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Last Windrow: You learn a lot while sitting in a deer stand

John Wetrosky - Last Windrow.jpg

There are things you learn from a tractor's seat. There are things you learn from behind a car steering wheel. There are things you learn from some kid in second grade that you don't tell your folks about. There are things you learn from being frozen to a deer stand seat with a 15 mile-an-hour northwest wind breezing down your neck.

I learned the latter this past weekend at the official Minnesota deer hunter's opener.

We knew from the outset that this year's deer season would be different. Our unusual wet September and October did not bode well for those of us who must cross rivers and mud to get to our hunting grounds. Our particular piece of land is divided by two gently flowing streams that were no doubt not gently flowing over the past two months.

Mud aplenty was to be had, and when mud freezes into ruts as hard as blacktop, your pickup's suspension takes a beating. I've got rattles in my 20 year old truck that I never had before.

And, then there was the foray into the deep woods early Sunday morning. My daughter and I bumped along our rutted roadway to what we affectionately call the "North Gate." It is the entry point into the 200 acres of trees and bogs that we call our hunting camp.

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As we opened the pickup's doors we were met with a burst of northwesterly wind that instantly took all the heat out of the truck's cab. We could hear the howling wind as we donned our hunting outerwear and prepared to meet the devil. We were not disappointed.

Trees swayed, limbs cracked, tundra swans streamed south overhead. No doubt they had better plans at staying warm than we did! Somehow I wished I was in that flock.

We sauntered down the frozen forest trail and daughter broke off to head for the famous "Nail Keg" stand. This hand wrought piece of human architecture sits on the southeast shoreline of a large swamp. We call it the Popple Swamp due to the fact that it is fringed by aspen or as we call them, popple trees.

I felt a twinge of sympathy for Anna as she broke off the main trail and headed for the Nail Keg stand. I knew what that northwest wind would feel like, gusting unimpeded across the swamp and swirling over her stand.

I continued on up to my usual deer-takers haunt that we call Pete's Stand. Pete has long since departed this life, but the legend of this stand lives long after him. Pete harvested more whitetails in that stand than almost any other on our property. I've replaced the original stand with a newfangled tripod stand that sits overlooking a much used deer trail.

Climbing into that stand is not as easy as it once was. With an artificial hip, my mobility is not what it used to be. But, I persevered and soon I was perched 10 feet above the forest floor and surveying the familiar surroundings that I've become accustomed to after all the years of hunting this place.

The warmth gradually left my body as the 16-degree temperatures were further lowered by the wind chill. I've learned, over the years, that one does anything possible to keep whatever heat he or she can generate close to them on a cold morning's deer hunt. Pull down your ear-lappers, pull up your collar, drink the hot coffee in the thermos before it freezes, shuffle your feet enough to keep the blood flowing to your extremities, keep your red handkerchief in an available pocket because your nose will spring a leak at almost any time.

You learn that in a deer stand you should remain quiet and immobile. Doing this when your rear end is frozen to the seat and your eyes are watering so bad you can only see out of one of them at a time is a trick. Time ticks by like eternity and all you can think of is the warm campfire waiting at noon.

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I learned these things at last weekend's Minnesota deer hunting opener. I did not pull the trigger. My party did not pull the trigger. The deer population around the Popple Swamp has not been diminished one iota.

You learn humility in a frozen deer stand. I am a very humble person today.

See you next time. Okay?

Related Topics: THE LAST WINDROW
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