Not Positively Identified

Upwind whitetails inadvertently alerted by an unidentified sound or motion made by you will not soon abandon the area if they can’t positively identify you.

After being alerted by an unidentified sound or motion (not true of human odors) made by you, nearby whitetails upwind or crosswind that cannot positively identify you via sight or hearing won’t soon abandon the vicinity of your stand. Take the buck my son, John, took on the fifth day during our past hunting season. When our deer camp clock began ringing 4 AM that morning, it was 28 degrees outside, the air was calm, the starlit sky was moonless and clear and a south west wind wasn’t expected to begin blowing until 9 to 10 AM.

“It’s a perfect morning to hunt at my blind on the north east side of the Moose Mountain clearcut (our name for a certain tall, steep-sided hill),” John declared. “I’d better get a move on. It will take me almost two hours to get there.”

John was especially cautious as he began to make his way up the slope toward his blind — a naturally formed stack of storm-toppled evergreens atop a fifteen-foot high rocky outcropping overlooking the clearcut. Having discovered deer bedded directly in front of that outcropping upon approaching the his stand site during a previous hunting season, John was deliberately bending his knees with each step to make sure he didn’t drag his feet in dry leaves and putting his boots down lightly, avoiding stepping on any branches or twigs lying in his path. Uncharacteristic of human hunters, any deer that might be feeding near his stand ahead would find it very difficult to hear his footsteps, much less determine what was making them. Upon sighting his three fluorescent tacks on the base of a tree trunk ahead, intended to warn him when he was near his destination, John turned off his flashlight and silently slipped on his hunting coat that had been carried lashed to his backpacked hunting stool to ovoid perspiring during his arduous, two-mile hike. When his blind finally loomed up before him, John slipped his stool from his back and knelt before it to remove his camo headnet from its attached packsack. At this point, however, something inside the packsack made a soft, but strange sound. John then heard something moving away through the deep grasses about 20 yards out in front of his blind.

It was 6:40 AM, twenty minutes before it would be light enough to clearly distinguish a deer and legally fire at one. Under the starlight sky, nonetheless, John could make out the dark form of a single deer with modest antlers moving south across the clearcut, often halting to stare back in his direction. In an attempt to fool the deer into believing the sound it heard was made by other deer, John dug out his rattling antlers and softly tapped them together a few times, holding them high enough above the top of his blind to be seen by the retreating deer. It being obvious the buck had not positively identified him because it was not trotting or bounding away with its tail up and/or snorting, John hoped it would remain near until it was light enough to be more clearly seen.

The deer finally disappeared and nothing was seen stirring until 8:45. Alerted by soft footsteps, John was staring south when he spotted a buck on his left — a 2-1/2 year-old six-pointer lacking one tine. It was stalking slowly north west past his blind about 45 yards away, seemingly searching for something — likely the two bucks it thought it heard touching antlers earlier. Ordinarily, John would have passed up such a buck, but being a year with low expectations due to much reduced deer numbers, he decided to take it. As soon as the buck stepped past a clump of mature evergreens that enabled John to raise his rile and take aim without being seen by the deer, he squeezed his trigger. At the shot, the buck dropped in its tracks.

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Tracks 3-3/8 inches in length revealed this buck was the same deer that had been in front of John’s blind earlier. This proved again, though you may inadvertently alert nearby whitetails as you approach a stand site, if they cannot positively identify you via seeing, hearing or smelling — you being motionless or your motions being well hidden when they look your way, your silhouette is well disguised by natural cover, you have no bare skin showing and you are downwind or crosswind — those deer may be suspicious and extra alert for about 30 minutes, but they will not soon abandon the area.

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