Reflecting on a slow season

When I first checked my trail cameras in mid-September I was confident it was going to be a good hunting season – a really good hunting season. During archery season I like hunting areas with soft mast like on my friend’s farm, and most apple trees were loaded with apples. To make things even better, the wild pear tree that stands 20 yards from one of my stands was loaded, and if there’s one thing deer like more than apples, it’s pears. By the time October rolled around I was stoked.

I had some really nice deer show up in the weeks prior to the season opener and fully expected one to show up in the weeks ahead. I was wrong. Despite the availability of the wild fruit the only deer I saw were does with their fawns. A small, really small, four-point showed up one night in mid October but I opted to wait. Surely one of the big boys would appear sooner or later, but once again I was mistaken.

Archery season closed and I traded my bow for a rifle. I decided unless a real wallhanger came sneaking past my stand I wouldn’t shoot any deer until my grandson showed up for the Thanksgiving holiday. The first two hours of opening day I sat watching a harvested corn field, fully expecting deer to come running across the field to the sanctuary of a thick grove of spruce trees. But none did. Very little early shooting told me others weren’t having much better luck, so I headed to the lower woods to sit and wait for something to happen. An hour later I spotted a small buck walking along an old trail and an hour after that a flicker of a tail alerted me to a doe standing in the beech slash about 90 yards downhill. The rest of the day was uneventful and not a single deer was seen by me or the other seven guys hunting the farm that day. 

Sunday came and, because of the relatively mild temperature, I sat all day, determined not to move from a spot that always had deer passing through. It was another miscalculation because despite my doggedness, nothing showed. Monday and Tuesday were replays of Sunday and I was beginning to get discouraged. The unseasonably warm weather most likely was a factor in the lack of deer sightings, and besides, my grandson was coming Tuesday evening and we could go out Wednesday morning. 

Because of a late arriving flight my son and his family didn’t arrive at our house until the wee hours of the morning, so the plan would be to go out around noon on Wednesday. That worked out well because Luke got up around 9 and immediately asked when we would be heading to the farm. I packed a lunch and some hot chocolate for him and we were prepared to remain for the rest of the afternoon. 

On the way into our stand I showed Luke how to tell the difference between red and white oak trees, showed him a lone tree rub I found the day before and where I watched a small buck make a scrape on the last day of archery season. Before we sat down I showed him how to recognize a hemlock tree from a white pine and what beech trees looked like. He loved it.  We went out the next two afternoons but never saw a deer. It didn’t matter because it was clear Luke just loved being there. He never fidgeted, never said “let’s move” and never complained. The kid has the makings of a deer hunter. It’s just too bad he lives so far away. 

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