The cloverfield had been hard hit by hungry deer.
Last year, it had been lush and a foot high, but the deer never let it grow over three inches this season. They simply mowed it down as fast as it grew. And though not as many deer were using the field as previously, it still saw a fair number of animals on and off.
Jay Acker had a number of stands he could have hunted this evening. That’s good and bad. Good you know where the deer feed often, but bad simply because you have numerous choices; which one do you hunt? Trail cameras are also good and bad. They let you know to a fair degree if bucks are around, what size their antlers may be and if they have a schedule, but the bucks were very unpredictable this year. Cameras can also add an additional level of frustration, showing a big buck at the stand you didn’t hunt last evening. So, the next night you hunt that stand and see nothing, but the camera reveals a different buck showed up at the stand you hunted the night before. It’s a guessing game and it’s remarkable how often you can be wrong.
However, if you are in “tune” with the unseen world surrounding us, you may receive guidance from a mysterious power. This feeling or direction of where you should hunt at a given time is a fleeting thing, coming and going. Sometimes you receive inspiration, more often than not you don’t. But, aware hunters when asked where they’ll be hunting that day often stop and stare off into space, seeking the muse and direction on where they should go.
Tonight, Jay had that gut feeling the cloverfield was where he should hunt and acted upon it. It was early in the season and warm. He waited till 4 p.m. before climbing into the stand. He was concerned and a little unhappy; there were a couple deer already in the field when he arrived and they’d run off. Would that affect his hunt?
In a short time, a doe and two fawns entered the field, then a couple small bucks. He relaxed; the field definitely wasn’t spooked. As it grew darker, more and more deer entered the field until there were 14 deer at various ranges from him. Wow, that number of deer in any game field was very unusual, but would a shooter buck show up? It grew darker and darker, then as the last light faded, a big 8-point walked into the field and stopped just 20 yards away. Unfortunately, it was so late at that point he couldn’t see the crosshairs in his scope.
October passed with no other opportunities arising and then the rut kicked in. He saw bucks, but all were too far away. The cruising bucks hit every game field looking for does, effectively chasing the does into hiding. Fields you could count on seeing deer in every evening were now empty. The guessing game continued.
The first week of November, he was going to hunt a particular stand, but on the way the muse hit. No, the little vice whispered, go to this stand instead. He listened and climbed into a stand above thick cover on the edge of open woods.
Almost immediately he saw a nice buck chasing a doe. Soon, deer were running here and there in front of him, but none close enough to offer a shot. Then he saw motion below him and a magnificent 10-point appeared. He worked his way up the hill and at 30 yards Jay took careful aim and fired his crossbow. The release sounded funny and to his horror he saw his arrow fly in circles and stick in the ground near the buck, which immediately ran off.
No! It was a perfect shot, the buck should be his. What in the world? Examination of the arrow showed it was split and the knock was missing. Did the arrow slip forward off the string or had the arrow itself been damaged before firing? It really didn’t matter which, the buck had escaped and it’d been a magnificent buck he’d have taken to the taxidermist, a real trophy.
Archery passed and rifle season began. Again, no feelings of inspiration, no bucks. Man, his luck was certainly out. Would he fail to harvest a deer this season? Things were looking bleak. Suddenly, it was the last Saturday, the last day he could hunt. What to do?
Right then, the muse hit again, a strong urge to hunt the same stand he’d missed the 10-point out of. He didn’t know why, but there was no doubt what he was feeling was something he shouldn’t ignore.
There were five of us at camp for the last day planning to put on several deer drives for Jay if necessary. Jay thought it best to arrive at his stand before daylight and hunt ‘til 9 or 10 to catch any natural movement. Then, if action was slow, he’d call us and we’d begin the drives.
After a leisurely breakfast, about 9 a.m., Jay called and excitedly informed us three bucks had bedded at the limit of his vision. A small 3-point, a 6-point and a bigger buck he couldn’t see well. Stay at camp, he instructed; he was going to wait them out. A buzz went around the table, things were possibly looking up. Everyone had their fingers crossed, hoping things would finally go Jay’s way.
An hour passed, then two. Suddenly, the phone buzzed. His voice was excited, he’d gotten a shot and was waiting a bit before following up. Come on over.
Excited as school kids, we all piled into the truck and ran over to his location. We soon found Jay cleaning a nice 9-point; he’d finally scored.
There were a lot of back slaps and congratulations on that hillside. Jay was all smiles, everyone thrilled his seeming jinx had been broken. It was then we realized everyone of us had shot a buck this season. Things became even jollier.
The camaraderie of deer camp, concern for each other, the shared joy in one another’s success. Yes, there was a special spirit around the lunch table that day. Jay, congratulations, finally bagging a buck when all seemed lost is a special joy to be savored again and again.