The Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991 was a mighty event. The snow came down hard and piled up in record amounts, directly affecting the impending deer season.
Our adventure began the weekend before the deer season opener. My dad and I drove to our new hunting spot in my old Plymouth station wagon. When we got to the Chequamegon National Forest, we discovered all the roads were completely covered with ice and hard-packed snow.
Keeping the car between the ditches was a real challenge. When we got to the road that took us to our future hunting spot, we discovered it had not been plowed and the snow was up to 18 inches deep. The first stretch of road took us up a steep climb that lasted for about a half a mile. We decided to attempt the climb figuring that if we got stuck it would be easy to get the car moving downhill to escape.
To our surprise, we made it up the first hill and began spinning our way back to our hunting ground. The times we got stuck, some small branches placed under the tires, along with a good push, got us back in motion again.
The car got stuck again going up a steep hill. With myself pushing and my dad driving, the car got going again, but soon became apparent that it would not stop until it reached the top of the hill. I trudged through the snow for roughly a mile before catching back up with my dad and the car. Once we finally reached our destination, my dad upgraded our transportation to his old IH Scout.
Our tent was an old canvass boy scout pup tent. We rigged up a tarp and propane heater at one end of the tent, which blew some of the heat over the top of us. When a gust of wind blasted from the right direction, the tent would billow out and all the heat would escape the tent. We made the mistake of not compacting the snow before pitching the tent, so our body heat melted two human sized trenches while we slept.
Despite the challenges, we were living the adventure. We were up at 4:30 on opening morning. Getting dressed was easy since the cold weather only allowed us to remove our coats and boots before slithering into our sleeping bags for the night.
It had started snowing overnight, and it would continue until we broke camp on Monday. We estimated another 12 inches of white stuff accumulated over the three-day period. We slogged our way into the woods in the dark. When the sun came up, it revealed a winter wonderland of snow covered trees and branches, and interesting drifts and swirls of snow all around.
I spotted a few deer opening morning, but had no shots. At noon, I headed for a lunch rendezvous with my dad. As I plodded up the final ridge to where he was sitting, I heard two shots ring out from the top of the ridge. I hustled to the top of the ridge to find my dad with a dead doe. He told me there were two deer and he missed the second one.
I decided to try tracking it down. I followed the tracks in the deepening snow along the ridge. The deer had veered off the ridge to the north. I followed the tracks and spotted the deer at the bottom of the ridge. Before I could shoot, it disappeared into a thicket of small pines.
I worked my way to the bottom of the ridge and into the pines. Eventually, I came to a small mound overlooking a creek. As I was surveying the situation, snow began to fall off the trees and the deer emerged. I took a shot as the deer was about to leap across the creek. The deer landed on the opposite bank and then fell backwards into the creek. I learned something new that day: deer — even a dead one — float.
I ran long the bank trying to think up a way to retrieve the deer without getting drenched. Eventually, I spotted a tree bridging the creek banks. I ran to it and carefully crawled out on the tree. When the deer came floating past, I snagged one of its hoofs and pulled it from the water while carefully crawling backwards. At the end of the day we were two tired, but happy, hunters as we crawled into our makeshift shelter for the night.
On Sunday, we had several encounters with deer but no venison. On Monday morning, I rose early and headed to a spot I had found while roaming the woods the previous day. There were no human tracks in this particular area, but plenty of deer tracks, so I figured it was a good place to start the day.
After an hour of sitting and waiting, a buck came ambling along on the far edge of the ravine. I took careful aim and squeezed off a shot. The buck immediately turned and walked directly towards me. I thought, “Oops, I missed.” I began to cycle a new round into the chamber when the buck fell over. I counted the number of steps the deer took after the bullet hit and it took exactly 15 steps.
What an amazing season opener adventure with heaps of snow and venison.