I couldn't move. He was looking directly at me...hell, it felt like he was looking right through me. I couldn't understand how he could see me, but clearly he was uneasy. It may have been the fact that the five does he was with had run away in alarm, white tails up in what deer hunters call the big 'middle finger'. He was slower to leave, wanting to check out what was the cause of his concern. I don't think he actually saw me. I don't think he winded me. I don't think he heard me, but he knew something was wrong. You don't get through several seasons with a harem surrounding you without being careful. I'm hoping he doesn't get through another...but, I am getting ahead of myself.
As I walked to my spot, I couldn't get over how eerie it was walking through the woods in the pitch black. It was about 6:15am, and it was cold. I knew where I was headed, and would course correct with a quick push of the button on my bright flashlight, needed as the dim gleam on my headlamp really didn't illuminate more than a couple of feet in front of me. I had my pop-up blind on my back, my chair around my shoulder, and my rifle in my hand. I shoot an entry level Savage Arms .270 Win. Its an OK gun, but when I put a Leopold scope on it a couple of years ago, it became a much better rifle. As I emptied a magazine the previous day, I knew it was still accurate without any need for additional adjustment to the scope.
After about 15 minutes I arrived at my spot, set up the blind and got situated. I made much more noise that I would have liked, but I wasn't really expecting too much success this morning. I really wanted to set up everything and check the feeder to make sure that NEXT week was well prepared. I wouldn't have to wait a week for some excitement.
I sat and shook. It was much colder than I expected. Although decked out for winter, I was extremely uncomfortable. I had about 25 minutes before shooting light, so I doze. I had my phone set to vibrate at shooting hours which was 6:53am. As a backup, I knew that the feeder would wake me when it went off at 7:00.
I woke with the phone and again struggled with the cold. The sun was starting to come up, but I was set up in a heavily wooded area, so I never really warmed up. I checked my gun, my seat and surveyed the area through my scope to ensure that if the opportunity to shoot came about, I would be comfortable with my rest and position. I sat and waited and tried to stay warm.
First came the crows. They are loud and annoying, but I love watching them hop around looking for corn from the feeder. The squirrels descended next. In fact, a couple of squirrels were able to run off a dozen, or so, crows. However, the crows came back in greater numbers and started working on the corn again. This back and forth continued for a while...then the ducks arrived in the tank behind me. Ducks wings make a peculiar noise as they cut through the air. A large flock of ducks can make an amazing song. I listened to them for a while until they decided to fly off to another area. By the gunfire that I could hear in the distance, I thought they should have stayed with me...it would have been safer, as I wasn't hunting their kind today.
As I enjoyed the solitude, the sounds of nature, and the adrenaline that accompanies every little noise around me, I caught some movement out of the right window of the blind. I froze, although truth be told, I could no longer feel the outside temperature...there were deer in the field to my right. I was well covered by a line of trees between us, but that means I also couldn't see them well. I raise by scope to peer through it. I saw several does, five in total. A couple of larger mature does were keeping watch while the smaller ones seemed to be playing...jumping and running and generally having a good time knowing that mom was keeping an eye out.
They wandered around for a while and continued on their way. There wasn't a buck with them, but I know enough that the does often lead the way...so, I stayed motionless and quiet. Then, he showed. I saw antler, but from the side I couldn't tell if he was a legal shooter. It didn't matter anyway as I didn't have a shot through the trees. I maintained my vigilance hoping they'd show up again.
They did. About 20 minutes later, they showed on the other side of the tree line. However, they were also much further away, about 175 yards. My feeder is set up about 75 yards away from the blind and there are low hanging branches blocking a much longer shot. Additionally, the does seemed to be very cautious. They slowly started to filter down to the feeder, but the buck stayed back. 150 yards. Then, about 125 yards. I still didn't have a shot on the buck...he never really moved. He just seemed to stare at me. Before I knew it, the does had run off.
The buck just stayed there. I raised my rifle to size him up in the scope. He was about 150 yards (a makeable shot), but was directly facing me (not ideal). Additionally, the low hanging branches were very much a concern. I sized up his antlers, he was what looked to be a solid four point, with tall antlers, but not very wide. I think he is a legal buck (13 inch inside spread). I decided not to shoot. I want him broadside and closer to me....a week of no pressure getting acclimated to the blind and the feeder should do the trick. I'm going back to get him.
That's why I was there today in the first place. Not necessarily to bag this buck, but to get ready to do it right. This is the second time I've seen those five does in the same spot - so they shouldn't be going anywhere.
I think I'm going to be thinking about that buck a lot until next week.