Last fall, I joined my dad and brother on their yearly hunting trip. To say I was excited is an understatement! In the months leading up to November, my dreams were filled with different hunting scenarios. My brother drew a late season buck tag, which meant our trip would be in November instead of October’s general season. While my brother hunted deer, my dad and I were going to hunt upland birds. I was hoping to get at least a pheasant.
We left on a Friday and halfway into the drive I realized that I had forgotten my hunting boots. I had carefully placed them next to my door to be sure I wouldn’t forget them. Whoops! I only had the Nikes on my feet and knew those weren’t going to work being mostly mesh. When we got to town to buy food for the weekend, I ran (yes, literally ran) to the closest retail store as my dad and brother shopped for food. I bought the cheapest pair of boots and by some miracle, I didn’t get one blister the entire weekend. My feet hurt, that’s for sure, but no blisters.
We decided that if you have to buy a pair of boots to wear immediately, buy the cheap ones because there isn’t nice, stiff leather to break in. It’s possible that’s completely wrong, but I don’t know how else I didn’t get a single blister walking the entire weekend in a brand new pair of boots. After my forgotten boots fiasco was fixed, we headed to camp with a food stocked RV. The sun was setting when we arrived so unfortunately there was no time for scouting after we set up. We went to bed early to be ready for the long day ahead.
My alarm went off at 5am on Saturday. Instead of hitting snooze like I normally do, I was wide awake and full of excitement for the day. After eating a quick breakfast, we grabbed our gear and headed out for the day. My dad and brother have hunted this land for decades but last year it went through some changes. My brother went to the main part of the hill to start deer hunting. My dad wanted to show me the land as we started bird hunting. We took off for a patch of brush on a hill in the distance. Walking on tilled dirt definitely isn’t my favorite, it’s harder than it looks! After twenty minutes of walking, we arrived at the brush and tried flushing birds out. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a buck out in the field that took off over a ridge.
A little while later, we saw three deer come over the ridge and go down into an area with a small stream running through it. My dad decided we should walk to that area and see if the deer had bedded down near the stream. If we found them, they might run up the hill toward my brother. I don’t even know how to describe the excitement I had seeing those deer. All I knew is that I couldn’t wait for next year when I was able to go for my own deer. Keeping the wind in our faces, we made the long trek to the back of the ridge. As we rounded the corner, we found the stream and it was no longer surrounded by vegetation. There were no deer in sight. We headed up toward the main hill to see if my brother had any success. We logged about 10 miles walking that day all over the land.
One patch of brush was over half a mile long, my dad walked the top and I walked the base. After a few minutes of walking, one doe sprang from the brush and took off. A little further down, my dad was looking off in the distance when an animal got up and darted past him. I couldn’t quite tell what it was because it happened so quick, but then three big, dark bodies stood up with their backs turned to me. When their ears perked up, I realized they were coyotes and they all took off running within feet from my dad. He only saw two run by and was a bit surprised to say the least! Toward the end of the brush, another doe jumped out and took off in the same direction the others had. I thought it was so interesting to see what all was hiding in the brush mere yards from each other.
By the end of the day we jumped two sets of birds. Unfortunately, we weren’t really trying to flush them out when it happened so we weren’t set up for a good shot either time. I learned the importance of always being ready. My brother saw a four point buck but didn’t have a good shot at him. As the sun was setting, we called it a day.
My alarm went off at 5am again on Sunday. We had a different game plan for the day and all of us headed to the top of the hill. The week leading up to the trip, I was constantly monitoring the weather forecast. Sunday was the only day with a chance for rain, but it was set to start in the afternoon. We figured we had the morning to hunt rain free, but the forecast was wrong… by a lot. At 7am it began drizzling and the wind was picking up. While I knew the land was hilly, I wasn’t prepared for all of the steep inclines I’d be hiking up and down. That morning was one steep incline after the next. In the distance, dark grey clouds were headed our way.
