It seems that with at least every hunting season, I experience at least one frustrating situation that I can do nothing about, in order to get the shot I want. This story is about one particular hunting experience that just about tops them all. It was around the 3rd week of November, which was “Peak of the Rut” in Kansas. I was out bowhunting, still yet to take my first deer of that year, so I was anxious to get some venison in the freezer.
The morning of this hunt I had decided to go to a stand that was located in a cedar tree, which made for perfect camouflage. The stand was located on intersecting deer trails, near a salt lick that had been maintained off and on for some years and just at the edge of a bedding and staging area. The weather that day was perfect at 28 degrees, with a slight north wind. I made it to my stand in the dark as usual, and as I waited for first light, I took the time to get comfortable in my stand: hanging my backpack on a limb and my binoculars and calls on another. I took a few sips of coffee to warm my insides and then took an old Afrin bottle that was filled with flour and gave it a few puffs to verify the wind direction. As the sun began to peak over the hill, the temperature dropped for a short time. I stood and waited as I leaned against one of the limbs and held my bow in a position of readiness for a shot. As I waited for the sunrise to fill the area before me with light, a small black and white snow finch landed on my arrow shaft that I had knocked. As it looked at me, it seemed to wink as it studied me. I hoped that somehow this was a sign that God would bless my arrow on that morning hunt. The bird stayed there a time and made a few chirps now and then before flying off. It was a sweet and peaceful moment. I find that in nature God gives us several moments to see the beauty and experience the peace found in studying his creatures.
It was about 7:00 am and the tension built within me, knowing that “The Magic Hour” was at hand. This is the time in the morning, just after first light till about 9:30 that I have seen some of the best quality animals in my hunting experience. I know that deer are typically very active all day during the rut. Nocturnal bucks can often be found still wandering at first light, besides mid -day and evening, checking scrapes and looking for signs of a doe. I waited silently till about 7:20 and then began my first call with a doe bleat. I soon heard movement nearby, but it was only a subtle noise and I thought it could have been a rabbit or squirrel, yet stayed on the alert. I waited a bit then made a tending grunt call. Well, that was all it took.
Little did I know but was soon to find out, just the other side of the tree in front of me, 30 yards away (but out of sight) was a 10 point buck bedded with a doe! About a minute after making this call, a 10 point buck approached from behind me running up the hill like a rocket, right on the trail in front of my stand. As he ran passed me I was left to try to figure out what was going on; normally when a buck runs into a call he would have come in and stopped to investigate the area. Within seconds that question was answered. As he reached the tree in front of me and began to round the edge of it I was able to look through the tree limbs somewhat and see another buck charge straight at him. From his viewpoint, the buck that had come up the hill saw the buck beyond the tree, which I had not until that moment. The bedded doe then distanced herself but did not leave, as the fight began. Both bucks seemed equally matched from what I could see. At times the fight was more visible than at others as they pushed and heaved back and forth in a fury. I stood there with my bow out in front of me, ready to draw and hoping that at some point one of the deer would come around to my side of the tree to give me a shot. At one point the fight seemed to pause and in anticipation I drew back on my bow, but again the fighting resumed, so I let down.
About 3-4 minutes into the fight the picture changed again, when from behind me came another 10 point buck up the same trail that the previous buck had come. I thought, well this is going to get really interesting, as sometimes one buck will run the doe off while 2 others are fighting and he is the one that turns out the real winner in the game. I could not see what happened now beyond the tree, as the bucks moved farther away with the newcomer on the scene. I could only tell from what my ears told me that the fight was still on. Then to my amazement again about 10 seconds after that and on the same trail, a fourth buck, an 8 pointer, runs past me towards the fight. And without delay, this time from the opposite side of my stand, where there was not even a trail, a fifth buck (another 8 pointer) runs past me into the fight. In desperation I started to doe bleat in hopes of catching one of the bucks attention long enough to lure him towards me to give me a clear shot. They did not buy it when the real deal was right in front of them. And only seconds after that, two 8 pointers run past my tree stand in tow, one behind each other. I then felt as if I were reduced to counting antler points and deer and just had to wait to see the outcome.
The adrenaline was rushing through my veins like a fire I could not put out. Now that made a total of 6 nice bucks that had run past me. I have to say I was surprised when next, in straggles a fork horn at a dead run too. Obviously they were all either coming in for the entertainment or to try to get the doe’s attention themselves. No sooner had the neighborhood “Gang” showed up, the fight ended. Soon in ascending order I was further humiliated when I saw the doe come out behind the tree and turn towards me and run past me down the hill (as if to say “I am out of here”). Then the 2 large 10 pointers that had begun the fight ran past me following the doe. Then roughly largest to smallest the rest of bucks, who had showed up later, ran down the hill past me following the others. As they ran past me I instinctively doe bleated, but they ignored it and were running by so fast that not one of them gave me a clear shot.
So there I was in this tree having seen 8 bucks and one doe and not one single shot at any of them and it was only 7:30! The day was still young so I thought maybe I would still have some luck. About 9:30, two red fox came out in front of me as they chased and played with each other, but that was it. I have to say that was pretty cool watching them since I had not seen any red fox in years and these youngsters were very cute and playful. As I stayed in my stand till 11:00, I thought back to the snowbird and realized that his sentiment was probably more of a wink of orneriness. I had never before nor since seen so many bucks at one time. As my good friend Jerry Swinehart who is an avid Bowhunter would say, deer NINE - Synthia ZERO. So nature had its’ last laugh that day and I took home another wild memory.
© May 2008