A Whitetail Hunter’s Greatest Challenge

It’s eight days before the opener of our Minnesota firearm deer hunting season. I’m done scouting. I’m in the process of getting all my gear ready, including a trailer load of camp equipment. I still have to get to the rifle range, and, darn, I still have lots of leaves in my yard to get rid of. Most importantly, I also have to finish getting ready for taking on a whitetail hunter’s greatest challenge: getting to a stand site where I expect to see a mature buck without the buck knowing it. The final 100 yards leading to the sites I plan to hunt opening weekend have been cleared of dead branches. The soft-surfaced clothes I plan to wear have been washed with scentless laundry soap and are now drying outside under the roof of my back porch where they will be aired out throughout the coming week. My new lightweight boots, now well broken in, and my homemade backpacked stool with an attached backpack are hanging out there as well. Everything metallic I plan to carry will be checked for telltale metallic rattles, including my rifle sling swivels and hand-held flashlight. The only other thing left to do will be done when I begin my hike to my stand site well before first light opening morning — planning to arrive at my stand site one hour before sunrise or 30 minutes before the first legal shooting minute of the day. I will drive no motorized vehicle to my stand trail or stand. No metallic pickup doors will be slammed there and no one will talk out loud once we leave camp. My clothing will not be tainted by gas, oil and exhaust fumes after riding a noisy ATV, OHV or snowmobile. At the beginning of my trail, I will remember to begin bending my knees with each step and putting my feet down lightly, like a silently stalking bear. Black bears do this so well. This is difficult to continue very long without thinking about it the entire way to a stand. Sure, I’ll be stepping on dead leaves and grasses or snow, but as long as I don’t halt the entire way, drag my feet, make loud footsteps or break dead branches underfoot, deer ahead (upwind or crosswind) won’t be able to determine what I am via hearing. If they can’t identify me by my footsteps, they won’t abandon the vicinity of my stand site before I get there and my chance of seeing that buck soon after at first light will be as favorable as it can be. This I know because in 70 years of whitetail hunting I’ve succeeded in doing this so many times.

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