My season in photos

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JoeRE
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My season in photos

Unread postby JoeRE » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:15 pm

I decided to go back to what I used to do and post mostly photos from my season with short descriptions...god knows I write enough the way it is.

**Warning lots of photos**

CHAPTER 1 ELK

It was another grand year in mother nature, starting off with a trip to CO to chase elk. This was the third time my brother and I have done this - a backpack hunt on public land in an over the counter unit. We did not tag one this time, had a couple opportunities but each time I hung back because I wanted my brother to get a shot this year since I tagged one the first two trips and we just didn't get it done.

Hunting pressure was much higher than the first two trips so this may be my last outing to the area - I started to feel sorry for the elk by the end of the trip being chased round and round every day from drainage to drainage.

Gorgeous country though, here are some photos.

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When you need to be in awe, just walk into an aspen grove.

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And look up. May you never be too hurried to just stop and stare.

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Bed in thicker cover.

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Bull track in a packed bed. Elk bed as consistently as deer maybe even more so but you don't hear much talk about it.

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I may start calling elk "mountain pigs" because they stink and love the mud.

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After the elk trip, it was time to get ready for whitetails on public land back home. Bow opens Oct 1 in Iowa and having gone meat-less in CO I was ready. Did some quick low-impact scounting and checked some trail cameras that had been soaking all September.

CHAPTER 2 BOWHUNTING EARLY SEASON

Found a mature buck in a killer pattern to a lush alfalfa and clover field showing up just after dark. He was bedding on private but I could set up about half way in between bed and food it seemed like. Hunted the travel route on opening night but had someone cutting firewood back on the private land in the general area where I suspected the bedding was. Saw a doe and really nice yearling buck and got in and out clean.

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1 week later on October 7th we again had the right conditions - north wind, cold front with high and rising barometer, falling temps, and I thought that spot was worth another shot. However I knew that big buck probably had smelled my setup and would come through slightly differently. I set up about 40 yards further downwind, 30 yards from the fence line.

As soon as I climbed up a squirrel hopped around below me. I carry a bunt for times like these.
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The big buck read the script following the small buck from hunt #1. He came through well downwind of my tree, I am certain scent checking the area to see if I was back, and almost too far for me to shoot. But he came just close enough, browsing on freshly fallen maple leaves, and I put an arrow through the top of his heart. He didn't know what hit him and only went about 30 yards. He went straight down like a poleaxed steer, not crashing like they usually do.

He was a huge bodied mature buck. Long beams that reached to his nose but short tines 127 lbs of boneless well trimmed meat - around 270 lbs on the hoof. I had him on camera the previous year and think he was about 5 years old.

Where he fell - as if sleeping.
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His big chipped hooves that carried him over the hills until this day.
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CHAPTER 3 THE RUT

Having filled my regular bow tag, I did a fair bit of public land scouting through October and November. It will serve me well on future years.

I did a journal on the beast in 2015 and for those that are curious I covered every bit as much ground in 2016. 200 miles on the boots. Hundreds of hours scouting, thinking, planning, then a few more hunting getting the job done. I don’t have a lot of time to spend at any one time but God gives us all 365 days in a year.

Here are a few photos from my outings.

This big heart shaped track is from a jaw dropper of a buck that has eluded me for 2 seasons and counting. If I had known what I would discover before shooting my buck, I might have not even gone after him. But we never do, that’s part of the fun. If he makes it to next year…well that will be another chase.
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The hills I love
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Got to still watch some rut action while scouting about.
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In early November I made a spur of the moment decision to go up to northern Wisconsin with a buddy for a quick deer hunt. It was only a 3 day weekend, and I decided to take my recurve that I started shooting this year. I hadn’t felt comfortable hunting with it yet – what better place to start than the north woods.

Bucks were on their feet cruising so I dove deep into the public the first afternoon and set up on the downwind edge of a swamp right at the transition between tag alder and tamarac with hardwoods to my back. I have been going up there off and on for several years gun hunting and scouting but never bow hunted up there before. I am beginning to understand the area.

Its night and day different than the Iowa farm country I grew up in. I started going up there to put myself outside my comfort zone, to grow as a hunter, and it feels like its working a bit anyway. Sure is eye opening.

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I guess I had a lucky hunch picking that spot. A doe came by, then a spike, then another spike. I realized I set up about 20 yards from the intersection of travel routes after watching these three deer. If there is one thing I know – when you are out of the game, get in the game. With an hour and a half of daylight remaining I tore down moved and set back up – maybe 15 minutes in my tree saddle on three climbing sticks with rope aiders and a t-bar footrest bolted to the top stick. Just before sundown I see a white rack coming out of the swamp.

It’s a poor picture but the buck is dead center in the frame.

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That was the point where I started to come apart. It wasn’t a big buck, probably a 2 year old 8 point, but with the recurve in my hands I felt like I was 14 years old again shooting my first deer. I panted for breath, my pulse pounded, my hands were sweaty. That darn deer walked past me at 15 yards exactly like he was supposed to and full of buck fever I forgot everything I had practiced with that recurve, jerked that string back and put my arrow right over his back!!

What a hunt. I was more shook up over that basket racked 8 than the last 20 bruiser bucks I have shot. And seeing 4 deer up there in a sit is pretty darn awesome too!

The next day after a serious self help session and maybe a few cans of liquid courage the previous night I went back to the same general area. Temperatures were warm and I didn’t see much that morning. My buddy was set up a couple hundred yards away and around noon, as we had previously worked out, I was going to get down and work my way out into the swamp to an island to set up for the afternoon.

I packed up and began working my way out into the swamp, temps were now around 70 degrees and every other deer hunter in the county was probably at home eating lunch. The fresh sign told me the deer were in there.

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I was going to take a long circular route so that when I reached the island, which we knew deer bedded on, anything I bumped would head toward where my buddy was set up. He wanted meat and was looking for a good shot at about any deer.

I took my time and reached the long, narrow island an hour later. There were a couple pines and a few oaks on it…and a ton of deer sign. I quickly picked the nearest tree that allowed me to cover the full width of the island and prepared to set up. Right at that moment I heard a “UURRPPP…..UUURRPPP” from the swamp off the end of the island. Holy crap.

In that split second I somehow knew I was going to get a shot at a big buck in just a few seconds. Somehow I focused on freeing my recurve, nocking an arrow, stepping behind the far-too-thin oak tree I stood beside as crashing grew nearer. Wide beams with a wall of shortish tines on each side broke free of the tag alder and tamaracks in front of me.

The thick body of the buck was smeared with swamp muck, ribs heaving as he was clearly in hot pursuit of a doe…everything was in slow motion as he stepped up onto hard land, broadside, in the open, 20 yards, me picking a spot, feeling the tension of the string as I drew, tip of my middle finger hitting the corner of my mouth and the arrow was on its way. Everything I DIDN'T do the previous night. I was in control. That was the thought frozen in my mind. Control. the spinning fletchings looked really good…then as I watched them get about half way to the deer, cresting at about top of his back and just beginning to drop down toward his chest, I watched them kick sideways as a blade caught a tag alder branch that I had intended to put my arrow right in front of. NO. And that was that as the great buck took off about 50 mph through the tamarack.

I will never know for sure but my arrow looked to me like it was on course to take out the back of both lungs on that darn buck. The shot felt good I wanted to put my arrow 2-3” in front of that branch which went across the back of his chest and I didn’t. With my compound in my hands that deer was dead meat. A split second close range shot through a small window is exactly how I kill most big bucks.

As my buddy later said, gonna have PTSD over that one.

I was able to distract myself from that pain because I got a text saying my friend had got a buck down. I bumped him off that island right to him – a big woods bump and dump with the bow. Maybe I should have stayed on that darn island but I went over to help with the deer.

The buck was only a forkhorn but look at the smiles on our faces. My buddy made meat just like he needed to, and that crazy hunt will be remembered a long long time…

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And by the way, this is the buck I missed. It was the largest buck that year my buddy had on camera…a northwoods swamp donkey.
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Packing out the deer the mile back to the truck was icing on the cake.

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A trip to remember. If I had to pick one memory from the year this was it….and all I did was miss two deer.

I came back home to a lot of rut activity. I own a few acres around my house that I bought last year and had a second either-sex bow tag in my pocket valid for my own land.

Until that point I had yet to even hunt a single time behind the house. Between my trail cams and visual observations there was no reason to try until I saw something I could kill. On a small property like that, doing any lower odds hunt is counterproductive. Twice earlier in the year I saw a big buck using my property but both times either work or family commitments prevented me from going after him. The buck was a 4 year old that had been around last year too. I had his sheds.

The previous winter I had done a bunch of work in the timber to improve bedding and browse, and I had a couple acres of beans, sunflowers, and brassicas. I waited. One day mid-November I saw the big buck and several others cruising around a patch of weeds within eyesight of the house in the middle of the day. Must be a doe in heat, so I watched even more closely.

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Sure enough the next morning at first light I saw the big 10 follow a doe in heat into the thick cover on my property. I grabbed my bow, crawled around some outbuildings, across the lawn and down along the edge of the woods. I could see antlers over the brush occasionally. The wind got a little squirrely and the doe stood up and headed out of the thicket, the buck started moving too. Unfortunately for the buck his love juiced brain made him too slow on the draw and my arrow found its mark – but just barely. I didn’t have my rangefinder with me and judged him upper 20s away, he was low 30s and I went through the bottom of his heart. From my COMPOUND haha.

As he fell – a great deer on a strange “hunt”
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And yes I shot him in blue jeans.

Having killed bucks the first two years on my own land, it gave me a deep appreciation for the education I have had as a hunter in places with competitive hunting pressure. Take a public land hunter and turn him loose on un-harassed deer and its like a wolf in the sheep pen. There is no comparison. I enjoy watching deer around the house but don’t know if I want to keep killing them.

This buck had a pretty small body, unlike my early season brute – although his antlers are quite a bit bigger. I think he was 220-230 lbs on the hoof. I am a big guy and you can see how different the buck bodies look in the photos. The buck had smallish feet too. Antlers were not small.
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CHAPTER 4 LATE SEASON

And then it was late season. I always pick up the muzzleloader this time of year along with my two brothers. We have sort of developed something like a wolfpack mentality for late season. Bucks are hard to find, we cover a ton of ground, share information, hunt together and separately as needed. Scouting with gun in hand to find a buck and then still hunting, stand hunting, stalking, bumping bedding to each other whatever it takes. Late season requires versatility and endurance maybe more than any other time.

We got brutal cold in mid December, during Iowa’s regular gun seasons, but that let up by the time late season arrived. A lot of antlers fell early – I only found one shed so far though at it was from this spring. It was on public land that I do know well but I didn’t know the buck, he was a toad. The coyotes were using it as a scent marking station peeing on it….

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The deer had been yarded up, but dispersed with the warm up and that make finding a buck even harder…
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See the shed buck? He is the one in the center with a mo-hawk.
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Nailed a coyote that was chasing a fawn. There were two of them, one trailing the fawn and another circling around to get ahead. I dug out my predator call and gave a couple mouse squeaks, this 29 lbs female jumped up on a rock for a better look over the brush. Bang-flop.

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Some more pics from late season….

Gotta have a squirrel pic or two.

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I did have a couple of good late season sits. Not over foot – only TV hunters do that – but watching deer filter out of bedding on a couple of the colder evenings.

Another shed buck. If a hunter takes their time before the shot I don’t think there is any excuse for mistaking them for a doe. Just look at the thick body, square head and in this case can even see the pedicles.

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Shed bucks with some other deer for comparison. The two in the background heading left are a doe and fawn. I am sure the deer standing center left is a button buck. The two on the right are shed bucks.

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A pretty sunset

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But there still was some snow making things easier….and on one farm that we have hunted late season for a number of years I cut a set of big buck tracks…we zeroed in on this area.

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The end came quickly after that. Both my brothers shot crippled bucks with gunshot wounds from shotgun season. My older brother was on an observation sit after a doe and saw a nice buck in the area that I found those big square tracks above. It was a long ways away and he was uncertain of size. The buck came out to feed at last light down in a pasture bottom on grass exposed by the melting snow. The location was right below what I knew was good bedding and protected from high winds – which was the case when my brother saw the buck.

A few days later we again had a screaming NW wind. I was just getting over a bad case of the flu but felt good enough to bundle my weak body up and walk the half mile up that valley to a big rock 200 yards below where the buck had come out.

Nearing where I set up I cut a fresh set of buck tracks – that same big square toed buck heading back up the valley to where I expected he would bed.

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I set up knowing this was it – wind in my face blowing down the valley, but absolutely screaming on the ridgetops above 30-40 mph.

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Late season bucks might be more patternable than any other time of the year. Finding them is the hard part.

And sure enough a couple does came out, then a bigger deer with a wide set of antlers.

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I spent some time trying to decide if I wanted to take him. A lot of late season bucks look long and lean, making age judging harder. When he got close to the other deer however I realized he had a huge body.

A deer closer to me got a little spooky for some reason and I decided to take the shot. I had previously ranged a tree at 205 yards and thought the buck was in front of it. A ballistic reticle is critical for long range shooting with a smokepole due to the steep trajectory beyond 150 yards. I practice out to 300 and will someday kill a deer at that distance but am not in a rush and will wait for perfect conditions, the gun has sub-MOA accuracy. I anchored into my shooting sticks, put the mil dot that is dead on at 208 yards on his heart and the shot echoed loud in the valley.

To keep the story short, I got the range wrong and he was actually about 30 yards behind the tree, the bullet clipped his brisket and grazed his elbow. He was limping badly, probably turned his leg numb but it was a very superficial wound.

The buck ran right toward me. Down in the bottoms deer often are confused about where a shot came from. He kept coming and coming and ended up on the hill only 20 yards away from me. I frantically reloaded while laying on my back to stay concieled. I didn’t seat the darn bullet properly because of that and got a hang fire on my second shot at point blank range. With the Blackhorn powder I use, the powder needs to be properly compacted or that happens…

The buck was still confused about where the danger was and ran up the bluff above me. I frantically reloaded – again. Got ready just as the buck disappeared over the crest above me. I get up and run up the hill. The hardest work I have done all year, I am weak from being sick for 2 days, wearing heavy insulated boots and thick clothes. I run because I just royally screwed up twice, am really mad at myself, and am worried I just wounded a buck. I stagger to the top, my stomach was cramping up again and I am worried I will literally crap my pants or puke. The buck, not hearing me thanks AGAIN to the screaming wind, is on the far side just getting ready to drop down out of sight. I am gasping for air, crosshairs doing figure 8s around the deer, I use every ounce of strength I have to steady the gun and this time the shot is almost quiet in the wind.

The buck disappears…after collecting myself I limp over to the point of impact and one glance tells me the shot was true. Dead center chest – and that was more luck than skill trust me, thank you Hunting Gods. A few more steps and I see him laying just over the hill.

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Three shots in under 2 minutes with the smokepole. I am OK not doing that ever again....

He was a very big bodied buck – 200 lbs dressed on the nose which is huge for this time of year. The previous biggest late season buck I have shot weighed 235 with the guts in so this probably is even heavier. Pre-rut tack on 30-40 lbs. His hide looked a size too big for him. 20 inch wide rack. No history with him that I know of even though we hunt that farm every year late season but he was fully mature. Late season bucks sometimes drift around a bit depending on pressure and food.

The big square toed hooves that made this kill happen.

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And that was my season. It was a pretty wild ride start to finish.

I have a doe tag in my pocket, season is open till January 10th, and have intended to kill a doe with the recurve for a month now. I have not gotten the slam dunk opportunity that I need. Now the urge to kill is gone. My freezer is full. Sausage and jerky to make, loin to smoke, meat to pressure can.

A stickbow kill can wait till next year. I have lost my urge to prove things needlessly over the years.

Thank you mother earth, and may we all have another year out there doing what we love.


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csoult
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby csoult » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:19 pm

Thanks for sharing Joe
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby Octoberjohn » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:39 pm

Congrats on another great season!! Thanks for sharing all of your pics!!
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cbay
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby cbay » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:39 pm

You are a truly amazing hunter Joe. Love all the pics.
Congrats on a great season and Thank you for sharing.
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby mathews418 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:46 pm

:clap: :clap: :clap:
Congrats once again on an amazing season!!!
Thank you for all that you do and share here on this amazing site!!! The main thing that I have taken from your posts and journal is your preparation for the season and that the season isn't just 4 months out of the year but all 12 of them
mainebowhunter
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby mainebowhunter » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:52 pm

Great writeup and pics Joe! Congrats on an awesome season!
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Jackson Marsh
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby Jackson Marsh » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:23 pm

You had a great year Joe! Loved the stories! :clap: :clap:


You are one heck of a hunter.
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jwilkstn
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby jwilkstn » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:37 pm

You. Are. The. Man.
Seriously, CONGRATULATIONS on an awesome season and thank you for sharing! :clap: :clap: :clap:
Not all those who wander are lost...
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vtbuck
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby vtbuck » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:42 pm

Amazing! :clap:
Perfection is a dream, practice is hard work, and achieving a goal is making that goal a reality.
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tgreeno
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby tgreeno » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:45 pm

That is quite a season Joe! Great write-up and group of kills!
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Stanley
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby Stanley » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:49 pm

Good stuff thanks for sharing.
You can fool some of the bucks, all of the time, and fool all of the bucks, some of the time, however you certainly can't fool all of the bucks, all of the time.
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby Dewey » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:49 pm

Thanks for sharing Joe. That is an unbelievable season. :clap:
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stash59
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby stash59 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:08 pm

8-) 8-) 8-) :clap: :clap: :clap: :handgestures-thumbupright: :handgestures-thumbup: :handgestures-thumbupleft: :happy-wavemulticolor: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :lol:
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tbunao
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby tbunao » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:33 pm

stash59 wrote:8-) 8-) 8-) :clap: :clap: :clap: :handgestures-thumbupright: :handgestures-thumbup: :handgestures-thumbupleft: :happy-wavemulticolor: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :lol:


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DeerDylan
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Re: My season in photos

Unread postby DeerDylan » Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:39 am

Another great season, Joe. You're proof positive that hard-work and critical thinking in the deer woods go hand in hand. Congrats!


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