Monday's threatrics in Grant County is the reason I hunt deer.
Before we get to the main event, let's first back up a few days to an evening when I visited my favorite stand in a thinned pine thicket.
Still and quiet, the woods grew darker by the minute when a slick-headed deer appeared in a clearing about 120 yards away.
Late in the second week of modern gun season, it was the first deer that I'd had a chance to shoot since muzzleloader season. I prefer a young doe for venison, and a gun kill would keep open the opportunity to get a Triple Trophy Award. The "Triple Trophy" is recognition from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to hunters that kill a deer with archery, muzzleloader and modern gun.
The problem was that I couldn't determine if the deer was actually a doe or a button buck.
A small deer alone in the fall is usually a yearling buck that has been exiled by its mother at the start of the breeding season. I couldn't see antler nodes, or "nubbins" on its head through binoculars, but the image was indistinct in the fading light.
I killed a mature buck in muzzleloader season, and I certainly did not want to burn my second buck tag on a button buck. I waited until well after dark to leave my stand and slip away undetected.
Without prompting, I awoke Monday at 4:30 a.m. It was cold and still, prime hunting conditions. I forsook the warmth of my covers, forced myself upright and marched outside into the chilly pre-dawn air.
Foreseeing this, I left a Little Buddy propane heater in my stand. It was 29 degrees when I eased into my chair and pressed the ignition button. Within minutes I was toasty and content as I sipped on my coffee and watched the woods awake.
Actually, the awakening was well under way as I walked to the stand. Within the sanctuary of a five-year old cutover came multiple covey calls from quail scattered over many acres. I counted 12-15 different birds. I wished safety upon them this winter and prosperity come spring.
My stand is at the edge of a fire lane among tall pines. The hill in front of the stand drops into a shallow, brushy ravine and rises sharply on the other side. The sight lines are good, but the opposite hillside is brushy and grassy. Deer love to travel through there, but there are only a few narrow windows through which I can shoot, and only if deer cross them slowly. You have to ascertain the sex of the deer and the size of the antlers beforehand and shoot the instant the opportunity is available.
At 7:21 a.m., a mature doe materialized from the brush. She was tense, and she walked stiffly as if she sensed trouble.
The doe turned among a convergence of pines and started up the hill, but then she stopped. Peering at the broken outline of her body, I saw her white tail rise very slowly. At full mast, the tail wiggled and flickered.
About 30 seconds later, four other deer that were obscured in the brush scattered in four different directions as a mature buck crashed into their midst.
Grunting loudly, the buck singled out the mature doe and chased her all over that hillside. They sounded like a small herd of cattle as their hooves thudded in the pine duff, breaking twigs and kicking up dirt.
I followed them in my scope hoping to get a crack at the buck through one of the lanes, but they were too fast and too rambunctious.
Finally, I bleated to try to stop the buck. Without flinching, he hit the afterburners and dashed into a thicket at the far end of the ravine while the other deer regrouped and walked the opposite direction.
The buck, or maybe a different buck, returned about an hour later. His stride was purposeful, and his lips were peeled back as he strained for the doe's scent. Again, he moved too fast through the brush to offer a shot.
That evening, the little slick-head deer appeared again in the fire lane. The light was much better, and it was clearly a very young doe.
She was a satisfactory conclusion to an unforgettable day. I was glad I was there to see it all.
Sports on 11/26/2017
Print Headline: Rutting buck treats hunter to an unforgettable show