My dad took me in a thick patch of trees and brush that a lot of deer use. We made our way down a steep, heavily used game trail. I’m glad that I have good balance and have hiked a lot to know how to go down steep inclines on loose ground. There were so many trees and branches everywhere that when I reached the clearing, my hunting vest was ripped in a few places. It was free and still wearable so I didn’t mind. Plus, I’ve never been in a place as unique as that with deer trails running all throughout. My brother said we flushed out eight does as we made our way down. Right after we left the cover of the thick brush, it started pouring and was so windy my hat flew off. But we continued on to a few more areas looking for more deer.
After a few hours in the wind and rain, my pants were entirely soaked through. (Note to self: invest in waterproof pants before next season!) Even though we covered a lot of land, we didn’t see any bucks that morning. The dark gray clouds had taken over the area and were visible as far as the eye could see. Knowing the storm was here to stay, we called it a day. We went back to change out of our wet clothes, warm up, and get some food in our bellies. Even though the conditions were terrible, I still enjoyed every minute of it. At no point did I wonder why I was out there. Pouring down rain or not, it was fun for me to be learning and seeing everything. Later, my brother said that day made his list of “Top 5” worst days he’s ever had hunting. I’m glad I was able to get through a tough day of hunting with no complaining.
Monday was our last day to hunt. My brother had hoped to get a deer by Sunday, at the latest, so this day became all about him trying to get a deer before we had to leave. We went to a friend’s property that had several deer blinds set up. They’ve hunted there long enough to know the deer’s patterns. The storm had cleared overnight, but the temperature hovered around freezing. As the sun rose, streaking pink and orange across the sky, we sat in a blind watching the ridge line for deer. Several does made their way over the ridge. Finally, after a half an hour, a four point buck crested the ridge and went down into the brush. We sat waiting in the freezing cold, I could hardly feel my toes anymore. Once the sun was high enough to take away the harsh shadows, my dad and his friend walked to the top of the ridge to see if they could push the buck out.
My brother and I sat in silence, constantly scanning the ridge for the slightest movement. In the blink of an eye, the buck ran into the clearing right above the treeline then quickly retreated back into the cover of the trees. My brother never had a good shot at him, but we waited to see if the buck would reappear. A few does ran from the brush and one re-emerged 100 yards in front of us. We hoped the buck would take the same trail but it never did. We went to another blind to try again. Only two does emerged from that brush. Does were everywhere that weekend, we saw at least twelve each day. We just weren’t seeing many bucks. By this point, we all were pretty cold and decided to head back to warm up and eat lunch. Afterward, we’d take one last sweep of the land.
For the final push, we all headed to the top of the hill. My dad and I took one route as my brother took another. He kicked up six does and one two-point buck. We were in a three-point minimum area and this buck seemed to know. He stopped yards from us and turned to stare for awhile before following the rest of the does. As we walked the land, several more does jumped up. My brother saw one legal buck in the distance, but it ran off the land we had permission to hunt on. As we headed back to the car, we did one last push to see if we could get anything up but it was only a few does. At the end of the long weekend, my brother didn’t get a deer and I didn’t get a bird. We never ended up going to the good spot for pheasants because we made my brother getting a deer the main focus. And to be honest, I was more excited for him to get a deer than for me to get a bird so I didn’t mind.
Overall, I had a lot of fun and wouldn’t really change any of it. I’m beyond excited for next season when I can go hunt for my own deer. Honestly, I can’t wait. It’s such an amazing feeling to be outdoors the majority of the day and enjoy the landscape and the animals you see. There were a couple of times when a doe would pop up less than ten feet from me. It was cool seeing them that close, I didn’t realize how large their tails were until one ran away right next to me. I found that I have a pretty good eye for sighting deer, I pointed out a lot that my brother and dad didn’t see. Hopefully that comes in handy for me this hunting season!
Even though my feet hurt like hell and my legs really hated me while walking up the inclines, I’d do it again tomorrow without hesitation. I was sad knowing it was the last day we’d be up there and I had to leave. I could do that everyday and not get tired of it. Despite walking away with no animals, it was a great trip and I can’t wait for next season! To any dads who have daughters with zero interest in hunting at the moment, don’t give up hope. It took me awhile, but I finally got around to it, and yours may too!