Hunting

The Rz-Team Deer Hunt 2008

Sun, 23 November 2008

Last weekend was one dedicated to our friend the white-tail deer. With an amazing buck adventure already behind me this season, I was really looking forward to helping my Dad bag a deer, and Uncle Terry get some action. He flew up from Florida to the frozen tundra to enjoy the changing of the seasons – archery to gun season that is.

Terry came into town on Thursday, so he’d already had an entire day in the woods by the time I got to Conesus Lake, where we hunt. That night he told stories of watching a buck in the woods mill around all day long just outside of bow range. The only shot he took was this nice photo.


Apparently this buck was more interested in napping than grunt calls and rattles

With visions of bucks dancing in our heads we all turned in awaiting our first day.

Friday’s Balmy Bow Weather
I took Friday, the last day of archery season off from work. We were in the woods at sun up in what turned out to be a 60 degree November day. The deer agreed with us that it was a better day to sit out in the sun in shirt sleeves than to be walking around the woods. By 10am we had seen nothing, so we called it a morning. For the rest of the afternoon we played with guns – always a manly activity. We went down to my Dad’s barn and sighted in our shotguns for Regular season. I was the only guy to hit the paper plates consistently at 50 paces. While I thought that was a good omen, it actually was not a predictor of what was to come. In a critical strategy move, we also threw up a small ladder stand right where we’ve been seeing deer come in and out of the woods all season. THAT ended up being our best decision of the weekend.

Our Friday night hunt came soon enough as the days don’t last too long this time of year. For the 4th straight session, Dad didn’t see anything in his stand. We were all shocked at how his stand went cold after we kept seeing SO many deer there earlier in the season. At 5pm on the dot I scooted off to a volleyball game at Hot Shots. Terry was conspicuously silent on the radio when I told the guys I was leaving. When I came back to the lake later on, I got the scoop on a miss that caused Terry a sleepless night. At 4:45pm, before the radio call, a doe had meandered toward the ladder stand VERY slowly. It took until 5:05pm for it to get close enough for a perfect shot. As Terry recounted it, the shot was completely dialed in to the heart. Our resident master of the perfect shot was getting pretty cute with his technique, no doubt wanting to show us how an arrow can be put into the size of a silver dollar from 25 yards. When he let the arrow fly it went straight and true directly…into the ground. As Terry put it, the hunting target he uses is flat and a deer’s underbelly is round. It likely took off a couple hairs from that round part of the real deer, and that was all. That little incident has Terry thinking about larger target areas for next season.

Freezing Cold and Driving Rain. It Must Be Opening Day!
The opening of Regular Season was upon us Saturday morning and I knew the weather was going to be awful. Unlike most opening days, we saw no deer activity, and heard very few shots. By 9am my blaze orange cotton jumpsuit was soaked and bloated like the Michelin man, and Dad was wringing out his gloves.


Kris exiting the woods after a lovely morning in the rain

We headed in to dry off, and Terry-of-many-gadgets stayed out in the woods underneath his umbrella. At about 3pm Dad and I returned toasty and rested. The rain stopped, and you could hear a pin drop for most of the afternoon. Then, right about 5pm BOOOOMMM! Terry’s 20 gauge rang out from the lower stand and then a second shot. I quickly flipped on the radio. Terry said “Look out in the bean field, the doe’s coming your way!”. I didn’t see it, didn’t see it, then I saw it…a deer came out of the woods into the field. I radioed “I see it, what do you want me to do?”. Terry said, “Is it down?”. In that time I had lifted the gun and put the sight on the deer. I squeezed the trigger and KABLOOM my 12 gauge rang out. The deer dropped in its tracks. I observed for another few seconds, then got on the radio and said, “NOW it’s down!”.


A long trip from Florida ended up providing a big smile

After no action for 3 straight days that was quite a flurry of excitement. I was happy to be Uncle Terry’s wingman and put in the finishing shot. We had to do NO tracking. THAT would have been a great result of the day that was yet to come. We field dressed the doe then took it back to the house where we hung it on my Dad’s car hoist.


