In my younger days, as often as time would allow we'd take any spare hour or so to try to bag our white tailed deer for the season. My method was almost exclusively "sneak and peek" - to hunt very slowly and quietly and keep both my eyes and mind open for any sign of a deer. Sometimes it would only be an antler, a twitching ear, or on more than one occasion a sloping belly of a deer that had both it's head and back end hidden by separate trees.
In the case of the latter, we never had the patience to wait the deer out, not taking a chance that it wasn't a deer we'd usually loose the waiting battle and make a slight move which would send the deer bounding off into the thickets. But on many other instances, by seeing just part of the deer we could then make out the rest of it or enough to positively identify it as a viable target. Then only after making sure there was nothing in the deer's background that we didn't want to shoot.
Several times we'd take my son, Ted, and some of my nephews out on the sneak and peek outings, trying to teach them the ropes and the patience necessary to achieve success. And on almost all of these lessons we'd get close enough to standing deer to be able to point them out to our students but in just about every case, the youngsters would get fidgety and move enough to spook the deer. But those were great lessons, even though they didn't achieve a deer in the bag. And often these lessons were pre-season, when we couldn't shoot.
As we aged we found it more difficult to take deer using this method, but until a recent goose hunt with a Maine friend, Jesse McCabe and his brother, Charley, we never really knew the secrets of great sneak-and-peek deer hunters. Yup I did say goose hunt.
Jesse had asked me to take him and his brother out one afternoon and "get us a couple of geese." Actually, that wasn't a real tall order as we'd been having fantastic luck on the big birds, bringing them into good gun range with calling and decoys while we were hiding in the bushes.
Jesse had always told me that "Charlie can walk right up on deer and shoot 'em in their beds." As Jesse wasn't one to exaggerate, we put a lot of stock in those words.
So there the three of us sat, on buckets behind a simple burlap covered blind, with only about 20 decoys out in front of us but this had been a hot field-cut barley and oats that the geese had been coming to for an easy feed each afternoon.
It was only a short time when Charlie whispered, "Geese!" "Where are they Charlie?"
"Right over those power lines at the end of the field-at the corner of the field."
That area where he was pointing to was about three-quarters of a mile away. And try as I might, I couldn't make them out.
"Can you seen 'em Jesse?"
"No, but if Charlie says they are there, than you can bet on it."
"Call," Jesse instructed me but I still couldn't see any birds.
"Right there where I said they were," Charlie confirmed.
But trying even harder with eyesight that has often been coveted by others, they just were not in my sight. And then a little dark line of something appeared exactly were Charlie had pointed out, as much as five minutes after he'd whispered "Geese."
"Work your magic with that call," Jesse pleaded with me, but I had to argue a bit with him that those geese were so far away that calling them was just going to be a waste of breath. But the birds finally did come into calling range and with a little pleading about a dozen of them broke off from the big flock and started a long sail, with wings set, right into good shooting range.
"Take 'em," I choked out, trying not to scare the geese, but nary a shot was fired.
Both of the McCabe boys stated that they wanted their shots to be at geese just over the decoys and right out in front. As if this old goose hunter could perform miracles.Several more times Charlie would pick up flocks of geese that were miles away, his vision being obviously superior to what most people can achieve. And finally we did the trick of getting both of them shots right in front and right over the decoys and they both had their goose. And then legal time ran out and while we were picking up our decoys, a lone goose came in and landed near where Charlie was standing. Both Jesse and I had to just about tackle his brother to keep him from shooting it."You know, Charlie can shoot those big bucks right in their beds," Jesse said on the way back to camp. And now I know why, and why my success at sneaking and peeking had "peaked."
It not just the sneaking, it's the peeking.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.