Adaptation - Lloyd Kimmen
Adaptation, What does it mean? In the dictionary it means: to adjust to environmental conditions, modification to changing environments. How does it translate to deer hunting? Well think of it, deer adapt every day, could be the weather, food source, or danger in the form of predators, which mostly these days are in the form of man, because if they don’t pay attention and “Adapt”, they will usually end up in someone’s freezer.
Deer adapt every day, so do we, maybe without realizing it, ever run into traffic jam on the freeway? Do you just sit there, creeping along, or do you get off at the next exit, and take an alternate route? And that’s what this story is about, experimenting and adapting. I can still remember back when they first legalized bow hunting from an elevated stand. We would travel to northern Michigan every year for the October 1stopener. Heck we didn’t even know what a tree stand was! Let alone own one. So we adapted, first we found that most of the deer at that time of the year were on the oak ridges eating the acorns, second, we were blessed as the property we hunted had a bunch of large mature oak trees, perfect for climbing. We would pick out a big old gnarly oak tree, one that had a lot of deer sign under it, along with a good supply of acorns. Then all we would do is shiny up the tree and sit on a limb and wait for the deer to come in to us. It worked great, as most years we would all get deer, some of us would kill the legal buck and doe. No longer would we be seen by deer as we were trying to draw our bows, plus we could see them coming from our elevated perches in the trees, something we could never do while hunting on the ground.
We all taught each other a lot, mostly from mistakes that we made. We used scents, calls, rattling horns; we would try almost anything once. Ah, to be so young and naïve again. And you know what? Sometimes our strategies worked, and we all started trying new things. I’m always in the process of taking something I have or seen, and making it stronger or work better. As I’ve always worked in the tool and die business, I had access to build most anything I saw or could dream up. I was sewing a loop just above my left knee on both of my camouflage hunting suits (to put the bottom limb of my bow in, so I could rest my arms waiting for that buck to take those last few steps for a clean shot), probably quite a few years before the invention of the bow holster, I still think mine is better, as I have yet to ever forget it at home!! And another thing is a face-mask, if a deer has ever looked up and saw your shinny white face and tore off, you know the value of a simple face mask. Now I never go bow hunting without one. And archery equipment, whew! I invented my own bow sight some 20 or so years ago, which has a peep built into the sight plate itself, not hard to see through like a string peep, it was also a range finder, as the peep itself was the width of a deer at 20 yards. I still use it to this day. So if a deer filled the peep, you knew he was 20yards or closer, my self-imposed limit. I altered arrows, made special lightweight broad head adapters, removing some 20-30grains from a 100-grain Steelforce broad head. I even build my own tree stands, they are all metal and very light and strong, they are held to the tree by an automotive type seat belt. I have over 20, so I don’t really have to move any during the season; I just hunt a different one if the wind is wrong.
I remember one year, me and my son Shane, were seeing a very big 8 point buck, he would score in the 140’s,god he was nice. The problem was the trail he was using coming out of the woodlot didn’t have a single tree large enough to hang a stand in. So I got to thinking…when he emerged from the trees, he had to cross a ditch that was about 3 feet deep that ran the length of the field. So I figured why not take a shovel and dig a pit about 15 yards on either side of the trail,(in case the wind came from a different direction), camouflage it with some branches, and presto!!, a perfect place to ambush this buck. I was hunting in a different area the first week of the bow season, that had a truly huge buck in it, as things were slow there, I decided I would try for the nice 8 pointer from the pit blinds the second week. I was driving to work on a beautiful October morning, the sky was just getting that really bright red-orange color, as I was coming up to the soybean field that I had saw that buck in many times before I could see two cars on the shoulder of the road. As I flashed my bright lights, there laying on the edge of the road was the big eight pointer, he was hit by the car just minutes before I came along, probably headed for the trail through the ditch, right past the pit blinds, to bed in the woodlot for the day. I pulled over just to look at him, sure enough that was the buck I was hoping to arrow that very night. I hunted the pit blind that week anyhow, just to see if it would work, sure enough the second night. Six doe paraded right past me at 15 yards and never knew I was there. I may never get another opportunity at a buck that was so predictable, who used that same trail so many times, but I learned there is more than one way to skin a cat.
A friend of mine from Anchorage, Alaska was in town for a family reunion, as the gun deer season had just opened the day before, he was eager to go hunting, so I told him to be at my shop at 2:30pm, and he could follow me home, and we could go out hunting that afternoon.
As my 15-year-old son Shane, my friend Pat from Anchorage and myself where changing into our hunting clothes in the barn, we were talking about where we would take Pat for the evening hunt. We decided on an area that we had seen two really nice bucks during the bow season. As I did have 3 tree stands in that area, Shane, my son could also hunt with us. But just before we left, Shane said, he didn’t want to hunt with us; instead he wanted to hunt a different piece of property that I had permission to hunt on, not far from the house. The area he wanted to hunt was 3 large soybean fields that were divided by two parallel running tree lines, which we had tree stands in both tree lines. Problem was, depending on the wind direction; you could only hunt one of the stands at a time, as the wind would be wrong for the other stand. Shane had been getting burned by a 7 point buck that would always be across the field, some 200 yards away, walking past the unoccupied tree stand. This cat and mouse game went on the entire bow season. Just before we left, Shane asked” Dad, do you mind if I cut a piece of that camouflaged burlap off that roll you have for goose hunting?” I said,” I don’t care, but what are you going to use it for?” He said.” I got an idea, I’ll see you guys tonight, I’m outta here”, and Pat and I hopped in my truck and headed for our stands, and Shane threw his scoped 870 Remington slug gun over his shoulder and headed for his spot.
