WOODS ‘N’ WATER: The misses that make the eye more keen

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: The misses that make the eye more keen


“Did you get your deer yet?”

This is a question that many deer hunters pose when they meet a fellow deer hunter.

Sometimes, the answer is a firm yes. Other times, it is a no.

Usually, “I did not even see one in the woods” is the excuse.

To me, the latter answer is not surprising, but the fact that they did not even see a deer does surprise me just a bit. There are many reasons why a hunter does not spot a deer while hunting, but many of them do not realize just how stealthy and sneaky a deer can be on its own turf.

Believe me when I tell you, I know this from experience.

Probably one of the funniest happened many years ago when we were hunting a piece of private land in Colchester. I had built, with the owner’s permission, a treestand on the edge of a swamp. I had yet to get a deer out of it, but I did see a few.

This one particular morning I was in my stand and noticed one of the other hunters moving around on the other side of the swamp. He decided to take a stand along the swamp right in plain sight of me. How he did not see my blaze orange I will never know.

I watched impatiently as the hunter stood up and then squatted down and kept repeating these movements. Along with this, he was constantly blowing his nose.

I so wanted to give him a yell, but simply sat and stewed.

And then some movement in the swamp caught my attention. I saw that it was a nice buck and his route was going to put him right between me and the other hunter.

When the big buck was in range, I could not chance a shot because the other hunter was directly on the other side of the buck and he evidently had no idea the deer was there.

The buck, however, seemed to know the hunter was there because it stopped and gazed in his direction, then slowly and quietly moved on by and did not offer me a shot.

I later asked the other hunter why he did not shoot. He looked at me blankly. “What deer?”

This is a true story and for me it was quite the learning experience.

There are so many tales of deer fleeing a hunter, their white tails flashing goodbye as they make a speedy getaway. However, it generally is the knowledgeable hunter who knows just how sneaky and quiet a deer can be while moving through the woods.

I experienced their ability to move so quietly over the years that I have hunted them. My first experience happened many years ago while hunting in the big woods of Maine.

I had picked a spot to ambush a deer and sat ever so quietly and still, waiting for the deer to show itself. It did, but not like I expected!

It was a doe and she had come up behind me. I swear she was only a couple of feet behind me when she made an alarm snort that startled the heck out of me, she was so close.

I could not turn around fast enough to get a shot, and she was lot noisier running away than when she snuck up on me.

That was my first lesson on how quiet a deer can move through the woods, but it was not going to be my last.

We generally place a treestand facing the area from which we expect a deer to materialize. This makes sense. BUT, the deer do not use the same lane of thought that we as hunters do.

And many hunters I know are always looking for the whole deer, and this is a big mistake.

I know this to be a fact because one foggy morning while I was hunting, again in Colchester, I was in my treestand when a slight movement in the brush caught my eye. I attributed it to a bird feeding in the brush.

However, it was the ear of a doe, twitching every once in a while. By the time I realized what it was, the doe made me out and escaped unscathed.

It took me a while, but I also learned to look for parts of a deer and not the whole body. I have lost count of the times that this has helped me fill a tag.

As I said earlier, we usually set up our treestands with a certain area to watch, and while this is often successful, the deer do not play by the same rule book. More than once I have had deer come up from behind me while I was concentrating on an area that I was certain they would come from.

One time, while hunting an overgrown orchard in Hebron, I heard a slight noise at the foot of my treestand and was surprised to see a four-point buck sniffing the bottom of the ladder. He evidently had come up from in back of me and never made a sound in doing so.

Another time, during the muzzleloader season, I was in my ladder-stand intently watching the area that I was positive the deer would come from. There was snow on the ground, so I figured the deer would be easier to spot when it came in.

An odd noise behind me caused me to twist around in my stand, and the movement surprised a nice buck that was rubbing a small sapling and making a scrape. I never had a chance for a shot.

Putting a tag on a deer and enjoying the venison it provides is great. So are some of the memories of deer who taught me so many lessons on their behavior over my many years of hunting them.

While being successful in your hunting endeavors is always great, the memories of times when your quarry outsmarted you are priceless and go a long way in making you a better hunter.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.

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