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The Misadventures of Miss Adventure
by Janice Baer
What hunting season would be complete
Certainly not mine!
Do you Mind if I "Super Size" that?
by Tammy Koenig, Staff Writer, Wisconsin
Giant hogs criss-crossed the forest floor of my dreams while my eyes searched for the perfect shot on a bristled razorback boar...
|Resuming the search in the morning light||Finding good sign|
|A gruesome discovery||Jana and half of the Wisconsin 8 pointer|
|Happy to have recovered her archery kill, Jana poses with her 2010 Wisconsin 8 pointer.|
This story is the second part of a 2 part story that documents the events of a difficult encounter that took place during my 2009 fall deer hunting season. Please read chapter 1 before continuing with this final part chapter. Please use caution in allowing a young person to read this recount as it may not be suitable for young children.
On the fourth morning I went back to square one and tried the same stand I had on my first morning. I heard a little noise from the creek farther down and some activity behind me but nothing in front or where I could see what it was. After I got down from my stand that morning I began to do more scouting, trying to solve the mystery of silence that embedded the forest and I was now concerned about the possibility of coyote pressure. Something had disturbed the wildlife or made a negative impact on the population of deer and other animals. I just was not sure what was wrong. Scouting the land I searched for clues, which only could be told by nature itself. I checked several creek areas, to see if they had run dry. I checked the browse of the sumac bushes and tops of grass to see if they showed signs of being nipped. I searched for deer droppings to find if there was much and to check for the age, weather it was old or slightly fresh. I looked for bedding areas to determine if they were still using the same areas to bed. I walked near more trails to find evidence of use. I checked the scent of the air for the musty smell of deer sign. I studied deer prints for age, to see if there were both old and new prints. I checked the size of prints to see if a variety of size existed, representing the young as well as does and bucks.
The results of my research made my heart sink and brought a heavy feeling to my whole being. While exploring the areas upon one of the knobs I found the hillside riddled with coyote dens. All of the trails normally beaten down by deer tracks which normally had overhanging branches snapped off due to their height were now grown over and the trails were somewhat used by obviously used by smaller animals. There were no rub lines, scrapes or bedding sites found on another ridge. Of the few bedding areas and droppings found, most were oddly down near the fields. The area was void of deer scent. As I continued to search the rest of the property I found an unusual pattern suggesting that the deer may be experiencing a lot of hunting pressure. I found just a few areas of dense cover showing signs of deer entering through them, but many of the normal main trails were grown over. It was apparent that the creek crossings had fewer deer prints which in prior years resembled a cattle crossing due to the amount of deer and turkey traffic.
Taking little time for rest that afternoon, I decided to take my climber and go to an area located very deep into the woods where the deer normally go when they have become nocturnal and reclusive. I had a sense that maybe the deer had moved to a different end of the property. I knew I would have to stick it out until after dark, because it would be likely that they would not come out until right at sunset. It had been tough getting in the area without making any noise, so I sat for quite some time before the day began to come to an end. Right at dusk I did hear some movement, but it sounded more like something running, then silence again. Then a few minutes later slight movement that then stopped. That was it for the night. Getting out was even harder, as I had to take my climber back with me again and drop it off at another location where I planned to use it again. Finally I was out in the open and after a while dropped my stand off. Then I just had the long walk back to the truck ahead of me.
After about 40 minutes I was about two-thirds of the way back to the truck. I was very tired and thirsty but did not want to stop to drink anything; I just wanted to keep going. I had never been afraid of the dark and in fact always enjoyed looking up at the dark sky to admire the stars that sparkled above me. Then I heard the sound of some coyotes in a pack off in the distance in a grassy field, which lay on the other side of a creek that separated the harvested bean field I was walking across. In the past I would hear 1 or 2 coyotes howling in a stationary location and it appeared to be calm and content. I had never experienced hearing them as a pack so close before. They all made a variety of sounds all at the same time; yelping , yipping, high pitched yikes and short howling sounds. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I wanted to get back to the truck all that much faster. The only light I had handy was a small pen light that shown in green at a maximum visual distance of about 10 yards ahead of me. I realized I was actually moving in their direction diagonally and started to feel uneasy about this. I could tell from the different voices that there were at least 4 different coyotes in the group. As I continued to walk, I came into an area where the fields gave way and converged into a wooded area that followed either side of the creek. As I started in a parallel direction alongside of the creek I started to hear the coyotes vocals change into primarily short barks. Where at first they had displayed excited howls and yaps, now what I heard was more threatening to me. As this continued intermittently I realized that I was being followed by this pack of coyotes, though they were still on the other side of the creek.
