PAT NEAL: Hunting excuses for almost every occasion

IT WAS DAYLIGHT in the forest on opening day of deer hunting season. Opening day is my favorite day of the year. It’s a day when for a brief moment, right as the sun rises, anything is possible.

I was hoping that this deer season could be better than last year’s. That was a complete waste of time. There could be many reasons for this. It turns out deer hunters have as many excuses as fishermen. Sometimes they even use the same excuses like, “The sun was in my eyes.”

Or, “I ran out of lead.”

I began compiling a list of deer hunting excuses as a service to my fellow hunters. I’ve probably used them all at one time or another.

For example, this year, we had an east wind on opening day. Anyone knows a wind from this direction dries out the country and makes the fallen leaves so dry, they crackle like dry cereal when you try to walk on them.

With the hot weather, the deer go completely nocturnal and only appear 10 minutes after the legal designated hunting time in the evening and disappear 10 minutes before hunting is legal in the morning.

This could be the result of an evolutionary trend that has allowed the deer to learn to read the hunting regulations. More likely it is the result of the sighting in process, where the nimrods drive into the deer’s habitat and start blasting at targets, bottles and various discarded household appliances in an effort to see if ol’ Betsy will hit anything.

The deer would have to be deaf or stuck in an isolation chamber to not get a clue that something bad was about to happen. Between the shooting, the garbage and the roar of muscle trucks, all of the animals were sufficiently warned about hunting season by the time opening day arrived.

It was just too bad that with the east wind, the woods were too dry for hunting. We needed some rain to get the deer moving out of the brushy hellholes they were hiding in. Then all those people praying for rain got their wish and it rained so hard it blew the roof off the smokehouse.

There was no way I was going to go out in a storm like that just to go deer hunting. It might fog up my scope. I could get hit by a falling tree. It just wasn’t safe.

And besides, I still hadn’t used that greatest deer hunting excuse of all time: I was waiting for tracking snow.

Feel free to use this excuse anytime there isn’t an east wind or it’s raining. The first snowstorm in the mountains drives the deer out of the exposed peaks where they’ve been living like mountain goats all summer, down into the timber to get out of the wind.

Then the first snow fell. There were no excuses. This was tracking snow. The kind every hunter waits for. Except for one thing: The stars had come out just before daylight. It got cold. The snow had a crust of ice that actually made more noise than the dry leaves I had used as a deer hunting excuse earlier.

As the morning progressed, the sun came out and warmed up the snow enough so it began falling out of the treetops. The falling snow produced a thumping sound that spooked the deer and obliterated the deer tracks almost as soon as they were made.

Feel free to use any or all of these excuses.

There is only one deer hunting excuse that will not be accepted: I didn’t go.

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Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal wildlife@gmail.com.