By JOHN L. SLOAN
It was a good summer. Hot but not so dry they could not find water. Browse was plentiful and nutritious. On the occasional cool, foggy mornings, they grazed late in the fields. Bucks still in velvet, joined fawns, does and even turkeys enjoying the taste of autumn and the dew on the grasses. In the afternoon, the does and fawns browsed and bedded in the field edges, fleeing only when approached too close. Summer was good and they entered the early fall fat and sleek.
As the first hints of the coming frosts and freezes tinged the mornings, the acorns began to fall. The trees, mostly red oak were scattered but the nuts were big and nutritious and they fed heavily on them. The odd persimmon held a bounty of fruit and they fed on those.
The velvet was now gone from their antlers and they played and sparred often as they moved in their bachelor groups. The does and fawns, now minus most of their spots, fed more widely separated. The does no longer had to watch every move the fawns made and the naturally curious female fawns began to be less trusting and now inherited some of the wariness of their brothers.
The deer moved through woods, tasting the fresh-fallen maple leaves, gold preferred over red and filled their paunches with greenbriar and honey suckle when they could not find acorns. They began to stay more in the woods while the turkeys still made their morning trips to the fields.
Now came the time of parting. The bachelor groups broke up and the dominant bucks began to range farther, not only in their summer territories but also into new territories. That meant crossing more roads and not always making it safely across. It meant sometimes not so friendly encounters with other bucks. Not serious fighting yet however, behavior that is certainly more aggressive.
As the golden days of October, punctuated by brisk mornings and cold evenings began to change, so did the woods. Mother Nature began to change her clothes from summer to winter dress and so changed the deer herd.
I leave tomorrow for the long anticipated elk hunt in Colorado. Were I not going to the mountains, you can bet I would be somewhere in the deer woods here in Wilson County.
This is the most beautiful time of the year to be in the hardwoods. For we who call ourselves hunters, it may also be the most productive. Late October is my time of year.
We are three to four weeks ahead of the peak of our deer rut. The dynamics of the deer herd have changed. The bucks are at a time that I consider better than the rut. I call it the looking/seeking phase. The bucks are not yet actively chasing does but they are looking for them. They want to know where they will be and more importantly, they want to know where the older, more mature does will be. Those does will come into estrous first.
The smart hunter also wants to know this and now is the time he is most likely to have a chance at the not yet wary mature buck. Often it will be one has never seen before.
Once the guns begin to sound, the bucks will get sneaky and extra smart. Now…right now, is the time to ambush the calm, moving buck and on many days, mid-morning is the prime time to do just that.
Were I not chasing elk through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, you can bet that every morning around 10, I would still be in my treestand or in a good ground blind.
If that is, I still had any interest in killing a mature whitetail buck. So good luck to you, I have a plane to catch.
UPDATE -- Colorado trip canceled
In last week’s column, I wrote about my upcoming trip to Colorado to hunt elk. I have had to cancel that hunt. As bad as I hate to admit it, I am not physically able to handle that type of hunt.
I made the decision last week after a deer hunt here one morning. It was not a special hunt. So far this year I have killed three deer and gotten along just fine.
However, one day last week, after a couple hours in the stand, I climbed down and decided to take a short walk and just look around. It was nothing strenuous but I found I had to lie down for a few minutes before walking back to the truck.
That told me I have no business fooling around in the mountains chasing elk.
So, the Middle Tennessee deer had better watch out. I am getting serious about now.
Contact the author John L. Sloan at: