Experience is sometimes a harsh teacher. I had roamed the woods behind our rural Texas home throughout the summer of my twelfth year, scouting for deer. Back then because of screw worms our whitetail population was, to say the least, minimal. Seeing deer was possible but not very probable.
One August morning shortly after first light, with the promise to my Mom and Dad I would be home by breakfast so I could start my chores of feeding our animals before it got too hot, I was in the woods sitting watching a field between a stand of white oaks on the hillside, and the dense youpon thickets next the creek bottom. I was watching a trail coming into the opening which lead to a waterhole when I spotted movement coming into the opening. The first to step into the clearing was a young four point. He was followed by a bigger four-point. A third buck stopped a bit farther back into the brush. I could see he was a buck. Like the other two he was still in velvet. But from what I could see, his antlers were considerably bigger. My heart started beating. No doubt this was the biggest buck I had ever seen. He stepped clear of the brush. My heart started beating an alarming rate.
I did not have binoculars, but dearly wished I did. Even so I could count fourteen fuzzy points. His beams spread to just beyond the tips of his erect ears as he looked for the source of noise, which I suspected was my beating heart. I watched in amazement as the big buck and the two others slowly walked and fed their way across the opening into the oaks.
When they disappeared I ran home. I could not wait to tell my parents what I had seen! I just hoped they would believe me.
Back then I listened to anyone who would tell stories about deer hunting. I read everything I could find about whitetails and hunting them. I was enamored and engrossed in whitetails (still am!).
I had started hunting with my maternal grandfather, A.J. Aschenbeck, and my dad, Lester, when I was barely out of diapers. By the time I was six years old my dad would set me on a deer stand, usually simply a single 2×4 board nailed in the fork of a tree, with my .22 single-shot rifle, legal back then. I dearly loved deer hunting, even though during those early years I seldom saw anything other than does.
I saw the big buck from August one other time before hunting season opened November 16th, back then the annual opener for whitetail hunting in Texas. I watched again in amazement as he chased a doe across one of our hayfields. This is late October. There was no mistaking the buck which had since lost his velvet. He looked no less impressive.
Right after I first saw the buck, I found a tree I could easily crawl and then sit in a fork where I could watch the trail I hoped the buck would continue walking when hunting season arrived.
Fast forward to hunting season…. Opening morning I crawled into my tree at 4:30. Finally, two and half hours later, I saw movement coming my way through tall bluestem grass and “Yankee” weeds. It was the big buck from August and October. I started shaking, buck fever at its best or in my case, its worst. I gripped my the 12-gauge shotgun and prayed the buck would keep coming my way. He was slowly closing the distance. Just then, when the buck was about 75-yards away, I felt the wind shift from in my face to at my back. Immediately the buck stopped, raised high his nose, then turned and walked away. That was the last time I saw that buck. Where he went or what happened to him I have no idea. Had been taken by kinfolk or neighbors who hunted in our area I would have known.
I learned two valuable lessons that morning. Deer paid great attention to human scent to avoid encounters with hunters, and I needed a “real deer rifle”, one with which I could shoot at least 100-yards.
It would be many years before I took a whitetail buck the equal of the one that smelled me and left. But I did not forget the lessons he taught me. In time, through working at such things as hauling hay and working cattle I earned enough money to finally buy a ‘real deer rifle”, this about the time I graduated from Texas A&M University. That first “real one” was a Remington bolt action in .257 Roberts. Until that one I had hunted with my granddad’s single-shot 12-gauge, Dad’s Model 94 .30-30 Winchester and a Savage bolt action .30-30. When Ruger introduced their Model 77 bolt action I bought one in 7×57.
Over the years I have hunted whitetails across North America with a great variety of rifles, handguns, muzzleloader, and a few shotguns. These days I hunt with Ruger handguns and rifles; single-shots and bolt actions and I shoot Hornady ammo because I choose to do so!
I hunt whitetails from the ground. I love the challenges presented by doing so. I also know hunting on the ground, if the wind changes I can easily move. There’s no crawling down the tree, moving my treestand to another area where the wind might be in my favor. I frequently use my Nature Blinds Stalking Shield as a ground blind. I can move it with a minimum of effort and time. And, it does a fabulous job of concealing me while also providing me with a good solid rest for my rifle or handgun.
Over the years I have tried many cover scents and no-scents. The one thing I have learned is they all work extremely well if I properly play the wind, setting up downwind from where deer are likely to move.
Something I started doing years ago was hanging dirty socks where I had my ground blind set up or intended to set up my Stalking Shield. I start doing this a month before hunting there. I replace the dirty socks every few days with “new” dirty socks. Doing so, deer in the area smell human odors every day and quickly get used to human odors. By the time I start hunting there, they don’t pay any attention to human odors. Sort of a reverse way of doing things, but it works!
It’s time to go hunting…. Play the wind to your advantage!