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Deer hunting for the birds

I failed but we succeeded.

Last summer I agreed to help friend Carolyn Schwab get her first deer during the firearms deer season. It closed yesterday.

We went six times. No shots fired. Not even a deer in the scope. I never would have guessed I couldn’t guide a friend to a shot at a doe or young buck in two or three hunts.

Yet every trip to the ground blind was a success for both of us thanks to birds.

Carolyn’s an avid and accomplished birder. I enjoy learning more about the critters.

To fight possible boredom I poured several kinds of bird seed near the pop-up blind. That’s not the last time I’ll do that.

Let me tell you, pour a few gallons of sunflower seeds on the ground and it’s not long before it’s covered in cardinals, blue jays and Harris sparrows.

Boredom never came thanks to the parade of birds. My favorites where the sparrows. It was my first for-sure sightings of white-capped and white-throated sparrows. I always like looking at Harris sparrows. They’re gorgeous. Juncos are too.

We sat through some brutal cold. Temperatures were below 20 degrees several times. Carolyn noted the only time she felt cold was when she wasn’t looking at birds.

During the sits she added two new species – Brewer’s blackbird and long-eared owl – to the list of what she’s documented on the property. That brings her list to 199 species. I was hoping for another. A white-tailed deer would have been nice, too.

I don’t know what went wrong. The sign was there and fresh, with tracks in the snow within 15 feet of the blind. Trail cam pics showed a particular nice buck and a young doe in the area on a daily basis right up to when the season opened.

We had one doe in range a minute or two before legal shooting light. Another seemed like a sure thing until it figured something was wrong and just trotted off.

I’m guessing the deer had us patterned and came and went after dark.

We’ll probably try it again during the January doe season. Hopefully by then the hunting will be good.

I’m sure the birding will be excellent.