state and each and every person who buys a license can shoot a buck. It is the opposite for many other states where a group of 7-8 hunters might only draw 2-3 buck tags in a normal season.
This is why states like South Dakota and North Dakota can and do grow some really big deer. The major big difference is that Minnesota has more than 3.5 million people who live here and South Dakota has less than one million, and most of those folks live in Sioux Falls or Rapid City. Our geography dictates more harvest and less deer on the landscape.
Last year I mentored an adult gal who had hunted before but had not harvested a deer in more than 20 years. We had a deer in range last year, but the fact that she was not very familiar with the specific gun and its scope meant the deer was able to return to safety without a shot being fired.
Afterwards, we talked about that lost opportunity and made a firm commitment that it would not happen again next year. This fall we went out and practiced with the same gun and scope about four different times until she could put a group of shots in a paper plate at 65 yards.
So, this opening day we went to the same stand as last year. With a much better sense of confidence and a thermos of coffee we waited until the legal shooting hour. It did not take long after sunrise that we had a legal buck exit an adjoining corn field and walk on to property we had permission to hunt on. The buck was so distracted by the scents left behind by other deer and his breeding desires that we were able to move to the outside deck and get ready for the shot.
One round of a Remington 870 12 gauge and we knew the deer was hit solidly. He walked slowly out of sight. We waited about a half hour and then exited the stand to look for blood. We found a good blood trail, and after about 30 more minutes we dispatched the deer and this gal had filled her tag.
Amanda Tate, owner of The Daily Apple in downtown Worthington, and her husband Doug Tate had fulfilled her goal of harvesting a deer in Minnesota -- a goal she had not completed for more than 20 years. This was the total re-engagement of a hunter who was dormant from the sport for more than two decades.
The deer was field dressed and skinned by local legend Bryon Foote of Worthington. The processing is going to be completed with Amanda in the thick of it. I am quite certain she will not wait another 20 years before she does it again.
Congratulations, Amanda. Patience and practice won the day. For her it is now enjoying some deer venison and waiting until the opener in 2020.