I have no idea why this day is different. Dawn is slowly turning into sunrise. The two owls are right on schedule. They gargle and whoo about four every afternoon and again about 5:30 in the morning. It is a beautiful morning, cold, 32-degrees with not much wind. But this morning, is slightly different.
I have picked this stand for one reason. The tree leans slightly backwards, making it more comfortable on my bad back.
I won't get my lumbar epidural for two more days and the pain is getting serious. This is my most comfortable tree. It is also a tree from which I have killed several deer over the years. As a general rule, not being a trophy hunter, I shoot the first doe that comes by. Not on this morning. This morning, I am sorta waiting for a buck.
It is opening morning of muzzle loader season. That means I can reach out much further than with my bow.
Even though I have hunted several days during bow season and have killed three deer, it is still an opening day. But that is not why I am waiting to see what comes by.
I have hunted this property for 15-years. During that time, I have seen a total of perhaps six rubs and not one scrape.
This year, the place is torn up. I have seen about a dozen scrapes and at least that many rubs. Something is going on. I'm curious to see what is walking around out there and this is the perfect day to do so.
A few years ago, I killed a decent 8-point buck here. Over the years, I have killed maybe eight bucks with only two of any real antler size.
So far this year, I have killed three deer, two does and one buck. I have let two other bucks walk. I have someone who wants a deer. They don't care what sex. I know I can kill them a doe. But this morning, I will wait and watch.
The owls are done and the sun is starting to top the far tree line. I check my camera with the long lens. It is hanging on a hook at my left shoulder.
I don't usually take it in the woods when I am hunting. But this morning, I plan on shooting the does with a camera only. I can clearly see the fence crossing now. It is exactly 48-yards away. It is also the most used fence crossing I have ever seen.
Despite the cold and my bad back, I am quite comfortable and thoroughly enjoying the sunrise. Even my toes are warm. I reach slowly behind me and remove the camera from the hook. She is coming slowly, 65-yards out, approaching the fence crossing. I see nothing coming behind her but swing the arm with the black powder rifle on it closer. Just in case she is being trailed. Just as I thought she might bypass the fence crossing, she turns and jumps to my side.
She is the perfect deer, a lone, mature doe. Surely a buck must be following her. I take a couple quick pictures, then start watching behind her. Nothing.
For 35-minutes, nothing catches my eye. Then, a parade of spikes comes from the thicket straight at me. Three spike bucks in a group. Following them, my friendly six-point. I can't get a picture and I choose not to shoot. I'm waiting. Just to rub my nose in it, as I pull in the driveway, two young does are standing in the backyard.
It is the peak of the chase phase of the rut. The time when bucks are chasing does, hoping to find one that is receptive. The cold spell will have them all moving. If a mature buck comes by, I'll take him. If not, I'll settle for what I can get with the camera.
It was a great morning.
Contact John L. Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org