Along the Trail 5-31-12


Editor’s Note: This is a series of articles written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship. Look for more articles coming in future editions.


I’m settled back, comfortable in my perch, higher than I normally hunt – easily 20 plus feet – but I’m safely strapped to the tree. My view is perfectly framed through the boughs of the cedar. A standing yellow cornfield to my front, an overgrown, clear cut pasture that hasn’t seen cows in years behind me and a beat down deer trail to my right connecting the two.

If all goes as planned, a willing deer will participate in my hunt…

The evening passes quickly as I’m rocked almost asleep by the movement of the huge cedar tree in the breeze. I watch as the rows of corn sway back and forth, almost hypnotic. The weather is ideal, cool enough for my wool jacket and long johns, but warm enough for comfort. This is the perfect spot to be in early October: birds singing and squirrels chattering and skittering around in the leaves.

The sun has dropped low, that magic time for deer hunters – the witching hour when the deer are up and on their feet.

I take a look around and something is out of place in the pasture. As I concentrate on the spot 75 yards away, the twitch of an ear. Then I catch the glint of an antler in the fading sunlight. The shine of the buck’s wet, black nose reveals itself.

My heart pounds and the familiar excitement takes over. The old buck had been bedded right under my nose for the last two hours! I grunt the deer to his feet, but still only able to see his head and neck due to the tangle of brush he calls his bedroom.

For 10 minutes, he teases me, gradually moving closer, then easing back, never getting closer than 50 yards from my hide. A big nine-pointer – no doubt a trophy deer. I’d never seen the old guy on the hoof, but have a couple of trail camera photos of him after hours. By the looks of him, he’s seen his share of seasons: fat, pot bellied and sway backed like an old horse.

The size of his body more impressive than his antlers. Try as I might, he doesn’t fall for any of my tricks as he disappears into the brush and vanishes over the hill…

Spent, I slump back against my tree and rest from the encounter. I think to myself that I’ll have a good story to tell and a memory made.

It’s late now, time to climb down. I peel my face mask off and just about to lower the longbow to the ground…

Movement across the way and I see a deer’s leg. It’s the old boy sneaking back for a second look. He has circled downwind to try and smell the source of the grunting and ready for a fight! I quickly nock an arrow to the bowstring and wait. I glance ahead and pick my spot…

In seconds, the buck is there – 15 yards quartering away exactly where I want him…

I’d like to be able to tell you that my arrow sped to its mark. I’d like to be able to tell you that I recovered the prize at the end of a short trail and that he provided many meals and his antlers now grace the walls of my hunting shack.

I’d love to tell you all of that, but if I did, it would be untrue…

What I can tell you is that I was a victim.

A victim of a horrible case of “Buck Fever”! A condition all deer hunters are familiar with. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened.

The last thing I recall is seeing my arrow dribble its way towards the buck and fall harmlessly in the high grass, five yards from his feet. I don’t even remember drawing my bow or hitting my anchor point or releasing, but the brightly colored feathers of my arrow burying in the grass are etched in my mind.

The big buck jumped and trotted back to the safety of the pasture and tromped and snorted for the next five minutes as I pouted in my treestand and wondered what just happened, feeling almost ill. I was completely unhinged!

Yeah, even after 30 years of bowhunting, I am still afflicted by ‘Buck Fever’ and if I ever become immune to it, that will be the day I sell my longbow and buy some new golf clubs…

– David Hewitt