Read all posts from The First Feast series here.
There is an old saying, “It’s called hunting, not shootin’.”
The message in the words is meant to demark the difference between shooting at a target range versus hunting in the woods. At the range, you can fire all day. When you are hunting, you get one shot—two if you are lucky. I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but whomever did was lying.
It ain’t called shootin’. And it ain’t called hunting either. It’s called waiting, and waiting…and waiting...and waiting.
I’m hunting private land in New Smyrna beach, on a ranch with 1,200 acres of woody swamp land. To maximize my time, I’m doing two-day combo hunts. In the wee hours of the morning, I’m going after deer. In the evening I’m going after the wild boar. What I’m actually doing, however, is waiting. Waiting for dinner to politely show up, stand still and let me take my shot. Neither the deer, nor the hogs are cooperating.
My first weekend out I’m in a deer stand twenty feet in the air. I’m trying to be silent and focused, but I’m providing an early Thanksgiving meal for mosquitoes and deer flies. I’m using a Therma-Cell and wearing a Rhino-skin shirt (designed to prevent mosquitoes and ticks from getting to your skin) neither are working this morning. All I can focus on is the incessant buzzing in my ears and around my face. If I’m not waving my hands around my head to get rid of the bugs, I’m looking at my phone praying for 11am to arrive so I can take the midday break. When 11 hits, I’m out the stand quick as lightning, rushing to Gander Mountain to buy more bug spray, and mosquito netting for my head.
I stop home, look in the mirror and freak out. My face looks like I have caught the bad end of a UFC fight. I count no fewer than eight large bumps on my face. I find three more on each wrist. There is no doubt in my mind that if I don’t get a Benadryl in my system, I’m headed to the ER.
Nonetheless, I head back out for the evening hunt. I’m more prepared. The bugs leave me alone.
So do the hogs. I don’t see a thing. Ditto for the next morning. I do not see any deer. At the midmorning break, I leave and tell the guide I’m skipping the evening hunt. I’m tired, frustrated, and itchy. I call it a day; animals-1, Kiara-0.
Two weeks later I’m back in the woods. I’m more upbeat. I’m prepared for anything the bugs can throw at me. My guide sets me up at a different location. The woods are thicker with clear game trails. There is even deer sign; rubs against trees and hoof prints in the mud. I’m excited, and that lasts for the first two hours. Then I’m back to just sitting in a tree hoping each sound is a deer. I’m bored and start thinking, “I don’t enjoy this type of hunting.”
The nature of hunting is that you don’t know when or if the game will show up. When it does, you might miss your shot. At this point all I wanted was a shot. I desperately wanted at least a chance to fire my bow. Desperate people do desperate and silly things.
When I decided to go out a third time, I was scrambling for a solution. I needed something to bring the deer to me. I thought about deer calls, but that’s an Elk hunting approach. Baiting was out of the question. It’s not legal in Florida. Then my eyes fell on the scent baits in the store.
If you are not familiar with scent baits, they are formulated to smell like does. The bucks think it’s a female running around the woods, and comes over to check them out. The problem is that this scent is either real or simulated deer pee essentially. Buying deer urine and carrying it in your chest pocket has always seemed rather wrong to me. However, as I said, desperate measures.
I bought a small bottle and headed out to the deer stand. The guide sends me along a trail that crisscrosses to a path where deer sign is abundant. I decide to hang the scent attractant about 20 feet from the deer stand. I should have put my gear up in the stand, and then come back down. Instead, I’m rushing. I want to get the scent out on a tree and move to the stand without having to come back down again.
I throw my bow between my legs, so my hands are free to open the bottle. That’s when it happens. I go from being lunch for bugs to being another casualty of Murphy’s law. My backpack slips down my arm at the same time a deerfly bites my wrist.
I slap at the deerfly, forgetting that my hand is holding the deer scent. Milliseconds later it’s all over my hand and lower arm. I nearly bite my tongue off trying to keep from cursing.
I’m covered in deer scent. Sticky, smelly deer urine. Do I need to mention that I’m in the woods with not a sink or bathroom near? All I have is my water bottle. I up-end the bottle, pouring all the water on my hand and use my pants as a towel. I’m sure none of that helped.
Nonetheless, I head to the stand. There’s nothing I can do except curse mentally. I’m ticked off, and feel like a deer better not show up, because I’m gonna take this anger out on it.”
I needn’t have worried. None showed up.
Kiara Ashanti is originally from the cold state of New Jersey. He attended college in sunny Florida and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Speech Communication. He loves taking on new projects and is the author of over 200 articles ranging from trading securities, politics, social policy, and celebrity interviews. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS blog posts here.