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Getting wet, cold still worth it all

Work really cuts into the time a person can spend on important things such as hunting.

The deer are not running nearly as much as the rut slows down. I did not have time to go hunting again until last Sunday. Several good hunting days were wasted on making a living.

A light mist drifted down all Saturday night. It was cold, but not cold enough to freeze. By the time I got into the timber, the leaves lay on the forest floor like soft leather, not making a sound when walked upon. A few days before, a person walking sounded like a bed of fresh cornflakes being mashed by a large machine.

I made my way to my stand in the darkness, walking into the wind. I was unnoticed by everything in the woods. I get a real kick out of being able to walk into my quarry's territory having the advantage. A deer can smell many hundreds of times better than me, but if I move with the wind, they can not scent me. They can hear much better, but with the leaves softened and walking heal to toe, they can not hear me. Deer can see much better than I can, even in darkness, but the playing field is more level if I move slowly in the dim light.

I set up, ready for the action. Nothing knew I was in the area and they would come bounding by at the break of dawn. Something did come bounding by, but it was well before daylight. It probably was a deer, but may have been a coyote or perhaps one of my calves. It is bad form to shoot your cattle, even worse to shoot someone else's. Whatever it was went merrily on its way.

When it finally became light enough to see, a thin fog hung in the area with the continuing mist. I could move silently but I soon discovered, so could the deer. Last week, I could be ready and on full draw of my bow when I heard deer rustling through the dry leaves. This week, a small buck walked in behind me in total silence. I did not see him until he passed in front of the blind. He was the only deer in the area that was on the move. I spent the next several hours watching a couple squirrels chase each other around and wishing for a deer, any deer, to walk by.

Finally, I decided the deer were bedded down, keeping dry, under the assorted cedar trees in the area. Since the wind was coming from the east, deer would be bedded down on the east side of hills, near the top, under cedar trees where they could catch the wind rising from the valley, see where they could not scent, and still keep dry. They are not dumb animals. Since I obviously was not going to get a deer standing in one place while they were all laying about sleeping, I decided to try ridge walking.

Walking on the west side of the hill, a person is downwind with an easterly breeze. I slowly and quietly walked 50 yards and angled up the hill toward a cedar tree. I almost made it to the crest when I saw a white tail fly as I spooked a doe that was not under the tree where she was supposed to be. Two other does were where I expected them to be resting, but they left when their friend took off, white flag flying.

By this time, I was getting wet and cold. At the edge of the woods, I paused and scanned the area, just in case a nearby deer wanted to go home with me. I saw no deer, but across the field, I could see a mature bald eagle perched high in an old oak tree. As I returned to the truck, I saw two young trumpeter swans on the lake.

Having the opportunity to be out enjoying nature and seeing things that were rare just a few years ago makes getting wet and cold while not getting a deer still an enjoyable experience. It is easier to convince myself of that now in my nice warm office than it was Sunday morning when it happened.

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