Prepping for the season
Got a call the other day. It was from my friend and hunting buddy Dave. “Time to fire up Ol’ Blue and do some brush hogging. Times 'a wastin',” he said. “Ol Blue” is our mutual friend’s farm tractor and it’s a brute of a machine. With four-wheel drive, there are few places on the farm where it can’t go. Our friend is gone now and his wife still lives on the property, so every July Dave and I take it upon ourselves to mow the back fields, edges and old logging roads on the farm that would revert to nature if we didn’t intervene. It’s amazing how quickly the autumn olive, sumac and multiflora rose bushes begin to take over, and if they weren’t mowed every summer we would be hard-pressed to see deer, much less get a shot at one in our traditional bowhunting sites.
So despite the heat, sun and bugs, I met Dave at the barn and together we hitched the large brush hog attachment to the back of “Ol' Blue." Dave drove and I followed the old trail up the hill in my pickup. Dave drove the tractor around the field edges while I removed the overhanging branches from the trees at the field edge with my chainsaw. It didn’t take long before realizing I may be getting too old to do this anymore. For a brief moment – okay, make that a long moment – I even wondered if maybe it was time to let nature have her way with the place. Despite my reservations I cowboyed up and continued with our work.
Past “Sure Kill,” “Pond View,” “Christmas Trees,” “Acorn,” and “Far Right” we went. These were the names we gave to some of the stands on the property. Later we would get to “Chicken Guts,” “Far Left,” “Triangle,” “Gold Pile”, “Smiley Rock,” “Broken Leg,” “Tire Stand,” “Lunch Room” and “Hollow Beech.” After hunting the farm for more than 40 years we knew the places where we would likely see deer and named them appropriately.
As Dave turned the tractor toward “Sure Kill” my enthusiasm for our project began to pick up. Sure Kill is one of my favorite bowhunting stands in either New York or Pennsylvania. I couldn’t design a better location if I tried. Behind the stand is a wild apple tree which attracts deer like a magnet attracts iron filings. In front of the stand is a small pond the deer frequently use for a quick drink before heading uphill past the stand to the corn field above. Along the way to the corn field is a row of red and white oak trees, and in the years they produce acorns I see a lot of deer. Last season I saw as many as five bucks feeding on the apples behind my stand. Admittedly, they were yearling deer and not one was bigger than a five-point, so I was content on watching them feed and I never picked up the bow.
As I stood at the base of my favorite white pine tree waiting for Dave, Sure Kill was about 15 feet above me, so I checked to see if it was still solid. I made it from pressure-treated wood secured by galvanized lag bolts, and by doing so I reasoned the wood wouldn’t rot and the bolts wouldn’t rust, making it among the safest stands on the property. As I waited for Dave to turn the corner, I looked up at the apple tree behind me and my heart sank a little. The tree that brought in deer like a magnet last year was devoid of apples and it was clear I wasn’t likely to see as many this fall as I did last year. I was disappointed but not discouraged, and I knew the stand was still a good one because the small pond would still be a draw. Maybe one of those bucks I saw last year survived last hunting season and maybe he’ll be back this October. Anyway, if nothing else, the grass will be cut.