All hunters make friends in the woods. Whether it be a raccoon they repeatedly see, or an opossum, or in most instances, a squirrel, repeated visitors are another aspect that makes hunters love spending time afield. Well, most of the time.
On the opening morning of the archery whitetail season, I was climbing down the ladder of my stand after shooting a doe at 8:45. However, when I was a mere two steps from the ground, I looked to my right and a 130- to 140-class buck was staring at me through the trees. I froze, as did he. Then he put his head back down and started eating beans. With my bow still hunt up in my stand, my next move was a no-brainer. I took a step up. The buck checked up, tilting his head straight back as I again froze. His head went back into the beans, and I took another step up.
We continued this cycle of freezing three more times until I was again standing on my stand platform, bow in my hand. Then the buck did the unthinkable. He started walking in my direction. As he did, I searched for shooting lanes down the path he walked, finding one a mere 10 yards away. I could take shots sooner, but they would be questionable at best. Plus, why take a bad 30-yard shot when you are lining up a perfect 10-yarder.
The buck closed to 50, then 40, then 30, and down to 15 yards before stopping behind a tree. When he did, I drew back, pin placed firmly on the open lane at 10 yards. The buck took a step forward, his brisket walking into my pin. He stopped, and from the corner of my eye all I could see was his antlers. He took another half step, and his front shoulder was in my pin. One more step and I was shooting. At that range, I would have had a complete pass-through on the nicest buck I had ever shot before.
Yet that didn’t happen. With shoulder still in my sight, an old friend, a fox squirrel, banged what sounded like two cymbals together right behind me. In the still morning, the buck jumped 4 feet into the air, turned, and bolted up the same trail he came down until he was out of sight. All I could do was smile.
Until I saw Rocky continue his trapeze act on the branches near me. Then I wondered why I didn’t have a field point with me.
Just kidding, I would never shoot an old friend of mine in the woods, regardless of how bad he treated me. Really…honestly…I think.