Don’t miss the forest for the trees when you’re hunting


How often do you go into the woods and just sit there? Some do it more than others, but we all should do it a lot. I’m always amazed at the things I observe from a tree stand. During deer season, if you hunt like I do, it requires a considerable amount of just sitting, listening and looking. It’s true–I typically don’t see all that many deer, but it’s the other stuff that you notice. Some of my most memorable deer hunting encounters had absolutely nothing to do with deer.

During a bow hunt in Monongalia County about 20 years ago, I was sitting in my stand and spied a squirrel. Squirrels are typically the most visible critters when you’re deer hunting. Of course, if I was squirrel hunting they would be nowhere to be found. Yes, this rascal was foraging hard for the coming winter. He was grabbing hickory nuts, acorns, and whatever else he could find and transporting them to his storehouse in the area.

At one point, he didn’t return to his den tree. Instead, he came rocketing up the tree in which I was sitting. I’ll admit I was a tad nervous. The strains of Ray Stevens and the “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” were echoing through my head. The last thing I needed was a weedeater loose in my Fruit of the Looms as the lyrics say–especially since I was 18 feet up a tree. But I sat statute still and controlled my breathing to see what would happen.

The squirrel jumped onto the platform next to my foot. I had never been this close to a live squirrel. Suddenly and with no hesitation, the gray, bushy-tailed critter hopped up on the toe of my boot and started to wear out a hickory nut. There were shavings falling all around the sole of my boot and up among the laces. With the precision of a chainsaw he was tearing the coating off the nut and consuming its meat so fast it’s unlikely he would have know if there was a taste. Eventually he finished making his mess, hopped off my Rocky Bear Claws, and headed on his way for the next visit to Mother Nature’s buffet.

On another occasion my brother, dad, and I were gathered at my stand for a conversation. There hadn’t been much activity that morning and to keep warm they had decided to take a walk. As we sat and whispered our conversation, my bother looked straight at me and said, “There’s a fox!” When he said “there” I just assumed he had spied one darting across the hollow a hundred yards behind me. Instead the fox he spied was literally over my shoulder, nestled in the low fork of a small tree and staring at the three of us. He was interested, but I’m not sure what interest he had in our conversation or what his developing plan may have been. Whatever it was, he abandoned it when my brother busted him and he took off.

Woodpeckers are another common visitor to trees when I’m hunting. I’ve had them pecking into the trunk of the tree I’m using literally feet above my head. They are a site to behold when their heads move back and forth at warp speed. Up close you see the shards of tree bark and wood fly. They are amazing and beautiful creatures.

This past hunting season, on the family farm back in Virginia, I got a rare opportunity which I’ve never had before. As I sat in my stand during the afternoon, out of nowhere, a bobcat came strolling in. Initially, I thought it was a house cat, but I was so far from any house I was puzzled why one would be so far up on the ridge. Then I realized with the tell-tale bob tail this was a wild cat. Sometimes, you get lucky and that day I did. When the cat showed up, I actually had my phone in my hand and I was able to quickly flip over to the camera and was able to get several pictures–and video of the cat before he realized something wasn’t right.

Bobcats are a leery lot and it doesn’t take them long to know things aren’t right. This one was young, which is why I suspect I got the drop on him for as long as I did.

Sometimes we take for granted what is available to us in the wild. We get tunnel vision by whatever we are hunting. Don’t let yourself get so wrapped up in your quest for a “successful” hunt that you miss all of the things along the way which make hunting and the great outdoors so wonderful .