On November 24th, the rifle portion of deer season in Maryland opened, and so I was up and at em' early on Saturday morning. I woke up at 3:30am, left the house at 4:00am and was in the woods, at my spot by 5:00am. During the past few squirrel hunts I had made mental notes on where I had seen deer sign (tracks, trails, beds, rubs, ... poop) and decided that my first "sit" would be on a rocky bluff in the side of a hill. A youthful 4” round tree looked like a perfect back rest. This spot overlooked a small crick (creak) which meandered through the Oak trees below. The day before, I had kicked all the leaves out of the area so as to avoid the loud crunching of leaves while moving around at my spot.
Before turning the truck off, I looked at the temperature displayed in my rearview mirror, which read a disconcerting 30*F. When I got out of the truck, on went a second sweater and a flannel shirt, vest and an extra blaze-orange vest. I loaded a round (Winchester .32 Special) into the chamber of my Winchester Model 94 and six more into the magazine tube, I tossed one extra bullet in my pocket, just in case. Clicking on my flashlight I set off into the woods, as quietly as I could, with my beam pointed straight down. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. It was a windy morning and my heart just about beat out of my chest when sticks dropped from the trees and leaves rustled close by. Its creepy out here at night! About 200 yards in, I came upon my spot without having to search all over 'tarnation for it. Inching down the side of the hill and onto the “swept” area of my spot, my quiet footsteps put a smile on my face. Nice work with clearing the leaves yesterday! I pulled out a square of closed-cell packaging foam that I use for sitting around the fire, when I backpack, and laid it on the rock. On top of that went my $5 insulated pillow I picked up, in the hunting section, at the Tractor Supply Company. Off went my light and there, I sat with my rifle across my lap and my eyes and ears wide open. It was 5:00am.
I had worked up a sweat walking in, but it soon became apparent that despite my foam and “butt pillow” this rock was damn cold. The wind also seemed to be blowing right along the side of the hill, pegging me from the left side. As I started to get cold, I contemplated the direction of my scent and if I had anymore clothes in the truck.
Jeez it's cold out.
Just then I heard the distinct sound of animal movement; the loping along of an uneasy deer. I heard 5 to 6 steps in the leaves, like weighted, hoofed, dashes and then silence… then a few more dashes and then silence. It was only 5:15am and I couldn’t see a thing in the blackness, but the sound of this deer told me it was no more than 40’ from me. With my heart racing, I hammered back my rifle and aimed toward the sound; my eyes peeled as wide as possible. I aimed at the sound as it moved from my right to my left. And then, just as suddenly as it came, it was gone and out of earshot. After a few moments I reflected, I shouldn’t have hammered back at a noise. It’s unsafe. Still, I was 100% sure it wasn’t a hunter.
The morning light slowly crept in, and I was eager for rays of sun to warm me, but the sky was overcast and it wasn’t going to be a bright and sunny morning. I was tired and cold and was wiggling my toes and rubbing my legs to keep warm but that rock just kept sucking the heat from my body. My long underwear and jeans weren’t cuttin’ it. At around 6:00am, I began to hear shots, off in the distance, in all directions. One about every 20 minutes. The shots encouraged me to stay put, in hopes that a nice big buck would run my way. Though, at 8:00am when the wind had gotten to be just too much, I packed up shop and headed for the truck. My first few shivering steps, wobbly and off balance.
I got in the truck, cranked the heater on high, and drove through the park to another spot I had seen on one of my previous trips. I hopped out and this time, put an old pair of coveralls on, overtop of my pants. A third sweater went on overtop of the other two. This spot was a logged out area, full of cut timber pile, brush and small fields. The dirt road through the rough-cut land was quiet and I moved slowly peering out far ahead of me for deer. Snow fell gently as I made my way through the area. I walked out of the logging area, through the woods, on a familiar trail which took me all the way back to my original sitting spot, and then back to the truck. When I got back to the truck, another hunter was calling it quits for the day. He said he didn’t see any deer, but had seen a medium sized black bear. Awesome!
I drove into town to grab breakfast at a diner which is becoming my usual stop in Frederick, after hunting: The Barbara Fritch Candy Cane Restaurant. On the way, I called my father to tell him how it was going, but dropped the call as I moved out of signal range. After a couple of eggs and bacon I headed back to the woods for round two.
It was noon now and I had 5 hours of daylight left. It was snowing a little harder, but nothing was accumulating. I decided to walk a familiar trail I used to mountain bike on. I had originally stayed away from this area because it tends to be over-hunted but decided I’d give it a chance anyway. 50 yards into the woods I came across a large pile of deer guts and blood. Somebody got one. This encouraged me. I moved incredibly slowly down the trail, stopping occasionally and scanning 360*. After a while two hunters came stomping down the trail behind me. I gave them a head-nod as they passed by. Jeez guys, keep it down. I passed them both 30 minutes later. One, sitting at the base of a tree smoking a cigarette. Don’t you guys know anything?
After another couple of hours of slowly walking the trail incredibly quietly, I heard the sound of dashing hoofs through the leaves. Looking to my right to saw a pair of doe standing about 100 yards deep in the woods. I took aim at the large one, aligning on his chest and pulling the trigger. BANG! Off they ran. With no sign of impact on the large doe. I missed! Why’d I rush it?! I kicked myself. I didn’t take my time. I should have waited and watched. Perhaps they would have walked closer to me.
I’ll be headed back next Saturday for a second shot at it!