I had put in a lot of days and hours in the timber trying to find a buck and punch my tag. Hunting an area I have become very familiar with and learning its secrets with each day I spent in search of my Muley buck. The only problem was that not unlike past early rifle seasons, it was bone dry in the Jack Pine forests. The Bitter brush and pine needles were giving away my location with just about every step. I slowed way down, so much so that it was becoming fatiguing. My leg muscles were not accustomed to holding my foot up while I looked for a quiet-er spot to step. It became a wonderful sort of meditative stalk challenging my balance, strenght, coordination and patience. It also brought me back to my alpine ski racing days in the sense of having to look many steps ahead and plan my route, much like skiing Slalom or Giant Slalom. All the while scanning visually throughout each step for that glint of white or an out of place branch. Something a bit askew that becomes an ear flicking from front to back and a glistening black nose that turns and catches you with eyes sharply focused, and you've just been busted!
I travel fairly light when I hunt this area, as I can hunt directly from my friends house without having to fire up the truck. I relish this experience and the ability to hunt right off the front porch and not having to drive to a specified location.
Hunting the timber means having to wait a bit longer for sufficient shooting light. Oh no problem, perfect to nab a second cup of strong coffee. I have adapted well without issue on that front. The early mornings are cool with temps in the 20's and low 30's then warming to mid 60's or even 70's by afternoon. Layering is key as is typical for Fall. I love the crisp mornings lightly frosted and the smell of seasonal changes as it stirs memories of past hunts, those successful and others not so much. More so the possibilities of what hunting encompasses and that of which is vast and leaves much to be experienced, even after close to 40 years afield. Every year, every hunt is special and unique, no two are ever alike . . . thankfully!
Oops I digressed, back to my buck hunt. As I was noting the challenges of an early season hunt there was plenty of fresh sign. There were well defined rub lines and also lots of scrapes. Some of them were separated by not more than a quarter mile, thus indicating several bucks in the vicinity. Just wasn't able to catch them in their zones during daylight. I did sneak in on a large doe the first evening and watched her browse on Bitter brush for about 10 minutes. It was fun mirroring her and finally we parted ways as my focus turned back to looking for horns. Mind you I am not a horn hunter, I don't have the luxury shall we say of being such an accomplished hunter or availability of multiple tags to fill each season. Oh and lets not forget location, location, location. Just as important here as in real estate, in fact maybe more so. After hunting hard for the better part of a week I returned to my temporary home for a day to regroup, rest and recharge.
I was optimistic as the forecast was finally calling for precipitation before my hunt was to end. Phew, I thought to myself this is just what I needed and indeed found new inspiration and focus. There were only 3 days left to the 10 day season and I was back with patience renewed by a brief respite.
I heard a distinct single "thump" that made my heart jump and my body stop in a nano second. It was the unmistakable sound of a hoof thumping semi hollow, duffy ground. My pulse quickened as my eyes strained to hone in on the location of this deer. I didn't know if it was a buck or doe. A flash of brown streaks through the trees and I catch a glimpse and follow its direction. I am squatting down and ready to shoulder my rifle if I am so lucky, and if I can muster a shooting lane akin to Swiss cheese. The deer stops less than a hundred yards away but I still can't see any horns. I slowly move to my left to gain a sliver of a shooting lane. Snort and then a series of "blows" and I'm busted as the deer alerts all creatures in the vicinity that there is a threat about. I did see a large bodied deer with big ears and a white rump but never did see horns. I surmise that at least I got a little closer than previously, as most times out I hadn't even see a deer. Ahh, dang it as my heart sank a bit and at the same time feeling more motivated. The clouds were moving in and temps were on the rise from early morning. By mid afternoon the smell of rain was in the air. I was thrilled as I had only 2 more days left to hunt.
I returned to where I was staying and settled in for the evening and as is my habit, brought my rifle in the bedroom with me. More so as an optimistic possibility if there just happened to be a buck within eye shot of my friends house. I slept well and woke hours before daylight and stepped out to the front porch to take inventory of the weather mans accuracy. Yes indeed it had and was still raining. Yes, yes, yes, about time I exclaimed to myself, finally!
I had a quick breakfast and waited for the downpour to subside a bit. Another friend stopped by and we were shooting the breeze about my hunt so far and as he looked out the window he said, "there's some deer out there". This was about 7:30a.m. and the rain had turned to drizzle, so I thought to myself it's time to get dressed and get out hunting. I jumped out of the Lazy Boy and ran to the kitchen window just about the time one of the guys said "hey one of them is a buck, Terry do you have your rifle in the house?" I was already half way to my bedroom peeling up the carpet in my slippers at the time. I exclaimed excitedly, but quietly that I sure did and was fast en route to the laundry room door. There were 4 deer total and 1 little buck hanging with the girls. I looked at my friend over my right shoulder as I began to open the door and he was opening the clothes dryer door to stop it. I took a knee and took aim then squeezed and nothing! Dang it forgot to take the safety off, regroup. Internal conversation was something like this; try again, stay calm, focus, breathe don't get ahead of yourself, remember to squeeeze the trigger. BOOM! The little 2 x 3 buck dropped right in his tracks at 60 yards, the does scattered instantly. PHEW what a relief. I actually listened to myself and did what I needed to. Even being able to watch the little buck drop through my scope, never flinched or pulled the shot.
Hugs all around and the rain began to come down harder again. The boys were on their way out to look at my buck and I flew to get changed out of my pj's(literally, flannel pants, deerskin slippers and a sweatshirt) and into my Carhartts, flannel shirt and some decent footwear. Mind you, not exactly my typical hunting clothes. None the less I had made a good shot, high through his neck not wasting an ounce of meat. It was also my first harvest with my Roberts 256 that I'd bought from my friend Larry 2 summers ago.
Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt