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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Summer, in November?

Record warmth posed challenges of its own while out on the deer stand

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 11/11/20

Was it really the opening of deer season last weekend?There was something about temperatures in the 60s that just didn’t compute and made preparing for time on the deer stand more complicated …

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Summer, in November?

Record warmth posed challenges of its own while out on the deer stand

Posted

Was it really the opening of deer season last weekend?
There was something about temperatures in the 60s that just didn’t compute and made preparing for time on the deer stand more complicated than usual. It’s not something I usually have to think about. After 40 years of sitting in a deer stand on the first Saturday of November, I have the routine more or less down pat. I pull out my warmest of everything… my mukluks, my heavy long johns, sweatshirt, a heavy jacket, neck warmer, heavy mittens and stocking cap, along with my blaze orange, insulated overalls. By the time I waddle down to the deer stand, even my skinny frame begins to resemble the Michelin man. Just dress like you’re going to the Arctic, and bring a thermos of hot coffee, and you can be relatively comfortable in my open-to-the-elements deer stand. Unlike some area hunters, I don’t go in for those deluxe, enclosed and heated deer stands. Since I was a kid, deer hunting was synonymous with being cold, and I guess I’m still a traditionalist as far as that goes. Besides, it toughens me up for the months of real cold that still lie ahead.
But how do you dress for 60 degrees? In the end, I left all my deer clothes in the closet. I wore typical summer fare, a pair of jeans, cotton socks and tennis shoes, and a blaze orange baseball cap. Fortunately, I had a blaze orange zip-up sweatshirt to put over my light flannel shirt, or I would have been struggling to meet the legal requirements for visibility. My regular clothes don’t include blaze orange.
In a normal year, you really can’t overdress for still hunting. Even if you’re heating up by the time you reach the stand and climb up, you’ll cool back down soon enough. Which is good, because if I’m warm and comfortable, I’ll fall asleep, as I’ve learned from experience.
At least Saturday was cloudy and a bit cooler, so I was able to stay awake, in part thanks to the birds that filled the woods around my stand with their activity. I watched for more than an hour as a small group of gray jays combed the woods near my stand for food. They survive in the same manner as chickadees, by moving through the woods exploring every nook and cranny out there for edible morsels. Their deep knowledge of their home range and all that it offers is the key to their survival. Their search process appears random, but I suspect there’s a method to it, just not one I could readily discern.
I watched for deer, as well, although my hopes for bagging a buck this year aren’t all that high.
Ahead of the season, I’ve seen a fair number of deer elsewhere this year, but they’ve been few and far between here on the edge of the Lost Lake Swamp. Other than the doe and fawn that had been busy cleaning up the remains of the garden last month, I’ve seen evidence of almost nothing. Scouting ahead of opener, with two weeks of snow cover, I found few tracks. I walked more than usual this past weekend and found what looked to be a weak attempt at a scrape and no recent rubs. I had considered scouting some other areas this year, just as backup, but never got around to it. I never even put out trail cams. Life is just too busy at the moment.
Besides, I suspect the deer weren’t moving much over the weekend. When bucks are on the move, they can overheat, even in cold weather. I know I didn’t hear much shooting.
I actually quit early on Sunday. I couldn’t stay awake in the stand, I was so warm, so I went home to nap in a chair in the yard. I figured if I fell out, at least I wouldn’t break my neck.
Napping in the warm sun, outside, on the second day of deer season. In northern Minnesota? Like I said… it just doesn’t compute.

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