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Come On Ring Those Bells!

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I’m a city boy from Wichita, KS.  While I was an avid reader of outdoor magazines, I was primarily a bass fisherman.  I had my first opportunity to deer hunt in 1986.  I borrowed a rifle and set off for the woods, owned by a friend who was a farmer.  I was so enamored with just seeing deer that my efforts at stalking more likely resembled attempting to walk through the woods accompanied by a marching band.  Actually, I hunted them more like rabbits – sort of jumping them up and hoping for a shot if a deer paused, possibly to determine what tune the band was playing.  I just couldn’t force myself to stand still.  In my first three years in the field I never really saw a big buck except the one someone on horseback drove toward me.

That all changed in 1988.  On Thanksgiving, just days before the opening of deer season, we had a terrible ice storm in SE Kansas.  The little town where we lived was shut down for several days and the ice actually remained on the ground until mid February.  In the woods, every step sounded as if you were walking in a glass factory following an earthquake.  On a calm morning the crunch of each step seemed to echo like gun shots through the woods.  The choices were either stand still or not see anything because the deer could hear you coming from a half mile away.

I was standing on the edge of the woods.  For about 5 minutes I could hear the ice on the trees bouncing off of a buck’s antlers.  It sounded like someone playing the bells in the woods.  When he stepped out of the woods, not 25 yards from me, I was disappointed to see that his right antler was missing.  In spite of that defect, he walked like an adolescent male with an iPod, sort of swaggering to the music.  Strangely, he started walking straight toward me.  I stood completely still until he was less than five feet from me.  I was afraid he was going to run into me so I moved.  Actually, the startled look on his face was worth the price of the hunt.  He stopped, mid-swagger, and backed up rapidly – sort of like a cartoon character leaving ice and dirt suspended in the air until he could turn and head back into the woods.  His exit tune wasn’t as pleasant as his prelude.

That was the year I learned how to stand still and my success as a deer hunter took a turn for the positive.

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