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Thread: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

  1. #1
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    New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

    Here's the story of my first opening day (Sep 10th) Open Season hunt over 4 days with my brother-in-law.

    TL;DR - we didn't bag anything...(skip if you only want to see dead animals... )

    But hopefully there is something of value to gain from our experience, probably mostly to do with what we did wrong, and learn from our mistakes. Any comments about whether we are off-the-mark with my opinions or comments are WELCOME. Please do not hesitate to poke fun either, I can laugh at myself, in fact, need to in order to push through to finally bag that big game.

    I got hit hard with the 'Adult Onset Hunting' bug last year, and did roughly 30 days, broken up over the 2018-2019 season for elk, deer, and bear. No luck bagging anything. I have been obsessed with researching the web, such as this site, videos, podcasts, and bought a few books to help with the learning curve, having never learned to hunt since I didn't have a father figure who hunted at all. In fact, I had a very ignorant, leftist view until my eyes were opened after watching a documentary on factory farming... hunting started to make a lot of sense. My brother-in-law just got back into hunting (he hunted as a kid in Sask), so when he invited me to his next hunt, I quickly signed up for my PAL and CORE, and went on a week long elk hunt with him in Oct 2018. I helped him spot his LEH cow, and break it down in the field with him. I was hooked.

    This year we took a day to scout a location 2 hours out of town in the summer, which looked to be promising for an opening week hunt. We saw sign, deer and moose in a large, several hundred acre cut block with mountains and hills throughout. We were convinced this was the THE location to hit for our opening 4-day hunt.

    In the meantime, we hit the range (crown land - cleaned up after ourselves), I bagged 3 snowshoe hare (first game I have ever harvested!) my bro bagged a few as well, in anticipation for the big hunt. We saw an ad for a free freezer and picked it up, and threw it in the back of my Dodge 1500 to use as our cooler. We froze 2 18 gallon water jugs to help keep the freezer cool while unplugged.

    Of note, the night before we left, a four point buck was across the street from my brother's house (he lives close to the hills) who walk through his neighbours property followed by some does and fawns. I thought "What a great Omen!".



    I WAY over packed, but since we planned on having a day camp close to our hunting location, I wasn't too worried about it. I will definitely need to make adjustments in a back country, mobile situation - but that's in the future a ways...

    Day 1, Monday: The day before Opening Day






    After driving in the rain, we were happy to see that the area we planned to hunt had no other hunters nearby, in fact not many people at all nearby camping or fishing. We quickly set up our tarps, tent, tables, and built a fire from wood we picked from slash piles in neighbouring cut blocks. We were cursing ourselves for not bringing wood from a previous camp area that had a bunch of dry wood. We ate some snowshoe hare stew my bro's wife made the night before - dang, was that ever good! We hit the hay at 9:30pm-ish, alarm set for 4:30am.

    ***
    What I learned: 1) Buy a chainsaw (done), 2) bring dry wood in case we come into rain (duh), 3) Snowshoe hare is delicious if prepared right.
    ***
    Last edited by joshbazz; 09-19-2019 at 12:27 AM.
    ~
    Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
    — G. K. Chesterton

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  3. #2
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    Re: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

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    Day 2, Tuesday: Opening Day - Rifle (4 pt Mule Deer, any buck Whitetail, 6 pt Bull Elk, Black Bear), we have all tags.

    ------------------

    4:30am - Wake up, been a while since I got up this early... brain not working quickly, takes me way too long to get ready, and I can't find my glasses so good thing I brought enough contact lenses. We leave 15 minutes later than we planned, and I'm already cursing myself - We plan to hike to a good elevation which looks over a vast cutblock that we are SURE deer are going to feed at. As we drive to the location, I notice that my vision is a bit blurry. WTF... After we get to our location, we use our iPhone's for GPS waypoints etc, I can't read the text on my screen. I'm thinking "What the hell is wrong with me? Is my brain trying to sabotage my ability to shoot game?". I want so badly to be in the right place and get an opening day four pointer. I'm thinking I'll have to give any shooting opportunities to my bro.

