This weekend is the big shabang. The West River firearm deer season open this Saturday, November 10 and is followed the next Saturday by the East River season, both of which run for two weeks and two days.

Last year was the first time I really hunted West River. I was not successful but I did have fun, and saw the biggest mule deer in my life, unfortunately for only 20 seconds and from over 500 yards away, a little farther than the 300 to 400 yards, depending on wind, I was comfortable with taking the shot.

I also walked more last year than I ever had while hunting deer. On day one last year I logged over 17 miles in four year old boots that were not made for that kind of walking and probably should have been replaced. A cortisone shot and new boots have alleviated that problem.

I'm planning on walking a lot less this year by camping out on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management). It costs nothing and it will put me a lot closer to where I want to be early in the morning without walking forever in the pitch dark. I'll have to carry in my tent, sleeping bag, food, and water.

It will be is a little uncomfortable. I have done a fair amount of cold weather camping, sleeping in a freezing tent in my zero degree sleeping bag. However, that has always been in a large tent on a cot with either wood or propane heating to provide warmth at the end of the day and in the morning before heading out. I won't have either of those heat sources. Just my sleeping bag and clothing will keep me warm out there. That is something I have never done before.

This hunt, along with my elk hunt in the Black Hills last month, was the big motivator to get into shape, or at least better shape. I'm down 25 pounds and can walk around with a significant pack for a lot of miles. A treadmill is where I did a lot of running and incline walking, but I also took a bunch of hikes up and down the sledding hill at Tuthill Park and on the trails at Great Bear.

I'll follow three days West River with a weekend East River hunting in Sully County with my nephew. It will be his first hunt of any kind and my first time mentoring a hunter. He's got an any whitetail tag while I have an antlerless tag so if he's patient enough to not shoot the first thing he sees we'll work on getting him a buck. But if he's like me on my first hunt, he'll probably pop the first legal critter we find, and that's perfectly fine.

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