It Snow Cause for Concern

By Glen Wunderlich
Outdoor Columnist
Member Professional Outdoor Media Association

My earliest recollection of a deer hunting trip to northern Michigan began in the vehicle taking us there. My brother in-law noticed the season’s first snow beginning to fall, as it reflected from our headlights. He became excited at the notion; I thought only that it would mean it was going to be cold. It’s all in we interpret the white stuff and how we react to it.

No doubt, when snowflakes accumulate enough to cover the ground, good hunters are able to use the white backdrop to their advantage. Deer’s natural camouflage is compromised by the stark contrast against the snow, which has the effect of opening up the woods. On the other hand, the same phenomenon can work against a city slicker who moves too quickly. While hunters can see better with snow cover, so can deer.

Still hunting – the art of sneaking about in the woods – has never been my specialty. It seems as though the deer I have seen are typically running full blast away from me after spotting me first. For those that have the self-control to actually move at a snail’s pace, the technique can work well – especially in the middle of the day, when deer tend to move less.

Snow also aids in tracking both before and after any shot attempts. The most magnificent whitetail I ever harvested fell at 130 paces to my original deer gun, a Winchester 30-30 in Michigan’s Iron County. It was the third day of the season and deer were scarce. With about six inches of snow on the ground and light snow falling, I decided to follow some fresh tracks in hope that they’d lead to a buck. Looking ahead beyond the tracks with my binoculars, I located the trophy of a lifetime following a doe.

After the single shot, I arrived at the scene where the two deer were together. I followed a set of tracks that were 10 yards between leaps, and with no sign of blood, I returned to the double set of tracks. The other set of tracks took me to my trophy.

Some snow can help a hunter move quietly; other snow varieties are problematic in that they may cause crunching noise under heavy boots. Matching an appropriate hunting style to the conditions is imperative. If it’s too noisy, it’s probably best to hunt from a stand.

In severe snowstorms and extremely cold temperatures deer will lie low in thick cover and will wait for the storm to pass. A wise hunter will take advantage of the deer’s pent up appetite and will be afield soon after the weather clears, if he’s not crazy enough to be out there already.

As I listened to the reports of traffic crashes this past week during our first dusting of snow, I had to take exception to the reporter, as he blamed the myriad collisions on the snowy conditions. You see, it wasn’t the snow that caused all the trouble; it was how drivers reacted to their circumstances.

Brady Campaign Sues to Stop National Parks Gun Rule

By Bill Schneider, 12-30-08

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, America’s largest anti-gun organization, sued the Department of the Interior today to prevent the implementation of the controversial administrative rule allowing loaded and concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges.

“The Bush Administration’s last-minute gift to the gun lobby, allowing concealed semiautomatic weapons in national parks, jeopardizes the safety of park visitors in violation of federal law,” said Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke, in a press release. “We should not be making it easier for dangerous people to carry concealed firearms in our parks.”

In a phone interview with NewWest.Net, Daniel Vice, Senior Attorney for the Brady’s Legal Action Project, said his group “is looking at all options,” but thought it was vital to file the lawsuit as soon as possible instead of waiting to let the rule go into effect and work through the long political process of trying to get the Obama administration to overturn it.

Many other groups also oppose the rule, he noted, but at this point the Brady Campaign is going it alone with this lawsuit with no co-plaintiffs.

“The rule would allow concealed guns on the National Mall,” Vice pointed out,” and it takes effect only 11 days before the inauguration.”

The Washington Post had estimated that as many as five million people will be in Washington D.C. to celebrate the Obama inauguration, predicting that the celebration might be “the single biggest gathering of people America has ever seen.”

“This rule affects both rural and urban parks like the Liberty Bell,” Vice said. “Some of our members are now afraid to take their kids to Ellis Island.”

This is why the lawsuit asks for a temporary injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect on January 9, he added. “But we’re concerned about all the parks, not just the urban parks.”
The fundamental legal issue, Vice explained, is that the rule violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“They (Interior Department) did no environmental analysis or review at all,” he explained. “When you have so many people with strong opinions on both sides of an issue, it’s important to follow the law and do a review process.”

Asked if defendants might consider this rule “non-environmental” and not covered by NEPA, Vice answered, “Even Reagan did this.”

He refers to the NEPA analysis and review President Ronald Reagan’s administration conducted when the current rule, which requires guns to be unloaded and inaccessible when taken into national parks, was implemented in early 1980s. “This rule should at least require the same review,” Vice insisted.

