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Duluth woman takes deer by bow hunting

DULUTH, Minn. -- Katrina Wood was laid up this past winter after knee surgery. But that didn't stop her from shooting her bow daily -- she could do that right at home.

"I would just shoot arrows in my apartment in Minneapolis," Wood said. "It was a 13-yard shot."

Don't worry. She put up a padded target so she wouldn't punch holes in the drywall.

"It did dimple the wall a little bit," she said.

Wood, 25, who now is living back in Duluth where she grew up, took up archery last fall. But when Wood gets serious about something, she pours her entire soul into it. Despite a steep learning curve, she already has taken her first two deer this fall in Duluth's city bow hunt. She shot an antlerless deer the second morning of the season and an eight-point buck four days later.

She's going after bow hunting with the same fervor that made her an excellent downhill skier and golfer for Marshall School and an all-conference golfer at Carleton College. To say nothing of her fling with motocross racing during high school days too.

"Being her father is sometimes like having a tiger by the tail," said Tom Wood, a pilot for United Airlines. "It's like, 'Oh, God, where are we going now?'"

Although Tom Wood had once been a hunter, he didn't hunt while Katrina was growing up. Katrina Wood said she had always been fascinated by bow hunting, and after she graduated from college, she just decided to take up the sport. For starters, she bought herself a $150 bow. That's very economical by today's bow-hunting standards.

She took the bow to Chalstrom's Archery Center in Duluth for some advice.

"Eric (Grussendorf) had to show me how to shoot it and line up the sights," she said.

T.J. Johnson of Chalstrom's also worked with Wood.

"She's a very nit-picky archer, which has probably contributed to her success," Johnson said. "She really gets into the small details."

She has since moved up to a better bow, and she used it this spring to take a big turkey gobbler in Minnesota. The bird happened to appear at a range she was familiar with.

"The turkey came in at 13 yards," Wood said. "So, it was perfect."

Just like practice back at the apartment.

A hunting mentor

On a warm day this past summer, Wood showed up at the city bow hunt lottery meeting, where hunters are drawn for hunting zones across the city.

"I noticed she was there by herself, which is kind of unusual," said Jim Dexter, a board member of the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which administers the hunt for the city. "Most women get into the sport getting dragged by their spouses."

Dexter, 49, has been bow hunting for 11 years. Over the past several months, he has become a mentor for Wood in her deer hunting.

"She seemed like a super-eager kid that wanted to learn and didn't really have a mentor to help her learn," Dexter said.

She started pretty green, he said.

"It appeared she didn't know much about the woods or deer or bow hunting," Dexter said.

He began teaching her about the ways of whitetails.

"He taught me about scouting, what kind of sign to look for, how to find deer sign, the different terrain that deer like, how they move in the morning and the evening," Wood said. "He educated me a ton on deer hunting."

She shot at 3-D target shoots all summer, honing her shooting skills. She bought a climbing stand to use during bow season.

Tom Wood could see a familiar pattern in his daughter's approach. Katrina was plunging into bow hunting the way she had always attacked other sports.

"She has this intense focus," he said. "When she decides to do something, that becomes everything -- living, breathing, all day."

A lot to learn

Still, Wood found the process of becoming a deer hunter challenging.

"It was really overwhelming at first," she said. "I had never been in a portable tree stand before. I had never used a (safety) harness before."

She hunted opening day of Duluth's bow hunt on Sept. 15, morning and evening. Nothing. The second morning, she had an antlerless deer come in, and she took a shot at 25 yards. She tracked the deer with the help of her cousin and her dad.

"It took us a while, but we found the deer," Wood said.

Once a hunter has shot an antlerless deer in the Duluth hunt, the hunter is eligible to shoot a buck. For Wood, that opportunity came on Thursday of the hunt's first week.

Against the odds

Wood went to a new spot that evening, the sixth day of the season. She had gotten off work late and was in a hurry to select a tree for her stand. She called Dexter, who came out to help her evaluate the spot and pick a good tree to sit in.

The day was growing late. It was after 6 p.m. when Wood began working her climbing stand up the tree.

"I was a mess, but I really wanted to hunt," she said. "I hadn't hunted since Monday. I was determined."

Dexter stayed just long enough to watch Wood working her way up the tree. By then, he said, it was about 6:45 p.m. Hunters can legally shoot until one-half hour after sunset.

"I'm looking at my watch, thinking it's getting dark and the animals are going to be moving around now," Dexter said.

The aspen Wood had chosen for her stand was knobby, and she couldn't sit comfortably in it, so she just stood. She had seen a buck just a few minutes earlier, but at that time she hadn't yet pulled her bow up into the stand on her haul rope.

Then the buck came back.

"He came straight at me," she said. "I had my bow. My heart was pounding. I saw his head. I thought, 'That's a really nice deer.' He came like he was going to come all the way to my tree... But he stopped and turned his body a little bit. He was within 20 yards."

She took the shot. The buck ran a short distance, and Wood heard a loud crash in the brush.

"It was absolute destiny that she shot that buck," Dexter said. "There were so many things working against her."

He returned to help her track the buck, as did Wood's dad. They found the buck not far from her stand. This time, Dexter had Wood do all the field-dressing herself.

Dexter and Wood butchered both of her deer together. She has shared the venison with her family and friends.

"I've got lots of venison," she said. "I love it. It's the original free-range organic meat."

Wood plans to continue hunting in the city hunt, in which hunters can take up to five deer with bonus permits. She believes in the greater purpose of the hunt, which is to reduce the city's deer population.

"I think the Duluth bow hunt is something important to be involved in," she said. "We're making a positive difference."

And it's an ideal way for her to continue evolving as a deer hunter, close to home.

"I can go out and scout every day," she said. "I learn something every day. I can set a stand or check out a spot. I can hunt every day I want to after work. And I don't have to burn half of Saudi Arabia getting to my hunting spot."