This weeks story comes from Charles, a friend of mine who lives a mere hour or so from me in Southern Ontario. Our paths crossed rather fortuitously a little over a year ago and since then we have stayed in contact sharing our deer hunting woes and triumphs. Charles has become a regular contributor on the blog having harvested 3 mature bucks in the last two seasons, while for the most part hunting heavily pressured public lands. Thanks again to Charles for sharing his experiences with our readers, enjoy!
When the weather finally got frigid the last 2 days of the season my attention focused on a location I hunt that has dense conifers with an adjacent meadow. In foul weather it has a lot of deer traffic as it has ample browse, meadow grasses and is protected from the frigid winter winds.
On the 31st I managed to get to my tree at about 2:15. Unfortunately I spooked does when I reached my tree but I made my way up the tree as quietly as possible in trying to minimize the disruption. Within 15 minutes 6 does made their way to within about 40 yards of me. 3 of them bedded down while the others generally did not feed but acted like sentries. They cautiously watched, scent checked and listened for any disturbances.
They maintained their positions till about 4 o’clock and then it got more interesting. It was like someone had turned on a switch; they all relaxed and the bedded does got up and began feeding. They all eventually ambled over to where I was located happily feeding and no longer at all concerned with the sound of the wind or any other sounds that previously had seemingly kept them on high alert.
On a couple other occasions earlier in the season I had encountered the full herd which at that time had 10 does in it and 5 juvenile bucks which had joined them one time (a six point was the largest). At about 4:30 six more does joined them from the dense conifers. I could see them coming from the conifers when they were about 50 or 60 yards away due to the snow contrasting their brown fur.
I now had 12 relaxed does feeding and snapped off a number of pictures as they were so unusually relaxed that I wasn’t worried about detection in spite of there always seeming to be at least one doe within about 20 feet of me. I believe that in foul weather they can be more relaxed because there is less likely to be any human presence in the area. I was up in a conifer about 27 feet and had my arm resting on a branch so I was out of their peripheral vision and well camouflaged.
At about 4:45 I saw more does coming from the conifers. I had no idea the area held this many deer and I quickly hung up my camera as detection by one of the does was becoming more and more likely. As they neared my location I noticed that the last deer within my range of vision was a very decent buck. I grabbed my crossbow and prepared for a possible shot.
I waited until he had passed by me partially to ensure there was no other buck within my visual range as I assumed the largest animal would come out of the conifers last. He turned broadside at about 20 feet. He was closer than I generally like as the sharp angle makes a humane lethal shot more difficult. I also knew it was unlikely there would be a better opportunity for a shot and the entire season had dwindled down to less than a half an hour.
The loud thwack of the bow scattered the does and the buck ran about 40 yards into the conifers. It stood still looking for the source of the sound. I began to wonder if my arrow had flown true. Within about 2 minutes the buck seemed to relax and took a step or 2 parallel to where I was in my tree. Now I was beginning to worry. Suddenly the majestic patriarch fell to the ground and did not get up again.
I waited about 15 minutes and then climbed out of the tree. The full bodied buck was a very symmetrical 10 pointer. The experience felt so very ironic and surreal. While the season had already been successful as I had loved my time in the various forests and had experienced nature more intimately than ever before, I had not succeeded in even seeing a mature buck the “je ne sais quoi” of the many hours of scouting and hunting.
Their presence and stature in the forest are unequalled. As I have heard stated their antlers feel like “frozen fire”, and it’s their forest that resonates with mystery and intrigue….so many unknowns…almost like buried treasure….For me hunting deer puts me in a very special and beautiful place while I’m pursuing a very confounding and challenging quarry. How fortuitous that my season is ending on such a high note…..but really for all the skill and adeptness one tries to add to the equation perhaps they occasionally make a mistake and we get lucky.