Schmoldt: It's wait until next year

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Eric Schmoldt
Saturday, November 25, 2017

A 6-year-old harvested a six-point buck to snag all the headlines of the first weekend of Wisconsin’s gun deer season.


As chronicled in these pages earlier this week, a Janesville man’s video went viral when an eight-pointer decided to spend about eight minutes head-butting and rubbing his antlers into his boots and blaze orange.


And those of us who had no such close encounters are left without being able to use Ted Peck’s recipe for “tag soup” because new state laws don’t require any tags.


Three strikes and I’m out, I guess.


For the sixth straight year, the Flambeau River State Forest in the heart of the northwoods pitched a shutout. I’m still waiting on my first career successful hunt.


Some tidbits from this year’s effort ...


I imagine Saturday morning’s weather conditions were the same as when someone coined the popular phrase, “I hate (insert hated thing) more than I hate the wind.” Temperatures weren’t all the chilly, but the breeze blowing straight in toward my ladder stand wasn’t exactly comfortable.


And the gusts made hearing the crack of a twig under a deer’s hoof even more improbable than normal. Perhaps that’s why a healthy-looking doe made it within 35 yards of me before I saw her.


In some of the past few years, merely seeing a deer on opening day was a cause for celebration in our camp, whether it had horns or not. But this year, three different bucks were seen on a trail cam that had been reset just eight days before our return to camp, so optimism flowed equal to the Korbel.


Alas, it’s bucks only up where the wolves and previous polar conditions seem to have taken their toll on the herd. So the doe snorted at me, as if she knew she was off limits, and made her way out of sight as quickly as she had graced my presence.


A midday stop back to the cabin offered an opportunity to check the Badgers score, eat a little lunch and grab a facemask. The afternoon sit back in the stand was much more comfortable but even less successful, save for the sighting of a white long-tailed weasel doing its best to blend in with the minimal amounts of leftover snow.


Sunday was a beauty, and in the morning our party conducted a bit of a drive. You’d think five walkers and four sitters would have seen something. But the group effort merely ended with us attempting to figure out the markings on the hardwood trees and the probability that they would be forested by opening day 2018.


For the afternoon, my brother, Kevin, had a plan. He’d found a food-plot field, and we’d take his newly purchased used ATVs and sit and wait for the deer to come out for dinner.


We meandered through trails I’d never known existed, through mud holes and over makeshift bridges for what must have been 40 minutes until we found this field. I sat on a felled tree among some brush on the edge of the field, and Kevin set up in his hammock seat below a girthy pine at 20 minutes of 3 p.m.


Sure enough, 35 minutes later, a pair of does emerged into the food plot. They were within 25 yards of Kevin but so close to him that he never knew there was more than one because his vision to his left was slight obstructed and they never ventured far enough into the field.


I watched 100 yards away as they clearly made us out, stomping and snorting at us to see if we’d react. When we didn’t, they set about eating their meal—only pausing every so often to check us out again and make sure we weren’t up to any funny business.


The hope was that a buck—perhaps one of the sturdy eight-pointers we’d caught on camera—might just join them and make a date of it. After 25 minutes of watching, though, another hunter cruised through in his ATV and scared the two away.


Kevin and I repositioned for sunset to no avail.


Same for Monday morning back in the trusty ladder stand. The only thing I learned in those few hours is that the blue jay population of the Flambeau is as strong as I’ve ever seen it. (And when you’ve sat for a few hours, you start to think things like, “Maybe deer are afraid of blue jays”)


And so we headed home, back out to the paved roads and passed the high school of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.


The best we could do was reminisce about the beautiful doe from the open field and dream about setting up stands on that plot a year from now.


We’re not looking to go viral; we’re simply looking for a buck.


There’s always next year.

Last updated: 11:48 pm Saturday, November 25, 2017

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