Lessons for the Deer Woods
By Dennis Jensen

Most deer hunters, I suspect, do their utmost to bring home the venison. They scout during the pre-season, use high-quality gear and clothing and practice their shots before opening day.

But oftentimes, itís the little things, the fine details and paying attention to your surroundings that can make all the difference in a successful deer hunt.

There have been times, both in the recent and long-ago past when I made a simple decision about where to spend the day hunting that made all the difference in the world.

Most of the time, I hunt in pretty thick cover and spend the entire day in a tree stand or ground blind in rolling hill-country not far from my home. As I left my place, passing through the woods in the dark on one hunt, I decided not to return to the same tree stand the next day.

Caption for Photo: Photo by Dennis Jensen - A good buck, shot by the author and about to be dragged from the woods. Deer hunters can improve their chances by paying attention to fine details while hunting.

The next morning, I set out in the dark, with a new snow on the ground and my path took me down the same logging trail I had taken a day earlier. Just as I was about to pass the stretch of woods where the day-before tree stand stood, I noticed a series of six or seven deer tracks, headed right in the direction of that stand. I decided, then and there, that perhaps one of those tracks was laid down by a doe, either about to go into estrous or already into her breeding period.

So I decided to return to that tree stand, at least for the morning. I pulled my gear up and settled in, watching the dark sky to the east breaking into day. It was a gray, cold morning but, thankfully, there was little wind. I moved my head about, trying to pick up any movement, but I really focused on the direction of the tracks, some of which passed only 20 yards from my stand.

About an hour into daylight, I caught movement, off to my right. It was a deer, with its head down almost to the floor of the forest. I brought my rifle up, saw good points coming out of the deerís head and touched off a shot from about 25 yards away.

On that morning, my buck season ended as I pulled a 125-pound 4-pointer from the woods. And, as I left the woods that day, I knew that it was not luck but attention to detail that brought about my success. Fast-forward a few years later. I worked my way to a tree stand way up in the hardwoods. From my stand and uphill a bit, I watched four deer, two adults and two fawns, feeding slowly. I cranked the scope up to 10-power and watch those deer feeding on acorns.

Now my place had red oak trees all around, but I decided to climb down and do a little investigating. While acorns were here and there at my stand, about 80 yards uphill, the forest floor was littered with them.

With the wind in my face, I hunkered down against a rock outcropping to break up my outline and glanced at my watch. It read 8:20 a.m. Well, I was a little late settling in, but I felt like I had made a good decision.

Somewhere around 10 a.m., I could see a buck coming up from the valley below. He took his time coming to me, feeding as he went along. About five minutes later, I put a 30-30 bullet through both lungs at about 40 yards. When I went to the buck, a 5-pointer sprawled out on the ground, he still had acorns in his mouth. Again, it was paying attention to details and a willingness to alter whatever plans I had laid out that made all the difference.

The lesson to all of this: Keep your eyes, and your mind, wind open when you take to the deer woods.

Dennis Jensen is the outdoor editor of the Rutland Herald and the Barre Times Argus and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association.

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