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A walk in the woods is always worth it

Four-year old Aubree Morken holds up an antler she found on a walk this March from a young buck that shed the horn in recent weeks. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)1 / 2
Four-year-old Aubree Morken holds her grandpa's hand as Mike Schaffran of Wood Lake leads her along a path in the woods on March 26. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)2 / 2

I woke up the morning of March 26 at my in-laws' house in Wood Lake and looked outside. Clouds and a light mist. Unfortunately, the forecast was spot on this time.

My father-in-law, Mike, knew I wanted to head to the hunting land to scout for turkeys and possibly take down my last deer stand. He returned from uptown at around 9 a.m. and declared that it wasn't a very good day for walking along the river. In my world, it's always a good day for that.

I went to the computer to check the hourly forecast. The cloud cover would stick around, but there was almost no chance of rain and temperatures were suppose to be in the mid-40s.

I offered a suggestion to Mike: Why don't we take Aubree down there for a walk? He can say no to me, but his 4-year-old granddaughter has him wrapped around her finger.

We set out a little before 11 with graham crackers and a juice box in a Ziploc bag.

I was hoping we would see some kind of wildlife — deer or turkeys seemed the likely options — to get Aubree excited. There needs to be something to grab their attention at this age so a walk in the woods is more fun than it is work.

We got out of the Traverse and went straight for a spot where we knew there were deer bones for Aubree to look at. On our way, a group of toms let out a series of gobbles that traveled over the bluffs and through the trees.

That sound — one of the greatest in the woods for a turkey hunter — never gets old. Aubree agreed as a smile came over her face every time they let loose.

We continued toward the east edge of the property to see if we could find the right place to eventually hang a ladder stand this summer. Along the way, we made sure to travel areas where there was deer sign.

A ridge with thick cover consisting of cedar trees was a known bedding area where deer trails ran every which way. Aubree walked them between her grandpa and me as we pointed out the rubs and scrapes that were still evident from last fall.

Our adventure took us to the top of the ridge next to a field edge. Aubree and Mike had ventured a little further ahead of me when I called them back. Hidden within the brown grass was a small antler dropped by a year and a half old buck in recent weeks.

To me it was a sign of the age class of bucks that I saw while hunting last fall. My hope is that deer grows into the kind of mature deer I would love to take with my bow. To Aubree, the antler was already a treasure to take home and show her mom.

By now, Aubree was getting a little tired from all the walking, so up on my shoulders she went. We made it to the second of the three enclosed hunting stands we visited on our walk.

Aubree climbed down. She spun around in the chair and peered out the window toward the narrow creek that ran below. She had to go see that.

"Jump me over, Daddy," she pleaded as we waded through the mud that surrounded the water.

The light rain from the night before had made the steep ridges a little slippery as we made our way about 50 yards back up to the field edge. Aubree stumbled a few times, so I went to pick her up again. "I'm OK, Daddy. I can do it by myself."

It's amazing the difference a year makes. Last year on these same hikes, she would lose steam and want up in my arms. Now the steepest ridges and the thickest cover is where she wanted down. All part of the adventure.

She was much better equipped to weave her way through the low-hanging branches we had to get through to reach a field on the bottom of the property. The prize at the end of the tunnel was another deer stand she could climb up into.

A stop at the hunting shack was the final detour before heading back to town for lunch. Her grandpa and I told Aubree how much fun we had on our walk as I strapped her into her carseat. She smiled and agreed. This was pretty fun. Much better than an entire day spent indoors.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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