    We choose our spots and begin our hike. It's dark, but we don't need lights, cloudy skies keep the weather warm-ish, although there is a lot of fog. We are not silent. We just hike to our positions at a regular hiking pace (maybe a little slower). We're several hundred yards from each other, but we get setup in our positions with a great view of the block below and it's an hour, maybe a little less before sunrise.



    I setup my tripod, put my nocks (binos) on it and start glassing. I can see through my binos - good. On a ridge 600 yards across from me I see my first deer, a doe. She runs across the ridge quite quickly, I think it's a whitetail, but can't say for sure, as there is another doe (Mule deer) that appears shortly afterward, and she's content to feed on the hill. I watch her a little while when, from out of nowhere it seams, a large buck materializes. My binos are 8x42, and I can't make out how many antler tines – I left my spotter in the truck (it's an old bushnell, and doesn't fit on my tripod properly, and way too wobbly to handhold). I notice that the buck's antlers are orange - bright orange in the sunrise.

    I watch the buck and doe, they spend some time feeding together, he even plays with her, dropping his head a bit and they sort of jump around, just a little. They then feed their way to the tree-line and disappear into a deer trail through the surrounding woods.

    I am ecstatic! This is the first time I have hunted and seen a buck (usually just does). The only other bucks I see are in town, where it's not legal to hunt or shoot. I now scan the area below me, about 100 - 300 yards panorama. Boom - does and fawns, right below me.



    It's hard to see from my iPhone's camera, but they are in there. The fog rolls in and out, but there is generally visibility out to 1000 yards or so for most of the time.



    We end up seeing dozens of deer that morning, including a few 2 pt bucks. As we near noon, the deer disappear. My bro and I meet up and head back to camp excitedly talking about our successful glassing this morning - he has seen many deer as well, but no four pointer, unless the orange antler is the one.

    Noon - We have lunch at camp, and I suggest we head back to the same spot, but this time my bro will go to my location as I overlooked a nice trail between two tree lines that the deer were using, but also, I want to catch the orange antlered buck on his way back - for I'm certain he will come back out of that deer trail, and I'll be able to identify if he's a 4pt or not.

    4:30-5pm - We setup for the evening. We plan to hunt until the end of legal light. It's pouring, we've got our ponchos on and start our hike to our spots, I'm going a new path I haven't gone before, but I'm pretty sure of where I'm going. I finally get to exactly where I wanted to be. I have a view of the exact area I saw the buck with orange antlers.



    After I sit down and glass I look down and stare straight into a doe's eyes. Crap, am I too out in the open. I wear a camo balaclava, and hope I blend in with the branches around me. I am still and just stare at her with slit eyes so she doesn't see the whites of my eyes, or through the binos. She has a fawn with her and she is alert. but she is not bounding away or anything. When she turns to look another direction, I turn and look behind me, I see that I hung my backpack's rain cover on a branch behind me that is moving in the wind. Dammit - that's what she was looking at! I grab it and stuff it out of sight.

    The doe and fawns move on, and further on the opposite side where my bro is (at my old spot) I see a doe and a two point buck come out. Now my bro just got his elk bugle tube, and he's anxious to try to call in a bull, but we're not sure if the sign we've seen is big buck, moose, or elk (because we're new), anyways my bro at this point decides to make doe chirp noises. The 2pt buck is very interested, and starts walking toward my bro's position up the hill. The does get freaked out and take their fawns with them. Crap. Well that's done. My bro continue's to coax the little 2 pt buck to within 20-30 yards or so of him before the buck loses interest and comes back down the hill.

    I'm certain now that any big buck is going to read the doe's exit as a warning and is not coming down for a late dinner. It rains again, I put my ponch back on, cover my pack. It's getting cold. Dammit. I think we blew it.

    It's getting close to sunset and there is nothing going on. No deer. We call it and I get up, see something to my left and stop. It's that same 2 pt buck that my bro was calling.



