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Sam Cook column: Happening onto a deer stand in the woods

Oct 29, 2017 08:34AM ● Published by Editor

This simple deer stand awaits a hunter in the woods of Northeastern Minnesota. News Tribune file photo

By Sam Cook from The Duluth News Tribune on Oct 28, 2017.

I came across the deer stand on a grouse hunt a couple of weeks ago. That isn't uncommon. Bird hunters, walking through random patches of typical grouse habitat, sometimes find themselves peering up at the weathered remains of a stand where some deer hunter once spent many fall days.

The stands are typically primitive — a couple of planks laid between two popples, or maybe nailed to the lower branches of a white pine. Maybe the hunter has screwed a few short pieces of two-by-fours between the twin trunks of trees to be used as steps in climbing to the stand.

Usually, the steps and the stand itself are in some advanced stage of decomposition. Graying with age and exposure, the boards are well on their way to being recycled by the elements. The stands are relics of a simpler deer-hunting time.

Many of these old stands have long outlived their use-by dates, and they won't be replaced. County, state and federal policies, ordinances or rules now prescribe exactly what deer stands may look like, or whether they can be placed on some public lands at all. Those rules came about to prevent the construction of elaborate stands that resembled studio apartments in the aspen woods and to offer some measure of protection for loggers and their equipment.

I'll admit I have a romantic affection for some of those old, decaying stands. I would like to know who sat there on cold November mornings, and how he or she kept warm. I look around when I come across these simple platforms and scan the surrounding forest. I try to imagine what it might have looked like 20 or 30 years before. I try to guess where a whitetail buck might have ghosted through that country — around a swamp, along a ridge — or where he might have paused to leave his scent in a scrape on the forest floor. It's usually difficult, though, to re-create such scenarios. Time has changed the woods too much since that hunter once sat there.

The hunters who built these rudimentary stands so long ago did so without the benefit of four-wheelers to haul in their building materials. They had to carry their lumber and nails and tools in an old Duluth pack, and they had to carry the bigger pieces on their shoulders. You'd have built a simple stand, too, hauling its pieces that way.

The stand I came across the other day was on private land. I was with grouse hunters whose family members owned the land. This stand wasn't one of the simple, old-timey ones, gray and lichen-dappled. This one was of recent vintage, free-standing on sturdy posts, actual stairs leading to the roofed, enclosed shelter. It was square at every corner. The lumber looked as if it had been hauled away from Menards or Home Depot a few weeks earlier.

The hunter who carries a rifle up those stairs in November will sit in relative comfort, looking out at the woods through a picture window of thin air. If the day is cool, the hunter likely will have a small heater inside taking the chill off the morning.

And this stand was still semi-primitive compared to some — it had no sliding Plexiglas windows.

Today's deer hunters are happy to trade their grandfather's 270-degree sweep of the forest for a narrower field of view — and guaranteed warmth. A deer hunter can sit a lot longer when she can still feel her toes.

Some things have not changed, though, for those who sit in the whitetail woods. Deer hunting remains, in most cases, a solitary affair. The hunter sits, looks, listens. Perhaps the hunter replays the scenarios in which he shot previous bucks from this same vantage point.

But the hunt is not all about the possibility of the shot. As the hunter sits, he or she also thinks. About life. About her job. About the kids. About aging parents. And, over and over again, about the odds of a deer appearing where there had only been hazel brush and saplings before.

Perhaps a chickadee will land on the sill of the stand and cock its head, trying to figure out all of that orange clothing. Perhaps not.

And if a deer steps out, it will be the hunter's decision alone whether to take the shot or to pass on it. Is the angle right? Is the distance reasonable? Is there too much undergrowth? Can I make a clean shot? Should I wait for a bigger candidate?

Long ago, Aldo Leopold addressed this eloquently in "A Sand County Almanac."

"A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics," he wrote, "is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact."

Deer stands come and go with the years. But the essential privilege and responsibility of the deer hunter remains unchanged.

SAM COOK is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or scook@duluthnews.com. Find his Facebook page at facebook.com/SamCookOutdoors or his blog at samcook.areavoices.com.

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  • YMCA Classes

    11/29/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Day Pass Sale

    11/29/2017
    06:00AM

    The Day Pass Sale is back! Shop Local November 24th-29th Give the gift of health and share a vis...


  • Blue Water Suite

    11/29/2017
    09:00AM

    Blue Water Suite is open for a one of a kind stay. Located above the Blue Water Café, lots of r...


  • Annual 20% off Customer Appreciation Sale

    11/29/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come in to Lake Superior Trading Post and save 20% off on all merchandise in stock, this includes...


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    11/29/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    11/29/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Tatertot Hotdish/Fruit/ Dessert/Milk


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    11/29/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Spaghetti/Salad/Pudding/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    11/29/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Craft and a Craft Market

    11/29/2017
    04:30PM — 06:30PM

    Voyageur Brewing is proud to host weekly craft markets until Christmas with local Cook County art...


  • Beginning Swedish language- 4 sessions

    11/29/2017
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    Beginning Swedish Language - 4 sessions Instructor: Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux Dates: November 1st,...


