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Natural Encounters

When I folks relate their hunting stories, they usually focus on successful hunts. Successful in the sense that the quarry was acquired! But that is such a small part of hunting. Most of the time, a hunter is engaged in focused attention to his or her surroundings, and waiting... and waiting... and waiting.

This waiting is a huge part of the joy of hunting. As I tell my outdoorsy, non-hunting friends, "You have not seen nature until you have hunted." There is a view of the wild that is encountered only after sitting absolutely still for hours on end.

Here's an example of one particularly eventful day, one of my favorite hunts:

I was hunting for whitetail deer from the ground with my hickory selfbow in a high deer traffic area in a wooded plot near suburbia just north of Raleigh NC.

After standing stock-still for about 45 minutes with my back up against a bunch of viney brush, I saw a flicker out of the corner of my eye to the left. I eased my head around, and saw ... nothing. Then a few seconds later... WHOOSH (the sound made inside my head), a massive great horned owl swooped by me at chest level... at about 3 ft away. If I reached out and leaned a bit I could have touched it as it traveled by me. It never made a sound. Not a rustle. Wow.

How do I know it was a great horned owl? Because it landed about 10 ft from me at about 7 or 8 ft off the ground and sat there for 15 minutes. I don't think it knew I was there. Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous.

You can't get that simply hiking through the woods. Never.

That same day, a little while later, I decided to creep further back into the woods. I was in a high deer traffic area, but have missed an opportunity in the past when deer have passed behind me instead of in front. They sometimes bed down back there, but I figured I would risk moving in that direction anyway.

It took me about 30 minutes to go about 20 yards back, but I found another semi-hidden position in an old bed-down spot. Again, I stopped moving and attempted to blend into the woods.

I was there, maybe... 30 minutes or so when I heard a rustle in the brush to my right. Again, like with the owl, I slowly turned my head that way thinking maybe it was one of the rabbits I saw earlier as well.

Nope! A gray fox trotted out. Again, just a bit beyond 3ft from me, this fox wiggled under some brushed and walked right by me (didn't see me at all). It walked a little bit more, turned to the left and stopped directly in front of me at about 10 ft and started sniffing the air and listening to the woods.

I practiced raising my bow and drawing on that little fox noting its absolute gorgeous winter coat. I didn't know if fox were in season (apparently they were) or I would have contemplated doing more than practice.

The fox listened and sniffed the air for maybe a minute and then trotted off.

You can't get that simply hiking through the woods. Never.

So. I encountered an owl so close I could almost touch it. A fox ...and a rabbit and a bazillion squirrels and birds.

I never saw a deer that day. It didn't matter.

Comment On This Field Journal
Posted: 2/22/2011

Trophy Room
Awesome story, and I can't agree with you more, I have seen things that one can only dream of experiencing in the woods!!! Some of my best and most memorable hunts have nothing to do with taking an animal. In fact there have been many times I wish I could have traded my bow for a camera because I know people will not believe me when I tell them the things I have seen and experienced while hunting!!!!!
Posted: 2/17/2011

Trophy Room
Great writing! Totally agree. I've had birds land a few feet from my face and just sit there. The view of nature you get when hunting is completely different than in any other endeavor. Thanks for sharing.
Posted: 2/17/2011

Trophy Room
Another great read tawster.

I totally agree with you, and if you have ever flipped through my trophy room you probly noticed a lot of my journals end with an unfilled tag or an empty strap... It just wouldn't be any fun if we limited out or filled our tags every trip into the woods.

Posted: 1/21/2011

Trophy Room
Great story Todd. Wish it had ended in meat in the freezer for ya, but really cool anyhow. Wish I had some to tell you lately.....

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