According to the Brady Campaign press release, the new rule also violates the National Park Service Organic Act and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, which created the parks and wildlife refuges as protected lands for safe enjoyment of all visitors.

You can read the entire legal complaint here.

Commentary by Glen Wunderlich: It seems that the Brady bunch never concerns itself with one’s right to defend oneself. While not all National Parks harbor inherent dangers, some do. And, it’s quite unsettling to be defenseless.

Recycle Those Squirrel Tails

Mepps, manufacturer of the World’s #1 Lure, the Mepps spinner, is asking squirrel hunters to save their squirrel tails. The tails are used to dress the hooks of Mepps, the original French spinner.

Mepps has been buying fox, black, and grey squirrel tails for more than three decades, and will pay up to 26 cents each for tails, depending on quality and quantity. The cash value is doubled if the tails are traded for Mepps lures. “Hundreds of other materials, both natural and synthetic, have been tested,” says Jim Martinsen, Mepps spokesman, “but few materials work as well. Mepps is only interested in recycling tails taken from squirrels that have been harvested for the table,” Martinsen stresses. “We do not advocate taking squirrels strictly for their tails.”

Details on the Mepps squirrel tail recycling program can be found at: Interested hunters can also call: 800-713-3474. Mepps, 626 Center St., Antigo, WI 54409-2496. – 30 – Please note: It is illegal to sell squirrel tails in CA, ID, OR, & TX

SCI Commends Choice of Salazar for Interior Secretary

Washington, D.C.

Safari Club International (SCI) today expressed its support for President-Elect Barack Obama’s choice of Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as his Administration’s next Interior Secretary.

Senator Salazar is currently a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and has been a consistent pro-sportsman vote since he came to Washington, D.C. in 2004. With this appointment, President-Elect Obama has made the logical choice of an Interior Secretary who understands the sportsmen’s legacy of hunting and conservation on America’s public lands.

“We are pleased that President-Elect Obama has resisted the pressure from anti-hunting groups to name an anti-hunting extremist to this important post,” said SCI President Merle Shepard. “Senator Salazar’s pro-hunting votes over the past four years in Washington, and his support for access to federal lands for hunting throughout his entire career in Colorado will prove to be invaluable for sportsmen and women during this Administration.”

Shepard continued, “SCI looks forward to working with Senator Salazar in the Obama Administration to make sure the hunter’s voice is heard on every issue that affects hunting, hunters or science-based wildlife management.”

Antler Soup

By Glen Wunderlich
Outdoor Columnist
Member Professional Outdoor Media Association
December 14, 2008

The final week of the firearms deer season began with a missing link to our cooperative plan to manage the state-owned deer herd in our neck of the woods. Quality Deer Management (QDM) dictates a strategy, which among its sound, science-based aspects, is one that involves selective depopulation of herd animals.

Those that do not agree with, or are not aware of QDM, nonetheless contribute to the management of the herd whether knowingly or otherwise. If a hunter takes a button buck, yearling buck, mature buck, doe fawn, or mature doe, or any combination thereof, or no animal at all, he plays a role in overall herd management. For those of us in the higher deer density areas, populations are unnaturally skewed with an overabundance of does versus the number of bucks.

How does this happen? It seems that we hunters get hung up on the bravado of busting bucks. Getting one’s buck may relieve the guff from guys at work or other social gatherings. And, yes, it puts meat in the freezer but the antler soup is of little value. Others hold steadfast to the archaic notion that female deer must be protected. While not all hunters are able to control habitat and/or feed for wildlife, all can make conscious decisions about management before pulling the trigger. Once that bullet is launched, it cannot be called off.

It’s time we understand just what got us to the point of our ridiculously unbalanced deer herd. And, if it hasn’t sunken in yet, read the previous paragraph again.

With the newly released whitetail deer harvest figures for this season, which for all practical purposes are about the same as last year’s data, hunters’ thinking toward harvesting bucks, and consequently retaining stagnant buck to doe ratios, seems to coincide with years past, as well. About 157,000 antlered bucks and about 115,000 antlerless deer were taken statewide. In the UP, deer numbers were down along with that of hunters and the combination resulted in a 22 percent reduction in harvest in our far north region. An increase in harvest in the northern Lower Peninsula has been reported with a total of 91,000 deer taken – 59,000 antlered bucks and 32,000 antlerless deer. In the southern Lower Peninsula about a 50:50 harvest ratio of antlered and antlerless deer has been reported for a total kill of 149,000. Of course, these statistics are preliminary and will change as the season progresses.

