This week’s column is about the first weekend of deer camp for the Red Brush Gang, as we hunted public land in northern Juneau County under very difficult conditions. There is much to say, so I will have to be short on each subject.
Friday, Nov. 16
High 34, low 25
Last night, 18 members of the Red Brush Gang came to camp and had a hooray-it’s-deer-camp get-together. This morning I took my 17-year-old daughter Selina to school at Necedah High School, and then headed to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, where I did a 2.2-mile hike to where Selina and I would be hunting the next morning.
Last Sunday, Selina and I put out two trail cameras, and today both had multiple buck pictures on them, and one had a great picture of what appeared to be a 10-pointer.
Saturday, Nov. 17
High 31, low 17
Before I go any further, I want to mention what was probably the most important subject for this group of up to 25 hip-boot hunters, and it was the dreaded half ice. Half ice does not support your body weight, but is tough to break through, and can be dangerous and a real pain in the behind to negotiate.
Anyways, today I watched night become day for the 48th gun deer opener in a row in this neck of the woods, and though I did not see a deer, it was epic, as I spent 11 hours in a tree going down memory lane.
My brother Mike was about 2 miles away and taught everyone that when you think you hit a buck, you keep looking. Mike shot at what would be a 7-pointer. He was certain he hit it, and after two hours of looking, he found his buck.
Meanwhile, about 4 miles away, and one long trek into half-ice country, my lifelong buddy Doug Cibulka was hunting with his 20-year-old son Derek. Both the Cibulkas filled there tags by 8, with a fork for Derek, and an 8-pointer for Doug.
Out of 18 of us, that was all the deer we harvested, but that is our average for the first day.
Tonight at camp, I was exhausted, and knew I had to move my stand after the early morning hunt, as the half ice was keeping the deer out of my area. I only slept for about 90 minutes and came up with my plan.
Sunday, Nov. 18
High 21, low 9
It was very cold when I said goodbye and good luck to Selina at the base of her tree at 5:30 this morning. I hiked another half mile to my tree and sat in it until 9 a.m. and did not see a deer. I was confident that I needed to move to drier land and had picked out my tree the day before.
Hauling a pack, stand, climbing sticks and a rifle all in one trip in half ice is crazy frustrating. When I got to the tree I planned on hunting, I saw two men walking and talked to one of them. The guys who I talked to are good guys, as is the rest of their gang.
They were setting up a drive, and in a way, I was in the middle of it. On public land this is a touchy subject, but what was I to do? I was only 400 yards from where I had been all weekend and was going to sit until dark. Selina was also only 400 yards away and they had to walk by her.
Things got a little crazy, but they kicked up three deer and the first was shot by another hunter. The second was one of the biggest bucks that I have ever seen in the woods. I did not even aim at this deer and let it pass. This deer was also shot.
The third deer that came by was a 10-pointer that was smaller than the first deer, but a dandy.
I sent it to heaven in half ice hell and it was probably the most unique situation I have ever killed a buck in.
When Selina and I got back to camp two hours after dark, we had the buck that would win this year’s Red Brush Gang buck contest and one heck of a Sunday night party took place.
To add to this experience, the buck I harvested was the one in the trail camera photo.