Howdy folks. Just checking in from the tree stand and seeing how your deer hunting season is going. I had been patiently (well, almost patiently) awaiting Oct. 1 for opening day to arrive. As you may remember, last year most of my deer hunting was drastically reduced due to a health issue when my grandsons had to carry me out of the woods. I was indeed grateful I was hunting with them that day, or I might still be lying up there in the woods.
Just a brief review, October started off as one of the hottest Octobers in history. We had several days it was in the high '80s and low '90s, and that really reduced deer activity. I confess that over the years I had become spoiled with really above normal deer activity, and it was not unusual to actually see 30 to 40 deer in a single day. In recent years, due to different diseases, parasites, predators, poaching, and in my opinion, gross mismanagement of deer harvesting numbers, the deer herd numbers have fallen.
This season, I am trying to devote time to not only deer hunting but also my wife, Diana. She and I had been carrying for her 93-year-old father who was in declining health. He had dementia, Alzheimer’s, a bad heart valve, and after suffering a fall, doctors performed X-rays and several scans and discovered a massive brain tumor that had been present for some time without being detected.
He was totally incapable of taking care of himself, so we mutually agreed to move him in with us at our home. Many of our friends, family, and neighbors have placed us on their prayer lists, and we certainly appreciate that. But between performing all these tasks, it certainly has taken a toll on us and was physically and mentally exhausting. However, we vowed to carry on the responsibility to make him as comfortable as we possibly could for whatever time remained.
I have hunted pretty much every day, and sometimes I got to hunt both mornings and evenings. I will not lie to you; all the deer that were showing up on trail cameras must have left the area. For the first time in years, my hunting buddy and I were really struggling for answers. We were hunting areas that had produced deer sightings, deer harvests, and now nothing! We were putting on our “thinking caps,” and I kept telling Big Ed that the deer were not reading my articles and had forgotten what they were supposed to be doing.
Contrary to what our wives would say, Ed and I hardly ever complain about hunting situations, but it was starting to get to us. Sure, even though we were having fun hunting together, we had to admit what an old-timer once said, “Deer hunting is fun, but seeing deer is funner!”
After many hours in the tree stands in three different counties, I finally saw the first deer of the 2019 season on Oct. 14, and I had just entered the stand and wasn't really anticipating seeing anything until much later. But I looked off to my right, and about 60 yards away were three bucks that were “sparring.” They were all decent bucks and were approaching each other and placing their antlers together and simply pushing each other around back and forth. Nothing really serious, just having fun. They were following along a grown-up fence line that passed directly in front of me.
My old heart “shifted gears” as I placed my crossbow across the shooting rail and the stand. I prayed at least one of those bucks would continue to travel within a shooting comfortable distance. They played around and really put on a show for me. At one time, one of the bucks was ranged at 45 yards but was not a clear shot, and I resisted the temptation to take the shot in fear of making a bad hit and either not recovering the animal or possibly crippling it. They eventually walked around behind me, but I started getting confident. And at least I saw some deer.
The very next morning, I again had the alarm clock set for 4 a.m., but I heard my father-in-law groaning and yelling in his sleep. It was 3:05 a.m., and I walked into his room to check on him. I went ahead and started a pot of coffee and decided to just stay awake waiting on Big Ed to arrive. I told Ed I had planned on hunting the exact same spot again this morning, hoping the deer would return, and there would be a different outcome.
We arrived at the area, and the recent cold front was much more enjoyable. Plus, farmers were trying to get the crops out of their fields, and that was also helping deer activity. We headed out for our chosen locations, and the extra clothing we had dug out of the closet was certainly welcome. Ed and I silently walked down the farm lane, and when we reached my turn off spot, we wished each other good luck.
I arrived at my location using the red lens on my LED flashlight because I have noticed the red lens is less startling to deer, whereas the white light really scares them. I fastened my crossbow to the haul line, and I climbed the ladder and attached my safety harness. I pulled my weapon up to me and placed an arrow/bolt on the shooting rail of the crossbow and silently awaited daylight and hopefully deer activity.
I kept looking in the direction that I had seen the bucks the evening before. The sun was shining directly in my eyes, making it difficult to see. About 8 a.m., I noticed movement, and I watched five does feeding along the fence line. There were four huge does and a smaller one. The smaller doe walked to within 10 yards and stopped and started feeding on acorns. She stood there daring me to take the shot, but she was one of this year’s fawns that had “lost her spots.” I figured she would field dress less than 50 pounds. The bigger does jumped the fence and started feeding in the field and never offered a shot opportunity. About an hour later, I saw four more does moving in behind me, but they never headed my direction, but hey, I was seeing deer.
I easily could have filled a doe tag on that small doe, but things are looking better with the rut coming up and the crops getting taken out. It should get better and better, and patience is a virtue. I have got to work harder on keeping that patience. No one ever said deer hunting was easy, and you have to take the bad as well as take the good. Just hang in there, and don't allow the necessity of taking a deer ruin your hunting adventures. Hunt hard, and hunt safely. I will be checking in from the tree stands again and hopefully have some good news and maybe a photo to share as well.