I drove with my friend Scott. We motored a few hours to Cass County, Illinois, for Muzzleloading deer season. I had an either sex and an antlerless tag. We met a couple folks down at the home we stayed in that also had tags. The house was only a few minutes away from the Illinois river, which we had to cross to get to the island where we were to hunt. Crossing a pitch black river would be fun in an unfamiliar boat.
The first morning we were up about 5AM. The wet gusts were making the 17 degree weather feel a whole lot colder than the thermometer said. Before I threw the covers off me I had a few minutes of deer hunting self hypnosis. “Deer hunting is fun…deer hunting is fun….” I was well prepared, though, with good polypropylene underwear and windproof clothes and my new Irish Setter Snow Claw Boots. The boots were my Christmas gift from My Shirley, and they’re worth every penny for treestand use. Of course, buy the proper size as with any boot, and use disposable heat packs inside them. Bring enough Heat Factory warmers for your gloves and chest and kidneys if you are so inclined.
The Leupold 3-9×40 Ultimate Slam riflescope I used is one of the best and most user-friendly scopes available for a muzzleloader or slug gun. It offers a reticle with hold over points for use with different muzzleloading sabot loads or various slugs. It is born as a VX-II, and the quality of Leupold products is at least on par with any riflescope manufacturer, bar none. I rely on them and have recommended them for years. And I don’t baby my stuff. If you want a scope that will last lifetimes, buy one. At all power levels before dawn I was able to see significantly more through the scope than with my naked eyes. My scope was mounted in a DNZ (Dednutz) mount on a T/C Omega, and it’s a good gun. The trigger is clean, it’s easy to load, and without experimentation with loads it gives me under two inches. I could probably chop that in half with some homework. I like the DNZ mounts quite a bit. These one piece bases and rings are machined beautifully, and a couple quick passes with a Wheeler lapping bar shows almost no wear. I used a BLACKHAWK! sling on this trip and liked it a lot. Sorry there’s no picture in the link. It’s easily adjustable and doesn’t easily slip from a shoulder, even over backpack straps.
I also used a Leupold RX-III rangefinder. This is typical Leupold quality, but I must admit that I am not savvy enough to use most of the features in this model. Fortunately, when you insert the battery and turn it on, the default mode of operation is TBR, which means “True Ballistic Range.” This means it gives a factual horizontal distance to your target instead of line of sight. This could be a useful feature in many instances, and I’ve had a few on trips this year. When changing modes and experimenting and things get confusing, like they often do for geniuses like me, just hold down the power button and it defaults to the TBR setting. Easy. It’s waterproof, has 8x magnification, and has myriad options for smarter people than me to use. It’s not hard to find those people, though, especially when technology is involved. There are many choices in a Leupold rangefinder, but this RX-III is an excellent choice with a maximum reflective range of 1200 yards.
Scott must have night vision behind his eyes, and he led me through the woods like it was freakin’ daytime. I just stepped mostly in his tracks. Some of the land was his, and he was familiar with the terrain like most people are with their living room. I cheated a bit at times and used my superb Browning Tactical flashlights with a red lens. My favorites for a long time, and the best buy in a superb light. Walk in with as little clothes as possible to prevent sweat. Sitting in your perspiration for a few hours in below freezing weather in a windy 20 foot treestand leaves a bit to be desired. Once you get up there, zip up a bit at a time. Most hunting injuries have to do with treestand falls, so be careful and always use a belt. Do what I say, not what I do. One of those kinds of things. I use a safety belt, but usually use them to drag deer out of the woods. I recommend you try it if you haven’t.
I saw a few magnificent bald eagles through some bright, small and handy Leupold Katmai binoculars, and the week before, Scott and his sons Jake and Eric spotted snapping turtles through the ice. Never heard of such a thing and would be thrilled to catch some some time. I love turtle meat.
Scott was the only one of us to shoot a deer. I busted two out of their beds before dawn on the way to a stand, but that’s all I saw. That’s why they call it “hunting” instead of just “killing.”
Sunday morning was the last time in a tree this trip, and it was one of the nicest times you can imagine. Still wet and windy, but the temperature was in the high 30s and it was beautiful and pleasant and comfortable. I talk to my maker a lot at times like those.
Bob and Brad were a lot of fun, and not a lot of the humor and witticisms were lost on us. We went to church one night, but it was converted to friend Tim’s extravagant hunting lodge, complete with mounted monster deer and alcohol. God bless hunting.
Scott forced a hind quarter and a backstrap on me (wasn’t hard), and I cooked a dinner that night with his venison, and a potatoes-in-foil concoction that he taught me along with some frozen corn on the cob from a friend’s farm this year. I sure gave My Shirley the meat that night. Don’t read anything else into that statement if you can help it.
I hope you all had a fun season hunting, and that you brought some meat home from your own kill. It does taste a bit better when it’s yours. My thanks to Scott for everything.
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