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Author Topic: WINTER STILL HUNT - Doug Campbell  (Read 451 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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WINTER STILL HUNT - Doug Campbell
« on: November 04, 2003, 06:44:00 AM »
WINTER STILL HUNT
by Doug Campbell

Man that wind is cold! I've just stepped out of the sheltering woods to
cross an open field. It was five degrees below zero when I left the
house three hours ago. The snow is as deep as ten inches in the low
places. It amazes me that any wildlife can survive living in this
weather all the time. I can not imagine anyone stand hunting in this
weather. There has been very little sign of any wildlife. Mostly just
the neighbor's dogs and some old sets of deer tracks that have blown
in.

This year has been pretty slow for deer and turkey hunters in this
area, due to the poorest mast crop we have had in years. The only
decent deer, I have seen, were on a trip to northern Missouri, just
before gun season. I had a couple of good opportunities, but there was
a big buck in the area chasing does and I couldn't make myself shoot.

A five-by-five bull elk, back in September, had taken the edge off this
year. There didn't seem to be the urge to have to kill something to
justify all the hours I've spent in the woods. It's the second week of
January and our season is about over. I've bundled up against the cold
to give it one more try. As long as I keep moving and stay out of the
wind it's not too bad.

I stopped a while ago to take some tree steps out for the year and
about froze. When I'd gone about a mile, I decided it was time to
circle back toward the house. Hopefully I'll stumble across some-thing
on the way. It's getting difficult to keep a still hunting pace. Then,
what's this? Yes! Fresh tracks! It's pretty hard to tell what left
them, but they're heading in my general direction. After another half
mile or so, I can tell they are definitely deer tracks. And it looks
like a couple more have joined them. Maybe I'm in the right vicinity! A
quarter of a mile further, just when I'm ready to give up and head for
the house, there, right in front of me is a deer bed.

When I pay attention to what's around me, it makes sense. A south
facing slope with timber on the north and west. A perfect spot to catch
what warmth there is at this time of year. Now it is time to really
still hunt. The woods are pretty sparse and don’t offer much cover, but
I can see well. As I ease along, there are several more beds scattered
around. It is amazing to me how they, each one, are situated to provide
the most warmth and protection from the wind. Maybe these deer can
survive this weather after all. I've only gone about forty yards past
the first beds when I see movement through the trees ahead. Sure
enough, there is a pair of ears silhouetted against the snow about
seventy five yards ahead.

I freeze and start picking the area apart. There's another deer, just
to the right of the first one. One of them is pulling wild grape vines
down from the trees, the other is nibbling brush. Now, how do I cross
fifty yards or so of crunchy snow with no cover to speak of? VERY
SLOWLY! I start easing along, scooting my feet through the snow, to
keep from crunching. If I can just make it to that tree, I'll have some
cover. It seems like it takes forever, but I've closed the distance to
forty yards. I can't believe they haven't seen me yet.

I'm standing in front of a good sized walnut, when the deer start
coming down the slope in my direction. I'm thinking, this is to good to
be true, when they veer south toward some cedars. I'm about ready to
try to crouch down low and run around in front of them, when more deer
start popping over the hill behind the first two. They keep coming,
until there are nine deer strung along in front of me. Now there are
eighteen eyes instead of just four! There's no way I'm going to be able
to sneak closer. The first two deer are almost directly down wind. I
can't believe they're not smelling me! Suddenly a dog starts barking a
couple hundred yards south of me at the neighbors house, the deer stop
and look that direction. I breathe a sigh of relief, this must be my
lucky day. They are all occupied, looking that direction, so I take
advantage of the break and move another ten yards closer.

I step in front of a cedar tree, just as they decide there is no danger
from the barking dog. Now, I am thirty yards from the closest and forty
yards from the farthest deer. I keep thinking there should be a buck or
two around. But these are all slick heads, which will be fine with me,
if I can get a shot. The whole herd starts moving across in front of me
now. They're going to pass close enough for a shot. When for some
reason, they decide to race to the fence north of me. I can't believe
it! All, but two fawns and a doe, ran by twenty yards away and I
couldn't get a shot! The last three are veering to the west and are
going to be at the limit of my range. Then, the doe stopped, with her
chest cavity framed between two trees, thirty yards away. It's now or
never!

The old Brackenbury swings up to full draw, then the arrow is away. Oh
no, she jumped the string, and did one of those duck and run numbers.
As she runs away I can see it looks like a decent hit, just a little
high. Now the deer scatter in all directions, snow and brush flying
everywhere. It's not hard to keep track of the wounded doe, the red and
yellow turkey feathers stand out pretty good.

Wow! Talk about exciting! I look at my watch, it is twelve o'clock ,I
was within forty yards of these deer for forty five minutes. Now it's
time to let the broadhead do it's work. I move up to the first blood
sign. This is one time I'm not too worried about trailing. It should be
easy in six inches of snow, something we don't get to enjoy very often.
I'm just starting my second candy bar, when I see some deer moving back
toward me from the direction they all scattered ten minutes ago. Their
ears are all pointed forward and they're looking at a log about sixty
yards in front of me. Five deer stalked up on the log, with all their
attention focused there, then almost as one, they snort and bolt back
the way they came from. I'm almost certain the doe must be laying
beside the log.

Time to do some more sneaking. I ease up close and sure enough, the doe
is laying with her nose buried in the snow. She died within seconds, on
the run. Now it's time for the field dressing, picture taking and
dragging three quarters of a mile home. I've been out in the cold for
six hours now with a good part of it standing or not moving very fast,
and I feel great! It's wonderful to be able to get out, enjoy the
outdoors and pursue the sport of bowhunting. I really feel sorry for
the guys who sit around, complain about how terrible the weather is and
never try it out. The dead of winter is one of my favorite times to be
in the woods. All it takes, is a little caution and a few preparations
to be comfortable. My biggest regret, is that this is the last weekend
of the season. It's almost nine months before it opens again.

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