Variety – is the spice of deer hunting.
What fun would it be if all a hunter had to do is wait patiently for an hour or two, shoot a deer, and be done for the season?
The reality is, well, never what you expect.
You heard a pileated woodpecker – but did not expect to see it perched on a dead elm for you to admire its back-and-white-and red plumage.
You’d heard Canada geese over the Turkey River – but did not expect to see a flock of trumpeter swans swoop low over the valley.
A handsome 8-point buck appears out of the trees just after daybreak, then pauses just 30 yards away from your blind. But you’ll let him grow at least another year. Someday, he may become a REAL trophy.
But wait! He’s got a companion! Ah, the doe you’re looking for to provide some venison for the table. She lingers just long enough for you to squeeze off a shot.
The commotion of field dressing and bringing the tractor to haul out the harvest disturbs the woods only temporarily. Within hours, the crows have found the gut pile, and they loudly caw to invite their brethren to dine. Nothing goes to waste in the natural world.
The next day, an eagle joins the feast. You’d seen and heard bald eagles – but did not expect one to crash the crows’ grisly party.
The next day also brings snow, which clings to trees and branches like a hazy curtain. The extra layer on branches and tree trunks obscures what’s beyond – making it even easier for deer to escape your detection as they slip noiselessly through the woods. You might THINK that white snow should make it easier to see a gray deer. But it’s amazing how much a gray deer can look like a gray tree trunk in a black-and-white world of snow falling in the forest.
Luckily, you can hide behind the same curtain. A cluster of gray shapes materializes in a thicket across the valley. And more luck finds you beside a sturdy oak that doubles as a blind and a gun rest. Still more luck moves one of the gray shapes into a window among the branches and shrubs. Just a little more luck results in a one-shot kill.
You call your hunting buddy to help with the gutting and dragging out of the deer – which turns out to be a buck that already has shed one antler. He looks a bit comical with 4 sturdy points on one side – and only a scar on his skull on the other.
Luck? Lucky you didn’t shoot the animal a few minutes later. By the time you get it dressed, dragged to the waiting tractor, and hauled back to the house, it’s pitch dark – and getting colder!
And colder! As temperatures drop on the following day, the deer must sense the onset of real winter. A plump little buck, perhaps made restless by the weather, makes the mistake of wandering past your motionless hunting buddy, who soon has the makings of his winter’s venison.
A successful season, you say? Ah, but there’s more!
Time to continue a family tradition begun a quarter of a century ago, when your son shot his first deer. Grandson number one has already bagged his first whitetail, and his younger brother is eager for his chance.
Lots for a 12-year-old to remember: all the safety rules from hunter education class, and from tagging along with Dad and Grandpa almost since he was old enough to walk; sitting oh-so-quietly under the tree; choosing the deer (not too little!) you want to shoot; passing up “almost” opportunities; waiting for just the right sight pattern without obstructing brush; patience! And more patience!
The pieces finally come together! And the grinning young hunter proudly tags an 8-point buck!
After the trophy is safely field dressed and loaded into the truck, the hunters gather around the table for Grandma’s lasagna and cookies – and stories. And more stories! And emails to friends and to Mom and younger siblings.
Excited?! Well, ALMOST as excited as his Dad and Grandpas.