Deer season began as it always does; a bunch of promising game photos, a night of no sleep, and excitement that I’ll be successful. This year’s season also includes us trying to do a DIY project involving installing a fireplace, applying mortar and stone to the outside, and getting it all done before the cold really hits and somehow making it work around the hunting season. We’re doing well, but we still have a lot to do.
I usually sit in My Stand right behind the house. This works for getting out and hunting each morning prior to my heading to work. It’s quick to get to and to get back. In past years, I’ve had some pretty awesome moments, and I expected to hear the deer in their travels as I always have. This year’s acorn crop is pretty small. I had hoped that my acorn stand would yield more deer this year because a nearby woodlot was cut making the oaks less abundant. Unfortunately, it’s not looking very good.
For the first time ever, I’m changing up my sitting spots. I have four spots: My Stand, the Robin Stand, the Buddy Stand, the New Stand, and a couple more options: the duck blind spot and the Tall Hemlock. The Robin stand is half way between my stand and the Buddy stand. Last year, I saw five does in this stand. We moved it so that I could see more and have more cover. I haven’t sat there yet because I need to add some foam to the rails to make it quiet and I just haven’t had time.
The Buddy stand is just that. It’s a double stand in an area that’s big and wide. This is the stand I was in on last year’s final day of muzzleloader season when Mr. Buck showed me a glimpse of his leg before hightailing it out of there. The one and only deer I’ve seen in that stand. I’ve played and replayed that day in my mind for the last year, hoping that Mr. Buck would still like to hang out and make some buck rubs and give me another shot at getting him. Things have been awfully quiet for me to believe he’s still around.
The New Stand is in a spot that takes me thirty minutes to get to, so it’s not feasible for weekday hunts unless it’s a holiday or vacation day. It’s not that far away, but walking into a stand in the still morning requires every step to be intentional and methodically placed so that you don’t break or snap a twig, so that the leaves done crunch, so that you don’t land on your face by tripping over the long grass, so that you get in undetected, and that’s not always easy. The stand sits on the edge of oaks and a dark softwood growth. Lots of deer sign and buck scrapes but it feels pretty dead most of the time…except when I least expect it.
I’ve been chasing deer in the area since I started hunting. The elusive big buck that I either jump or get busted yet never see. And this would be the case this year. My first time to the new stand that John put up for me. I usually go with him, but this day, we were going separate ways to get more done. Since my stand was pretty dead, I decided to try out the “new stand. John’s words exactly, ” Go straight, don’t turn right and it will be on your right. You’ll have NO problem finding it.” Now I know this neck of the woods, but after forty-five minutes of roaming around checking out every off shoot road, I finally found it. In fact, I stumbled upon it and then wondered if I’d be able to find my way out at dark. By then, I was a wash of sweat, possibly the result of cursing for the last hour. I had overdressed for that much walking, but was relieved to finally find my stand.
I wasn’t in my stand five minutes when I thought I heard a deer blow…which means it smelled me. I was busted. I heard the deer bound away. Legal shooting hours ended and I managed to find my way out. I was glad I had my flashlight because although I consider this a morning stand so I was surprised to hear a deer in the late afternoon. I have learned to be more comfortable in the woods, I have no intentions of getting lost.
This morning I had the opportunity to sit later due to the holidaym so I headed back down to the New Stand. Due to a back injury flare up from working on the DIY project, I hadn’t had a chance to hunt in two days so I was hoping my sciatica wouldn’t start in once I sat down. I quietly made my way down to stand. I managed to leave later than I wanted so by the time I was half way there, it was already starting to get light, but wasn’t close to legal shooting hours yet. I shut off my flashlight since I’ve memorized this trail and know where to step.
As I made my way toward my stand, I think I hear a grunt…a deer grunt…a BUCK grunt…Brrrr. I question whether I really heard what I think I’ve heard. Afterall, I have an uncanny way of hearing things that sound like a deer walking in the woods, but it ends up being a squirrel or falling leaves. So I doubt myself. Rule number one: never doubt yourself!
I take one more step and then I hear it. A deer blows and all I see is a white tail VERY close to me. The wind is blowing in my favor. I was too close for him to smell me; he just heard me and reacted. Between me and Mr. Buck is a really large boulder. This is concealing me from him, and him from me, not to mention it’s still too dark to shoot. I can’t pick him up in my scope. I scan the woods knowing he isn’t very far way…maybe 25 yards. I decide I’ll make my way to the boulder for a chance to sneak up on him. I duck and take one step. He blows, stomps his feet and blows a couple more times. In an effort to have him want to stick around, I blow a Brrr on my buck grunt. He gets incredibly upset and wheezes and snorts three or four more turns. I in turn stomp my foot as he was doing to me. It’s a stand off, but it’s still dark. If only can get him to step my way. He continues to blow and then without any other warning, runs away from me…gone forever. I just pray I don’t hear a sudden shot from someone lucking out on My Buck.
I had a blast, but as always I analyze, reanalyze, and then shoulda, woulda, coulda scenarios run through my head. In the end, I am learning and experiencing things I never thought possible. I’ve seen a porcupine in a tree, an owl trying to catch squirrels at daylight, partridge walking around, ducks and geese flying overhead. I hear screech owls howling, loons calling and of course squirrels…lots and lots of those dang red and gray squirrels. And not once have I been afraid to be alone in the woods, and that’s my biggest and proudest moment thus far.
I hope I’ll eventually see a deer that I can harvest. Time is ticking but in the meantime, I’m enjoying every minute I’m out there. Lots of exercise and experiencing lots of exciting moments. After all, it’s the adventures you have in the process that make hunting so rewarding.