October 24, 2021
It was a brisk 25 degrees as my boy and I trudged through the front door and to the trusty Jeep. It was Youth Hunting Weekend, and we were on the prowl for his first ever whitetail. A mere 45-minute drive and we would be heading up into the sweet mountains of peace and serenity.
My son is 12 years old. He passed his hunter safety requirements during the Covid jail sentence that was the summer of 2020. This would be his second youth weekend. We were interested in a buck only, as we do not shoot does in my family (just a family thing).
I chose this mountain for several reasons. First, the temperature was to get up to 60 degrees later in the day, severely cutting down on deer movement. This meant that our best chance at seeing anything was to wander through the woods and try to bump something. This leads into the second reason why I chose here, and that is the fact that the mountain is huge and doesn’t receive any hunting pressure, reducing the possibility that we would push a deer onto someone else. The final reason was that by being on the move, my boy would not get bored.
The plan was to walk along an old trail, stopping to sit when we got tired. As I have hunted this mountain on and off for more than 30 years, I was aware that we could go for miles and hunt this way. The plan also allowed us to dress lightly, which is much more conducive to this style of hunting.
We started up an old wood road that tested our cardiovascular limits right away. Sweat quickly began to form on our foreheads and even through our light attire. Each rise was met with a forgiving shelf which we utilized to catch our breath. I cursed myself for the pepperoni pizza that I indulged in the prior evening.
Thankfully, we cut into the woods and perpendicularly sideswiped the growing incline for a while. We reached a spot where my dad had shot several bucks over the years. I took the time to show my boy, careful to explain the key details of deer hunts from years gone by. The woods had grown a little thicker over time, limiting the range of vision we used to enjoy.
We meandered past Dad’s spot and into a flat that was thick with green ferns. This was a nice place to sit down. The boy and I grabbed a seat up against a yellow birch and dug in. My grandfather’s old 35 Remington was nestled across his lap. The squirrels and blue jays kept us occupied for approximately a half an hour. Before setting off, we pulled our water bottles out of the back of my hunting vest and each of us took a swig. My bottle was blue, his red.
It was time to move again. We crossed a small brook that cascaded down the mountain, inspiring us to delay our march just long enough to take in the beauty. Immediately after cresting the gulley, we came across a scrape that was made by a buck, the first telltale sign that the rut was approaching. I showed my son the licking branch and did my best to explain why male deer behave a certain way this time of year.
A short hike through some hardwoods revealed what I was already aware of but pleased to see some confirmation. A huge buck rub on a tree. As this is the big woods in my state, I was cognizant of the fact that large, mature bucks roam this mountain. We studied the main rub and noticed the pieces of bark that were torn off by the secondary antlers a little higher on the tree. The slight coloration told me this was probably made a few weeks ago in an utmost effort to eliminate the velvet from the horns.
Our juices flowing a little, we made our way toward the walking trail. Here, we would creep along, with the trail providing us ample opportunity to sneak above a downward valley to our right, with a significant flat area on the left. This would give us the rest of the day to hunt just the way we wanted to.
Unfortunately, given the unseasonably warm temperatures for late October, the leaves had barely detached themselves from its trees. Once on the trail, the woods choked with the blinding of green and yellow leaves, rendering any sneak and peek attack useless. After walking about a quarter mile, all hope for this trail was lost and we turned around.
Tired, we found a flat spot with some visibility and sat down. It was getting quite toasty now, way too warm for chasing an immobile and unwilling opponent. This sit lasted about 15 minutes before we decided to move again. My son asked for his water bottle and was wide-eyed when he couldn’t produce it out of my vest. I removed the vest and laid it flat on the ground. Reaching around, I pulled out my water bottle, along with irrelevant gloves and scarves. No red water bottle.
This little setback determined our way back to the truck. We sauntered past the big buck rub, through the hardwoods, around the scrape, and across the brook, back to the ferns just above Dad’s old stand. Amazingly, poking out of the leaves right where we first sat was the bottom of a bright red water bottle. We laughed at our experience and decided that was enough for one day. There was little excitement or anything in the way of an adrenaline rush on this day, however, none of that really matters. I got to spend a quiet half day in the woods with my best friend.