Deer Hunter’s Dream Day
by Nikki Alvin-Smith
ATV parked in a tucked-away spot close to the neighbor’s property far from your hunting grounds and into the woods you go, stealthy and quiet. You smell great! An aroma of recently applied scent-killer spray adds to the stale air of the baking-soda washed clothing you piled on this morning from its bag. No stops for fast food as dawn begins to break, even though the fast-food joints are the only ones open as the sun slides up into the sky across the mountain ridge.
A gust of wind kicks up as you enter a clearing making you look to the sky, where ominous clouds are gathering to the West, threatening a damp and dreary day. The sun slopes off and disappears, and you carefully navigate the undergrowth on the other side of the dried summer grass stand. Looking for any fresh deer scrapes as you go along the tree line.
You are pleased the clouds have gathered to hide the sun. No chance of the sun giving your hiding spot away in the tree stand you’re headed to with a silhouette shadow of you hitting the ground.
Carefully you circle downwind of the biologics that you planted closest to your favorite tree stand. It’s good to have a few to choose from. Along the way you pass your old hunting blind, but no matter, you can’t use that today upwind of the spot you want to set up.
You begin to sweat as you walk on and bump up the rucksack on your shoulders. Did you spray that this morning? You can’t remember, you were half asleep. Your house keys and ATV key give a telling jingle as you raise your arm to adjust your gun. Better fix that. Hope your ATV will be there when you get back. Don’t want to have to carry your kill any further than you have to do later. You smile inwardly at your optimism. Day 3. Let’s hope you get an ethical shot this time.
Finally, after much toil, you reach your stand. You glance up from the wide base of the tree and look to its neighbor at the side. You pat yourself figuratively on the back. You picked the right tree. Only thing you keep asking yourself is did you put the stand too high for the right shot. No point in worrying now, can’t do anything about it.
A quick double check that the wind direction hasn’t changed. You pull your cell phone out and make sure sound is off. Good. Phone doesn’t recognize your face so doesn’t open. Fine. Don’t want to worry about messages. Your expensive precision-made hardware locked and loaded, you begin your ascent. Glad you padded your gun as it hits the metal ladder as you climb aboard. You stifle a cough as you settle into position, carefully setting your rucksack to your side so you can lean comfortably against the tree for support.
You’ve been following the does for months and know their habits. Let’s hope your buck comes by, following his nose. Overcome with passion. He was by your other stand yesterday. Pity it was just a five-yard chip shot. Not a clear pass-through option. If you’d had a hide maybe you would have got him. Maybe. It was tough to be disciplined and not take him. Was that a mistake.
Your mind races with the thought of the trophy kill, and your heart rate with it. That won’t do. Relax. Quieten your mind. You notice the tree canopy around you is declining rapidly as the season passes. Won’t be able to use this stand at all shortly. Maybe not the right tree after all.
Your mind wanders. Annoyed at the new neighbors as you hear the sound of a bulldozer clattering away in the distance. Downside of weekday hunting. They’ve pillaged and harvested all their woodland logging out trees for driveways and views. The deer runs you knew, the rubbed conifer tree line you used to check, all gone. Thank goodness for old school neighbors to the south of your woods, planting more trees. You saw Persimmon, Huckleberry and Elderberry when you visited them last. Good for them. They don’t even hunt.
You hear something and gently lift your weapon. Is this him? You shallow your breathing, waiting. Trying not to hold your breath or raise tension. A twig breaks and there is a rustle behind the large dead branches at the base of the big Norway Spruce to your left. You don’t want to move, but you do want a better position. What to do? When to move?
You soften your gaze to take in a bigger vista. There’s two. Maybe your lucky day. The wind picks up and you see the big doe lift her nose. She’s off. The other one follows. No chance of a shot, not even with your high-end gun.
Disappointed you fight the urge to let out a deep sigh. As you shift your weight the stink of the doe scent you applied to the base of your boots wafts past your nose. Was that a good idea? Perhaps that will work. You give out a medium grunt call following a buck call. It’s been half an hour since you sighted the does. Another half hour passes. You replay your trail cam footage over and over in your mind, have you picked the right spot? Time to try a hale grunt. Hum. That was satisfying. You have a good feeling about that.
You hear some angry sounding squirrel chatter spiral in the damp air. It carries. Good sign. You pray it’s not another hunter out and about. You’ve had to run off a few scouting your property in the past months. You emit a few quiet tending grunts. As if by magic, an eight-point stag comes into view. He’s licking a low-hanging tree bough. Gives a quick paw at the ground. Then stops and circles a minute. You’re glad you mixed those scents there and added fresh dirt three days ago. You note he has good G-2‘s. They look more than 9 inches. He moves tentatively toward a tree as if he’ll rub it, but he doesn’t. His profile is almost in few. Distance is good.
It’s time. Your grip is good, and you gently apply pressure rearward on the trigger. You take in a deep breath and exhale slowly as you squeeze the trigger to hit him broadside. All done in 7 seconds, but the time passages in slow motion and still gives you a tiny jolt of surprise. It’s a good clean elevated shot and he drops almost immediately. Your hold your rifle a moment longer so your camera mounted scope can catch the drop. You allowed for the elevation just right and hit his high shoulder.
Good day. Patience rewarded.