“Whether the weather is cold, or whether the weather is hot; we’ll weather the weather whatever the weather, or whether there’s weather or not!”
I don’t know who first penned that phrase, but for those who love the outdoors, it’s often the frame of mind we must have to prevent being stymied every time the weather isn’t exactly as we would like it to be.
Another saying that we hear often in Michigan is, “If you don’t like the weather, just stick around a few minutes – it will change.” I suspect that one is heard in many other places, too.
When it comes to deer hunting, and especially that all-important opening day of deer season, most hunters will be out there no matter what the weather is like – even if it’s raining.
Rain is what the forecast called for on opening day of our firearm season in 1991.
I groaned inwardly when I first heard the report, knowing that there was no way we would be able to keep from getting wet – and cold.
Our season always opens on November 15, and no matter where you are in this state on that day, you can be pretty sure that the temperatures will not be above 50, and often well below that number. Add rain to that situation, and you can almost feel the shivers going up your spine.
But it is what it is, so I began to make plans to deal with the conditions as best as we could.
We didn’t have nice, drybox blinds that we would be able to sit in.
We didn’t have portable blinds to shield us from the rain.
We didn’t even have good rain suits that we could don to keep our clothing dry.
So I decided on inexpensive plastic ponchos.
I bought one for my wife, Cynthia, one for myself, and one for my friend, R.C., who usually hunted with us.
The property we would be hunting was an 80-acre parcel that belonged to some folks in our church. It had once been farmed, but for the past several years it had been a CRP field.
And that’s pretty much what it was – a big field of tall grass ½ mile long by ¼ mile deep with just a small piece of hard woods on one corner – less than 2 acres.
The whole area was low-lying ground, and the soil was very wet – almost like muck. There was a large ditch running along the entire north end of the property that was four or five feet deep. It had water in it all year except the driest part of the summer.
There was plenty of deer sign around, however. This field was surrounded by crop fields, and the deer regularly used it for bedding, as well as a travel route from place to place.
In fact, the trails that went through the field had been worn so deeply into the soft earth that the deer could travel right across the middle of the field and never be seen unless they stretched their necks up to look over the grass.
That fact played heavily into the taking of my buck on that first day of the 1991 season.
I had fastened a homemade seat on a tree which had a deadfall next to it for Cynthia in the small patch of woods. When seated there she would be in a slightly elevated position, with her feet on the deadfall about eighteen inches above the very wet ground.
An abundance of buck rubs along the edge of the woods made me confident that she would almost certainly see a buck that morning.
R.C. was going to be positioned on the two-track that passed along the south edge of the property, almost a full half mile from Cynthia.
I was going to be standing against a large tree roughly mid-way along the old fence row on the east side, facing the field with the road on the opposite side.
Sure enough, we awoke opening day to the sound of steadily falling rain. Why couldn’t the weatherman be wrong today?
No matter, “…we’ll weather the weather whatever the weather….” – it’s opening day of deer season, for cryin’ out loud!
As legal shooting time arrived I was somewhat surprised at how dark it still was. It appeared to be rather foggy as well as very wet.
The minutes seemed to tick by extremely slowly that morning as I tried to concentrate on the prospect of seeing deer rather than on the drops of water that kept finding their way past my poncho and down into my clothing.
It was almost 8 a.m. when I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me.
I thought I had just seen a buck’s head materialize through the rain and fog directly in front of me almost 100 yards out in the field.
Then it was gone.
I shifted against the tree and readied my rifle somewhat in my hands.
Suddenly I saw it again!
A buck had raised its head above the grass and was looking directly my way.
Even through all the moisture in the air between us, his antlers were very easy to see, being outlined against the grayness of the background behind him.
I raised the Ruger to shooting position, but just as quickly as he had appeared, he was gone again.
Since the deer was headed in the direction of Cynthia’s stand, I just stood quietly by my tree.
The minutes crept by as I waited, hoping and expecting to hear a shot.
It was a full five minutes later that I clearly heard the splashing sounds of a deer bounding through water in the small woodlot where Cynthia was.
She told her story: “I was sitting there in the rain, wondering if it was really worthwhile being out in this stuff when I saw movement off to my right; my rifle, of course, was pointing to my left.
A nice buck was slowly picking his way through the woods, stepping over the deadfalls and around the many puddles of water.
I started to turn slightly to my right, but my cheap plastic poncho made so much noise that the deer stopped and looked in my direction. The rain was making a pitter-patter sound on the poncho, but my moving made an even louder noise.
After waiting a bit, he continued to come in my direction on a path that would take him in front of me but at very close range.
Each time I tried to move, he would hear the crinkling of the cold, stiff plastic and stop. I decided that I would just have to wait and hope he walked passed me so I could simply raise my rifle and shoot.
The buck continued to approach until he was a mere 15 feet from me, almost directly in front of me. I’m sure that the only sound louder than the rain coming down was my heart thumping wildly in my chest.
Suddenly, the animal either got wind of me or saw some movement he didn’t like. He whirled and bounded back in the direction from which he came, splashing loudly through the puddles and the sodden forest floor.”
That was the splashing that I had heard several minutes after the buck had disappeared from my view.
Then I saw him again!
He was bounding and leaping as he began to traverse the CRP field. He would run two or three jumps, then leap above the tall grass. I presume he was doing this so that he would be able to see any danger ahead of him as he made his escape from the noisy plastic thing he had encountered in the woods.
I found his shoulder in the crosshairs of my scope and sent a .308 slug his direction.
I saw no indication of a hit; he continued to bound and leap.
Quickly racking another round into the chamber, I again centered the scope on the bounding buck’s shoulder and then swung ahead so that the vertical crosshair was even with the point where neck meets chin.
At the shot, the deer tumbled end over end, throwing showers of mud into the air.
I fed another round into the chamber, but there was no more movement from the field.
Since we hadn’t planned on meeting for another hour, and not wanting to walk out into the tall grass in the sight of any other deer that might be in the area, I stayed by my tree until 9:00 a.m., counting down the minutes and wishing it would stop raining.
When I found the deer, I immediately saw that my first shot had struck him just ahead of the hind quarters – perfectly centered, but much too far back.
The second was right behind the front shoulder.
Just harvesting this deer on this very wet day was one thing; getting him out of the field was another story in itself.
First, R.C. thought he could drive his S10 pickup to it, but he got stuck before he had gone 100 yards.
Next, some other hunters who were coming out of the two-track volunteered to pull R.C.’s truck out with their full-sized 4x4 pickup; they also got stuck.
I walked out to my car and drove a mile down the road to a farmer’s house that I knew. He was more than willing to bring his tractor up to pull the vehicles and the deer out.
Getting the trucks out was child’s play for his big John Deere with 4 big tires on the back, but when he drove back to where the deer was lying, the heavy tractor began to sink in the wet, soggy ground.
By the time we got the dragging rope over the draw bar, the front tires had sunk almost to the axles.
He poured the coal to the big machine, and the mud was flying off the huge rear tires as he dragged my buck out to the road.
I like to tell people that this deer was so big that it took two trucks and a tractor to pull it out!
The antlers were well-proportioned with a 16-inch inside spread.
The plaque that I put on this mount reads, “Rainy Opener – November 15, 1991.”