hen deer hunters are in their stands, scanning the woods for whitetails, they're usually alone. Yet deer hunting is often a family affair, involving sons, daughters, brothers, uncles -- and, of course, dads and moms. When we asked readers to submit their deer hunting photos and tales, nearly all said relatives played key roles in their memorable moments afield. Maybe that's why deer hunting is a special tradition for a half-million Minnesotans.
COMPILED BY DOUG SMITH
Ryan Ische, Victoria
"My son, Ryan, has been hunting with the family since he was 12 and had never shot a buck,'' Steve Ische said. "It was opening morning in Todd County when his brother Chad shot at this buck from the other side of the woods. Within a few minutes Ryan heard some rustling in the brush about 100 yards away. A short while later this buck was headed right for his tree stand. Ryan took two shots and the buck dropped. It was a 10-pointer, and we estimate the live weight was around 275 pounds.''
Alex Pearce, 10, Mayer, Minn.
Alex was hunting with his dad, Lance, near Nevis on the deer opener -- his first hunt. He shot a spike buck, then 20 minutes later saw this 8-point, 160-pound buck come out of a swamp. He shot it with one shot with a .30-06, and it dropped. "Two shots, two deer on opening day of his first hunt, and we didn't have to track either one,'' said his proud dad.
Pete Hitchcock, Shoreview
"With about 15 minutes of shooting time left, two fawns were about 60 yards away and they attracted the attention of a buck. He ran up from the swamp through thick brush, and chased the fawns. A couple of minutes later I heard gunshots and figured that was the last I saw of the buck. But the buck, a nine-pointer, returned and gave me a nice broadside shot about 70 yards out. I took one shot and he ran about 40 yards and dropped. A perfectly-placed lung shot!
Brette Springob, 13, Isanti
"I was hunting opening weekend at our family cabin near Ogilvie, Minn., along with my dad and grandpa. I sat out all day Saturday and Sunday through noon without seeing a deer. Then on Sunday afternoon I switched stands with my dad and went out with my grandpa. We could hear a doe calling, so we got out the buck grunt and were calling with her. Then a doe came out. I wasn't going to shoot her, but I was practicing aiming on her when I saw huge antlers out of the corner of my eye. I quickly turned, aimed and shot. He jumped forward slightly, but then he just walked and stood still. I shot again. He ran a few steps and fell. It was a 10-pointer; we are having the head mounted.''
Nicole Schaefbauer, Champlin
"We were hunting the family property near Merrifield and were driving a thicket of poplars when one of my sons kicked up this buck and a doe,'' said Mike Stange of Champlin. "Nicole [my son's girlfriend] was up in a tower stand. She heard the buck crashing out of the thicket, took aim with her .243 Remington and dropped the buck at about 75 yards -- a nice running shot. It was her fourth year of deer hunting, and her first deer -- a 10-point, 225-pound buck.''
Connor O'Leary, 10, and Michael Ferlita, 11, Eagan
Connor O'Leary, 10, (left) and Michael Ferlita, 11, (right), both of Eagan, bagged this whitetail together -- their first -- while hunting Wisconsin's Youth Opener near Spooner with their dads. "We had both boys in my deer stand early the first morning when we noticed a good-sized doe about 25 yards away," said their dad, John Ferlita.
"In hopes that at least one of them would hit it, I told both boys to aim and shoot on my count. They both shot at the exact same time and the deer dropped right away. The boys couldn't get out of the stand quick enough. We were shocked to find out that there were two vital shots about 4 inches apart -- one in the heart and the other through the lungs. They were excited they got to shoot their first deer together.''
Paul Sam was hunting with his two son's and brother near Onamia when he was lucky enough to come across this 8-pointer, which responded to a grunt call. After looking for the deer for about an hour and just about to give up because there was no blood trail, he found it 100 yards away in a different direction.
Tony Cornish, Good Thunder, Minn., and Gabe Cornish, Lake Crystal, Minn.
"I posted on one end of the woods and my son Gabe went into the other,'' Tony Cornish said. "He had no sooner stepped into the woods when a large doe jumped up and took off. She must have rousted this buck, because all of a sudden I heard splashing coming right down the center of the Blue Earth River, and here were two deer, a doe with a buck trailing right behind, full speed. As the buck ran by I took four shots, hitting him twice. He fell onto the rocks right below my house. It turned out to be a nice 8-point. It was a great time to be out hunting with my son.''
Jeremy Knight, 11, Alexandria
"My son, Jeremy, shot this 12-point buck on his first time deer hunting,'' said dad, Kevin Knight "He shot it near Rushford, Minn., during the Minnesota Special Youth Hunt Season in October. It was a hunting trip that neither of us will ever forget!
Garrett Carlson (right) and his dad, Dennis, of Anoka
Garrett Carlson was helping his dad, Dennis, and two other members of his hunting party look for a wounded deer. Only the two of them carried rifles while searching. "I peeked through some tall grass and saw a beautiful 8-point buck lying there looking at me,'' said Garrett. "I thought it was the one my buddy shot.'' But the deer moved, then jumped up and ran. "It took two steps before my dad and I put two lethal shots into it, dropping it right there,'' Garrett said. "It was the first deer I've ever shot with a firearm.''