April 2009
Happy Hunting Ground

Happy Hunting Ground

Deer season is over and the long wait for turkey season is upon us. Now is the time of year that drives my wife nuts. It is the time when I am trying to find all of my turkey hunting gear — which cannot be found — and I’m always convinced she has hidden it somewhere or at least put it where I cannot find it. She just does not understand that just because I put my crow call in a particular spot last April, it should be right there.

She can’t understand that I can’t understand why it’s not exactly where I put it last April.

But I’m jumping the gun here. This past deer season was anti-climactic. I’m not sure what that means but, to put it another way, it started out with high hopes, as every season does, but then got disappointing when boredom set in and I had time to think about how much more I preferred turkey hunting and ended just plain frustrating. I finally did get a buck on a weekend near the end of the season and it was the first hunting trip in which I saw nothing but bucks for two days. Of course, I only saw three but for me that’s a bunch.

One of those days, I sat on a stand that from the aerial map looked great. From the logbook at the lodge, it had not been hunted all year. It was located next to a sanctuary area on the property and the deer were in full rut. I thought this one would be pay dirt. I pictured huge racks cruising through the timber in search of hot does. I headed out to the stand and it was daylight when I finally found it. I climbed up into the shooting house and got ready so when the buck of a lifetime came running through the plot I could harvest him. Four hours later I was still waiting. Not only did I not see a monster buck, I never even saw a little yearling doe.

That got me to thinking, have you ever really sat on a "bad" stand? I’ve been on some that when I got there my first thought was, " This really stinks."

But when you’ve been either placed on a stand or have been sent there, its kind of hard to go somewhere else, so in order to be polite, you stay. As you sit there longer and longer, things begin to look better.

Your first thought is there is no way a deer would be seen in this particular spot. Then as you look around, you begin to see things that make you think maybe one could be slipping through. You begin to convince yourself this is the out-of-the-way spot a buck would use to get from point A to point B and you are smart enough to be the only one in the world to be here waiting on him. As you sit there you begin to see places where your future buck was going to cross. You see trails where he has ran chasing does and avoiding hunters. You almost see tracks. Sometimes you can even smell the venison cooking. You sit there knowing any minute a deer is going to try slipping through the woods and, if you are not watching, you won’t see the deer. Basically, the longer you sit the more you can convince yourself you are in a good spot no matter how bad it is. Every squirrel that rattles a leaf or snaps a twig makes you forget the rule that if it sounds like a deer, it probably isn’t. If you are near water and some ducks are splashing, you convince yourself that it’s a deer crossing the creek, until you hear the quacking. As dusk approaches and you begin to hear rifle shots in the distance, you are convinced the deer are moving. You reach down and place your hand on your hunting knife just to make sure you have it with you to field dress the deer that even now is on its way through the woods in your direction.

Darkness comes and goes and no deer shows up. There is a good chance a deer has never set foot in that particular spot in the woods.

You make the long walk back to the camp and tell yourself this is why it’s called hunting. As you make the drive home and begin to shift your mind to the chores and responsibilities waiting at home and work, you are actually kind of glad you don’t have a deer to clean when you get home. NOT!!

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.