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Looking through the trees to the deer

I wanted to hunt the south side of Strawberry Hill, just at the edge of the tree line. I knew deer would be moving around the cedar field moving from the cover of the trees into the heavy timber.

The wind being from the south precluded that. I would have to set up on the north side of the cedar pasture, next to the hay field. There are no trees big enough to climb, so I made myself comfortable next to a small cedar tree behind a large rose bush. I could move a bit and not be detected.

I waited several minutes and rattled my calling antlers. Almost immediately, I saw a buck jump the fence on the opposite side of the hay field and trot in my direction. I thought I had done a remarkable job of calling him when I saw a doe emerge from the brush about 50 yards down the fence line. He was coming to her, not to my professional sounding call.

He was a small 10-point. In a couple of years, he will be a spectacular buck.

I called again, more to entertain myself than hoping I could move him closer. He chased the doe around the field for a few minutes and bred her. Off to my right, I noticed movement. A spike buck was walking up the hill toward me. He stopped, hesitated and looked around. I rattled and he started toward me. He was about 15 yards away and nearing the area downwind where he would wind me.

I raised my bow, pulled back and drew a bead on his shoulder. If he was the buck I wanted, he would now be in my freezer. I put the bow down and used my grunt call. This spooked him. He came to watch a fight, not to participate in one.

Checking the hay field, both the little 10-point and the doe were gone. I looked intently around the area trying to see where they went. It was then I noticed two oval white patches in a dark brushy area. They were about a foot apart and about the size of my hand. When one white patch moved, I could make out the almost perfectly camouflaged buck standing in the brush. The only thing that gave him away was the white inside of his ears.

I rattled and he stepped forward. He was big. I had decided to not take a buck unless it was big and this one was big enough. His neck was swollen from the rut and the muscles rippled as he moved. This one would not run from a grunt call. He may well charge it. The old buck had to cross the creek to get to me, which would give me a chance to draw my bow undetected.

I rattled the antlers and the deer was drawn into the creek. Placing the grunt call in my mouth, I drew my bow and positioned myself for my shot. Instead of coming directly out of the creek toward me, he exited downstream. He was out of range and trying to circle downwind. I knew if he succeeded at that, I would not get a shot.

When I blew on the grunt call, he altered his course slightly, coming more at a diagonal toward me. At this angle, he would come into range at about the same time he caught my scent. My muscles were starting to quiver from holding the bow at full draw. The old deer did not seem to be in any real hurry. When I knew I had about one more step before being busted, I lined up on his shoulder and let the arrow fly.

It is amazing how in the heat of the moment with adrenaline flowing, a person sees nothing but the sight and the target. A small hickory tree is all but invisible. The arrow hit the invisible tree and dove to the ground. The buck did not stay around for explanations.

Later, I was able to call in the little 10-point I had seen earlier. He will grow up to be a big deer someday also, but it was nice to see him up close.

It was what I consider a successful hunt. If not for invisible trees, it could have been a successful hunt ending with meat in the freezer.

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