I hear my buck call clank its way down every metal screw-in step; disappearing from sight along with any hopes of walking away from this hunt with meat in the freezer.
Moments before Instant Karma himself, Joe, let these wise words of wisdom slip from his lips.
“Let me show you how the pros do it.” Grabbing my grunt call out of my hands and proceeding to show me how a six year old with a case of the tremors would handle the situation.
“That’s how it’s done? Shit… I’ve been blowing air into the damn thing this whole time! I didn’t know I should have been spiking it into the ground like an overpaid NFL wide receiver.” I announce over my shoulder, no need of keeping quiet at this point as the week’s hunt comes to an end.
Giving the guy credit where it is due, he was the only one in our hunting party to have actually put an animal on the ground. Now that his hunt is over, he’s riding shotgun on the double treestands that we have set up. He was here to show this western spot and stalk hunter how to sit still long enough in a tree stand to try to pin a whitetail to the ground.
I hadn’t seen this angle from a tree since I was thirteen years old. In the twenty six years since then, I developed a habit of not being able to sit still. My leg bounces to an unheard rhythm, a case of the Elvis leg. My body finds a way to expel energy when there is nothing to do but sit.
I have to admit that there is something soothing just sitting in a stand and waiting for them to come to you. A sense of knowing that you did the research on the area, found the right spot to hang the stand according to the clues the deer left behind, timed the rut as best you could and now the only thing to do was to wait for them to come to you.
I employed this tactic in grade school with girls and apparently I’m getting the same results now as I did then.
You don’t get this sense of peace with western spot and stalk hunting. There are just too many variables involved and you have to be ready to adjust to them. Perhaps this is the case with whitetail as well, but I’m blissfully ignorant at this point.
Out west, you painstakingly research and scout for months before the season to put yourself in what you think is the best area to mingle with your intended prey. Then you go there and throw all of that out the window as everything you learned over the past months proves to be incorrect.
And I love it.
For a restless soul, the constant demands for changing up the plan that the backcountry offers might as well be Ritalin to the ADD.
But I’m not here to be comfortable with the known, I’m here to get thrown into the unknown and see how I handle it. A test of character if you will. And that is something that needs constant testing, because without it we just float through this world in the cozy little bubbles we’ve constructed for ourselves.
For the past week, I’ve learned a few things from the group I’m with that would have taken me years of trial and error to figure out.
Hunting in two different stands according to wind and time of day? That one would have blown past me like a high speed train.
The approach to your stand is about as important as where you set it? Nope, I would have kicked through every bedding area in the dark and then wondered why I didn’t get any visitors.
The benefits of learning what others already put their blood, sweat and tears into. You have to appreciate guys that are willing to let you profit from their hard work. Selfless acts from those who could just as easily tell you to pound sand.
Teaching is more of a sacrifice to us hunters than it is to almost all other sports (lifestyle, whatever you want to call hunting) because essentially you're creating your own competition. This inevitably happens when dealing with a finite resource.
When I learned from others how to rock climb or mountain bike, there was really no conflict of interest. The teachers could still climb the same routes or bike the same trails as the student. Teach a hunter how to proficiently kill and you could end up taking food out of your own mouth. So I don’t take it lightly when someone offers to show me the ropes. I’m humbled by their confidence in their abilities to produce even when creating direct competition.
How I benefited from learning from these guys:
I didn’t hang myself from the tow line in my stand.
I got said stand in the tree in the first place without snapping a femur.
I learned that hip waders are worthless when the water is waist deep.
Me “going for distance” while peeing out of the stand might be amusing, but perhaps the deer think otherwise.
The light fades as the grunt call force field around our stands keep the deer at bay. Thank god, they were looking dangerously hungry for human flesh. Perhaps with Joe’s superior intellect in the whitetail game he saved my life from the attack of these cruel creatures.
The stands come down and we hike out the half mile to the truck. We discuss potential plans for next year and debate whether it will be worth it with EHD devastating the local population.
As we climb one particularly nasty section of hill before the truck I reach back and ask Joe if he wants me to grab his stand.
“Hell no! I’m a certified mountain climber!” He blurts out, proud of his last six months roaming the mountains of Colorado.
If nothing else, the karma gods have a sense of humor as Joe’s feet cut out from underneath him causing him to fall flat on his face.
“Gotcha Sir Edmund Hillary, when you’re done mountain climbing perhaps you can teach me your patented pro buck call tactics.” Comes a response I never really said.
For me, character was built through failure alone on this trip… and through the company/antics of some selfless hunters.
// Fred Bohm
* Cover image credit: Sean Hagen