“Hanging around” the doe prior to our fish dinner at deer camp

There, I gave lessons to the guys who taught me to hunt on how to undress and quarter a deer. We had it in the fridge by 8pm. I finished off the night be frying up some walleye from our 2008 Cabonga Trip.

Gale Force Sunday and a 5 Hour Odyssey
Sunday, we were all somewhat pessimistic on our prospects. 40 MPH gale force winds and 25 degrees rounded out our weekend of weird weather. I went out to the ladder stand before sun up with Uncle Terry in the high stand 100 yards away. At ten to seven with the light just getting bright enough, and a stiff wind in my face, I saw 2 deer crossing the bean field behind me at what must have been 60-70 yards. With my knees knocking I braced myself in the tree and took aim. The deer which I thought was a doe inched closer and came into the opening that I considered to be in good range. I squeezed the trigger and the cold morning air was split open with the crack of my 12 gauge. The deer moved a few more feet and I took a hurried second shot which apparently missed, and the deer scooted off into the woods.

The best part of the shot was that it came right after Terry had radioed me that it was OK to shoot into the woods (the other hunters around us had not shown up for the day). It seemed to him that I was waiting for his permission to shoot, and BOOOMMM I wasted no time.

I was hoping that Terry would come down out of his tree in time to get a shot at the second deer which was still hanging around 5 minutes later. Unfortunately he and his Fall Guy had a fight in the whipping wind causing him to get stuck in his tree. By the time he arrived on the scene, the trailing doe was gone.

It didn’t take us too long to pick up a heavy blood trail into the woods. We radioed my dad on our progress after we followed the doe an initial 100 yards. He stayed in his tree until 9am after we already tracked the tenacious doe through thick brush, pines and a meadow. The blood trail went from large pools of blood to pin-head spots and back again. We thought for sure I had gotten a really good shot because of the ease with which we could follow the trail at certain points. After 2 hours we kicked up the deer in a heavy golden rod field, and for the first time found out it was a spike buck. We saw the antlers and a pronounced hobble in the deer, but it managed to scurry away. Getting increasingly frustrated from what was already 2.5 hours of tracking, we asked my dad to make the long journey from his stand to where we were in the field. We thought for sure we would stalk the deer for only a few more feet and would find it. Not so much!

Thank Goodness for Dad’s Fresh Set of Eyes
When Dad arrived, we trailed the deer another 300 yards across another meadow, into new woods, and down into a gully to a stream. The last blood was right before the stream so we thought for sure it had crossed and went straight up the other side. No blood. We searched 3 fresh trails near the river’s edge. No blood. We back-tracked the trail, no blood. For 1 hour we looked for any sign of blood, ultimately ending with a grid search. What was a steady trail suddenly vanished. Tired and inexperienced on these long trailing expeditions I had pretty much given up. Not my dad. Some 50 yards down the stream bank, suddenly he yelled “BLOOD!”. The deer had walked downstream and exited the water there. No sooner did we follow the trail another 30 yards, and we scared up the deer again. This time Uncle Terry trailed the deer aggressively, trying to tire it out. Finally, he got on the radio and said he could see it and get a shot. I told him to take the finisher just like I had done for him the night before. BOOM! At noon the tracking was over in a reedy bog, deep in the woods. We were probably a mile or more from my first shot.


What a relief to have caught up to this buck; a magnificent animal.

When we examined the deer we found 2 unusual things. The first was what a crummy shot I had taken. I got the deer in the back leg which caused plenty of bleeding, but is not a vital hit. The second was the fact that the deer was missing one of its antlers after I had seen 2 earlier. Apparently the world’s most fluky finishing shot had sawed off the second antler.