I began to walk briskly but did not run. Then they became silent but I could hear small branches snapping and still an occasional short bark as they began coming closer toward me. By this point I was only about 10 minutes from my truck. Based on their nearness and the creek that separated us, I realized we could possibly reach an intersecting point once I reached the last creek crossing. I would have to cross there to get to my truck though. I gripped my bow as I approached this creek bed, which dropped in elevation. I did not hesitate to cross the creek as I hoped that I had arrived ahead of them. It was hard to tell since I only occasionally heard their barks or yips. I could not tell where they were for sure. I had just come up onto the other side of the bank about 10 feet from the creek when I first heard rustling in the grass from about 8 yards way. When I shined my pen light that direction I saw 4 coyotes. One stared at me while two of them nervously stood on one side of it. A fourth one began to walk around to my side toward the path between me and truck. I made eye contact with it and stomped one foot in its direction while I raised my arms up and yelled at it. It stopped and jumped back a bit but calmly went toward the pack. I knew that it would be useless to try to use my bow, since I could neither see my peep sight or pins in the dark. These animals were not intimidated by me either. The fact that they outnumbered me may have given them more courage. Then without warning I heard something coming toward me at a dead run from behind me, through the CRP grass. I was instantly stricken with fear and felt completely vulnerable. Not sure what was about to happen next, my instincts kicked in and I retreated back to the creek. I decided to put my bow down and pick up a large rock. Holding my light in my mouth I threw it at and hit one of the coyotes nearest to me. It yelped and scrambled about. But the others just sort of stood around. These animals were treating me as prey. They may have been enticed by the smell of doe scent I carried in my backpack, which had spilled on my pants and hands some throughout the course of my hunting. I threw another rock but missed. Then a 5th coyote came bursting into view from the CRP grass, from the position that had been behind me. I began to yell and growl through my teeth and throw more heavy rocks at them as fast as I could pick them up from the creek. Finally the coyotes took enough hits from rocks that they began to back off and look confused. They eventually disappeared from sight. But I could hear them still in the grass about 20 yards away. I decided to try to make it back to my truck. With my bow in one hand and an extra rock in the other I jogged backwards toward my truck, so that I could face their direction. It was uphill and took a lot of energy to do this but my adrenaline was running in full gear. As I started to get closer the truck I could hear them as they began to come back my direction. I assume they sensed my brisk movement. They trailed me all the way back to my truck. Occasionally I would get a glimpse of movement down the trail or the reflection of eyes, but they stayed about 15-20 yards behind me. When I got to my truck I jumped up into the bed, put up the tailgate, got my backpack off and pulled out a larger flashlight. It was brighter so could see better with it. I only got a few glimpses of them after this. But I stayed back there for some time until I heard them walking through the CRP grass the opposite direction and there was no more sign of them. But even after their was silence I was afraid to get down. It was a long time before I got down to open my truck door. I felt like my heart was pounding on the outside of my body still.
I could not believe how persistent they were. I am not sure if this encounter happened because they were curious about what I was or if they had already decided that I smelled like dinner. I use a doe scent that I put on a doused cloth in the areas where I hunt. I keep these in a zip lock baggie and put them in my pack. It's often hard to get that smell off of your hands or clothing if you get some on yourself, which I likely had. While none of them lunged at me, their intent indicated they would not leave. They had used some cunning maneuvers by keeping all but one of the pack together having another one rush in from behind.
Once inside the truck I started up the engine and left, but within a mile had to pull over. I felt cold and began to shake. I sat there until I could get the heater going full blast and managed to cover up with an extra coat from my back seat. When I finally calmed down I drove the rest of the way back to my camper, physically and emotionally exhausted. It took a long time to go to sleep that night and I just could not get warm enough for some reason. I finally had to put in ear plugs, because I could hear some coyotes off in the distance and did not want any reminders of how the evening had turned into a nightmare. While God will not put us in a position that is more than we can bear, for the first time ever I found myself questioning God's will and His presence.
The only other time I had felt such fear for my life was when I was in about 18 years old and had the throttle stick open on my car while I was on the highway. The regular brakes were not strong enough to stop the car and I thought for sure it was the end. I ended up using my emergency brakes which gradually stopped the car after about 2 miles. Once I had it stopped I was able to shut the engine off. But the feeling of having a situation out of your control with eminent danger gave me the same sick- to- my- stomach feeling.
After this incident I was deeply impressed with the need for all women, and all hunters for that matter, to have the right to protect themselves in such given moments of absolute danger and from being attacked when they are bowhunting. I know there are many nationally documented cases of coyote attacks, but I had not heard of any in Kansas. Additionally, hunters which hunt mountainous areas in other states where bears are present have a greater danger of being attacked and have been. While some hunters have the advantage of a rifle while they are hunting, bow hunters do not. And still yet most hunters do not have a second form of protection such as a hand gun. The right to bear arms means that constitutionally we have the right to protect our lives and ensure our survival. Now we are at the mercy of the states we hunt in, to allow us our God-given right for survival.
