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The final eight hours of my Virginia whitetail hunting season were filled with an overwhelming sense of excitement and fatigue. I had just spent almost the same amount of time perched up in a tree that I would have during an entire work week at the office. Over the course of my three weekends a total of four does; two fawns and a one year old buck came in within shooting range.

Even with the buck’s appearance during the last day of the season, I must admit I had a hard time seeing if the spikes were within the legal size of seven centimetres and if it was worth the risky shot. A well-known trick is often used in which you compare the spikes length to that of the ears but even this was challenging because he was constantly moving them about like radars trying to pickup sounds of danger.

The local farmers told me that there was a ten point buck not far from my stand to the south. The fact that he had not been harvested yet this year meant he will prove to be a positive sign for next year’s season as there roughly eight does in the same area.

As a varminter, I had to live the experience of tree stand hunting and with this I have to say there will most definitely be a next year’s season for me as this one comes to a close. I have learned so much about the art of tree stand hunting and have added to my knowledge about deer while being part of the woodlands.

On my last day the sun was going to set at four thirty and I could legally hunt until five but it got quite dark in the woods here and I had to climb down from the stand and walk several hundred meters to the car. This was a very dark wooded trail and being alone it was not a great idea because on that particular morning, I saw fresh timber wolf tracks close to where I was parked. So I wanted to give myself enough time while I could still see to get back to the car. But just as I moved to stand up I heard a large branch crack to my right and sure enough it was a doe, she had stumbled on a broken tree and was slowly making her way down to the water’s edge.

It was incredible to see how well she blended into the foliage and background of mud and trees. The most impressive part was her behaviour when I noticed she was not alone and that she was the first of three to be out in the open making sure that the area was clear of predators before the others bounced out and exposed themselves. She was acting like a scout in a feeding party and she slowly made her way to the other side of the ridge using their well-known game trail looking for food.
 
So what I learned from this was that if you see one deer there are great chances that there are others nearby especially if you are dealing with does and fawns or even other females. Males will also come out but normally alone and will show up later in the afternoon just before dark or in the morning between eightish and ten that is if they are hungry and depending on the cold weather. I proved to myself that for next year it is not necessary to get to your tree stand really early in the morning if there is no need for it.

It was unfortunate that in my particular tree stand area that there was not a lot of buck activity amongst other factors, so I may not have harvested a buck this season but I sure harvested a wealth of knowledge about deer and enjoyed being part of the wilderness and all its mysteries. You bet I will have to try again next year but until then I have full year of small game and bird hunting to get ready for with my tracking buddy.

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After a nice chat with Ron, I thought about my hunting plan for the day ahead, prepared my gear and then set off towards the west down the ridge and across the field. It was full of thorny plants, so I went around them on the left, which brought me over to the south-eastern edge of the woods. From there I went in about ten yards from the forest edge and then continued towards the west, all the while carefully scouting the first large boulder; there was no sign of activity and no fresh dirt from a dig, this first den was abandoned.

So I kept going forward, walking slowly and looking all around for any signs of activity or woodchuck. I heard a branch crack and the sound came from the south, deep in the woods to my left and high above me on the other side of the thirty five foot cliff. I stayed alert because Ron had come across a black bear sow and her cups up the road while picking berries two days prior. So I looked around some more and then kept on inching forward. The forest was so quiet, there were only a few crows overhead and I could hear the breeze blowing around me along with their calls and the rustling of the leaves. It was around ten in the morning now and the sun was coming through the tree canopy and lighting up the stones on the forest floor and causing them to change shapes and color, it was such a neat sight.

Ten minutes into the stalk and I spotted my first woodchuck of the day. He was right in front of me facing north and had a clear view of the field to his front. I was coming up on his right from the east and I was in a bad spot. I could not really move forward any more without him seeing me and I was way out of range. There were a few maple trees to my front so I thought if I move backwards he will see me and scoot in his hole. So I had no choice but to move forward. I waited standing still like a tree for about five minutes, so that he would get more comfortable and not set off his alerting whistle and drumming. I inched forward and then stopped only lifting my feet very carefully and keeping them close to the ground.

I would look down on the ground and place my feet between branches to avoid cracking them, then I tried very hard to move in behind one of the maple trees and then moved to the other. When the wind would shift, I could see the woodchuck turn his head and move in the direction of the wind and this would force me to freeze again. It was one of the toughest stalks of the year but I managed to move forward and get only twenty yards away. My adrenaline level was extremely high as I did not want to miss this harvest; it was very hot out and the woodchucks would soon disappear around noon hour for the most part of the afternoon.

I slowly raised my Model 60, lined up the iron sights and took the rifle off safe. Crack! The shot rang out and struck the woodchuck right into its right flank and then everything went silent. Ron had mentioned that there were two other dens on the southern ridge, so I continued my hunt after a short water break.

Once I crossed the river separating the farm from the southern fields, I walked up the northern side of the ridge following the cattle trail and found myself a large boulder to sit on and had a look around with my binoculars. I felt like a true woodsman sitting high on my chosen boulder surrounded by lush Canadian wilderness and farm fields littered with stumps, jagged rocks, logs and broken branches. The heat was intense but there was a nice breeze blowing in from the north-west and the dandelion seeds floated through the sky where they would fall and then rest in all the darkest corners of the woods. The varmint alliance was solidified once more and my day was now over.

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