November 10, 2013

Hunting: A time for patience

A hunter gets rewarded when deer are moving.

By Bob Humphrey

After 2 1/2 days of very slow action, the whole gang was pretty down. Only one of the seven hunters had a deer on the pole, which is pretty good for Maine. We were in Ohio and from the trail camera photos, we knew the potential but weren’t realizing it.

It was my annual trek to Fox Hollow Farms in southeast Ohio for a writer hunt. But the warm weather was putting a damper on deer movements and spirits in camp. After two full days and a morning in my favorite blind seeing little more than does and small bucks, I decided it was time for a change in location.

Tim Dehn of Arrowtrade magazine had killed an eight-pointer. It was only 2:30 p.m., way too early for deer to be moving.

My afternoon passed much more uneventfully. With a good hour of daylight remaining I wasn’t discouraged, and was soon rewarded when a buck appeared in the food plot I watched over. He was a 2 1/2-year old eight point, not a shooter, but bigger than anything I’d seen to that point. He fed for a while, then slowly made his way up the ridge in front of me. He was still in sight when a second buck appeared. This one was bigger and tempting.

He didn’t linger long, instead joining his partner on the hill. I pulled out a grunt call and blew a couple alluring notes but they showed no interest. But a third, larger buck suddenly burst from cover glaring in my direction. “This is it,” I thought, and replaced the call with my TenPoint crossbow.

Nope. He turned and started away. Down went the bow and up came the call; he paid no attention as he wandered up the hollow.

My ride never arrived so I hiked back to camp, along the way encountering a cluster of ATVs and people. Bob Banks and Jack Weber had shot bucks out of the same Banks blind. The illuminated nocks of their arrows glowed a few feet apart, still stuck in the dirt. And when I asked, “Where’s Brian?” the answer came that Sabrina Simon from TenPoint had just killed an eight point. I was overwhelmed with emotion. Four bucks in a few hours. They were finally moving but odds of a fifth seemed pretty long.

All the same I set out the next morning expecting it to be more of a scouting mission for the afternoon hunt. It started slow with just a couple does. When one seemed particularly interested in something off to the right, I peeked out the window and saw a nice buck 100 yards away. “Shooter.” The word popped into my head without hesitation. But he quickly vanished into the woods. With the doe at 15 yards, a call would do more harm than good.

Then she looked up again. Peeking out the side window I saw the buck had re-emerged, closer and closing the distance. Up came the crossbow just as the deer appeared in my window, broadside at 35 yards. I was applying pressure on the trigger when he made a sudden right turn, positioning him directly away. No shot. I held on him anyway and when he turned farther to the right offering a quartering-away shot I wasted no time. The arrow hit vitals and the deer bolted.

Later, while standing over the fallen beast, I was incredulous at how quickly fortunes had turned. Five trophy-class bucks taken in less than 24 hours after days of very slow activity.

That’s hunting. Hours turn into agonizingly long days when the deer aren’t moving. Then something happens, be it weather, temperature, barometric pressure or the alignment of stars. I’ve seen it before, never quite so dramatic, but I’ll store the memory of that hunt to help me through the many long hours that lie ahead.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

bhunt@maine.rr.com.

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