    He clearly sees me and continues eating. I get up, expecting him to bound off. He continues eating. I take a step forward towards him. He lifts his head, then takes a couple steps forward toward me. What the heck is going on? Does he not have any deer sense? I take out my iPhone and video him for a while, talking softly. I'm kind of worried about him, I don't think he's going to survive any buck season...

    I put my pack on, make a bit of noise rustling my gear and he reluctantly bounds off. I grab my rifle. I'm bummed that I didn't see the big buck with orange antlers come out of the deer trail like I believed he would. I decide that I am not going to walk directly down the hill back to the truck, but take the scenic route around the other side of the hill I was on in case there is another trail. I chamber a round, and lock in safe. I start hiking up, not necessarily quietly, but not bush wacking either, I crest the top and –

    THE BIG BUCK WITH THE ORANGE ANTLERS - right in front of me - 10-15 yards!

    Rifle comes up, eye through scope, but I already know I only saw 2 pts, scope confirms it. Now this is a buck! It bounds up, snorts heavily, his doe goes off into the woods while he bounds and stops, looks at me bounds away a few more yards and stops, then bounds away for good. If he had four points, then this was the opening day I dreamed of. I never take my rifle rifle off safe.

    I'm glad my instincts were right, he WAS coming back, he just came back a different route. But he needed to have 4 points.

    Interestingly, this buck with orange antlers had a blonde coat in comparison to the other grey, typical looking Mule buck I had just seen. The orange antlered buck had a Mule deer tail though. We noticed that quite a few deer had the blonde colour, but they didn't look like whitetails. Any time I've seen a white tail, it disappears in a second, no second chance, just leaps away, white flag waving.

    I mark the spot in my app, still seeing difficult, but I can make my way around and laboriously read through the blur. I'll return in any buck season if we don't get our quarry.

    We meet at the truck, and get ready to unload our rifles. I habitually point my muzzle away from the truck, towards a bank as my blind magazine 30-06 needs the bolt cycled once before I can empty the mag – it has a mag release lever to eject rounds without repeatedly cycling. I switch from safe to red - BANG!!! I'm totally startled. Thank god I always point my muzzle away, I was not expecting that. The chambered round went off as soon as I flipped off the safety. My Lakelander TAP-375 30-06 has the side safety, like the Rem 700's I believe. I guess it's possible my trigger snagged during my traversing, but I'm dumbfounded. I don't chamber a round again, and only load one or two rounds in the mag only. I decide I'm going to take it in to a gunsmith when I get back.

    We drive back to camp, make a fire, eat supper and hit the hay at 9:30pm. We make a plan to hit the area behind where I was that evening, as there are more deer trails, bogs, and sign and some nice rocky outgrowth that offers some good elevated vantage points.

    ***
    What I learned: 1) Don't give up on last light! 2) Don't blow Elk calls while actively hunting deer (facepalm) 3) Deer don't seem to notice you if you are high up the hill, if the wind is right. 4) Make sure hands are clean before handling contact lenses, 5) Guns can go off when safety is off.
    ***
    Last edited by joshbazz; 09-19-2019 at 12:28 AM.
    ~
    Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
    — G. K. Chesterton

  4. #3
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    Re: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

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    Day 3: Wednesday - 2nd day of Open Season

    ------------------

    4:30am - I'm way more together this morning, and this time I wipe my hands with baby wipes before handling my contacts. Viola! I can see! iPhone screen is normal. I must have had some oil or crud on my hands in the morning that got onto my lenses.

    We drive to our location. It's foggy, but we're a little earlier. Crap, we didn't mark where the elevated areas were. Headlamp on. We hike in, nothing looks familiar. We know the general area we're in related to our first waypoints, but we're not really sure. We get to the top of a little hill that has a 360 view of the surrounding areas, swamp and slash and hills, then tree line. I'm not jazzed, I feel like we're too low. In my head I have the belief that we need to get as high as possible in the morning for wind and good vantage point for glassing.

    My bro suggests an area down lower that has better views of the lower swamp. We choose two different little hills, with lots of slash and branches. As it starts getting lighter, I can see the road. Dammit! I don't want to be so close to the road. That's the last place I want to be. I text my bro that I'm heading back up. It's getting lighter. I see a hill just past our initial position. I climb it. I find the place we originally wanted to be.



    It's foggy, but I have a great view now of the area, a nice 180 out 300 yards plus. Deer must travel these routes. But we have scrambled and changed position many times into first light. We spend the morning hours in position and see nothing. Not a doe, fawn or buck to be seen. What went wrong? This HAS to be where the deer are. It's beautiful, lot's of food. Just no deer.



    Frustrated we head to camp for lunch.

    We start second guessing ourselves. We didn't actually see a four point buck. Not when we scouted, and not during our first day glassing deer. Maybe there is not a four point in this area. A CO stops by and checks that all is good. We're unloaded, all is good. My bro asks him, "Where are all the four points?", the CO jokes, "There are no four points"... At least I think he's joking...

    We decide to try some other cut blocks in the area. We drive around and see a nice area with young trees, glass. Nothing. We grab wood for fire. We see sign, but not sure how fresh. We get back to the truck and another hunter truck and trailer is coming up the hill. Maybe he knows something we don't. We continue down the FSR ahead of him and find another huge expansive cut block with young trees, not so much slash like we had before. Sign everywhere. This HAS to be the place.



    We setup within view of a couple areas of the surrounding tree line, and wait.



    We hear the hunter setting up camp. Chainsaws buzzing. Then quad, drives within 50 yards of our position. It roars off after seeing our truck parked. Dang! The evening comes on cold as ever. We stay until last light, then drive back to camp, deflated.

    We decide we need to repeat our first hunt day. We build a quick fire, eat dinner, bed by 9:30pm

    ***
    What I learned: 1) Make sure waypoints are marked beforehand, 2) Do not move around so much at first light, stay put, 3) Don't abandon heavy deer areas, 4) It just strikes me now that my accidental muzzle blast last night may have scared the deer away for today...
    ***
    Last edited by joshbazz; 09-19-2019 at 12:29 AM.
    ~
    Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
    — G. K. Chesterton

  5. #4
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    Re: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

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    Day 4: Thursday - 3rd day of Open Season

    ------------------

    4:30am - Jump out of bed, we're going to get him. We're going to see deer. We're going to see bucks, we're going to see four point bucks!

    We're on the road earlier right away. Skies are clear, moon is full. I mention that we're starting out earlier than before, maybe we should take our time - we should have lots of it. Sunrise is 3 minutes later every day now.

    We get to our spot, early and dark in the moonlight, we walk in the dark, and as silent as rookies (dumb dumbs) do... Dang, we're walking with the wind. There is a trail that leads to the hill we need to climb. We stay on it. As we get further toward the hill, my bro whispers stop. There are deer bedded right in front of us off to the side of the trail.

    A deer takes off and bounds away, several are still bedded. They can smell us as they are higher and the wind is at our back, though they are somewhat to the left of us, up the hill. Maybe 20 - 50 yards. Too dark to see how many. I learn later from my bro that the one that ran was a two point buck.

    Here's where I take prize for IDIOT OF THE YEAR. I think to myself, "These are just does, we need to get to elevation, or we'll blow our chance to get high and see deer". I tell my bro that I have to get up the hill. I start the worst attempt at still hunting up the trail toward the mountain. As I get off the trail and hit the hill, I hear a commotion near where the deer where bedded. It's getting lighter and I can now see does ( and I think to myself, ha - I was right), but then I hear snorting and rustling by the tree line, but I don't see anything. I'm a way's up the hill now away from my bro. I climb to the top, glass around and see nothing. Try looking into the woods in the direction of the bedded deer. Nothing. I walk back down to my bro after sometime after first light, and everything is quiet. He tells me the snorting sound was a big buck, he couldn't see how many tines, ran down beside the tree line, and bounded away into another area away.

    Dang. I know I blew it. I just H-bombed our opportunity – that was it. I only had to sit tight, and wait it out. I just couldn't get out of my head that I needed to get to elevation. And it cost us. I apologize, I take responsibility, he says this is how we learn. Good guy.

