Walking on Popcorn

It’s been a tough few weeks on the deer hunting trail here in central Alberta. Weather conditions have been unusually warm, there has been very little precipitation, and what has fallen has often been freezing rain. Yes, there has been some snow, but it has been quickly glazed with freezing rain, or otherwise crusted during thawing and freezing. The result has been a very noisy bush where every step is like walking on popcorn, advertising your movement to anything listening.

The best strategy for these kind of conditions is to set up a ground blind or tree stand and wait the deer to come to you. It’s the height of the rut now, and the bucks are moving. This I’ve done, but I’ve not been satisfied with my choices of blind locations. You see, I’m not seeing as much deer sign as I’m used to seeing. In fact, this is the second year I’m not seeing it. Yes, the lack of a significant snow cover affects the amount of sign, but I’m not seeing tracks in places where I should be seeing them and there is sufficient snow or dust conditions. Also, I’m not seeing the pellet groups I’m used to seeing. I think the deer have either had a population reduction in my favorite areas or they have moved to other places.

Whatever the reason, I have spent more time still hunting than I like to this time of year, and especially under these conditions. When you are making a lot of noise, still hunting is a particular challenge. However, I have gotten close to deer. The other day I was doing my step-step-stop down a particular trail. During one of my stops I heard the steps of deer just ahead of me. I hunkered and grunted on my deer tube. About four white-tailed deer started milling about and grunting back. Given the time of year, there was a good likelihood  this was a group of does with perhaps a buck in tow. Of course, I was in some pretty thick poplar, but I could see rumps and white-tails circling. I could not get a good look at them and they eventually left the area. That was my closest encounter to date.

What I’m looking for during these still hunts is an area to set up a blind. I’ve found some possibles, but nothing that gets me too excited. However, there are just eight days left in the season, and it’s time ‘to fish or cut bait’. So, I’m going to pick a spot, set up my blind and use it as my base of operation for the next few days. But I’m thinking I may need to start looking for an alternative area for next year…?

So, what’s wrong with that?



About Don Meredith

I am a writer and biologist living in Alberta, Canada. I wrote a monthly column for the Alberta Outdoorsmen magazine, and have published articles for several other magazines.
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