While I stayed and hunted for 2 more days after this, I did not use any more scent spray or oil. Additionally, a friend ended up coming to hunt with me which made me feel safer, otherwise I may have decided to just pack it up. However our next 2 days of hunting did not produce any success nor sign of deer. While I did not know how severely I had been affected by this incident, 5 days after the occurrence I had what is called a TIA (Mini Stroke) which affected my right side. It is not known if this incident triggered it, as it was also discovered that I had high blood pressure and a heart condition as a result. This of cours, ended my 2009 deer hunting season completely. It has been 6 months and I am just now writing about this for the first time. I went through a period of temporary numbness on my right side which lingered in my face. I had several months of difficulty; not being able to speak clearly and get my thoughts put into words, taking a long time to respond and sometimes responding with words that did not make sense. I am finally able to say that I am mostly recovered, with the exception of my heart condition. I am now exercising regularly, working on getting back into shape and hoping to regain my strength. I have been able to return to work, without assistance and lead a normal life again.
It is my request that if you took the time to read this article that you will take the initiative to contact your state's Wildlife & Conservation legislators to bring up the issue of protection for hunters to defend themselves, much as National Parks now allow.
(I have included a sound track of the type of sounds coyotes in a pack make so you can understand the chills that went up my back when I heard them so close to me.)
WomenHunters, Pro Staff
This story was first written to its entirety as one, however due to the length of the article I realized it would be easier to read if it were broken down and published in separate chapters. I hope that you will read all parts of the article and understand that because it is a recounting of events there is a lot of detail that takes some time to draw to one main event near the end.
My deer hunting season of 2009 turned out to be brief and memorable, but not for reasons you would want. That year I had several "firsts" in my hunting experiences, even though I had been bow hunting for 15 years by then. I must warn you that the latter part of this story will not be entirely easy to read about and may not be suitable for children. I still have not disclosed the details to my 9 year old daughter because I do not want her to be afraid to go hunting with me in the future, or be fearful for me when I go hunting. It is an event that was difficult to write about because it brought back very intense fears. But it is something that must be told so that other hunters can become aware of certain rights for personal safety that still need to be fought for in many states. This article is a follow up to my series "When the Huntress Becomes the Hunted", which began in February of 2010.
My story began with me being able to take vacation to go hunting for 6 consecutive days, for the first time in since becoming a mother 8 years previously. With some very coordinated planning my husband, mother and sister-in-law all agreed to help watch our two young children while I was on my hunting trip. My destination was our family farm 150 miles away which I knew like the back of my hand, had played on since I was a little girl, hunted on since I received my first bow and cherished spending time at as my little piece of paradise. I had enjoyed several moments of excitement and hunting success here in prior years.
On my first morning out I was excited to spot a decent 150 class buck from about 500 yards away in a lower field coming my direction. I was positioned in a tree stand near the top of a hill and the sound easily echoed down into the field in a lower valley. I hoped to lure this nice buck closer to me and knew if I called the sound would travel quite a distance. I started to use a doe bleat, then after a short while used two different buck grunt calls alternately. After waiting a little I started to rattle. This sequence had worked well for me in the past. I lost sight of him as he went through a creek area still coming in my direction. Then, within about 3 minutes of finishing this call sequence, I heard from the field beyond the "Whack" sound of antlers from two large bucks that had began to fight. The sound was coming from the semi-wooded area on the edge of the field just past the creek bank which was out of my view. I could tell they were large bucks because of the difference in sound that you hear with the various sizes of tines. Larger tines have more of a "tink" sound to them where smaller, shorter tines do not. Thicker tines also have a louder, dense, resonating sound. If you ever fool around and practice with real rattling horns you will find how these differences sound. My heart jumped as I could hear the battle continue and I decided to quickly get down from my tree and get closer. I was no sooner down from my tree headed their direction when suddenly I was surprised by the sound of a coyote that began to bark and yip as it ran in their direction. It was on the same hillside as me and probably only about 100 yards away from me through the trees. I could tell from its vocals that we both had the same idea. So I tried to get through the woods faster, hoping to get at least a view of the two bucks before the coyote spoiled the scene. Soon the coyotes' yip stopped and so did the sound of the fight. By the time I arrived at the edge of the trees the deer had already fled. Only the coyote was there now, frantically pacing through the grassy area as if it hoped to spook something up from the brush. This was likely the area where the bucks had been fighting. The coyote did not prevail at finding anything, so it stopped to urinate there. Then it ran out into the field nearby and defecated. I assume this was some sort of territorial symbol but do not know enough about coyotes' behaviors to say for sure. I was shocked, disgusted, mad and frustrated all at the same time. This incident started the wheels to turning in my head, as I had never seen such aggressive or desperate behavior from a coyote before. About 3 years prior I had seen a coyote chasing after a small doe that had just emerged from the trees into a soybean field. I tried to hunt more that morning since it was still early, but there was nothing but silence in the woods after that.
That afternoon I set up a Wolf Stand ® in a tree line which looked over three fields. (I specifically like this brand of tree stand because they are easy for women to carry and put up or take down, due to how light weight they are.) I hoped this location would give me the opportunity to see more deer movement, though it would not necessarily give me a close shot one unless one came right under my stand. I also did a bit of scouting for tree stand placement. I located a spot for a climber stand. I placed it near an area where I had found a small doe trail, not far from where the bucks had been that morning. That evening I hunted the climber but I did not see any deer or anything. But I did enjoy the sounds of a hoot owl into the evening.
With the coming of the second morning I put myself up in a different stand that was off of a trail between a bedding and feeding area, intersected by a creek crossing and was 20 yards from a fence line. But for the first time I notice that the creek crossing did not indicate the same sort of dense traffic I had seen in years past. It showed only a few hoof prints from deer, but did show some prints that were coyotes. I assumed that the deer were possibly crossing in a dry part of the stream farther up and more secluded. Early that morning a shy spike buck came by and grazed on the tips of the seeded grass stems from 15 yards away. After that it was a quiet morning with no movement.
That afternoon I worked on cutting open a deer trail that had been previously well-traveled but I found had become more sparsely used. I hoped to open up more to encourage more traffic again. This was a technique I had learned from a state wildlife biologist. He had explained that contrary to some belief that deer often prefer the path of least resistance, they don’t always. As I was cutting this trail I was stunned to come across some sort of den area, about 10 yards from the trail. At that point I was not sure this trail would be well used by deer at all. Nonetheless, I decided that the next morning I would set up in a tree stand nearby to see what was using this travel route.
Later in the evening, I was up in the Wolf Stand ® and watched for a glimpse of any deer coming into the fields or walking the edges, to get a sense of their travel patterns which I felt had changed. I still do my scouting the old fashioned way and have not yet purchased a game camera, but feel these could be a very valuable tool to use. However, budget being what it is, I had yet to add this to my hunting supplies’ collection. I was surprised that I did not see any movement from deer whatsoever. Towards dusk I heard one turkey gobbling and then at dark I heard the sound of a hoot owl again. I still had a positive attitude about the days to come though.
On the third morning I made my way up to the stand near the trail I had cut the previous afternoon. This had been a main travel corridor located on a hillside, which in years past had typically been heavily used by bucks and does seeking a mate. I have found that unless something changes in their environment or hunting pressure that deer are creatures of habit and will use trails they are accustomed to and feel secluded and safe in. I was settled in and waited for light. This time I intended to be mostly silent and use an occasional doe and fawn bleat. By 8:30 there was still no sign of life: no birds, rabbits, squirrels, turkeys and certainly no deer yet. I decided it was time to try to call and first used a fawn bleat, I then waited 15 minutes and used a doe bleat. I then continued with a few more doe bleats about 10 minutes apart. To my surprise it brought in something I had not expected: a coyote. It came sneaking in as though it were stalking something. Once it got closer to me it stopped near a downed tree that had heavy grass growing around it and spent a lot of time sniffing the area over. Then it began to go underneath the cedar trees nearby smelling for fresh signs of a deer, as they will often bed under the protection of a cedar tree. I hoped that it would come closer and give me a chance to shoot. Coyotes can definitely become a nuisance and an over population of them can affect hunting pressure. There was a point that it was only 25 yards away and I pulled back my bow, yet a tree and some ground brush kept me from taking a shot, but I kept hoping for a shot. Then the coyote left from the same direction that it came from, so I let off. It seemed to follow the trail down that went back down the hill. I decided to wait it out a little longer that morning, but no other animals ever came into the area.
At late morning I decided to go back to my camper for a hot lunch and walked back to the truck. Driving down the road past a nearby rural house I noticed that their dogs were all gone. In years past they had always had up to 3 dogs at a time, so I wondered about this. My first thought was if the coyotes had gotten them, as is common in the country if dogs are not brought in at dusk.
That evening I used a stand in a more secluded area, near a field that had previously been a food plot. Once again I found the woods were silent, though a few times I heard the snapping of a few branches in the distance, yet never saw an animal. It was a considerable walk of almost an hour back, so I left just before the sun set entirely. My hands were swollen and sore from the hard work I had done in previous days and my body was very tired from the long walk. The combination of exhaustion and lack of deer activity made me discouraged and feeling disappointed. I had never before seen my property so still and without life. That evening as I walked back to my truck in the dark I could hear a couple coyotes calling from different directions off in the distance. It did not bother me, but just was a reminder of their presence.
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