Deer Grandma, Story Seven
As far as scenery goes, this is not a very pretty spot. What I see from here cannot come anywhere close to the views from the homemade deer stands near the river or creek, or those in the wooded areas adjacent to the wide-open expanses of fields and pasture.
Why do I like to sit here?
Surrounded by short, spindly, popple trees and tangles of brush, I always ask myself that question after I climb the ladder. I set my rifle into a corner of the triangular stand, sit down on the stool, take a good look around, and think
This is really scruffy stuff.
My husband, Dan, calls this part of the woods “the slashing” because it was logged off many years ago. I don’t know why it hasn’t grown back into large, mature popples. Perhaps it is because the soil is poor or maybe because too many trees tried to pop up in too small of an area. The popples grow thin and tall, then topple offer; the forest floor is covered with a tangle of fallen trees and brush. The only tree of any size is the oak that is sit in.
Prior to building this stand, I hunted from a small platform placed between two of the larger popples. With climbing rungs made out of pieces of tree limbs, the whole thing became unsafe after a couple years. By that time, we had noticed the area was alive with wildlife. Deer, small mammals, grouse and other birds like to feed, walk through, and rest in, the slashing.
A couple hundred yards to the west was an abandoned hay field where the brush and popple trees were starting to take over. To the east was the Vasaloppet trail, part of the 58k race set for the second Sunday of February each year. A couple hundred yards to the south was a creek that ran to the nearby river; on both sides of the creek were hills with a variety of hardwood trees. To the north, the terrain rose slowly and ended in an oak grove two hundred yards north.
After building the stand, I roughed out a number of shooting lanes outward like spokes on a wheel; some were long, some short, and most were narrow. Dan used the brush cutter to enlarge two of the lanes to make for easy access into the slashing; we used those trails year-round to wander on daily walks. Even with the shooting lanes and trails, there remained many areas too thick to see in to, and it was easy to get surprised by the sudden appearance of a deer.
On the day of this hunt, it was nearly fifty degrees and sunny. After an early morning hunt and mid-day meal, I felt sleepy. It was hard to concentrate. My eyes wanted to close. I let them, trying to keep my ears tuned to pick up any activity.
Much of the afternoon passed that way. Eyes open for a while, then ears taking over. Daydreaming. Relaxing. Noises from birds, mice and chipmunks. No deer; at least none that made enough noise or obvious enough for me to pick up on.
As the sun started getting lower in the sky and clouds gathered in the west, the air temperatures took a tumble. The breeze from the northwest increased. I put on a down vest, zipped and snapped all the outerwear that had been undone to take advantage of the sunshine, and pulled the stocking cap down over my ears.
Perhaps the change of weather will bring out the biggest and the best the woods has to offer. Better wake up and pay attention.
Again, my mind wandered, this time to other hunts at this spot.
The memory of a very large 8-pointer who sauntered through on my birthday several years ago was still quite vivid. Looking at the thick brush where he had walked through, I replayed the entire scene of that exciting and frustrating event.
Two years ago, a smaller 8-pointer took a similar path. He was walking slightly behind, and parallel to, a doe west of him. He stayed in the brush, walking deliberately but cautiously. He was heading for a narrow shooting lane. As I lifted the gun into position, I noticed that he was turning away from me and towards the doe. With this change of direction, I wouldn’t be able to get a clear shot. I quickly grabbed the deer call and made one short grunt. He immediately made a similar sound, turned, and walked right towards me. What a pleasant surprise!
And then there was last year. The large buck south of me, always in thick brush, was so intent on breeding the doe with him that he would not respond to any type of call I sent his way. Considering the wind direction, there was no way I could sneak up on him, so I sat in this tree until it became too dark to shoot, waiting and hoping. As I got down from the stand and walked away, I could still hear them cavorting around in the brush.
I am getting cold. I should have buttoned up earlier to capture some of that warmth from the sunshine.
Although the sky was predominantly gray, there were enough yellows and reds in the west to make it interesting.
That would make a really nice watercolor. How could I do it? Perhaps if I soaked down the paper, applied a grey wash, and while it was still wet, put in small amounts of color . . . . .
The watercolor would have to wait. Just below that sky, walking through the neighbor’s field was a large-bodied buck. His head was held high. His walk was brisk and his demeanor was like a prancing thoroughbred.
WOW, now that is a great picture!
The buck was all business. He had a destination in mind and I hoped it was on my side of the fence. He was still on the neighbor’s field and I could see him clearly; his rack and body were very large.
Good news. He is going northeast and will soon be across the fence.
Bad news. That area is nothing but small and thick brush.
Now into the scruffy stuff, his presence could only be detected by listening. The amount of noise seemed to be too much for one deer, even a large, aggressive one.
Time to try the grunt call. Just one or two short notes.
No response. The noise continued and intensified. Lots of movement. Part of a body here, then there, barely visible through the brush.
There has to be several deer in there. I wonder why I didn’t detect them earlier? That buck sure knew they were there and he was a lot farther away from them than me.
Part of a large body became visible. It was part of a chest. I put the scope onto the dark form and searched for some answers.
It is large. It has to be the buck. I could take a chance and shoot. Pretty chancy, though. So much brush. I’ll try another grunt.
Upon hearing the grunt, the form of the deer moved away. It sounded like other deer moved with it.
Oops. Not exactly what I had hoped for.
The woods became quiet. With only 10-15 minutes left of shooting light, frustration set it. So had intense cold. Up to now I hadn’t noticed how frozen my hands and feet felt. Even my upper body was getting cold. I started shaking.
Get a grip. Listen. There is the sound of an animal moving to the northeast. Maybe you still have a chance.
Bursting out from the thick brush was a doe. She ran a zig-zag pattern. Something was behind her.
What is going on? Where did that little guy come from?
The doe was trying mightily to dodge a fork-horn buck. She was moving pretty fast through an area full of scrawny popple trees
Now what? Should I try for him? Should I wait to see if the big guy joins in the chase?
Although the doe wasn’t headed for a shooting lane, she did pass through a small clear spot about two feet in diameter.
If the buck follows the same route, he’ll pass through that opening. Get the gun ready and then decide.
With the .308 on the opening, a quick look confirmed that no other deer were coming. But . . . . how about tomorrow? Would that big guy still be around?
Don’t be a dork. This is a perfectly good deer. He’ll fill the tag nicely with lots of good venison . . . if you are lucky enough to hit him . . .
The buck entered the opening. The tag was filled. The venison was good.