As in my previous entry about “Remembering Who’s the Boss”, I like to discuss the lessons learned while hunting, the things that went wrong, and also the things that went right. Hunting is a LEARNING process, and part of that learning is to learn things about both the deer, their tactics and yourself as a human or being; one of those things to learn is to trust your senses and instincts; to tune into the same level that MR. BUCK is operating in. In the previous article, there is a picture of me with a nice 10 pointer. Well, there is a story to that big guy, as there is most times when an older deer is involved. They didn’t get that way by being totally stupid or naïve, and you find, that in order to get one, requires a change in tactics and some “sneakery” of your own. (Yes, that is my own word similar to “trickery” but sneakier!)
I was hunting an area in Amherst County Virginia, a logging road went back into an area where there was a large cutover leading to a long power line clearing, but before that clearing on the north side of the road was a slight rise / knoll of about 2 acres with many pines and a small creek that came off the edge of the cut-over field where a mountain sloped down toward the knoll of pines and road, and the creek went along the edge of these pines and the cut-over area. In these pines that encompassed the knoll, I had found much sign during preseason and my excitement rose as archery season arrived to find that there were large scrapes and rubs developing throughout the old dirt trails existing in the pines and along the creek bed that flowed down the edge. I decided to set my portable hanging treestand about ½ way up the edge of this cutover where there were yet a few hardwoods to get into but far enough in and in a group of trees where my profile would not be blatant against the cut backdrop, yet easily accessible, within view of a scrape and rub that the buck had laid just to the west of the creekbed that he came down to from a steeper portion of the knoll, leaving spread toed tracks in the dirt of the slope in his trail. It looked fairly well traveled and I thought this would be a good place to catch him going for a drink in the early morning or late afternoon without intruding into the peace of his pine tree forest. The winds would typically be coming from the northwest so on most days he would always be upwind of me and my treestand. I hunted several times from this stand during archery season and never once caught a glimpse of him, but after about the 4th hunting trip, I got a feeling that I was indeed being watched from the knoll above the creek as I sat there ever so quietly. Sometimes, it’s not the noises of the woods or of an animal that tell you there is something there, but rather just the opposite, the deathly quiet emanating from a particular location and the behavior of other Squirrels and Bluejays near that location. I got to where I could practically FEEL his attention on me, like a concentrated beam coming from that little hill… or was that just my imagination?
Archery season came to an end with no success; but in came rifle season a few weeks later and my hunting partner of 20 some odd years at that time; Kirk; came to join me in a few days of hunting. We headed for my spot in the minutes before dawn, he followed me up along the edge of the cutover to my treestand which I mounted into as he waited for me to get settled and then he continued on due north to the corner of the cutover where I had told him to set up his climber treestand; where the hardwoods headed east toward the power lines, and a slight dip or ravine defined the divider between the hardwoods and the pine knoll just to the west south west of his position. We intentionally staggered our entrance, so that the deer might take his focus off of me and follow Kirk uphill with his attention as he walked and climbed up in his stand. Sun rise came and went and nothing was seen by either of us, but I was getting that feeling again, and thought for sure I felt it later that afternoon. He, MR. BUCK; KNEW I was there and was just plain watching me, despite my efforts to throw him off with the staggered entrance of the second person uphill of me. Something had to yet be done to fool this fellow and I came up with the idea over a roast venison dinner we ate that evening from my previous years harvest.
Sunrise was ½ hour away as allowed by law and as Kirk and I entered the cutover that next morning, we followed the little trail along the edge of the woods up toward my stand. When we got to my treestand I stopped, climbed about 3/4th’s of the way up…. Threw my stuffed Jacket into my treestand so that it rested on the seat and climbed back down, picked up my very lightweight portable backpack hanging stand that only has a seat and small platform, and continued on with Kirk up to his stand area. When I reached his stand, he stood and waited, at which I very quietly cut into the woods above the dip and above the pines, heading west from his stand about 120 yards and 50 yards uphill, quietly put up my stand where I could see a vertical ravine that started down near the pines and ran up the mountainside, something that would make MR. BUCK feel like he had some natural cover to sneak out of. We had given me a five minute window to get situated, and then you could hear Kirk start climbing his tree with his climbing treestand as dawn approached; that is the only drawback to those things; but today, it was all part of the PLAN.
There was a bit of a mist rising as it grew lighter, some fog that would burn off by 10 am or so, but for now it was enough to actually lower the visibility. I kept my eyes peeled on the north edge of the pines where they stopped and the hardwoods took over; focusing about halfway between Kirk and myself, where that vertical cut started up the mountain and suddenly at 7:05 am the misty green pine boughs had an ivory color amongst their lower branches in that area I had predicted. And there, to my amazement, came the antlers of the ten point buck, but they were not up where they belonged. No, this buck was BELLY CRAWLING out of the pines and looking right over in the direction of where Kirk was sitting, staying ever so low as it cleared through the slight amount of brush in that dip and was able to get himself started into that vertical ravine. After crawling on his belly for about 20 feet to where he knew that Kirk would not be able to see him if he got taller while covered by the banks of the ravine, he crept up to all fours and with his head still looking back over his right shoulder started to gain speed in his stride. Now he was bunching his muscles and his tail was rising as he prepared to take full speed flight up the hill; but something interrupted that process as the sound of my Winchester Model 70 Featherweight 30-06 roared in accuracy from 75 yards thru his heart; a 180 lb 10 point buck did a full flip in the air and crashed to the ground without a flinch, despite me quickly racking my bolt for another shot if necessary. I sat and watched thru my crosshairs without taking my scope off it for a few minutes, not daring to attempt to climb down and suddenly have him “come back to life” while I would be lowering my rifle or clinging to the sides of the tree or tree steps. He was down for good, as the sun rose more I could see the blood on his flank and red drooling from his mouth, his tongue hanging to the side. He had fooled us once again so he thought. Almost, but not quite!
Good Hunting to all of you. Believe in your senses, they are there for a reason.