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Still Learning ...

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Rookie mistake by a veteran... nothing else to say, except sometimes you just need one additional experience to help "cement" your learning into a foundational thought process and ingrain it into your methodology of hunting. Two events have helped crystalize it into much clearer focus for me: One, watching Dan Infalt's "Hunting Marsh Bucks", which I thought was probably the single most educational hunting video I've ever watched. What a great job these guys did mixing in teaching tips -- and not your "hunt rub lines and funnels" type of useless, redundant verbage we hear over and over. Dan (or one of his buddies) made a GREAT point on their video of explaining that when they're running and gunning and scouting hot sign in a swamp, they NEVER go in further than they'll hunt; if you watch their video, you'll undertand why -- it's extremely tight quarters, and you simply almost have to brush up against the reeds and rushes as you walk through. Last night sealed the deal for that becoming a foundational plank in my hunting platform, even though it was vaguely there before. I will abide by it completely forevermore. I'm back on the new farm last night where I took my daily double a couple nights ago. Not wanting to hunt the same corner because of the disturbance from two nights ago, I chose the opposite side, and where I'd watched those two mature does with the fawns cut across and enter if you remember reading my story. Plus, the wind was slightly better for that other side as well. Obviously, I'm really hunting this farm blind... very blind. Never even seen this area before, and really all I'm going over to is a 20-yard wide fencerow overlooking standing corn, with the exception that my landowner took out the turn rows up against the fencerow. Corn on one side, standing beans on the other. I quickly found a good tree to get up into overlooking the corn, but I got greedy; I wanted to be able to shoot to both sides as I could the first night on the opposite side. So... I walked into the fencerow looking for a tree in the middle somewhere. Man, what sign I found... thick trails... a freshly opened scrape (mock, early season, not important other than letting me know they're walking through there....) but no tree to hang up in. I backed out with the nagging thought that I'd been 10 yards FURTHER than the tree I was going to hang up in. Yep... see where this one's going?? At 5:30 p.m., I hear her coming to me moments before I can see her. I spot her walking non-chalantly right at me, and she's going to pass by my tree at three yards, and walk out into the cut turn rows, giving me an 8-yard shot quartering away. No joke, I whispered "Welcome to my freezer!" and started mentally writing the first paragraph on the hunting boards for my buddies to see... Except she locked up. Full alert. I could literally hear her sucking in air at 8 yards, attempting to vacuum up the scent she couldn't explain. She lifted her head, stretching it skyward as high as her neck would allow in an attempt to pick off scent molecules in the highest thermal she could reach. Getting antsier, she turned and did an about-face. If I leaned back just so, I had one hole about eight inches around that perfectly revealed her vitals... so I placed my top pin on the top of her heart. The gig was up, but it didn't matter... she was going to be dead all the same. She would have been -- if it hadn't been for the VERY top of the bottom limb framing that hole allowing me to see her vitals. At that short "gimme" distance, I didn't counter for my the path of the arrow flight actually being below my line of sight; it wouldn't have mattered by the time it got to her, but only four feet out one of the blades on my MX-3 nicked the limb barely enough to send the arrow out to who-knows-where. The doe still has no idea what happened, and hopefully we'll meet again. I stared at the gash in the limb, and it was so slight that if I had been shooting a mech with all its blades tucked in during flight, she would have went in the books as the third doe in two nights off that same farm -- and with an hour and a half of "prime time" hunting still to come. For those with questions... Yes, I had rubber boots on. Yes, the pants were tucked firmly into place. No, I never wear my boots anywhere except hunting -- not at gas stations, not at home, not on my driveway. They get put on and taken off at my hunting destination. Yes, they got soaked with Scentkiller before I left my Jeep. It doesn't matter. Case in point: Three years ago, I was dressed similarly and walked a 1/4-mile to my stand across a cut bean field. Thirty minutes later, I spotted a black form way out in the distance. Watching it closely, I saw the owner's black lab materialize with his nose to the ground. Moments later, he stood at the bottom of the tree I was in, having followed my trail step for step across the beans. I smiled at his sharp nose, and thanked him for teaching me that rubber boots are not the end-all they're made out to be. Extremely helpful? Yes, without a doubt. Foolproof? Nope, not at all. Bob Robb wrote a story a couple years ago about scent dispersal, and the effects of what he termed "ground disturbance"... and believes that even if you're not leaving actual human scent, the whitetail's nose is so uncanny that it can literally smell where the earth was bruised. I'm not sure about that -- but I am sure of one thing. I'll never go in further than I intend to hunt again.


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