The only time deer hunting is exciting is if you actually get a deer, right?
A friend who hunts duck truthfully believes that deer hunting is boring, and I’m beginning to understand why. There is certainly a significant amount of waiting involved with deer hunting.
Sometimes though, it is the waiting and listening that gets your heart pumping. Just as I was beginning to think the boredom of deer hunting outweighs the excitement, something happened on one of my recent hunts that should be enough to sway me back the other way.
I was going to share my latest deer hunting experience with my duck hunting friend, but decided against it and instead will share it with you.
It was still pitch dark and I remember how alive I felt creeping to my stand. Just the day before, I’d busted a doe midday trying to bed in the tall grass in this exact same spot. I hoped she would come a little earlier today, but not right now.
“Please just let me get to my stand,” I whispered over and over, “Just a little further.”
Every rustled leaf, every snapped twig, every little noise was so loud I was sure every deer within a mile would hear it. Reaching the tree my stand was in, I grabbed hold of the first rung of the climbing sticks. The metal was always so cold in the morning, but I liked to climb barehanded. Something about feeling the texture of the metal made me feel more secure about climbing in the dark.
As I settled into my seat and began pulling the shotgun up, everything was so silent except for the occasional “ting” as the gun metal tagged the climbing sticks.
I let out a big breathe as slowly and quietly as I could. Now it was time to listen and wait…
About 30 minutes later, I heard a rustle. It was still dark and I remember thinking, “Could it be a squirrel? No, they don’t come out in the dark. Could it be a raccoon, maybe? No, they don’t usually rustle through the forest floor.”
Going through the list of usual suspects and checking each off, I was left with only one possible culprit in my mind: a deer!
Time never crept as slowly as it did that chilly morning. With each step that deer took I said another prayer for just a little more light so I could see it.
Soon I had learned the rhythm of its cadence. Step step, step step, pause. Step step, step step, pause. The deer walked around the tree I was in, staying roughly 30 yards away at all times.
Truthfully, it could have been 40 yards for all I knew; it was still too dark to see, but when I told my friends back at hunt camp it became 20 yards. Point being, it was close.
It was torture sitting there, cursing my eyes for not being able to see what I could clearly hear. Blinking and squinting over and over, I tried everything I could on the off chance of catching a glimpse of that deer.
At least another 30 minutes went by as it slowly walked right past me.
Light had broken the horizon and started to color the sky red, but the shadows still owned the forest floor. As it was walking off the well-defined trail and staying behind smaller trees and brush, I could not even make out the familiar form of a deer.
Since I was higher in the tree looking down, its silhouette had nothing to stand out against. I could have pointed its location to you at any moment, though. I knew exactly where that deer was, but just could not see it in the absence of light.
By the time the sun was a little higher in the sky and light flooded in, the deer was gone.
I never even truly saw it, but when I close my eyes and think back to that morning, it was the biggest buck you have ever imagined.
That morning reminded me that the most exciting, most memorable moments deer hunting can often have nothing to do with actually getting a deer.
To me, that morning was far more exciting than sitting in a wet boat calling out to ducks, but I was not going to convince my friend to see it my way by telling him the story I just shared with you.
Besides, what if I did convince him? No, I would prefer if he stuck to his duck hunting. It just means more deer for me.