It was just getting gray light, and I had been settled in my stand only a few minutes. As I stood in my loc on, I surveyed the area around me, making mental notes of distances and shooting lanes. I turned to my weak side and made an attempt to draw my bow, and my elbow caught my safety tether. I hung my bow up and turned towards the white oak I was in to adjust the height of my safety rope, and that’s when I saw it. About 6 feet above my head was a shopping cart, which at some earlier point in time, had been wedged between this split white oak. Bars had been welded to each end to help secure it to the tree, but had long since grown into the tree. I stared in awe at the contraption, wondering how I had missed it just days earlier while I was scouting this ridge. A big grin crept over my face, and I thought about all of the old stands I had seen over the years hunting public and private lands. A mixture of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and some, just pure death traps. One thing was for certain, they always seemed to be found in good hunting spots. A white oak acorn bailed from its perch, and smacked the ground loudly in agreement. Just 15 yards to my left was the only white oak acorn tree on the entire ridge that was dropping. There were deer tracks, turkey feathers, and the ground beneath tree was visibly disturbed. I’d grown up hunting feed trees. Everything from persimmons to mast trees. I’d learned over the years, which trees dropped first, and which trees seemed to be favored by the deer. I never worried much about he rut, my strategy had always been does and food, and the bucks would generally show up. This season, the mast crop had been a bust in the area I had been hunting, and I was struggling to find deer in early October. This had forced me to scout some pretty remote ridges in search of a hot feed tree. Now, as I sat in my stand listening to the acorns drop, I couldn’t help but muse at the idea that I was going grocery shopping, and I had my own grocery cart.
About 8am, I caught movement up the ridge about 50 yards away. I stood slowly, folding my seat up against the tree with one hand, and reaching for my bow with the other. I turned my body slightly, as to angle my front shoulder towards the dropping white oak. A few minutes later, the young buck was standing at 12 yards. He came in nose to the ground, and I could hear him sniffing loudly trying to find the freshly dropped acorns. I had a small hole to shoot through, and I quietly shifted my feet to get ready for the shot. As I did, a piece of bark from my tree fell and hit the ground. The buck looked right at me, staring intently. I froze and didn’t look him in the eye. A moment later he put his head back down and continued feeding, confident I was no threat. I came to full draw, paused for a moment, and let the arrow fly. The deer turned and ran up the hill, stopped at 50 yards, and laid down.
I couldn’t stop smiling as I guided the deer down off of the steep ridge to the bottom. Last season, I had committed the entire season to ground hunting. It was a great challenge, and I had so many close calls it was ridiculous. However, I did not kill a deer, and had gone full year with no venison to eat. This season was my first year using a loc on stand and climbing sticks. I had found a hot acorn tree, walked in, hung my stand, and killed a deer. However the work was just beginning, as I was a long ways from the truck. I had several ridges to cross that were very steep, and rose to 450 ft of elevation. I rigged up my backcountry hoist, which gives me a 2:1 mechanical advantage. I’ve had some back problems over the years, and I have found it much more comfortable to hoist my deer up to quarter them.
I made short work of quartering the deer, carefully placing each cut of meat into my meat bag. I could already smell the shoulder roast. I packed everything on to my eberlestock f1 mainframe. This little pack had been fantastic for everything from scouting, hauling my stand and sticks, and now carrying my meat out of the woods. It was a long walk back to the truck. I stopped to rest several times as i hauled the 40 pound pack up the steep ridges and back the jeep. As I broke from the forrest onto the service road, I was tired and thirsty. I made it to the jeep, where I knew a cold bottle of water awaited me. I sat on the back , and took a long pull on the bottle. I was so proud of myself. It had been one of my most memorable hunts, and it was time to head home, and unload the groceries.