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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 12:19 pm | A Few Clouds 60º

 
 
 
 

Captain’s Log: Loud Natural Sounds Don’t Bother Critters

One buck in my sights knew which sounds — including a falling tree — not to worry about

Rustling in a small but bushy thicket caught my attention as I slowly and methodically glassed a hillside from across a canyon.

It was soft dawn, well before the sun came up over the mountain where I was deer hunting with good friends. We camped together, but hunted as loners because each of us has our own way of searching and reading sign. I had this canyon to myself, and I was in my element.

That slight rustling motion and sound had caught the attention of nearby critters, including a bobcat. I had been quietly observing the canyon environment since first light, and I knew there were several animals actively foraging. That rustling was the doing of a critter, and other critters are acutely aware of the doings of one another.

The bobcat was out late, probably because it had not been successful during pre-dawn hunting hours. It had been a dark night thanks to a new moon phase, and hunting was difficult even for that cat, which can see very well in the dark. I was rubbing several scrapes I had suffered while making my way slowly to this vantage point before first light. It is wise to be settled in and quiet, well before gray light.

Zooming in on that thicket with my spanky-new high-powered binoculars, I caught a faint glint of sunlight off of an antler. That certainly sparked my interest and I watched intently, trying to determine the size of the antlers.

I could easily see that it was well above the legal minimum of a forked horn buck. It was an adult deer, bedded down for the day in a thicket halfway up a hillside where it could watch for trouble and also enjoy the benefits of an upslope wind — which helps keep pesky flies off the animal. This critter knew what it was doing. I could see it turn its head in reaction to slight sounds from throughout the canyon.

A surprisingly loud sound made me lower the glasses and look around. A fairly large tree made groaning and then splitting sounds as it toppled loudly, without any apparent reason, just 100 yards from the deer. Maybe it was just time for that tree to fall.

I quickly lifted the glasses to my eyes and focused again on the thicket, worried that the big sound had spooked my quarry. Nope, that deer hadn’t even reacted to the loud sound as it had reacted to very slight sounds of the movement of other critters. Some sounds are reason to worry, and some — no matter how big — are not to worry about. That buck knew the difference.

The story of my hunt can be saved for another day. Suffice to note, for now, that it was a long day of strategy and stealth. The venison steaks and stew that winter were delicious.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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