Deer Grandma, Story Four
Intense cold. Even the trees were complaining, making sharp and loud booming noises to anything willing to listen. Even the well-oiled swivel mechanism on the homemade chair squeaked in protest. I folded my arms around my chest and wiggled my toes. My body was already chilled and it wasn’t even 7 a.m. I looked longingly at the thermos of coffee.
If I have another cup of coffee, there will be very little left for later.
Yea, but with this cold, who wants to be around later?
Well, you know this is a good time of morning to see deer.
Oh, sure, any sensible adult mammal would be laying down in a warm spot conserving energy in this cold.
Yes, but sensible and deer hunting are not synonymous. Besides, if you drink a lot now, it won’t be long and you’ll have to climb down and relieve yourself. Isn’t that a pleasant thought? . . . .
I’ll wait on the coffee.
7:30 a.m. The sun was starting to penetrate into the tree line where the stand was. This stand, named the “ridge stand”, was a nice size, usually comfortable, and only a few years old. I thought about how much I enjoyed building it. Boards for the standards, steps, platform and railings, were sledded out across the river and through the woods during the winter on my regular walks. As soon as it got warmer in March and April, I nailed the steps onto the two tall, straight, oak trees, and started pulling up the lumber with ropes to work on the platform. Mosquitoes were out by the time I got it finished.
Warm weather wounds really good right now. Even mosquitoes. I really need a cup of coffee.
8 a.m. No deer yet. This spot, located on a ridge with narrow shooting lanes brushed out like the spokes of a wagon wheel, was a good spot for morning hunts. Deer would cross the river from the east and come up the hill to bed in brushy areas to the north and west. In addition, there was north-south movement between the ridge and the swampy area that ran along the river. But not today.
8:20 a.m. I can’t stand it anymore. My feet and legs are starting to feel like frozen clubs. I have to get down before my feet can’t feel the rungs of the ladder. My coffee has ended up in places that need relief. Maybe if I take a bit of a walk, I can warm up enough to sit some more. I could try moving slowly through the brush and windfalls to the north and west.
As I started to climb down, the impact of the runs hurt my partially-frozen feet. My hands were clumsy with cold, too. Once down, putting the .308 shell back into the chamber and the safety on took far longer than normal. It would have been a bit easier if my glasses hadn’t collected frozen fog from my breath as I looked down. I finally had to chuckle at the thought of what this fumbling affair must have looked like and decided that the deer didn’t have much to worry about.
Maybe I should just go home, put on a pot of coffee, eat a nice breakfast, and come out again in mid-day.
But it is a pretty day and I probably will warm up with a little movement.
When walking to and through bedding areas, I would normally take a few quick, quiet, steps and then stop to look around for movement. My cold body didn’t want to be either quick or quiet.
Time for a new game plan. I don’t think I could get off a decent off-hand shot if I did see a deer. If I walk far enough each time so that I am close to a tree, I could use that for a shooting rest while I’m looking around. The tree might also provide a little bit of cover if I wanted to try out that new grunt call. Other hunts tell me a grunt call works for them and I don’t have much to lose.
After walking north about twenty feet, I came to a large tree. I stopped, looked around, and put the grunt call in my mouth. I inhaled on the tube, just enough to make a couple of soft grunts like those I had heard bucks make in years past. Only cold stillness responded. I continued this pattern until I got to where I could see into a brushy ravine where deer often bedded down.
Standing next to a tree, with the gun cradled in my arms, I watched the area for a moment and then took the grunt tube and inhaled softly. No sound. I inhaled with more pressure. Still no sound. I took the tube out of my mouth and looked down at it. My glasses frosted up with my breath.
I think this must be the definition of inept. Perhaps I should just go home.
No, don’t give up now that you are finally starting to warm up. If the frost from your warm breath is messing up your glasses, it probably has frozen up the grunt tube. Take your glasses off and put them and the tube inside your jacket to warm up. Move slowly upwind towards the brush area to the northwest and if nothing moves, then go home.
A few slow steps and stop. Look and listen. After repeating this pattern quite a few times, I heard a little snapping noise ahead of me. It sounded like a deer getting up and starting to move, but I couldn’t see far enough into the thick brush to confirm that. After a minute or so, the animal started moving to the northeast, to a more open area. I bet it wanted to get a look at me.
Aha, then I can get a look at it also.
Oops, my glasses. Reach slowly into your jacket and get them. Don’t get so excited that you fog them up again!
By the time my glasses were back on, the deer had gone far enough so that I could see its shape and size. It was a doe. Behind it was a smaller animal, possibly a fawn. They continued moving toward the open area northeast of me.
Too bad it’s not a buck, since I don’t have a doe permit.
I wonder if there is a buck somewhere close by? Tis the season for lovemaking.
Not very likely if she still has her fawn by her side.
Wouldn’t be impossible, though. It doesn’t hurt to wait and watch.
While the doe were still in some brush, I took a few quick, quiet, steps toward the nearest tree; it was small, but would provide me with a rest if I had the chance to shoot. As I took my last step, I heard a noise in the brush near where the doe and fawn had been bedded.
Calm down. Could be another doe or fawn. Lean against the tree, put your gun up, and see if you can catch anything through the scope. Go slow . . I think you are being watched.
Nothing in the scope. I waited with the gun pointed toward the heavy brush, hoping for a glimpse of a body. Slowly, cautiously, the animal was moving the same direction the doe and fawn had taken. It would stop and go. Even though the gun was up against the tree, it was starting to feel heavy.
I bet it is a buck or a wary old doe. Soon it will be in a spot where I can see parts of its body. I hope my arm holds out until then.
The deer finally walked into a spot where I could see both its back end and its head.
Aha, you cagey rascal, I can see you now. And you are quite handsome. Lucky, too. You know I’m not going to take a chance on a head shot and I sure don’t want to shoot you in the butt.
The buck started moving again, but not to the open area in the northeast where the other two deer had gone. He was going to stay in the thicker brush to the north and quarter away from me.
Now what? I better not reach for the grunt tube in my jacket because the doe and fawn are still in an area where they can see me. I don’t want them alerting the buck. The only chance I have is if he goes through an opening in the brush where I can see his chest or neck area. All I can do is wait and hope.
Slowly, I moved my gun ahead of the buck to see if there was some opening in the brush that he might go through. About fifteen feet ahead of him was an opening about a foot wide with just a couple small twigs extending into part of it. No other spots were available. I put the gun onto that spot and watched the dark form move slowly and deliberately.
Come one, Handsome, just a couple more steps.
The sound of the gun shattered the cold, still air. The buck disappeared. I wanted to continue holding the gun in a shooting position in case the deer reappeared. I could not. My arms were just too tired. I leaned against the small tree. The doe and fawn ran away.
After some time to relax and settle down, I walked toward the spot where I had shot at the buck. He had not gone far and died quickly. I was both sad and happy. Taking the life of a deer makes me sad. Having the opportunity to hunt and be successful makes me happy.
This buck was a particularly handsome animal. Probably in his third year, he had well-formed antlers and big body. His most striking feature, however, was an inch-wide swath of hair that stood straight up and ran from just below his head to his shoulders.
From ridge stand to ridge-back buck – – a most interesting morning.