Hey! We’re just back from three glorious days and two nights at the cottage, where I got to spend some time in the woods tracking down a big whitetail deer while Wendy relaxed at the camp, and did things like the cooking, cleaning, wood splitting, keeping the fires going….you know, the stuff that makes it possible for us men to enjoy the camp….haha! She is the best hunting partner I have, even took my picture all dressed up like a hunter who knows what he his doing before sending me off to “get a deer”
So….the big question, did I get a deer? Well now let me tell ya….I spent my time in the woods across the lake from the camp, I got to enjoy a boat ride back and forth, I love the boat….here it is tied to the shore yesterday morning, my trusty water steed, a 14 foot Springbok aluminum boat and 15 horsepower Evinrude outboard motor, circa 1980.
Do you get the impression I am trying to avoid answering the question, “did you get a deer?”
I scouted the area I intended to hunt on the first day, and saw a ruffed grouse, which I saw everyday that I was there, and to my knowledge, he is still there. I also saw three flocks of geese fly over, and found where someone has set up a bait barrel, hoping I presume, to lure a black bear within shooting range. It wasn’t baited, thankfully, as I am not in any rush to shoot a bear, or even meet one for that matter.
The mere idea of the bait barrel had me extra vigilant while I was anywhere in the vicinity of it. The last thing I wanted to do was come upon a hungry bear, angry because the barrel was empty.
There were some deer in the neighborhood, as evidenced by their tracks, but it wasn’t until the second day that I came across this,
Which is what hunters would call a “rub” a tree where a whitetail has been rubbing his antlers, getting the velvet off, and marking his territory, not far away, I found a scrape, and then another one, and so on, where he has marked the ground, scraping up an area about two feet wide, and then stepping in the middle of it, which is when I realized I was on the trail of a big one! His footprint was big, and heavy.
A big buck, and still on the prowl, obviously a smart enough one to still be alive in the middle of the deer season.
So I set up shop in the area, doing some still hunting, even tried a bit of “antler rattling” which has worked for me before in situations like this. For those of you who are not hunters, that is when the hunter tries to replicate the sounds of two buck deer fighting, by rattling two antlers together. I tried that in several locations.
It was good weather for it, perhaps a little too good, as it wasn’t quite cold enough in my mind, but it made it quite pleasant to sit and watch the trails. One of his trails led right along the shore of this lake, which was a lovely place to sit and watch the trees and the birds, and the clouds float by….not so good for seeing a deer though.
I suspect this is more a night time trail than a day time trail, but what the heck, it was much nicer than somewhere in the woods were the view wasn’t near as nice.
I watched the trail morning and night, and I worked his trails throughout the day, “still hunting,” which means walking excruciatingly slow through the woods, usually into the wind, or a cross wind, looking for a deer hiding behind a tree, or crossing in front of me, or just aimlessly wandering down a trail toward me, oblivious to my scent. hoping that I am stealthy enough to sneak up on one, which of course is all but impossible in dry weather, with leaves crackling under every footstep.
I even spent an afternoon trailing him, I found a fairly fresh looking track, and set off in hot pursuit. I learned some of his haunts, perhaps more than he hoped I would learn, his hideout in the low spruce trees, where he could lie down and still watch his trail behind him, seeing but not being seen.
His place in the swamp beyond the hill where the moss softened his footsteps and mine, and he scraped up some lichen, presumably as a snack. At one point he led me in so far it would have taken me another three days to drag him out, had I had gotten a chance.
His trail through the thick spruce looked impentrable at first glance, but once I was over the first few downfalls, it was a pretty clear trail, well used by him, but so narrow and close that had Mr Buck and I come eye to eye, it would have been hand to hoof combat, because there wasn’t room for me to raise the rifle.
Now I would love to show you a picture of the big old buck that had me chasing him for the last three days, the deer that got my attention and held it, waking me early in the morning, before sunrise to go after him, and keeping me in the woods all day (except for breaks and lunches) and took me on a merry chase throughout woods that he knows much better than I.
I even woke this morning dreaming that I would see him crossing the river, which had me keeping one eye on the river all day.
I would love to show you his picture, but alas…..he didn’t let me get close enough for a look. He was ahead of me each day, either visiting his scrape late in the night, or early in the morning. Sometimes I’m pretty sure he wasn’t too far ahead, but ahead nonetheless.
Once, I know I “started” him, which means I got close, and caught him a little off guard, but not enough to offer me an opportunity to test my marksmanship. He did not get to be a big old heavy deer by being stupid, so he toyed with me, as I tried to hunt him.
I love to hunt like this. It is probably why I am not a very successful deer hunter, because I like to find an animal, a particular animal, and go after him, until it is just the two of us, he knows me by sight, and hopefully I know him. It’s why I don’t really like to sit in a tree stand, or over a apples, waiting for a deer, any deer to come along.
I much prefer the intimacy that comes from getting on the trail of one, and spending my time looking for him. Along the way I have learned a lot about whitetails, or at least think I have, and certainly have had many a wonderful day on the trail of one that probably knew I was there.
They tend to really give you a run for your money when you start to trail a deer. They will take you through the deepest, thickest woods, through swamps, and over hardwood ridges, up hill and down, and lead you for miles if you are crazy enough to follow them.
But…the satisfaction that comes from catching up to him, perhaps cutting him off, or just coming closer than he thinks, is a fantastic feeling, at least to me. That is much more satisfying than just shooting a deer that wanders by. However, to each his own, and make no mistake, there are many, many, much more successful deer hunters than me, and most, do their hunting sitting down in a blind or a deer stand in a tree. It is a far more productive way to shoot a deer.
So for a couple of days, Mr Buck as I have taken to calling him, kept me going, providing more entertainment than I could hope for. His crowning glory was when he created a new scrape, sometime last night, right where I had spent the last hour of daylight, rattling my antlers.
He probably had stood back in the trees watching me last night, probably chuckling at my antics with the antlers. Then as he watched me leave in my boat, I can imagine him, his well honed rack gleaming, his dark eyes reflecting the stars above, as he laid his head back, grunting….and scraped and pawed the ground where I had been.
To add to the humiliation, he even rubbed some more bark off another tree, not 10 feet from where I had sat, as if to say that place, those woods, belong to him, and I am a fool to think I can outsmart him in his forest on his terms. I couldn’t agree more…
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