This is a story for all my hunters and wildlife enthusiasts! Last week, I wrote about the youth hunt I went on in Central Texas, and today I wanted to share with you the story of what we saw one evening while hunting. It was incredible and will probably go down as one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen while hunting.
I want to preface this story with a little bit about normal deer behavior for those of you who aren’t as familiar. In the peak of the rut (usually around December), bucks tend to forget about silence and stealth, and tear off across the countryside in search of does. When usually they would be scared by the click of my camera, they become so one-track-minded that I could take a phone call right next to them and they wouldn’t even notice. I’ve never seen more than two bucks after the same doe at one time, and I’ve rarely seen more than two or three nice eight points in the field at the same time. And even though I’ve spent many evenings hunting beside ponds, I have never seen a buck swim.
On this particular evening, we parked the car on a dirt road about half a mile from the deer blind in the late afternoon. We began walking down the road and Kathleen, the 10-year-old huntress I was guiding, proclaimed with great confidence, “Well, I just DON’T think we are going to see ANY wildlife tonight!” She was convinced and there would be no changing her mind.
As we walked down the path, the brush opened up to a view of the deer blind. It was perched about 20 feet off the ground.
To the left, there was a large meadow surrounded by forest. Off to our right, there was a patch of brush, a large pond and another expansive meadow. Kathleen continued telling us, loudly, how convinced she was that we would not see any wildlife. If she keeps making so much racket, then we for sure won’t see any wildlife! I thought.
We continued walking, but stopped dead in our tracks when a huge crash in the brush to our right startled us. Kathleen was cut off mid-sentence. We waited for another sound. Silence hung in the air, and we were about to keep walking when the thrashing in the brush started again, and got louder. Seconds later, just ten yards in front of us, a doe sprung out of the woods in a full sprint. Two seconds behind her, a buck catapulted out of the woods hot on her tail. They could have cared less that we were standing mere feet from them or that Kathleen was chit chatting. This buck had one thing on his mind: this doe.
We watched, still frozen, as the chase led into the woods. We decided we should get up to the blind and see from a better vantage point. By the time I climbed up to the top rung of the ladder, I heard another crash, this time it was the recognizable sound of antlers locking together in a buck fight. I gazed out across the meadow, and two different bucks–not the one we had just seen–were duking it out on the other side of the pond.
The moment I opened the window in the deer blind we heard a huge splash. The doe from the earlier chase jumped into the pond and was heading for the opposite bank.
A beautiful eight-point buck–the one that had been chasing her–stood dumbfounded on the bank behind her, as if thinking, How dare she elude me!
Splash! He jumped in after her, taking off across the pond and pulling himself out of the water on the other side just as four more bucks emerged from the woods and joined in the chase. I’m not sure what perfume this doe was wearing, but man, it was attracting these bucks like moths to a light. Big bucks, too–at least two of them were eight or more points with what I would estimate was a 20+ inch spread each. Beautiful.
The two bucks in the lead were huffing and puffing, their tongues visibly hanging out as the bucks gasped for breath. This doe was holding strong in her lead and if those boys wanted any time with her, they were going to have to earn it.
The chase continued–around the pond, back into the brush, out of the brush and across the meadow, with no buck giving up. Every time the doe emerged from the woods, she had one more buck on her tail, until at one point we counted six.
One of my favorite parts of this whole event were the innocent bystanders.
This heron, wondering what happened to his peaceful little evening by the pond…(you can see a buck swimming right next to her)…
The little buck, watching and taking notes for future doe chases…
Finally after what felt like ages, the chase headed into the woods where, I suppose, it ended.
“So Kathleen,” I asked, “what were you saying about not seeing any wildlife tonight?”
I couldn’t help but smile at the look of pleasant surprise on her face.
When we got back to the lodge that evening, one of the guides who had been out hunting with another girl and her mom recounted a moment when young hunter had asked her, “But can’t the girl deer just say ‘no’?”
How do you answer that? “Well yes, honey, you can always say no. But things happen a little differently out here in the wild…”
So much of what we see in nature is controlled–like at the zoo, on a tv show, or like the tamed deer in our neighborhoods, as just a few examples. Truly wild experiences are not something we often get to see in our day to day, but these wild experiences make us realize there is more than just us in this world–there are creatures out there who possess intelligence and who have value that is completely unique from our value as humans.
Oh what a night! Hope you have an adventuresome wildlife encounter in your future.