Because we’ve all done dumb things in the deer woods.
By David Hart
What is it about whitetails that turns ordinarily smart folks into bumbling idiots? Maybe it’s a giant buck caught on a trail camera or just the urge to get off the pavement and into the woods in a hurry. Whatever the reason, we leave common sense (and toilet paper) behind and do things our friends will never let us forget.
It might be a rookie who makes an honest mistake or a seasoned veteran who just doesn’t pay attention to the details, but every deer hunter pulls at least one stunt in his hunting career that would make Homer Simpson proud.
A Little Dab Will Do Ya
Just ask Jose Aunon’s friend. The two hunters were gearing up before daylight when Aunon, a dentist from Centerville, Va., dribbled some doe urine on his boots and handed the bottle to his buddy. He turned around to grab his rifle, unaware what was about to happen.
“My friend was new to hunting, so he had no idea what was in the bottle or what he was supposed to do with it,” recalls Aunon. “I guess I should have told him.”
Instead of following his mentor’s lead, Aunon’s friend poured half the bottle in the palm of one hand, rubbed both palms together and slapped the liquid on his cheeks. When he finished, he replaced the cap and handed the bottle back to Aunon who knew something was amiss by the overpowering odor.
“I guess I should have given him some more direction,” says Aunon. “The worst part is he didn’t even see a buck.”
Dude, Where’s My Arrow?
When a buck stopped broadside at 20 yards, Shannon Sheffert drew his bow and released an arrow. Sheffert, an Oklahoma Department of Transportation civil engineer, heard the unmistakable thump of arrow hitting deer.
“I waited a while and then went over to where I last saw him and found his tracks, but I couldn’t find any blood. I figured, ‘No problem, I’ll just follow his tracks and find him,” recalls Sheffert.
He followed the hoof prints for a little while but lost them when the deer crossed into some open trees. Sheffert continued searching, confident he’d stumble onto a dead buck. After scouring the timber for a good 30 minutes, he returned to look for the arrow, hoping to find some sort of clue.
After failing to find anything that would indicate a hit, Sheffert climbed back into the tree to replay the events, then climbed back down and dropped to his hands and knees and studied the ground around the buck’s tracks. Thirty minutes later and still no blood, Sheffert was baffled by the lack of clues. After more fruitless searching, frustration set in.
“I went back to the tree, climbed into my stand to look at the shot angle one more time,” says Sheffert. “By then the angle of the sun changed, and when I was studying the shot, something caught my eye about halfway between my stand and where the deer stood.”
His arrow was firmly embedded in a small branch. Sheffert never did see that buck again, but he managed to cut the limb and retrieve his arrow.
Gathering your gear in a dimly-lit hunting cabin is never a good idea, but that’s exactly what Matt O’Brien’s friend did during Virginia’s early muzzleloader season. Although 40 at the time, O’Brien’s friend was new to the sport and even newer to the thrill of chasing whitetails with a muzzleloader. So when the anxious hunter scooped up a couple of red plastic Knight discs for his rifle early in the morning, he didn’t bother to check the primers inside the disks. Too bad.
Later that morning a legendary buck O’Brien and his friends dubbed White Horns walked just a few yards from the newbie’s stand. He found the buck’s chest in his crosshairs, flicked off the safety and squeezed the trigger. Instead of a bang and a cloud of smoke, the hunter was greeted by the metallic click of firing pin on primer.
“He managed to cock the rifle again, and the same thing happened,” remembers O’Brien.
By some stroke of beginner’s luck, the buck never flinched, and the confused hunter removed the disk and primer and replaced it with a fresh one. Again, however, the firing pin fell with a hollow click as White Horns wandered off, safe for another day.
“When he looked at his disks and primers, he realized he had grabbed the ones he used to sight in his rifle, so every primer he had was already spent,” O’Brien said. “Nobody ever saw that buck again.”
A Buckmasters field editor used to take scent control very seriously, so much in fact when the urge to relieve himself struck early one morning, he refused to take care of business from his stand. But when he couldn’t hold it any longer, he reconsidered.
“I figured I had two options: Either let it fly off my stand or run back to the truck and go where it wouldn’t mess up my hunting. I remembered I had a bunch of snacks in a large Ziploc in my daypack, so I emptied the Ziploc and proceeded to relieve myself into the bag,” he recalls. “When I finished, I sealed it and gently placed it in my daypack so I could carry it out of the woods.”
There was no reason to believe the seal wouldn’t hold — but it didn’t.
“I climbed down from my stand and started walking back to my truck when I felt something warm on my lower back,” he says. “It didn’t take long to figure out what happened. I was soaked. Everything in my pack was soaked. I didn’t have a change of clothes, so I had to drive home covered in my own urine.”
Always Carry TP
You can’t blame Tulsa resident Jim Wilson for forgetting one of the most important rules in deer hunting, at least not at the time. Just 23, he was new to the sport and was still learning the nuances that separate veterans from beginners, including the part about always carrying some paper.
Wilson was perched high in an oak tree when an unstoppable urge struck. He climbed down, hustled far away from his stand and found the perfect log. Unfortunately, a search through all his pockets turned up nothing, not even an old napkin. But by then it was too late. Wilson then realized his chosen spot was well out of reach of any green leaves, so with various items of clothing around his ankles, he shuffled to the nearest tree 10 feet away and then shuffled back to his log, a wad of fresh leaves in hand.
As he reached back for the log, Wilson lost his balance, fell to the ground and landed squarely in his own deposit. The filth covered his pants, thermal underwear, coveralls, even his boots. He had no choice but to strip out of the soiled clothing. He even pulled off his boots and used his socks in the unsavory clean-up chore.
“My bare feet were magnets for every sand burr on the ranch,” recalls Wilson, now 47. “Once I plucked all the burrs from my feet, I put on my boots and walked back to my stand in just a T-shirt and boots.”
He climbed his tree to retrieve his belongings and then hiked back to his truck. Wilson didn’t have a change of clothes, so he made the 70-minute drive home wearing nothing but pair of boots and a T-shirt, covered only by “a few burrito wrappers and some Kleenex.”
“I was very careful not to violate any speed limits or other laws,” said Wilson. “I probably could have explained my way out of the circumstances, but it was chance I didn’t want to take.”
Dude, Where’s My Truck?
Getting lost is never fun, but getting lost and losing your truck? Talk about adding insult to injury. That’s exactly what happened to, well, a guy who didn’t want us to use his name.
“I was hunting a fairly new area in the mountains of western Virginia, and it seemed simple enough to find my way back to my truck in the dark. All I had to do was walk downhill along a ridge until I picked up the trail, which led right back to my truck at a gate on the Forest Service road,” he said.
Instead of taking the ridge that would have brought him back to his truck, he ended up on a different spine that also led to the Forest Service road. He came to a gate that looked identical to the one where he’d parked, but his truck was gone. Convinced the vehicle had been stolen, the panicked hunter hiked an hour down the gravel road that led to the paved road in the valley.
“I went to the nearest house and asked this little old lady to call the sheriff,” he says. “She agreed, but only because a stranger was standing at her door in the dark.”
When the deputy arrived, he listened to the hunter’s story and drove him back up the Forest Service road to look for clues. On the trip back up the mountain, the deputy alerted other county deputies to be on the lookout for a red Ford pickup with the hunter’s license plate numbers.
“As we rounded a bend on the Forest Service road, there was my truck, right where I left it,” he says. “I felt like a complete idiot.”
That’s not surprising. After all, he’s a deer hunter.