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A world full of four-points

12/2/2008

A month into deer season and I've got nothing to show for it.

It's been an unusual year so far. By this time, there's usually at least one deer in the freezer, jalapeño deer sausage for Thanksgiving's wonderful week of football games, deer chili for the season's first cold front.

But that's not the case this year. I've seen nothing but four-points.

The bad luck started in blackpowder season. (Bowhunting is just another vice I can't get sucked into.) Opening weekend beckoned with cool temperatures and the promise of every new season. Plans were to hunt at my brother-in-law's massive deer camp, boasting more than 13,000 acres — supposedly the largest privately owned deer club in the state.

Their big-buck program is fairly substantial: minimum inside spread of 17 inches, at least eight points, body weight must exceed 160 pounds. In all, too much math on the fly for a dedicated meat hunter like me.

But the camp chef is the best in the world and the 54-inch flat-panel TV is perfect to catch the pigskin games. The blinds all have heaters, and you could get away without taking your bedroom slippers off if you wanted, even if you have to travel two miles to your assigned blind.

It's a privilege to go, so I've learned to really enjoy it and all of the amenities. The problem is that it's spread among easily-flooded bottomlands. It's an hour south of where we live, and two days before the opener, a little rainstorm blew through. We didn't get much rain where we were, but my brother-in-law called the day after the storm.

"We're screwed," he said, in language more colorful than that.

"What do you mean?" I asked, trying to suppress the alarm bells going off in my brain.

"The place is flooded, completely underwater," he said.

"No way," I screamed, still thinking it was just a bad dream and I'd wake up soon. "We only got a quarter of an inch here."

"Yeah, I know," he said. "But it rained hard down there, and the river is up to almost 12 feet. Flood stage is 9."

"Can I still come down and just stay in the clubhouse?" I whimpered.

"Get a hold of yourself, man," he replied. "I'm not going to just sit around in a clubhouse surrounded by water."

"Damn, I would," I thought.

I ended the call, got the dog and headed out for a walk. I live in an old residential neighborhood built back in the 1920s. Two blocks from the house, I entered the Catholic diocese property — some 40 acres — that is developed but has some large open fields. A crisp wind blew as the sun was setting. On the back edge of the property, a four-point and a doe watched the priest as he got out of his car and then casually slipped into the woods.

"Did you see the buck, father?" I called out to him.

"No," he exclaimed with surprise. "I guess I need to put up a tree stand," he added.

The next weekend, the water was down. We ate well, but in two days of hunting I only saw a four-point. He almost looked familiar.

A week separated black powder and the modern-gun opener.

My youngest son and I now headed to the mountainous western part of the state. Noah could still have hunted here. Late the afternoon of the second day with my 10-year-old sitting next to me, a four-point came out in front of us at about 70 yards.

I watched him through the scope. First, he posed broadside, showing his left side, then turned and posed broadside revealing the right.

There was nothing I could do. Several years ago, the state wildlife agency decided to impose a minimum three points on one side for it to be a legal buck.
Quality deer management they call it.

I call it a four-point factory; I've been hunting this area for more than 20 years and the bucks just don't seem to grow any brow tines.

So it was no go, again.

"I'm heading back to the cabin," my son said after the deer disappeared into the woods.

"I'm just going to sit here and see what happens," I replied.

He left.

Nothing happened.

The next week I spent three days at the same camp. Didn't see a thing. Not one deer. I've spent six days in the woods so far and haven't seen a single doe yet, just four-points.

Now I'm wondering where I'll go this weekend. There's rain in the forecast, so it looks like I'll head back to the mountains.

I thought about it as I walked the dog in the early evening darkness. A couple of parking lot lights pushed back some of the darkness at the Catholic diocese property.

A movement close to my right caught my attention. At 30 yards it was a four-point, the light reflecting off of his basket rack. Two does lifted their tails and trotted into the woods behind him.

I think I'll get that tree stand the father wanted, even if it is just a four-point.
Confession is good for the soul, or so I'm told.