HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
November 13, 2006

No gun, no license, no deer, no problem

By Aaron Schultz

The 2006 deer hunting season will not go down in my memory as my best deer hunting effort.

In fact, it will probably only rate higher than, well, my first time out.

The only way I would have had less of a chance at shooting a deer would have been if I had not actually gone at all.

First off, I would like to take a quick look back at my first deer hunt, which wasn’t actually deer hunting for me.

See, the first time I went, I was 14 or 15 years old, and couldn’t shoot deer for an entire year yet, since my birthday is in December.

Still, I was able to tag along up to Cross Lake, north of Brainerd, and go out in the woods with the crew.

Well, one member of that crew was Gregg Machemehl, who is my cousin-in-law (if that is a word), and who let me use his single shot 410 to shoot grouse.

Yep, all 120 pounds of me carried that heavy shotgun around the entire weekend, and I never saw a grouse.

In fact, even if I had seen one, there would have been no chance of me shooting it.

The shotgun was hammer, single-shot, which basically means I had to pull the hammer back before I could have fired it.

And it took all of my limited strength just to get that hammer back.

In case you are not familiar with grouse, they move quickly. Looking back, I realize that the only scenario there, where I could have shot one, was if it would have been half-dead already.

Okay, so I carried this gun around all weekend, right up until sunset Sunday, the day we were leaving and heading back home.

Back at the camp, everyone encouraged me to at least shoot the shotgun once, to say that I shot a gun on my first trip.

So, I pulled the hammer back and pulled the trigger, only to hear a click.

It turns out that the firing pin was bad, and the gun didn’t work, which means I basically carried around a weight the entire time in the woods, and through the windrows.

Just so you all know, that still goes down, for me, as my worst deer hunting experience.

Which brings us to this year – my second worst deer hunting experience.

This year would probably have been my worst, except most of the bad stuff that happened this time was my own fault (no one to blame).

It started out rough, as I went down to Goodhue to cover the Lester Prairie playoff football game, instead of leaving for the woods like I have done every single year since I could remember.

The plan was for me to cover the game, get back to the office, and get a bunch of my work done.

Then, I would head back into the office, wrap up what work I had left, pick up my dad, and head up to Cross Lake.

Well, everything was going as planned until I started thinking about where I was going to buy my deer license – either at Joe’s in Howard Lake or at Fleet Farm in Brainerd.

Sitting there Saturday morning, I realized that I would be doing neither.

See, you have to buy your license before the season starts, which I managed to forget.

Usually, I always buy my license on the way up, so I never gave buying one another thought, until I sat there Saturday morning.

Oh well, I’d survive. It isn’t like I have always been the most die-hard hunter or anything.

After wrapping up work, I swung by to pick up my dad, with everything already packed, except my rifle.

As my dad loaded up the car, I checked my parents’ basement, where I always keep my gun. Even though I know I couldn’t shoot anything, because I didn’t have a license, I was still going to bring my gun, just in case somebody needed it.

I tore that basement apart, and no gun.

What the heck was going on? I know I had it, and I couldn’t find it.

Looking back, there was no reason I shouldn’t have had it out a few weeks earlier to sight it in, but that was past, and I know I was getting worried.

Oh well, since I didn’t have a license anyway, what was the difference if I had a gun?

We took off, no gun and no license. Wow, I am turning into my dad in a hurry.

See, pops goes hunting, but doesn’t really hunt. He is in charge of grilling (somebody’s got to do the cooking).

The entire ride up, I couldn’t help but think about where my gun was. Did I give it to one of my relatives to give it a good cleaning, and forget? Or, did I just put it away so well that I forgot where it was?

At the time of writing this column, I still have no idea. But, I haven’t exactly been searching for it all that hard.

By the time we got up to Fort Ripley, I had already forgotten about my gun, and was just looking forward to getting to our cabin.

Once we reached Cross Lake, we headed to the store and picked up enough steaks to feed a small country, along with some other supplies, and made our way to the cabin.

Once there, the rest of the hunting party made it back, with no deer. None of them had even gotten a shot off.

So, the old man got the grill going, and I got the cards going.

Yep, sheephead, and if I hadn’t had enough things go wrong on this trip, it just got worse.

I lost nearly $40 playing sheephead, and most of that was to my brother. Oh come on, are the deer hunting gods finally getting payback for all of the deer I have shot in the past? That must be it.

The next day, we packed up and headed out to the woods to see how our party was doing, but they were still blanked.

We then headed back home, getting a little closer to home to watch the Vikings. What an ugly game, but the putrid Minnesota offense is a column for another time.

That was my hunting experience this year – far from the great hunter I have been in the past.

But I would like to make two last points:

1) A terrible weekend of deer hunting is still better than most weekends.

2) No license, and no gun, and I still shot as many deer as Chris did.