We didn’t see anything that night, but on our way back to the house my cell phone rang, It was Shane, it seems he had gotten the 7 point buck that he was after. I asked him,” Did the buck walk right past the tree stand?” Shane said, “I wasn’t hunting in either tree stand, I was on the ground!!” I asked,” where at”. He said,” Remember we rented the video” Enemy at The Gates”. I said,”yes I remember it, (it’s a story about a famous Russian sniper), what’s that got to do with anything”. Shane said,” Remember the part when he was laying out in the open pretending he was dead? , That’s what I did, I laid down right in the center of the field, covered up completely with the camouflaged burlap so only my gun was sticking out, I knew I was about 100 yards from either tree line, so it didn’t matter which one the deer walked down”. About 30 minutes before dusk, Shane saw a doe coming down the tree line to the north, so ever so slowly, he slid around so he was in position for a shot, and sure enough not 5 minutes later the 7 point buck followed right in the doe’s trail. When the buck was at his nearest point, he turned the scope to 9 power, while lying on the ground, and using the bi-pods, the shot would be fairly simple with such a solid rest As the cross hairs settled on the big bodied buck’s front shoulder, Shane slowly squeezed the trigger, the range was right at 100 yards. At the boom of the slug gun, the buck kicked his back legs, took a couple of jumps, and stopped, Shane pumped the 870 put the cross hairs on his throat, and squeezed the trigger, this time the buck went down as if electrocuted, the slug hitting him where his neck joined his body. How many of us experienced deer hunters would have thought to lie down in the middle of a field that is as flat as a parking lot? Certainly not this experienced deer hunter.
I heard crunch, crunch… ever so slowly I reached for my Mathews Conquest, as I slowly turned, there, walking parallel to me was a buck, not the big one, but a pretty nice one. Ever so gentle I grunted softly toward him, he instantly took a couple of steps toward, and stood at about 35 yards. Asking myself, how can I get him the come 15 or 20 yards closer? He started to loop around behind me, on the downwind side, and to my amazement failed to spook, (I guess my new Scentlok suit was really working). Then it hit me, I fished in the front pocket of my Scentlok jacket and dug out my coiled up rope for hauling up my bow. It has a 6 inch piece of wooden broom handle tied to the end, so I lower it to the ground, grunted twice, jigged the handle up and down in the leaves, the buck upon hearing what he thought was a deer walking away, instantly trotted right to the base of tree.
As the sight pin settled on a spot between the shoulder blades, I pulled the trigger of my Winn Free Release.. The buck kicked hard, and blasted off into the woods; I sat down on the seat, took a deep breath and smiled. The shot was perfect. As I saw the buck pile up some 50 or so yards into the woodlot. Now I always have my rope handy, just in case.
I went out and bought one of those feather flex doe decoys, as it’s a bedded doe, and I’ve had deer walk by about 75 yards away, and either didn’t see it or were ignoring it, I’m wondering, maybe its lacking not only visibility, but also movement, so I’m thinking maybe standing decoy, along with the bedded doe decoy might just be the ticket, maybe take and pin a real deer tail to the standing one, tie some fishing string to the tail, throw it up to my tree stand and Wala! Now not only is there a group, (I guess I’m still a duck hunter, as we know the more decoys the better), but I have the added advantage of the decoy showing some movement, plus I’m hoping the added visibility of it flicking its white tail should bring deer from a long way off.So next time you go hunting, don’t be afraid to try something new, or something you read about, and don’t ever stop being observant or inventive, and remember, ADAPT…………its Fun!!
Sometimes the answer is right in front of us, and we can’t see it. Just this last fall, I was hunting an area that had one big buck that would sometimes travel with a couple of smaller 8 points. The last week of October was really encouraging, as most every time out I rattled in one or the other of the smaller 8 points. But what I was noticing was that they would hang up about 30-35 yards out, and just wouldn’t budge. Thinking the rut must be very near, (as I did see one of the smaller bucks chasing a doe one afternoon), maybe the bucks had split up from fighting over does.
It was November 7, a beautiful evening to be a bow hunter, the wind ever so gentle from the west, the sun had just set behind me, casting an eerie glow of orange through the tops of the trees. It was one of those perfect days that make your heart beat faster just sitting, and watching nature come alive. Something stirs your soul deep down, it’s hard to explain to anyone who has never hunted, I get the same feeling looking out over a big lake in late November, watching the Northern flights of ducks against gunmetal gray sky. Being up in that tree that evening felt like I was back where I belong.
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