I climbed into my deer stand on opening day Saturday morning right about at the start of legal shooting hours. In fact, just after settling in, I heard some shots in the distance. Only about 20 minutes later, I saw a deer come out from a tree line about 30 to 40 yards away.
Unlike other years, the first thing I did was look at its head. Usually, I’m trying to get a bead on the vital area (heart and lungs) so I can take a shot. Not this time. The new four-point antler restriction meant I had to determine whether the deer had antlers.
At first, I didn’t see any. Then, the deer jerked its head up and I saw a small rack — too small, in fact. It had two points on one side and three on the other. So, I had to let it walk.
I’m not a trophy hunter, so I normally would shoot a deer like this. But, the trophy hunters in Zone 300 where I hunt made their voices heard, and the DNR established the new rule, which exists in other states.
I wasn’t happy about having to pass up a shot, but I figured maybe a legal deer would show up later.
Later turned out to be only a half hour. I saw and heard movement to my left, and I spotted the head and back of a deer walking along the edge of the corn field in front of my stand. I saw the head through brush and didn’t spot any antlers this time.
Just a few steps later, it cleared the brush and tall grass. Just 20 yards away, it turned its head and looked into the standing corn. I fired, and it did the classic hop of a deer that has been hit in the vitals.
It didn’t go far. I waited for about a half hour, then my brother, Paul, came over and we went to retrieve the deer. After field dressing it, I climbed back into the stand to sit some more. All was quiet until about 11:50, when I heard some crunching in the corn field to my right. I thought it was Paul, as we had agreed he would come over at noon to take over the stand. I hadn’t checked the time in a while, so I figured it must be noon.
But, it went quiet for a little bit, so I figured it wasn’t Paul. Then, I heard it again where the corn field ends and the tree line begins. A moment or two later, a deer’s head popped up through the corn. I saw that it was a doe, so I turned and started to raise my 12-gauge shotgun. As I did so, the deer jerked its head up and looked straight at me.
When I got the scope to my eye, the deer was gone. Then, a few seconds later, I saw it running out the other side of the tree line. There wasn’t a good opening to shoot, so I let it go.
I was a little bummed, but that’s the way deer hunting goes. The first two deer never saw me raise my gun, but this doe seemed more wary than either of those two. Plus, I’m almost certain she smelled me. The wind was blowing straight from me to her.
A whitetail’s nose is very keen, and once they smell you, they usually bolt quickly thereafter. I think the only way I could have gotten that deer is if I had raised my gun right after I heard the noise in the corn. That way, once its head popped up, I would have been on it within a second or two, and with very little movement.
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. The other issue was I wasn’t expecting to see a deer at that time, especially after taking one there at 8:25. But, my stand was on a travel route, so deer move through the area regularly, especially during the rut when bucks are chasing does.
I was hoping that maybe a buck was following that doe and he would pop his head up, but it didn’t happen. Perhaps, this doe was not in heat. Another thing is that, sometimes, bucks just don’t want to come out into the open to intercept a doe. They just wait in the woods until a doe comes back in.
That’s a classic tactic used by older, mature bucks, which is why putting a stand up in the woods can be very effective. Maybe, I can do that next year. In the meantime, I’ve got the rest of this week and this weekend to try and fill my other tag. I’ve got a few ideas. Maybe I can encounter a buck yet.