Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Golden Opportunities

Funny how you just accept some things as hunting facts without questioning them. Like peeing in the woods, or not peeing in the woods as the case may be.

More times than I can count, I've painfully climbed down out of a tree - bladder stretched to the limit, struggled to get my climbing stand off the tree and packed up, then hightailed it for a quarter mile or so before finally relieving myself. Why endure the pain? To avoid spooking any deer that would smell my urine and instantly recognize it as human (or maybe just predator) in origin. At least that's what I thought. Turns out I've been needlessly torturing myself and possibly even missing out on some "golden" opportunities.

This past weekend was the Tennessee juvenile hunt, so my son Hunter and I were in the woods together looking for a big one to put on the wall.

High winds and torrential rain on Friday had done some serious rearranging of the fall colors. A thick layer of freshly-fallen leaves covered the ground, obscuring all deer sign. Luckily, I had done some scouting on Wednesday and had found a couple of dominant red oaks, each with several fresh scrapes nearby.

On Sunday morning, Hunter and I were hunting one of those dominant trees. About an hour after daylight, we decided to try some soft rattling. Almost immediately after putting the rattling horns down, we heard walking and saw movement to our left circling downwind. Our excitement was short lived, however, when we could make out that the movement was not a buck, but a coyote. It continued to circle downwind and eventually bolted when it hit our scent.

We waited about an hour for things to settle down then tried another rattling sequence. Amazingly, another coyote materialized from the opposite direction and it too circled downwind.

After seeing two coyotes, we figured our odds of seeing any deer that morning were pretty slim, so we decided to climb down and do some scouting. We started by checking the nearby scrapes. They were still covered with leaves and hadn't been freshened for a couple days. As we stood there, Hunter remarked that he really had to "go" bad.

Recalling some conversations on TnDeer.com where hunters recommended freshening scrapes or even starting mock scrapes with human urine, I told Hunter to go over to the nearest scrape and give it the ol' golden shower, which he did.

Long story short, we scouted hard for several hours, but with all the sign hidden by leaves, we didn't find anything that looked more promising than our morning location. We decided to return for the evening hunt.

At about sunset, a six pointer came to the dominant tree and fed on acorns for a couple minutes. As he wandered off, he walked over to the scrape that Hunter had freshened that morning. Immediately, he began pawing back the leaves. Then he stood on his hind legs and sniffed, then chewed on, the overhanging limb. Next he stuck his nose to the ground and appeared to actually taste the dirt. Finally, he gave it a little golden shower of his own and walked off.

As he moved on, he stopped at another scrape that we hadn't freshened. He gave it a quick sniff then kept walking. It was obvious that not only was that deer not alarmed by the smell of human urine, but he was actually curious about it.

I haven't figured out how I will put that newfound knowledge to use as far as hunting strategy, but I'll definitely be making some scrapes whenever the "urge" hits from now on.

On the ride home, Hunter was very excited about our day together. We talked about the coyotes. We talked about scouting. We talked about the how the six pointer had looked right at us several times and how comical he looked as he bobbed his head up and down and side-to-side trying to figure out what we were. We talked about deer behavior, deer communication, deer senses, and how they live in a scent-oriented world that we can't even comprehend. It was great to engage him in a thoughtful 45 minute conversation about a subject we both love.

Anyone who has raised a thirteen year old boy lately understands how difficult it is to compete for time with friends, girls, school activities, sports, Ipods, text messaging, facebook, and a hundred other things. A couple times during that ride, I instinctively reached for my phone to return calls but stopped myself short, thinking, "I'm not going to jeopardize this golden opportunity to have an uninterrupted meaningful conversation with my son. The calls can wait."

I understand that there are some who object to hunting for various and sundry reasons. All I can say is that I will always remember that day and the bond of sharing a special outdoor experience and a wonderful conversation with my son. And no animals were harmed in the making of those memories! Yes, killing is sometimes the end result, but hunting is really about the process.


Unknown said...

good post; enjoy your blog

Ben G. said...

I might have to try freshening up some scrapes myself this season.

I always did the same thing get down out of the tree and take a long walk. Or bring a plastic bottle up in my stand with me.

I haven't raised a 13yr old boy yet but I have a 1yr old and another boy on the way. I am so looking forward to creating memories just like you did that day.

Anonymous said...

Love the Blog. Thanks for the first hand confirmation of something I have suspected and tried myself in the past. Until now I have had no confirmation that it actually works. I don't think the "ACT" will bring deer in, but it may keep them around long enough for good shot. keep the posts coming.

Anonymous said...

On a recent hunt I peed out of my stand twice. The first time, a really nice 10 pointer came in within 20 minutes after. He smelled my pee and did not alert. Neither did the two does that followed him. They did eventually alert to "my" scent when they got directly downwind of me, but I could have killed the buck stone dead on a number of occasions during the ten minute encounter. By the way, it was an antlerless quota hunt on President's Island.
The next day I peed out of my stand again in the same place and a three point came in directly downwind.
I think the urine may have actually attracted him. None of the deer spooked because of it. Of course, I wonder if deer who have been educated and associate human urine with humans would have spooked.
At this point, I just pee out of my stand.

Pursuit Hunter said...

Thanks for the nice feedback guys.

I think one of the greatest things about hunting whitetails is that there is always more to learn. There certainly are no experts, just folks who've made more mistakes than others - and hopefully learned from them. That's a big part of why I started this blog; so we can learn from others' experiences - both good and bad.

Anonymous 11/10 - I'm glad to know that the big bucks are just as indifferent to (or even curious about) human urine. I wondered, after what I witnessed with an immature buck, whether older bucks would behave differently. You've answered that question. Thanks.

Anonymous 11/6 - agree that the act probably isn't going to draw 'em in from the next county. I wonder whether a mock scrape might keep one checking it for several days if they are in the area. Could up the odds of getting an opportunity.

Ben - my BEST hunting memories involve being in the woods with my son. Like the time when he was about six or seven and we took a mid-day nap together in a sunny spot under a big white oak. We both fell asleep with his head on my shoulder. Don't remember much else about that day, but I'll never forget that nap. Hope you have some great times with your boys. Congratulations and good luck on the second.

Anonymous said...

What a great post all the way around. Can't wait to make some hunting memories with my little man. He's 2 1/2 and I took him out for hunting for the first time this fall. He love grunting and rattling. We did not get to see any deer but I got to see the joy in my sons eyes and that made it a successful trip in my eyes.

Keep up the good work.
-I too freshen scrapes. Why hold it!?!?

Pursuit Hunter said...


Great to hear from a huntin' momma. I see from your blog that your husband hunts too. Sounds like your little man has got some good times ahead. Enjoy the times!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Keep up the good work.