Monday, November 26, 2012

A Good Week of Hunting

I try hard as I can each year to get a week away from my Washington office over the Thanksgiving holiday to turn my attention to hunting. The first part of the week is usually spent on waterfowl, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been the traditional 'opening day' for chasing deer with a firearm in Maryland for as long as I can remember.

Lately, though, there hasn't been much in the way of waterfowl around these here parts during what we hunters refer to as 'the early split.' It just isn't cold enough in middle November to bring birds to our region; so mostly we sit around in shirtsleeves in duck blinds, looking out at an altogether too bright and too warm sun, set high in a bluebird sky.

The 2012 goose opener was much the same as we've come to expect, what few birds had arrived to the Chesapeake were content to hug the small creeks where they roost overnight, and left those friendly confines only to loaf around on the Chester River or other such larger bodies of water as they might find amenable. On days like these, 60 degree temps and not a cloud in the sky, hunters might see plenty of birds, but getting them into the decoys, or even getting them to feign interest in your hopeful spread, is a tall order.

Things looked up on Tuesday, when a slight front rolled through, making for a cloudy dawn. The birds left the creek and worked our field early, and before the three guys in the blind could run out of things to talk about we had a limit and fellow blogger Kirk Mantay from over at River Mud and myself were enjoying a hearty breakfast and more conversation at Higgy's, a Church Hill diner that specializes in the kind of stick-with-you-for-the-day grub that hunters prefer. It was the best day of goose hunting, something I do probably more frequently than all the other hobbies I have combined, I've had in fully two years.

Thursday morning the guests in my home slept as I put my turkey in its brine and threw my shotgun into my truck, I saw hundreds of starts twinkling down on me; a crystal clear night that promised more of the same during the day. Sure enough, the day broke blue and the sun shone brightly as we watched early birds cruise far over our heads. I was able to harvest a single before I had to leave the pit for some time in the kitchen.

On Saturday morning, I turned my camo hat in for a blaze orange model and waterfowl season for deer season. I headed out into a stiff 20 mile per hour wind, that thankfully for me was blowing out of the northwest, blowing my scent away from the field I was hunting. Early in the morning, before legal shooting time, I saw a dark figure working its way across the field and knew it was a deer. Wind and cold temperatures seem to become an afterthought when you can watch animals cruise around without any knowledge of your presence in a tree 15 feet above them.

I had no intention of harvesting any but the most mature deer, and knew instintively that any animal walking across a field that early in the morning, and alone besides, was anything but a mature animal. I watched the doe through my binoculars until she slipped through some cover at the edge of the field, and on to wherever she would hang out for the rest of the day.

There were other deer, a four-point buck that crossed in front of me broadside at what would have been archery range, and six does crowded the field right before the end of legal shooting time, any of which would have been harvested easily enough. But with the commitment to only harvest mature deer front and center in my mind, I was content to watch these deer through my Minox binoculars, getting a sense for what the deer were doing, and when they were doing it.

It was a great week afield, there were plenty of geese and deer around, and as always lots of good conversation in the goose pit and duck blind. Deer hunting is a solitary affair, almost entirely quiet and still, which is why I prefer the conviviality of the waterfowl hunt; but the time I spend in the stand gives me time to think, and for that alone it has tremendous value. Here's to a successful 2012-2013 season to all those folks who still rise early and find good fortunes up in the sky.


1 comment:

Al Redmer, Jr. said...

hey there Steve,

no deer in my freezer yet, either..... if you'd like some company in the goose pit, give me a shout!