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Effort and Reward in Hunting

May 24, 2012
By Ralph Scherder - OV Times Hunting Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoor Times

As I write this I'm watching a gobbler court a hen turkey less than a hundred yards out the back window of my house, in a wide open field. They've been there since shortly after daylight and I can't stop watching. The huge tom takes four or five steps after the hen, stops, and then fans out into full strut. He remains in full display as the hen casually picks at the moist earth of the cut cornfield and pretends not to see him.

When the hen moves too far away for his liking, the tom breaks strut and closes the distance, and then stops and fans out again. He's magnificent.

They seem to be working in a general direction, going uphill toward a patch of woods. I wonder what would happen if I slipped into some camo, grabbed my gun, circled around and got into position to intercept them. But it's just a thought. I wouldn't actually do it, not since the incident with the buck two years ago.

Where I live is mostly farm fields surrounded by small patches of woods. My house overlooks a fairly deep valley of fields and tree lines. A lot of the valley is swamp, which is the perfect hideout for wildlife. In fact, the past week I've been watching turkeys move in and out of the swamp and fields on a daily basis. They roost in the tall timber at the tops of the hills and then work down in to the bottoms to feed all day.

Same goes for whitetails. During gun season, especially, they seek shelter in the swamp. Local hunters have figured this out the past couple of years, too, and at least once each Saturday of gun season they push out the thickets and inevitably get shots at deer. Last year they surrounded the swamp with 16 guys and killed four does and missed a buck on first Saturday of gun season.

Two years ago, on the Wednesday of the first week of gun season, I woke up and looked out the back window and saw a whole herd of deer crossing the fields heading for the swamp. Two of them had racks. I grabbed my gun and loaded up as I stepped out onto the back deck.

Fact Box

So now I have a rule that states: Any deer or turkey spotted from the deck gets a free pass. In other words, no cherry picking from the deck!

There was a skiff of snow on the ground, which made the deer easy to spot. Also, it was cold I didn't realize exactly how cold until I was outside for a few minutes in a t-shirt. It seemed to get colder as I waited for the deer to step into a clearing for a shot.

I'd kept all my hunting gear at the ready next to the back door, just in case an instance like this arose where I could get an opportunity at a nice buck. And make no mistake, both of the bucks in that group had nice racks. They were the same ones I'd been watching all summer long, and I really couldn't believe that here it was, middle of first week of rifle, and they were both still alive. I'd have my pick of them. I couldn't actually get out hunting due to work commitments later that morning, so this seemed to be a gift from the hunting gods, proof that I was still in good standing with the Man Up There!

Well, I waited and waitedand got colder and colder. The group of deer made it to the thick stuff. Finally I spotted one of the bucks, picked out an opening, and squeezed the trigger a little too soon. There was an explosion of snow. Deer took off in all directions. I couldn't tell which one was the buck I'd just shot at, and next thing I knew, the deer were all high-tailing it up and over the hill.

Except one deer, which I didn't see until almost too late. This one got near the top of the hill, stopped, and looked back as if wondering what the heck just happened. It was the buck I'd shot at, but before I could get the cross-hairs on him, he figured out this was a bad place to be anyway and skedaddled.

I found no blood where the buck had been standing when I shot, but I did find a sapling that had been blown apart when my bullet hit it. I followed tracks to where I'd last seen the deer and, surprisingly, found a few pinhead-sized specks of blood on the snow. I'd grazed it after all.

I tracked the deer up and over the hill without finding anymore blood. Suddenly, about 50 yards to my left, the buck jumped up and bolted into some standing corn. There was another hunter waiting when the buck came out the other side. Two shots rang out and then a guy yelled, "I got one!" I walked down and congratulated him. It was a nice 8-point, and the guy deserved getting it. I saw the spot where my bullet had grazed the deer's back but didn't say anything. I shook his hand one more time and trudged home.

The more I thought about what happened, the angrier I became with myself. What was I thinking? From the beginning the whole situation was trouble. I woke up and saw the deer and wasn't mentally prepared to take the shot. I thought I could cherry-pick a buck from the deck and I was wrong. Looking back on it now, I also wonder, how rewarding would it have really been to have killed that buck anyway? It wouldn't have been rewarding at all. It certainly wouldn't have meant as much to me as other bucks I've killed over the years. In hunting, the reward often equals the effort and sometimes the effort is the reward.

So now I have a rule that states: Any deer or turkey spotted from the deck gets a free pass. In other words, no cherry picking from the deck!

And here it is, two hours later, and that gobbler is still strutting for his hen. Perhaps I'll encounter him again later this week, after my work is all done and I can go hunting with a clear conscience and hunt the bird on his terms. Until then, I wish him luck.



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