Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
The leaves crunched under foot with each step.
Try as I might, there was no being sneaky making my way into the woods this evening. After my 100 yard march announcing to every deer within ear shot that I was around, I climbed up and settled into my spot for the first hunt of the year.
Opening day had finally arrived and it felt good to be back in the autumn woods. There was just enough coolness in the breeze to let you know that it was fall. The foliage is a mix of greens, yellows and brown with occasional crimson thrown in by the maples. The air is thick with that woody, musty, earthy smell that only comes from a mature stand of hardwood timber. I took a deep breath and absorbed as much as I could.
This hunting spot isn’t actually mine, although I’ve sat with my back against the red oak many times. No, this tree belonged to my late pal Arthur. We set this stand years ago and he instantly coined it the “doghouse” stand due to an old doghouse being close by. The doghouse marked the grave of the farm’s previous owner’s pet that they buried in the middle of the woods. So, it just made sense to Arthur that this was the doghouse stand.
The name stuck….
It’s in the perfect spot – An East/West fence intersects with an old woven wire fence running North and South. Who knows how long those fences have been here, but long enough that the fence row has grown up with some massive oak trees that never fail to produce a bumper crop of acorns. Every October, the dinner bell rings for the local deer herd as those acorns fall to the forest floor with a plop. To top it off, there’s an open gap where the two fences meet forming a perfect pinch point that funnels deer movement just yards away from the treestand.
I lean my back against the tree and the breeze hits my face. The sunlight filters through the canopy and a chorus of bird songs fill the air. It just feels right to be sitting here, it feels good.
Arthur had always let me hunt this spot, even when we hunted together. This was his favorite spot to sit, but that’s just the kind of guy he was. He was always more concerned if I saw deer or had a chance at a shot than if he did. When we originally hung the stand, he was worried about making sure it was placed so that I could get a close shot because he knew I was limited with my traditional bowhunting gear.
The evening passed by quickly, the ever present gray squirrels kept me entertained with their acrobatics. A nuthatch just above me hopped up and down the tree, calling trying to figure out what I was and if I was supposed to be there or not. The little bird flitted onto a limb next to my head, inches from my face and studied me for what seemed like a minute or two. She finally decided that I wasn’t a threat and went on about her business of being a bird.
A crunch of leaves brought me back from bird watching into hunting mode. A slick, ribby doe stepped into view following a trail that would bring her right to the fence gap. Two tawny, brown yearlings followed to the rear. The trio vacuumed up acorns, crunching the nuts and chewing them like a cow chews its cud. The two smaller deer slipped through the fence opening and both presented perfect shots, less than 10 yards away.
“Come on Arthur, you’re gonna have to do better than that!,” I silently thought to myself….
My pal had always known that I’m not a trophy hunter and on most days, I’d have been content to send an arrow through one of the younger deer and collect my venison, but as for this evening’s sit, I had my sights set on something particular. A fat mature doe would fill the ticket or of course a nice buck, but for now, I was content to watch these three, secluded in the doghouse stand.
– David Hewitt