At the end of the year, my hunting license expired, as did my unfilled deer tags. I went ahead and purchased my 2013 hunting license as well as one more deer tag, since I had another two weeks to hunt. I figured if I shot a deer, it counts towards 2012, and if not, I’d have it in the fall. Things were slow going for the last two weeks, with many excuses to not get out to the farm including weather and other engagements. Well, we went out on Tuesday afternoon, as it was the last day of the season.
The drive out was pleasant and uneventful. When we made our way into the hollow, we spotted three does. They were very familiar to us as we have seen this trio countless times in pictures and in real life. This was the same doe and her two yearlings that we spotted when we took Teen Bot out for Youth Deer Gun in October. Indeed, this was the very same doe that he passed up the shot on for multiple moral dilemmas. Good kid.
Those two yearlings have grown a lot in the last few months. Now they are nearly as big as their mother. Before I could get within one hundred yards of them, they spotted me and walked into the woods to watch me from there. I stopped and waited quietly to see what would happen. The slightly larger offspring walked back out from the treeline and watched me. With her ears erect and her nose pointed at me, she laid down in the grass and waited as I waited. I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture of her, at the full 5x optical zoom that my Nikon affords me. I didn’t bother posting the picture. You can see the doe if you know where to look, but I felt like it would be useless here.
So, there we sat in a man versus nature game of chicken; me not daring to move for fear of spooking them, the deer not daring to move for fear of me. The slightly smaller yearling tentatively walked from the treeline and stood beside her sister. With fifteen minutes left of the season, we waited, staring at each other. Neither one of them was in a position for an ethical kill and they were out of bow range anyway. Then suddenly, the three of them made an about face and bounded off to their left, up the trail that they’d carved through the woods toward the car path.
I swapped out the SD card in the camera in the hollow. With ten minutes to spare, we headed back up the trail, swapping out the card in the other camera along the way. I hoped to cross paths with them again at the top of the property with minutes to spare before the end of shooting hours. When we made it back to the gate, the deer were nowhere to be seen and it was time to call it quits. Oh well. Although there was no harvest, the hunt was good. I learned a lot and feel like I have skills that I can put to work in the fall.
As we drove back towards the city, we mused together about the combined deer seasons, and what we had learned. We even laughed about the fact that this particular doe had so narrowly escaped on so many occasions. I was about to take the turn from the property road onto the main road when something came out of nowhere and struck the front of the car in a flash of gray and a startling thud.
“What the!?!?!” I exclaimed as I put full pressure to the Brembo brake calipers. The Italian brakes stopped the car as abruptly as they should and I threw on the hand brake and the hazard lights.
“What was that?” Jennifer asked.
“I don’t know,” I said as I climbed out of the car, “some kind of animal.”
As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw a crumpled mass on the edge of the road. I shined my flashlight to see a relatively large feathered form. I squinted and looked for movement or blood. Suddenly, the creature popped to its feet, wings hanging to its sides.
“Stay back!” Jennifer said, to either Teen Bot, or me, or the bird, I can’t be sure
It stumbled side to side. Standing about two feet tall, its flat beak and horn-like crests gave it away. I reached for my camera about the time the owl shook its head as if to shake off the disorientation. Before I had the camera powered on, the creature shook its head again, spread its broad wings and confidently flapped them several times to propel itself into the air, circling to the nearby treeline.
“Well,” Jennifer mused, “I guess it’s okay.”
“Clearly,” I said, “Those were not the movements of an injured animal.”
Returning to the car, we inspected the front driver’s corner where it had hit. There were brush-like marks in the dust on the front fender near the headlight. We had not hit it, it had hit us. That explained why it was only dazed and not broken. We got back in the car and headed home. It was a good trip overall, and the three and a half months of deer archery were enriching even if they didn’t put meat in the freezer.
Today, I did a little maintenance to my bow and resorted my arrows. I am on the look out for a feeder which I will attempt to maintain year round. We will continue to scout and watch the deer, and we will more than likely sit in the blind with cameras instead of guns and archery equipment at one time or another. The rabbits, squirrels, and quail have been prevalent, and we’ll continue to pursue them. By the time Deer Archery opens in October, we will be far more prepared than we were this year, and I’m sure we’ll have more stories to share!