About the time the tick bit me on the butt, I should have realized that this year’s deer season wasn’t going to go so well for me.
Of course, the butt-biting took place before the season even started, when I was attaching a trail camera to a tree, so I figure I’ll forgive myself for not treating the event as a harbinger of things to come.
But a harbinger it was.
Now, six weeks later, and dozens of hours in the woods, I can see that. Another year. No deer.
Truth is, my buddies and I don’t hunt in an area with a particularly high deer population. That’s what we tell each other, anyway. And that’s what the biologists say … kind of. Come to think of it, none of us has ever shot a deer in those woods since I started hunting. Well, none of us except Pete Warner, who stole “my” deer last year when he got cold and decided to abandon the woods and walk down a dirt road.
This year might have been different. I vowed to get cold more often, so I’d abandon the woods and walk down dirt road more often, just like Pete.
I bought a new trail camera and strapped it to a tree. I put a new ground blind in a perfect location. And I hoped for the best.
The first time I checked the memory stick in my camera, I was encouraged: Deer had visited. One even did so during daylight hours. Bonus.
Then I got a photo of a mystery beast (later identified as a bobcat). And a coyote (not so good). And finally, more deer .. including one with antlers. Double bonus.
Before the season began, I vowed to get serious in another way. I decided to stop stinking.
I know, I know. Tough chore. But with all the miracle fibers and wonder fabrics out there, I knew there must be a product out there that could help.
I settled on a snappy set of stink-proof underoos (OK …. that’s not exactly what they’re called) that would keep the deer from sniffing me out.
Did they work? Probably. Did they work well enough to convince the deer that the coast was clear? Apparently not. Should I have looked for an apple-scented set of underoos? Hmm … good idea.
So into the blind I went. I sat. I got cold. I shivered. And every now and then, I got cold and walked, just like good ol’ Pete had done.
One day, I figured I’d up the ante. I bought a super-cool product called a Buck Bomb, (Estrous Doe Scent), which is, essentially, a can of aerosolized deer pee.
What you do is, you push the button until it clicks, and the can disperses all its doe urine into the air in a fine mist. Then, you’re supposed to retreat to your stand or blind and wait for the stampede of randy bucks that will surely follow (as long as you’re wearing your stink-proof underoos and they don’t smell you first).
What you don’t do is this: Push the button until the fragrant doe urine erupts from the can … set the can down on an uneven part of the forest floor … and hose yourself in the face with all that doe pee when the can tips over toward you.
Which, you might have guessed, is exactly what I did.
After already suffering a tick bite to the butt, inadvertently washing your face with doe urine would probably convince most hunters that the fall of 2013 was going to be nothing but bad.
I’m a trooper, after all. A gamer. A hunter. And things were going to flip … I knew they were.
I was right.
During the last week of the season, I headed into the woods after two days of steady rain and strong winds.
My blind was not where I had left it, anchored to the ground and tied to trees.
Instead, it was 10 feet away, upside-down … full of water. Flipped.
I put the blind back where it belonged, knocked most of the ice out of my chair, and sat down for a spell. Before long, I discovered that I’d melted the rest of the ice with my previously tick-bitten butt, and my stink-proof underoos were soaked.
After a few hours, chilled to the bone, I stood up and tried to exit my blind. The zipper on the door was frozen shut. The zippers on the windows were frozen open.
A lesser hunter might have quit then. What with the tick bite and the deer pee and the upside-down blind and the frozen zippers. Not me.
I struggled with the zippers and eventually closed the windows and opened the door, then skulked back to the truck, vowing to return one more time.
I did, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Something would change. I knew it.
Again, it did.
As I drove in the dirt road toward my hunting spot, I rounded a corner and spotted a deer standing in the middle of the road. Make that two deer. Bonus? Not quite.
Both were does … and I didn’t have a doe permit.
And the land on both side of the road was posted. Hunting by permission only … and I didn’t have permission.
That, I think, was the event that finally broke me.
Not the tick. Not the doe pee. Not the upside-down blind, which was full of water.
No, it was those deer. Standing there. Taunting me.
A lesser man would have quit then.
Not me. I’m apparently foolish and can’t take a hint. Not immediately, anyway.
But a couple hours later, as the wind whipped through the windows of my blind, and I shivered uncontrollably (apparently stink-proof underoos don’t insulate as well as I thought), I had to admit the cold, hard truth.
This season had been doomed from the start.
Better luck next year.
Follow John Holyoke on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke