The more I hunt deer the more I understand one thing: Most of the time in the deer woods, a hunter who practices the three “Ps” will, over the years, bag the most deer.
Patience, perseverance and persistence, these makeup the deer hunter’s critical triad. Without these, any successes that you have will be mostly a fluke or a stroke of good luck.
Dick Libby, in his fine book, “Hunting Whitetails From on High,” devotes a chapter to the role that perseverance plays in successful stand hunting. It’s more than perseverance, writes Dick, he calls it “teeth-gritting stubbornness.” And how right he is!
There is an irony here. Most deer hunters that I know, including myself, are wanderers by nature; it is one of the reasons we hunt. Still-hunting through the woods, sneaking through a moss-covered cedar bog or moving ghostlike from tree to tree along an acorn-studded hardwood ridge, can be exciting. There is that ever-present anticipation of what could be awaiting you just beyond that big blowdown or over that knob up ahead.
The challenge on a still hunt is, of course, to see or hear that deer before it sees, hears — or smells — you. No easy thing. Your prey clearly has the advantage in a contest of acute senses.
So logic dicates the most effective strategy: see or hear your prey while it is unaware of your presence. This can and does occasionally happen to the most skillful, meticulous still hunter who is willing to pick his way along on cat feet and take long pauses between steps.
However, long hours in treestands, ground blinds or stump vigils is the best way for a serious deer hunter to seize the advantage. But this tactic can tax your patience. Honestly, now, how long can you sit still in one place?
For me, two hours has always been my limit. The cold, the wind, or just plain impatience often puts me back on the ground, even though I know from experience that deer come to those who wait. As it happens, September warm-weather bow hunting from treestands on balmy days has taught me to hone my patience quotient some. I actually have worked up to three consecutive hours in the stand without going bananas.
Then, this fall, during the November firearms season, I set a new, all-time record for myself. Four and a half hours on one stump without moving, save for a couple of stand-up stretches and a couple of leg crossings. (Dick Libby says that during the early bow season he has been known to remain in his tree stand for 14 hours at a stretch!). Now, if you ask me, that silent sojourn gives new meaning to the word patience.
Can you guess why I was able to discipline myself and stay put on that stump for an entire morning?
Simple explanation. Sign. Deer sign like I had not seen all fall. Multiple buck scrapes and rubs, droppings that were fresh and plentiful.
Yes, the sense of anticipation became intense and drove me to a level of patience that I never before experienced. My inner voice urged me on.”This is as good as it gets, man. Make yourself stay put and, in time, a deer will come to you.”
And, indeed, it did. As I stood for the 11 a.m. stump stretch, an 8-pointer and I surprised each other. He quartered away from me at 50 yards along the other side of the chopping. One shot from my Ruger One. 270 closed the deal and brought my morning stump vigil to a gratifying conclusion.
Random good fortune? Perhaps. But I prefer to believe that this was a case where the three P factor played a part. Or as Dick Libby puts it, ” …you can only expect to reap rewards in proportion to the effort that you expend.”
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”