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Leave smaller deer for another hunt

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Last week, I predicted the deer rut would be in full swing by the weekend.

I enjoy it when I am right. The temperature dropped off and the hormones heated up.

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I went out bow hunting for three hours Saturday morning and saw seven bucks, none acting with their usual caution as they searched the timber for a willing mate. I take that back. One was being very cautious, not because he was worried about a hunter or other predator; he was concerned about a big buck stopping by to beat him up.

The morning was cool and crisp, right at the freezing temperature. Before daylight, I walked into an area I knew contained large numbers of deer. A big oak tree had blown down during the summer, blocking a logging trail. The top would provide perfect cover for me while I waited for sunrise among the tangled branches. I could hear the deer moving around me before daylight, but as the dawn broke, I could tell enough little trees had grown up to replace the huge old oak, I did not have a clear shot in any direction. I hated to move for fear of spooking everything in the area, but it was pointless to stay where I was.

I moved a few hundred yards down the hill near the creek. There were several open shooting lanes well within range. I sat behind a big hickory tree and waited. Within only a few minutes, a doe came from the area behind me where I had just left. She was trotting along, just out of range. A few feet behind her was a buck in hot pursuit. He was big enough to take, but paid no attention when I rattled, grunted and bleated at him. He was on a mission and would not be deterred.

Trying to turn that buck apparently did attract the attention of another deer. It appeared across the creek and was making its way toward me. It was a big-bodied deer and I thought it was a doe. I pulled up ready to take her when she came within range. I saw two little spike antlers and lowered my bow, which caused the little buck to spook up the hill. When I called again, the little buck came back toward me. I was good with that. Four eyes watching are better than two. He sees, hears and can scent better than me.

The little buck spent several minutes polishing his tiny antlers on a little cedar tree and suddenly looked up the hill off to my right. I could not see anything but shortly after he left, a big buck came strolling down the hill. He stopped just out of range. I rattled and grunted at him. He was definitely interested but started a wide circle around me. When he got downwind, I lost track of where he went and never saw him again. A doe came running up behind me, spotted or smelled me just as I turned to see what was about to run me over. She spun and just about ran over the buck that was hot on her tail. I decided I had probably scared most of the deer in that section of timber and moved to the edge of the cedars.

From the top of the hill, I could see three bucks across the valley on the back side of the lake. Two were good sized and one was huge. I would be happy with any of them, but would die for a shot at the big one.

I moved down as close as I dared, keeping trees in their line of sight. I closed about half the distance and stopped behind a small cedar. When I rattled, the big deer and another started walking away. The third one started running toward me. He was within 100 yards when he slowed. I could see him from time to time, moving among the cedars coming ever closer. I lost sight where the cedars got thick and I was thinking I had lost him. I grunted a few times but there was no response.

After a half hour or so, I was sure he had scented me and sneaked quietly away. I walked around the nearest cedar heading toward the truck when the buck, not 10 feet away, spun and ran up the hill. I am sure he did not know I was there as I scared him as much as he scared me.

It is a great day of hunting when a person can see this many deer and get such great response. I may not have taken home the meat but I know there are several beautiful deer left to hunt another day.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.

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