The other day, I moved a ladder stand to a big, white pine tree not far from a wild apple tree in my old pasture. The deer had been feeding there regularly as the apples fell to the ground. Last night before dark, I took my bow and headed out.
I didn’t expect too much as the wind was blowing quite steadily, but I didn’t care whether I took a deer. Actually, when the right fat doe comes in, I will fill my tag and freezer with venison. But there’s no hurry.
About 10 minutes had passed before a partridge wandered in through the underbrush. He pecked at some of the apples before spreading his wings and fluttering them. I’m not sure that’s the right term, but it seems to fit.
He didn’t drum his wings to attract other grouse, he just fluttered them a little and then went back to eating. I made a few clicking sounds and even squeaked like a mouse. He looked up once at me but really wasn’t concerned.
After a while, the little bird just wandered back into the scrub pines from where he had come. My entertainment was over.
It wasn’t long before I spotted a deer coming out of the swamp across the old, open field. She cautiously peered out of the brush. Then without hesitation, she stepped out into the open and headed in my direction. Almost instantly, a pair of twin fawns ran out behind her. They were still small and had recently lost their spots.
They ran and jumped, stretching their legs. I presumed that they had been bedded for most of the afternoon and just wanted to have some fun. It was almost as if they were playing tag like a couple of little kids. Mom kept on coming closer, heading for the apple tree. She seemed to have just one thing on her mind as she approached.
Suddenly, she stopped and stomped her foot. She then lowered her head and sniffed the ground. She had just come across the tracks I left while walking into my stand. I watched her as she sniffed the air and then the ground once more.
One of her fawns ran right below me to the apple tree and immediately picked up an apple. I could hear it crunch in its jaws.
The other fawn was right next to its mother and sniffed the ground as well. That little one really wanted to join the other fawn but stood its ground with its mother.
Probably two minutes passed before the doe reluctantly stepped across my tracks and worked its way slowly to the apple tree. Once across my trail, the young fawn ran right in.
The wind was in my favor, so none of the deer could smell me. But the old mother still didn’t seem too sure that I wasn’t somewhere nearby. She’d slowly pick up an apple and hold it while looking around, even staring at me in the stand.
I was in full camo and never moved nor made direct eye contact with her. I’ve learned that eye contact usually ends the game. By looking eyeball-to-eyeball, they seem to realize that you are a living being and maybe shouldn’t be there.
That old doe never settled down. She had smelled my tracks and sensed danger. I wouldn’t have taken her because she had a couple of youngsters to raise and there’d be another pair next year. But it was sure fun to watch her.
To me, that’s part of hunting. And that’s why I spend a lot of time in the woods.
The Klipnockie Beagle Club in Morris is looking for a few good members. If you like the bawling of a hound on a trail, this might be for you. If so, call Dan Lang at 607-286-9461.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.