Monday, July 13, 2009

A Great Day For A Walk

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It could have been called deer scouting but my preference would be to call this a good day for a walk. Not too warm, and certainly cool enough for an easy walk in the wood.

No sense in breaking a sweat on a day like this. I won a pair of new boots at the recent Outdoor Writers Association of America conference in Grand Rapids last month. One evening supporting businesses provide some of the stock they bring with them to display to the members, and as names are drawn and called, the members would receive a promotional give-away item.

My name was called midway through the evening, and it was a gift certificate from Wolverine Boots, a Michigan-based company. I slipped them on, tugged the laces tight, and stepped out the door. This wouldn’t be a hard-charging land cruise to see how much land could be covered in a minimum amount of time.

It’s purpose was three-fold. One was to start breaking in a new pair of boots, another was to check the area for new or old deer trails, and the other was to get a bit of exercise by walking about my land for an hour or so. There were a certain number of locations I wanted to hike into, and see what kind of deer travel is taking place in each spot.

My first objective was to go to a couple of places where a food plot will be planted in about six weeks. The soil has been worked up, and it’s ready to be disced again and have some lime added. I’ll fertilize the areas a week or so before planting, and sit back and wait for some rain.

Most boots are stiff when first pulled on but these felt as if someone else had been wearing them for a week. Crazy thought, I know, but they were comfortable right from the start. When I filled out the form, it asked for boot size. I marked Size 9, and the model number, and within a week the boots were here. I tried them on for a quick check to see if they fit, and with one heavy pair of socks the No. 9 boots were perfect. Not loose, not tight, and there was plenty of ankle support for a guy with weak ankles.

Today was the second test, and I eased slowly and quietly through the woods. I stopped at one place that always holds a small amount of water after a rain. There were three types of visible tracks: small, medium and large. The one large track was probably made by an older doe t hat we’ve seen occasionally. The medium-sized tracks were probably those of does and bucks born a year ago, and the small sets were obviously imprinted by this spring’s fawns.

I back-tracked the deer to see where they had come from, and it seemed obvious to me they were a small family group traveling together. I’d seen a similar number and size of tracks two weeks ago after a hard rain. Their tracks to the water came from a low swale where they probably bed down each day and I decided not to go in there.

Moving slowly, I eased up a partially overgrown skid road used to bring the logs out after a select forest cutting a few years ago. Admittedly, my eyes aren’t good but I did find a solitary track, not huge but made by a deer weighing 150 pounds. It could have been the doe track near the water, but somehow that was doubtful. There were no other tracks with it, The track was followed until it left the trail and entered the thick woods where it would be impossible for me to spot tracks. I rubbed out the track with dead branch that came down during a wind storm, and I’d check the area again in another week to see if a single similar-sized track was found.

I slipped out to the edge of a field, and walked the high grass for 200 yards, and spotted two distinct deer trails coming into the field from my woods. The trick now would be to back-track about 100 yards into the woods and see if I could find another trail that joined up with this one. And then, hopefully a tree or pair of trees on the predominant downwind side would offer a possibility of putting up a stand downwind of the trail.

My woods are reasonably open with lots of hardwoods. Given the opportunity, I’d prefer to hunt from an evergreen but the only ones are in my front yard, and the odds of them paying off would be pretty slim. Two maple trees growing fairly close together looked to be a likely spot but they were only about 15 yards from the faint trail. Too close? We’ll see.

I’d need two or three more recons before determining a key spot. A couple of locations already have two stands made to serve me under two different wind conditions. There are three elevated coops, and they are fine when the rain or snow comes down hard, but my preference is to be outside, and those stands have to be right. I tend to doctor up my stands a bit to block out any holes behind me to prevent being silhouetted. It’s a bit more difficult to do with hardwood trees but just enough to break up my outline is good enough if the wind in in my favor.

Me and my new boots kept moving, looking at the ground and checking out the trees, and trying to figure out where the most deer traffic might be found. There aren’t many deer in my part of Grand Traverse County, and the cause is fragmented land parcels and high volumes of vehicular traffic.

Over more than 30 years of watching deer movements near home, one thing is perfectly clear. It’s possible to go two, three, four or five days in a row without seeing any or perhaps just one or two deer in a night, and then without any type of reason, the deer are back and come moving through. It means a lot of sitting very still, using care when leaving the blind, and being downwind and as scent-free as possible.

That shouldn’t be a problem this year. The boots are made with Scent Blocker material to help do away with stinky foot odor. Now, if I can just find the right spot during the next month, I should be in pretty good shape. That and a bit of luck, and being downwind of the dear may give me a look at one or two decent bucks this fall.

One can always hope.

Posted by Dave Richey on 07/13 at 04:23 PM
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