Sunday, November 6, 2011

Welcome to My Tree Stand

As far as this season goes, I've secured a new spot, a landowner (and his neighbors) agreed to let me hunt in their subdivision where each property is about 5-10 acres, and the one I'm on is 10 acres.  So far, I have written permission on the one property, but I'm hoping to get all his neighbors to sign.  Now, I set my stand on his property, but the neighbors agreed that if I shoot deer and they cross on their property, I'm allowed to track them.  There's only one adjoining land owner that won't let me on in any circumstance (anti), but he's pretty far from the best spots in the area anyway.

I've been there three times prior to today.  The first time was early in the season and I was really just testing out my scouting, sitting in what I had hoped would be my morning spot only to find out that when it's 90 degrees, this spot seems to have more mosquitos than a swamp.  That first day I didn't see anything but a cat and a few squirrels.

The last two times were partial afternoon trips.  The second trip, I was in the tree by 3:30 PM and didn't even have an arrow knocked and a bunch came from behind me.  Ever notice that?  How do they know to come from behind every time, them and squirrels too???   Anyway, they were all does  and were behind my right shoulder just enough that I couldn't turn and get in position to shoot.  They fed a bit, then went back the way that they came. 

The next time I saw four does and a buck.  I had two of the does come within 10 yards but I passed on them hoping the buck would come my way.  It was a basket 8 point.  It never did...I got blanked.  I may not have taken that shot, because next year it should be a better rack.  Since I'm the only one hunting it, maybe some restraint is in order.  That said, I was tempted.  I sat in the same tree all three times.  I decided that the next time I'd relocate to another tree that I've been looking at each time.  I kept saying, that tree over there looks better from up here, more cover, and better lanes.  But, I kept on using the same tree.

Today was a much different hunt.  This is a long winded story, but worth telling as it's one of the most interesting hunts that I've ever had.  The bucks are on hot on the does trails right now, running them everywhere.  This property has no shortage of does, so more bucks should show up.  The only problem was that I kicked out a lot of deer on the way in. 

This is a bedding area where they like to also hang out and feed during the day, but generally leave the woods at night and spend time in the fields (the one in front, and one behind me across the road).  In the morning, it's a bedding spot, in the afternoon if they don't bed there, it's a transition spot between fields.  But also, lots of oaks, so they do feed there from time to time.  Not far away, soy beans this year, but now they're cut.  Next year it will be corn.

I was a bit discouraged about kicking out all those deer, but I know that there are a lot here.  This morning, I decided to move further down the hill to the tree that I've been eyeballing all fall now.  This tree has a canopy of leaves under it and three good shooting lanes, with plenty of overhead cover.  I'm considering putting a hanging stand here, but am using a climber for now.  After climbing up and it got light, I was pleased with the set up...especially for morning.  The sun rises at my back, no shot straight ahead looking at the field, but when they come in on me they will take the path of least resistance (well, that's the plan), and give me a shot over my left shoulder or to the left, and never see me.

No shot straight ahead, but I can see them coming, and when they get to me, they have a hard time seeing me especially in the morning with the sun at my back:

The two left shooting lanes (first is at 10:30, the second is at 9 o'clock) where the deer would have a hard time seeing me if they come from the field in the front.

That said, a lot of leaves have fallen, but the bare trees still break up my outline a bit.  I have no shot straight down, but honestly, that doesn't bother me because a down shot isn't really a good one anyway unless you spine it, and that's really tough.

Front straight, then a bit to the left...

Here's the shooting lane to the right, but is in the direction of the adjoining property:

I set up my stand and was up in it about fifteen minutes before first light.  Normally, that's plenty of time for me to knock an arrow, but this time, I was struggling.  I didn't realize before that I had climbed a pin oak, not the easiest tree to bury a hook to hang your equipment in.  I'll have to hang the hooks on a non-hunting day with a drill.

After I donned my headnet and other gear, I had to lower my backpack back down and leave it on the ground.  Then, my jacket zipper got the time I freed it, it was shooting time.  I worried about deer seeing and hearing me fiddling about, but so far so good, no tails dancing away yet.  A Carolina wren lands in a tree limb just feet away, moves about ten times to other limbs around me chirping and trying to figure out what I am before finally flitting away.

About fifteen minutes later, the first three does moved in from the field, to my right.  There's a small "point" of woods that goes into the field where I've seen them enter and leave the field a number of times, and today was no different.  I'm considering a stand on that point too.  But, there aren't any good climbing trees, so it will have to be a hanging stand. 

About that time, three more does move in from behind me from the other field to my right and feed.  All of the deer so far are 50 yards or more away from me.  They all move away behind the adjoining landowner's house.  Ten minutes later, a spike and another doe head my way from my buddy's house through the woods.  The doe heads toward the field and I lose track of her, but the spike heads nose down right to me and under my tree. 

The spike stops right at my backpack and jumps back a step, then stomps a couple times.  Then, it moves forward and starts sniffing the bag, then...bites the strap and tugs on it!  I've never seen that before!  It jumps back and starts stomping again and again.  Then, it acts as if it's on high alert and moves away, strutting like "the bad buck" that he wishes he could be. 