My personal contribution to date may have had little impact on these numbers, but that doesn’t mean abandoning QDM. On the contrary, I blew my only chance at a big-racked buck during archery season and have passed on numerous other lesser bucks since. In fact, I was surprised to spot two bucks within range on opening day of muzzleloading season and was hopeful for their chances to mature into next season. That didn’t prevent me from taking a large doe with a Barnes TMZ bullet on the muzzleloader opener, however. The high-shoulder hit was instantly fatal, as was a similar bullet placement on another doe the week prior.

Antler soup? I’ll pass.

Aging Deer on the Hoof

By Kip Adams
QDMA Director of Education and Outreach, Northern Region

Harvesting white-tailed bucks based on age is becoming an increasingly common management strategy. To implement this practice, hunters must have the ability to accurately age bucks on the hoof based on their body characteristics, an ability that most hunters considered impossible a decade ago. Today however, hunters across the whitetail’s range are estimating the age of bucks in the field as a means for selective harvest within Quality Deer Management programs or merely for the fun of it.

Like humans, whitetails possess distinct body characteristics by age class, and with a little practice hunters and nonhunters alike can become proficient at estimating the age of bucks on the hoof. There are many good reference books, videos and DVDs available for in-depth instruction and practice on aging bucks, and this article serves to introduce the topic and highlight the differences for each age class from fawns to post-mature animals. These body characteristics are subject to differing interpretation by different viewers, but the characteristics are relative to others in your area or region. Body characteristics also change by season. The breeding season is the best time of year to age bucks because of pronounced neck swelling and tarsal staining. You can estimate their age at other times of the year, but many characteristics are viewed relative to what they will (or did) look like during the rut.

Fawns are easily distinguished from other age classes of bucks but are commonly misidentified as female deer. Buck fawns have small square bodies, small short heads and relatively large ears. Their heads are flatter between the ears rather than rounded like that of a doe. The distance from their ear to eye is also approximately the same as the distance from their eye to nose. In contrast, the distance from an adult doe’s ear to eye is much shorter than from its eye to nose. Fawns also have short necks, flatter bellies and backs, and less muscle definition than adult does. The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) has produced an educational poster, “Identifying Antlerless Deer,” that uses close-up photography of live deer to help you learn to sort fawns from adult does and buck fawns from doe fawns using these characteristics. This makes a great visual tool for teaching hunting-club members or guests how to avoid harvesting buck fawns.

1½ years
For most QDM programs, especially those in beginning stages, learning to identify yearling bucks is the most important aging skill. Yearling bucks have long legs, a thin neck, a slim body and an overall lanky appearance. Their legs appear too long for their bodies because their torsos (stomach, chest and neck) are not fully developed. Their antler spread is nearly always less than the width of their ears when their ears are in an alert position. They have a distinct line of separation between their neck and shoulders and little muscle definition. They have a thin waist, and they may have slight staining in their tarsal glands during the rut. Overall, a yearling buck can be said to look like a doe with antlers. In well-managed populations on high-quality-habitat, yearling bucks can have large bodies and even 10 or more antler points, but the above characteristics will be present and can be used to separate them from 2½-year-olds. This is why it is important to study body characteristics before considering antler size when attempting to age a buck in the field.

2½ years
Two-year-olds have legs that still appear too long for their bodies, and they still have an overall sleek appearance. They have developed some muscling in their shoulders and slight swelling in their neck during the rut, but their waist is still thin. Given adequate nutrition, their antler spread can be equal to or wider than their ears. Finally, they can have moderate staining in their tarsal glands during the rut, especially if few mature bucks are in the population.

3½ years
Three-year-olds have legs that appear to be the right length for their bodies because their torsos are now more fully developed. They have muscled shoulders and a highly swelled neck during the rut, but their waist is still lean. I liken three-year-olds to middle linebackers as they are big and strong but they’re also lean and fast. A deep chest and lean waist give them a “racehorse” appearance. Their antler spread can be even with or wider than their ears. Research shows that at this age, most bucks have achieved 50 to 75 percent of their antler-growth potential. They also have a lot of tarsal staining during the rut.

