I have just returned from a week's hunt in Idaho in the Sellway-Bitterroot Wilderness for black bear. We were O for 3 on the bears, but I had a very interesting encounter with a mule deer buck on day 5 or our hunt. I was taken to a new spot high up a mountain and shown my place, a natural blind built off the side of a large pine tree.
As I settled in and cooled off after my long, steep walk I surveyed my new area, noticing immediately that I had some vistas with decent views to spot game in, much nicer than any previous spot I'd hunted. The bait site was about 60 yards or so at my 1 o'clock position and was purely natural with sticks and logs placed over the meat and sweets previously brought in to that site.
After only about ten minutes or so, I turned to my left and no more than 10 yards away was a very large mule deer buck making his way down the mountainside and towards the bait. I had been told that this was typical, the deer wanting to lick anything even slightly salty in the bait. He was a very large buck, I'd say 250-300 pounds on the hoof and his velvet rack already showed it would be quite large once fully grown in another couple months.
He walked slowly to the bait and spent perhaps 15 mins licking the logs and sticks splashed with old cooking oil and also looking up towards my position every so often as well. I was pretty well screened behind my makeshift blind constructed of dead limbs and intertwined with pine boughs. I felt sure he could not actually "see" me. When he'd licked enough oil, he started back up the hill and I noticed that the route he was traveling would likely bring him even closer than the ten yards away he'd been on his way down the hill.
He walked right up to another large pine tree directly adjacent to "mine", facing uphill and only about 10 feet away this time. I was getting a big kick out of this, really enjoying it. He then turned and walked right up to my tree, directly on the other side from me, maybe 4 feet away now. I had (obviously) a birdseye view and could see quite clearly now the wound on his right rear quarter that had left a nasty slash about 2" wide and 8-10" long. It was not infected, but was scabbed over and he showed no signs of a limp or any lasting effects of what was likely a recent failed attempt at a meal from a bear, wolf or mountain lion.
He stepped out from behind "my" tree and directly in front of my blind at 3-4' and put his head down as if to feed. I thought he was chomping grass until I looked more closely and he was licking the grass in front of me. I thought that pretty odd and especially so when he began to actually lick the pine boughs my blind was made of. I was trying to figure out what was going on when I suddenly remembered I was chewing tobacco and also chew that was flavored with apple. He was licking my apple chew spit!
He was now really close and my right knee was only about 8" from his mouth and toungue as he continued his licking. I decided I would try something and began to very slowly slide my hand out my right leg and towards the pine boughs and sticks of my blind. I moved my hand forward of my knee and extended my fingers (covered in light camo gloves). I got my fingers right to the pine boughs and sure enough on his next couple licks he licked the three middle fingers of my right hand along with the pine boughs.
Even I was surprised when he did that and did not react, and I pulled my hand back, but a touch too quickly I guess as he jumped back about two feet from where he'd been when my hand moved. Now this was after he'd been looking me in the eye at no more than 18", eye to eye, for at least 3-5 full minutes and I had also continued to blink all that time. I had a camo cover on my face and a camo hat, with only my eyes exposed. He then stayed within about 5-6' of my position walking around my right side and then directly behind me. He never once made any indication that he'd winded me.
He walked up the hill to a position about 15 yards away and looked back over his right shoulder at me as he faced away from me there. I slowly turned three times to find him still there and on my fourth turn, he was gone (I also had to watch the bait). I checked my watch and found that he had been there close to me for a total of 30 minutes from when he first passed me going down the hill.
I did also see a whitetail doe and another mule deer buck that evening (mule deer scented me at 60 yards that time!), but never saw a bear. I was kind of glad about not seeing a bear, since I was eager to tell the guide and my hunting buddies the mule deer story as soon as we met up at about 1015 PM. :yes: