Deer Grandma, Story Six
To me, this was the Cadillac of stands. It was on the northeast corner of our property where our land and Ralph’s land came together. Both of us pastured cattle, and when my husband, Dan, requested that we build a stand where there needed to be some good and solid corner posts, Ralph and I figured we were up to the task.
There were telephone poles recently taken from the abandoned roadway near the river. Those went into holes drilled by the posthole digger on Ralph’s tractor. There were 2×6 oak and pine boards from the barn at the old Wilkens farmstead. Those were used for cross braces, railings and floor. There were used sheet metal panels for the roof and old carpet for a wind barrier between floor and railings. A ladder was built out of two small oaks and 2x4s. Ralph added the final touch by making a propane heater out of a burner, metal bucket and stovepipe.
As we looked at this stand, large and very visible from nearly every angle, Ralph and I chuckled about how we may never see any deer, or just see does and fawns, but that we sure would be comfortable doing it. Because of the hilly, wooded area with oaks to the north and west, swamp with livestock watering ponds to the east, and pasture to the south, there should be some deer around. However, we really didn’t have a clue as to how good a hunting spot it would be. If nothing else, we sure had met the challenge of providing a solid corner post.
The next couple of years, we did observe deer. However, you could almost see their eyes widen in surprise as they came across the stand, stopping and nervously proceeding across the open areas. Even though the two shooting lanes we put in to the north weren’t very wide, we noticed by their tracks in the snow that deer would go up the hill and circle back through the brush and trees to avoid crossing them.
It was an enjoyable place to sit, however, and each year more deer would venture out into the open. Fawns that were born after the stand was built grew into adults and didn’t seem to mind the structure. After a few years, Ralph shot a large 12-point buck from the stand. By that time, Dan and I were seeing young bucks, spikes and forked horns, in that area throughout the year. Around five years after the stand was built, I had my first encounter with a mature buck.
It was a cold and sunny November weekday morning with wind from the northwest. I had taken the day off from work to hunt. Instead of getting out to the stand before daylight, I decided to wait until first light to walk along the woods on the north line adjacent to the fields and pastures in the event deer were still out in the open feeding. After I got to the northeast corner, I’d sit in the stand for a few hours and light the heater if I got cold.
There were some deer feeding in the pasture beyond the first field by the house. I watched them for a while. No bucks and no doe tag. I continued walking slowly and when I got to the stand, climbed the ladder while trying to be quiet and not too visible in the morning sun. I put a shell into the chamber of the gun, proposed it in a corner and reached for the thermos. The coffee steamed in the cold air as I poured it and, along with the warm sunshine, made me feel comfortable and pleased to have the time to be here.
Over an hour passed before I saw a deer. She was around 200 yards to the northwest and wandered out into the shooting lane just far enough for me to see the first half of her body. She was nervous and looking back. Then she turned and went back into the brush. As my eyes followed her, I noticed bits of dark shadows moving in the same area. My mind and body, relaxed and sleepy from the morning sun, started to wake up.
This is a good time to get the gun ready in case a buck shows up. Go slow in case something is watching.
Within a couple minutes, there was another deer walking toward the cleared area. By now the gun was in position and, as the deer’s head came into the open area I could clearly see . . . . no antlers.
Just hold tight and keep watching.
In and out, back and forth, up and down the hill. Movements everywhere. Sometimes walking, sometimes running, but always in the thick brush. The only deer coming into the clear were antlerless.
I bet there is a buck in there. How can I get him to show himself?
I didn’t bring a grunt call. Would he respond to a whistle? A whistle had worked for me in the past to stop bucks briefly, but would it bring him out into the open? I decided to wait for a while before making any noise in case the doe, or does, would move east across the shooting lane and a buck would follow.
The movement continued. I could hear their bodies hitting the brush and their hooves in the leaves. They were slowly moving their way west away from the clear area. Then it went quiet.
Time to do something. Got to make a noise. Don’t have anything to lose.
A whistle may work, but would it be better to try and sound like a doe?
Since spring, I had been trying to reproduce some doe and fawn sounds with my mouth. I practiced them on deer I saw in the fields and pastures. Although far from perfect, the sounds I made now were at least good enough so the deer didn’t run away, and, sometimes, I’d get lucky enough to where one or two would come closer.
How are you going to do this? The distance is over 200 yards and the wind is blowing. The call will have to be really loud.
You’ll probably sound like an old crow.
Putting my tongue against my bottom teeth, and making my mouth wide with teeth close together, I inhaled as deeply as I could. The noise was definitely loud, but I didn’t have a clue if it sounded like something attractive to a buck. I placed the gun so that it was pointed toward where the does had been coming out previously. I waited. Silence. No movement. I kept watching. With every minute that passed, I became more certain that my buck-calling abilities left much to be desired.
Finally, I saw movement. A deer was walking slowly through the brush toward the spot in the shooting lane where I previously had seen the does. I put the scope on the spot and followed along. As it approached the opening, the head turned toward the stand. Now it was exposed . . . the head of a mature buck with nice antlers.
What do I do if he doesn’t come any farther? Do I try for a head shot?
At that distance, the shell will drop quite a bit . . . and how much do I need to adjust for the steep hill?
Thinking how easily I could be off a few inches and hit part of the deer’s jaw or other area that would result in suffering, I decided to wait.
After a couple minutes of looking around, the buck decided to move forward. I lifted the .308 onto the chest and then up to adjust for distance and squeezed the trigger. He lurched and ran back toward the northwest. After fifteen anxious minutes, I walked up the hill and found him lying close by. Thanking the animal for giving us sustenance preceded the job of cleaning and preserving my first buck taken from the “four poster” in the northeast pasture.