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Walter Scott: The satisfaction of the stalk

The rut seems to have turned off like someone hit a switch. The breeding frenzy has gone from deer running around day and night to the more-normal routine of bedding down during the day and moving mostly at dawn and dusk.

It makes for much safer driving on the roads, but bow hunting has become much more difficult. A person can still go spend the day in a tree and deer will eventually wander by. It is nothing like a couple of weeks ago when anyplace on the farm was good enough because large numbers of deer were moving constantly.

I have yet to get a deer. This is not altogether a bad thing. It means I still have the opportunity to hunt. There have also been many bucks I passed on, in hopes of getting a bigger one, so I have no complaints.

There is an old saying to the effect there is no such thing as a bad day hunting. I have to agree, with the possible exception of the day I slid the truck sideways down the hill on the ice and ended up in the pond. That was not an extremely bad day hunting for me, since it was not my truck and I was able to swim, unlike my passenger, Rob, who was sporting a long leg cast at the time.

Most any day a person can go hunting is a good day.

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Sunday, the wind was blowing and it was cloudy. Rain had fallen during the night, which made the air feel even colder as the strong north wind blew damp air into my face.

This is the kind of weather made for stalking. To stalk deer close enough to get in bow range, several things are necessary. The wind needs to be blowing so a person can approach without being scented. The deer need to be bedded down tight, such as they are after the rut on a cold windy day, and the leaves need to be wet and quiet. Miserable weather makes for perfect stalking.

I crossed twin sluices and drove to the south fence near what is affectionately known as the "Dark Woods." We call it that because it is so thick with trees and brush, sunlight cannot reach the ground. Deer will escape into the area if pushed, but even they prefer to stay in the more hospitable timber on the edge.

I started into this patch of timber at the edge, sure there were deer bedded in the area, I walked slowly and carefully into the wind. The cold wind blew tears into my ears as I approached the top of the hill. Four deer were just over the crest lying next to a fallen tree. The tree blocked the wind for them and they could see the entire timber that dropped away from their bedding area. They were about 30 yards away and appeared to be a mature doe, her two fawns from this spring, and a reasonable sized buck.

Since the buck was not huge, I decided to take the doe. It would help control the deer population and she looked fat and tasty. A large rose bush partially blocked my shooting lane to the doe. I had an open shot at the buck but was confident I could move closer and to my left to get a clear shot at her.

The buck and doe were oblivious to my presence but one of the fawns spotted me on my next step. She jumped up and ran toward the Dark Woods with white tail flagging. In an instant, the other three deer were up and heading away.

Returning to the truck, I felt the satisfaction of having stalked into range of deer, even if I did not take a shot. I also had the satisfaction knowing it was a lot warmer in the truck and even nicer back at the house.

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