Beyond 3½ years of age, determining the exact age of a buck becomes more difficult because of increased variation among individual bucks. However, for most QDM programs, harvest goals can be achieved if hunters are able to confidently separate bucks into one of three groups: A) Yearlings, B) 2½-year-olds, and C) 3½ or older. Hunters who want to sort and select bucks based on ages older than 3½ can still do so, but more time spent studying each buck may be required. In addition to viewing in the field, use trail-camera photos and home-video footage to refine your estimates. Also, once a buck has been harvested, check your own field estimates against age estimates based on toothwear and/or cementum annuli ages from a reputable lab. This will help you hone your skills at aging the deer in your region or habitat type.

4½ years
Because their stomachs, chests and necks are now fully developed, most four-year-olds have legs that appear too short for their body. They have fully-muscled shoulders, heavy swelling in their neck during the rut, and their waist has dropped down to become even with their chest. Given adequate nutrition they’ll become structurally mature and can reach 75 to 90 percent of their antler growth potential. They also have a lot of tarsal staining and during the rut the stain may extend below the tarsal gland. Four-year-olds have an entirely different appearance than one- to three-year-old bucks.

5½ to 7½ years
Other than in select places, few free-ranging bucks exceed five years of age so I’ll combine five- to seven-year-olds. Bucks in this category have legs that appear too short for their body. They also have several other characteristics of four year olds including fully-muscled shoulders, heavy swelling in their neck during the rut, and a waist that’s even with their chest. However, they also may have a pot belly and a sagging back. Their increased body mass gives them a more rounded appearance, and they may look like a small cow. They will have achieved 90 to 100% of their antler growth potential, and they can have highly stained tarsal glands during the rut, with the stain extending well below the tarsal gland.

8½ and older
A few free-ranging bucks make it to the post-mature age category. These bucks have passed their prime and regress in both body and antler size. They generally have loose skin on their face, neck and shoulders – usually visible as a “chin flap” – and they may have pointed shoulder and hip bones. Their antlers can show age-related abnormalities such as abnormal points or wavy or curvy tines, and they have an overall “weathered” appearance.

As you study age-specific body characteristics you’ll notice there aren’t age-specific antler characteristics (other than the range of antler potential that may be reached at each age class, and this percentage can’t be accurately estimated by viewing the antlers). Therefore, I suggest you don’t rely solely on antler size when aging bucks. Large antlers on a younger deer and small antlers on an older deer can negatively influence your estimated age. I prefer to estimate age based solely on body characteristics with respect to location and time of year and then use antler size to “check” my estimate or to break a tie if I can’t decide between two ages.

For more assistance, I recommend the book “Observing and Evaluating Whitetails” by Dave Richards and Al Brothers, as well as the pocket field guide to aging bucks produced as a companion to this book. Also, QDMA has produced an educational poster, “Estimating Buck Age,” that uses photos of live bucks of known ages to illustrate variations in body characteristics by age class. Again, this makes a great visual aid for educating hunters. All of these items are available at

Aging bucks on the hoof is a lot of fun so whether you hunt them with a bow, sporting arm or camera, this information can make you a more knowledgeable whitetail enthusiast.

Kip’s Korner is written by Kip Adams, a Certified Wildlife Biologist and Northern Director of Education and Outreach for the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). The QDMA is an international nonprofit wildlife conservation organization dedicated to ethical hunting, sound deer management and preservation of the deer-hunting heritage.

The QDMA can be reached at 1-800-209-DEER or

Concealed Carry Permitted in National Parks

Today’s announcement that the Interior Department has amended its rules and will henceforth allow licensed concealed carry in national parks was hailed as a victory for the Second Amendment by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.“No longer will American citizens be required to leave their right of self-defense at the gates of a national park,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb.

“This common-sense change in regulations reflects not only changes in the laws of 48 states, but more importantly the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms that is protected by the Second Amendment.”Under the rule change, individuals may carry concealed handguns in national parks and wildlife refuges only if they are licensed to carry under the laws of the state in which the park or refuge is located.

This new rule does not allow the illegal carrying of any firearm, nor will it allow hunting, target practice or poaching.“We are delighted that the Interior Department has taken this step,” Gottlieb stated. “This was never an issue of opening parks to hunting or recreational shooting, and the extremist opponents of this measure know it. This has always been about personal protection in areas where law enforcement may be hours away, or not available at all, in an emergency. “As with the adoption of con cealed carry laws in dozens of states over the past several years,” he added, “we are confident that passage of time will prove that all the alarmist rhetoric about poaching and increase danger to families and especially children was deliberately misleading.

