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Last Day Lessons

Getting close to a buck and leaving with a good lesson

Last Day Lessons

It was 3:30 in the morning on the last day of the Maine rifle season, when my buddy Brandon climbed into my truck. It seemed like the first day of hunting season all over again because we had just gotten a fresh blanket of 3-4in of snow. We had hunted hard that year but the tracking conditions had been poor, so needless to say we were beyond excited for the events that would hopefully be unfolding in front of us.

It's a little over an hour drive to get into the big woods, where we could actually take a track and not worry about running into private or posted land. As soon as we got into that area we knew the deer were on their feet. Tracks were crossing the road so often, it seemed like you couldn't go a hundred yards without getting out to check another one. After a long discussion about a big track we had found, I reluctantly agreed to keep going twenty miles north to "our" spot. We weren't disappointed. We were the first truck on that road and knew we would have the first look at any track crossing.

As luck would have it, two big bucks had come out, walked the road and then split off in opposite directions. I took the track to the left and Brandon to the right. It was around thirty degrees and dead calm with fog that hung close to the ground. The snow was wet and it was hard to age the track so I just kept a steady pace.

After a few hours I could see a clearing up ahead and soon I was in the back corner of a fresh cut. As soon as I got to the edge of the cut I saw a deer bounding away. I jumped up on a stump for a better vantage point but didn't get another look. I wanted to run right down there but I didn't, thinking this was the buck I was tracking, I waited a half hour then made my way down to where I had last seen the deer. As I was looking for the tracks some movement caught my attention just ahead of me. As I was raising my rifle to my shoulder I saw that it was a doe. She also caught my movement and froze. She never moved a muscle for at least five minutes then she started looking over her shoulder at the wood line. That's when I heard the buck make a rub or scrape right where she was looking.

All the noise he was making never bothered her so I was sure it was a buck and now I could feel how tired my arms were getting from holding up my rifle. As she was looking in the woods, I tried to lower my arms to get a rest. That's all it took and she headed in the bucks direction. When she got to the wood line, she just walked in and disappeared. I also snuck over there but when I got just inside the trees I heard a blow and off they went. I got one good look at the buck. His body appeared to be twice the size of the doe but I never got a shot. I never caught up to him again that day.

Rick Labbe actually taught me the lesson I needed to learn about this situation, just last year. He was telling a few of us a story similar to this and mentioned in passing how he stayed put for up to forty- five minutes. He said that sometimes a buck will run the doe around in the same general area and when you know he is committed to her, it doesn't hurt to just stay put and see what happens. As soon as I heard him say it, I stored it away in the memory bank. The next time I'm in a situation similar to this one in the story, I'll be sure to slow down and see what plays out.

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