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The thrill of the hunt

Early November is usually the very best time to go deer hunting. Deer start the rut in October, build to a peak of acting crazy, and slowly return to normal.

The most active days usually fall in the second week of November, as does Veteran's Day. Being a veteran, I feel I should have the day off to go hunting. My boss has not always agreed, but this year we were able to avoid that unpleasant discussion about days off for hunting as opposed to continued paychecks, since Veteran's Day fell on a weekend.

Saturday, I headed to Strawberry Hill before the sun came up. The wind was from the south, preventing human scent entering the timber to my right or going across the valley in front of me. I set up my blind among three cedar trees. As soon as it got light enough to see, I got out my range finder and mentally marked every tree in my shooting lanes. The rose bush at two o'clock was 21 yards. The thorn tree at nine o'clock was 22 yards. The creek was 30 yards away. If a deer came out of the creek or from either side, they would be in "the zone." If the big buck showed up this morning, I wanted to be sure I could make a good clean shot.

Comfortable with the distances in all directions, I rattled my calling antlers together. Almost immediately, I saw a deer move out of the cedars across the creek. His distance made it impossible to determine his size, so I pulled up my binoculars to check him out. He was a nice mature buck. He was not my big buck, but had 10 points that I could see. I would not pass him up, hoping for a bigger one. There was only one bigger one that I knew of, and there were no guarantees he would show up.

I rattled again and with head lowered, he started running down the hill toward me. This is the reason we hunt. The rush of calling in such a magnificent animal is more than words can describe. He came to the opposite bank of the creek, and suddenly made a 90-degree turn toward the timber. He caught the scent of something better than what he thought were two bucks fighting. I rattled again, checking where he departed and continuing to scan the hillside with my binoculars in hopes of seeing "The Big One."

I suddenly had the feeling of being watched. Slowly lowering my binoculars, I saw a small eight-point buck standing right in front of my blind. I slowly reached back, grabbed my bow and pulled up. As I set the 20-yard pin on his shoulder and pulled back, he looked around, not sure where or what I was. I held on him for close to a minute as he stood broadside to me. If he had been a year older, he would have been in the freezer. When he gets a year older, he probably will not make that same mistake.

He eventually wandered off when I let off my arrow. I rattled again. The nice 10-point came out of the timber, to the edge of the creek, and into it, straight toward me. I pulled up my bow and aimed the 30-yard pin directly at the point he would come up the creek bank. I was steady and true. I waited, drawn and ready, but he never exited the creek. After a minute or so, I put down my bow, satisfied he was once again diverted by the scent of a doe.

It may not have been the day I brought home the winter's supply of meat, but it is a great hunt when a person can call in one really nice 10-point and a young and gullible eight-point that will live to be a big deer one day. November days do not get any better than this.

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