It was the second afternoon of the 2003 November rifle deer season. I trudged my way up the mountain a little after noon. The band I was in at the time had a gig the night before, cutting the previous day short, and starting this one late. On a side note, I no longer play gigs during deer season.
I met up with Dad on a skid road. As I only had a few hours to hunt, I decided not to travel too far and settled on a ground blind built into some ledges, overlooking a pretty hardwood stand. A well-traveled deer trail ran from my immediate left out in front of me, giving me an easy shot at any buck that may utilize it. Dad headed off to a spot about 200 yards away, agreeing to meet me in the skid road at dark.
It wasn’t long into my sit, maybe 15 minutes, that I heard footsteps in the dry, crunchy leaves. In a split second, two adult does made their way just as advertised, along the deer trail. They picked their way through, stopping to grab a few acorns from the oaks that sporadically dotted the landscape, before moseying off toward Dad’s direction.
The next few hours were nothing to write home about. I made friends with a small mouse that kept popping up through the leaves to get a closer look at me. He would disappear into the forest floor before working up the courage to take another look. We played this game a few times before he tired of it. Squawking blue jays cut off the sweet sounds of the songbirds, almost as to say they were not a fan of their performance. A lone chipmunk busied himself with gathering nuts, no doubt preparing for the long winter that was on the horizon.
At about 4:15 PM, with around 20 minutes or so left of daylight, my afternoon siesta was interrupted by a cadence of footfalls in the leaves coming from directly behind me. In the ledges I was sitting in, there was a gap in the rocks that allowed me to see anything coming from the rear. I slowly turned and saw an adult doe with her nose to the ground, looking for her early dinner. Behind her was a young fawn, maybe 60 pounds.
It was the young deer who realized something was amiss, as her mother was too busy feeding her face. The fawn was glaring directly at me, understanding that there was something there that shouldn’t be. She would lower her head and quickly pick it up, hoping to get me to flinch. A savvy hunter, I was having none of that. She changed tactics and started stomping, again to get me to jump. It didn’t happen. There is nothing cuter than a deer this small stomping at you. She must have done this 15 or more times. I couldn’t help myself and let out a soft chuckle. The deer and her mama fled the scene.
A hunter does not need to fill a tag to have a successful hunt. Some of my favorite moments in the wilderness are of encounters such as this. The woods are full of amazing creatures to see and sounds to hear. This little girl and her antics have stuck with me for more than 18 years.