I wasn’t really convinced that this was a good spot to set up on opening day. It was too close to the two track road that ran through this area. It didn’t seem to have anything to offer a deer by way of food or cover. And, I had already spent two evenings and a morning perched in a tree stand not 20 yards away during archery season and hadn’t seen anything except squirrels.
The kind that make you want to risk losing an arrow or wasting a rifle bullet on just to get some peace and quiet so that maybe – just maybe you’ll be able to hear a deer – if and when one should come along. That is, if they even used this area at all.
But my good buddy, Ed, had assured me that the deer did use this area frequently. He had shown me the tracks that crossed the road not 50 yards from this spot.
He said that they followed the low area through the thick stuff across the road into a ‘hollow’ – a bowl-shaped terrain feature – and then continued right past here on their way to the cedar swamp. Just beyond this point, the hollow turned into somewhat of a shallow ravine or draw that ran through the woods, eventually becoming deeper until it was swallowed up by the mixed pine and cedar swamp (see my story, My 1.5-Point Buck).
My point of ambush was a small brush blind that I had put together a few weeks before during the archery season. We had come up for two days of hunting during the first two days of bow season, hoping to do some scouting during the middle of the day, while devoting the morning and evening hours to the hunt.
I had placed my portable ladder stand against one of the pine trees, just off a trail that came down between two rows of these 50-year old red pine trees. I had a good view of the trail, but only a fair opening for a shot, because I was up in the thick branches of the trees. Michigan law prohibits any cutting, breaking or otherwise clearing of any live branches on public land. So I was pretty well stuck with hoping that any deer I might see would stop in a spot where I could shoot over, under or around a branch.
Well, I needn’t have worried about that point, because in the three hunts - two evenings and one morning – I didn’t see hide or hair of a deer.
Now as I sat on my styrofoam cushion on the ground with my back against the tree around which I had piled some sticks and ferns – I didn’t have much confidence in seeing a deer. I had heard a few shots that were probably within the section we were hunting, but so far, the only activity I had observed was an occasional truck going past on the road 75 yards away, a blue jay, a woodpecker, and two squirrels. They were black squirrels, the kind that, when they spot you, they like to run up a nearby tree, take a position on a lower branch and then scold you. Has anyone else noticed that when black squirrels do this they sort of ‘whine’ at you? To me, it is the most irritating sound in the woods. I used to think that the alarm cry of the blue jay was bad, but now I know that it’s the, “chip-chip-chip-chip-skr-eeeeeeee” of the black squirrel. And once they start, they can keep it up for an hour, pausing only long enough to make you think they have quit – which they haven’t.
Well, this morning I guess that they must have finally stopped, because all was quiet when I suddenly got a cramp in my leg and had to stand up. That’s why I find myself taking a folding chair into the woods more often these days. Sitting on the ground tends to develop a cramp or pain somewhere on my anatomy after a couple of hours.
So as I was standing beside the tree, I heard the all too familiar rustling of leaves that I had been hearing most of the morning. I glanced over my left shoulder, expecting to see a black, furry object scurrying across the ground, but to my surprise, saw a much larger critter – a deer!
It wasn’t running, but moving quickly through the woods, heading for the hollow between my position and the road. It continued on a path along the edge of the hollow until it was almost directly in front of me, then stopped.
I had my rifle up, but couldn’t see the deer’s head. In fact, its head was behind the trunk of a pine tree, and its hind quarters were behind a small bush. All I could see of the deer was from the front shoulder to a spot just behind the rib cage. “C’mon, take another step so I can see what you are”, I silently said to the deer. It must not have heard my thoughts, because it didn’t take that step. There it stood with only the front shoulder and rib cage exposed to my view.
Suddenly a little light went on in my puny brain that said, “Wait a minute! The front shoulder and rib cage – isn’t that where you want to shoot? “You can shoot either a buck or a doe, what are you waiting for?” Lowering the crosshairs of the scope to a spot right behind the shoulder, I pressed the trigger and sent a 150 grain greeting card from my Ruger .308 to the deer.
It jumped high off the ground with a mule-kick, then dashed pell-mell across in front of me into the shallow draw that led to the safety of the swamp. After rapidly covering about 50 yards, it crashed into a deadfall, kicked twice and expired.
Since I saw it fall, I felt no need to wait, so I gathered up my stuff and walked over to where it was. Imagine my surprise when I saw antlers sticking up! Not a large rack by any means, but large enough to know that I’d have to use my buck tag on it.
Since that year, we’ve hunted that same general area, and though we’ve seen plenty of tracks crossing the road there, we have only seen one other deer while hunting. The following year I set my wife’s pop-up blind there, thinking that it was a hot spot for sure. She saw one doe on opening morning, but as she began to raise her rifle, it saw her move and quickly vacated the premises.
But whether we ever see another buck there or not doesn't really matter. We still refer to the spot as “Buck Hollow," because after all, that’s where I shot a buck! Funny how certain places get their names!