Thursday, April 19, 2007

Great White Hunter #1, Another Hunter

It was a moonlit November morning, and I was making my way to my treestand. I slowly closed the door to the pickup, and loaded a round into the chamber. It was a lever action 30/30 Winchester, the gun that won the west. I loaded up the magazine and my revolver as well, a single action .357 magnum Ruger Blackhawk. I travel heavy, as I tend to not like running into coyotes at night alone. They’re awful big up this way.

My treestand was nothing special, just a wooden ladder of fifteen feet made of driftwood, and roped to a tree. The trail after entering from the rear of an alfalfa field, proceeds through wet ground to the edge of a more open swamp. In the dim light I could barely make out the outlines of my bait piles as I slowly made my way past. The pears had been pawed over recently which I took as a good sign, as the pile is next to active rubs and scrapes. This was back when you could do that sort of thing, before worries of chronic wasting disease prompted its discontinuance.

Opening day of rifle season in Vermont is a special time, a long year in the making. The snow covered ground was covered with occasional ice crystals that broke under my weight with a resounding crunch. The pale light reflected off of everything white, which at this point most all was covered by snow. Panting as I climbed, my breath formed huge clouds in front of my head lamp. The stand squeaked and rubbed a bit as I climbed, but I made it up without incident. I wiped the snow from the platform and hung my gear bag on a tree branch. Now came the fun part.

I had used a scent drag covered in deer estrous on the way in, but now it was time to get serious. I sprayed myself head to toe with earth cover scent, and squirted some no-bait apple gel down the backside of the tree. I took the scent drag, reapplied estrous and hung it as a scent wick out on a branch a little bit out from me. Lastly I took out a bottle of estrous gel and a popsicle stick, and spread some of the scent on little pieces of branches, bar, and leaves that I dropped to the ground nearby. It wasn’t as dark now. Slowly the sky began to fill with color as the sun peeked over the Green Mountains.

With the sunshine came a bit of warmth, about 7am the sun finally popped up over the ridge to my east. That’s about when I heard it. Far away at first, but getting louder, it seemed to be coming much closer. The frost had not left the ground yet and the rustling of frozen leaves made a racket that contrasted the quiet morning. It was coming straight for me, sounded like it was walking right down my trail. The steps were regular, slow here, then a quick step there. My mind raced, another hunter, what a bummer!

So I turned my back and waited for the person to kick out a deer in front of me as they went by. Instead they came up behind me, circled, and stopped a few times. By now I was irritated, it was just plain rude to walk all around a guys tree stand while he’s using it. So I turned around fully expecting to give someone a lecture on hunting ethics and etiquette right then and there. Nothing could prepare me for the surprise.

There stood a four point whitetail buck at sixty yards, and he was looking right at me! Reacting fast, I swung my gun to my shoulder and aimed. My elevated position gave me advantage over the deer who had to negotiate thick brush and fallen trees. The first shot was at his heart, and as I squeezed off the shot I saw a small sapling disintegrate. That’s all it took and the deer was off.

I shot again as he stopped to duck under an overhang, he kept going. Running broadside at eighty yards, two more shots, deer still running strong. Another shot quartering away hundred yards thru a break in trees, deer not stopping or slowing. I climb to the ground to examine my first shot, I clearly wasted that sapling. Second two shots weren’t located but I followed the trail the deer took and couldn’t find any blood or indication of a shot. Then “Bang!” on the other side of the swamp. I followed the trail a bit longer then circled back to my tree stand and got my gear. I hiked back out to the road in time to see another hunter going by with a deer in the back. He pulled up and asked, “did you hear all them shots?”

I looked straight into his eyes and said, “Certainly did, some jerk a couple trees over from me blazing away at a squirrel!” He says “yes, but the shots scared this deer out in front of me. It came walking out of the swamp and stopped in the middle of the old railroad bed. I drew up and shot, he dropped there.” My deer in the back of another hunters pickup, what a bummer.

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