Early summer flew by and, towards the end of July, a few blisteringly hot, very humid days followed. A promising start to the approaching rutting season, and I was looking forward to it. For me, rut hunting is always a very special highlight of the hunting year. If I am able to call a mature older buck, one which I have never seen before, it is always a very special experience.
I had taken a few days off so I could take it slow, but success was elusive. The bucks were hesitant to respond to my call – maybe it was still too early?
In the years before, I had seen an interesting buck from time to time, at a certain place at a small stream. Based on his strong body and overall appearance, I now estimated him old enough, but I couldn’t say for sure. We don’t have a raised hide at this spot yet, but the area seems to be getting more and more attractive for deer. A small road, connecting two neighboring villages, leads directly past this meadow. Next year, we will surely set up a raised hide here, but for now I am on the ground. Parallel to the road runs a hawthorn hedge, and behind that grows a sea of nettles. Here I wanted to seek some cover, set up my shooting stick, and wait for the buck to show himself.
In the late afternoon, I took my place. In the morning, I had already seen the buck driving a doe across the meadow, but I was on my way to the bakery to get rolls for breakfast. Now I anticipated an evening stalk, and made myself comfortable – if you can call it that – standing surrounded by nettles as tall as I am. Time passed, the buck did not show. I tried my best and called. Lo and behold, far back in the field, a buck suddenly appeared in the pale yellow wheat. He was still 400 meters away, but I could already see that he was unfortunately not the one I was looking for. Nevertheless, I continued to call, and, as if pulled by a string, the buck came closer and closer. I could now inspect him more closely and decided against a shot. He was a youngster just to my liking, well-built and healthy. Shooting him would be a real shame. After all, I care for roe deer and don’t simply hunt them.
The buck came closer and closer until he finally stood ten meters in front of me. Then he smelled the rat and elegantly walked off. My provisional stand in the nettle bushes seemed to do the job. I tried this approach for a few more days, but it seemed jinxed. During the day I still saw the buck once or twice, but always when I was driving the car, jogging, or walking the dog. Whenever I went out my rifle, he never showed up.
On the last evening, I was walking again on the small road towards the nettle bushes when I noticed a movement on the other side of the road. It was the buck I was looking for, and this time he was driving a doe in front of him, madly in love, jumping left and right across the road until he finally disappeared into a nearby wheat field. He had not noticed me at all – why would he? I was just a normal walker along the road. I quickly considered what I should do. But I didn’t want to stand directly by the road, so I hoped that I would be able to lure him back to my usual place. I was getting ready, trying my calling skills again, when all of a sudden there was a buck standing behind me by the hawthorn bushes. I had never seen this buck before, but that’s what’s so exciting about rut hunting. Once you think you know your territory and the game, suddenly an unknown fellow appears out of nowhere. My heart was in my throat, I was holding my breath, no frantic movements now! I would have to turn around, but that was out of the question. Any movement would betray me immediately. The wind was unfavorable, I knew that, and yet the buck held out on me for a few seconds before he jumped off into the nearest bushes, startling loudly. I exhaled slowly. The evening was probably done for…
In the meantime, it had become dusk, and I decided to return to the car. And so I packed my things, walked back on the street in the direction of the car, when I saw “my” buck standing far away in another meadow. He was grazing quietly and seemed to be recovering from his exertions. I got ready, the buck was still standing too far away for a shot, and it was gradually getting darker and darker. I used my call one last time, and, lo and behold, the buck responded promptly. In great leaps he came closer until he was at 70 meters. I waited only a moment, then he slumped in the shot.
I sat with my buck for a long time and kept vigil. Completely immersed in memories of the last few days and the exciting search, I contemplated “hunting work” for a while. The buck, by the way, which I had seen only very briefly at the hawthorn hedge, hasn’t turned up again. But that’s the way of the hunt!