Thursday, December 31, 2009

Late Season in the Pennsylvania Woods

With the temperature outside hovering near freezing and snow pouring from the sky, it was time to take my bow and head to the timber. I love hunting with snow on the ground. The opportunity to read tracks and other evidence of wildlife activity fascinates me. Something about the wet falling snow makes the experience even more appealing.

Today, I crossed the track of a fairly large deer deep in a red brush thicket. The track was only an hour or two old and I knew it was a buck by the size of the track and the telltale dragging of his feet. I back-tracked to see what the deer had been up to earlier in the day (hint: to learn about undisturbed wildlife patterns, follow tracks backwards. It's unlikely you will see the animal, but you will get an uncensored version of the day's events without spooking the animal). After only about 50 yards of back-tracking, the trail took me to a bed in the snow where the deer had been since early that morning. It was snowing hard and the tracks leading into the bed were all but gone... so I turned around and began to carefully follow the track in the "right" direction.

I moved slowly... taking a few steps... then pausing to watch and listen. I found a bedding area I wasn't aware of, several giant buck rubs, and stopped to photograph a few of the rubs and tracks for my reference files. Of course, while I was screwing around with the camera and taking the shots you see here, I was a little preoccupied. I was just putting the lens cap back on the camera when I could see deer moving nearly 100 yards away. I tucked the camera away as quickly as I could, ducked into a small brush pile, and knocked an arrow. I could only see a glimpse of a deer from time to time moving out in front of me. They weren't getting any closer, so I got my grunt call out and gave a few soft grunts. I could see one of the deer clearly and it stopped to look. I knew they heard me, so I put the call away and waited.
It didn't take long. One by one, the three deer worked their way through the thick brush a filed past at less than 15 yards. First a big doe, then a nice 6-point, and finally a small spike. None were deer I wanted (or for that matter, could legally shoot), so I let the pass unmolested. Yet there is something indescribably satisfying about successfully calling in a deer... any deer.

No comments: