Close Calls: by Tom Gatzke

The alarm blared at 4:30 AM and I popped out of bed. I was excited to get out bow hunting for the first time in the season. I put a few slices of toast down in the toaster and logged on to the computer. I checked the weather and the forecast was for cold temperatures and a chance of rain with swirling winds. “No problem” I thought, I had just been to the mega Cabela’s store and was all stocked up with the latest gadgets to combat any conditions Ma Nature could hand out. The moon charts didn’t seem to agree with the solunar charts and the Farmer’s Almanac said something about mudslides mixed with a plague of locusts, but I was optimistic and decided to sit all day.

I loaded up my truck with everything I’d need for the day’s hunt, and was pleased that I’d bought the quarter-ton. The rut was so near it’s peak that even the bucks on the deer crossing signs looked like they were excited. Anatomically correct deer signs coordinated with the phase of the rut, “this county has everything” I thought.

It began to sleet as I pulled into my parking spot. I got out of the truck and started to take the necessary scent control measures. I stripped down to my birthday suit since any clothing that had come in contact with the truck seat was obviously contaminated. Standing there naked in the sleet was humbling as I fumbled through my arsenal of hunting clothes. I decided to try the new electric heated long underwear next to my skin, a loon down vest over that, and the latest and greatest charcoal suit tailored for me by Franc at No-Funk Fabrics. (I have a suspicion that Franc rides with the Colon Cowboys if you know what I mean, but hey the guy has great taste in wine so he can’t be all bad, right?) Once I got my rubber boots on I reached for the tackle box of cover scents and doe pisses. I selected a bottle of Golden Estrus from ’94 that was just about prime, fox piss, raccoon piss, ferret piss and llama piss. After dousing my boots with all this piss I realized that I might be overdoing it a little, but maybe the deer would be worried about missing their spot on the arc if they crossed my trail and follow me right to my stand. As far as I was concerned I smelled like a rose.

I reached into the truck for my pack and groaned as I hoisted it onto my back, for a second I thought my left nut had relocated to my esophagus, but I sucked it up and took a deep breath. When I first started hunting I just grabbed my bow and headed out to the woods. As I gained experience I realized that carrying a backpack was valuable for bringing extra clothing and a few trinkets that rarely failed to get a deer’s attention. I now stood with pride as I steadied myself with a full mountaineering frame pack secure in the knowledge that I had truly arrived as a man of the woods.

After the sixty-five yard walk to my tree stand I was exhausted. It took four trips up and down the tree to get my all my gear up to the stand 45 feet off the ground. I strapped my camouflage umbrella to the tree above me and used a rope to haul up the car battery that my electric suit required. I lit an incense cover scent stick underneath the umbrella. I set up the “Deer View” mirror so I wouldn’t have to turn my head to see what was behind me and popped a piece of Gum-O-Flage into my mouth. Shooting light was coming on fast as I plugged in my Walker’s Game Ear and clipped the EZ Grunter tube to my coat. I arranged my can calls, rattling horns and quiver so that all were within easy reach and hung my frame pack from a branch above me. Some of the paraphernalia seemed to obstruct my shooting lanes, but there wasn’t an item I could do without, and all that gear lashed to the tree was sure to impress any other hunter that happened by.

I settled in to wait it out for trophy buck when the prior evening’s chili and Leinie’s began to stir. After all my effort in scent control I wasn’t about to release anything foreign into the environment, and steeled myself to the pain. I was proud of my umbrella as the sleet turned to rain and the electric suit was keeping me warm in the increasing wind.

Two minutes after legal shooting light I caught a glimpse of a rack moving through some tall grass. The buck seemed to be headed right for my truck, “I love it when a plan comes together” I thought as the buck closed the distance on the Chevy. You see I hadn’t parked that close to my stand because I was lazy, I parked it there because there was one trail that I just couldn’t cover and figured that the truck would divert the deer within range. They say that bucks don’t get big by being dumb and it certainly was the case with this animal. As soon as he got a look at my “Happiness is a Warm Gutpile” bumper sticker, he turned and began to circle downwind of my stand. The wind was roaring by this point and my umbrella was not doing a very good job of stopping the rain that was driving sideways. The rain began soaking to my skin and a severe tingling feeling alerted me to the fact that my electric suit was making connections to places that God never intended them to be made. Sweat began to form on my brow as I watched the buck cautiously survey the area. I could make no sudden moves even though the pain was becoming severe, and I sensed control over my bowels beginning to weaken. The pressure was causing my eyes to water when I felt my sphincter loosen and an “escapee” sound through the forest. This may sound funny to you but the noise was deafening in my Walker’s game ear and I was certain that my eardrum had ruptured. The buck heard the note from my butt horn as well, but it did not spook him. He mistook it for a grunt and began to ease closer. I saw a video one time where the hunter just about played Dixie on his grunt call, so I brought the EZ grunter to my lips. I began with fourteen tending grunts, threw in a snort wheeze for style points and was about to finish the sequence off with a “doe in heat bleat” when my Gum-O-Flage got stuck in the tube. I watched the buck through teary eyes and realized that he would not close the final ten yards required unless he heard some more, when I had a Eureka moment. If I could get the Cough Muffler out of my pocket and hold it to my instrument, I knew that I had enough gas built up to play a perfect “lost fawn bleat”. I managed to get the Cough Muffler out and the buttons on the trap door of my electric suit undone when the smell of burnt hair came to my nostrils. I prayed that the incense stick was industrial strength as I released the first note of my swan song. Well they say that you should never trust a fart, and that day I learned why. I filled the cough muffler and unleashed a shit storm from 45 feet off the ground. Needless to say the buck was not impressed by my freestyle effort (although I got a 9 from the Russian judge) and ran off.

Disheartened, I disconnected the car battery from my suit and stripped down to survey the damage. Big Jim and the twins looked like they had gotten between a Hurricane Katrina survivor and a bucket of KFC during a lightning storm. The tree stand and the forest floor beneath had been reduced to a biohazard site, but the umbrella still looked good and the “Deer View” mirror had escaped the splatter. I decided to let this stand rest for at least a day.

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