Fri09192014

Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

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Do game animals wear wrist watches?

The title is the running joke among hunters all the time. Drive by a farm field just prior to deer season and you will see herds of deer just milling about, as if there is not a care in the world. Go back by there the first day of deer season, and the place is a ghost town.

I have had permission in the past to hunt a farm that was loaded with turkey. Driving into the farm would leave even a non-hunter salivating for a fresh turkey breast on the grill. I hunted that farm for a few years and only saw turkey during turkey season once. When the season ended, the turkey were very visible within a week. Go figure.

I am convinced that animals must have a calendar etched on a tree, and another tree has to have a copy of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ (VDGIF’s) hunting regulations on it. If you hunt deer and don’t see any in the woods and leave a half hour after sunset when you are supposed to, chances are that when you fire up the truck and flip on your headlights to leave, you will see more than a few pairs of eyes shining back at you. Of course, this is well after shooting hours are over, and the deer seem to know it, too.

Besides being in possession of a calendar and the game regulations, I think animals also have some sort of power that enables them to know when you are not targeting them, but some other species. Think about it - If you are in the woods hanging in a tree stand awaiting a deer to come within range, you get heckled all evening or morning by a parade of squirrels. They never leave you alone. This is particularly true if you are hunting on the ground. I like hunting on the ground. I used to try to take a nap when hunting on the ground. Forget it! The squirrels won’t let you.

When my girls were little, I knew they had about two hours of attention span to sit still before they began giving me looks that more or less said, “Dad, we want to go home. We are hungry.”

Or, “I have to use the bathroom.” Maybe the looks said, “Dad, I am bored. I want to go home and play with my toys.”
Don’t get me wrong; my girls were very patient. However, to milk some more hunting time out of them, I started whispering, “Count the squirrels you see. You can only count them once, so if they go up in a tree and come back down, you cannot count them twice. For each one you count, I will give you a nickel!”

That worked well, but it also began to bankrupt me. I soon stopped that program and made plans to hit that patch of woods to squirrel hunt. Do you know that despite shelling out DOLLARS to the girls for the squirrels that they saw in one particular area, I saw only one skittish squirrel when I returned later that week to hunt them? What happened? I sure would like to know. It was unreal. If you see plenty of squirrels or rabbits in an area while hunting deer or turkey, chances are you won’t see them when you return. It just does not work that way.

Waterfowl are the worst foes to face while hunting, though. They know when your gun is unloaded or when you are busy answering nature’s call. They know when your best buddy is pouring coffee out of a thermos, when you have a muffin, pop tart, banana or whatever in your hand about to take a bite, and they certainly know right about when you have given up and unloaded the gun and begun to gather decoys.

The decoy issue really bugs me. I can get over them showing up when someone is trying to eat. Don’t eat while hunting - Problem solved! If you gotta go that bad while in the blind, then make sure someone else has your back and will do some shooting for you!

However, when you unload and begin gathering decoys, well, that is the worst. You have to go home at some point in the morning, right?

This problem was happening to me so often in one particular blind I hunted, that I decided to turn the tables on the birds. First, I started packing up to leave earlier than I had seen them the previous week. (Buzzer sounds) That did not work. They showed up just as I reached for the first decoy.

The following week, I waited a full extra hour to get them. Finally, I gave up and headed out to get my decoys. When I looked up after the first decoy was in hand, there were no birds. Then the second and third and fourth decoy was in the bag. It was looking like I had outsmarted the birds.

When I had half a dozen dekes in the bag, guess what happened? Four mallards not only flew over, but circled and came down as if to land and then flared perfectly in front of the blind before heading down the creek to land just out of range.

It was time to prove I was smarter than they were. The next hunt, I kept my gun loaded and handy. I hurriedly gathered the dekes and kept an eye to the sky. Sure enough, the birds came right on down as I was gathering the last few decoys. I snatched up the gun and took down two birds before the rest got out of range. It was the only time the trick worked so far, though.

Last, I know that waterfowl wear watches. They know exactly when sunset is. Sunset is when legal shooting hours end for waterfowl in most states, if not all of them. I cannot count how many times I have exited my blind or unloaded my gun, and before I even get fifty yards, the birds fly over or into the water where I was hunting. In fact, it happened the very evening that I typed this article.

My daughter and I were at a swamp hoping to get a shot at some geese that were using the place to roost. We sat on the edge of the swamp for about an hour. At exactly sunset, I knew what was going to happen. So, being legal as I must, I told her to unload, and I unloaded, and we made quick steps to leave the swamp before the birds flew in and tempted me.

We made it about halfway out of the swamp when a half dozen honkers flew over so slow and low that Ray Charles could have taken a few shots and bagged his limit. All I could do was groan. I wanted to shoot, but it was past legal shooting hours. I knew the geese would do that. I even told my daughter while we were unloading what was going to happen. Sometimes I hate being right.

Mark Fike

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