Building a Tower Deer Stand
July 18, 2012
By Nick Simonson
|I must be a deer hunter now. Sure the progression was slow at first; having not shot a rifle before the age of 23, I had more experience pumping the orange shotgun at the big bucks that ran across the screen of the arcade game at the local bowling alley than I did in pursuing actual game with a firearm. But when I harvested my first deer, drew my first arrow back on my compound bow and came to the realization that the hunt – and not necessarily the kill – was the reason to be in the field; I knew I was quickly on my way to becoming one. Now, what once seemed like a lot of activities which might have interrupted summer fishing or were passed off when done by others as just symptoms of buck fever, is part of the new normal.
After this weekend, I’m sure it is, and I’m sure that I’m a deer hunter. High temperatures in the nineties, a dew point that triggered an immediate sweat on the first step outside, and swarms of mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums in the woods didn’t faze me as I wandered toward the first stand site with my buddy. Not even tangles of twisted brambles and briars, along with burrs and other clinging forest seeds could slow me down. And when we jumped a pair of bucks – a respectable five-by-five and a smaller eight-pointer – I doubled my step and my heart rose further with anticipation of a successful season.
In those conditions, I was able to find an outlet for the anticipation that comes with the turn of the calendar one page closer to autumn and bow hunting opener. I spent most of both days hoisting stands up into the trees, trimming branches with my friend for shooting lanes and laying out mineral licks in front of trail cameras in hopes of getting a good look at the two deer we jumped from their cover, and perhaps other, bigger ones that might be in the area. I used to think this kind of behavior – the cutting, the climbing, the plotting and planning – was of someone stricken with buck fever, but now I’m starting to get the picture, it’s just, well, normal behavior.
In the past, as a casual cervid hunter, well before the first THWACK! of an arrow against my shooting block sounded in the backyard, I would have waited until a week or two to throw up a stand and maybe just days before the season to sight my weapon in. But now, as I draw back and direct the flight of each arrow to the white spots on the target after work every other night, I’m out months in advance, focused on the season to come. And the fact that I’m out there ten weeks ahead of opening day might seem crazy to some (including the me of ten years ago), it has become just part of the hunt now for me.
Even while fishing walleyes on Friday evening after work, I kept counting down the weekend’s plans. Three stands to put up, two digital trail cameras with memory cards to clean, and, if a shot of rain ever gets forecast in the next few weeks, one shooter plot to put in place. By Sunday afternoon, I was unwinding from the physical tasks in the backyard, but mentally planning for the next trip to check the cameras for confirmation on the estimated number of antler points and setting tentative planting plans based on the ten-day forecast for the best guess at the badly-needed moisture to help my would-be food plot germinate with enough time to grow a crop before the season begins.
All these things have become more than just time-fillers and they can’t be dismissed as just random symptoms of antler-lust gone wild. These activities, I’ve determined, are all part of the hunt, even if they’re weeks out from opening day. More importantly they’re part of the proper respect we pay to our quarry and another unique part of the tradition of deer hunting…in our outdoors.