2017 Deer Camp

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Dennis Clay

This is the first of a two-part series about the 2017 Deer Camp.

Saturday, Oct. 14, was cold. Hunting buddy Rudy Lopez was up early and out the door. My feet didn’t hit the floor for several more minutes.

It was cold inside The Hut, too. The Coleman Power Cat heater, The Guide series three-burner camp stove and two-mantel gas lantern were ignited and running at full blast. We always keep a window slightly open for ventilation.

The objective was to move the inside temperature above 50, preferably above 60. This was the first day of the 2017 general deer hunting season. Rudy didn’t hunt long. He was back in less than two hours.

“It’s cold out there,” he said.

The Hut is a cinderblock building located north of Odessa. It has a window on the east, south and west, plus a door on the north side. The best view is to the east, where there is a sizeable canyon or valley sloping down from The Hut. The bottom is a 50- to 75-yard wide flat, before the valley slants up again.

The distance is 600 yards when looking straight across. The property line separating the area where we can and cannot hunt is 480 yards away.

The winter wheat field is green with next year’s crop. This is a deer magnet. Most mornings there are up to 75 deer in the field. The deer come and go. There were 60 animals there an hour ago, but not one now.

Sometimes hunters will chase them out of the filed, but mostly they come and go at will. A group of eight left the field at 11 a.m. yesterday, walking at a leisurely pace to the north. A 2-point buck followed 10 minutes later. He was anxious to catch up, as his speed was rapid, but not running. He was followed by a doe, who was acting as if she was late for dinner. She was just short of running.

The Hut is our shelter, for sure, but it also acts as a ground blind. Sometimes the deer head out of the far field and head down into the valley, walking toward us. They also angle to the right or left, heading north or south.

This building is in the southeast corner area of a section of land. Part of it is farmed with winter wheat. Most is sagebrush and grass forming an area known as “The Pasture.”

Deer use this area as a spot to eat grasses and bed down. A hunt through the sage and grass provides a change to jump a critter or two. Rudy and I conducted such a hike Sunday afternoon and surprised two deer, who were bedded down. We added over three miles to our fitbits.

The border of this section has a mow area along the fence, used for fence installation and maintenance. We sometimes “drive the mow” and look for deer. Both hiking and driving the area have been successful in the past.

The fun or interesting part of observing deer in the forbidden field, some 600 yards away, is the antics, frolics and gamboling of the deer herd. Mature does will square off with another and stand on their hind legs and paw at each other, as if they were boxing.

A group of 20 deer were angling out of the field to the north yesterday, with many mature and young does. Another group of five doe, both young and old were 100 yards away wanting to head south, but standing and looking at the larger group.

No sound was audible to me, but one of the youngsters broke away from the large group and ran as fast as possible to join the smaller group. The group of six then began walking out of the field to the south. If become obvious the youngster had joined the large group by mistake, but headed to mama when he realized the mistake.

Young bucks will butt heads in jest and practice. Mature bucks are far more serious and large battles result. Once a mature buck was taking turns with four smaller bucks, teaching them how to fight.

There are other wildlife species in this area also. A porcupine was spotted in one of the trees on the property. We yelled and shouted, but couldn’t get it to move. It was either dead or sleeping. The next day it was gone, so it must have been sleeping.

A bird crossed the vision of my binocular and surprised me. It was close enough for me to spot in the bino again and look it in the face. The internet identifies it as a northern harrier juvenile, also known as a marsh hawk.

It had a brown belly and a white rump, which is the best indication it is a harrier. Several of these birds were spotted in different parts of this section of property. Too many for the sightings to be the same birds. These are migratory birds and head south at this time of year.

My rifle hasn’t been fired during this hunting season, yet. It is now time to go for a hike or Drive the Mow.

Next week: The final half of the 2017 deer hunting season.

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