Three Months in a Tree

By Stuart Hoegh

Three months in a tree. On January 8th I felt that I had spent three months in a tree watching squirrels. Slowly waiting for the sun to go down had become monotonous. There had been exciting moments when several bucks walked passed or a group of deer emerged out of nowhere, and the season had been a success on several levels. I had shot my first coyote with a bow and filmed my first kill, a doe, but the grind of hunting in January had begun to get to me. I hadn’t had a deer in range in three hunts and hadn’t seen a shooter in over a month. I always have a feeling of excited optimism for deer hunting, yet at that point it was beginning to feel a little hopeless.

I had been in the stand for thirty minutes when a coyote came up the trail towards me, then skirted to the other side of the creek and out of sight. An hour passed, nothing showed. The transition from being alone in the woods to watching a deer is always somewhat abrupt. My thoughts are wondering as I stare at the trees, then suddenly a deer is in sight. I can never remember what I was thinking about prior to the deer’s arrival. All I know is a buck stood sixty yards away. Slowly he began moving up the trail in my direction. The wind was crossing slightly towards him. He stopped abruptly, turned and walked in the opposite direction. “That was it,” I thought to myself. “I have waited all this time to have a marginal wind ruin my opportunity.” He walked ten yards then broke from the trail and began to slowly circle back towards my stand. Using no particular trail he picked his way into thick cover and out of sight. I snapped into my d-loop and prepared for the buck to arrive. He appeared at thirty yards, still in thick cover. The buck plodded along through the brush focused on crossing the creek. I realized he would pass through a small shooting lane at around thirty yards before entering into thick cover again and there would be no remaining opportunity for a shot. He walked quickly forward. As his body filled the clearing I grunted twice. For a brief moment nothing moved, then the arrow connected halfway up and slightly back. He turned and ran up the hill. His gait seemed normal until I saw him wobble near the top of the hill, I realized later that he collapsed several steps later. The shot had missed his lungs but severed the liver, leaving only a small blood trail but killing the deer within 200 yards. As I stared into the camera all I could think to say was “We did it, we did it, we did it.”

My brother Harrison and my buddy Jared run a website with blogs and videos on hunting every species in Iowa. Bowhunting in January is unusual for our group. Most seasons we are able to tag out by late November, then focus on muzzleloader season. Yet, this season had been more challenging than most. The rut had been warm, and we constantly felt we were one step behind the bucks. Harrison and Jared had each shot deer that we were unable to recover. It is frustrating to miss deer, but to hit them non-lethally is something that we feel is unacceptable. Thus, to complete a hunt as a member of a team was truly special. Those guys were as excited as I was and I was happy to end our season on a high note.

A New Approach

By Stuart Hoegh

Nali and I were sitting in the truck scouting a field for deer from about five hundred yards away. We weren’t seeing anything and both of us were entering stages of boredom only comparable to the Christmas eve service I would attend that night. Out in the distance a flock of about 100 geese appeared. Slowly the geese circled and began swooping towards the hill. Eventually around 100 geese were standing up on the hill in the field I was watching. I was happy to give up scouting.

The truck skidded a bit on the gravel as I rushed home. I sprinted from my back door out over the terrace at the edge of the yard and down through the field. I made it to the creek a couple hundred yards away before pausing to catch my breath and realize I had probably pulled my quad in the process. I could see the geese feeding toward the south as I crossed the creek and weaved my way through the grass next to the fence. I crouched and ran hunch-backed up toward the first terrace on the hill. I began crawling along the ground. The midafternoon sun had turned the surface into a greasy combination of cornstalks and mud. My hands and knees were slimy. I began to question my decision to crawl as I probably could have continued my hunched shuffle and been fine. Anyway, I’m crawling across this field and the sound of the geese over the top of the next terrace is getting louder and louder. I army-crawl to the top and peer over the grass. I had expected the geese to launch off in a flurry. Instead, the geese just kept feeding as I took aim. I couldn’t help but question my decision to run/crawl my way up the hill (it was almost surely unnecessary). With the first shot one goose dropped and the rest launched into the air in a honking mass that was somewhat disorienting. I proceeded to use my next two shots as warning shots if they were to ever come back. It is easier to carry one goose home than three anyways, so I trotted home with my goose and a sense of accomplishment.

Most blogs I write describe a well thought out hunt that accounts for various factors. But, sometimes it is more fun to run across a field with a shotgun toward a flock of geese and shoot one off the ground. There is a lot of judgement passed by outdoorsmen about strategies used. Bow hunters complain about shotgun, fly fisherman diminish the accomplishments of spin fisherman and duck hunters have their own issues to sort out. While I do abide by some self-enforced codes while hunting, and ethics are always important, it is important to step back and understand that outdoorsmen are almost always out to enjoy the adventure and possibly spend time with family and friends. We are all bound together by this broader appeal, and separating ourselves into different groups that won’t “stoop” to the level of another group creates divides that aren’t necessary. We all treasure the outdoors and wish to protect our passions. As long as you are out there for the right reasons, you have my support. As Red Green would say “Remember, I’m pulling for you, we are all in this together.” Good Luck. Stu.

Another One Down

By Stuart Hoegh

Sunday morning I climbed into the stand around 5:45 am and realized that I had hung the stand with a solid lean. Sitting the next hour before shooting hours became a battle to avoid drifting off to sleep and sliding out of the stand. I had hung the stand on an east-to-west fenceline in the corner of a field with a thick grove of trees about half the size of a football field. Around 8 am a couple does moved up the fenceline to the north then crossed a draw and continued around the grove I was sitting in. Another hour passed with nothing moving. Then, I caught the glimpse of a coyote tial moving into a thicket about forty yards out. Before deciding whether to shoot the coyote I thought of the possibility of a buck coming in, the pheasants and deer fawns that the coyote may eat in the next year, and of adding another animal to my goal of the Iowa Slam for 2016. I made a one second kissing noise and waited to hear the coyote moving. Nothing happened. I waited until I could hear the coyote walking again and I gave about a two second squeal. This is sort of like the kissing noise people make when calling to puppies. It imitates a mouse and can be super effective in getting a coyote to close into range. The key is not overdoing it. Keep the animal curious without going to the point of it becoming suspicious. If the coyote is not reacting, try sucking on the back of your hand. It is considerably louder and deeper sounding, more like a cottontail. The coyote came out on the north side of the thicket and trotted down a small creek bed before coming broadside at about fifteen yards. I adjusted the camera and raised my bow. I settled the pin onto the vitals and let the arrow fly.

The sound an arrow makes when hitting a coyote is much different than a deer. While a deer is hit with almost a thud or a punching noise, a coyote is more muffled. The thick fur dampens the noise and it sounds more like getting hit with a pillow. The coyote ran about thirty yards, crossing a fence and running about ten rows into a cornfield. It showed no signs of injury and only looked confused. I wondered for a moment whether I had been mistaken and the arrow had only skirted along the bottom of the coyote and not hit the animal at all. Then, the coyote wobbled and collapsed.

One of our main goals for the season has been to focus on building a better deer herd I took the coyote in order to promote the pheasant and deer populations on our land. With the addition of the coyote I now must take a duck, goose, turkey and deer in order to complete the Iowa Slam. This week marks the last week before shotgun season and I hope to take a doe off of public land. Additionally, throughout shotgun season we will be duck hunting as often as possible. Stay tuned. Thanks.

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