Two inescapable rules of deer hunting

A good friend of mine went bow hunting this past weekend on a club where he and I are both members. It’s a new club to both of us so we weren’t sure what we were gonna find, and this was his inaugural hunt there.

He went in early Saturday morning before sunrise, and then found to his dismay when the sun came up that he should have done more advance preparation of his “shooting” lanes. Apparently there were all kinds of vines and limbs that would have tended to deflect any arrow he might have shot.

I can almost hear him grumbling as he got down out of his stand and left his bow at the base of the tree, while he set about doing some impromptu cleanup; I guess using hand-clippers of the sort most Southern hunters usually carry.

At some point, he heard the sound of crunching leaves in the swamp behind him, and turned to see a respectable 8 point buck walking directly at him – apparently unaware of his presence. Now his bow you will recall was back at the base of the tree where he left it. This demonstrates with maddening clarity two of the primary characteristics of hunting the elusive Odocoileus Virginianus, or Whitetail Deer.

First of all, they will usually appear from the direction you are least prepared to respond to; generally from your exact rear. Or if you’re a right handed gun shooter (which means you cover a left-handed field of fire) he’s going to come at you from the right. The opposite is invariably true if you’re left handed. It’s a principle I’ve come to count on in my thirty plus years of deer hunting. I don’t care how good that firebreak looks out in front of you – your intended quarry is going to come through that impenetrable thicket behind you!

Second of all, your trophy on the hoof will usually time his arrival at the precise moment you are least expecting him. That means the moment you lean your rifle or bow up against a tree to do whatever – that’s the moment Big Boy will pop out. I recall once sitting a stand on the coldest morning of the year, and come about 11 am, when I had not seen a single animal, I decided that enough was enough and I began the torturous process of getting out of my stand. Of course the moment I moved was the exact moment that I looked down in front of me to see a gorgeous ten or twelve point staring up at me from about 20 feet away! Given that I was on the edge of an eight-hundred yard long field, my scope was cranked all the way up to 9X, making it completely useless for locating something so close I could spit on it!

I once leaned a shotgun up against a tree while I watered the ground with internally processed coffee, and the moment I was occupied with “other matters” was the moment a buck decided to cross the open ground in front of me!

Let me pause and elaborate here that the aforementioned “rules” are mutually exclusive. By that I mean if he shows up WHEN you aren’t expecting him, it’ll be EXACTLY where he was expected to show. Conversely, if he shows up WHERE you were expecting him, it’s generally when you aren’t ready.

In another of my adventures I relate a morning hunt with my then 14 year-old son. That hunt led to the closest encounter with a living buck that I’ve ever had. He passed my position from a mere 8 to 10 feet away. Naturally I didn’t have so much as a pistol on me! Friends have suggested that I should have lunged onto the animal and chewed his throat out for the desired result. I’ll leave the reader free to imagine my response to that particular suggestion.

To finish my buddy’s adventure, he stared in agony upon the buck which walked straight towards him whilst his bow was out of reach at the base of the tree. In a frenzy of desperation he considered breaking game laws and reached for the pistol he was carrying in a waist holster. He tells me he’s had that holster for many years, and never once has had even a moment’s difficulty with the flap. Of course all those previous usages of the holster didn’t happen in the presence of an eight-point buck. And as we all know – weird things happen under that circumstance!

Needless to say, that buck remains whole and healthy, and I hope to see him behind me from a tree-stand soon.

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