From buck fever to a wild goose chase

buckfeverWild_goose_chase_by_lipsmack911

The first week of the rifle season in the area near Spencerville, Ontario where my hunting buddies and I sit in our stands during the deer season is over. What a week it was. We hunt on the farm of friends who allow us access. The farm is surrounded by crown land, much of it swamp.  Monday, November 3rd was the opening of the season. The Saturday before Jason, Omer and I put out 800 lbs of apples by Jason’s stand at the edge of a patch of  the swampland. Last season Jason shot a 6 point buck in the first hour on the opening day of the season from his stand. Jason was not with Omer and me for the opening of this season. Omer sat in Jason’s stand–Omer has yet to shoot a deer so we want him to get one this season if possible–I sat in Fran’s (Jason’s wife) stand. Jason and Fran have a four month old daughter, Rose, at home so their hunting opportunities are limited this season. In their absence, Omer and I, with their blessing, sat in their stands. Omer and I were in our stands by 2:00 pm. We sat until the end of legal shooting time, half hour after sunset, and no deer were seen. We heard shooting from the surrounding crown land, so it looked like a good start to the season for some of the deer hunters in the area.

On day two of the season I opted to sit in my stand; it is located just off the farm on a ridge with a mix of hardwood, pine and cedar. I shot my first deer from this stand in 2012. I chose not to sit in my stand on the opening day, because there is a hunt camp situated on the crown land a short distance away and in the previous season this group of hunters came traipsing past my stand without a care in the world during the first week of the season. I thought with all the shooting the day before they may have tagged out and would no longer be a concern. I sat for the afternoon and watched as a ruffed grouse walked across the carpet of leaves. I experienced the familiar tingle of excitement upon hearing red squirrels rustling through the leaves and some chickadees foraging. In the last minutes of shooting time I heard something making its way through the thicket behind my stand. I turned to look, but could not see what it was. Omer was seated in Jason’s stand and saw nothing also.

Day three of the season Omer and I were back at it. Omer set out to Jason’s stand once more and I made my way to my stand. However, just as I was about to climb into my stand I spied a man in blaze orange seated on the ground about 100 yards directly in front of my stand. He must have know my stand was there, but just did not care. I could not very well sit in my stand with him sitting there. It was doubtful any deer would come my way and if one did, I could not shoot with him seated right in front of me. Fine, I hiked back on the farm and to Fran’s stand. I texted Omer to let him know what happened, climbed into Fran’s stand and sat fuming and sinking into a morbid reverie. We will remove my stand from the crown land before next season, hopefully find a spot on the farm well away from this other group of hunters.

As I sat in Fran’s stand, not really paying attention to what was going on around me, I heard a shot from Jason’s stand where Omer was sitting. It was at about 5:00 pm, in the last 15 minutes of shooting time. My heart leapt and I quickly texted Omer to ask if he got a deer. He replied he did not know and as I sat there frantically texting my reply only then did I notice a deer standing to the right of Fran’s stand, about 30 yards. The deer saw me fumbling with my cellphone and made good its escape.

I climbed down and made my way to Jason’s stand to see if Omer had shot the deer. I found Omer consumed with buck fever. He was really pumped. I asked him to tell me how he made the shot. He said he was watching the apple pile, which is situated behind and to the left of Jason’s stand. He heard something approach from in front of the stand and turned his head to see a doe standing 20 yards away. He shifted in position to shoot as stealthily as he could and as he slowly raised his rifle, the stand made a “click” sound. The doe raised her head but he got off a shot, aiming for just behind her front right shoulder. The deer leapt over the brush and was gone into the swamp. I asked him to show me where she was standing when he made the shot and the direction she ran. I searched the area carefully and found no blood or bile. We concluded it was a clean miss. Nothing to be ashamed of, both Jason and I succeeded in missing shots at deer in seasons past on the property.

Day four of the season Omer and I opted to go duck hunting and the stands were left fallow. Day five of the season, Friday, Omer could not make it so I sat in Jason’s stand, hoping lightning would strike a second time with another deer passing at dusk. I heard ducks quacking in the swamp and had a few chickadees fly past me in the stand, but nothing was seen and no more shots were fired in the surrounding crown land. I heard from Jason that a bean field where we hunt Canada geese was finally harvested and the owner said there were geese on the field. Harvest was delayed this season, because of the incessant rain that fell through October. I set up a hunt with Jason’s younger brother, Maurice, for Sunday morning.

Day six of the season, Jason and I set out this time. Omer was away on business in Montreal. We went to my stand to retrieve the trail camera Jason placed there. We checked to see what was caught on camera and as I suspected, no deer were seen, just the hunters from the nearby hunt camp. Jason put the camera up to watch the apple pile and we climbed into the stands: Jason in his and me in Fran’s. A pair of red squirrels engaged in chase ran beneath Fran’s stand and a woodpecker kept me company for a while as I watched and listened. In the last half hour of shooting time as darkness was falling, I heard the footfalls of a deer in the thicket to the left of the stand. I shifted into position quietly and had my rifle ready. A deer stepped out of the thicket, but kept walking, turning around and walking back into the thicket before I could get it in the cross-hairs. It sure was exciting! Jason saw nothing.

Day seven of the season I had high hopes that Maurice and I would get into some Canada geese, but to my dismay, when I got to the bean field out side Russell, Ontario at 5:00 am, I found it was ploughed under, which generally renders a field otherwise attractive to migrating Canada geese useless. When Maurice arrived we discussed whether or not we should proceed with the hunt, deciding since we were there, why not, though we really knew better. It was quite a struggle trying to conceal the layout blinds as most of the chaff we rely on to hide them was ploughed under. We scraped out shallow pits in hopes we could make the layout blinds level with the field and cover them with the available chaff. We set out our decoys, a mix of Higdon full-bodied and shells, approximately 48 in total, and got into position a little later than we anticipated. The sky was black with geese, but as we feared, they were no longer interested in the field. One flock approached, but flared as they reached the limit of range. No shots were fired.

We saw and heard flock after flock of Canada geese flying to fields on the other side of Boundary Road to fields where they know they can set down safely. Wild geese are not stupid, they clue in very quickly during the Autumn migration when they are shot at. We accepted the fact that you “can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” at 8:30 am, calling a halt to what proved a “wild goose chase” and went for breakfast and George’s Diner in Russell.

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