A couple of weeks can make a big difference in the woods. The way things appear and the way deer act can change completely in such a short time.
A light breeze was blowing from the north Sunday morning so I climbed into my tree stand on the south side of the timber. The last time I hunted this stand, leaves were on the trees and brush still covered the ground with green foliage. It was difficult to see out to shooting range in many places.
This day, the leaves were all on the ground covering the timber flow like a thick fluffy blanket. The pin oaks had the only leaves still on and they were brown and dry. They rustled as the cold north breeze tried to make its way through several layers of my hunting clothes. As the sun came up, I could see a hundred yards or more through the thick timber now stripped of vegetation.
I had rattled several deer to this spot. I did not even bring my rattling antlers with me this time. The time has passed that anybody would come to watch a fight. The bucks are serious about breeding and nothing else matters. They cannot be called off their path, hot after a doe.
This is the time of year, when you drive your car down the road, if a doe runs across the road up ahead; slam on the brakes. There is a very high probability a buck is a few seconds behind. The doe may have looked before she made the mad dash across the road, but I guarantee the buck will not.
Hunting at this time of year is a lot the starting of a business. It is all location, location, location. Some people prefer to think of it as the luck of being in the right place at the right time, but I like to outsmart the deer and be where they are going to show up, even before they know that is where they are going.
I knew the deer would move out of the adjacent food plot, or as my neighbor, O.B. prefers to call it, his cornfield, into my timber during the early morning hours. I was a short distance from the fence dividing our properties along a deer trail I imagine has been used by countless generations of deer.
From my lofty perch, shortly after sunrise, I saw a doe break out of the cornfield, jump the fence, and run up the hill. At her closest, she was 20 or 30 yards out or range. A few seconds later, just as I expected, a buck followed her exact path, hot on her trail. This was a good sign, other than they were not using the right trail and just a bit out of range. More would follow.
Before long I saw a doe jump the fence and follow the trail that in my opinion, they were supposed to be traveling. I had decided well before getting to the woods, I was taking the first deer that came into range. This doe passed at a slow walk within 30 feet of me.
I had second thoughts on my earlier decision. Does a person take a sure shot or wait knowing a buck would be following her, and it might be "The Big Buck"? She walked slowly away as I watched the edge of the cornfield with confident anticipation. No buck followed and no more deer came down my path. Bunches of deer took the trail closer to the top of the hill that was used by the first pair. All of them followed the rule of traveling in pairs except the one deer that chose to use the path that came by me.
I would hate to think I was unable to outsmart the deer, but perhaps there is a large amount of luck involved in bow hunting this time of year. Even the best location requires a bit of luck to ensure success.
Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.