by Kyle Figgins
PreparationThe chilly night air consumed me as I prepped for opening morning, for the first time in 15 years there would be snow on the ground for Opening day of Minnesota Deer season. It is always an exciting time of year. Our traditional family cabin was packed with 6 of us. The anticipations made it hard to sleep. Hanging my gear the night before, I made sure I had all the appropriate Minus33 gear on hand. Starting with my inner layer of Lightweight next to skin, such as the Saratoga bottom and Ticonderoga top. These are followed by the Explorer Midweight Crew and the Adirondack Midweight Vest. Finally, the Thermerino jacket before my outer shell. Combined with the Expedition Wool Balaclava which keep me comfortable during the long days sit. These products keep me in the stand longer and warmer, so I can pursue such a great tradition in the Northwoods. The morning started like any other, up before dawn making coffee and a warm breakfast before we head to our stands. With 8” of snow on the ground and even more to fall throughout the day I knew it was going to be a wet day and cold with temps hovering around 20 degrees for a high. I had a brisk 5-mile four wheeler ride to my trail head and about a 300 yard walk in from there. I always put my Midweight neck gaiter on to the stand applying all layers to keep me warm on the ride out. With the breakfast over and coffee drank, I got ready and headed out into the wintery mist. There was another inch of fresh snow on top of the snow we had gotten days before. Snow is the one thing I look forward to most during Deer season. They move a lot during snow falls and tend to move all day long. It's really based around barometric pressure. The essence of deer activity. We started out an hour before daylight. It was a cold, anxious ride. What would this year hold? Would it be another year of big bucks or a year we would have to tuck our tails and admit defeat. I had no idea what I was in store for. My thoughts drifted to the buck I had on camera last fall, Was he still around? Had the wolves found him as a snake? Was he bigger than the year before? All questions that would be answered in due time. I made it to my trail head with just enough time to walk in. I decided to keep all my layers on to warm them for the day sit. The best part of Minus33 is the ability to wick away any sweat from the skin, so it doesn’t create a cold moist layer on the skin. Those that have walked in deep snow understand the sweat one can accumulate during the journey. By layering up the way I had, I was able to stay warm all day and keep the sweat away. I arrived in my stand 15 minutes before legal shooting light. I was secured and set for the day 5 minutes before legal shooting light.
Opening Day Begins
Opening day started out like most others, the woods wake up. The clouds were a heavy gray with the snow, but the birds came alive all the same telling me the sun was rising into the sky. Shortly after day break I saw my first deer, a small doe about 25 yards behind me walking slowly through my shooting lanes. I anxiously waited for that trailing buck, however it would not show on this occasion. The day went on like most other days in the stand - small animals roaming by my stand, and birds flying all around. Around 11, I caught movement to the left of my stand in the small wooded cut riddled with cedar trees. It was tough to find the full body of the deer, however I did catch movement in there and knew that there was a decent buck in there. I drew my rifle to the shooting rail and waited. The time seemed to slow, and I forgot about everything else other than the buck that was tormenting me in the young thick cut of trees. Finally, he made his way closer to my far left shooting lane. It took him nearly an hour to move 50 yards. I finally caught a glimpse of the rack - I knew which buck it was, and boy, was he big. He moved cautiously and slowly to edge of lane, making sure that he wouldn’t be exposed to long. I then saw a doe pop out farther down the lane stop for a couple seconds and keep moving. I knew this was the thing I needed to pull him into the shooting lane. Not a mere 5 seconds passed, and he was in the shooting lane looking towards the direction the doe had went. With my heart pounding, I leveled my rifle behind his front shoulder and pulled. The buck dropped for a second, got back up, and started to turn. If there is one thing I have learned from hunting the far north of Minnesota, take the extra shot if it presents itself. My rifle leveled again, placing another shot, and just like that, it was over. The biggest advantage to sticking out these Northwoods bruisers is to the ability sit for prolonged periods of time without getting cold. A combination of layering truly helps one sit and wait these bucks out. Minus33 Merino Wool truly helps me year after year. Between the Balaclava to the lightweight layers next to skin, they keep me dry and comfortable, helping me harvest bucks like this one!