Monday, October 3, 2011

best view of Autumn's arrival is from deer blind

Morning was breaking cold with a sooty-black sky unfolding when the wind and the woods took up their conversation.

The former cautioned the latter to get its affairs in order. Autumn is coming, the wind spoke with some authority.

And the woods began to take note. Already some of the forest trees were shedding flakes of gold, crimson, and burnished copper. The fields, too, were converting their green tapestry for a more colorful bedspread that will dull to a muted brown within the next few weeks.

This is a changling time for the forests and fields. Between now and the end of the month they both will undergo a radical transformation. They will roll over from green to a riotous palette of color and then they will don their mourning cloaks until next spring.

I saw all of this, felt all of this as dawn’s fingers clawed their way through the woodlot. It is there where I’ve set up a fabric ground blind and an electronic feeder topped off with a tankard of shelled corn kernels.

The intent was simple: Kill a deer with my Horton crossbow. Nothing complex about the task, though in truth that is something of a lie.

There was the placement of the blind, the assembly of the feeder and the setting of its timer, twice a day with one seven-second deposit in the morning and another at around 6:30 p.m.

Then again, the site had to be picked in advance of their postings. That was done a couple of weeks ago when Steve - the property’s owner - and I had cruised the hardwood stand of trees in an effort to draw our attention to a likely deer-attracting station.

We believed we found what we were looking for, too. The blind was tucked into a shallow arc where four trees very nearly come together. Out ahead about 14 yards was positioned the game feeder.

Steve had said no one had hunted the woodlot in a few years. Just about everyone simply walked through it to get to “better” shooting grounds.

Yet the deer do come by this place. You can tell by their signature hoof prints that were left behind in the forest litter and mud.

Besides, just on the fringe of the woodlot is a logged-off section that deer seem to like to use as a bedding area.

So I was ready, me and my crossbow and assorted truck I had carried in an over-sized backpack originally designed for hike-in anglers.

And I waited, not being assured that a deer would even show up. All the corn laying on the ground underneath the feeder was a strong indicator that while deer may be occasionally visiting the hunting spot they weren’t doing it either with gusto or great frequency.

I doubted that the cool temperatures, brisk wind and steady rain mattered much for possible success, however. Deer, after all, have to live, eat, sleep and die in such conditions everyday.

Besides, Steve said that just the other day he saw four does worrying the corn pile that had accumulated underneath the feeder. That was the day he had shot a five-point buck. That fact alone indicated that his property is a busy way station for white-tails.

I tried to keep from becoming too bored. I leafed through the latest copy of “Bowhunter” magazine in-between glances out of the unzippered front window and the one that I had cracked a notch to my left.

No deer. And not much else, either. Oh, there was the fox squirrel that scoured the ground for the hickory nuts that had fallen. The squirrel took no note of either me or the blind as it combed the forest floor maybe 10 or 15 feet away.

A few crows cawed halfheartedly in the rain and the wind. And an odd flock or two of Canada geese honked their thoughts about the weather.

Maybe the critter with the most sense was a meadow vole, a something or another rodent that is often mistaken for a deer mouse.

The vole was perfectly content to stay within the shelter and relative safety of the blind. It hustled over some of the gear I had placed on the ground, but typical
for the species it would hollow out tunnels in the leaf material.

Every now and then the vole would stick its head out of the blind. There it would be struck by the cold, wet reality of the day. Just as quickly the vole would tuck itself back inside the blind and continue on with its interior construction project.

But again, no deer. And those were what I wanted.

Nearly all of the morning had slipped by when I decided to call it. Stiff from sitting still and my neck aching from cocking itself for the better part of several hours, I got up, stretched and unzipped the blind’s fly.

That got the vole’s attention, which panicked and vanished out of sight; no doubt to some chamber it had built for just such a purpose.

By all accounts the morning had been a failure. That is, if you post success based on a tally sheet consisting of the number of deer seen and whether one will be taken home for the freezer and the wall.

Maybe that’s how all of those sponsored television hunting shows judge success. Not me, at least not on this day.

I had listened in on the conversation between the wind and the woods and I had kept company with an entertaining little guest.

Yep, it was a fine and proper early autumn outing and I felt privileged to have been both an observer and a participant.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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