I was quite excited for hunting season this year! The Pennsylvania Game Commission changed the rules for archery hunting to allow the use of crossbows, so for the first time, I purchased an archery stamp. I have never been interested in hunting with a compound bow as I didn’t feel I could make a good accurate and clean kill shot. That has changed with the use of a crossbow. Now I can be very accurate and feel comfortable shooting out to 40 yards. Let me just say that I’m not putting down hunting with a compound bow, so if you hunt with one, don’t get your dander up! There are lots of people who are extremely accurate and deadly with a compound bow! I’m just not one of them!
This change has been wonderful for me. I can now hunt earlier in the season without freezing my tail off! This is a huge issue for me because I can’t take cold weather very well. I’m also excited about being able to hunt the rut! I’ve only been out hunting two days (archery started here on October 3rd), and already I’ve had some great and wild experiences! The first day was pretty uneventful as far as seeing deer goes, but still a joy to sit out in beautiful weather with the leaves changing, watching the sunrise, and listening to all of the songbirds wake up and the squirrels leave their nests to start looking for acorns! The second day was quite a different story!
My stand sits with my back facing the woods and my front and both sides watching a field. Deer come out naturally to feed. I was in my stand before sunrise, listening to the day come alive, and watching the sun come up as it glittered like little jewels off of the dew drops covering the field! I got to see a flock of turkeys working their way through the field, looking for bugs, grasshoppers, and other hidden delights! I waited and watched but … no deer! However, I did see something that I have never seen before.
Toward mid-morning I heard a noise behind me, and slowly turned to see what was making the soft swishing noise in the leaves. There came a rabbit from straight behind me through the woods. It wasn’t running really, just steadily hopping forward. It got right behind me and then turned to my left and disappeared under a heap of brush. As soon as it was out of sight, I heard another noise in the leaves. This time it wasn’t a rabbit, but a mink that was following in the exact path the rabbit had just gone. It also disappeared under the brush. In just a few seconds, the rabbit came out from under the brush, went behind me and to my right, and entered another pile of brush. You guessed it, in just a few seconds the mink was following in the rabbit’s footsteps. It also entered the brush and then it stopped. At that point a chipmunk alarm started going off, followed by a squirrel alarm. I don’t know where they went from there, or if the rabbit got away, but it was so cool to watch something like this, that one would normally see on a nature program on TV. I got to see it in extreme high definition!
But, morning was not the only excitement I was to have this day! In the afternoon I went back to the house to take care of a few chores before going back out to hunt in the late afternoon and evening with my best hunting partner, my husband! We decided that my husband, Jim, would go to my stand to hunt, and I would go to my dad’s stand, which is about 500 yards from mine and also sits with its back against the woods and faces a different open field that is a natural feeding place for deer. This field is on a hill with my dad’s stand at the top. My dad doesn’t hunt archery, so it’s nice to be able to use this stand. To see deer coming out in this field is very common. The issue is whether they will get close enough to get a shot. The sun was sinking in the sky, and things were just starting to get that dusky look. It is what we like to call “prime time.” Out at the end of the field a doe and two young emerged. They headed right down over the front of the field, and out of sight! Shortly after that, to my left, two more deer came out into the field. This time there was one buck, a five or six point, and a smaller deer. I ranged them at 60 yards. Too far to get a shot if I had wanted to, but I know there are better deer here, so I wouldn’t have taken them anyway.
It was now getting pretty dark, although it was full moon, and I could see quite well across the field. It was too late to be shooting anymore. Now I just had to wait for the deer to leave the field so I didn’t spook them when I left the stand. I watched them eating for some time, till they finally worked their way back to the woods.
By now it was dark, but as I said, with the full moon, I could see quite well. I scoped the field again to make sure there were no other deer out, and I saw a large dark spot about 60 yards on the other side of me. There in the field were not one, but two black bears! Seeing bear here is not uncommon, but I had never seen them out in this field before! I was enjoying watching them. They would interact with each other, and browse a bit on the alfalfa. They started working their way toward the stand as they were eating, till they were a mere 10 yards away.
Both of these bears were nice size, although it was too dark for me to make a guess at their weight. One was significantly bigger than the other. The larger bear turned all of a sudden, and headed right for my stand! Now I should explain what this stand is like. It is a wooden enclosed stand with windows that can be opened on all 4 sides. It sits slightly up in the air, with 3 or 4 steps to get up into it. I had three of these windows down to watch all the action. The bear got to the base of the stand and started to stand up to come up the steps. I had my head out the window watching it. That’s when I realized that this bear had some size. I think if I stretched, I could have tapped it on the nose. This was getting a little to close for comfort, so I clapped my hands at it three times, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP. It immediately stopped, turned and walked back to the other bear, still at 10 yards away. There they stood, trying to figure out what the sound was. I clapped again, and they ran just inside the woods and stopped. They stood for a couple seconds, then started walking toward the stand again. I clapped the third time, stopping them once more. They waited a few seconds, and then took off back through the woods, sounding like bulldozers as they ran through the brush. I don’t know if they finally picked up my scent, or just decided they were not sure enough of the situation and it was time to get out of there.
I gathered up my stuff and started walking in to meet my husband and tell him about my adventure! I don’t mind saying that as I walked across that moonlit field, I looked over my shoulder more than once to make sure a couple of curious bears didn’t decide to come back to investigate a bit more! I wish I could have gotten pictures of all these exciting events, but even if I had carried my camera, it would have been to dark anyway!
You don’t always have to bag your quarry for it to be a successful hunt! Some experiences in life are priceless!
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