The odor of “dog” wafted up the mountainside. He raised his head and licked his nostrils in order to better tell from which direction it came and also to determine its distance from his bed on the semi-clear forest floor where he lay.
He was familiar with this stench since he frequented the fields near the populated houses at the base of the mountain he called home. It seems every barnyard held at least one mongrel dog who threatened him as he fed.
He was not overly alarmed, but he rose to his feet as a precaution. He knows he can make a quick retreat if need be. Right now he prefers to hide and watch for these pesky predators. He knows his scent has dispersed since he lay down on the hillside to rest at midday.
He slips away, keeping the dog’s odor downwind, and makes his way to the freshly made scrape line he pawed out this past week.
His antlers are thick and strong from rubbing on trees and even on a telephone pole when he was feeling unusually frisky. It will soon be time to seek the willing does to propagate the herd by ensuring his dominant genes are carried into the next generation.
There have been a few interlopers into his bailiwick this year already. Most are chased away without conflict but there is one buck who will not be chased off. Just yesterday, the pompous youngster injected himself between the estrous doe he was following and they came to blows.
They stomped and snorted at each other in warning, then squared off and circled each other, trying to gain an advantage. Their antlers connected with a resounding clash as they pushed and prodded each other. After 5 minutes or so he was able to twist the challenger off his feet and pinned his opponents’ swollen neck to the ground. After barely slithering away from the pinning antlers his antagonist escaped from the attack with a defiant glare in his eye. If he comes back, it will be with a greater respect for the monarch of this mountain. The proper pecking order is now established and enforced so he wanders the trails with dignity as he seeks his does.
He hears a rattle of antlers far in the distance and makes his way towards the ongoing battle. He approaches a brush filled hollow and spots the decoy set up on the hillside. I hear his approach through the leaves and underbrush and get set to ambush him as soon as he walks into the crosshairs of the muzzle loader I carry.
My plan to take this king of the mountain is thwarted when an errant breeze carries my distinct scent to his sensitive nose. How can they swap ends so fast and then place a tree exactly in the only spot where a shot cannot be taken during their escape?
I have sought this particular buck since his sign was discovered during a preseason scouting trip. The color of his fall coat is dark and unusual so I have given him the nickname “the chocolate buck”.
This is the second season I have hunted him exclusively. He carries a massive rack with long tines and a wide inside spread. He permitted a look at them just before season when he stepped into the trail before daylight as I entered the woods to place the ground blind amidst the line of scrapes he was frequenting.
He will live to reign another year.