Whitetail hunters look forward to the rut all year. Here is a glimpse into what one of those magical days looks like.
Your alarm clock rings. One eye opens and you frantically reach for the phone. You were just dreaming about a 10-point buck that stepped into range, until your iPhone caused you to fall out of your stand. Actually, no, that was just you falling out of bed while grabbing for your alarm. On the bright side, now you’re awake. Time to get moving.
You stumble into the closet searching for your other wool sock, reasonably clean underwear, and insulated long johns. In the midst of the struggle, your less than understanding significant other imparts some helpful encouragement, “Stop making so much noise. You’re waking me up!”
To the shower you go. It’s freezing cold in your house and you stand shivering, awaiting the rising temperature of the water pouring forth. Immediately you wonder why you didn’t take up golf.
You begin the scrub down with your scent eliminating soap, shampoo, and conditioner. After a quick rinse, you dry yourself down with what is hopefully a scent-free towel. You follow that up with scent-free deodorant, scent-free toothpaste, and scent-free chapstick. Now you feel a rumbling in your stomach. Last night’s venison chili seems to be causing a stir. This will not be scent free.
Coffee? Check. Granola bar? Check. A truck bed full of gear, totes, boots, bow, tree stand, and extra toilet paper? Check, check and check. You have all the essentials packed and now you’re racing towards your hunting property. It’s November 7th, the rut is on, the temperature has dropped 24 degrees in the past 24 hours. You will have inevitably forgotten your gloves at home. You curse, spin the truck around and wipe the spilt coffee off your lap.
A quarter cup of coffee? Check. Half a granola bar? Check. A truck bed full of gear, totes, boots, tree stand, extra toilet paper and gloves? Check, check and check. You finally, truly, have all the essentials packed and now you’re in the truck, again, racing even faster towards your hunting property. Flashing lights appear in your rear view mirror.
Late start, forgotten gloves, spilt coffee, and speeding ticket aside – things have gone pretty smoothly this morning. You arrive at your parking spot and emerge into the cold. You remember standing next to your shower earlier and thinking of how cold it will be. This is colder than imagined. Again, golf sounds nice.
Five minutes ago you pulled camouflage garments from a scent-free tote, stripped down to your skivvies, one by one put each new item on while wearing gloves, and then sprayed your entire ensemble with scent eliminating spray. Now you find yourself hiking up the third of five ridges you must cross. Sweat is pouring down your face, sliding down your back, and wetting your armpits. You think back on the shower, odor free storage, and spray. And now this? You strip back down to your skivvies and continue your hike.
Finally, you’re there. You’re perched atop a small aluminum platform in a tree. This is it. You’ve waited for this day for months, and finally you’re in the stand. Anything can happen.
You’ve waited months for this day, so what’s a few more hours? Your wait continues. So far nothing but a few squirrels have passed by. Something has to happen soon, right?
Your wait continues.
Your wait continues.
Your wait continues
You begin to think about what your co-workers had said the day before. Why would you want to spend all your vacation time sitting in a tree? Now that you think about it, it does seem kind of ridiculous. And then, it happens.
In just a matter of seconds, everything changes. The woods erupt in commotion. You quickly stand and reach for your bow as a doe sprints past your stand followed by a buck, and then another and another. Forkie. Six point. Eight point. Giant! There he is. It’s the 10-pointer you’d been dreaming of earlier that morning. And while he skirts past your stand just out of range, he soon slows his pace as he approaches the doe 80 yards away in the cut corn field. You watch in amazement as he slowly angles in and mounts her. Is this actually happening? Yes! This is why you saved all of your vacation days! This is what the rut is all about! You smile in anticipation of telling your co-workers all about this. Now they’ll finally get it!
After thinking things through a bit more, you realize that explaining to your co-workers that you saved your vacation days up to watch two deer have intercourse doesn’t sound as good as you originally thought. In fact, it sounds a bit creepy.
Things have slowed down again, but you’re momentarily reinvigorated by the realization that it’s time for lunch! It’s one of a very small number of things you can dependably look forward to during a 13-hour sit. You carefully pull out the bag of half crushed potato chips, frozen candy bar, bottle of water and peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Cancun has nothing on this.
A wise man once said that if you give a man a deer, he’ll feed his family for 6 months. If you teach a man to deer hunt, he’ll sit in a tree and play on his phone for hours on end.
You’re still playing on your phone.
It’s getting to be crunch time and your excitement level is slowly rising as the sun moves back down towards the horizon. You think to yourself, “What a great bargain!” You get hours of fun in the great outdoors, without spending all sorts of money like your friends in Tahiti. The joke’s on them. You then proceed to pull your top of the line compound bow off from the hanger and grab your new rangefinder from the pocket of your four-piece scent eliminating suit. While rearranging all of your gear, you accidentally bump the ozone machine that’s screwed in above your head. Then you grab your clearcoated, UV protected, 10X42 binoculars from their hook and start to glass the field. The simple, inexpensive joys of the hunting. What a bargain.
You’re still glassing across the field from left to right, when all of a sudden your pulse sky rockets. There’s a buck! He’s only 30 yards away and heading right towards you. And then, just as quickly as you noticed him, you realize it’s just the buck decoy you had set out there an hour earlier.
The procession of real deer has finally begun as a bunch of does file past your stand. It’s only a matter of time before a big boy shows up. And sure enough, just inside the edge of the swamp, you see him.
He’s still inside the swamp about 150 yards away, keeping an eye on the does milling about the field. With daylight waning, you know it’s now or never. Luckily, you’re an expert deer hunter. You know exactly what to do in this scenario. You’ve planned for it for weeks. You’ve got all the right gear, you know all the right strategies, and you have all the right tricks up your sleeve. As he slowly parades back and forth along the edge of the swamp, you reach for your rattling antlers that are hung on the tree next to you. As you grip each antler at the base, you brace yourself for the action that is sure to come.
There’s anticipation welling up within as you stare at the buck. You draw your arms apart wide and smash the antlers together with all the intensity and force you can muster. “Son of a…”
Your right thumb is bleeding. Your rattling antlers are now lying on the ground 23 feet below you. The buck that once was, has now ran a country mile away.
You retrieve the antlers from the base of your tree and begin the long hike back to your truck. In another hour or so you’ll be home just in time for a quick dinner and shower. From there, you’ll spend another 30 minutes looking through trail camera pictures and then it’s off to bed. There are eleven more days of the same thing ahead of you.
It’s been a hell of a day and finally you’re drifting into a comforting sleep. As you slowly fade, you chuckle thinking about the last 16 hours: the ups, downs, successes, failures, long hours, thrill of the chase, big bucks, and the first time witnessing consensual ungulate intercourse. The rut is a time like no other. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for other people to “get it.” Words can’t really describe how all these little experiences, observations and moments in the wild can come together for such a magical time.
The image of the 10-pointer from earlier materializes into view and you imagine pulling your rattling antlers back out for a second try. You know what to do. This time it will all come together. Redemption will be yours. And then there’s a crash. Your wife’s commotion in the kitchen jolts you out of your dream just enough to realize that your thumb still hurts.
“Stop making so much noise. You’re waking me up!”
Feature image by Captured Creative.