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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Hunt - coulda, would, shoulda

The Halloween Hunt's weather conditions: The predawn temperature was in the mid 30's with the barometric pressure holding steady at 30.07. Sunrise was listed at 8:03, which means that legal light started in at 7:33am. High's for the day would reach into the mid 50's. Winds were out of the NNW between 5 to 15 mph with a few gusts closer to 20 mph. Game saw: 4 deer (a 9 point buck, 3 does) and 284 squirrels.

There are so many factors that roll into the overall challenge of bow hunting. Everything is a decision, and you own and become responsible for each and every decision that you make. Everything, from what time you set the alarm clock to sound off, to what time you decide to head home and call the finish of a hunt. Bow hunting is about studying the intimate details of everything around you, and understanding why things happen, and even more so, what causes things to happen. There are signs everywhere in nature, pay attention, but don't get distracted.

Case in point with regards to distraction, squirrels. The little bastards have a way of turning the morning silence of the woods into a fury of fur flying through the fallen leaves, sounding like what my mind thinks and hopes should be a herd of deer charging towards my tree. I look slowly over to where the noise originates from, and yup, squirrels. Little dirty bastard squirrels. I'm starting to hate 'em. Chipmunks too. They're even worse, and possibly ranked a tad high on the bastard scale. How can something as small as chipmunk or squirrel make so much noise, yet something the size of a whitetail deer can slip silently from behind you, and appear out of the thin air?

That's pretty much what happened with this deer this morning....


As the distraction of the squirrels held my attention, the buck sauntered in from behind me and over my left shoulder. As I caught movement, my eyes shifted away from the bastard squirrels and onto this deer. My bow was in hand already, arrow nocked, I quickly attached my release to the string loop and looked him over. He's standing broadside at 20 yards, nose to the ground probably smelling where another deer had walked through sometime before him. Suddenly everything shifts from being distracted to becoming extremely focused, tunnel vision. In an instant it can all be over.

The thoughts speed though my head as the whole thought process begins. Do I want him? Should I shoot? Are his antlers wider than his ears? He's got a split G2 on his left beam, should I shoot? When his head moves behind the next tree and obstructs his vision I can draw. He's going to take a step. Get ready. Do I want him? Is he the buck I want to wrap my tag around? Or do I want to eat tag soup by letting this guy walk, and possibly not getting this close to a shooter the rest of the season. There are several more mature bucks on the farms I'm hunting. This guy still has the body of a young buck. Should I shoot? He's walked closer and is within 10 yards. Now standing quartering away with his eyes directed away from me. I can draw back, let the arrow fly right through the boiler room, and stick it into the dirt on the opposite side of his rib cage. Dead deer walking....

And still walking. Walking away toward the edge of the winter wheat field where he stops and checks the wind. Everything checks out, as he walks out of the woods, onto the field edge where he freshens a scrape, working the licking branch with his forehead and antlers. My heart is still pumping from the close encounter. From the decision making process that flies through your head at mach 1. I decided to pass. It just didn't feel like he was the one, at least not today. He needs at least another year to grow, to mature some more, to develop into something just a little bit more than what he is today.

Was it a good decision or a bad one? Who knows, but who cares. It's my choice, my hunt, my season, my decision. Only time will tell, as November moves in, if I get another opportunity like the one experienced this morning. I certainly hope I do.

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