Getting too close to disaster, twice
Frost covered the ground as I walked quietly into the timber early Saturday morning.
I wanted to be near a major deer trail by the creek before the deer returned from my neighbor's hay field. I call his field my food plot, but he does harvest hay from it, so it works well for both of us.
A light crisp breeze was blowing from the north, into my face as I made myself comfortable behind a big tree next to the ditch. The deer would be coming in from the field on my right, either in the bottom of the gully by the creek or on the opposite side on the main trail. Either case would be perfect.
As dawn broke and long shadows were mixed with bright sunlight, I had high hopes of this being a good day. I rattled the pair of antlers I carry to imitate two bucks fighting. At the right time, bucks will come running to watch a good fight, and probably beat up on the winner when he is too tired to fight again. It is a case of the last guy standing gets all the girls.
I must have been about a week too early for the old "two bucks fighting behind the tree" trick as nothing showed up.
I tried my grunt call a few times. A buck will grunt a few times when he is near a doe that is close to or in standing heat. I use the grunt to make other bucks in the area jealous. I did not have a lot of faith in grunting in a buck since if it is too early to fight it is probably too early be breeding.
I saw a doe in the distance walk the opposite direction when I grunted at her. She obviously wanted no part of situation and neither did any bucks in the area.
My last resort is a bleat call. This sounds like a deer in distress, which will frequently attract other deer, both does and bucks, to see what is going on. After about three hours of this, my comfortable tree was not nearly as comfortable as it had been earlier. I was not going to call anything and the deer were either returning from the field on a different trail or were still out there eating. I decided to go sneak up on a nice big buck, shoot him, and be done with it.
When I rose to a standing position, my stiff and cold bones were telling me I would be lucky to sneak up on a deaf rabbit. I needed to walk north, into the wind, which meant first crossing the ditch. I put my arrow into the quiver and started down the steep bank.
Frost was still on the leaves just a few feet over the lip of the gully. This enabled my feet to shoot straight out from under me as I rocketed toward the creek. My forward progression was fortuitously stopped by a large rock before I slid into the water. I lay quietly, assessing the damages. I have found, in situations like this, it does no good to swear loudly. It only frightens the animals in the area.
A person thinks about a lot of things at a time like this. If I have broken something major, I could get really cold in the day or two it would take to find me. My cell phone will not ring and scare off the deer because I left it in the truck. I could have turned it off and brought it with me. That would be a plan.
I grabbed the edge of the friendly rock and eased myself into a standing position. I was shocked. Everything seemed to work. Two arm, two legs, and even fingers functioned with only a moderate amount of pain. I made my way out of the ditch to continue my pursuit.
I had not traveled far when perhaps the biggest deer I have ever seen jumped out of a brush pile not 20 feet away and made tracks over the next hill before I could even draw my bow. All the time I had been calling and waiting, this monster buck had been less than 100 yards away. He probably even enjoyed watching my trip down the bank toward the creek.
It is said, they do not get old and big by being stupid. I am sure this is correct and he would have stayed hidden to let me walk past if I had not have gotten too close.
Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.