It then dawns on me what got him so fired up.  I was worried that it was human scent, but it was probably the scent bombs that I was going to put out that I didn't have enough time to do! 

The spike is looking behind me toward the other field, and in steps another buck and a couple does.  The other buck works away from me and the spike follows it.  I can't turn enough to see the rack, but it's bigger than the spike for sure. 

There are three more does with it, all moving away to my right.  I reach into my pocket to pull out my grunt call to get them to come back.  I grunt, but nothing comes out.  Great, my call doesn't work.  I have a back up.  I reach into my pocket and can't feel it and then...  I hear, "clank" and a second later, something hitting the ground.  It was my other grunt call.  I'm twenty feet up and no calls on me.  Dang.  The deer didn't care about the clanking sound but keep moving at the same pace. 

I tried a vocal grunt (my best imitation) and it works, sort of.  The spike comes back, stomps a few times and turns gives me a twenty yard quartering away shot, looking back at the other buck.  I passed.  With a spot like this, there has to be better bucks around.  This spike is an eight point in a couple years. 

I plan to shoot only 8's and better, and decent 8's too, not basket racks.  There isn't any real hunting pressure here to speak of, so I feel that it's in my best interest to manage the bucks here.  I will not hesitate to shoot does since we can take an unlimited number in this particular hunting zone.  We can only take two bucks, and the second one requires the purchase of a bonus stamp.

The spike turns back around and joins the rest of the herd, heading away from me.  They vanish like grey ghosts, and presumably they bed down.

A few minutes later, I see a doe in the field behind me, and then another buck walks high along the hill behind me about 50 yards away.  It's thick up there and I can't make out the rack.  I don't see any other deer.  The buck is moving like molasses, very slow and deliberate.  It hasn't winded me.  It appears to be feeding, but I can't really tell.  It vanishes.  I watch for another half hour in that spot and then it appears briefly, then vanishes again.  I watch for another half hour or so, I think.

I'm planning on sitting all day.  I'm thirsty, my contacts are dry, and I promised I'd text my wife.  My drinks, phone, and lunch, are in my backpack which is on the ground.  I put my bow in the bow holder on my stand, and pull up my backpack.  I put my hooks that didn't hook and head lamp in the backpack, then unzip the side pocket to get my phone and eye drops.  I find the eyedrops, then remember my phones in a different pocket.  I unzip that and find it.  I check the time, 10:39 AM, and put my Droid in my jacket pocket.  I unzip the main compartment to take out a drink, and...

...I hear stomp, stomp in the leaves behind me where I last saw the buck.  "Dang it, he busted me", I think.  I turn to see a small doe with two more behind it, stomping at me.  The haven't seen me yet, but they heard the commotion of me hauling up my backpack and fumbling through it.  I have the backpack on my knee, a drink in my hand, and my bow not in my hand in the holder.  Just then, I hear footsteps in the leaves from my right, multiple deer moving toward me.  I turn and see the spike and the other buck, a four point, moving toward me at a good clip.  Apparently, they were interested in the commotion.

The spike moves right under my tree again, sniffing around as if looking for my backpack, and starts stomping again.  This time he brought a buddy with him, and the four point starts stomping too, just to my right and just out of the corner of my eye.  The spike moves under the tree and behind me, still stomping.  The does are still stomping.  Everyone is stomping.  This went on for what seemed like an eternity but was actually about a half an hour. 

I didn't move a muscle the entire time.  My hands are trying to keep ahold of my drink and backpack without dropping either out of the tree or moving, and my hands are beginning to cramp.  Finally, the does turn and walk away towards my buddy's house.  Then, up jumps the other buck.  I still can't make out the rack, but it's better than the other two for sure.  It follows the does, and the spike also decides to follow, doing a lip curl the entire way.  As soon as the bigger buck jumped up, the four point turned and bounded away in the other direction.

I'm thinking that I blew the hunt.  Heck, it was 10:30 AM!!!!  Lots of folks are out of the woods by then by a fire!  I lowered my backpack and took a drink.  I pulled out my camera and took the above pictures, then put the phone away and picked up my bow.  It's 11:15 AM now.  I'm hungry, but I dare not pull up my backpack again.

A half hour passes and I hear something over my right shoulder.  Two does move about 65 yards away, feeding.  They either came in from the field or were some of the first ones I saw that may have bedded over there, I'm not sure.  But they feed for a few minutes and then I lose track of them.  They either left or bedded down.  I assume this time that they bedded down.  I want one.  I sit angled that way and watch...

Another half hour passes and I catch movement from that direction.  I see both does get up and move a bit, feeding again.  A few minutes later, they lay down again.  This time I can see them.  I keep watching.

I'm a bit tired now, and doze off for a minute only to wake by some commotion heading my way, from behind the does in the distance.  It sounds like something running this way. The does jump up and bolt to my left but now about 45 to 50 yards away before coming to a halt.  They gaze back at the commotion.  Is it a buck looking for them?

