The adventure of capturing the annual whitetail ritual

  • It's rutting season through early December for whitetail deer, and Mike Jackson looks back on what he went through to capture the moment.

    It's rutting season through early December for whitetail deer, and Mike Jackson looks back on what he went through to capture the moment. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/1/2019 5:50 PM

I spotted him as he made his way through the pines and spruce.

"Better come down from there," he instructed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It was an order not a request.

And it came from a game warden who stood his ground at the base of the tree where I was perched. Who would have thought there would be a confrontation with game warden in the middle of a thick wooded area?

My feat of strength was a true test of my atrophied muscles rudely awakened by my stubbornness and a need to get into the woods.

My friend Hank left his sturdy ladder secured to this tree. It was the perfect tool allowing me to slowly climb the 20 or so feet to his makeshift tree stand.

My mission was to sit and inhale everything woodsy, without a bow and arrow of course. And to record everything I felt that deserved a digital memory.

And the arrival of the game warden shocked me back to reality.

No need to share with you the location of the tree stand and ladder. Nor would it be wise to pinpoint the exact location in the Wisconsin woods because I feared it would be overrun by curious hunters and other souls.

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The lawman wanted to know what I was doing in the tree. For a brief minute or three he peppered me with questions, ranging from where was my bow or gun? Did I have a hunting license?

I answered everything to his liking, and almost got him to pose for the camera in front of the ladder. No sale there. He went his way, and I was ready for my adventure.

I climbed back into the tree stand with two digital cameras, long lenses, and a thermos of hot coffee. I had close to six hours to check everything out. But the real task was to listen to the sounds of the forest while hoping I'd get to see a whitetail deer peruse the grounds in search of a potential female. After all it is that time of the year when the rut (mating season) goes into high gear.

A very long hospital stay sapped me of most of my strength and leg energy. So the climb up the side of the tree could very well qualify me for some kind of lumberjack rodeo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The event was staged before the super cold and bouts of snow and ice arrived. But it was just cold enough to signal to the wildlife that it was time to search for food.

A pair of red-tailed foxes scampered by the tree, stopping every couple feet to sniff the air and ground.

There was a never-ending parade of gray and black squirrels searching under piles of branches and leaves.

A half dozen coyotes cruised through the trees and then stopped for a quick drink of creek water from the nearby stream.

Finally, a well-appointed buck made his way through the bramble and tall grasses. Off to the buck's side was a doe just standing there, head up and sniffing for her counterpart's approach. Thank goodness the camera's motor drive was relatively quiet as it raced through the clicks and exposures. I think my heartbeat was louder than the drive.

And then it was over.

Mr. and Ms. Whitetail sauntered off to their resting place and I was left with exhaustion, cold fingers and toes.

• Catch Mike Jackson Outdoors 8 to 9 a.m. Sundays on WCGO AM-1590 or stream live at 1590WCGO.com. Reach him at mjob1012@gmail.com.

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