Deer season has ended. I’m tired and could stand to catch up on some things around the house, say nothing about a few extra hours of sleep. Technically, I don’t need to be in the woods again until May 1, the spring turkey hunting opener. Deer season for me doesn’t start again until the middle of November. However, anyone who knows me understands that staying away will not be possible.
Alas, Dad and I went to the woods this past weekend. I had a few trail cameras wanted to check, as well as look for places to hang up others. One can learn an awful lot by getting out there immediately after the season. For starters, while the hunters have all but disappeared, the deer are still on high alert and are utilizing their well-hidden deer trails and bedding areas. Finding such areas gives me a leg up on planning for next year. If the secrets worked well for the deer this year, they’ll fall back on them again next season.
In addition, the snow has not yet forced the deer to go completely into their yarding mode. In fact, the ground was bare when I walked into the woods and the snow began to fall about an hour into my adventure. They will be feeding in normal places like the oaks, fields, and simple browsing sites. While the tracks they put down will mostly be from nighttime feeding adventures, it will give us an idea of what is out there.
I checked my cameras and did not see anything that knocked my socks off. A few does have been feeding on a still-active stand of oaks where I have one camera set. It is nice to see that they feel comfortable enough to head there in the daylight. If these trees have acorns next year, this would be a nice spot to potentially hang a tree stand.
I didn’t get any pictures of bucks this week, including the big guy that is in the area. While disappointing, I know they are around. More importantly, I was able to spend a couple of hours with my dad, doing what we love doing the most. With the way the world is today, sometimes the little things like a quiet outing in the wilderness is all it takes to refuel the strength it’s going to take to make it through another week. Never underestimate the significance of a simple walk in the woods.
As I saunter into the sterile office building
My eyes fixate
On that lone distant softwood tree
Way up on that mountaintop
Not a care in the world
Almost reaching out to me
Calling me up yonder
I stare up at that tree every morning
And wish I could accept its invite
Tracking whitetail bucks is a method of deer hunting like no other. The idea is to locate a track and determine the sex of the deer, the size of the deer, and the age of the track. Once the track has been deemed appropriate to follow, the hunter must match wits, will, and engage in a battle of endurance against the beast on his home turf. Vermont’s Larry Benoit, patriarch of the famous Benoit hunting family, is often credited with revolutionizing the art of buck tracking, and his book, How to Bag the Biggest Buck of Your Life, originally published in 1974, is considered the classic read of the genre.
Becoming a successful buck tracker, like anything else, not only requires extreme practice and preparation, but also a keen understanding of the animal itself. Benoit leads the book off with an extensive tutorial on the trophy buck, his mannerisms, his personality, and how the deer has mastered pure day to day survival. Furthermore, Benoit provides a convincing reason as to why hunters should pursue these giants and not settle for smaller deer.
Much of the outcome of a hunt or a season is determined well before opening day. For instance, you most certainly cannot track a buck all day for days on end if you aren’t able to walk across the street without huffing and puffing. Benoit lectures the reader to not smoke, drink too much, or become overweight. He explains the importance of being in shape for the woods, able to maneuver stealthily around blowdowns and other obstacles without making a sound.
Benoit dedicates time to outline important equipment, such as proper firearms and ammunition. While he used a peep sight, he relents to say that hunters can use a scope, provided it is light. More importantly, Benoit warns against bringing too much stuff into the woods, weighing the hunter down, which acts as a hindrance to the objective of traveling miles for that one specific buck.
Preparation is key, however, there is plenty to know once the hunter sets foot into the woods. The hunter must be able to read tracks to avoid following a deer that was there three days prior. He/she must know when to go quickly on a track, as to not lose ground, and when to slow down and sneak, as to not bump the deer. In addition, there is a skill to shooting at a buck that most likely will see you and bolt before you ever lay eyes on him. Benoit gives us his expert opinion as well as a taste of his personal experiences that dealt directly with these make-or-break matters. The most fascinating aspect of the book is how he recaps the hunt that took 13 days to close the deal.
I know a lot of deer hunters. Most, like myself, are sitters, who may still hunt a little. Many, like myself, have a fascination with tracking and may not have the courage or the knowledge to take the method up. How to Bag the Biggest Buck of Your Life, although written nearly 50 years ago, is certainly not outdated, and can give those hunters on the fence the one necessary boost to give it a go.
Oh, the view from my mountaintop
Exquisite and grand
Satisfying to say the least
The valley below under my feet
My little three room oasis at my back
Breakfast on a rock
Just off the front porch
Neighbors are the songbirds that dare live so high
Blue sky and subtle white clouds at eye level
Bow a little to see lush green
The snow up here is a little deep
The wind a little abrasive
But that’s okay
Seven short steps to my fireplace
That sweet fragrance of burning wood
Crackling as it performs its duty
I’ll do a little writing today
Maybe head out later for a nature photo shoot
Perhaps I’ll paint the distant mountains beyond
Or author a new tune on my acoustic
Definitely get in an afternoon siesta
Lots of choices and opportunities today
Just like yesterday
And the day after
It’s peaceful here; Nary a human voice hits my eardrums; Only the fabulous songbirds and the occasional chirping of a chipmunk; It’s okay, though; We can coexist up here
Gentle slopes and charming wood lots; Rolling hills and sun drenched meadows; A calm, quiescent brook babbles in the not too distant; I sit here often and soak it all in
It wasn’t always this way; Our descendants experienced here quite differently; Cracks of musket fire and roaring of cannons once drowned out the songbirds of the day; Large trees reduced to rubble; Craters filled the hillsides; Limbs blown off, lifelessness strewn across the meadow; The desperate shrieking of young boys dying in the background forever to haunt those who were just out of harm’s way; When the dust settled, those who were left had to grieve for their fallen comrades all the while carrying them piece by piece off the battlefield
I sit here often and soak it all in; How many took their last breath underneath the rock upon which I sit? How many souls are forever stuck here in their personal hell, a place I come to for peace and tranquillity? How ironic…..
I love the woods. It’s a year round pleasure for me; Hiking, hunting, just clearing my mind; It’s the serenity and peace and quiet I look forward to the most
I don’t always have an agenda in the woods; Does one really need it? Sometimes I go just to sit and listen
You never know what you might see in the woods; A deer, a bear, somedays the shape of a tree or the odd formation of a rock will suffice
Is there a good acorn crop this year? Beechnuts? Berries? There’s always something to find out in the woods
The woods are where I’ve learned the most from my dad; He learned from his dad; I hope to pass the knowledge down to my son; Teach him that there is much more to life than deadlines, appointments, competitive sports, and video games
Many a man or woman have asked me the question, “How can you go out in the woods and just sit there all day?” To which I answer, “How can I not?”