Yes, the waiting is over and it’s the first day of the Ohio gun season for deer.
All the snow is gone that we got last Wednesday. Jon and I have been busy hanging stands, scouting deer and anticipating the snow might still be on the north and east slopes now on Monday, but it’s not.
I bought a pair of insulated boots with the Vibram tread last year for good traction and I’ve been thinking that I’d need them but today’s not the day. I’m wearing my same old comfortable 2-year-old work boots because it’s dry and warm.
This day starts at 5:30 a.m. and in the woods by 6:15. If you remember the Buddy Buck articles, we have an opening day setup of a favorite hollow and ridge swale where the deer run through when they’re bumped out of their beds.
The setup today is that Jon drops me off at the entrance and I wait until he drives on and gets on stand in the hollow. My job is to wait here from 6:15 until daylight and start moving from spot to spot to see, shoot or move deer.
Standing there in the dark, I think of many opening days gone by. It takes me back to many mornings in Adams and Scioto County with Dad. Most of them were colder than today.
I think back to the Buddy Buck mornings when I was on stand and either Jon or Benji bumped a buck to me. I also remember a morning in Jackson County when I was 35, with buddies, and carrying a 20-gauge double barrel with a bead sight. That seems like 100 years ago in deer hunting technology and technique.
They knew the farm and it was my first time there. They had their spots picked out and sent me down over the hill to one of their low-priority areas.
I made my way down the hill in the dark with a light to the old half-rotten wood stand in the tree they described. I felt lucky just finding it and luckier getting up the remaining steps it had. I got up in it before daylight and got as comfortable as I could be while thinking that both the stand and I would hit the ground any time.
Just about daylight here came a nice eight-point buck, right toward the stand. He had his nose down moving slowly and came to within 25 yards of me when I clicked the safety off.
He heard that and looked up at me. He was probably 3 or 4 years old and was probably totally surprised to see anyone foolish enough to be up in that dilapidated wooden thing in the tree.
He was so shocked that he snorted and almost stood up on his hind feet. This gave me a perfect chest shot and he actually sat right back on his butt and died right there. That’s about as simple as it gets and it hasn’t been that easy since.
It all started with my “buddies” sending me in a direction they didn’t want to be. I was out of there and had the deer checked in by 9:06 at the Oak Hill Trading Post.
Maybe today will be the same, you never know.
Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw. Today is a little like that because I’ve never hunted this farm in this direction.
As it gets daylight, I begin to move slowly in the agreed direction. It doesn’t take long to see what’s wrong with this method. The farmer’s dogs, 1,500 yards away, commence to barking and pursue me.
There are many types of dogs. There are those that lay on the porch and those that chase deer hunters. They keep closing the gap and are constantly barking.
In previous years, we’ve always driven past this point to park. I find myself with three loud dogs staying 100 yards behind me that never stop barking.
This is not looking like a good plan or opening day.
My best choice now seems to get away from them and I do. They went back and I went on. By 8:30, I’m on the ridge swale stand I’ve hunted in previous years and things seem to be more like normal.
This deer hunting thing is about patterning deer, but sometimes they’re patterning you. When you catch yourself thinking things are back to normal, look out, it’s probably time to change your pattern.
We’ve been hunting one day on these 200 acres for five years now. Several weeks ago, I obtained permission to hunt the 200 acres on the other side of the road. This will be our afternoon hunt today.
Everything changes, our patterns and the deer’s patterns. Maybe we’ll just chase them from one side of the road to the other. I’ve heard several shots this morning but none on this farm or that farm.
Life is good.
Well, it’s 3 p.m. now and we moved over to the other farm two hours earlier. We saw a deer this morning but too far off and moving fast.
Here at this place, it’s mostly steep and woods. It was timbered 20 years ago and much brush but one section has a lot of 18-to-24-inch oak that wasn’t timbered.
It’s now 4 o’clock and it’s not looking like a banner opening day but I’m not complaining and it ain’t over yet. Let’s count our blessings.
I’ve hunted the farms of three friends. I’ve had my son with me. I’ve seen four deer, plenty of squirrels, a piliated woodpecker, bluebirds feeding on sumac, plenty of rubs and scrapes, and a lot of new territory.
This is all good and you know what? I haven’t been cold or wet.
Look on the sunnyside. At 39, I’ve probably got 39 more opening days. If you believe that last one, let me sell you some oceanfront property I saw in Scioto County today.
“I got some oceanfront property
on Swauger Valley.
From my front porch,
you can see the sea.
I got some oceanfront property,
on Swauger Valley,
and if you buy that,
I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free.”
I may not be killing many deer out here today, but I’m having a real good time. A mediocre opening day in the woods with family is better than a great day at work. It pays different dividends.
At this point, I’m beginning to suspect Little Laura may have put some “hinder” or “Deer-Be-Gone” on my boots.
It’s 5 o’clock and it’s closing time for opening day. As I make my way back about a half mile to the truck, the shadows are closing in fast and I’m just saying:
“Heavenly shades of night are falling — it’s twilight time.
Now all the deer are calling — you’re out of time.
Opening day didn’t go my way — but that’ll be just fine.
All is well, ratchere — at twilight time.”
Dudley Wooten can be reached at 740-820-8210 or by visiting wootenlandscaping.com.