After preparing all season for an opening week of action on my favorite National Wildlife Refuge this year, my hunting plans got shut down by the government shutdown.
Then on Thursday, after two weeks of waiting, a deal to reopen the government was finally reached, and the 367 NWRs that have hunting seasons opened back up to hunters.
I called the refuges I hunt to double-check, and they said all locked gates were once again opened.
That’s a relief, since NWRs usually have fewer hunters and gun-hunting days compared to the state’s WMAs.
Simply put, this means more deer action. My friends and I see more than five times the amount of deer on NWRs than on WMAs.
Of course, on NWRs there are many more tedious rules a hunter must follow. But once you see multiple mature bucks in one bow hunt, all of those rules become worth following.
My season has had a relatively slow start so far on Richard K. Yancey WMA. Out of 19 hunts from my tree climber, I’ve had no luck.
The good news is with my midday creep hunting, I’ve had plenty action. Every day between morning and evening hunts, when it’s too hot for lots of folks, I keep going at it for hours.
I've seen lots of pigs from the ground. After nearly getting run over by a hog from 1-yard away and being unable to get any shots off with my compound bow, I decided to take my wife’s crossbow along.
The next day, I was able to get video shooting four pigs in four minutes until I ran out of bolts. Being alone almost two miles from my vehicle, I had to clean them in the woods and backpack the meat out.
I jumped plenty of deer and nice bucks creeping, and let a spike within 20 yards walk. I also shot my first ever bobcat while creep hunting in a select cut.
I can’t wait to put that pretty tanned hide on my camp’s coffee table. Nothing goes to waste in my house, and the bobcat stew I cooked up was delicious.
The craziest hunting experience so far happened when I thought I was stalking two black hogs. I hooked around when they got close enough to see, and finally realized I was filming baby black bears 15 yards away.
Then I heard growling and noticed a large black figure standing up on two legs. Using what I learned from outdoor shows on TV, I stared down the momma bear and she walked off with her cubs. Unfortunately, the footage was horrible from a shaky camera. I wonder why!
So I’m looking forward to returning to the NWRs in the coming weeks, where we normally see lots of animals and activity.
As a person who follows both sides of politics, it looks like the can has been kicked down the road and we’ll probably have to deal with debt limit issues and potential shutdowns in the near future.
But I don’t mind missing a few days of hunting some of my favorite spots if it helps get the nation moving on a better path.
Just as long as the next shutdown doesn’t happen during the rut.