I join you this week from a deer stand, sixteen feet up in the oaks of a woodlot on my buddy’s farm on Gore Orphanage Road. Gradually, I sense that I am not alone in the woods, where I was decidedly alone just a moment ago. Now I know I’m being watched. In my peripherals, far to the right, I can see a fuzzy brown form. I grow rigid, turning only my eyes, and there she is. It’s a mature doe; what Uncle Ted would call beautiful, buttery backstrap. There is an old myth that tree stands work because deer never look up. This girl has me made, she’s looking directly at me. I remain statuesque, absolutely lifeless, I don’t even blink and I try to control my heaving chest. After an eternity of about twenty seconds the doe decides I am just part of a harmless, if weird looking tree. She takes two steps to the right, puts her head down, disregarding me and pushes her nose under the fallen leaves and sticks, foraging for acorns.
My heart is throbbing like a pump off the handle, but this isn’t my first rodeo, I remain still as a stone. The cold sweat on my forehead has rolled into my eyes and stings, but I simply wince on my non shooting side and begin my move. Slowly, like continental drift, I shift in my seat. I need to be 180 degrees from where I am, I need to have my arms up to draw my bow, I need to do it right now, and I need to do it without the noise of a mouse. Sixteen feet up in the air, shuffling my feet and my weight, my sense of vertigo is heightened, I feel like I’m teetering over the deer about to fall forward out of my seat, landing on my quarry’s back.
At this point, some of you may be asking, “What’s with this guy? Is he really going to take a doe? Isn’t this guy supposed to be Mr. Big Game hunter? Why’s he going all flippers over a doe? Everyone knows archery season is for big bucks!”
Well, no. Every single time I get a deer in my sites, I am like a thirteen year old boy at the school dance. I can’t explain it. I’ve harvested a truck load of deer in my time, and yet every single one brings absolute panic to my senses. And as for the need of some for taking a big buck during archery season, OVER IT. Who am I here to impress? Nature hands me a gift of her bounty and I am so vain I say, “No, not big enough!” When it comes to big bucks, you can’t eat the horns. I don’t hunt deer, I hunt venison!
There are a few outdoor pursuits that we simply would not know if it weren’t for the efforts of a particular individual in history. Without Teddy Roosevelt, we would have no National Parks. Without Harold Knight, we would not know turkey hunting. And without Fred Bear, bow hunting would be only associated with Native Americans.
A bow, even in modern configurations with all the bells and whistles is a crude weapon. It requires that you get close to your target, ideally inside of 40 yards. That means you have to be stealthy in every way. Fred Bear never made up a list of things one must do to successfully hunt the whitetail, but I’ve read stories over and over. We leave you this week with best wishes for a safe and successful hunt, and Fred Bear’s Ten Commandments of Bow Hunting.
- Don’t step on anything you can step over.
- Don’t look for deer, look for movement and remember it’s what they’re looking for too.
- Always approach from downwind. In the cool of the day move uphill, in the heat of the day move downhill.
- The best camouflage pattern is called, “Sit down and be quiet!” Your grandpa hunted deer in a red plaid coat. Think about that for a second.
- Take only the gear to the field that allows you to hunt longer, harder, smarter.
- A rain storm isn’t a reason to quit the hunt, it’s a reason to stay.
- Camouflage your appearance, your sound and your scent.
- Be sure of your shot. Nothing is more expensive than regret.
- Hunt where the deer actually are, not where you’d imagine them to be.
- Next year’s hunt begins the minute this season’s hunt begins.