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Back Tracks 

“Well folks, it is that time year again. Deer season is ramping up and bow season is in full swing. The stories are just starting flow like hot maple syrup around here. A few weeks back Russ stopped by and told me about this hunt. I am still laughing. Oh, one more thing tell me you read this story and the coffee is on me. We will have a laugh!

Have a great hunt!" Joe, at the Egg Shell.

Early one late November morning, I sat in my deer stand shivering away. My Dad, Lane, and our friends Doc and Rob were suffering the same fate, I was sure. The cold seemed to seep in between the layers of fleece and wool as the sun slowly rose over the apple orchard that was on the side hill about 150 yards away. In three hours, I hadn't even seen a doe in my honey hole or heard any shooting at all. Discouraged, I waited another hour before climbing out of the stand and heading towards the rendezvous. We had agreed to meet at 10:00 o'clock where our property met the neighbors’ property.

Our neighbor, Hans, was retired and owned over 400 acres of prime deer habitat which he allowed us to hunt on. Most days around this time, he would ride his tractor around the perimeter of the property looking for deer sign. Hans was at war with the deer since they had chewed the buds and branches off the trees he had planted the spring before.

I scooted under the old fence then came up to our meeting place. My Dad and Doc were already there, warming themselves in the late November sun.  “See anything?” I asked. “No,” my dad said shaking his head. “Only if you count squirrels,” Doc replied. 

Rob hadn't shown up yet. He was a friend from work who had hunted some, but not a lot. I had invited him to hunt with us after he and I had many discussions about our love of hunting.

Suddenly we could hear the chug, chug, chug of the tractor coming across the hill. Hans came into view and headed directly towards us.  He stopped his tractor in front of us and climbed down. “You see any deer?” he asked.  “No,” I replied. “Not a one,” Dad stated. Doc just shook in frustration. “Well, I know where those deer are,” said Hans. Suddenly, we all perked up and were all ears. “I'll show you” he replied.

Hans stepped off his tractor, grabbing his gun. He walked over to where we stood. He then made a large X in the snow with his gun barrel. Next he drew a large circle around the X, using the tip of the gun. “Okay, this how we will attack these deer,” he stated with confidence. He drew more lines in the now as he looked at us and said, “The deer are in the center.  You, Doc, will come from over here (pointing to the left). Lane, you come from this way (pointing to the right). Finally, Russ you come from this direction (pointing to a spot right between the two others). I will come from here and we will surround the deer and shoot them easy as pie."

“Hi! Guys," yelled Rob, as he came up behind us.  Before anyone could comment on Hans’ plan Rob asked loudly, "What's going on?" I was a little annoyed with my friend since he was 45 minutes late, so I asked, “Rob, where have you been?” “Well, it was cold after sitting about 15 minutes so I went to my car and took nap and hiked around to get warm” "Hmmmm," was all I could say. You see there is an unspoken hunter’s code that unless there is an emergency you stay at your stand and not wander the countryside.  Also, you never go to your car to nap! Rob, Rob, Rob, I thought as I shook my head in disbelief.

Before any of us could say another word Hans asked Rob, “Are you hunting with these Guys?” “Yes. Hi, I am Rob,” he replied while holding out his hand in greeting. Hans shook his hand excitedly and then proceeded to explain his plan again, this time including Rob in his attack and surround strategy.  All the time Hans was explaining his plan, Rob was shaking his head up and down excitedly in agreement.

“Okay, the enemy (deer) is in those pines near the pond. Shall we proceed?” asked Hans. “Let’s go!” shouted Rob.  We all started to walk away and I looked over at my Dad who was shaking his head in disbelief. “I am going to the cabin to have lunch” he whispered as he walked away with Doc and I beside him. “Me, too. I don’t want to see the carnage,” replied Doc smirking.  Nobody wanted to tell Hans directly that his plan was flawed so we decided to act like we were going to follow through then become 'confused' in the direction we were supposed to go.  (This is another one of those unspoken rules; wander a bit when you don’t like what is going on.)

“Russ, what are you going to do,” asked Dad. “Well, I am going to watch this to see what happens; but don’t you think we should tell Rob,” I replied. “Whatever you do don’t go down there and get shot,” laughingly he replied. “What kind of plan is that and do you think Hans’ gun barrel is full of snow after all that pointing and planning?" Doc asked my Dad as they walked away. They didn’t need to say a thing, I understood; not word to Rob.

What transpired next is something you have to see to believe!  I sat down on the hillside out of sight. From my vantage point I could see both Hans and Rob approach the thicket of pines and alders next to the lake. Suddenly, Hans raised his gun to fire, but nothing happened. I watched as he shook the gun back and forth as a large buck walked 20 or so yards to him. Next, Hans started chasing after the buck with his gun raised as if to club the poor ungulate. As Hans, went over the hill and out of sight chasing after the buck, my attention switched to watching Rob.

Rob was just about to the edge of thicket and marching with his gun in combat mode when four does ran towards him.  He started shooting almost immediately. One of the larger does stopped and looked back at Rob as if to say “You can’t hit me,” then flicked her tail. Boom, Boom, Boom; Rob’s gun went off again. The does went down into a small draw with Rob in hot pursuit.  I shook my head in wonderment at the strategy that had just unfolded in the field below me. Then I started to laugh until tears came to my eyes. “What a strange day in the woods this has been,” I thought to myself as I shook my head in astonishment.  I stood up and headed back to camp to recount what I had just seen, eat some lunch, and get ready for the evening hunt.

I didn’t really see much of Rob after that.  He told me that he had chased those deer for miles, before finally connecting on different deer when he scared it out while was pursuing the original four. 

          Remember to always but always watch your back tracks………………………………….