Parting Shot image

We’re in that one week window until Missouri archery hunters get the first crack at the deer population. I plan to be right there with them.

Admittedly, the start of archery season, usually just called “bow season,” is the biggest thing going for huntin’-n-fishin’ types this time of year. The gun-only deer hunters will have to wait another nearly two months to get a crack at fresh venison.

I’ve decided that after about 20 years of gun hunting only that I’m going to give bow hunting another go. With the change in rules last year allowing all archery hunters to use crossbows, and a fistful of farm tags waiting to be filled, the pressure to get a start at filling the freezer is just more than I can handle for another two months.

So I recently bought a crossbow and all the accessories and I’m ready to go come Friday. I’ve sighted it in on a big hay bale leaned up against the barn, and I have some new bolts and broadheads, and a cheater rope to help cock the thing. I tried drawing it back by hand and quickly realized that it was more work than it was worth and went and purchased a rope.

Two hunting buddies made a run to the farm with me one morning this past week to do a little squirrel hunting, hang a stand and set up a ground blind. Come sunup Friday I should be sitting in that blind waiting for the action to happen.

My last foray into archery hunting lasted only a few weeks. It was about 20 years ago and I had a young family at home. I bought a used compound bow out of the classifieds. I practiced for several weeks on a big round bale in the back yard until I was fairly accurate. When bow season came I started making trips once or twice a week down to spend evenings sitting in the woods waiting for a shot.

Back then I had much less idea of the deer movements and behavior on the property. I knew where we occasionally saw them throughout the year, and had just recently started fall gun hunting there with fair success. But with a lot of hunting pressure on neighboring farms on opening weekend of firearms season, the deer would tend to be stirring more and be more visible. Hunting them in a quieter time when then had no reason to be in a hurry, and having to be closer to be in bow shot range, proved to be fruitless for me.  

I’d spend hour after hour sitting in a blind or tree stand and watch the grays and reds squirreling away nuts for the winter, and I would think of what my wife and kids were likely doing back at home … and all the things I needed to be doing. After several weeks and nary a deer close enough for a shot, I made the decision that I was going to give up archery for the time being, and maybe try it again later.

I told myself, “Doug, you have two small kids and a wife at home that need you there helping them with homework and parenting. Spend your time with the family, and when the kids are old enough to either bow hunt with you or have their own interests keeping them busy then you can give it another try.” I went home that evening and the following day listed and sold the bow through a classified ad.

While the oldest child would go on to become a great hunter, he never took up archery hunting. And the youngest enjoyed camping and hiking, but never warmed up to hunting. By the time they became involved in after-school activities and part-time jobs, I had developed other interests of my own and never bought another bow.

But we’re in a different time in our lives now. The kids are grown, and I can again spend more time hunting without feeling like I’m missing out on their few short years at home growing up. My wife enjoys an occasional quite evening or morning reading a book, and thinks she might enjoy taking some that relaxing time nestled into an Adirondack chair on the porch of the cabin at the farm. So it seems like the time is right for me to give bow hunting another try. I can hunt and she can read or relax (she’s never been into hunting).

On a different note, two weeks ago in this column I mentioned that I was in the market for a vacuum sealer and asked for suggestions. A few of you contacted me with tips or recommendations, and all were appreciated and helpful.

I’ve considered trying a vacuum sealer for several years, but never would pull the trigger on buying one for myself. One reason is that I’m always killing squirrels or catching fish and cleaning and bagging and putting them in the freezer. I always fill the bag of fillets or assorted squirrel parts with a little water before freezing it. But then I fail to write on the bag, I can’t always look at the bag and identify the meat.

A second drawback to that method is that I don’t like how fish frozen in water always gets ‘puffy’ once you thaw it out. It tends to not affect the taste, but is just off-putting during the preparation process.

So I decided I’d like to try a vacuum sealer. I asked one of my good hunting buddies what all her knew about the units. “I know you can’t be a doomsday prepper without one,” he replied! While it’s seemingly true, it wasn’t really the helpful advice I was looking for.

But some good old fashioned Internet research and the helpful tips by readers helped with my decision. I went with a mid-range priced Food Saver unit, and have to say I’m pretty pleased with it so far. To date I’ve vacuum packed squirrel, bacon (from the store, but broken down into smaller portions), and rabbits. The machine works fairly fast and has yet to make a bad seal.

One thing I haven’t tried yet but intend to this weekend is to take a cue from the doomsday preppers and try to vacuum seal some ammo. The preppers, and some of the reloaders on the Facebook  reloading forums, swear by vacuum packaging ammunition to be stored away for any length of time.

I don’t plan on burying thousands of rounds of reloads for each caliber I shoot in ammo cans in the back yard or anything, but I do think it might be a good extra line of defense against moisture for excess ammo. And, after all, I have to try the sealer out on something else … and my wife has already ruled out potato chips.

Other than that I’ve butchered meat rabbits and put them in the freezer, spent Labor Day hanging out at Black River with family, hung the deer stand and set up the new blind at the farm, sharpened all my hunting knives and axes and chainsaw chains, and plan to haul my hogs to the butcher shop early next week.

Our garden is nearly done producing, but we’re trading some chicken eggs to a coworker for some great zucchini and yellow squash – the zucchini destined to be made into zucchini bread this weekend … some of which will be frozen to be enjoyed occasionally until the next gardening season.

That’s about the highlights of what’s happening in my world this week. Good luck to all the archery hunters this upcoming Friday. 

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