The deer was moving through the shadowy timber at about 80 yards to my left. The binoculars confirmed that there were antlers, but I couldn't tell much about them. Too many limbs and leaves obscured my view. The buck was headed into the hardwoods behind me, and when he got behind a heavy screen of brush, I quit looking. The soft breeze was blowing my scent in that direction, and I assumed he would just keep going.
The sun was still up in the western sky, and shafts of light slanted through the gaps in the canopy around me onto the carpet of leaves and pine straw below. I was sitting in a tall ladder stand facing a big, overgrown cut-over to the west. I had a corn pile and a mineral rock at the end of a shooting lane to my right front. A slight noise to my rear caused me to turn in my seat and look down an open glade into the hardwoods behind me. The buck that I had seen earlier was rubbing a cluster of saplings with its antlers. He was only about a hundred yards away, and I used the binoculars again to get a better look.
The buck's main beams were heavy and wide and golden colored in the afternoon sunlight. It was impossible to turn enough in the seat to be able to take a shot. I could only watch. It surprised me that the deer was exactly downwind but showed no sign of alarm. I could only assume that my scent was pulled upward and away by the warm sky. He eventually wandered on into the hardwoods and out of my sight.
The afternoon sun was warm but not hot, and the woods were beautiful and quiet. I noticed a single yellow leaf fluttering downward nearby. It was caught by the silvery thread of a spider web and hung perfectly suspended in space. Almost immediately a very large spider ran down the web and started tussling with the offending leaf, which was quickly loosened and continued its spiral to the ground below.
Soft footsteps to my right rear alerted me, and I abandoned my spider watching and started thinking deer. The footsteps were deliberate, cautious and very close. I turned my head as much as I could without shifting my body. There was a deer approaching, but I could not see it through the understory. It stopped and stood very still and quiet for a long time - then, more footsteps. Now, I could see movement.
It was a young buck, at less than 20 yards. The left main beam of its antlers had no tines or points. The right beam had one point. A nice little three-point buck slipping through the woods. It never looked up at me, and I never lifted my rifle. He eased on through the woods to my front, toward the cut-over.
The time passed much too quickly, and the shafts of golden sunlight were soon gone. The light in the woods was now a soft glow. There was no longer a contrast of light and shadow.
Movement to my front caught my attention. Another deer was coming. This one was headed toward my corn pile. The binoculars showed that it was another young buck. It was a spike, with two straight antlers about four or five inches long. This deer went to the corn and crunched on a few ears, then turned toward my stand.
I put my binoculars down and watched the deer walk by at about 10 yards. It was alert and looked around the open woods carefully but never looked up and didn't know that I was there, looking down. This one too was safe - as I had no intention of shooting anything but a fully mature buck.
I sat and listened to the footsteps fade into the hardwoods behind me.
It was getting late now, and the light was fading, but I noticed movement in the open woods to my left. A small deer was approaching at a trot. It stopped and looked around briefly, then trotted on toward the corn pile. I picked up the binos and tried to focus on the deer but had trouble finding it as it moved through the timber. When it reached the corn it stopped and put its head down.
The binoculars showed me that it was a yearling doe and that she was licking the mineral rock at my corn pile. I thought that it was unusual to see such a small deer without a grown doe nearby. When I looked back toward the open woods to my left, I saw another deer standing at an alert posture, looking directly at me in the stand. This was, of course, the grown doe. The yearling had just run ahead to the corn.
The old doe must have seen me moving around trying to focus on the yearling as it approached the corn. She didn't blow but stomped the ground several times with a front foot. It was a warning to the smaller deer - a warning that she ignored. The old doe turned and vanished into the darkening woods.
I sat and watched the yearling at the corn pile until the darkness swallowed her form, then climbed down from the stand. It had been a good afternoon in the woods.
Reach Dan Geddings at email@example.com.