Saturday morning: We headed out in the dark to our hilltop double treestand set. Climbing the tree and getting myself on to my platform with only a headlamp to help guide me hasn’t really gotten easier yet, but I’m sure it will over time. I arranged my gear as sunrise approached and had barely sat down and put my face mask on when I heard a rustling to my right. I glanced over and saw a doe coming out of the woods, about 20 yards away. My first deer sighting ever! She never stopped walking – it was amazing how easily and quietly she disappeared into the trees on the other side – and I had no chance of grabbing my bow in time or even snapping a photo, but it sure was good to see her and to see movement on the ground so early in our trip. No other close encounters that morning, although Steve spotted another adult doe (possibly a buck?) about 100 yards away.
We came down around 10:30, collected the camera cards, and sat down to eat lunch and look at the photos. Steve’s usual m.o. is to check out the movement patterns from the previous 7 days to decide where to sit the afternoon and subsequent morning. Smart thinking.
Saturday afternoon: We went deep into the woods to what we call our back feeder set. We climbed up, got ourselves situated, and waited. It didn’t take long. Two fawns (girls) came out from our left and crossed about 20 yards in front of us. They stopped and munched on some foliage, but they were extremely alert and on edge and only dawdled for about 5 minutes before heading back the way they came. Steve whispered to me to be patient, that they might return when the feeder went off (it runs on a timer).
Sure enough, about an hour later, and shortly after the feeder did its thing, we heard noises in the brush. This time, though, it was two different fawns, a boy and a girl – and mama doe was with them. These deer were just as skittish as the previous two and didn’t hang out too long, but I was able to not only get a decent picture of some fawn tocks (hee!), I was also able to grab my bow. I knew I wasn’t getting a shot, but it doesn’t hurt to practice grabbing it under pressure. I was pretty pleased with myself for even being able to do that part, and pretty silently.
Saturday night: You guys. If you had ever told me I would love sleeping in a tent this much, I would have thought you were nuts. We did it once back in April but hadn’t done it since (no overnight trips in October due to the heat). Man. I love that thing. Best night’s sleep. It didn’t matter that it was freezing cold or there were loud drunk people in the community camp all night. Inside that little cocoon on the most perfect air mattress ever, it is cozy, warm, and peaceful. I slept like a rock.
Sunday morning: We set the alarm for 4:00 AM and got up right on time. Off we went to layer ourselves up and get into position, only this time we opted for one of the ground blinds. This was a brilliant decision. We had so much fun in there. For one, we saw multiple deer – an adult doe and buck from a distance and the two little girl fawns again (I posted a picture of this pair on Sunday; you can seem them much better in the photo above).
But being in the ground blind was a joy in and of itself. Treestand hunting is amazing and exciting in an unparalleled way, but the ground blind was a welcome change. The extra cover allows for more movement, the chairs are more comfortable to sit in, and I don’t have to worry about harness straps around my legs and chest. It was also an incredibly cold morning, my coldest so far, and it was wonderful being able to hug Steve for warmth when it got really bad.
The best part, though? Steve and I cracked each other up all morning. We got so hysterical a few times that if deer were anywhere nearby, we probably would have scared them away. And these are the moments that are everything, you know? The best.
Once again no deer came home with us, but this was a fantastic hunt. I started the weekend stressed out and high strung, and by the time it was all over, the coil was unwound, the negative emotions dissipated. For me, that is still what it is all about – the cleansing power of nature and quiet companionship.
I am, however, looking forward to possible shot opportunities in the coming few weekends. The rut is in full swing, it’s finally really cold, and adult deer will be out and about as much as they ever will be this season. This is the time to get it done.