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Giving in to hunting urges

I had almost forgotten I had promised to get a deer for a friend.

Saturday, I did chores around the house and things that had been neglected during the past two weekends while I spent most of my waking hours hunting. The "honey-do" list does not go away if a person ignores it and goes hunting.

Sunday morning I woke with a start. I turned to my wife and said, "I have to go hunting today. I forgot to get Danny a deer."

She replied with, "That is sure too bad you have to hunt today. We will have to start remodeling the guest bathroom next weekend." A man has to love a woman that realizes hunting is the most important thing in the world. It did not hurt that I really did have a place to go with the meat if I got another deer.

The weather forecast called for cloudy and cold with chances of snow later in the day. I could be to the farm and back well before the storm hit. I grabbed the gun, a handful of shells, my orange clothes and took off. While I opened the north gate, I noticed a few snowflakes in the air. I drove through and closed the gate behind me. In that few minutes, snow was coming down quickly in large fluffy flakes.

I drove to the edge of the timber and started up a well-traveled deer trail. If the snow continued at this rate, I could have a shorter hunt than I was anticipating. The ground was covered with about six inches of old snow that had developed a thin ice crust from warming during the day and freezing at night.

Each step started with a loud crunch of the ice, followed by the whumpf of my foot breaking through and hitting the ground. I not only sounded like some mechanical beast breaking through the timber with my "crunch, whumpf, crunch, whumpf," but walking was exhausting. I decided I was not going to stalk deer with the noise I was making, I might as well still hunt and wait for them to walk by me.

I stood perfectly still for 15 or 20 minutes. Snow was building up on my hat and shoulders. I was beginning to blend in quite well with my surroundings. The only things that moved were squirrels. If I had been hunting squirrels, I could have gotten a pickup load. They thought the heavy fluffy snow was wonderful. They dashed about chasing each other playing like a bunch of children.

I was about to give up and tell Danny he and his family would have to starve this winter unless I got lucky during late bow season. Taking one more scan of the area, I made out the form of a deer lying down about 50 yards away. I looked more carefully in her immediate area. Two does and three fawns were bedded down near some fallen trees and had been there the whole time. Snow covered their backs and the gray/brown of their hair caused them to blend in perfectly with their surroundings. I braced my gun against a tree and drew down on the deer I could see most clearly. The group must have been watching me as they stood up and looked warily in my direction when I moved. This gave me the chance to check for the biggest and fattest of the group.

When the blast echoed through the trees, one doe and three fawns made a hasty exit over the hill. It took only a few minutes to field dress the doe, but much longer to drag through a couple inches of new snow while breaking through the crust and trudging the old snow.

With four wheel drive, I was able to get out and get Danny's deer to the locker plant. My legs are all but used up from the workout they received, but they will recover. I will be able to rest them for a week at work, plus, if I am not mistaken, bow season starts again really soon.

The guest bathroom might have to wait for February after all the deer seasons are over.

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