Dad went down the road to get the truck and in the meantime, Terry and I field-dressed the deer – only my second buck ever. We had to get permission from a farm well down the road from our hunting grounds to allow us to drag it out. I’m not proud of the poor shot I took. I am however very proud and grateful to my Dad and Uncle Terry for helping me fulfill the promise of being good sportsmen in the field.


A great deer hunting team. This day tested the mettle of all of us

The first few days of the week I spent processing the results of our productive weekend. My father-in-law was great to help me out with that task which I’ve now begun to enjoy. We already have our sausage back in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m bummed my Dad didn’t get one this year because he certainly put in his time. It was a great hunt nonetheless, showing how great team work leads to a memorable experience no matter who takes the first shot. I’m looking forward to next season already.

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My First Buck – a 7 Pointer!

Tue, 28 October 2008

Archery season for deer started last weekend in Western New York, and my dad and I have spent a lot of time already chasing after our white-tailed furry friends. This past weekend, Dad decided to take some time to spend with Mom (a smart idea). Since Tricia and I weren’t doing much after our High School Musical 3 fun with the kids, she told me to go sit in the woods. So, that’s just what I did early on Sunday morning. I saw plenty of deer – even a couple of bucks – 100 yards from my tree stand. Frustrated by everything being too far away, I took a trip to Gander Mountain to get some “attractant”. Literally some doe pee.

Yep, they bottle deer urine. I don’t want to know how they collect it.

Sunday Night Special
Sunday afternoon, I gobbled up some golabkis while watching the Bills lose to Miami, then headed for the woods. I decided to sit in my dad’s tree stand for the first time because he’s been talking about all the deer he’s seen at night from there. I dragged some attractant around the area and hopped up into the stand around 5:00pm. It was a windy afternoon, but temps were in the 60′s, so I didn’t even need my cold weather gear.

At around 5:45 as I was standing there bored, probably singing a Rascal Flatts song in my head, I turned over my left shoulder and my eyes bugged out! A buck was standing broadside in front of a row of corn about 20 yards from me. I froze. Then the deer put down its head to munch on some grass. I slowly raised my bow and drew back the arrow. The deer took a few more steps beyond a fencepost that was obstructing my shot, and I let it fly! I saw it hit a little bit high, but I knew it was a good shot nonetheless. That’s how fast it all happens…from bored to shot in the air within about 20 seconds.

Tracking in the Dark and in a Thunderstorm
Since I was all alone, my first call was to my dad who was 40 minutes away. He said to get down out of the tree and see if there was a blood trail. If so, he’d make the trip and help me track the deer. Sure enough, there was a blood trail. When I called my dad back, he was already on the road. I called my wife and father-in-law next to give them the good news. I got out my surveyor’s tape and began marking blood every 20 feet or so, listening and watching closely for any activity. At about 6:15pm I saw a deer jump up and bound away from where the blood trail led. I thought for sure I had spooked the deer I shot – never a good thing.

I was mad at myself for being over-eager, but at the same time I was kind of worried. It was getting dark and a black thundercloud rolled in. I told myself to stand still until my dad would arrive in a half-hour. During that time it started to pour, freaking me out that the blood trail would wash away. Not to mention lightning streaked across the sky which didn’t seem real safe. Luckily, after about 10 minutes, the rain passed, and the skies cleared.

My dad got to the field at around 6:45 coming from the direction where I had last seen my deer bound away. It was dark, and we both started looking for blood again. For about 15 minutes I followed the trail, and my dad looked further up the trail. When I reached the point where I thought the deer had bedded down I asked him if he was picking up the trail. At that point he said “I don’t see any blood, but I DO see YOUR deer!” “Really?”, I said because I thought for sure the deer would be 50 yards away or more from the last spot I had seen it. AWESOME! I was so excited.