No.  Turkeys.  Two hens and a gobbler come running my way, they turn up hill to my right and stop and walk.  They're clucking, cooing, and turkey talkin' but slow to a quiet walk.  The deer bed down, this time, I can see them pretty well.  And, unfortunately, they're now looking right at my direction.  I can't hear the turkeys any more.  I guess that they moved out into the field behind me. 

Now with turkeys possibly behind me and the does bedded looking at me, I can't assume that the turkeys aren't there.  And I don't want to get busted again.  So, I dare not move a muscle.  I pray that the does get up and move a bit behind some trees, cover, or something because I'm not in a comfortable position.  But, I'll wait them out.  I'm not going to blow this hunt again.  I want one of those does and I'll suffer to get one.  About twenty minutes later, my cell phone went off, not high volumn, but a Metallica ring tone, and loud enough that the deer had to hear it.  They didn't react.  I wanted to reach in to my pocket and shut off the phone, but I couldn't because I was sure that they'd see me.  Then, the phone went off again, this time the ring tone lasted even longer.  Still, they didn't react.  I guess living with so much human activity around keeps then desensitized.

An hour after they bed, I'm stiff, cramping and uncomfortable, but I haven't moved an inch.  I can't hear the turkeys any more so I think that they've gone, but the does are both in my view and me in theirs, and they're chewing their cud.  Just when I'm beginning to hurt, I hear what sounds like someone raking leaves behind me into big piles of leaves.  Who's raking now?  I can't believe it.  The does just sit there, not caring.  So, maybe it's deer, I think?  A bit more time elapses and the raking gets louder. 

If it was a person, those does would have bolted for sure.  But now they both jump up and stare at the disturbance.  Since the does aren't looking at me, and they moved a bit behind some trees, I shift my position to gain some comfort, and gaze over my right shoulder.  The TURKEYS again, this time, sweeping and feeding!  The does have had enough, they get spooked and take off away from me.  Great, my hunt ruined by turkeys of all things.  The feed in the direction that the does ran, and I eventually lose sight of them.

About ten minutes later, at 2:39 PM, I see my buddy's dog, Charley, running through the woods right towards me and stops.  Then, I see my buddy walking behind him.  They decide to check me out, as if they wouldn't kick deer out.  Now, my experiences on public land would lead me to believe that my hunt may be worthless the rest of the day.  But then I think that these deer are kind of used to peoples ways and human noises.  They probably see him walk Charley every day, and they might return.  Plus, the turkeys kicked them out, not my buddy and his dog.  I wave and my buddy waves back, then he leaves the woods.

Ten minutes later, I hear yelling, as if someone is calling someone.  An ATV heads across the field and into the woods, cutting across the woods to my right, then turns and cuts parallel to the field but still in the woods.  I wonder if I've made a mistake on the boundry.  I'm pretty sure that I'm OK, but an element of doubt surrounds me.  I hope to not be discovered, and I'm not.  The rider heads away not looking for me at all.  A few minutes later, the ATV returns and takes the same path as it came.  I'm thinking to myself, "What the heck was that?"  Substitue heck for something else for accuracy's sake.

I'm shaking my head, thinking what else could go wrong after a great first half?  Then, I see a dog, a husky I think, running lickety split through the woods from the direction of my buddy's property right to me.  It's not Charley.  Charlie is a basset hound.  The husky has a long red leash trailing behind it.  I put two and two together and surmise correctly that the dog was lost, and the ATV rider was looking for it.  Now, the entire woods had been canvassed by an ATV, two dogs, and a dog walker!  But, I decide to stick it out.

4:00 PM arrives and I see the spike emerge from the field at the "point" and enter the woods, moving to my right away from me.  I try my vocal grunt call and get no response this time.  I wasn't going to shoot it, but just wanted the interaction, to see what it would do.

In the morning, any movement that I heard was deer.  The squirrels were nonexistent.  It was almost creepy.  But, after the ATV, the squirrels seem to awake and they were everywhere.  They were chasing each other, barking, and doing squirrel things, all around me.  Pairs of them seemed to perform deer imitations just to torment me, then climb a tree and chatter at me.

An hour goes by and a doe attempts the double squirrel imitation in the leaves, but I spot her, about 50 yards away and heading right for the "point".  She finds the "point" and exits the woods into the field.   That was the last deer that I saw.  Plenty of squirrels behind me kept me wondering if any deer were still around.

The sun set, I waited a half hour, and climbed down. 

I met up with my buddy and told him my tale.  It was a good hunt.  No, a great hunt.  I may have blown a chance at those bedded deer, but who knows what would have happened.  Chances are, the ATV, dogs, and my buddy would have kicked them all out anyway had it not been for the turkeys.  Even though I didn't have a shot opportunity, it was a really fun hunt, one that I won't forget.  Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

dadTB said...

It's been a very long time ago since I sat and waited on a deer. I was hunting near the Susquehanna River with my brother-in-laws. I can remember hearing activity all around me, but absolutely no deer ever past by. I even heard gun shots in the not to far off distance.

I was thinking to myself as I read your entry that I would have probably fallen asleep a half dozen times throughout that hunt... LOL!

Thanks for the write up!
Tom (dadTB)