By Kevin Harrington: Field Director Whitetails Unlimited.
Feb 14, 2007 – 7:10:00 AM
Frankly, the thought of sitting in a windy tree stand while fighting this sinus crap, did not excite me in any way. I knew however, that as soon as I saw any movement, I would forget all about being cold. Adrenalin is funny that way. You can be shivering and internally complaining about the weather, but when you hear a strange noise any thought of being cold quickly escapes your mind.
Mark invited me to hunt with his family two years ago. I had not had an opportunity to deer hunt in Nebraska because I was traveling a great deal, and I did not have any friends with property. My family’s deer hunt was an event held each year in Minnesota, so finding a place to hunt was not a high priority. Mark’s property is, without a doubt, the envy of every deer hunter who knows that it exists. He owns about ninety acres and is the caretaker for about sixty adjoining acres. The deer come from everywhere when the crops are cut. His timber is the only real cover for several miles.
When he called to tell me that his Cuddeback had proof of a monster new buck, I got a twinge of excitement. Mark’s idea of a monster buck is anything scoring 175 plus. His whitetail trophy room is very impressive. By his estimation, the one on the camera was larger than anything he had on the wall. He told me to be at the barn at 3:00 p.m. and he would drive me down to the stand that I had adopted as my own early in the year. While listening to the heavy rush hour traffic from the city interstate that borders his property, it is not uncommon to see 20 to 30 deer each evening. While driving in the field near the stand, several white flags could be seen bounding deeper into cover. I knew they would come back quickly. Ten minutes had passed before Mark called and told me that he was in his favorite stand too.
The BBK two-man stand felt like an old friend as I nestled in to wait. Although the cold December breeze was daunting, I knew that somehow this evening would be special. Within ten minutes, I had several does making their way past me to the long-since harvested bean field. Through thick underbrush, about 80 yards away, I saw him. He was magnificent. He only had his head up long enough for me to see his rack for a moment, and then he continued to chase the doe that had come into her second estrus. I watched their body outlines move from right to left and disappear behind my stand. The tree that holds this stand is a very stout old oak that is difficult to see behind. I knew however that the trail that the monster was on, led directly in a circle that would end 20 yards to my right in a small clearing.
It was only a minute or two, but seemed an eternity when I heard the deer coming from behind me. All season I had numerous animals take this same path, and the waiting was pure torture. All at once, as if shot out of a cannon, six does sprinted by me with their tails signaling a warning. I saw nothing that would have spooked them, so I assumed that an angry buck had sent them on their way. I settled back, hoping that my trophy was still on the path.
Thirty seconds later I heard more deer coming; I waited, becoming more impatient by the breath. The hot doe carried herself differently than the others. Her ears were pinned back, her haunches were slack and her tail continued to wave the scent to her new beau. I knew that he was going to be right behind her. She cleared the shooting area and kept going down the path. I could hear the stomp behind me and the low guttural growl of her suitor. My heart was nearly pumping out of my chest. It was at this point about a month earlier that I was in the same position, and another nice buck did not give me the opportunity to even draw on him. He obviously did not read the script and made one bounce through the clearing and was gone. This time I would be totally ready. He continued to make his way up the trail, and I swear I could hear him breathing. I stood slowly and came to full draw as I turned, still hiding behind the giant oak. It was then that I realized that the sound was getting closer but was almost directly under my stand! There was the grunt again, and I nearly shook the stand loose from the tree.
I knew that I was going to have to take a step to the side and maybe shoot straight down. In one fluid movement I brought the bow over the side of the stand, expecting to see nothing but antlers.
I cannot even begin to express to you the emotions that went through my body when the huge antlers became the sight of a ten-year-old boy sneaking through the woods with a muzzleloader, grunt call, and shooting sticks. I also cannot express the feelings that the young man had when I yelled out of shock. I am certain that he would not be able to cover that scent easily.
Nearly 10 minutes went by before the boy’s father showed up. I told his dad about the emotions that I had about him as a father. This man is the epitome of what makes land owners upset. His excuse for being there is worth repeating. “His father-in-law, who has been dead for two years, had permission from the owner to hunt there.” It was at this point that I immediately felt sorry for the child. If you were to visualize the slob hunter, this guy was your photo. This guy’s ego was now in question in front of his son, so he became incredulous and did not want to leave. The more that we discussed his lack of intelligence, the more I realized just what type of hunter his son would inevitability become.
He had told the young boy to blow on the grunt call and walk around in the woods and try to scare the deer over to him. He was carrying a cooler with sandwiches and beer. He did not care in the least about the danger in which he had placed himself or even his son. I don’t know if the young boy’s gun was even loaded.
At some point the man had decided that he was not going to get a deer that evening and it was time to go. He sauntered off as if he had really scolded me, his son running with the gun to catch up. Although I was angry, the adrenaline rush from the last 30 minutes passed, and I became very sad. I felt like chasing after him and asking permission from this idiot, to show his son proper hunting etiquette.
Needless to say, the hunters who read this probably don’t need the lesson. However, maybe we all need a reminder once in a while about how critical it is to properly mentor our children and their friends. Just imagine a hunting world in which the traditions of trespassing, poaching, and landowner disrespect is actually taught. Unfortunately, that world does exist today. Sure, our conservation and mentoring groups have had a great effect on many lives, but we still lose a few forever. Each of us knows some of these people and we try to distance ourselves from them. Perhaps we should all invite the “slobs” that we know to our next conservation banquet and implore them to get involved with the group. My dad always told me that people become like the people that they hang around. Why not help the slobs go the way of the other dinosaurs by getting them to hang around people like you.
Incidentally, the monster buck is still there, Cuddeback says so!