    We decide on some tactics. We know there is a deer trail that the buck may have taken, so I drive to where the deer trail meets the road, and sit on a high rock edge, while my bro goes and walks the deer trail to try to push him forward. I see my bro after sometime and he says he saw some intersections that lead all sorts of ways. Intersections? Well that sounds good.

    We decide to drive to the backside of the mountain and walk around to see what we can see. I climb a rock face which is heavily wooded, but it reveals a ton of sign and other pockets where the deer could be spending their time.



    We head back for lunch, snooze for about an hour, then make our evening hunt plans. My bro prepares some of the hare we caught last week.



    We discuss strategy. He decides to take the same place I was up high where the deer trail meets the road - we'd seen deer cross at last light the night before Opening day. I decide to hike to the area where the intersection is.

    We arrive at our locations a couple hours before last light.



    I'm sure I'm going to get him. He took one of the 3 paths below, and he's coming within 100 yards of my hill. After I take the pic above, I look down at a deer staring at me. I don't move. I can't tell if there are any points. The deer looks away, I bring up my binos....doe. Doe and fawn. Thank god, deer again. She sees something up where I am, but she's not concerned. They eat for a while. I expect I'll see many more deer, this is a dinner spot, i think. She eventually leaves, after her fawn playfully bounds into one of the paths.

    No more deer. I'm about to give up, until... big, sorry..BIG black shape slowly moves into view from one of the paths. Holy **** it's a moose! No points, so I think a cow moose. Just stands there. It must know I'm there, it doesn't come into the clearing. Wind is blowing up toward me though, the whole time. Moose eventually slowly takes another path, and calls to other moose. In fact I hear several moose calling (talking) to each other, kind of a throat burp type of sound.

    In the meantime, I periodically hear a sound like a low crow call, it's away over the ridge. I then realize it sounds like the white tail grunt call I have. Am I hearing our big buck grunt? Now I'm thinking, do I blow my sweet ambush position and follow that sound? Or is he going to head my way, and take one of these paths into view. I don't know what to do. Instinctively, I want to follow that sound, the grunt. But It's getting dark. I will have to go through trees, and it will be hard to see at this time in the trees. I take out my white tail grunt tube as legal light fades and call off and on until last light. No response. Dang! I think I should have pursued the grunt as soon as I had heard it.

    I hustle in the dark across the slash to the truck. My bro didn't see any deer, but he saw moose.

    Back to camp for dinner, fire, in bed by 10pm.

    ***
    What I learned: 1) For the love of all things Holy - STOP when you walk into deer in the dark! 2) We should have spent more time walking the grounds to find 'deer intersections' and other vantage spots 3) We need more time.
    ***
    Last edited by joshbazz; 09-19-2019 at 12:30 AM.
    ~
    Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
    — G. K. Chesterton

  6. #5
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    Re: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

    ------------------

    Day 5: Friday - 4th day of Open Season

    ------------------

    We're up at 4:30am, time to piss or get off the pot. We only have morning left, I have to pick up my 6 year old daughter from school. Our plan is to go to the same spot as yesterday, just approach from a different path so we don't get winded. It's a full moon. Friday the 13th.

    Last edited by joshbazz; 09-19-2019 at 12:30 AM.
    ~
    Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
    — G. K. Chesterton

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    Re: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

    We walk quietly and slowly. We get to our chosen spot, start glassing as light grows. One deer, doe. Up the hill. The group is not here. No. This can't be the end. The doe disappears into the trees. I tell my bro, "I'm going into the trees, over that mountain". "Let's go" he says. We hike up, through the woods, up the mountain, into the thick stuff. There are deer trails. Tons of them. Sign everywhere.





    Last edited by joshbazz; 09-18-2019 at 11:43 PM.
    ~
    Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
    — G. K. Chesterton

  8. #7
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    Re: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

    We find deer beds, tons of beds. There are beds at the top of the hill in the trees. We go over the mountain and down, my bro slips falls square on his back! Luckily we wore our butt pads around our waists (his slipped up his back), he is totally fine, winded for a second, but no injuries (we're mid forties).