7 Points of Bliss
When we finally found the deer, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was my first buck, and a much bigger one than I could tell from my vantage point so far up in a tree. We counted 7 points – 3 on one side, and 4 on the other. I called the family to give them the good news, and let them know I wouldn’t be out all night in a thunderstorm tracking the deer. Then we got to work on field dressing and dragging the beast to the truck. After all that sweat and energy, I asked my dad to take a picture. His ‘uh oh’ reaction gave me a sinking feeling. See, I purposely had not brought a camera with me so as to not ‘jinx’ my hunt, but in all the commotion I forgot to ask Dad to bring his. All we had was my iPhone without a flash and we snapped this blurry pic in the headlights:


I thought this might be my only proof

Getting the Photos and DIY Deer Processing
I had intended to bring the deer over to Steel Sausage, our favorite deer processor in Avon, but Tim wasn’t open Sunday night. So, we trucked it to my Dad’s garage and hung it from his car lift. That thing can hold 5 tons – and was probably the most overkill you’ll ever see for a deer hoist. For us, it worked perfectly.

The next morning before work, I tried to take it to the processor again, but I wasn’t hitting his hours of operation. So, we decided to bring the deer back to Webster and find a processor closer to home. And finally I was going to get my pictures! My lovely wife helped my pull the deer from my truck for some poses on the front lawn of my house. I like to let my neighbors know that I keep it real. Here’s some glamor shots:


What could be more American than a Bills flag, my daughter and a buck in my front yard?

Gary convinced me to process the deer myself (which we’ve done together before), so we decided to use my bike hoist in the garage for something other than what it was intended for…


This is a great way to get bikes out of the way…


…and a convenient way to process your deer

Mason wore a tribute shirt to school in honor of the buck, and got an anatomy lesson when he came home. He was really excited about the deer – making a request to keep the antlers. I gently told the boy, that those antlers are DADDY’s, but that he’s very welcome to look at them whenever he wants to ;)


I’m willing to bet not many of Mason’s buddies get a sight like this every day when they come home from school

Tomorrow night Gary and I will finish processing and grinding the meat. I can’t wait for my trip to Tony Costanza’s to get some of the best sausage on the planet made. If you are ever at my house ask for a sample, you won’t believe how good it is!

Thanks to my dad for helping with the tracking, hauling, and for use of the stand that I used to get this guy, and to my dad-in-law for the processing. It was great to share this with you guys. Getting my first buck was an awesome experience.

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Three from the Tree

Sun, 18 November 2007

It was a crazy deer-lover’s weekend indeed. From the exact same tree stand where Terry put one down earlier in bow season and where I bagged a doe on November 3rd, came news this morning that Terry got a doe to fill his extra Deer Management Permit.

In the waning minutes of his weekend jaunt to Western New York, he said that a gaggle of does decided to poke around the mowed corn and bean fields behind him. The biggest of the group walked to 50 paces and presented a broadside shot almost like a decoy. Terry said that it was one of the best shots of his hunting career. Unfortunately I couldn’t be there for the great event, but I’ve got the picture to prove it. Congratulations Terry on a great deer donated to the Venison Coalition!.

Terry’s Doe from November 18, 2007
Terry Rzepkowski and his doe from November 18, 2007

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Opening Day Starts With a Bang

Sun, 18 November 2007

Saturday, my dad got a nice deer to start the regular season. Of course we had already put plenty of time in the field during bow season, including Terry’s button buck on October 20th, and my doe on November 3rd. Plus, Gary bagged a buck on October 28th. Now, it was Dad’s turn to have a 2007 deer story.

Terry was in town for one last hurrah as the cheap pre-Thanksgiving flights allowed him to sneak in one more weekend. Saturday was a beautiful and chilly November morning. The sun came up earlier than usual because of the clear skies in the east. We were all up by 5am and on stand by 6:30am. Before first light we were already hearing plenty of shots in the distance (which is totally illegal, but doesn’t seem to bug some of the fine sportsmen of Livingston County). Round about 7:40am I heard a shot from my Dad’s general area, then a second only 10 seconds later. I flipped on my radio to hear the good news. Through his excited, heavy breathing Dad said that he had gotten a buck. It was a nice 6 pointer that came right into the open field to the side of him. He took one excellent shot from 40 paces. The deer did a somersault, and then kept on moving toward the woods. Dad took a second shot which was the final blow, and the deer expired immediately.

