If you spend enough time outdoors, you will have some odd things happen. Those experiences can range from mildly amusing to terrifying, and everything in between. As a hunter, I’ve seen many unusual things in four decades. And some of them were just plain weird.
One experience that I often think of is a buck that just presented itself one too many times, and the odd things that happened that one day. It was November 2012, and the rut was in full swing. It was cold, lightly snowing, and expectations were high as I drove in the dark to my hunting spot. While turning into the bush road, a buck bounded onto the road, looked at the truck, and then disappeared. It was a nice eight-pointer, with a thick neck, but not the giant 10 point I had on my trail cam — and my heart set on. I parked the truck, waited for first light, then began the stalk into my ground blind.
There were fresh deer tracks all over in the snow, and the wind was still. These were perfect conditions to jump a buck. As I rounded a corner, there was a grunt to my left. Standing broadside in the bush, was an 8-pointer: That 8-pointer, again. He gave me a perfect 50-yard shoulder shot, and I did put the crosshairs on him, but then decided to hold out for Mr. Big. The buck bounded off in the opposite direction and I carried on.
Once in the blind, I was feeling extra excited. The rut was clearly in high gear and if there was ever a day Mr. Big was going to show, this was it. The snow was picking up steam, and it was getting harder to see down my long shooting lane. At around 10 a.m., I grabbed a granola bar, and when I looked up, there was a buck standing straight ahead at 100 yards. There were antlers, but the snow was making it tricky for positive rack-size identification. It felt like show time. The gun went up, I found the base of the neck and squeezed. The buck dropped in its tracks.
A few minutes later, I was standing over my buck. It was that same eight-pointer I had already seen twice. It was just meant to be.
But this story isn’t over.
I needed a quad for the deer extraction, so I drove back to town. On return, there were fresh buck tracks at the kill site, although it had only been two hours. My son Devin and I loaded the buck, and then pulled the SD card on the trail cam. Back at home, I looked at the shots from when the buck went down to our return. In that time, two other bucks had come to sniff the dead buck, and one of them had two long tines that were tinged in blood. Since it had only sniffed my buck, my thought was it had been in an earlier scrap. The mind reels. There was nothing normal about that hunting day.
Another weird deer story took place in the fall of 2018. One of my favourite stands is on a rise at the intersection of two deer trails. The ground blind is 70 yards away and has a perfect view of both approaches. For some reason, I’d been trying a few different views with the trail cam that fall and decided seeing pics of a big buck with the ground blind in the background would be cool.
So, before an evening hunt, the trail cam was placed strategically on a tree pointing directly at the blind. It was a quiet evening, and, as light fell, there was movement. When a doe stepped out in the open, I figured it was time to fill an antlerless tag. The shot dropped the deer. When I walked up to the animal, I noticed some broken plastic pieces on the snow. It was then I realized that my bullet had also taken out my $300 trail cam. Right through the lens. The camera was shattered and destroyed. That was expensive venison. And, despite my best efforts, I could never find the SD card.
Then, there are bears. My weird bear hunt stories could fill a whole other column. No animal is more unpredictable. One of the more memorable, and nerve-wracking experiences took place while I was sitting in a tree stand. The stand was about 100 yards out from a cornfield, on a well-tromped trail. A smallish bear had popped out of the corn and ambled by, but it was not a shooter. At last light, I was just getting ready to pull the bolt out of my crossbow, when there was movement at the top of the trail. It was the largest bear I’d ever laid eyes on, like a black Volkswagen Beetle. With only a couple minutes of shooting light left, this mega-sized bear was coming.
Adrenaline exploded in my brain. Was I really going to try and put a little stick in this monster? As the bear approached, my bravery was quickly diminishing. Then at about 60 yards it stopped, sat down — all 600 pounds or so — and looked directly at my position. Our eyes locked. My crossbow was up, but I didn’t like the shot or the distance. Then, very slowly, the big boar got up, turned around, and ambled off. So, the decision whether I was going to shoot or not was removed. However, there was a new concern: I had to walk out on the very same trail that bear had just been on, in the pitch black. The fact that I am sitting here tapping this column out is proof of survival. Yet rarely have I been as freaked out as that evening walking along that trail in the cornfield, knowing that bear was likely close. Heartbeats accelerating!
Originally published in Ontario OUT of DOORS’ 2020 Hunting Annual