I suspect it would be really easy to write an interesting, engaging post about a successful deer hunt. I mean, really, the thing practically writes itself. You go out in the freezing pre-dawn dark, you sit in your treestand, listening. Then, when there’s just enough light to see (and to legally shoot), you hear the chip-chip-chip of a deer in the leaves. And it goes on, ending in triumph.
Writing an interesting, engaging post about an unsuccessful deer hunt is much more challenging. Even when you’ve had as much practice as I have.
Last Thursday, in the teeth of a nor’easter, Kevin and I loaded our two treestands – one bought, one borrowed – in the truck and headed up to Maine. Our friends Ron and Susan had invited us to hunt their 35 acres of woods, which we knew had real live deer in them. Kevin and I had seen the tracks and the poop, and Ron and Susan had seen the actual deer.
We arrived Thursday night, but weather and darkness prevented our getting the treestands up until morning. That gave us most of the day Friday and all day Saturday to hunt. Since we can’t leave our property for more than a couple of days, even with friends coming to feed and check on the animals, we had to be back by Sunday.
Ron and Susan’s property is bordered on the north by what’s either a small river or a large creek. There’s a path, used by both humans and deer, that runs alongside, and Kevin and I set up the treestands south of the path, a couple hundred yards apart. We each had a good view of, and a clear shot at, a section of path. Kevin’s spot was particularly good, as it was near a little depression where deer seemed to congregate, either to drink, or to wade across the stream.
Let me cut to the chase. I saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. I heard nothing, except A Tale of Two Cities (read by Simon Vance, the best audiobook reader in the history of the world) played very low in one ear. Kevin saw a very large doe, and would have had a shot, had he had a doe license.
We came home empty.
Before I met Kevin, I’d never heard the expression, “on the schneid.” After I met Kevin, I heard it all the time. It means to be on a losing streak (“schneiden” is “to cut” in German), and Kevin went on one almost from our first date. The U-turn in his trading success was so obvious that his friends started calling me “the schneid girl.”
Now, Kevin and I are on the schneid together, and this whole no-deer thing is getting very old. We recognize that it is, in part, a byproduct of our being overextended. We’ve been doing so many things that it’s been hard for us to do any of them as well as we’d like. Hunters who bring home deer do better scouting and block out more than a day and a half to hunt. They spend a lot of time in the field, understanding deer habits and behavior. And they do it year after year, getting better all the time.
Our season isn’t over. The Massachusetts shotgun season opens the week after Thanksgiving, and there are a couple of possibilities close to home. But we know we haven’t put in the time and effort that make the taking of a deer likely.
One of our problems is that we haven’t hunted the same place each year. Our first season, we tried Cape Cod and environs. Year two was Vermont. This year, it was Maine. From what I’ve learned from experienced hunters, it seems that getting familiar with a particular piece of land ups your chance of success significantly.
Which is why we’re planning to be really nice to Ron and Susan. We’re hoping they’ll invite us back next year, and we’ll be able to do a more thorough job. We’ll put up cameras and try to understand the deer patterns. We’ll find the best spots for the treestands. We’ll be up there for opening day. We’ll block out several days.
I really want a post that writes itself, and ends in triumph. It’s time to get off the schneid.