Pride goeth before a fall


Is there a remedy for buck fever? The reason I ask is because before yesterday afternoon I foolishly thought I was immune to this affliction that sometimes strikes deer hunters. Yesterday afternoon’s deer hunt with my friends and hunting buddies Jason and Fran, a happily married couple who share a passion for deer hunting, started full of promise. Omer, our friend and hunting buddy, shot his first deer (a button buck) on the opening day of the rifle season in Ontario. I saw a doe that same afternoon, but passed up a shot as I had a buck tag. We tagged Omer’s button buck with my tag, leaving us free to fill Omer’s doe tag in party hunting. I saw another deer the second afternoon Omer and I sat, but not enough of the deer to risk a shot. The third afternoon we sat, I did not see any deer from my stand, but as we made our way back to the car two deer bounded across a meadow ahead of us in the dark. There are deer in the area.

The husband and wife who deer hunt together, stay together.

The husband and wife who deer hunt together, stay together.

Jason, Fran and I drove to the property in Jason’s new pickup truck, a Dodge Ram with crew cab and cap on the back. We brought Jason and Fran’s dog Nos in case we needed him to track a downed deer. We checked in with our hosts, Peter and Val, before setting out for our stands. We were in position shortly after 2:00 pm and last shot was at 5:12 pm. As I sat in my stand I took note of the area where both deer I saw earlier in the week appeared. In particular, I looked carefully for gaps in the thicket 30-40 yards from the left side of my stand where I could take aim at a passing deer. I rehearsed raising my rifle, finding the mark on an imaginary deer and mimed squeezing the trigger for the shot I hoped to make. I was supremely confident. After all, I made the same shot on the coyote that loped out of the thicket on the opening afternoon of the rifle season. I heard the coyote approach, all the while hoping it was a deer, raised my rifle, aimed at the coyote’s vital area and squeezed the trigger. The coyote fell over, though it required a second shot to finish it. “Piece of cake,” I thought.

As the afternoon wore on it showered a couple of times, a light rain fell that did not leave us soaked, thankfully. There was a light wind blowing the first couple of hours that made a rustling sound in the tree tops with groaning and creaking as tree limbs rubbed together. Over these sounds I kept alert, watching and listening for a deer making its way through the thicket. I heard geese honking in the distance and spied a porcupine up in a tree top in front of my stand. I texted Jason, telling him I spied a porcupine. As it turned out, the porcupine played a supporting role in the drama that led to my bout of buck fever.

Deer are more likely to move at dawn and dusk, so as we sat in our stands anticipation grew as the sun set and we entered the “witching hour.” This is what we call the last half hour of shooting time as this is we expect a deer will come into view. Excitement welled up briefly when I heard something moving in front of my stand, but when I looked in the direction I was crestfallen when I saw it was the porcupine climbing down from the tree. I continued my vigil, hoping a deer would show itself and once more excitement welled up as I heard something moving through the thicket to the right of my stand. I raised my rifle and trained it on the opening at the edge of the thicket, enthusiastically expecting a deer to walk out, but once again, it was the porcupine. This time making his way out of the thicket into the meadow. I was so pumped I could barely contain myself.

I sat back in my stand and glanced at my watch. “Good, 20 minutes of shooting time left. There’s still a chance a deer will come by,” I thought. As the minutes ticked by I began to think no deer is going to show this evening. All the while I hoped to hear a shot from Jason and Fran’s stand too. In the last moments of shooting time I heard something moving in the thicket to the left of my stand. I scanned the thicket and spied a deer moving through. I was still pumped from the false alarm raised by the porcupine, but just like I rehearsed, I raised my rifle and trained it on the gap in the thicket where I anticipated the deer would step out into the open. It did! With the deer visible through my scope I should have calmly brought the crosshairs on to the deer’s vital area and squeezed the trigger, but what happened next baffles me. I jerked my rifle onto the deer haphazardly and yanked the trigger. After the bright orange of the muzzle blast subsided I saw the deer flash its tail and vanish into the wood.

While I sat in my stand, addled, wondering what the hell just happened, Jason texted: “Did you just shoot the porky? :-)”

“Shot at a deer,” I replied.

Jason texted back “K, c u after we get down at dark. Feel good about the shot?”

“I think I missed. Buck fever,” I responded sheepishly.

I waited several minutes before climbing down from my stand and walking to the area where the deer stood when I shot at it. After a cursory check of the area I found no blood or bile, nothing to indicate I hit the deer. When Jason and Fran arrived I directed Jason to the site and he made a more thorough search. He found nothing to indicate I hit the deer with the shot which supports my conclusion it was a clean miss. While I am disappointed not to have a deer on the ground, I am relieved the deer was not gut shot. The last thing any deer hunter wants is to maim the animal with a poorly placed shot, leaving it to die from its wounds hours later and not be retrieved.

I am new to the sport of deer hunting. Jason introduced me to the pleasures of the sport in 2011. I took my first deer, a nice doe, in 2012. Though I found this bout of buck fever humbling, I am confident I will bag a second deer, hopefully before this season ends. I decided to let the area around my stand lie fallow for the next couple of days to let everything settle and hopefully find a way to keep my buck fever in check. I plan to return to the field with my hunting buddies for the second week of the rifle season and this time temper my confidence with the realization that I am not immune to buck fever.

Posted by Geoffrey

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