Along The Trail 7-10-14

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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A mid summer evening’s drive through the county.

The air is thick and damp, fog starting to settle in the depressions through the fields. The soybeans look to be a bumper crop, already knee high. The windows are rolled down, binoculars lying on the passenger seat. The sleek, orange coat of a whitetail’s summer wardrobe stands in stark contrast to the surrounding deep green of the soybeans.

I pull to the edge of the road and steady my field glasses waiting for the animal to lift its head. A mature doe jerks her head up, looking my way, strands of leaves hanging from her mouth. A couple more slick heads enter the bean field and join her for their evening meal as I drive on to my next spot.

I check the field corner from the road. The beans are so high that the deer are all but obscured except for their heads and necks. From this distance I can make out the shape of antlers, warranting another look with the binoculars.

I adjust the lenses for a clearer view and bring the old boy into focus. A great buck, tall and wide. Antlers looking larger under the protective velvet wrap, supplying them with another couple months of blood flow and nourishment.

The big fella is in a small bachelor group with a handful of other bucks. They seem to enjoy their own company this time of year, safety in numbers I suppose. The antlers are vulnerable to injury at this stage and useless for any sort of defense against predators.

He dwarfs his partners and keeps an eye on the woods and one focused towards my car, a couple hundred yards distant.

A deer of this size didn’t get there by being careless and stupid. While his buddies bury their heads in the farmers soybeans, the old buck takes a bite, snaps his head up and surveys around. Eyes searching, ears rotating like radar before he dives in for another bite, totally aware of his surroundings.

Five minutes and he’s had enough of my SUV sitting at the edge of the road. He knows he’s being watched and I’m sure I’m not his only admirer. One more snatch of a mouthful of bean leaves and he turns and cruises towards the safety of the tree line, effortlessly moving through the chest high soybeans.

Eventually, the younger, less experienced bucks follow suit and bound, tails flagging to the woods edge.

Three times now that I’ve ran across this old guy. He’s sure to be a challenge, cagey and mature.

Like I said, bucks like him don’t happen over night and he’s seen more than his fair share of hunting seasons come and go. Hopefully, he’ll stay on this feeding pattern for a few more weeks. Wishful thinking to believe he’ll still be in the same field come October 1st, but if things go as planned, maybe I can figure out his next step and we’ll cross paths in the corner of that field on a crisp October morning.

It might seem like a lazy man’s way to scout, but summer evening drives past the crop fields surrounding your hunting spots can reveal a lot of useful information for the deer hunter and it keeps you and your human odor out of the woods. Much to the farmer’s chagrin, deer are gorging themselves in the soybeans fields this time of year and just before nightfall, they’ll all start showing up for dinner.

Even if you’re not a deer hunter, an evening drive is a great way to view wildlife this time of year. Don’t forget your binoculars and a camera.

– David Hewitt