Tuesday, March 12, 2013

You Underestimate The Sneakiness

First of all, my apologies for being relatively absent the past month. I've started field work again this year and that means no internet access. So the only real time I have to post is on the rare occasion that I enter some sort of town.

Sadly, as far as hunting and fishing goes, my field work so far has been lacking. We've only encountered a handful of pigs and I've been fishing for Crappie once in the past month. Turkey season is, however, right around the corner and hopefully it won't be long before I actually have something worthwhile to right about.

But just because I haven't been actively hunting it doesn't mean I haven't been brushing up on my hunting skills. Last year during darting season I managed to spot and stalk a doe out of a group and successfully dart her. The whole process consisted of an incredible amount of luck and the right circumstances. For the most part, I counted the whole thing as fluke. But a few nights back, I decided "Why not try it again"

While sitting in the stand one evening, the does that had been regularly showing up...didn't. And rather than sit around in the dark all night and not see anything, I opted to climb out of the stand and see if I could find any deer on foot.

About 1/4 mile from the stand is a giant field that pretty regularly has deer in it. I headed that way and sure enough, spotted out a group of 7 does in the FLIR. The question then arose: "How do I cross 300 yards of open field without them hearing or seeing me?" I should mention that it WAS night, but my silhouette could be easily seen by a deer paying any sort of attention. So instead of heading straight across the field at the group, I decided to use the terrain to my advantage. Across the middle of the field runs a road and it happens to be raised approximately 3 feet higher than the surrounding fields.

After scanning the field with the FLIR, I noticed that all of the deer were on one side of the raised road. So with a quick check in wind direction, I decided to move around and position myself on the back side of the raised road and keep it between myself and the deer. For the next 45 minutes, I crouch walked nearly 300 yards until I was within 50 yards of the group.

What amazes me is how in 35 degree weather, I can literally be dripping sweat while stalking. Crouch walking and carrying a dart gun and nightvision is actually exhausting. So every time I tossed up the nightvision scope, my hands would shake from being so tired. I had now managed to close the distance, but I needed to get closer. Our dart guns are sighted in for 15 yards, and a 20 yard shot is beginning to push it. Through some tall grass, I could see the group of does milling around on the other side of the raised road. Some had actually began to bed down. There was, however, a serious problem beginning to arise: Two does were flanking around to my right and were getting dangerously close to moving directly down wind of me.

One of the issues with trying to be sneaky in complete darkness is that it's almost impossible to see what you're stepping on. Noisy, dried sticks and leaves remain unseen and only make their presence known once they've been stepped on. And unfortunately for me, I had walked into a thick area of the noisiest sticks on the county. Unable to move, I watched as the does walked back and forth at about 50 yards. And to my dismay, I watched as the two does on my right got closer and closer to being dead down wind of me. Knowing that I only had a few moments before I got busted, I cranked up the pressure on the dart gun, tossed up the nightvision scope, picked out the closest doe, and "winged it".

It seemed like the dart was in the air for close to an hour and I saw the blinking little dart track from over the top of the shoulder and drop close to two feet. But the next thing I heard was a loud "THWACK" and watched as the doe ran off with a dart in her side. Through the FLIR, I saw the doe stop at 100 yards and look back over her shoulder...then topple over.

The next day we ranged my shot at 42 yards. I got incredibly lucky, but I think at least a little bit of it had to do with being sneaky and taking advantage of my surroundings. My friends seemed shocked that I'd managed to sneak up on 7 does, and I imagine it's just because they underestimate the sneakiness.

I'm going to work hard to keep up with my writing better. I've got some plans in the making for buying a trailer for the kayak in the near future and that will mean A LOT more kayak fishing. Stay tuned!