Thursday, July 13, 2006

day 7

Doe fever.

It can happen. It happened to me tonight. I showed up at the vineyard at about 7 pm, changed my shirt, put on my rubber boots (more to avoid poison ivy than anything--the place is loaded with it), and walked around to the back of the winery building to have a seat. It was 80 degrees and humid, and I was in the direct light of the western sun setting.

So of course as soon as I sit down I see movement below me. I stand up, and there are two big does below the newly planted vines, past the tall grass strip beyond, and in the clover that Richard planted after having cleared the five acres or so of timber last year.

Ouch. I sat down again quickly and wondered what to do. Should I wait for them to come uphill, stalk them where they are, or attempt a shot from where I sat?

Like an idiot I stood up again. One of them pretty much saw me, and started moving. Quickly I sat down, where I could still see the other doe calmly grazing in the clover. I didn't see much of her body, but if I'd been ambitious (or reckless) I could have tried a head shot.

Like an idiot I stood up yet again to see if I could see her body. At this point she's figured out there's some doofus up by the winery building bobbing up and down in the sun like an idiot. (Deer are smart that way.) So she moved off.

At that point I decide to try to go to them on the outside chance they stopped at the edge of the woods to wait and see. So I tried a mini-stalk through the new vines, behind the tall grass, and through the tall grass. By the time I got there, nada. And in 80 degree heat, I'm pretty steamed up.

I decided to recon the woods below, and I'm pretty sure I caught the fresh tracks of at least one of them (it rained ALL day yesterday, and these tracks were fresh). I'm still trying to figure out what these buggers are doing in the summer time, but damn if Richard wasn't right about them being in the clover. Go figure.

So I head back up to the truck for some AC to cool off and to finish a soda I'd left in the truck. I get there, turn on the AC, and about two minutes later I'm starting to cool down when I see a fawn in the grapes not forty yards away.

Yee hah, I'm in business. I turn the engine off, open the door when the fawn is behind some vines, and get the gun from the truck bed. I'm hoping to get momma, and I catch a glimpse of her uphill of the fawn, coming downhill into an open area of the vines that the deer have kept browsed. Just where Richard the vineyard owner said they'd be.

Doe fever. Of course like an idiot I'm not content to just sit on the ground and wait for the doe to emerge and take a shot. Nope, I have the grand idea to go around to the OTHER side of the truck where I'm hoping for a better angle and also to use the truck to screen me. Bad idea.

I get to the other side of the truck and there is momma staring right at me. BUSTED. She was only forty yards away, standing broadside to me, but I am clearly in the open next to the front fender of the truck, and she sees me. I've got the gun up but when I look through the scope the kill zone is exactly behind a post in the vines. damn.

And then she runs. She heads away from me up the vine row, and about eighty yards away crosses over a hump partially obscured by tall grass, and heads into the woods below. The fawn follows. I make a feeble effort to go to the back side of those woods to see if I can cut her off, but don't see her, and the neighbor's house is too close anyway. In hindsight I think she and the fawn crossed the neighbor's driveway and headed off the property.

So I screwed up two wonderful opportunities . . . well, one wonderful opportunity anyway. The two does in the beginning were a long shot for me and the slug gun--probably 125 yards, pretty much out of my comfort zone and my ideal of knocking them over. Had I had my planned-on rifle, on the other hand, I would have gladly taken a shot at the second doe beyond the tall grass.

Oh well. It's a long season, the deer aren't going anywhere, and I'm starting to see some patterns to their behavior. So that's good.

But doe fever happens--that's the lesson for today.


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