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Calling up ghosts of wild

In the pre-dawn hours, as a person walks into the timber, one's senses are more acute.

The pleasant musty smell of leaves and trees contrasts with the sense that something is probably lurking in the darkness to get you. A person hears every twig snap and leaf crunch. The darkness surrounds and you try to blend in with the environment.

I usually sit quietly, not moving or attempting to call deer in the waiting time, before I can see what is around me. It would not be a good thing to call like a deer if one of the mountain lions, that do not exist, was perched in the tree above me, looking for breakfast. More importantly, it would not do to draw attention to oneself if a big buck was standing a few feet away able to see but be unseen.

As daylight spreads through the timber, the sounds around me changed from the night noises to the more common day sounds. Squirrels started racing up and down trees making as much noise as a herd of deer. The sounds of birds went from the nighttime call of the whippoor-will to the scratchy chorus of groups of blue jays scolding everything that moved.

Enough light crept into the timber that I could see across the ditch in front of me. Mist still hung in the low-lying areas as the breeze only touched the hilltops. I crashed the set of antlers together that I had brought with me to mimic a pair of fighting bucks. Several seconds of this was followed with my making a bleat call. For several minutes, I sat perfectly still, listening for any sounds around me and watching for movement on the opposite hillside. I neither heard nor saw anything from the thick timber across the ditch, but noticed a slight movement in the bottom of the ravine.

A buck stood not 20 yards away, trying to figure out where the fight was and why nobody was taking care of the doe that had bleated. He had appeared as if by magic like a ghost in the fog. One moment there was nothing there and the next moment a nice little buck was standing in perfect shooting range.

He looked to his right and I pulled my bow. I would not take him, I just wanted to know I could if I wanted to. He was a six-point buck, probably two years old. In two or three years, he would be a fully mature buck with a massive rack and a 300-pound body of rippling muscle. He would also be more cautious.

I let off my bow and clicked my calling antlers together. His head swung around and he looked at me, apparently without seeing me as a human intruder in his woods. I used the bleat call and he came toward me. He jumped up the hill and stopped off to my left about 10 feet away.

Sitting perfectly still, I did not draw on him again. I thought it would be interesting to see how long I could keep him this close. I did not move, but I think he could see my eyes blink. I know I could see his. He stomped his foot as he stared at me. He shook his head and stomped his foot again.

After several minutes of getting no response from me, he turned and walked away. When he was out of sight, I clashed the antlers together and bleated with the call one time. The little buck came trotting back and stopped where he had been before. He looked at me like "Oh you again. I do not know what you are, but it can not be good" and left.

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