I thought I’d get down out of my tree stand around 8:30 to come help him out. By the time I reached him, the deer was already field dressed. He’s got this solo gutting thing down to a science now. We took the deer over to Steele Sausage and Catering in Avon, NY where our favorite deer processor and sausage man, Tim Steele took the buck as a donation to the Venison Coalition. Congratulations on a nice deer Dad!

Dad Rz and Kris with 6 point buck
Kris with Dad Rz and his 6 point buck on November 17, 2007

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Bounding Playfully Through the Woods

Sat, 03 November 2007

First, this Labatt’s commercial is priceless. It is a must see before any story of getting up at the crack to go deer hunting.

Now, onward to the tale of my first deer of the 2007 season. I went down to Conesus Lake to hunt with my dad at the same spot we hunted 2 weeks ago. We were greeted at 6:30 am by a crystal clear sky and a brisk 25 degrees. I headed out to the same treestand where Terry took his deer from, hoping lightning would strike twice. At first light (7:30) I got my first chance. A doe came straight at the stand not presenting a good shot. I waited for it to pass somewhere to the side where I could get a better look. Instead it kept coming to within 15 feet. I had nearly a straight down shot and missed.

As I was kicking myself over that missed opportunity, I turned over my right shoulder to see a 6 point buck bounding playfully through the open field behind me. Bucks do not typically do this unless they’re after something. Sure enough there was a huge doe not far ahead of him. Unfortunately, they never came closer than 100 yards – nowhere near my bow range. At 9am, still reeling from all of this action and missed opportunity, I hopped on the radio with Dad. That’s when I started to feel a little better (unfortunately).

Dad had hot and heavy buck and doe action all morning. First it was an approaching 6 point buck tailing a doe all around the fields near his stand. He glassed the fickle beasts to see if they were sticking their tongues out at him as they danced on the ridge beneath another hunter’s stand. As he took in this spectacle, he heard some crunching over his shoulder. An incoming doe was making her way right toward him at an extremely awkward angle. He turned slowly to try and get his bow on her and then caught an 8 point buck in the corner of his eye. This is where dad came down with a severe case of buck fever (as I would too). As his heart raced and breathing quickend, Dad pulled back his bow to a third of a pull…then the unthinkable -tink- he somehow hit the release, and sent an arrow on a slow arc nearby Mr. 8 Pointer. Luckily the buck was more interested in doe estrus than feverish hunter sweat. Dad slowly knocked another arrow and almost got a full draw on the buck again before it became wise and took an abrupt turn. Dad said the last he heard of it was 50 yards away where it absolutely mauled a sapling.

Well, 9:10am rolled around and I was settling back into my mental boredom. I replayed Dad’s story and sang some songs in my head. Right in the middle of my rousing internal rendition of Rascal Flatts’ Me and My Gang, my second opportunity of the day wandered into my path. It was fast. I see antlerless deer at 50 yards. I quickly choose a path where if she crosses into it, I’d have a decent broadside shot. She hides behind some brush for 2 seconds. I pull back, and line up the sites on the opening where she needs to step. She takes two more steps…breathe, site picture, squeeze the release…and thwap! I connected. I could tell it was a good shot. She ran off into the woods with the arrow in the right spot. I stood there for about 20 minutes with excited adrenaline. I called my dad 4 times on his mobile, but I couldn’t reach him. So I got down out of the tree and looked for a blood trail. I found a trail, and tracked for about 25 minutes until I found the doe expired about 150 yards from where I had hit her. After all that excitement, I tied her up and dragged her out to where we could do the field dressing. It was 10am by this time, and Dad had his radio on. I asked how his last hour had been…excitedly waiting for him to say ‘nothing’. That’s when I let him know that I was out of breath from dragging a deer out of the woods. I live for those moments!