“With the nation facing drastic budget cuts,” Gottlieb said, “this rule change comes at the right moment. It recognizes the inability of park officials to provide adequate law enforcement services, particularly in the back country. We are confident that passage of time will prove that this rule change, like the adoption of sensible concealed carry laws in dozens of states over the past 20 years, improves public safety and deters criminal behavior.”

Handloading Rationale

By Glen Wunderlich
Outdoor Columnist
Member Professional Outdoor Media Association

If you have settled on a caliber and outfitted your long-range rifle with good glass, it’s time to decide what to feed it. There’s some pretty good store-bought factory ammo, which is all relatively accurate but always costly. Unless you handload and you can’t get the fancy fodder to shoot 1-inch groups or better at 100 yards, you can go back to the store for another brand or settle for “good enough”. Understand that guns are like people in that they are what they eat; that’s why I feed them custom handloads. There’s no better time than the off-season to learn and practice the techniques of loading your own ammunition.

First, I don’t refer to the meticulous, quality-controlled process of custom loading as “reloads”, which implies cheap, unreliable compromises for quality. There’s nothing wrong with reloading hundreds of .38 special target loads with lead bullets and lightweight powder charges for practice. However, using new brass cases and components, cannot be considered reloading. Factories print lot numbers on boxes signifying unpredictable variations with changes in the numbers, but with detailed records of components, powder charges, and measurements, I can reproduce the exact same ammo years later. I load for performance. Period.

When it comes to rifle ammunition produced in factories, it’s made from top-of-the line brass, primers, powder and bullets and still cannot perform like my home-brewed tonic. Mass-produced ammo doesn’t get the quality control I demand. Additionally, the factories must produce one-size-fits-all ammunition for one simple reason: Not all firearms of like calibers have the same chamber sizes; the minimum to maximum chamber sizes can vary substantially. Factories, therefore, produce ammo short enough to fit into any manufacturer’s firearms. While this makes for reliable function, it does not necessarily meet the needs of a precision varminter. If I were to choose only one reason I handload, it is because I can produce ammunition custom-fit to my firearms.

With tools of the trade (overall case length gauge, bullet comparator, and dial caliper), I precisely measure the maximum overall cartridge length, and then seat the bullet to within 10,000ths of an inch of engaging the lands of the bore. Although there are myriad other variables to manipulate, close-tolerance bullet seating depth typically gives me the edge over the factories’ finest. Plus, some of the big guys’ stuff is on the tame side, so as not to harm grandpa’s gun that might not stand the punishment of higher pressure offerings. Not that mild is necessarily bad, but if I want maximum horsepower, I just add a little “octane”.

While we are on that subject, a word to the wise is in order. Novice handloaders may have an urge to begin by loading for maximum velocity. That’s a foolish idea for two reasons: 1) Any reference material warns to begin with lighter powder charges and urges one to check for pressure signs (flattened primers, etc.) before proceeding to anything approaching maximum listings, and 2) Maximum velocity hardly ever equals maximum accuracy. If you want something faster, refrain from pushing the envelope; step up to another caliber that will satisfy your need for speed.

As mentioned in a previous column, if you’ve chosen a high-end rangefinding reticle scope, its precision potential ranging is rendered useless unless you can match a load to its built-in trajectory scale.

A few years ago I forked over some hard-earned cash for a guided Montana elk hunt. Since there was the potential for long-range game getting, I custom-loaded some premium bullets for my rangefinding Shepherd optics atop a tricked out Browning A-Bolt in .300 Winchester Magnum. The scope came with a chart listing specific bullets at specific velocities that purported to be on target (i.e. minute of angle) at 1,000 yards. So, I loaded a couple of the specified premium test bullets with my usual charge of IMR 4350 powder, launched it through my chronograph and discovered it was 250 fps too fast. Through experimentation, I reduced the powder charge, until I got it right on the velocity mark specified by Shepherd. The beauty of this testing was that I only loaded 2 rounds per variation until I got it right and didn’t have to spend $30 a box at the local sporting goods outlet on stuff that wouldn’t work.

After an initial sight-in confirming a close-range zero, off to a safe shooting zone at a nearby field I went to set up a distant target at an unknown range. Pow! Peering through the spotting scope, I found it right in the black. Making sure it wasn’t a fluke. Pow. Right in the black, 2 inches from the first shot. Confirming the distance with my laser rangefinder, I learned I had just placed those shots on target at 356 yards as quick as you can say Missoula.

