I’ve been hanging out in trees for the past few weeks, not that it has done me any good.
You see, bow season has been going on for a while now. It’s funny that I’ve hunted deer on the family farm for more than 50 years and always believed that I had them pretty well figured out by now. Well, at least you’d think so.
I moved my tree stand to a spot that always has been good over the years. It’s in a travel route between the deer’s bedding areas and feeding spots. Usually, there’s a lot of activity with does passing through and bucks soon following. Not this year. I’ve tried all times of the day with the same results — nothing.
Things are different. The deer aren’t using that area since there’s no feed in the woods. When I scouted the area earlier, the deer were feeding on acorns that had fallen from several massive, old, nearly hollow oak trees. But by the time I hunted it, the turkeys, gray squirrels and deer had completely cleaned up the mast crop.
Deer are feeding in the meadows because there’s nothing else to eat.
Late Monday night, the wind blew in tremendous gusts and rain pounded on the roof of my house, so I slept in a little longer than I should have. I was certainly surprised when I woke up and found an inch of fresh snow on the ground.
Since it was way too late to be in my tree stand at daybreak, I waited a while and then took the tractor up the hill. I decided to drive around and see just where the deer were moving.
It paid off. By driving the old logging roads and the edges of the fields, I got a good idea where to hunt this weekend.
Saturday is going to be a special day. My grandson Derek, who just turned 20, has decided that he wants to hunt. Even though all of us hunt, he’s never shown an interest before. This year, though, he asked his father for a gun for his birthday. And since he took his hunting safety course several years ago, getting his license was easy.
Thursday morning, we sighted in his rifle and talked about our strategy for opening day. He’s really quite excited and I know exactly where we’ll be sitting come Saturday morning. Hopefully we’ll have a nice buck come by at about 40 yards so he can take his first deer.
There’s something about that first deer. I remember mine like it happened yesterday.
It was the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. They had closed the schools, so I went across the road and sat near a small swamp and some thick pines. It was cold, so I decided to get up and start walking. After all, I’d seen more deer by still hunting than I ever did sitting in one place.
I hadn’t walked 200 yards when a nice eight-pointer came trotting up the hill. I was excited but made a good shot, putting the deer down.
I field-dressed the buck and ran all the way home. Dad was still in the barn when I burst through the doors yelling, “I got one! I got one!”
That day changed me forever. I was now a hunter, and I’ve spent the rest of my life enjoying the sport.
Hopefully this season, I can help Derek take his first buck. It’s time to pass along a family tradition once more.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.