Tuesday, November 25, 2014

First Shotgun Deer Season Recap

Friday was cold. Deer moved, but my brothers and I didnt shoot anything.
Saturday was warm. Deer didnt move much, and we didnt shoot anything.
Sunday was by far my favorite and most memorable deer hunt to date.

At 4:30 am I woke up my two boys Noah (7) and Drake (4) and got their hunting coveralls on and we were out the door by 4:45. En Route to the hunting farm, we stopped at the gas station and loaded up on donuts and chocolate milk.

When we got to the farm, we had about 3/4 mile walk thru the woods to get to our deer hunting blind. We needed to hunt in the enclosed blind because of the rain in the forecast. I not only carried the backpack with snacks and drinks along with the gun, but had two little hands clinched tighter than you can imagine on that little hike thru the woods in the complete darkness.

We got up to the blind about 5:55 am and it started to rain shortly thereafter. The dark, overcast morning meant that it was gonna be awhile yet before it would be light enough to shoot, so the boys curled up and fell asleep.

About 6:45 am we had 2 does walk into our food plot, but it was still a little dark and I wasnt gonna shoot one till the boys were awake and I wasnt gonna wake the boys till it got a little lighter out.

7 am the boys got up with the sun and we had a couple coyotes come down a trail about 60 yards away. We tried to get one, but they kept moving away too quickly for us to shoot.

Then 15 minutes later a small 8 pointer comes down the same trail.... We talked about letting the boy deer grow up to become a big daddy deer... big daddy is something they can relate to all too well as their father is a pretty large guy.

We saw some deer off in the distance a few different times, ate all our snacks, talked about life and told some hunting stories about coyotes, deer, and of course wolves and bears... That time spent in the blind, none of us would trade for anything in the world, but that warm fuzzy feeling wouldnt be able to last too much longer with such young boys filled with that much sugar, couped up in such a small space....

I knew time was running short and finally about 8:15 am a young doe comes trotting straight to us! Literally not 5 minutes after praying a short silent prayer of please Lord bless us with a deer to harvest... I dont usually pray those prayers when I am hunting by myself, but this day I wanted to harvest a deer more than any other day of hunting. We were able to spot her 200 yards out so that gave us just enough time to get situated, ears covered, and in good shooting/observing position.

She stopped 25 yards from us and she dropped right in her tracks. All three of us immediately looked at each other with a moment of silent amazement and then the excitement couldnt be contained when we all fully realized we had just actually harvested our first deer together... we have been watching a few hunting shows and playing pretend hunting in our living room since these boys were old enough to walk, but now this was the real deal.

Harvesting this first deer together is a moment in time that we will never forget. After 15 minutes of waiting and talking about harvesting an animal, it was time for the boys to go down and find her.

They spent a few minutes alone down by the deer looking at her up close and then I came down and taught them how to drag her and we got her cleaned up and snapped a few photos.

Then it was time to go get the truck and load her up and get her processed when Drake would not let us leave the deer. He didnt want any coyotes or anyone else to come and get her while we went to go get the truck. He had two solutions- either we drag the deer all the way to the truck or he would stay and guard the deer. He was worried, but Noah and I finally convinced him to come with us and that we would be right back.

So we made it back to the deer safe and sound, loaded her up and took her to my parents place just a few miles away to get her skinned and processed... We learned that she was eating alot of corn and alfalfa, we examined her heart and liver and packed up all the meat. We saved the loins and roast for some upcoming venison recipes and froze the rest of the meat for grinding later this winter.

By 1 pm we were on the road for home and some Sunday afternoon naps. The boys learned more today on this day of hunting than they could ever learn in a lifetime of schooling. It was a moment that will forever be etched in their minds and will help shape them into not only responsible hunters, but respectful humans. A special moment like this I dont think you can have by playing sports or video games together, a moment like this is something that goes far beyond quality time together.

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

Right now, our deer population is indeed lower than it has been in the past few years. This doesnt mean we are gonna throw in the towel and stop hunting and stop teaching and stop managing. What this means is that we are going to work harder and harvest smarter so that we can continue to teach our future hunters and help our deer herds prosper. Being good stewards will be a combination of boots on the ground habitat management along with some necessary legislation changes to ensure hunting opportunities for future generations. My motto is that anything and everything can be improved upon, so lets get to work...

At our farms we are harvesting very few deer (much fewer deer than in the past), controlling predators as much as possible, and we are making sure necessary food, cover, and water are available for our animals all year round. Then next year we will improve upon what weve done and so on so forth until we are old  men sitting back in reclining chairs hearing stories of our boys' boys harvesting their first deer!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Deer and Everything Else Update

Illinois Shotgun Deer season is just around the corner. If all goes as planned, we will be taking off work on Friday and Saturday and hunting all day, both days... If everything doesnt go as planned, we will probably still be delivering over 10,000 walleye and 1000's of muskies and northern pike to lake owners all over central Illinois. (at least to the ones not deer hunting)

As for deer numbers, I have been asking friends and clients all over the state and the general consensus is that trail cam activity and deer sightings are up considerably from 2012 and 2013, but mature deer numbers are still much lower than usual... basically if everything goes normal, we should be looking at a very good crop of mature deer in 2015-2017! My brother Chad harvested an awesome mature, thick 8 pointer with his bow earlier this year:

As for my hunting report, I have bowhunted a handful of times so far this season, but havent even considered shooting a deer yet. Ive seen plenty of deer, I just have been enjoying sitting in a tree watching nature that has no clue I'm watching them. I've seen and experienced things while sitting in silence that most non-hunters will never see or experience.... for me, its been the only chance to shut off the world completely and just sit in Awe of God and His creation.

The year 2014 has been by far the busiest and most challenging year humanly possible, but here we are just days away from Thanksgiving and Christmas and 2015...  In 2014 we tackled the Goose Ranch Renovation, filmed a whole season of our new Tv Show Lake Life, and went full bore with Herman Brothers Lake and Land Mgmt. all while raising children and spending time with our spouses. Every second has been accounted for, but now hopefully for the next few months we will muster up a more normal life with at least a few hrs each week to sit in a reclining chair or a tree, write a blog post or two, or maybe even shoot a deer or catch a fish!

While 2014 has been challenging and pushed me to the brink of exhaustion and mental overload, it also has been the most amazing fairytale, stuff dreams are made of, kind of a year. The Goose Ranch Project has gone tremendously better than anticipated, our Tv show will premiere in the Spring, and HB Lake and Land will be hiring some more help spring 2015 as well to keep up with demand, not just locally but across the Midwest.

Here are some of the pics from the last few months, the rest of the story you will have to catch next spring and summer on the Great American Country Channel and the DIY Network. There will be a new episode out every week all summer long!

It was an unforgettable year, gonna hopefully get the kids out shotgun hunting this weekend, give thanks for everything next weekend, then head south for a few weeks with the whole family to film a couple more episodes, then come back to celebrate Christ's birth and then hopefully do alot of ice fishing! We are planning on several big ice fishing fridays and saturdays this winter with good food, great company, and maybe even a few fish!! Just email nate@hblakemanagement.com for more details as the lakes start to lock up!