November 9, 2006 at 9:29 a.m.
Before deciding to hunt this land, I was told that there were sightings of a very large buck near the property, so that fact alone (to my screwed up way of thinking) justified the $160 out-of-state license fee. I also justified the cost in terms of convenience and fuel savings, seeing as how these friends live only two-and-a-half miles away from my home. Of course, when people say things like “Man, I thought an elk somehow got loose in the area,” it does cause a deer hunter to listen very intently and ponder the possibilities.
I should go on record as mentioning that I am a deer lover and I thoroughly enjoy watching them. They are beautiful animals and I truly do admire their cunning and wit. During the summer months when we pay an annual visit to Jim Peck’s Wildwood in Minocqua with the kids, I don’t have crazy out-of-season thoughts of snuffing out the big-antlered bucks that eat deer food out of our hands and lick the salty sweat from our faces. Like the song says, there is a time to do this and a time to do that, and I do pride myself in keeping my seasons straight – well, as best I can anyway.
It is now early November and my seasonal clock tells me it is time to harvest a deer or two for the larder. I am now in full “hunter mode” and on high alert and I look upon big-antlered bucks a bit differently than I do during the off-season. I’ve never met a deer yet that was willing to open the basement door and crawl inside the chest freezer without some coaxing on my part, so I am duty-bound to take up a bow or gun each year and replenish the family meat supply. I’m not sure how some of you feel about that fact, but that’s simply the way it is.
Well, enough of that. I really should get to the crux of the matter. The long and short of it is, I’ve seen this enormous buck on five separate occasions thus far this season. Each sighting was within 100 or so yards from the other, smack dab on the property I’m hunting. I think I’ve been out seven times total, so my sightings-to-hunt ratio is pretty close. On one occasion while sitting in my stand in a wooded area adjacent to a meadow, I thought I heard a faint grunt. While making doubly sure that a burp hadn’t prematurely erupted in my own throat or my ears weren’t playing tricks on me, I heard another deep grunt and saw “Mr. Biggie” in the meadow, his head low, trotting a few paces behind a large doe that was headed right for me. Evidently she wasn’t exactly enamored with his enthusiastic ways, so she did an about-face and bolted away from my general direction, taking my trophy buck with her. Had that doe continued walking unerringly in a straight line, well, I’d have something else to write about today, wouldn’t I?
Two Saturdays ago my son, Anders, and I were tracking a deer that I shot on the back of the property when he looked up and said, “Whoa! Look at that huge buck!” You guessed it; we got an eyeful of “Notorious B.A.B.” hot on the trail of another doe that was smaller than the meadow doe. I swear to God, that buck looks like a horse with antlers.
I suppose I could look at this situation a couple of different ways, but only one paints me as a pretty good hunter. One view is that my personal scent control system (which borders precariously close to obsessive/compulsive) is working like a champ and that old, swayed back buck simply doesn’t know he’s being hunted. (And the fact that I haven’t taken this animal yet is just an odds thing – our paths simply haven’t crossed.) That’s the only explanation that personally makes me feel good on any level. The second possibility is that the buck is simply smarter than me. When I zig, he somehow knows I’ve zigged and he’s savvy enough to zag.
Every once in a while you hear about hunters that target specific bucks for two or three seasons. It’s sort of like a chess match; sometimes the hunter is victorious and sometimes he or she isn’t. In my case, I know that if I continue to hunt carefully and cautiously, it will simply be a matter of which one of us makes the first mistake. I’ll guarantee you one thing; the first mistake will be the last. If I screw up, it’ll certainly affect his behavior patterns and I’ll probably never see him again. If he goofs, well, I’ll wind up with a dozen or so additional hooks to hang my caps. However it turns out, I can tell you that I’m deriving a lot of pleasure and enjoyment in the chase.