I was in the woods at a pretty young age. My dad was a deer hunter and I was going to be like my dad.
I wouldn’t say that the things he taught me about woodsmanship and hunting were always intentional as far as logical or chronological order, but he started me young and taught me well.
And, if I was going to be successful, I had to pay attention because unlike today, deer weren’t plentiful in the mountains of Tennessee.
Hunting in the Appalachian Mountains was different than hunting in the farm country of the Midwest or the Deep South. Deer were more patternable and sign was critical to success. It wasn’t like those television shows on the Outdoor Channel. Simply sitting in a blind waiting on the “right” buck to show up didn’t work. Consistent success didn’t come with mere patience; I had to learn how to hunt.
The first thing I learned to look for was habitat. Deer have to have two things, food and cover. In the mountains that means mast like acorns and thickets in which to hide. Other food sources were important too and sometimes cover might come in the form of the depth of the mountain, but both must be present or there would be no deer.
Habitat was essential but not sufficient, though. Just because there were acorns and a thicket to hide in, there was no guarantee that deer were present. It was just one piece of the puzzle.
Experience taught me to do this part well. After years of deer hunting by learning to read the woods, I can walk into a new area now and intuitively recognize a place as “deery”. It’s almost a sixth sense that tells me I’m not alone…
OUR UNIVERSE IS THE KIND OF PLACE THAT BEGS US TO ASK THE QUESTION, “ARE WE ALONE?”
There is a great suspicion that haunts each person when we look at the Universe. We are not alone! Even atheists look for explanations that involve extra-terrestrials.
After I found the right habitat, I began to look for “deer sign”.
The first signs of deer use in an area usually came in the form of what we called “movement”.
Leaves turned over in such a way to indicate feeding, and foliage moved in such a way to indicate travel patterns were one of the first signs to betray big game.
Signs of “movement” are very unspecific though. Movement does not necessarily indicate deer exist. There could be turkeys or bear leaving the same signs. One thing that did become more likely though was the fact that something had been there.
Once I found the spot, I started looking for the most obvious signs of a deer’s existence. It’s fairly easy to tell whether big game is living in and using a particular piece of woods. There are certain things in the woods that happen naturally like overturned leaves and broken sticks, but the conspicuous presence of “movement” in particular areas that hold food and cover while the rest of the woods remain untouched, raise suspicion levels and warrant further scouting…
WE REALIZE INTUITIVELY THAT SOMETHING’S BEEN MESSING AROUND WITH THE UNIVERSE WHEN WE LOOK AROUND AND SEE THE “MONKEYING AROUND” IN IT
You don’t have to be a scientist to look at the Universe and understand innately that it’s no accident that things are the way they are (just right for life). Things could’ve gone south too easily if this was all an accident. Something (or someone) has been manipulating everything to make it just so.
Game trails are a much more obvious sign of the presence of deer. When accompanied with deer tracks, game trails are unquestionable indicators of the existence of deer; at least one would think so.
The problem with trails though, is age. It’s easy to look at a trail and assume that “this is the place” when there may not have been a deer on that trail in weeks. The skeptical hunter learns to read a trail by becoming familiar with everything from dirt to manure. Hunters are trackers by default.
I always questioned the temporality of any trail I found. Although trails were definite signs of the existence of deer, they were not a guarantee of their continued presence. Well-Used trails were a powerful addition to the other signs…
THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE SEEMS TO HAVE LEFT “FINGERPRINTS” IN THE DETAILS OF CREATION-A TIMELY, TRAIL OF TRANSCENDENCE
A quick look at the history of the Universe reveals more than vague possibilities of guidance. Logic, math, morality, and consciousness are tracks left by a first cause that is more than just a chaperon, one who is personally involved irrespective of space and time.
After I determined that deer were using a particular piece of woods, I began to look for what we called “buck sign”.
Bucks (male deer) leave specific calling cards in the fall of the year. It’s mating season for deer and bucks are very territorial that time of year. They leave some signs that are easy to spot in the woods so other bucks will know to stay away and does will know that they’re ready to mate. That time of year is called the rut.
During the rut a buck’s first calling card is called a rub.
Rubs are markings on small trees made when bucks rub the bark off and leave scent on the tree. These marks or rubs are easy to spot in the woods and many times they are left in a specific pattern depending on which way a buck travels.
Often though, trees will get diseases or will be injured and may resemble a rub. In each case, verification could only be had by studying the rub itself as well as making sure it was accompanied by other rubs in close proximity. A pattern of rubs confirmed the presence of a buck.
I’ve spent many a frosty morning perched high in a tree or hidden above a succession of rubs called a rub line. If I had the patience, I usually spotted a buck using that trail. Why is this a successful tactic? Because there has been a pattern discovered and not just a random set of similarly marked trees that resembled rubs “by chance”. Rub lines are deer trails with a purpose…
THE UNIVERSE HAS OBVIOUS MARKS OF DESIGN AND CHANCE CAN BE RULED OUT AS THE PUPOSE PUZZLE TAKES SHAPE
Not only are there specific marks of design everywhere we look, but there is in that design purpose in the Universe making it philosophically untenable to hold to a worldview that posits time plus chance as causal.
Finally, an important discovery in the deer woods is scrapes.
Scrapes are pawed up pieces of ground, usually about a yard square or more, that are often placed on deer trails in areas where trails funnel does into small passageways.
Scrapes are made by bucks and are recognizable by several characteristics. The pawed up ground is cleansed of leaves. There is usually a rub close by. There is almost always an overhanging limb or branch for licking. Bucks and does urinate in the scrape leaving a musky smell from their glands. Most scrapes are riddled with hoof prints.
Scrapes may seem random and chaotic at first glance, but they’re most definitely not.
Scrapes are systematically sited and methodically made. They are placed so the buck can approach from downwind to avoid detection. They are positioned directly in the travel paths of the maximum number of does possible. They are located between bedding areas and feeding areas for accessibility and cover. They are designed to capture the scent of “ready” does to conserve energy chasing does that are not ready. Scrapes are designed to transfer the maximum amount of information about other deer to the bucks using them by utilizing scent, a deer’s primary tool.
I’ve always believed that Scrapes are difficult to hunt because bucks place them in places to deliver to him aromatic information from a distance. They are tempting to hunt because of the amount of detailed information they contain leaving no doubt to the hunter what made the scrape. I’ve always considered them intricate indicators of information…
IN A UNIVERSE DESIGNED TO DELIVER AND OPERATE USING INFORMATION THERE IS LEFT LITTLE DOUBT OF ITS ORIGIN
From space itself to the smallest of organisms, it appears that information is intimately involved in all we see and even all that we don’t. For information to exist, there must be an originator of it, and that can only be a mind.
There’s one final point I’d like to make about scouting for sign.
I’ve spent many days from daylight to dark, never seeing one deer, enduring cold, rain, snow, and disappointment. Yet, I kept returning to the same place that I had scouted earlier.
That’s easy. I knew he was there. I saw the signs.