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Dallas County Outdoors: Late season hunting, not your average walk in the woods

Ken Herring & ‘Abby’
Ken Herring & ‘Abby’

As I parked my truck at my late season deer hunting destination, I took note of the outside temperature. Minus 7 degrees! I also noted that the wind was from the NW. Light, but steady. I estimated a 5-7 mph wind. That wind direction dictated I hunt my East tree stand. As I walked the ½ mile or so to the stand, I contemplated the factors I would be faced with. The stand faced directly into the wind, but deer entering the field would most likely enter the field upwind of my location. In these cold temperatures, the deer often avoid the early pre-dawn and first light brutal cold and become active a bit later in the morning. A ten degree swing in the temperature can be important if you are a deer waiting to balance your feeding needs with the expenditure of energy. Patience and alertness! I’ve learned that wildlife often wins the pursuit game by being infinitely more patient and almost always more alert than most hunters. I arrived at my stand and added two layers of clothing and made the climb into my stand. Once I had attached my safety harness and pulled my gear into the tree I began the watching, listening, and waiting we fondly refer to as hunting. The opportunity to reflect about the memories garnished from experiences from this very precise spot allowed the first hour to pass. Three deer, all without antlers passed by within range during the first hour of my hunt. Antlerless deer or small bucks were not my objective today. Anyway, they were not, lingering. Too bad, as I never fail to intensely enjoy observing deer and their interactions with other deer or wildlife. Deer hunters not only enjoy but learn to understand subtle behaviors and body language of the deer they are watching. The second hour of my hunt, was spent by my mind trying to convince my body that it was not cold. A friend once explained that cold was mostly a state of mind over the body, a kind of outdoor yoga. For the first half of the second hour I could believe his theory. However after an hour and a half, in -15 wind-chill, I began to doubt his reasoning. After the second hour had passed, my mind began working against my continuing this hunt. I began thinking about all the things I could or should be doing. I also began to rationalize about 10 or so other stand locations that I probably should have gone to which probably had a giant buck standing under my stand. And so the hunting continued into the third and final hour of my hunt. When I descended back to the ground I had been blessed with the opportunity to see 7 deer. 5 does or fawns and two small bucks. The second group of deer spent a few minutes within my range of vision, nipping the buds from trees and shrubs and doing other “deer things” without ever knowing that I was observing them. Then they disappeared and it seemed as though my late season hunt had been amply rewarded. My walk back to the truck with all my clothing on refreshed and rewarmed me. I began to believe my friends theory about cold being a state of “mind over the body”. The truck’s heater felt amazing on the short drive homeward. Once again, I enjoyed knowing that I had experienced some outdoor adventure that would have been missed forever if I’d stayed home. Yes, I had reconfirmed that I’d never been sorry for a day where I got to enjoy the sunrise in a wild setting. Late season hunting, definitely not your average walk in the woods.

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