Sunday Morning Hunting Adventure
Back in October, while playing the 'deer spot lottery', I scratched off my ticket and found a beautiful spot! Jackpot! As you can imagine, it really didn't happen that way. With the help of a couple of of friends we located a spot for me to try to fill my archery tag. It's an archery only area that is incredibly beautiful and full of wildlife.
Two Saturdays ago we had all planned on heading up there and doing some hunting. The nasty cough and congestion that gripped my chest had other plans and I had to cancel. I am not one to cancel. Ever. That is unless I can't function properly. I knew there was no point in going out when having a cough that would spook everything in earshot. So I called everyone and canceled. I could hear the disappointment in their voices, but also the concern. Fast forward one week. Cough is still there, but mostly when I am indoors and darn it, I wanted to hunt! Plans were made and only one other guy could make it. My excitement grew, but I also knew I had my work cut out for me. This particular gentleman had never hunted deer before.
I parked on the street and waited for him to arrive. When he arrived and got out of his car I was beyond dismayed. He stepped out in plain clothes, no camo, and smelled strongly of fabric softener. I was beyond bummed, but we were there and I had a plan. I had to work with what God gave me for that day and we ventured into the woods.
The hike was steep and tested every muscle in my legs. We knew we were running late because we could see the sun peeking over the ridgeline. Our pace quickened. We continued our hike when we spotted another hunter coming off a trail where I wanted to go. I wasn't happy, but I was optimistic. I didn't want to go in where this guy was, but my second set of eyes pleaded we head in to glass. (You see, we had seen deer in there before and I am certain he wanted to see if they were there again). We hiked in, got set up on a high spot and started to glass. It wasn't five minutes and I spotted a buck along the very top of a ridge. Unfortunately, he was 3/4 of a mile away and up a steep rock face. My sidekick wanted to get right after him, but we waited and we glassed. We waited some more and I spotted the other two hunters going up a steep hill to where the buck was. Then I spotted buck #2 near the first buck. I explained that we wanted to wait to see what the other hunters were going to do because they could do our work for us. For every deer you see, I said, there are ten that you don't. Twenty minutes into their stalk on the bucks, they crested the lower hill and five doe kicked out on the opposite side. We watched them meet up with three other doe and they went up to the highest point on a hillside. It would be a mile hike just to get to them and a hike up the hill to try a stalk. Today was not the day for that.
We picked up and headed further down into the hills and ran into some hikers. They were very cordial, as were we, and we joked for a minute before they continued on. One gentlemen and his dog came walking up to us and although I was dreading a confrontation, I just smiled and said, 'Good morning.' Not only did he repeat it back, but he pointed us to a spot where he had just seen a doe earlier. Right on! It was a nice change from what I was expecting. Not all hikers and locals are anti's and it pays to be friendly. Sometimes it's tough to get that out of your head.
We hiked further in to get a better look at the hillsides, but the tree growth was too much to see through. Wanting to see what my options were, I walked down the base of the hill, alone, to see if there were any openings to hike up the hill. There were none and I knew we weren't exactly close to where I really wanted to be. I turned around and looked up the opposite hill. In the clearing there were four does moving down the hill. A quick game plan was discussed and we ventured up the trail. Halfway to our destination, my spotting buddy couldn't make it up the hill and needed to stop. It was very steep and if I were in his position I would have done said the same thing. My frame of mind was different though. I had the weapon and the tag, so my adrenaline kicked in and I hoofed it up the hill hard and fast. I got one hundred yards into my hike and started sucking wind. I took a twenty second break and continued on in full-force.
When I reached the trail where I knew the deer had come down I took notice of my surroundings. I nocked an arrow, walked towards a clump of trees and peered carefully into the woods. In an excited burst, one of the deer took off forty yards from me, but I saw only her. Where were the other three? Had they gone ahead of her? I searched for five minutes and that's when I heard it. The crackle of leaves, a breaking branch and a rocks tumbling off a hillside. As I turned to look, she was already on the trail walking toward me at around fifteen yards! I slowly turned to get in position for a shot when I stepped on a leaf. It sounded like a gunshot going off. Everything around stopped moving. The doe was only ten yards away at this point and she knew something wasn't right. She looked directly at me, decided I was something she didn't want to get closer to and bounded off down into a flat. She stopped around seventy yards, broadside and just watched me. For a full two minutes she didn't move. Neither did I. When she did turn, I rotated my body to get a shot at something coming out where she appeared. I waited and waited, but nothing did come out, so I made my way back. It was exciting and wonderful! Sure, didn't get the shot, but it was the closest I have been to a SoCal deer, during hunting season in three years!
I will say that all of the deer we saw looked VERY healthy and well fed. No ribs were showing and their coats were very shiny. That is a good sign for our deer population.
On our hike out of the woods, we discussed what we'd need to do for the next hunt. We didn't see any more deer on the way to the trail head, but the mile hike back out was still a good walk. It felt good to be outdoors, even with a heavy chest and cough. For my next hunt I will have to put on my hiking boots, eat my Wheaties, and suck it up. Is it sick to say that I can't wait? Nope. It's going to be fantastic!