    As we walk through, the woods and surrounding area start to look... different. There is a deer bed here, a deer bed there, deer trails over here. It's like walking into their living room. We start adding way points, there are elevated ambush areas that might catch deer crossing, we'd just need to plan our approach considering the wind.

    We need more time. And we are out of it. We now know a little of how the deer are getting around. We know where they sleep. We know where the eat. We know where they sometimes go, different pathways, ravines they go down, and deer trails they use. But we have to go.

    We decide to cross through the forest to our truck waypoint.




    It's thick, but there are game trails we can follow. I end up finding my first shed, a moose palm. Then we find moose beds, and other sign. We mark waypoints in our apps, and after what seems hours of slow moving, make it back to the truck. We get back to camp and make quick work breaking down our camp. More hunters have moved in, and we're happy that we didn't run into any pressure, though we did hear one rifle blast day 2 or 3, can't recall....

    ---

    All in all, it was a great trip, my first Season Opener ever! I wish I hadn't made those crucial mistakes, but I know I'll never forget them. At least I didn't come home empty handed, and was able to give my daughter the moose shed. She was pretty jazzed about it, and loved the pics. Days before we left, she actually helped me gut one of my hares – wasn't squeamish in the least

    Sorry if this was too long winded, just wanted to share the experience, maybe there is something to learn here, even if it's: don't do what these guys did, haha. Any thoughts or comments always appreciated.



    Cheers,

    Josh
    Last edited by joshbazz; 09-19-2019 at 12:31 AM.
    ~
    Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
    — G. K. Chesterton

  9. #8
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    Re: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

    Hey Josh-thanks for the story/photos
    Country looks like good moose area.
    Great big campfire!
    Seems like you're well organized.
    Personally I never chamber a round & put the safety on unless alone or facing a bear or ready to shoot.
    Get the gun checked before the next trip.
    Congrats on your rabbits.
    Started hunting rabbits & grouse when a teen in Ont. but could never stomach the European hare. Way too dry & gamey. The snowshoe & cottontail were great!
    Good luck on your next hunt!
    “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.” -Otto von Bismarck
    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.-Albert Einstein


  10. #9
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    Re: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

    Quote Originally Posted by mpotzold View Post
    Hey Josh-thanks for the story/photos
    Country looks like good moose area.
    Great big campfire!
    Seems like you're well organized.
    Personally I never chamber a round & put the safety on unless alone or facing a bear or ready to shoot.
    Get the gun checked before the next trip.
    Congrats on your rabbits.
    Started hunting rabbits & grouse when a teen in Ont. but could never stomach the European hare. Way too dry & gamey. The snowshoe & cottontail were great!
    Good luck on your next hunt!
    Thanks mpotzold, I don't think I'm going to chamber a round unless I'm actively going to shoot... Won't forget that!
    And yes, going to see if Patrick in Pen can take a look to see if there's an issue with the firing pin perhaps?

    We found a spot not far up an FSR where it's almost too easy to get hare. They just sit at the side of the FSR, waiting for - Bang. Some take off right away, but most just sit there. I used my twelve gage for the first couple, then borrowed my bro's old 22 which worked great for head shots. 12G wasn't bad for headshots either, just too much spread... He actually got the first one with his pellet gun the day before I got my first one.

    Will definitely be coming back to this location for any buck season, and then November for moose

    Good luck to you as well!
    ~
    Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
    — G. K. Chesterton

  11. #10
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    Re: New hunter, second season - what I think I learned...

    We all started somewhere and it takes time to figure out your style of hunting

    A lot of guys like to hunt the big openings that I see in most your pictures. Myself I like to get right into the thick stuff where I still hunt, call, or set up ambush. In many ways you hunt relying on having faith in the sign in the area and use your ears more then your eyes. It results in really close encounters with most game you find. Biggest thing is slow or don’t move at all.

    Being a new hunter try different styles till you find what fits and there are many ways to get the job done

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