After our first fruitless, deerless day, we changed the plan.
Cape Cod has a military base called the Massachusetts Military Reserve, a 22,000-acre tract. Every year, they open about half of it to deer hunters. You have to register in advance, which I’d done, and they let in up to 500 hunters each day.
Because the MMR used to be the Otis Air Force Base, this is called the Otis hunt.
Dawn of Day Two found us checking in for the Otis hunt and taking the truck out to a patch of land that a guy from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife had told us might be promising.
We headed into the woods, and it became clear to me that I don’t understand deer hunting. I understand that part where you sit in a blind or a tree stand and hope the deer just happen to walk by and not notice you until it’s too late. But I don’t understand the part where you walk in the woods looking for them.
The woods are filled with brush and dried leaves, and you can’t walk anywhere without sounding like a herd of elephants. I could hear Kevin clearly at 100 yards, so I figured the deer, who have very large ears and very good hearing, could hear him, and me, at a good half-mile.
Over the course of the morning, we tried a couple of different areas. We saw lots of signs of deer – tracks, scat, and what I suspect were beds – but no actual deer. When we went back to the clubhouse for lunch, we sat down with some of the guys who hunt Otis every year, and I tried to winnow the secret of deer hunting out of them.
Winnowing is probably not my long suit. I sat down at a table with a bunch of strangers and said, “So, what’s the secret of deer hunting?”
Oh, they laughed, and they were friendly, but they didn’t tell me the secret. Their gambit was to tell me there was no secret.
“Do you walk, or do you sit and wait?” Oh, a little bit of both.
“Which way gets you more deer?” Oh, it depends.
“How can you get a deer when you sound like a herd of elephants?” Oh, deer are curious.
Our afternoon was a repeat of our morning. The only deer we saw were the dead ones that other hunters brought back to the clubhouse to register (in Massachusetts, you have to take any deer you kill to a check-in station). That was encouraging, because we knew at least some hunters were seeing deer, but it was discouraging because we weren’t among them.
On Day Three, we brought our blind and went back to the sit-quietly strategy. We set it up in a spot we’d seen on Day Two and waited.
Yeah, you guessed it. No deer.
On Days Four (yesterday) and Five (today) we have a conflict in the form of the Northeast Aquaculture Conference and Expo, but we’ll be back out on Saturday. Hope springs eternal.