By Dennis Thielke
-- What began as a very frustrating deer season ended on a happy note in mid-December. I saw a few deer, but I never got a shot at one during Minnesota's bow season. I got to pull the trigger during the firearms season, but I had nothing to show for it. My last hope was the state's muzzleloader hunt.
The first weekend, I hunted with my son-in-law and his step-dad. I shot a monstrous 12-pointer, but we lost it to another hunting party when it crossed over the fence onto their land.
Although I was feeling a little down about the way hunting had played out to that point, my bowhunting buddy, Scott, and I planned another hunt on some private land flanking a river bottom. It was the last weekend, Dec. 13-14, of the muzzleloader season.
First up was mid-afternoon hunt after work that Saturday, in advance of a predicted cold front that was supposed to cause the thermometer to plummet below zero on Sunday. As we headed to our stands - me with my blackpowder rifle and Scott with his bow - there was about 4 inches of fresh snow on the ground, which revealed no deer sign whatsoever near my treestand.
That's why I abandoned the idea of climbing a tree in favor of hunting from the ground. Scott, meanwhile, took off for his stand.
With the wind in my face, I trudged off to an area where I had seen plenty of sign the previous week. By the time I settled in beside a big tree, there was no more than an hour of daylight remaining.
I had been sitting for about 20 minutes when the temperature started dropping and the wind starting to pick up and change directions. About 25 or 30 feet to my left was a brushy thicket along a fence line. As I sat watching it, I glimpsed something moving on the other side of the thicket.
I could make out antlers, even though the walking buck's head was lowered. So I shouldered my gun, pushed off the safety and pulled back the hammer. The deer had stopped in a clearing, facing me from about 25 feet away, when I squeezed the trigger.
The shot hit him in the neck above the left shoulder. He took half a step forward, and then nose-dived into the snow.
Knowing that he wasn't going anywhere, I hooted and hollered, thanking the Lord for my first deer with a muzzleloader.
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