Monday, October 30, 2006

On a quiet evening

It is always exasperating this time of year, with pheasants and ducks and geese and bowhunting for deer all competing for my free time. Saturday morning I went hunting geese. The geese didn't cooperate, we got skunked. As I always say when that happens, "I shoulda went bowhunting." It is a good problem to have, I realize. I really shouldn't complain.

I really get frazzled when we are hunting geese and I see a nice buck out snooping around for does. During October, the deer are concerned mainly with putting on weight for winter, and the bucks are getting ready for the rut (mating season for outdoor illiterates). The deer get their routines changed by the grain harvest, and they get disturbed some, by waterfowl hunters, and especially pheasant hunters. So they go pretty nocturnal during October. Especially the bigger bucks, who have to be pretty wary to survive long enough to get big. So during October, bowhunting is often unproductive. I went out a few times this year an only saw one deer.

Then the rut happens. Gradually the deer activity picks up during the daytime, the bucks rubbing their antlers on small trees and making scrapes on the ground. The big bucks start moving around, establishing dominance over the smaller ones, and looking for receptive does. In other words they get a little vulnerable. When the does start coming into heat it is an explosion of deer activity. The deer can be out moving around and any time of day. When this happens, I want to be in my tree stand.

It is during the transition, from low deer activity and few sightings to high activity that I have trouble deciding what to do. The transition coincides with the peak of the waterfowl migration. When I sit in the tree and see no deer I wish I had gone goose hunting, when I go goose hunting and can't get under the geese, I wish I was bowhunting. I wish I could go on vacation from the middle of October till Christmas.

I went bowhunting Saturday evening. Bowhunting is my favorite way to hunt deer. You are alone with your thoughts. Nature is happening around you. Pheasants cackle, ducks and geese and blackbirds fly by. Some neat things happen. One time I had a hawk land in the top of the tree I was in. One time I had a robin land on my arrow. I heard something kill a rabbit a few nights ago. And you sit their and listen. Your ears tell you what is going on. Well not really. They tell you something is going on, and exactly what is up to you imagination. You hear that rustling in the leaves, and of course your start imagining a huge buck coming down the trail. You look and listen, straining to hear over all the other sounds, the wind rustling the leaves, trees creaking, leaves falling, geese honking in the distance, bluejays and crows and blackbirds. Usually when you locate the source of the sound, it turns out to be a squirrel, or a rabbit. You can get to hate those dang things. But they are fun to watch sometimes too.

It was after sundown. Legal shooting hours go from 1/2 hour before sunup to 1/2 hour after sundown. I heard something to the north. This was after a couple squirrel false alarms, and what I believe was a pheasant sneaking through the grass. Whatever it was, the thing that I heard, it was taking its time. I heard some small twigs breaking. Crunches in the leaves. The minutes dragged on. It was coming closer, but far too slowly. I figured it had to be a deer. The deadline for shooting was close, if not past when I finally heard it coming crunch crunch crunch down the trail through the fallen leaves. It was getting dark. I finally saw some movement, there he was. It was a buck. I raised my binoculars, not needing the magnification, but the light gathering. He caught the movement of me bringing up the binoculars. He looked at me, I looked at him. He wasn't sure what he had seen, I was in full camo with a face mask. But he knew he had seen something. He did the trick deer usually do, put his head down, pretending to feed, but his eyes were on me. I tried to stay still, trying to get a feel for how big he was. After a bit, he seemed to lose interest in me and worked a scrape in front of me. I kept looking him over with the binocs. Is he big enough? I decided not, and the shot angle wasn't the best anyway. I could have shot at him while he worked the scrape. After a a few minutes, he took a couple more steps and then turned off the trail, away from the lanes I had cut through the branches to shoot through. I think in the back of his mind, he knew something was up there, and though he didn't know what, he didn't want to find out either. I had another brief shot opportunity as he worked his way out of the trees and into the corn field for the nights activities. I waited till he was far enough away that I wouldn't scare him and then walked home.

He was a medium sized four point (on each side), probably a 2 year old. In a couple years he could be something special. I don't think I will take a shot at him even if I get a better chance. But it certainly made it worth the trip out there. No griping about being out chasing geese.

I saw him again Sunday morning. He was out sparring with a smaller buck. This time they were about 300 yards away, and I was in a different spot due to the wind direction. I wanted to watch the fight, as I have never seen one. I got distracted though and missed it. A small doe had appeared out of nowhere behind me and was looking at me. I stood looking at her, hoping she wouldn't spook. She finally lost interest and went into the trees. When I turned back to the other two deer, the small buck was much closer, and the 4 point was moving along the slough, having chased him off. I looked at the smaller buck. He had at least 2 points on one side, and no antler on the other. Either he didn't grow any or they broke off in a fight. He caught my scent and took off. I had to leave to get to church.

The time change pretty much eliminates the evening hunts now, except on weekends. I can go out in the mornings before work, for a while. I might be a little late, but the boss doesn't care. Since I can't hunt in the evenings, I can make up the lost time then.

Sorry this got so long. I really enjoy bowhunting if you can't tell.

My first blog pic: My biggest buck. I may never top it.

Never mind, can't get the picture to post right now. Will try later.

Update 11-1

Here is the photo. It doesn't do the deer justice. I have been out bowhunting a couple more times. I saw three small bucks, including (I think) the one described above trying to molest a young fawn this morning.

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