A Deerland Dispatch from Deer Day

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently attended the Minnesota DNR’s Deer Day program for new hunters.  It was a fun event, and I enjoyed meeting so many enthusiastic adult-onset hunters and hearing their stories.  I also learned a few things myself.

The event was originally part of the Becoming an Outdoorswoman (BOW) program, but was later broadened to include men, young people, and whole families.  It’s held at the farm of Betty and Dan Wilkens, who have graciously hosted the event every August for the past several years.  It takes some acreage to host an event like this, and also some good backstops for the various rifle, shotgun, and archery ranges. 

Apart from brief opening and closing sessions, most of the program consisted of breakout sessions held at various stations participants rotated among during the day.  In addition to all the shooting, there were sessions on treestand safety and blood tracking for bowhunters. 

The treestand safety session may not have been as fun as some of the others.  It was, however, an important one.  Today far more hunters are injured by falls from treestands than by gunshot wounds.  First, we learned about the pros and cons of various types of stands and harness systems.  Then we learned it may not be a good plan to use a safety rope that leaves you dangling upside down ten feet below your treestand and ten feet above the ground—especially if the rope is attached to a belt or a cheap harness that’s cutting off your circulation fast.  Can’t reach your cell phone or your jacknife?  If there’s no one within earshot, you could be out of luck.  It will be another three to five minutes before you lose consciousness.

As they were wrapping up, the two Conservation Officers giving this presentation demonstrated a couple of really nice ground blinds.  (If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, ground blinds are small camo-colored, special-purpose tents with windows you can shoot through.  When sitting in a ground blind, you’re hidden well enough so you don’t have to sit as still as you would out in the open.)  By then this seemed like a very appealing alternative.

Next up for my group was the blood trailing lesson.  Earlier that morning, our instructors had prepared simulated blood trails that were quite realistic.  Apparently this had involved a pail of pig blood, a large brush, and various spatters and droplets artistically applied to the surrounding vegetation.  To my untrained eye, it seemed like a pretty convincing imitation of what you’d see after a lung, liver, or gut shot.  This helped persuade everyone to spend the afternoon on more target practice.

But first it was time to break for lunch, which did indeed include venison.  BBQ sandwiches made with ground venison.  Delicious. 

Then it was time for more shooting.  I saw some impressive sunburns getting underway, but everyone seemed to be having a good time and learning a lot. 

During the course of the day I talked with several adult-onset hunters and heard their stories.  I got the sense that events like this are a good recruiting tool and a good way to entice newcomers—even people from nonhunting families who have no previous exposure to guns, archery, or hunting.

Deer, beware.

© 2011 Al Cambronne

Author: alcambronne

Retired photographer, author, and cancer survivor living in northwest Wisconsin.

8 thoughts on “A Deerland Dispatch from Deer Day”

  1. Wow, it’s good to hear more folks are expanding these programs to all adults – I think they’re understanding that there are adult men who want to learn to hunt and need help.

    1. Amen! If you don’t have a friend to mentor you, you need to learn all this somewhere. And I liked that the event had a very positive and supportive kind of vibe, with no macho posturing that silently said “You’re less manly because you don’t yet know this stuff I’m about to explain.”

  2. Interesting, Al. Like Holly, I’m glad to hear that such events are out there for adult men.

    On the treestand safety topic, did anyone mention static lines, where you’re hitched to a prussic knot? I like being on the ground, but when I use a stand I really like having a static line, rather than wrestling with a lineman’s belt.

    1. Yes, as a matter of fact they did. At least I think that was the name of one knot I saw demonstrated. There was a static line, and then a slightly smaller line that was coiled around it with a tricky knot that could slide up and down the other rope freely as long as there wasn’t any real tension on it. But then when there was tension, like in a fall, the knot would grab the static line and not slide. That kind of a deal???

      For the knot-challenged, they also showed some vests and gadgets that had the capability built in, with some sort of mechanical device like you’d find in modern seat belts. These gadgets let out cable freely until you’re falling, and then stop you cold. I think there was one that would even break your fall gradaully, pause for a moment, and then slowly lower you to the ground. But your low-tech solution sounds just as good. And if you can save the knot and not necessarily retie it every single time, then I suppose it’s no hassle at all.

      1. Yep, that’s the knot. There are all kinds of climbing gadgets (ascenders, etc) that do the same thing. The knot is just the simplest and lightest. I actually got my version as part of a harness system — the knot was even pre-tied! I haven’t untied it once. I just check to make sure it’s still in place with the correct number of loops, clip in my carabiner, and up I go. (Installing the static line in the first place does require a different means of ascent, of course. I use a lineman’s belt approach to get up there the first time. The “belt” is also a rope with the same knot on it, for adjusting length.

  3. The hunter safety course I went to last spring in Vermont had a similar feel. Even though it was geared towards young hunters, I learned a ton (I just bought my first hunting license last week at age 25). I even got a non-hunter friend to tag along when I went back for the bowhunter safety course, he just bought a bow and is practicing for next year!

    1. Good to hear about your positive experiences at the session in Vermont. And congratulations on your first hunting license! It’s never too late to start. Also great that you’re already getting other people try give hunting a try. Those Vermont deer had better beware!

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