Sometimes stories are just that, stories. Sometimes stories are based in truth but are textured to create interest for the reader. And sometimes stories are just dead ass true even if they seem unbelievable. The following is a true story that took place in 1993.
It was a drizzly November afternoon and I decided to head out to a deer stand I had put in a very large red oak tree. The six foot wide red oak had to be several hundred years old. About eight feet off of the ground the tree forks into several monster branches, each brawny limb extended laterally thirty to fifty feet. I had lashed a two by four to two of the branches where I could rest my rump. Fortunately the two branches extended out at about a sixty degree angle and another two by four lashed about two feet higher than the first made a perfect place to rest my back as I sat on the lower make shift seat. The two branches in front of you gave you excellent cover and the tree produced a lot of acorns that potentially would attract a nice white tail deer.
I had sat up there on several occasions that year with some moderate success. I had called in a nice doe but she had a fairly young skippy with her. I let her pass on two different occasions but really enjoyed watching her and the little one eat the scattered acorns on the forest floor. I had seen a red fox, a fisher, a skunk that appeared to have distemper, and hundreds of gray squirrels and birds. All in all it was a pretty entertaining spot.
The best part of tree sitting was just enjoying the woods. Brightly colored leaves constantly fell to the forest floor, nuthatches and chickadees picked seeds off of the nearby ironwood trees, and clouds flew by overhead like a freight train to the Atlantic. The leaves scattered about the forest floor created a temporary fabric that was both three dimensional and a reflection of time gone by. Ravens commented on the happenings in the woods with guttural sounds. Time both stood still and raced by as I considered all that surrounded me.
On this day the rain was very light and steady. There was absolutely no breeze. A shallow fog seemed to be settling in from the east on this wooded hill where time and space seemed to intersect. I had a difficult time climbing into the tree on the crude wooden blocks that hung from long ropes tied around the tree. As I tried to climb up I got tangled and while bouncing around the cap came of some dominant buck lure I had in my pocket. A heavy musk permeated the woods as I resumed my climbing. With some effort I reached my perch and hauled up my bow and quiver on a rope that was tied to a nearby branch.
The low pressure area that was likely responsible for the present weather seemed to make the fog stick to the leaf littered forest floor. I sat patiently, occasionally using a grunt call in hopes of attracting a dominant buck.
After about an hour of intermittent calling I heard a distant rustling in the woods. I couldn’t quite a fix on the exact direction, but I felt it was coming from area that was almost directly south of me. The fog thickened with the late afternoon and the visibility was down to less than 100 feet.
I breathed slowly and didn’t move a muscle for about forty minutes. The woods remained quiet. I grunted a few more times with no response. After about twenty minutes I felt confident that whatever has made the noise had disappeared into the thick hardwoods. As I waited my eyes watered and it occurred to me that the spilled buck lure was either going to be a good thing or a bad thing. The potent odor could probably be detected by deer for miles around.
No doubt the potent smell was way over the top.
About thirty minutes later I heard the snap of a twig. Alerted I stood up and watched the landscape to the south. Wafts of fog slowly moved across the ground disguising even the larger trees and nearly obscuring smaller vegetation. I stood still in my oak perch and waited. Patience is the name of the game when hunting white tails. There senses are much keener than ours. Many a good hunter has spooked a winter of venison into the wilds by moving one moment too soon. Great for the deer; not so good for the hunter.
Another thirty minutes passed during which I had returned to the seated position with my bow and arrow ready to draw, aim, and release. Buck lure still permeated the air. To my disappointment the light began to dwindle and I knew it was time for me to get out of my stand.
I tied the bow and quiver into my rope and lowered them to the ground. I had as much difficulty climbing down the rickety wood blocks as I had climbing up them, but with some acrobatics I finally found firm ground with my left boot. My right foot on the ground I decided to clean off the cleats in my boot by scraping them on the rough bark of the giant red oak. As I scraped the boot I heard a loud, fast moving sound behind me.
Spinning around to my right I could barely see a fast moving object crashing through the saplings and shrubs. Narrowing my eyes I caught a quick glimpse of a very large antler, perfectly camouflaged by the surrounding brush. Within a second I got my first good look at a very large buck with immense horns running my way with his head down and ready for combat. No doubt he had mistaken my heavenly smell and boot scraping for an invading buck and his mind was set to drive him off.
I was in a mild state of panic. I reached for my bow only to find it tied up in the knot of the rope that lowered it to the ground. My panic became a little elevated as a cartoon appeared in my head where I was hanging from my feet from a nearby tree as the buck explained to his buddies how he had harvested me. Back to reality, it was either fight or flight and without hesitation I decided flight was the better option. The buck, his head full of horns and still lowered, chased me around the six foot oak tree. I kept as much distance between him and me as I could, but there was no question he was gaining on me. After about three or four laps around the tree I realized that he was mighty close. At the beginning of the merry-go-round he was half way around the tree, now he was breathing down the gap between my pants and my fanny. I altered course and stepped away from the tree, turned around to face my opponent and without any embarrassment or thoughts of sounding like a school girl, I screamed. Not just a little scream, but a great, big, giant, manly scream. The buck stopped in his tracks, lifted his head full of pointy horns and stared at me from a distance of about four feet. At first he had no idea what I was, certainly not another buck, but suddenly his eyes grew to huge white saucers, he snorted two great big streams of steam from his nostrils, and did an about face. He crashed and thrashed through the night woods breaking saplings and sticks, and stumbling over rocks in his hasty exit. As quick as he had arrived he was gone. It was then that I realized I was shaking like a beech leaf in a hard November blow and my breathing was more than irregular.
I could hear the buck make his getaway for nearly a minute. I leaned against the grand old oak wondering just how close of a call I had just really had. As I untied my bow from the rope I wondered if I would have had time to get a shot off if it had been available. I went over the entire incident in my head several times. It was like a story that you read in some crazy hunting magazine. The kind of story that usually begins with the caption “thinning the herd”.
I decided to keep this to myself for a little while; at least until I could bring myself to believe that it actually happened. Sometimes it is a good idea to hold onto a good story for a while. Sometimes it is a better idea to hold onto a story for a long time.
Written for www.wildramblings.com in September 2009.