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  • Writer's pictureH. M. L. Swann

Update: Ambitious Whitetail

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

photo: Peter Lawson

With one day left in the 2020, I've been thinking, not just about the last year, but about my roots: the Northwoods.

I've started working on a collection of short stories that are snippets of life in the Northwoods. To do so, I've embarked on the strange yet enjoyable task of interviewing my family and friends. For my hunting series, I've had to rely on my dad and brother for their insights and experiences. They were kind enough to share them with me and now I’m crafting characters and stories out of them. It’s restorative to revisit those messy woods, the fierce lake, the loving people, and I can’t wait to share some new stories with you.

In the process of interviewing, my dad recounted his own tale which he’s kindly allowed me to share on The Nest. What could be better than reading a true story on a cold wintery night as we ring in the new year.

I hope you enjoy Ambitious Whitetail by Peter Lawson.

Dontcha know lots of buck sign there.

Buck sign?

Oh ja, scrapes and rubs.


You know, when they scrape the ground and leave their scent on the ground and up in the pine boughs. A big scrape means an ambitious buck. And the rubs when bucks get rid of the velvet. Rubbing on a tree, polishing up the rack. They can really mess up a Tag Elder can nearly girdle a small Poplar. You see it as the bark is rubbed bare right down to the wood. And when rut happens, the bucks just go wild. Old bucks are usually loners, quiet, stealthy, and shy for nearly the whole year. An old buck is hard to come upon.

Then rut hits and they just go uncontrollable, crashing, grunting, snorting, nearly squealing as they run through the woods. I remember the first time I heard it. It was a warm year, over 40 for sure, and the rut was late, and maybe hunting season was early, because we most always miss the rut. Anyway, I’m up a tree and I heard this awful racket, and I’m thinking someone crazy is trashing in the woods. But no, it’s a big stately buck running toward me.

He ends up stopped the other side of a pine. I move just a bit in the stand to see a bit better and I must of made a sound. I think I am busted, and away he’d run. But no, he hears me, and instead of running away, surprise, he comes around the pine, thinking I’m a buck or a doe. He was totally devoid of common sense.

photo: Peter Lawson

What happened then?

Well, I gotta tell ya, it was a fatal mistake. And I didn’t fall out of the tree. You can imagine for yourself as he was no more than 25 yards away. It wasn’t a super easy shot, as I had to lean away from the tree and pivot all the way to the right. And there was no telling when he would bound out of there. And it happened quickly. But overall, I was ready and thankfully the aim was good, he fell quickly maybe 20 yards.

He even headed towards the trail. Field dressing is easy with a big deer. But it was warm, and I was dressed for colder weather. I was down to my T-shirt by the time I dragged him to the road. You know, it was ten more years till I saw buck in that agitated state again. But for sure it happens every year. Our season if usually just after the rut. They thought of changing the season, but its tradition to do it the week of Thanksgiving. And nobody wants to change, considering how everyone makes plans for it.

Happy New Year!


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