  • Name that Tune Bingo

    11/29/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Think you know music? Prove it! Join host Casey for Name that Tune bingo on Wednesday, November ...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    11/29/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    11/30/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    11/30/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Annual 20% off Customer Appreciation Sale

    11/30/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come in to Lake Superior Trading Post and save 20% off on all merchandise in stock, this includes...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    11/30/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    BBQ Chicken/Baled Potato/Coleslaw/Jello/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    11/30/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    11/30/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    11/30/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/01/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/01/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Annual 20% off Customer Appreciation Sale

    12/01/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come in to Lake Superior Trading Post and save 20% off on all merchandise in stock, this includes...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/01/2017
    12:00PM — 12:55PM

    Polish Sausage/ Sauerkraut/ Potato/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/01/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/02/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/02/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Trails Final Check

    12/02/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    We welcome you to join us at 9 a.m. at the Groomer building on Caribou Trail to do the final trai...


  • Annual 20% off Customer Appreciation Sale

    12/02/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Come in to Lake Superior Trading Post and save 20% off on all merchandise in stock, this includes...


  • Northwoods Fiber Guild Annual Holiday Sale will be on Saturday, December 2nd from 9:00am-2:00pm. ...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/02/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/02/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/03/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/03/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Holiday Movies in the Brewery

    12/03/2017
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Are you craving some beer with your holiday cheer? We will see you at Voyageur Brewing Company on...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/03/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/03/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/04/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/04/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/04/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Chicken Stew with Dumplings/Brussels Sprouts/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/04/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    12/04/2017
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Open Mic Every Monday at 6PM!

    12/04/2017
    06:00PM — 11:55PM

    Grand Marais Music Collaborative presents "Open Mic Night", every Monday at Grandma Ray's! The s...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/04/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/05/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/05/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Overeaters Anonymous

    12/05/2017
    11:00AM

    Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/05/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Tuna Hotdish/Salad/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/05/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Trivia Night at Grandma Ray's

    12/05/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Trivia Night from 7:00-9:00pm every Tuesday down at Grandma Ray's.


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/06/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/06/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    12/06/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/06/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Meatloaf/Baked Potato/Beets/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/06/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Craft and a Craft Market

    12/06/2017
    04:30PM — 06:30PM

    Voyageur Brewing is proud to host weekly craft markets until Christmas with local Cook County art...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/06/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/07/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/07/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/07/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Linda Johnson's Treat!!!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/07/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Light Up a Life

    12/07/2017
    05:30PM — 06:30PM

    The 9th Annual “Light up a Life” offers community members the opportunity to celebrate the life o...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/07/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/07/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/08/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/08/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Caregiver Coffee - Tofte

    12/08/2017
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Caregiver Coffee Join us to get to know other caregivers in a casual setting. Take part in a d...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/08/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Beef Stew/Salad/Biscuit/Dessert/Milk


  • Legends of the Wilderness

    12/08/2017
    01:30PM — 02:30PM

    Experience the wilderness through reenactment of the 1800s with French Canadian Voyageur Jacques ...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/08/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/09/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/09/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/09/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • In the spirit of gratitude, pride, and recognition of the community that has valued and fostered ...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/09/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/10/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/10/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Holiday Movies in the Brewery

    12/10/2017
    12:30PM — 02:00PM

    Are you craving some beer with your holiday cheer? We will see you at Voyageur Brewing Company on...


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/10/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/10/2017
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/11/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/11/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/11/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Boiled Dinner/Biscuit/Fruit/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/11/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    12/11/2017
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Open Mic Every Monday at 6PM!

    12/11/2017
    06:00PM — 11:55PM

    Grand Marais Music Collaborative presents "Open Mic Night", every Monday at Grandma Ray's! The s...


  • Over 75 talented Cook County singers and musicians in the Borealis Chorale & Orchestra continue t...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/11/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/12/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/12/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Overeaters Anonymous

    12/12/2017
    11:00AM

    Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and...


  • Taco Tuesday Fundraiser Luncheon

    12/12/2017
    11:30AM — 01:30PM

    We are raising money for our dear friend & co-worker, Jennifer Rue, who is dealing with long term...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/12/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Sweet & Sour Pork/Broccoli/Rice/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/12/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Trivia Night at Grandma Ray's

    12/12/2017
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Trivia Night from 7:00-9:00pm every Tuesday down at Grandma Ray's.


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/13/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/13/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    12/13/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/13/2017
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Fish/Baked Potato/Corn Pudding/Cake/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/13/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Craft and a Craft Market

    12/13/2017
    04:30PM — 06:30PM

    Voyageur Brewing is proud to host weekly craft markets until Christmas with local Cook County art...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/13/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    12/14/2017
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 6 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • YMCA Classes

    12/14/2017
    12:00AM

    Click to view our current list of Group Exercise classes, pool schedule and gym schedule!


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    12/14/2017
    12:00PM — 12:40PM

    Swedish Meatballs/Potato/Green Bean/Dessert/Milk


  • 20th anniversary exhibit, Begin | Continue

    12/14/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00PM

    A celebratory 20th anniversary exhibit titled Begin | Continue will feature the work of North Hou...


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    12/14/2017
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    12/14/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for November 30 through January 25. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM...


Minnesota Fire Danger
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here