November 16, 2006
by Chris Feeney
Normally I despise getting up early. I hate being cold and I’m not a big fan of just sitting around doing nothing. Yet I love deer hunting… Go figure?
Okay all you deer slayers out there will be quick to point out that if I was good, I wouldn’t just be sitting around shivering, thinking about how tired I am going to be at work the next day.
But as a non-connoisseur, my options are limited since I don’t hunt for meat. So basically that makes me one of those dreaded horn hunters, only settling for a trophy. So, being a bit selective does limit one’s options, dramatically.
However I had a bit of hope for this opening weekend of rifle season. The Wednesday before, I had nearly made the big firearms opener moot. I had a big 10-pointer just eight-yards from me in the bow stand. Unfortunately the wily veteran of the hunting wars was smart enough (or lucky enough) to keep a small oak tree between himself and I as he worked his scrape. He tantalized me not once, but twice as he feigned movement into my shooting lanes on both sides of the small obstruction. But both times he stopped short and returned to the safety of his cover.
The second tease had me at full draw, for the second time, for what seemed like forever. I was two steps away from my first Pope & Young deer. I must have looked rather strange to that buck as he took a peek up at the blob of camouflage that was shaking like an earthquake had hit me.
He couldn’t smell me, and didn’t know what to make of the twitching mass above. But with no doe in sight (he came to my bleat call) and no opponent to spar with (the grunt call kept him close) the big buck decided to backtrack, calmly leaving me unfulfilled as he sauntered away to my utter frustration.
I’ve had my share of miscues when it comes to bow hunting. Last year I missed two big bucks and there have been several others that I have spooked away without a shot. But this time, I believe, at no fault of my own, this buck just escaped without the benefit of hunter error.
I sat there in the stand shaking for an hour. As a matter of fact, my arms are trembling a bit now as I sit here reflecting on the encounter trying to describe it for the reader.
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, I never got to experience that sensation on the opening weekend of firearms season. That big buck either vacated his typical haunt, or stayed hidden from me throughout the seemingly endless hours I was sitting in the stand.
I must confess, that while there was plenty of quiet time, I did probably see more than my fair share of deer. As a matter of fact at about 10:00 a.m. Saturday I saw one of the best shows I have ever witnessed in the deer stand. I must confess I was nearly ready to give up and head for the truck when the first commotion broke what had been nearly two hours without a sighting.
Two does and a decent eight-point buck began their dance about 100-yards from me in the timber. It didn’t last long as they crossed the patch of woods I watch and looked poised to depart. But a second buck and his girlfriends entered the picture from just south of where the first group was making its exit. The two groups mingled and decided to remain in my sight. Soon my presence was blessed with several more deer. I counted at least four eight-point bucks zoom by me at one point or another as the deer did their version of NASCAR with the bucks revving up their engines in pursuit of this doe or that doe.
The show lasted for nearly an hour as the deer seemed perfectly content to linger in the apparent safety of the woods, going about their business in seclusion while shots rang out around us in all directions. I wonder if there is a memo circulating in the deer world that lets them know that if they don’t possess a 140-class rack or bigger that they are safe right in front of my stand.
That would explain why I saw plenty of marginal bucks, the ones that get you excited when they first appear only to disappoint you when you take a closer look. As a matter of fact I have never seen as many good bucks in one weekend.
I guess it is sort of like watching minor league baseball, when you hope your favorite team’s prospects can mature into next year’s stars. Our deer team has some excellent building blocks for 2007.