Encounters, Close and Closer
I think one of the reasons most of us hunt is because of the opportunity to have close encounters with the game we are pursuing, sometimes even closer then we’d like. I believe that is one of the reasons I lean towards bow hunting whenever I can because you have to get closer yet and you observe things that you would not see otherwise. Then there are the times you may be hunting one species and you run into another which gives you all kinds of time to see what is going to happen next.
I got to thinking of this about three weeks ago as I was on my morning walk. I was about a mile from the house when a red fox came out of the borrow pit on the left side of the road about 50 yards ahead of me. He stopped in the middle of the road to do his morning business then edged over to the right side and never did look my way. All this time I was walking towards him and had it down to about 15 yards when he looked up from having his nose in the grass and I think by the look on his face he was about to do some more business. He wasted no time in getting out of there and he wasn’t slowing down the last I saw him about 200 yards up the hill. Then last week a young deer came out of the brush 150 yards up the road, saw me and started trotting my way. I have no idea what it was thinking but somehow it must have seen me as another deer walking in his direction. By the time he was within 40 yards of me his brain cells must have started giving off warnings as he didn’t take long to vacate the premise.
This reminded me of the day several years ago that I was archery hunting elk and like a dummy had not picked up my deer tag when I bought the elk tag. I was walking along a very old logging road which was grading around the hill. As I came around the corner of a ridge that headed back into a draw I saw a nice wide 3 point mule deer on the next ridge and he was coming on the same logging road I was on. I cuddled up to a couple saplings growing up in the middle of the road and just waited. Sure enough, a few minutes later here he comes around the corner and headed right towards me. When he went by me I had an awful urge to poke him in the posterior just to let him know I had gotten that close to him, but common sense persevered as I believe the closer you get to them the more dangerous they can be if surprised.
Probably the most awestruck I’ve been during an encounter was a good 20 some years ago in Oregon hunting mule deer. I was crossing an old logging road when I noticed a big old 6 point bull elk feeding on the road just 100 yards down the road. I don’t know why I did it, but I sat down in the middle of the road and thought I’d watch the show. He was slowly feeding my way and I was thoroughly enjoying the spectacle as its not often you get a chance to watch such a grand animal feeding closer and closer. The whole scene was just about more then I could take in as he cut the distance to 40, then 30, then 20 and finally 10 yards. What a grand sight, 15 feet away and nothing between us. It wasn’t until he all of a sudden focused on me that I began thinking maybe I wasn’t the brightest bulb around. In that second when he looked there was no way to know what he was going to do as it was a look of, ‘I’ve been had – do I fight or flee?’ We sat there looking at each other for what seemed like five minutes but I’m sure it could have been measured in seconds. He then really surprised me by neither fighting or fleeing as he just slowly turned to his right and slowly crept out through the bushes as if thinking if he did this, no one would see him. I’ll guarantee you there was at least one heart, and possible two that didn’t slow down for awhile.
Then there are the bears, the coyotes and other animals that have made my day with their presence. I even had a raccoon climb a tree 10 feet from me the other day not knowing I was around. Half the fun is watching the recognition of my presence come to them and see how they react.