The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 16, 2013

Ken Maurer column: Deer story in February

February is sort of a drab month. It’s like March’s ugly sister. Sweet April is coming, and in the meantime, throw another log on the fire.

Forget about the deficit, the impaired river status, gun control and having to shovel more snow.

It’s time for a deer story. The year was 1983. The young hunter had seen plenty of deer during the first week of the season. Antlers though were non-existent among the deer sightings. Twenty-five doe passed by the hunter on the first day alone. But this day was the first Saturday. There would be action on the mountain today. Saturdays bring out the working men who haven’t been out since the first day, their brother-in-laws, cousins, neighbors and every other Tom, Dick and Harry.

The hunter had a plan for this day. On most prime days, the hunter would be near the top of the mountain, on stand well before daylight. The old green thermos would pour forth a steamy cup of the most delicious coffee on earth, to be swallowed along with the sight of the sun’s first rays hitting the mountainside. This morning, however, would be different.

The hunter had found a line of rocks that led to his stand. Those rocks, clear of leaves, allowed a completely silent ascension to his stand. Several deer trails passed through the rocky outcroppings, and rather than clawing up the mountain in the dark, this morning the hunter would climb silently from rock to rock in the daylight, watching both up and down the mountain as he made his climb.

As daylight broke, the hunter was well away from the road. This was nice. Climb a bit, stop, look, listen. It does not take long to sweat when climbing a mountain, and hunting your way to your stand is not a bad idea.

About three quarters of the way up the mountain, the heat was beginning to build up. It was time to take a longer break. There the hunter found a nice flat rock beside an old oak tree. As the hunter scanned the mountain, a flicker of movement caught his eye. Was it a bird or a squirrel? The hunter dropped to one knee and raised the rifle to scope out the movement.

There it was again, straight down the mountain about as far as he could see, nearly intersecting the hunter’s path. There the laurel was thick. Where exactly was that movement, the hunter thought as he scanned the mountainside, the scope cranked up to nine.

Slowly, what looked like a deer’s leg came into focus. Then it moved.

OK, there’s a deer there. The hunter settled into the waiting game, the old 760 firmly anchored to the side of the oak. The laurel was heavy and the deer moved very slowly. A leg, then a flank, then a shoulder would show through the laurel. Finally, the head moved into view, and there was the white curve of an antler.

Steady now, wait for an opening. The deer moved a step at a time. Then there was a slight opening in the laurel, and the buck’s front shoulder stopped square in the middle of it. The safety slipped off, and the roar of the .270 coincided with the crosshairs settling just behind the shoulder. The hunter stood up and looked. The deer was gone, all was silent. He clambered down through rocks a lot faster than he went up. The buck laid 20 yards from the shot, a trophy 5-pointer.

After a prayer of thanks, tagging and field dressing, the hunter settled back into a convenient chair of bedrock and poured another cup of coffee. With the sun flowing out onto the valley, and a hard-earned buck at his feet, it was the most delicious cup of coffee this hunter had tasted in a long time.

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