The elusive deer


I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon deer hunting (or sitting as I call it and “nature viewing” as a friend of mine calls it). It was about the twelfth time I’ve gone bow hunting this year and it was the 11th time I didn’t draw my bowstrings back. The time I actually might have had a shot where I did take aim it was too far past sunset for me to get an accurate shot, although I do believe the deer were actually within range (for me that would mean 25 yards or less). I probably would have had a shot the very first time I went out which was opening bow hunting week in Minnesota in the middle of September but, of course, I had to reach for my bow screwed into the tree that I was sitting in and my hanging stand was only about eight feet off the ground so the deer, of course, noticed. It’s too bad. Before I moved the deer was running straight towards me.

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This is only my second year deer hunting. I strictly bow hunt, one because my wife forbids me to buy a gun of any sort, two because the season is 3 1/2 months long, and three because it seems like it’s probably a more peaceful and relaxing activity than shotgun or rifle hunting, as odd as the words “hunting” and “peaceful” might sound together. I suppose blackpowder hunting is more akin to bow hunting, but I don’t know? I’ve never hunted with a rifle or shotgun of any sort, including a blackpowder rifle. I didn’t hunt (or sit) in November at all last year and I certainly didn’t hunt after it had snowed. Despite having to bundle up in layers yesterday the flurries and gently falling light snow that was falling a fair amount of the time that I was looking at the woods truly added a new dimension to this activity that I had previously not yet experienced. At times, I have walked/snowshoed through the woods in the wintertime and the calmness and tranquility in the forest during this cold season is really something quite special that should be experienced by anyone who is trying to quiet their mind that never seems to want to slow down. It is this quiet and singleness of purpose that attracts me to the hunt, much more so than the rare opportunity of taking a shot. Sure, it was a little cold to sit out there, but it is a humbling experience to realize that we are a witness to and a part of nature’s cycle, which we all too often take for granted in this day and age of international air travel and instantenous gratification made possible by buttons at our fingertips.

Don’t get me wrong. If I had previously shot a deer, I would not have gone hunting yesterday. Since I have never shot a deer in my two seasons of hunting thus far I am anxious to get that rare opportunity-to get that elusive whitetail deer of the woods into my rather primitive sight. I packed up five minutes after sunset yesterday (I now use a blind when I go for the day as it’s much quicker to set up and pack up) and then I walked a few yards along the deer tracks that were directly in front of me while I was sitting just to see the off chance that one might be nearby. There was only snow and, for the most part, leafless trees. Satisfied that I would leave home empty again I went to gather my blind, bow, chair, and pack and started walking back to my car. Just as I was leaving my spot I saw a rabbit that had stopped in the middle of now bare bushes, probably hoping that I wouldn’t notice it and continue on my way. This might sound senseless, but seeing that rabbit alone made the winter hunt worth it.

I got an even better treat just before I got back to my car. In the field next to the small parking lot aways off there was one of those elusive deer-well out of range for my bow, of course. The deer took one look at me and then began running and leaping in the opposite direction. It then stopped again but it knew that it was a safe distance away from possible danger. I didn’t notice any antlers but it was a big deer. I think there’s a good chance that it might have been a mature buck, but I don’t know for sure as it was at least 100 yards away. That one sighting is enough to go out again. Heck, just the chance to forget our hectic lives and sit in the woods “viewing nature” is more than a good enough reason to go out. So what do I always tell myself? Maybe next time. Maybe next time…