Heart of a Hunter II
We recently visited with Doug (see Hunting Story "Heart of a Hunter") as he recovered from a 2009 bowhunting accident in which he fell, was injured fairly badly and the spent the early part of 2010 recovering from the event.
After missing the gun season in 2009, Doug was unable to hunt with the bow in 2010 (and may not be able to use a bow in the future – this may be a good case for a crossbow) and after a lot of therapy and recovery, was able to finally hunt and in November, took a great buck with the rifle.
Someone here on the forum suggested we call Doug the “Comeback Kid” based on the first story that was published – well he may now have earned that moniker!
We will take up where we left off… with Doug on the phone – calling his buddy and stating that he needed some help and was NOT standing on a flat rock – which is how he was injured the previous year.
Doug and partner drag the deer back toward the 4 wheeler trail – there was a way you could cut through a dense thicket and hit the trail that was shorter than going all the way over the stand and the walk in path.
As they drug the beast through the dense underbrush, Doug began to notice rub after rub on the trees in the heavy cover… and they eventually came to a place where three trees that grew together were rubbed…these were 3” diameter trees that grew from a common base and they were heavily gouged. Assuming that these were being hit hard by the now deceased buck, Doug moved on.
In the days following that, Doug began to think back to that stand… dense cover, lots of rubs, does moving in and out of the thicket…
Unable to stand it any longer, Doug donned his boots and gear and set off on a Friday afternoon to scout a bit for the weekend hunt.
Doug walked to the stand area and then moved over to where they had dragged out the buck only days ago… retracing his steps into the thicket, Doug could still see where the small trees and bushes were pushed down. Doug pushed his way further along and was astonished when he came to the three tree rub… one of the main trunks was snapped in two now… and the others were shredded even further. Could I have overlooked this damage the first time through, wondered Doug? Moving forward only slightly, he reassured himself that he had not. Under the overhanging branches of a nearby oak tree, there were three giant scrapes that were at least 3” deep and were clean as could be… not even a leaf in one of them. Fresh urine reeked in two of the scrapes.
With an incredible sense of déjà vu’ and feeling the hair rise on the back of his neck, Doug did a slow 360 degree scan of the area, as if he was suddenly in a stranger’s house uninvited…
Seeing no giant bucks staring him down, Doug moved slowly rearward and being as careful about scent as he could, departed the area.
Back at the truck - heart still pounding - and with his map spread out on the hood of the truck, Doug started studying. He placed marks where he knew prior scrapes and rubs were located and then marked the new hot area…. He drew lines, sort of in a connect-the-dots pattern… and tried to make sense of it all. It did not come to him so he gathered the maps up and headed to another section of the farm to hunt that afternoon.
With no deer taken that day, Doug headed home… and again laid the maps out.
Hunched over the kitchen table and trying to put the pieces together, Doug’s wife passes by.
Whatcha doin, Hon?
Studying the maps, Darling… let me concentrate.
What are those red marks?
Scrapes, baby… isn’t there a crime show on TV?
No, there is not… at least not right now. What are those black dots?
Rubs… on trees. Deer make them. With their – ummm – antlers… What about a good love story on pay per view?
Hey, don’t get snappy with me - I know what scrapes and rubs are… you think you are the only person watching when you have the TV going? What are these red triangles?
Those are the stands I have out… Honey, I know you watch TV with me sometime (exasperation creeping into his voice) – I am just not sure you can understand that this is all about.
Well…. what are these lines right here?
They are travel lanes in heavy cover. Where I think some big bucks are traveling.
You just got a big buck last week.
Umm-hmmm, sure did.
Why are you worried about where other ones are now, then… shouldn’t you start thinking about raking the back yard? What about the faucets you were going to replace in the guest bathroom?? (hands on hips now… always a bad sign!!)
Honey, this is important and I am studying… can’t I just do that in peace?
