November 16, 2006 at 7:49 a.m.

What’s luck got to do with it?

What’s luck got to do with it?
What’s luck got to do with it?

I don’t suppose it’s a real common thing for a deer hunter to hear Humphrey Bogart’s voice in his head when he’s out in the woods, but I freely admit that I’m sort of weird that way. And, I further concede that while I’m deer hunting, an occasional voice popping into my head or a funny skit performed mentally for only my own benefit isn’t so unusual at all. You see, in order to combat mental fatigue, cold toes, and forget the fact that a warm bathroom is two miles away, I tend to entertain myself from time to time during the slow periods of the hunt. You know, to keep the mind and body alert. I kid you not, out of the last (but often opened) folder in my brain’s filing cabinet labeled, “Miscellaneous Arcane” and “Inane Crap,” I heard Bogey’s voice: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…”

What were the odds? After hearing the loud report and feeling the sharp kick of the shotgun, I remained up on my portable stand for a time, pausing to contemplate just that –– the odds. I actually chuckled. You hear hunters talk about deer that walk underneath stands, but I have a feeling that 99 percent of those reports are made in a manner of speaking. To have a deer quite literally walk underneath your body is another matter entirely. On opening morning a couple of Saturdays ago, as luck would have it, that’s precisely what happened to me.

Standing on my portable with my left shoulder leaning against the tree and a shotgun jammed underneath it, I witnessed a buck walk directly toward my tree. He came into view over my left shoulder (of course) a very awkward position that left me only two viable options –– whip around and risk a quick shot the moment he flees, or sit tight and wait for him to pass. I chose to remain motionless and wait. Eventually, I was unable to see the deer because my body got in the way and it appeared that he was going to bump his head against my tree. To see the deer again, I literally had to bow my legs apart and peer through the steel mesh of the platform. To my further amazement, he stepped over one of the straps of my backpack that was lying at the base of the tree. To take my shot, I was forced to bend 90-degrees at the waist, move my right foot out of the line of fire (whew!) and shoot straight down. The only person in the world I could think of that might’ve missed that deer was Barney Fife. With a deer 11 feet away, maybe even Barney could’ve managed to hit him.

That was the moment ol’ Bogey paid a visit. I mean, with all those acres of woods and meadows and population density reports of about 20 deer per square mile in Area 236, why’d he choose to take that route? To deepen the mystery, there was no shooting close by and that buck wasn’t spooked. There wasn’t even an established deer trail next to my tree, for crying out loud.

So, what’s luck got to do with it? There’s no doubt that oftentimes luck is a hunter’s best friend. Sure, we choose to hunt particular areas based on physical sign and telltale movement through specific areas, but I cannot discount the fact that, for whatever the reasons, one buck on opening morning chose to pass incredibly close to my stand. Directly underneath it, to be exact. An hour before I shot, my brother-in-law had a buck pass within 5 yards of his location, so we experienced an entire season’s worth of luck that day. The following day I was fortunate to take a good sized 8-pointer that I whistled to a broadside stop 50-yards away through the woods. For sure Barney would’ve had a tough time hitting that deer.

No, Mark and I have no qualms admitting that sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. We’ll take deer any way we can get them.

Dan Brown’s weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie’s Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.

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