I’ve written about this many times on the pages of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine over the years: Always listen to the sounds of the woods for clues when you are hunting whitetails. Well, leave it to me to ignore my own advice during this years first bowhunt of the season.
It is the second morning of my bowhunt at Ralph and Lenora Dampman’s Trophy Ridge Outfitters near Carlile, Wyoming, and things were unfolding rather slowly. It was hot, too. The thermometer read 68 when I piled my stuff into guide Mark Allen’s truck in the predawn darkness. Mark told me not to worry too much about the heat. It was going to push 90 degrees today, but he said deer would move for at least the first few hours of daylight. Most of the whitetails on the farm I was hunting were in a nighttime feeding pattern, but they had been routinely heading back to their bedding areas between 7 and 9 a.m.
When daylight broke, I saw a couple of does and fawns moving in the distance. One small forkhorn appeared, too, and made his way up the hillside near my stand. Another early arrival, however, was a red squirrel (some folks call them pine squirrels). Like all red squirrels do, this little guy was pest. He first appeared in a white oak near my stand, and noisily announced to the world that I was there.
He chattered, squeaked, squealed and scampered up and down the rough, loose bark. He jumped from limb to limb; scampered across the noisy leaves on the forest floor; doing just about everything and anything he could do to “ruin” my hunt.
Of course, I found this quite amusing. That’s why I recorded that little video clip with my phone. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched red squirrels put on such shows, but this one was rather impressive. What was different this time, however, is that I failed to sink back into my predator mode. There was a stiff breeze out of the west, and that dampened all of the other noises in the woods behind me. Every time I thought I heard something, I just dismissed it as coming from that little red squirrel.
Minutes turned to hours. Looking down at my iPod, I noticed it was 2 minutes to 8. I told Mark that I’d probably bail early this morning if deer weren’t moving much. They weren’t. My thoughts were focused on the evening hunt. After all, all of the big bucks move right before dusk, right?
You can probably sense the mellow tones in my thoughts as I taped this little video clip. You can also probably tell that my mind was nowhere close to where it should have been on this morning, especially on the well-worn deer trail that wound through the woods behind my stand.
After hitting the “stop” button on that recording, I tucked the iPod back into my side pants pocket and settled back into the tree stand’s seat. I went over the mental checklist of what I needed to do next: lower my bow; turn off and then detach my Ozonics ozone generator from the tree; retrieve all of the gear (binoculars, rangefinder, wind puffer, etc) that I had hung neatly on the limbs surrounding me; and, of course, call Mark to tell him to come get me.
That’s just how I roll when I go bowhunting. It’s probably that thick German blood running through my veins. I’m extraordinarily precise when it comes to hunting. You might say I’m a little obsessive, too. Everything just needs to be “just so” for me. If it’s not, it freaks me out. I’m not comfortable with just winging it in the woods.
So there I sit. Just a few breaths away from retrieving the two-way radio Mark handed me that morning (there was no cell coverage in this area) and making “the call.”
That’s when it happened.
It was just that fast. No time to think. No time to process it.
Wow, that was close, I thought, as the sound entered my ears. It was coming from a spot right behind my stand. It had to be that squirrel. That little bugger has been doing that all morning.
Seriously? Can one little rodent make that much noise? No way. He can’t weigh but 10 ounces.
Peering over my shoulder toward the source of the noise, I’m put on immediate alert. There, in one hint of sunlight, stands a giant-bodied buck — broadside. He’s got his head jammed into a small bush, and he’s working it with all he’s got. Strips of velvet are flying off the antlers, and blood is streaming down his face!
You will not believe what happens next. Yeah, I’m gonna wait until tomorrow to show you, but I’m sure you can guess. But I am certainly not going to leave you completely hanging. Here is the video I took just moments (not even minutes) after that mellow message from before:
Editor’s note: Dan Schmidt’s Wyoming bowhunting blog will run in five installments this week.
TOMORROW: DAN GETS THE SHOT OFF!
DAN’S GEAR PICK OF THE DAY:
THE E-Z CUT PRUNER
Dan says: “This is one of my all-time favorite accessory items. Don’t be fooled by the cheap ones you can get at the local farm store. These are built to last many seasons, and they are ‘the bomb’ for cutting hardwood stems like oak, hickory and maple. I carry mine in my backpack all the time, because I never know when I’ll need it.”
The original EZ KUT Pruner features a unique front end design for leverage, a wrap around knuckle protector, and ergonomic handle for a sure grip not found in other pruners. The blade is made of Teflon coated 440 hardened steel that cuts through the hardest wood with ease, and with the replaceable blade kit, you are never without a sharp blade. The three stage ratcheting action on this tool provides the power for the big jobs, and the lock keeps this bad boy from biting!