Mark Walters canoe

Walters paddles his way out at the end of his swamp country deer hunt

Hello friends,

I recently spent eight days traveling by canoe and foot, while living in a tent on a bow hunt that took place on the backwaters of the Chippewa River in Pepin and Buffalo Counties. Last week I wrote about the first three days of that trip, and his week I am writing about the final five.

Monday, Oct. 28

High 38, low 22

The high and low temperatures are changing dramatically and I have four days max before I will be iced in. In other words, I could not paddle my canoe back to my truck or walk on the ice, as it will be too thin. This same thing happened to me last year, and it was a situation that would have been pretty cool to have on video, as I broke ice with my paddle.

Every day starts with me in a tent that is lit by a propane lantern. I leave my outerwear hunting clothes outside, so they do not take on the smell of camp. I wear these clothes over hip boots, and they are always soaked from the waist down. In the morning, they are froze solid, which means I have to thaw them out just to wear them.

After getting dressed, I paddle my canoe in the dark for about three-quarters of a mile, and what is incredibly cool, is the relationship that I am developing with the most concentrated population of beaver I have ever witnessed.

These beaver see me at the start of my day, when it is dark, and at the end of the day, when it is dark.

Generally, I cannot see them, but now they have become so used to me. There are times that there are two to four of them swimming right next to me, and they slap their tails on the water to warn other beaver, and now they are so close that it gets me wet. This is very comical.

Today I put a trail camera near their lodge, and in one night the camera took 160 pictures of them working on it. Where I hunt, I must hike in about 600 yards, and the beaver are majorly expanding a dam which is flooding the forest. The hike to my stand is brutal, because the water is knee- to waist-deep due to my toothy friends.

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So the beaver could get to the forest and stay underwater the entire time, they built a canal, which is not much bigger than their bodies, which is just another display of the beaver’s work ethic and brains.

When I started this hunt, I was having a lot of action as far as seeing deer. I passed up some shots at a good buck and a small buck. One problem was that I was only seeing deer the first and last hour of daylight, and the four trail cameras that I have out were not showing any daytime deer movement.

I hunted four different areas and used muskrat droppings for a cover scent, so I think the deer were nocturnal. This was a real bummer, as I was looking forward to this trip for a whole year, as I would be hunting the early rut in an area with lots of whitetail deer, where very few humans are willing to spend time.

On the paddle back to camp every night, I would open a can of beer and just enjoy the ride, and of course, the beaver trying to intimidate me. At the tent I would get rid of my hunting clothes, and cook a very good meal, such as steaks from a 10-point buck that I whacked last year, or walleye that I caught in Canada, or chicken thighs.

On the final hunt, I had a very good feeling, as I was hunting near a hot scrape. I was in my stand over an hour before daylight and what I am sure was a buck came to the scrape just as I got comfortable.

As night was becoming day, a deer came to the scrape without warning. I had been in my tree almost 90 minutes, it was 20 degrees and the deer was a good buck at 12 yards. I went to pull my bow back and my shoulder, or something in my shoulder, locked up in mid pull.

I got my defect to work, but the damage was done. The buck hung out in my area at 15 yards for a good five minutes, but was in too much cover for me to take a shot.

That experience got me thinking on a decision that I have to make, and on the canoe trip back to camp, I broke ice, which was my sign that I needed to break camp and head to civilization.

In reality, the deer add up, as do the fish, so no cares about the buck that got away!


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