Right Place, Right Time

This one came to me by e-mail from a Hatfield filly who keeps me posted from time to time, both of us being South Deerfield natives, she closer in age to my baby brother. It’s a good tale; worth sharing; about a bruiser buck that died in an unusual manner, just before dark on the evening of Oct. 8.

What tweaked my interest most, really got my wheels spinning, was the e-mail:

“Just an FYI — One of my friends was hunting from a tree stand last Saturday and about 4:30 he rattled and grunted in a buck while he had a cigarette going and after had just relieved himself. The buck apparently investigated the
odor, followed it to the tree and reared up and put his
front legs on the tree smelling all the time …  As the deer
investigated the area further it presented my friend with the ‘perfect’
shot and he downed a handsome, 8-point, 214-lb field-dressed buck!”

How could I such a tease? In this the day of scentless soaps and deodorants, odor-neutralizing body and clothes mists, and every precaution under the sun to mask human scent while deer hunting, this guy does everything the experts tell you not to do and comes home with a monster buck worthy of dreams. How do you figure? Well, it happens, especially during the rut, when bucks establish and aggressively protect territory and, smitten, are known to throw caution to the wind.

Anyway, I placed a call Saturday to the source of the e-mail and inquired whether she thought the hunter would be willing to talk. She thought he would, promised to contact him and give him my phone number. Two days later, she responded to an e-mail I had sent to her workplace before phoning her, and she supplied me with his name and number, just in case I didn’t hear from him. I reached him at home a few days later and he was not bashful. He told me the whole story; about how he was “hunted out” and really wasn’t crazy about going out that day; did so to satisfy a friend; decided on an old stand that had been stolen and replaced and wound up having difficulty reaching it because a nearby horse owner had expanded her paddock, making it impossible to park in his regular spot.

He arrived late in the afternoon, put out doe-in-heat scent bombs in front and behind the hemlock tree supporting his stand, climbed into it, not particularly confident or “into it,” and did some rattling and grunting, trying to entice a buck within range. Well, as fate would have it, before long he noticed movement below his stand and — bingo! — nothing but massive antlers approaching from 15 yards out. The deer came to the base of the tree, nose expanding and contracting, looked up and stood on its back legs, its two front ones on the tree trunk. The hunter, compound bow drawn and ready, had a small window but decided not to shoot, wanted a better shot. When the buck finished investigating the tree, it dropped down on all fours and started to move away when the hunter tipped his doe-in-heat bleat-can and stopped his prey in an open space where he could kill him. The problem was that it was getting dark and he was having trouble finding his mark through a peep sight. Finally, he picked up the yellow pin, buried it into the deer’s vitals and let fly, mortally wounding the animal, which bound off and died 40 yards away. He heard it drop from his stand, got down to investigate, flashlight in hand, and noticed something white. Upon closer inspection, it was the dead buck’s belly.

The story wanders off a bit from there, when he goes to the horse-owner’s house and asks if he can go through her property to retrieve the deer. A mounted police officer, she says yes, and informs him that she loves deer heart and liver … hint, hint … which he gladly gives to her … end of story … well, sort of.

It’s at this point that I queried him about the pee and cigarette tale. Was it true that he had tinkled on the tree trunk and was smoking when the deer appeared? Was it also true that the deer appeared interested in the odor of his urine, like there was a trespasser to chase from his turf? Yes, it was true, “but you’re not going to put that in the paper are you?”

When I told him the angle I wanted to pursue, he understood and said, “OK, but I don’t want you to use my name. People will think I’m not a serious hunter, and I am. I usually bring in a pee jar and go through the whole routine to hide my scent. That day was different. I was just going through the motions because my friend wanted to hunt.”

So, chalk it up as an aberration driven by the fact that he wasn’t wild about hunting in the first place; just accompanying a friend more interested in hunting that he. I granted the anonymity request. Why not? Are names really important for a story like this? Let’s just say he’s a 40-year-old Hatfield machinist and leave it at that.

With deadline looming at the paper, I had to stop the conversation, so I bid my unnamed source farewell. Told him I had to run. Promised to be fair, not critical. Just wanted to present it as an interesting tale demonstrating once again that strange things can happen. As most deer hunters know, even when you do your homework, it basically boils down to being in the right place at the right time. No more. No less. He was cool with it.

A few minutes after we hung up, my desk phone rang. It was him.

“Hey, I was thinking about how you could phrase that story and it came to me,” he said. “You can say I sent my buddy an e-mail that said I wasn’t sure what drew that deer in. Could have been the scent bombs, possibly the grunting and rattling, maybe even the pee.”

You be the judge.

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