© By Othmar Vohringer
From the corner of my eye I caught some movement to my left. Lowering the binoculars and turning the head I saw a huge buck casually meandering across the gas pipeline right of way. “Where did he come from?” I mumbled to myself, surprised that I didn’t hear him walking on the frozen ground that close to me. The buck hasn’t see me hidden behind a tree and a few low growing bushes. At least that I did right. Quickly I dropped to one knee, removing the rifle from the shoulder and put it on the bipod all in one move. Then I picked up the binoculars again to check the buck’s rack. He was standing now about 50 yards from me sniffing the ground. Obviously a hot doe walked there and left her calling card.
I noticed right away that the buck had a huge set of antlers. I stopped counting by four. There were a lot more antler points sticking out everywhere. But four was all I needed to know to make sure he was legal to shoot. He was a monster and made my knees wobble. It was as a good thing that I was kneeling on the ground and not standing. I picked the rifle up and aimed at the buck’s vitals but could see through the scope that a few low hanging branches from a small pine covered the spot were I aimed at. If I move just a foot to my right I will have a clear shot. Just as I moved the buck noticed it and looked in my direction. I froze mid-movement. The buck kept looking at me not quite sure what I was. Then I moved another inch or two – I had to or risk getting a cramp in the leg – and that did it. The buck still didn’t know what I was but deemed it wise to get out of there. With one big leap he vanished from sight into the timber.
I never saw the buck coming out of the woodland on my side of the right-of-way-line, because I was looking trough the binoculars into the far distance down the slope. The spot were the buck walked into the open was just about 20 yards from my position, but I did not notice him until he passed my peripheral vision and was almost across the 45-yard clear cut. Would I have done what I always preach in my seminars and courses and looked first close around me and then slowly zoom out in the far distance I would have seen the buck standing just inside the tree line and could have been ready for him the moment he stepped out. Talking about preaching but not doing, how could I be that stupid and not following my own advice?
Because I disregarded my own advice and searched in the distance first, I missed the rare opportunity to shoot a big monster mule deer buck. Tow days since that blunder and I still could kick myself for disregarding the most basic rule of deer spotting. Don’t make the same mistake. Always look for deer in your direct vicinity first. Slowly and intensely scan the immediate area inch by inch all around you for any sign of deer. Then gradually increase the search yard by yard into the distance. But that just shows you. Even the so-called “experts” make sometimes mistakes that cost them deerly.
But all is not lost – at least I hope not. The buck is still in the area and I will be back on that spot by Monday or Tuesday afternoon, employing one of my scent strategies that have worked very well for me in the past. I will lay a scent trail, using doe-in-estrus-urine, in a huge figure of eight intersecting several deer trails on either side of the clear cut. On the narrowest point of the figure eight there will be several scent locations placed within shooting distance. The idea is that any buck walking along on any of the trails (click on image below to see scent trail layout) will pick up the scent and follow it to the edge of the timber and walk right into one of my shooting lanes. Depending on the weather condition and deer action I may even mix a few deer calls in or some light antler rattling to give the set up a bit more realism and emotion. This usually gets bucks fired up and forget about all caution.
Tags: Mule Deer, Trophy Buck, Binoculars, Hunting, scent Trail, Deer Scent, Deer Calls, Rattling Antlers, Hunting Tips