By PATRICK SLACK
If the deer hunting firearms opener is an unofficial Minnesota holiday, bowhunters are the kids who can’t wait and unwrap presents early.
And don’t stop.
Like many other eager hunters, Pierz’ Mitch Becker takes advantage of the near-two month head start offered to bowhunters to begin tracking, and hopefully bagging, a prize deer, with many other small game seasons opening early as well.
Bowhunting gets started Sept. 14 and runs through Dec. 31, with the mourning dove, bear, early Canada Goose and snipe and rail seasons already getting under way Sept. 1.
One of the biggest bonuses of the long season, Becker said, is that it allows hunters to get out in summer, fall and winter weather, with deer changing during the different times as well.
Being a part of that change means as much, if not more, to many hunters.
“I hunt for a ton of different reasons,” Becker said. “To be honest, every harvest is just as fun as the next one. It’s in my blood and it’s why I do it, just because it is so much fun. We eat the meat, we like the bow – don’t get me wrong, I enjoy putting antlers on the wall.
“(But) you don’t go out there to kill an animal,” he said. “There’s so much more to hunting. Sitting in the woods and watching the other things, the deer, the birds, raccoons. You might see a bear or coyote.”
Whatever it is a hunter sees, it is likely to be different than the everyday norm.
“One hundred percent is just getting out and getting away, just the peace and quiet,” Becker said. “It’s not about killing anything, just seeing the things you don’t see and getting in the peace and quiet.
“It’s just about being out there,” he said. “Now with the kids, they see so much stuff they don’t see every day. There’s just a lot more to it, the acorns dropping, the leaves falling. Watching the sun come up, it literally doesn’t get any better than that.”
Strategies to improve “luck”
There are many different ways to enhance one’s chances of putting some meat in the freezer early.
But perhaps the simplest way is to increase the number of chances.
“I am no different than most of my friends who bowhunt,” Becker said. “I just get to spend a lot of time doing it. That puts luck on my side.”
Of course, there are also some strategies to improve one’s luck on each individual outing.
“Trail cameras have helped tremendously when it comes to hunting and also helps dictate what to harvest and when and where to harvest animals,” Becker said.
And sometimes procrastinating, or at least exhibiting some extra patience, is for the best.
“Right now I am working on staying out of my hunting properties as much as possible,” Becker said. “I have had to water some food plots because of the lack of rain.
“I have a few more stands to set up but will do that last minute when I find the best acorns dropping,” he said. “Most of the corn is going to be gone, so I’ll be hunting acorns, clovers and alfalfa.”
A few top items Becker recommends bringing along hunting are rubber boots, bags and totes for clothes, safety harnesses, cotton balls to check wind direction, a phone, rope, an extra screw and a couple of flashlights.
And no matter where one hunts, keeping an open tag on hand for the specific zone is key to remember.
“I hunt in three different zones and need to make sure I have an open tag in my pocket depending on where I am,” Becker said. “I hunt nice properties and usually have good luck.
“I hope the boys can put meat in the freezer early and that will be my focus early on,” he said. “If I shoot one early, I may be done in certain zones and as my wife would say ‘Why would he fill his tags early? Then he would be done.’ I usually have a tag in my pocket when the season is over, even if I don’t fill it. That way I can keep hunting right through December.”
A family tradition
Like many in the state, hunting is a family tradition for Becker, one he learned from his father and is proud to pass down to his kids.
“I definitely grew up with it,” Becker said. “My dad was a bowhunter and took me at a young age and I have done it ever since.”
“As I prepare for the opener, myself and my oldest will head up to our cabin north of New York Mills,” he said. “We did get a bonus tag this year up there, but will not be looking to fill mine but rather hope my dad or my son can.
“My dad is 67 and still bowhunts and it is extra special for him to be in camp with his 13-year-old grandson doing the same thing,” he said.