CAMP RIPLEY -- There are two ways to approach the Camp Ripley archery hunt: Get there first or get there later.
By "there" I mean your spot. Either get to Camp Ripley early enough to park your vehicle near the front of the line and reach your spot in the woods before someone else, or show up later and take whatever spots remain.
I've always opted for the second approach. Though I've had some success, it has its limitations. One is that while bucks are found throughout Camp Ripley, some spots are better than others. These spots are quickly taken by hunters at the head of the line, leaving latecomers like myself to take what's left.
It occurred to me this year that while I searched for a stand sites I unwittingly kicked deer to hunters already on stands. This may be a valuable public service, but I'm left with a hollow feeling nonetheless.
On the first morning of this year's hunt I came upon three other hunters in the woods. I talked briefly with one and he said that minutes before I arrived two bucks had passed by just out of range. One was big, though he didn't see it long enough to count the points. By the way the deer moved the hunter concluded I had kicked it up.
"Why don't you make a swing that way," he said, pointing to where the deer had gone.
As I walked off I wondered how many deer I've kicked into hunters during my many walks in these woods, treestand on my back, searching for solitude where solitude can't be found.
I fulfilled another public service this year. To increase the antlerless deer harvest in Camp Ripley the DNR allowed hunters to tag a doe with a management tag. In years past hunters could take just one deer of either sex.
So after spending the morning down south and the afternoon up north, after hiking over ridges and through swamps before finding a remote corner where I was alone for two hours before a man and a boy arrived and set up nearby, I shot a 112-pound doe minutes before shooting hours expired.
"Good to see you're doing your part to improve the buck-to-doe ratio of our herd," DNR wildlife manager Beau Liddell joked as I registered the deer.
For this chronic latecomer the taking of a doe, coupled with the possibility that I might have helped another hunter take a monster buck, was satisfaction on par with shooting a monster buck myself.
Well, not really.
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 855-5862.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.