Saturday, November 06, 2010

Bolt Hole Report, November 6, 2010
Close Encounters

Hallelujah! The rain finally stopped last night but the promised snow flurries never arrived. Still, I had to get out into the woods if I had any hope of seeing a deer.

It was a chilly 30 degrees under cloudy skies with no breeze as I walked out into the woods at 7:30 this morning. Every branch had a string of frozen droplets hanging from its underside. I made my way up to a beech covered shelf behind the Bolt Hole and hung up three scent bombs along a trail that ran north-south. At the time the tiniest of breezes moved east to west. I parked myself in a cluster of hemlocks at the north end of the trail where the shelf rose to a new level an prepared to wait.

And wait some more. All I saw for the first few hours were a pair of Downy Woodpeckers who were intent upon examining every tree within 50 yards of me. Every time they would swoop down to start their climb on a new tree, the flash of white would draw my attention. For at least an hour they tantalized me with the thought that that white just might be a flick of a deer's tail. No such luck.

The sun peeked through the clouds around 10 AM and those little frozen droplets suddenly became a myriad of crystal prisms. A few positioned at just the right angle, even glinted with gold and red and blue of the rainbow. But the sun also brought some tiny amount of warmth; just enough to begin to melt those droplets which then fell, completing their journey to the forest floor. The warmth also caused some of the beech leaves which had held out against the wind and rain to finally give it up and become detached from their branches and head downward. Another distraction.

Finally, as the sun established itself more firmly in the sky, the hillside began to warm and the wind shifted 180 degrees. It also rattled those beech leaves still clinging to the trees adding yet another distraction. And, while the sun may have warmed the surface, the breeze cooled everything else--including me. By 11:30, having seen nothing but the woodpeckers and growing more chilled by the minute, I was ready to head back to the cabin for some lunch. I picked up my scent bombs and slowly made my way southward as silently as I could.

I was pretty much convinced there wasn't a deer with in half a mile.

Off the shelf and about 200 yards into my walk, I stooped to move a branch lying on the trail and there was a brief crash off to my left. I looked up in time to see the flash of a white tail as it bounded behind some hemlocks just 30 yards away. A second deer, an obvious buck--a HUGE buck--moved across a gap in the hemlocks before I could shoulder my rifle and click the safety off. I turned to the next gap in the trees...but the buck, which had seemed destined for that opening..never got there. It must have made a 90 degree turn and headed straight away from me using the hemlocks as a shield.

The oddest thing about this encounter was the total silence after the initial bolt by the first deer. I never heard a foot-fall from either deer as they made their escape. I tried to find out if they had been bedded down on the other side of the hemlocks, but could find no sign of that. It's possible that this was a case of two deer which just happened to be trying to cross the trail I was on and, because I things were so quiet with the wet leaves and gurgling nearby brook, we just never heard each other approaching.

Anyway, after waiting 15 minutes to see if they might return (unlikely--and even if they did, there was still the thick stand of young hemlocks nearby through which they could move with me being none the wiser) I returned to the cabin for lunch and a warm-up. Then it was back out for a totally uneventful afternoon. I didn't even have the Downy Woodpeckers to entertain me.


threecollie said...

Wow, great story! Wish you had gotten him!

JDP said...

Glad you saw some deer and a big buck at that. Keep after em Joated. Frank has yet to see any bucks. Only does so far. Doe season does not open until Thanksgiving. He did kill his first wild hog this morning which was exciting.