Kris gets a doe November 3, 2007
Kris gets a doe November 3, 2007

Thanks Dad for being such a great hunting buddy. No matter who gets the deer, it is always great to get out into the woods and share the thrills, missed opportunities and comraderie. Maybe we should spend some time at Wal-Mart picking out pine scented cleaner. We might see a nice buck.

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Weekend in the Windy Woods, Bow Hunting

Mon, 22 October 2007

I took off from work on Friday to go blow the stink off with my Dad and Uncle Terry in the woods down by Conesus Lake. We have had unusually warm weather this October with some daily temps reaching the 80′s. This is not exactly ideal hunting conditions. The deer have been developing their winter coats, so frolicking in the fields in summer-like weather is not what they like to do. Instead they choose to spend much of their time taking naps. With Terry coming up from Florida for his only hunt of the season we had no choice but to make a go of it.

Friday morning was in the high 60′s low 70′s. As I sat in my tree stand I had to laugh as it felt like God was tossing a salad. First it was overcast and windy. Then it was sunny. Then it started to rain. Then it started to blow and BLow and BLOOWWWW. I was fighting off sideways rain and a blinding sun all at once. I did manage to see 2 deer in the distance, none in shooting range. Dad and Terry saw nothing.

Friday evening we were out at 3pm. We shouldn’t have been. Deer didn’t start moving until right at 6pm: dusk. I saw one running 6 point buck, and Dad reported nothing. Terry had a couple of small ones sneak up on him in the woods. He didn’t like the shot that presented itself, and took a pass.

Saturday morning I was on kid duty. While I was taking Mason to karate, and Anna to birthday parties, Dad and Terry sat in the woods. Nothing. Too bad. The weather was finally cooler. Saturday evening, 4pm I was back in action. I have never been in wind that blew so persistently in my life. I’m sure the wind was steady 35 MPH, and gusting to 45. I was standing up in my tree stand and holding on for dear life. I felt like I was on a sailboat with how much the tree swayed and creaked in the gale. I saw absolutely nothing to boot. I was getting discouraged as it seemed like the deer just didn’t want to move again. But on the radio at 6pm Dad reported seeing a herd of 7 antlerless deer in the field above him. And at 6:30pm Terry reported that he had arrowed a deer! It was great news since he was to be on his way to Florida on Sunday. He executed a perfect shot, and the deer did not need to be tracked far. All of Terry’s practice paid off.

Terry Rzepkowski’s Button Buck October 20, 2007
Terry Rzepkowski’s Button Buck October 20, 2007

Sunday morning it was time to give it one more try. I admit I was starting to get fatigued. 10 hours on stand for the weekend had already exhausted every song I could sing to myself, every life plan had been reviewed, every shooting angle rehearsed. The weather was beautiful this time. Calm and sunny. Unfortunately no deer. Dad and I saw nothing. Bored out of my tree by this point, I took plenty of practice shots…with my camera.

Kris in Tree Stand
Kris in a tree stand hunting deer

Fall Colors in Livonia, NY
Fall in Livonia, NY field where we hunt

Terry on the other hand reported the Wild Kingdom beneath his stand. He saw 2 small deer which he declined to take. Then turkey came by and he took a shot with a bow. The turkey apparently knew karate as it jumped upward to escape Terry’s shot. Another gobbler came by and just as Terry went to shoot, a pheasant came in and scared the whole flock away. Definitely a lot of action for his money on his last hunt before his return to Florida.

Dad, Kris, and Terry in the field
Straight from the pages of Field & Stream, the Rzepkowski Hunting Crew

Overall, who can complain about a great weekend with the guys? We got a lot of fresh air, comraderie and a few more stories to tell. What will stick out in my mind the most is shirt sleeve hunting in a hurricane force wind at the end of October. No weather surprises me anymore in Western New York.

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