For those of us hunters who have had the good fortune to put some nice deer heads with racks on our walls, there are times when we can all get caught up with ourselves. We have learned techniques that allow us to harvest deer. Sure, it’s nice to be proud of the times when things have gone RIGHT for us guys in Camo; and while that can indeed add to some bragging rights, it is also nice to remember just who is the boss of the American forest, the BUCK, and reflect upon just how many times that (and I speak collectively of BUCK as being the all encompassing spirit of ALL those wily rascals) wise old fellow made a fool of us and beat us at what we think is OUR game.
Thinking back, there have been a few times in my hunting experiences that just have been practically downright humiliating and taught me a lesson of respect for Old Mr. Deer; and to realize that they also have a sense of humor at times; or perhaps I should more correctly refer to that as “ATTITUDE!” The most memorable of such occasions I wanted to share; and while I enjoy showing pictures of some of the deer I have taken; I have also been humbled enough to share that Laughter, at one’s self; when shown who is the boss to beat out there; can indeed be the best Medicine.
On one occasion I was hunting an area of thick pines that encompassed a beaver pond. This area had a tremendous amount of deer sign, fresh trails, fresh droppings, scrapes and rubs. I entered the woods on a misty cool morning, walking in just before sunrise stealthily from the road on a small trail that led across a small creek, which fed into a bigger creek flowing back to the right; that went into the beaver pond. I did everything I knew to do. I was wearing soft fleece camo that was silent, I had covered my scent in a matching pine scent, placed my scent pads on my boots and laid some doe scent on those. I had been thru this area before in previous years, so I knew where I had to go for getting the best elevated view of the beaver pond and its surrounding edges and woods, a rise to the west side of the pond. Without hardly making a sound, I made my way there just before sunrise and settled in. The wind was coming from the Northwest so there was no way that my approach from the Southeast could have been noticed. About 45 minutes after sunrise, a light fine misting rain settled in over me, nothing I minded and sat thru it quietly for hours, watching as hawks flew over the pond, a doe came to drink, the beaver made an appearance; but no buck showed himself, not even after the doe, which indeed had my hopes up after she appeared that she would be quite an attractant. No, no buck showed itself, not for hours. The rain started getting heavier around 11 am, and by noon, I had enough, thought I would go back out to the truck; dry off, get into some new dry clothes and get a bite to eat and relax until about 2:30, then go back in for the afternoon, hoping it would be drier by then. So I quietly got up, walked like an Indian back thru the woods, across the pine needles & avoiding stepping on sticks, back to the small trail that led out toward the road, across the little creek and back to my vehicle. The rain seemed to be letting up now. I unlocked the vehicle, opened the front door. I leaned my rifle against the bumper and stepped back into the open truck doorway to commence taking my hat off, threw it on the seat, unzipped my jacket, threw that on the seat. Next was the turtleneck shirt I was wearing that had to come up and over my shoulders. I pulled the bottom of it up and started pulling it over my head, about as far as the neck opening being about even with my eyes when I hear a noise back by where the trail comes out of the woods. I could SWEAR I heard like a little snort from over there. So I turn with both my hands still bunching my shirt over my head and peering out thru the turtleneck hole… and there, standing right where I had just walked out of; and staring right back at me, was a 5×5 “10 pointer” plus non-typicals BUCK; looking at me with this expression like.. “Hey Stupid! You think you are going to outsmart ME in MY territory??” He snorted at me again with a loud, almost indignant cursive tone, turned and bounded back into the woods, across the creek, only to watch his big tail go bouncing off. I could not help but start laughing for several minutes; just picturing how I must have looked in that deer’s eyes and the true comedy of it all. Needless to say, I hunted a different location THAT afternoon. I wasn’t going to surprise HIM that day; that was for sure.
So, just when you think that you are getting to be a good deer hunter because you have some trophies on the wall, doesn’t mean you still can’t be totally embarrassed by one of God’s keenest creatures; and it is being able to humbly appreciate the beauty in that, able to give respect to the almighty BUCK; that makes HUNTING the ongoing challenge and thrill that it is. There is ALWAYS another deer out there that is smarter than you, or thinks he is anyway, to go after. For all the bucks on a wall, there are probably 10 for every one who outsmarted you; and you know what? That is OK! THAT is what makes us go on.
Good hunting to all of you this fall!
Stephen Ward is a past board member of the Arizona Deer Association.