The trees were glistening in the early morning light, with big raindrops dripping from the leaves to the forest floor. A heavy storm had passed through during the night, ending just before daybreak. The woods were quiet and shrouded in a light mist.
I had just stepped off the back of the truck and hadn’t even loaded my gun yet when I heard the hound. At first I thought it was a dog barking in the back of a pickup that one of the dog handlers was driving. But I quickly realized there were no roads in its direction, and the hound was coming my way.
I set my folding stool down and quickly loaded my double-barrel shotgun, but it was too late. The dog crossed the timber road 40 yards to my right and never slowed down. It was a big tri-colored Walker “opening” or barking, every breath. The deer must have crossed before we got to this stand. I was surprised that the hounds had been released before we got the block surrounded.
The hound was pushing the deer hard and was soon out of my hearing. The excitement of the moment was over now, and the piercing silence of the big woods returned. That’s when I noticed the mosquitoes. I pulled a can of bug spray from the pouch under my stool and sprayed my hands, arms and neck. I sprayed more into my hands and rubbed some on my face and neck.
Next I pulled out my thermocell and turned it on. The mosquitoes kept buzzing around me for a few minutes, then they were gone.
I sat down on my stool and surveyed my surroundings. The green woods around me were mostly pines, and the understory was thick with underbrush. The narrow winding timber road to my left and right offered the best visibility.
Off in the distance to my front, I heard “drivers” calling to their dogs and realized that the hounds were just now being released into our hunt. That earlier hound must have been from a neighboring club. And at that moment, I thought I could hear out there in the distance behind me, that single hound coming back.
I turned around and listened intently. Yes, that same dog was coming back on the same course that it had followed earlier. Sometime dogs will get turned around and will run the backtrack. I didn’t know if this dog was running the backtrack or if the deer was coming back the same way that it left, but I got up from my stool and eased down the road toward where the dog had crossed earlier.
I noticed a strip of orange flagging tied to a nearby tree flutter in the soft breeze that was blowing toward the oncoming hound. If there were a deer ahead of this dog, I knew that it would wind me. Some 20 or 30 yards before the dog got to the road, it turned and started going parallel to the road. The deer must have seen me through the brush or winded me and turned. There was no backtracking happening here.
Just then, one of the hounds from our hunt came down the road and went to the hound that was running this deer. I stepped back toward my stool and realized I could see down an open glade into the woods where these dogs were now bawling. I was amazed that the deer and dogs had been so close but were making no sound crashing through these wet woods.
I saw movement, then the deer, plainly, but just for an instant. It was a big deer, but I couldn’t tell if it was a buck or a doe. It was coming back toward the road – leaping. The dogs were close behind it. The underbrush blocked my view.
My gun came up and I could feel my heart beating. I was focused on the narrow road. I would have but a split second to act.
I couldn’t see the baying hounds for the brush, but I realized that they were turning away from the road. The deer had turned just before the road. My gun came down. The two dogs went on and soon passed out of my hearing toward the river. I realized then that I had been trembling with excitement.
I noticed more hounds running in the hunt. A big pack came between me and the next stander. The morning hunt went on with more hound music, but no shooting. Soon the horn sounded ending the hunt. As we picked up standers, I realized that almost everyone had seen a deer, but none of them were bucks.
Back at the clubhouse we organized another hunt. Dinner would be waiting when that hunt ended. I’m glad deer season is here.