Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 | OUTDOORS
Preparing for another rifle season
The week leading up to the opening day of rifle season in Wisconsin is probably more exciting than the actual hunt itself. Stories are typically flying over the phone and thoughts of who will be the talk of the area with that monster buck in the back of their truck on Saturday are on the minds of plenty of hunters, and that’s part of what makes it so much fun. But there’s no doubt that it’s the camaraderie and traditions that keep us coming back, even with the amount of changes that have occurred over the years, whether it’s new regulations, fewer deer or maybe the loss of a prime hunting area.
In terms of my personal rifle hunting success, it’s been three years since I’ve fired a shot from my rifle. Last year I didn’t even take the time to sight it in before heading out, and that time saving paid off, as I didn’t need to even fire the rifle. I’d already taken a heavy-bodied 200-pound deer with my bow, and on the second to last day of the season, was able to tag a doe that a member of our hunting party had shot. It allowed me to meet my yearly desired quota of two deer, which I feel lucky to have received. It has proven to be just the right amount of venison for my wife and me over the years, as it’s an important part of our diet. And quite frankly, there’s no better protein on the planet, in our humble opinions.
This year is like many others gone by, in the fact that my rifle has remained virtually untouched since I’d cleaned it after the season and set it in the gun cabinet last year. Every once in awhile, I’ll rearrange the guns and take them out for a cleaning if I think they need it, but I have yet to sight in both rifles and hope to do so like just about every other hunter in the final few days left before the season begins on Saturday. And there’s no doubt, the lines will be long, but there’s usually a story or two to share with the other procrastinators while we wait to touch off a few rounds, maybe two or three, before figuring the rifle is right on as it has been over the previous two decades. If one is off, there’s another rifle that’s next in line.
In other preparations for the upcoming gun deer season, I scoured the freezer high and low for any remnants of deer from the 2013 season. It didn’t take long to reveal just two packages of steaks, and another 50 pounds of venison trimmings. I wasn’t prepared to see that much leftover venison, so I spent several hours last week, thawing, chopping, grinding, seasoning and eventually transferring it all to the dehydrator, one batch at a time. It’s been nearly a week, and I’m still trying to get it all dried and put back into the freezer. It will provide plenty of snacking for the holiday season and likely serve as gifts to some of the landowners who allow me to tramp around on their property each season. By far, it’s the largest stash of ground venison I’ve ever processed, which is why I’m not entirely sure why I decided to shoot a doe last Saturday evening with my bow, but the shot opportunity was too good to pass up, and it’s likely the last time I’ll get out to bow hunt this season.
If anything, shooting a deer with a bow is far more exciting than taking one with a rifle, and I’m now halfway to filling my venison quota for the year. Perhaps this will be the first season in three years that I fire a shot during the rifle season. If not, I’ll likely need to get out to do a little bow hunting again, or find some time during the muzzleloader season, which is another exciting opportunity ahead for hunters all across the state.
According to the latest weather reports, the weekend looks as close to perfect as you can get for an opening day. There will be plenty of snow cover and 30-degree temperatures will be much easier to deal with than opening morning last season. If I recall correctly, there was some snow cover but it was awfully crunchy, and I could barely sit for more than an hour before being forced to get down from my treestand by the bitter north winds.
No matter what the season brings, there’s sure to be plenty of fun to be had in the week ahead. Best of luck to all the hunters out there, and please, be safe.