Improbable Chances

Posted on December 18, 2012

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There is many a huntsman that ascribes to, and relies heavily upon the element of luck when it comes to the outcome of a hunt. I’m not one of them. No, in fact I believe that circumstances play a critical role when it comes to rolling a fine stag. After all, a mature whitetail buck is indeed a formidable adversary whose actions are so improbable that, despite some of the best minds that have spent lifetimes studying the creature, they have yet to be able to predict what one will do in a given situation with any regularity. But, it seems that when you have exhausted all means to dispatch one of these elusive ‘ghosts of the forest wilds’, chance may be your last best ally.

The Dixie deer slayer, old Flintlock, ever the eternal optimist believed in the element of chance and wrote, “Men who know deer nature best know that the element of chance is perhaps about as great in the pursuit of this superb game animal as it is in the following of any other game in the world.” Understand, Flintlock, like most other successful deer hunters set about to make their own luck. They place themselves in situations where the odds of success become much more favorable. Theirs is not the reliance on ‘graceless luck’, whereby the stratagem for the hunt is built entirely on the hope that a deer ambles by them.

When it comes to last chances, when the zero hour is about to toll its last on a hunt and all is looking bleak, optimism that today, that lucky, radiant day when the early morning sun casts a glint upon the branching antlers of a mighty buck, must be the hunter’s foregone attitude.

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The following stories are just that, where the special thrill was realized under improbable situations. Success for the following men was suddenly wrenched from certain failure at the last minute of the game.

The Silverback’s Surprise

An entire season had all but come and gone for Hart, (the Silverback’s real name) with nothing to show for his efforts. Unusually warm temperatures and constant rain had dramatically reduced deer movement throughout the rifle season. Despite being dejected and feeling more than a bit disappointed, he placed what would be his remaining vacation day to hunt on the next to last day of the muzzleloader season.

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Arising to a blanket of fresh fallen snow instantly energized Hart, that is until he realized that the wind following the storm was gusting at over 40 mph. Blowing snow and tree tops clattering was not the conditions success is generally predicated upon. The thought of returning to a warm bed certainly crossed his mind. However, stubborn resolve to see this out, despite the odds, won the short internal debate and he quickly dressed and ventured out into the white abyss.

Less than two miles down the unplowed road were three sets of imprints dotting the otherwise unsullied landscape. The depressions belonged to a pair of does and one male suitor. As first light began to illuminate the forest, the Silverback fell in behind the trio’s indelible marks and the chase was on.

After nearly three plus hours of relentless pursuit it was hard to tell if Hart was any closer to his quarry than when he first started. With the blinding white out conditions and roaring wind, hearing and visibility was at times next to impossible. Then, with a brief lull in the gale, Hart saw what appeared to be three white flags bounding down the ridge. But as he attempted to focus and raise his front-end loader, the next blast of blowing snow hit him square in the face. “Was that really deer I saw or am I just imagining things”, Hart thought to himself as he cleared his eyes.

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It didn’t take long for him to realize that this was no mirage; the bewildered deer were now making their way up the ridge parallel to him a scant fifty yards distance. The third deer in the precession was much larger than the previous two, and when he stepped from behind the trunk of a large beech tree a hefty main beam was revealed. With his scope now trained on the beast, Hart waited for the unsuspecting target to take another two steps before unleashing his volley. When the smoke finally cleared, unbeknownst to the shooter, 150-yards up the ridge-line lay a beautiful buck. A few more minutes of anxious drama became part of the story line as Hart found no visible indication of a hit; just the vaulting impressions of a running deer. Thinking that he had just blown his last chance, the Silverback was understandably thrilled to find the big eight-pointer with a two-foot spread stretched out upon the fallen snow, having run his last race.

Kenny’s Capture

Undaunted by the unusually warm temperatures, sixty-plus degrees and constant rain, Ken had but two days left to hunt and he was going to give it his best effort. He was meticulously making his way along the spine of a long, narrow ridge-line when the sky opened up with a deluge of water. Rather than making a break to stand under the protective branches of a nearby fir tree, Ken continued to still-hunt as if the rain didn’t exist.

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With each carefully placed step, every nook and cranny within Ken’s line of vision was scrutinized. Not an easy task with water cascading off you and everything else. Just as he reached the next vantage point, something unusual caught his attention. Very low to the ground a branch resembling an antler beam appeared to have moved. With dim light under these conditions, Kenny raised his rifle and peered through his scope. Much to his delighted surprise, there lay a buck attached to that antler seemingly oblivious that danger lurked so close. At the report of the carbine the buck leapt from his bed only to be quickly vanquished by a second well-placed shot.

Clichés To Live By

Space limits me to tell of Curtis, who walking out from his hunting grounds in the final moments of the season shot the eleven-pointer that stepped out on a roadway; the very buck he had hunted the entire season. Or of Scott, who instead of sitting the last hour decides to follow the slots of a deer up over the rise and then shoots the magnificent buck that is curiously looking back at him.

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For you that are easily deterred or quick to throw in the towel when all seems bleak, may these stories and many more like them be the fuel that will drive you when facing such improbable chances. And may we all be reminded of the proverbial line from Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

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                              © 2012 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer