Friday, December 12, 2008

A Nasty Night To Hunt Deer

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It was a dreary and somewhat nasty two-hour late afternoon hunt at my new hotspot. The deer had not moved through earlier, and I was hoping to catch them on the way out to feed tonight.

No such luck. The pine tree with my small stand was waiting, and I creeped into place with the wind in my face. There were a few tracks that were nearly snowed in from last night, but there isn’t much deer movement around here because of the deep snow. One somewhat fresher tracks from this morning was seen, but no deer moved tonight.

The wind switched directions at least twice. It wouldn’t bother me the way my stand was set up, and the travel patterns of the deer, but it began snowing quite hard right before quitting time.

The weatherman is calling for several inches of snow to add to the 92 inches we’ve got since Nov. 15, and more snow is coming tomorrow and over the weekend. The snow is ankle-deep and still falling, and one wonders if the deer know the storm is coming with several more inches on its way.

That amount of snow will raise the snow depth to knee deep if the weatherman reads the clouds right. It makes me wonder if the deer know this, and are content to spend the rest of the winter in the densest cover. I’d hate to think I established a stand on the last day when the deer moved out of the cedar and pine swamp to feed.

We always get one of the January thaws, and sometimes they come in December, but most of our worst weather the past few years has arrived in December ... except for last year when we had no snow on Christmas. But here it is in mid-December and the snow is falling.

I crawled into my tree stand, readied my bow, and leaned back. My wool suit was toasty warm, my knee-high boots were warm, a hood and wool sweater and wool stocking cap completed my gear. A pair of leather mittens went over a pair of brown Jersey gloves, and with my face mask down, I blended into the cover.

A pine bough hangs down and provides some concealment when I am in the stand. I know where the deer come from, and where they go, and both trails are within sight and my bow range.

I sat motionless on a rubber butt pad, and was still and silent. A hen turkey with two poults moved down the trail past me, muttering to each other, and soon disappeared from sight.

Five minutes later, there, a movement. A flash of brownish-gray, and I focused in on where I’d seen it. It was obscured by pines and low dense cover, and then I saw it again. This time the animal was in plain sight, and it was a coyote on the prowl. The animal was 40 to 50 yards away, and moving away from me, perhaps after the turkeys.

Me and the tree trunk were getting reacquainted, and the stand was comfortable. I always look for trees without a stub from a broken branch that would gouge my back. Pine bark is rather rough but this tree had just the right minor bend in the trunk so that only a small spot between my shoulders was in contact with the bark. I was as comfortable as anyone can be in a ladder stand.

My eyes flicked back and forth behind my face mask as I studied everything within sight without having to move my head. A few chickadees flitted about, and the up-and-down wavering flight of a pileated woodpecker was seen. Soon he could be heard battering on a dead tree but was well out of sight.

Shooting time in my area ended, and the arrow was removed from my bow, placed in the bow quiver, and my bow was silently lowered down to the ground. My backpack was shouldered, and I eased down out of the stand and to the ground.

I picked my way through the timber in the knfee-deep snow, and left by a different trail than I had entered the woods. Soon, the headlights of my car could be seen through the trees. I’d solved the problem of what to do with the car by having Kay postpone her grocery shopping until she dropped me off.

Two different purposes, one trip, a hunt in the falling snow, and no deer seen. I did see the coyote and three wild turkeys, and although it was a bit different than what I expected, I didn’t spook any deer. Now, I’ll just wait for the snow to stop falling before I try it again.

As much snow as we’ve had so far, one wonders when the snow will stop falling. If it gets much worse, there will be little sense in hunting the muzzleloader season because the deer will be yarded up as a safety precaution against even more snow storms.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/12 at 05:53 PM
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