Holder Nomination Signals Anti-Gun Rights Agenda

From the Second Amendment Foundation

AGENDABELLEVUE, WA – The nomination of Eric Holder for the post of attorney general of the United States sends an “alarming signal” to gun owners about how the Barack Obama administration will view individual gun rights, as affirmed this year by the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment Foundation said today.

“Eric Holder signed an amicus brief in the Heller case that supported the District of Columbia’s handgun ban, and also argued that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual right,” noted SAF founder Alan Gottlieb. “He has supported national handgun licensing and mandatory trigger locks. As deputy attorney general under Janet Reno, he lobbied Congress to pass legislation that would have curtailed legitimate gun shows.“This is not the record of a man who will come to office as the nation’s top law enforcement officer with the rights and concerns of gun owners in mind,” he observed.

Holder’s nomination, like the appointment of anti-gun Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff, tells American gun owners that Obama’s campa ign claims supporting the Second Amendment were “empty rhetoric,” Gottlieb stated. “America’s 85 million gun owners have ample reason to be pessimistic about how their civil rights will fare under the Obama administration,” Gottlieb said. “Mr. Obama will have a Congress with an anti-gun Democrat majority leadership to push his gun control agenda. Gun owners have not forgotten Mr. Obama’s acknowledged opposition to concealed carry rights, nor his support for a ban on handgun ownership when he was running for the Illinois state senate.

“Barack Obama vigorously portrayed himself on the campaign trail as a man who supports gun ownership,” Gottlieb concluded, “but now that he has won the election, he is surrounding himself with people who are avowed gun prohibitionists. What better indication of what to expect from Barack Obama as president than the people he is selecting to lead his administration?

This isn’t a roster of devoted public servants. It’s a rogue’s gallery of extremists who have labored to erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.”

Opening Day

By Glen Wunderlich
Outdoor Columnist
Member Professional Outdoor Media Association

“There I was, back in the wild again
I felt right at home where I belong
I had that feelin’ comin’ over me again
Just like it happened so many times before

The spirit of the woods is like an old good friend
It makes me feel warm and good inside…” Ted Nugent

Love him or not, Uncle Tedly speaks volumes in his opening tribute to ol’ Fred Bear. My wife can’t understand but my cat does. Season after season, I am driven to show up. No matter the job. No matter the weather. No matter what.

Like a kid at Christmas, the anticipation evolves into overwhelming excitement. All the reading, practicing, and paraphernalia preparation come down to one morning. Off I sneak into the dark unknown. While the saner among us remain tucked in, snug and warm, I begin to work my plan to another season’s destiny.

Face in the wind, ears alert, I stare into the silent darkness, as if somehow, for the first time in my life, I will be able to see in the dark. A Great Horned owl informs me it’s too early, but a short while later, cruising crows tell me otherwise. To them and my wife, it’s just another day; to me it’s Opening Morning.

The sum of all the days of our lives has placed us in our secret hideouts this morning. And, then we hear a distant shot and wonder if that hunter connected. Just in case, we face the direction of the sound, hoping deep down that guy missed. It has to be a buck, because nobody would be after a doe this early.

We wait. We wiggle our toes to get blood moving down there. We withdraw our fingers inside our gloves and make a fist inside them. Our exposed ears are chilled, so we shelter them with our caps. We shiver.

Have our buddies seen any? Another shot and then some more. Once again we assume they missed. Slowly and silently we shift position, as our eyes rapidly scan for any sign of movement. We wonder.

As random thoughts come and go, we daydream about so many things we never seem to have time for otherwise. The warmth of the sun melts our shivers. Our bellies growl. Bacon and eggs sure sound good, but we fight the impulse. We remain hidden and watch.

What drives us hunters to be afield tomorrow? (And, don’t tell me it’s the meat. Of course, that’s part of it, but I consider it to be only icing.) This tradition, which has been bestowed upon us, drives some ¾ of a million Michigan minions to purposely shirk the day-to-day responsibilities of normal adults. We never seem to have time for anything, but for this November 15th, we find it.

Some say they just like to be “out there”, but I don’t buy it. Why pick this day to be out there? Are you crazy?

Others cite camaraderie, but playing cards or bowling on a Friday night serves that purpose. So, that can’t be it.

So what does that cat understand anyway? He has the choicest cat food in those fancy little cans costing more than prime beef. He gets Mexican cheese and the finest IGA ground round. He doesn’t care much about camaraderie, either. He does like being out there, however, but his quarry better watch it.

I gotta go with Ted on this one; it’s primal and it’s The Opener.

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