I love opening days. It's not just the rituals of preparation - washing clothes, organizing the pack, airing out my API climber, choosing lures and calls - it's knowing that across this state, and in many other states across the country, my friends are doing the same things. During the year I'm in touch with them through phone calls and emails; but on opening day, I get a huge kick out of knowing that we've all parked our butts in tree stands and even though we may be miles and states apart, we're all hopefully waiting for daylight.
I should be sleeping with my Mathews Switchback, that's how in love with it I am. My sight pins have never been so close together and I can't wait to break it in on a Pennsylvania whitetail.
And then for two days, I don't see any deer. (picture of bow and empty woods) I'm used to this though. I am the unluckiest hunter I know. If there's a twig to snap, I'll step on it. If there's a mud puddle anywhere around, especially one stinking with primal sludge, I'll fall into it. If there's a sliver-like branch between my stand and a deer, my arrow will clip it.
And how about this one - last year, after sneaking within thirty yards of a huge bull elk, I slipped and fell over a branch hidden in the snow. I landed on my bow, and broke every stinking arrow in my quiver. Fortunately a saner head prevailed, and Montana elk guide Cody Carr prevented what would have certain tragic consequences when he wrestled my two-inch gutting knife from my clenched fingers and kept me from charging a rut-raged bull elk.
Anyway, I'm unlucky. I'm so unlucky that although I don't buy lottery tickets, if there are two lines in a convenience store I'll always get behind the person who is buying twenty of them. Without fail in a grocery store I'm the one behind the person who needs a price check. Why should my hunting be any different?
On opening day in Pennsylvania, my two hunting buddies saw a total of 14 deer; I saw zero. The next day, Sunday (no Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania), I took my dog Josey Wales to a hunting preserve for some training and we were four-for-four on birds. But in the interest of honesty I'll have to point out that the birds couldn't or wouldn't fly, and had to be thrown into the air to be shot, and that I only shot one of them while my friend shot three.
Sonny, Brianna and Jose Wales
On Monday, we hunted morning and afternoon. My friends were losing count of how many deer they were seeing, and I of course still hadn't seen one. At about ten a.m. on Tuesday morning, as I sat again deer-sightless in my stand, hunting buddy Mike Turnitza boosted my spirits when he called my cell phone to tell me about the doe he'd gotten Monday night.
Mike had just started shooting Grim Reapers, and it was his first try with expandable broad heads. He said that the deer only went about forty yards, and although he hadn't had to blood trail it, the appearance of the blood trail made it seem as if the doe had been shot with a 300-mag rifle.
I'd had good experiences with the Grim Reapers, and had taken a Texas cull buck and a rattlesnake. The only bad thing I could say about the Grim Reapers is that if you shoot a coiled rattlesnake with one, you won't even be able to make a hat band out of it, since it will be diced into several pieces.
At nearly 11 a.m. Tuesday morning, I didn't expect to see anything; after all, I'd been whispering on my cell phone and packing up my stuff. And then wonder of wonders, I saw a doe head as she stepped out of a thick area to my right.
And then all of the sudden lucky stuff started happening. I managed to get to my feet without squeaking my boots, turn without getting tangled in my safety rope, and get drawn on the deer without her seeing me. And she very cooperatively continued up the hill and stopped next to a log I'd hit with my little Nikon rangefinder and knew was exactly 27 yards. Because of my height in the tree and her location on the hill, it was practically a flat shot.
I hit the trigger and the doe made a few crow hops and stopped, still high on the hill and now straight in front of me. I bent under the branch cover and watched her spread her front legs in a brace and then fall over and roll a little down the hill. I saw later that the Grim Reaper had cut a rib going in and continued straight out the other side, between two ribs, where it left a pleasantly-gaping hole.
Yes! Grim Reaper = Sudden Death.
Wednesday, I didn't see any deer. Thursday, I didn't see any deer. But, I'd been at the Thursday spot on Tuesday, and made a scrape using the MDR granular scent called Early Buck. On Thursday I was pumped to see that deer had hit my scrape, which is 19 yards from the tree I climb. A deer had also opened a scrape directly under the tree - where I'd accidentally put my bare hands on the ground (yes, if you must know, I tripped in some ferns and fell with my climber on my back) and then sprinkled some of the Early Buck over the spot to cover my scent.
My mock scrape courtesy of MDR turns real
So I don't know, now I'm feeling kind of lucky. It's only the first week of October, and my fake scrape has quickly become real. I may even buy a lottery ticket.
Hunt prep details: After washing my hunting clothes I sprayed outwear with Atsko's Water-Guard before putting them in the dryer. For about $15 you can permanently waterproof two pieces of clothing. Every jacket I have is now waterproof and breathable. It's easy to do, cheap, and lasts as long as your clothes last.
In addition to being unlucky I also have stinky feet. Once, while I was on a backpacking trip I put socks on a rock to dry and a big bird took one - I'm pretty sure the bird thought it was a fish. So I sprinkle the inside of my boots with another Atsko product called N-O-DOR powder. In the off season the same stuff does a good job with fishing waders. Your feet are the closest thing to deer when you're stand hunting.