Well… I still want the faucets installed before Christmas… you know my Mom is coming… and the yard HAS to be raked – you know that, right – the whole yard… How come there is not a line on the map right here?? (finger pointing at a thicket that runs behind an old mill pond) Here, give me that marker… why don’t you connect these lines like this… and this,,, and this (deft moves with the marker… right on Doug’s well kept map!!)… and then look at the map in this manner??
Honey, now look what you did – you marked all over the map…. I did not want lines there, darn it. There are not even any – uh, scrapes…or…ummm, rubs… in there (a slight sliver of doubt creeps into his mind now…)
No, Hunter Man, you look here… now… here is the grocery store (pointing at a cut corn field and a pasture) and here is the bedroom (pointing at the widened part of the thicket just east of the pond) so if you are going to get from here (stab, with the finger) to here (another stab) – how are you going to do it without passing by here (another stab, this one more pointed than before… right in the thicket below the pond)… OK, big hunter – how can Mr. Antlers do that… without swimming across the pond or walking through this area where all your stands are??? You think the big bucks don't know where your stands are?? This is not really all that hard… just do what Tiffany would do and hunt where I pointed. (her voice trails off as she walks back toward the kitchen……)
Doug stares at the map…hmmmm, he thinks…. Let me look at this another way – he turns the map 90 degrees and puts his elbows on the table and stares….
530 am the next morning finds Doug perched in his climber, 12 feet up in a pine tree... yep, you guessed it... on the edge of the thicket below the pond. There is a slight depression in the center of the thicket and since Doug has just selected a pine tree at random to climb this morning, he is a little unsure what he will see when the sun comes up... he is looking southward and as the sun comes up on his left shoulder, he is pleased to see that he is on a small knoll overlooking the lower area below him.
It is a clear and cool morning and immediately Doug notices a nice rub no more than 30 yards in front of the stand... darn, the luck, Doug thinks as he relaxes in the seat of the stand... she may have been right!!
He does not have long to ponder, however... as not long after daylight, two small bucks come through the thicket headed directly toward the denser and larger part of the thicket on the east end of the pond... they sneak through, unaware of being observed from less than 50 yards away.
Three does follow the same path no longer than 30 minutes later... Man, this is getting exciting, thinks Doug as he watches them pass by from right to left...
Not fifty yards behind the does, a buck... and a nice one at that... head down... moving slowly and purposefully... Doug does a quick wind scan and notes with some alarm that there is a slight breeze from his back... that is bad news... but then thinks - the first several deer did not bust me... and maybe I can take this one before he comes full abreast... he is definitely a shooter.
The buck pauses and stands stock still, head up now and looking all around. He is less than seventy yards from the stand but in heavy cover... one step forward he takes... and then another... and then two more... Come on, come on... whispers Doug under his breath... just a little further...
Seconds tick by, dragging now like hours spent in a jail cell... Doug notes sparrows flitting in the branches above the buck's head.... but yet he stands, still as a statue. The buck turns his head and shoulders as if to reverse his direction... NO, NO, NO Doug screams in his mind.... rifle at the ready now, Doug stares just over the top of the scope... and the deer does turn and starts to go the other way!!!!
Doug notices a slight crease in the brush just ahead - the deer is clearly walking away now - does he know something is up? Why is he leaving? These thoughts race through Doug's head and he fights to stay focused.... the buck reaches that opening... and the rifle comes up and fires as if in one motion.
Shot at a severe quartering away angle, the bullet tears into the rear of the paunch area on the right side of the deer, rips through the rear of his right lung, through the left lung and exits the body at the base of the neck. At the sound of the shot, the buck is gone in a flash!
Moments pass.... did I hit him? I know I did.... I am sure I did....
The deer is dead on his feet, of course... but Doug does not know this.
Waiting a good hour or so, Doug descends and immediately picks up the blood trail. After a short fifty yard tracking effort Doug finds the buck piled up in a heap. Not five yards from his head - a massive rub on a cedar tree!!!!