The hunt is on for black tail deer Odocoileus hemionus columbianus. In Western Washington, it’s best to find yourself a nice clear cut for a good scope of range and sit in a slash pile or against an old stump. Waiting is the vast occupation of hunting; outside stalking, the wait is your ticket to harvesting some great venison. It’s likely that you’ll sit for 2-4 hours at a time, and you can’t be looking at your phone. The hunt means focused senses; lots of watching, listening, and time to think. It’s really a moment of decompression in a world that cannot slow down. Sit spot during a hunt is my down time, relaxation with vigilance, because it’s hunting, not sun bathing.
Sunlight on a hunt might seem like a great thing, but in black tail country, rain is another helpful ally. The deer are up and active in the rain, feeding comfortably in weather that makes a sane person want to curl up with a book by the fire. You’ll get your best chances at a deer in the worst weather, because not only are the animals roaming, but your inevitable noisy self moving through the terrain is muffled by the droplets of water falling around you. If you do get a sunny day, look for deer bedded down in tall grass of low growing shrubs. It’s not uncommon for a hunter walking through waist high brush to have deer jump up in front of them, seemingly out of no where.
Black tail are masters of hiding, as you see in the trail cam above- this doe tucks out of site as soon as the camera goes off. She takes just a few steps back into the brush and disappears. When I’m hunting, this sink and fade technique has dodged my sites successfully more than once. This is where patience can really pay off. I’ve often come upon deer standing in a way that is not conducive to a good shot; this is common and can be remedied by waiting, watching, and hoping the deer will shift positions. Often times, they do.
This was the situation with my hunt this year at Leafhopper Farm. One of my tenants texted me that he had seen a buck in my back pasture with other does that morning. I met him at the door in my camo with 12 gauge and got the scoop on where, exactly the set up, direction, and number of other deer. Then I calmly walked down to the bridge at Weiss Creek and saw the small herd together resting after heavy rains. Sure enough, the buck I wanted was standing eye to eye with me, leaving no good shot. By now, another younger buck had stood up and the herd was beginning to exit, stage right.
I knelt and set up my Pole Cat shooting sticks which steady my gun to make an accurate shot. The buck was about 15 yards away and turning so I took aim. My backdrop behind the animals was the creek, and with a 12 gauge slug, I was not worried about the bullet traveling miles down stream, in the case of my 30-06. The only funny thing about the whole situation was my cats. Both adult meow meows had come down to the stream with me on what they thought was a common walk about. Well, the gun went off with Lucia right under me and Muir just behind. The feline friends exited back to the farm house and forgave me when fresh venison showed up in their bowl for dinner.
The buck hunched as the slug struck his lower right shoulder, instantly piercing both lungs. He leapt into the woods with the others as they scattered, only to come crashing down beneath a red cedar near the stream. Since I was able to get to the animal so quickly, and he was still alive, I took one more shot to the throat and stilled any suffering. The animal was magnificent, and I knelt to give thanks, recognizing that this was the first deer I had ever harvested on the farm property. The land was giving back, and I was so humbled by this gift. I also thanked the deer people for their sacrifice, knowing one day my bones will feed the grasses that feed the deer.
October harvest has been very generous this year, and I am so thankful for a full larder, great healthy food to share with wonderful people I love and share joy with in this life. A special shout out to Kyle for seeing the deer and telling me, to Bernard for joining us in hauling out the buck in his boxer shorts, and to the rain for holding off long enough for my successful hunt and the processioning time there after. It has been a wonderful season with so many lessons. I look forward to future hunts an more opportunities to feed people with wild game from the land.