WhiteTails and Black Bears
By Erin Crooks, ReelCamoGirl Team Member and Brand Champion
Archery season is in full swing in North Carolina and I am on a mission this year to get a white tail with my bow. Recently finding a new hunting spot I had been itching to get down there. Knowing I could possibly take the next day off work, I made a last minute decision to head down and check it out. My amazing babysitter agreed to spend the night and the whole next day with my four-year old son. The sitter came right over so I could get ready and leave within the hour. My hunting clothes consist mostly of cold weather gear and are not suitable for ninety degrees, but I grabbed what I could find. One pair of loose fitting max-1 pants (which fit me when I was pregnant four years ago) and one long sleeve max-1 shirt, face paint, and a buck knife, all fit into a small back pack. Tossing the pack, some boots, a sleeping bag and my bow into the truck, I felt set for a quick hunting trip.
I kissed Gus goodbye and headed out the door in hopes to get to hunting grounds before sunset in order to find the tree I wanted to sit in come morning. The property consisted of 500 acres which backs up to the national refuge in Hertford County, North Carolina. Half of it is wooded, and the other half is covered in soy bean fields. Swampland lined the wooded areas and ran between the fields.
I met the landowner about 20 minutes before dark. He showed me a map of the property and we took off to check it out so I could make a decision on where to set up. It was tough to do because I hadn't been there watching the deer and didn't really know what they had been doing. This early in the season, it is still hot in the south and the deer really aren’t predictable anyway. The bucks had just started to shed their velvet from what the landowner said, and they weren’t hanging around in their bachelor parties anymore. The woods were filled with acorn trees and the fields with soy beans, so the deer could be anywhere with this much food around. My gut told me to sit in the woods for my morning hunt and then move to a nice spot on the edge of the swamp lined field for the afternoon.
The generous landowner had also offered up a small farmhouse for me to stay in, so I headed there to camp for the night. It was empty but there was AC and a couch to crash on, perfect! The following morning I woke up a little after four. It was a short walk to my tree stand, but I wanted to get to it at least an hour or two before sunrise.
While walking out to my stand, I met my first friend of the day. A black bear that happened to be sleeping a few feet from the tree I was planning on sitting in. He scared off easily, but did not go far away. I decided to sit up in that tree anyway, because I knew the deer would be crossing through that spot...well I was hoping they would be. The bear either forgot I was there or just didn’t care. He came up about thirty minutes later and sat directly beneath my stand! He circled like a dog, made a bed and fell asleep. I’ll admit I was a tad nervous, I debated on what to do. It was still dark and I could barely see. Finally, managing to wake him up and scare him off just as the sun was starting to come up. To my surprise he came back not long after! He rooted around, ate, and took a few more power naps. I scared him away again. We did this dance more than once throughout the morning. As much as I liked watching him, I knew it was time to head over to the other side of the land if I wanted to see some deer and I needed to call the morning "a wash." When the bear was far enough away, I felt comfortable that I could leave. I headed back to my truck for some breakfast, a little caffeine, and a new game plan.
After a quick break, I decided to head over to the other tree I had picked out. The temperature was hot now, around ninety degrees. Questioning myself and my desire to sit in another tree for the rest of the day, I ran my options for the day through my head. Knowing I didn’t want to miss the possibility of getting a deer, as there was only one day to hunt I knew what my decision was. Plus I was really hoping I might catch a nice buck hanging around the water hole in the early afternoon. Hours went by, a few dozen turkeys passed, and snakes that I prayed wouldn’t climb my tree, hung around now and then. I was hot, covered in mosquito and chigger bites, and had yet to see a deer. The magic hour was coming though and I was going to stick it out.
After a short nap, I was well settled in this stand, so I waited… and waited. I decided to stay until 20 minutes after sunset before heading back to my truck. It was about a mile walk out and I didn’t feel like meeting another bear in the dark.
When my time ran out, I climbed down from my stand and started down the road. There were the deer! I got low and slowly made my way to the edge of the field and there, two hundred yards straight ahead, were seven deer! Three of them were bucks. Unfortunately, none of them were shooters so I started back down the road.
Then suddenly, standing about one hundred yards in front of me and staring straight at me, was the big eight pointer I had been hoping for! I slowly got down on the ground. He stared in my direction for a while and then lowered his head to eat. I belly crawled through the soy bean field, very slowly trying to get close to him and keep my eye on him at the same time. Mosquitos were swarming my face and I couldn’t see very well in the dark, but I stayed quiet and still.
As I was closing in on him, I raised up just a bit to sneak a peak over the crops. I was busted! His tail flagged and he was gone just like that. Picking up my pride, I walked back to my truck in the pitch dark with mixed emotions. It was disappointing not to be able to take home that buck. He was the biggest deer I have seen in my four years of living on the east coast. Knowing he was there and there were more like him, made me excited. It is funny how fifteen hours of sitting in the heat, getting attacked by bird size mosquitos, and getting skunked, can still turn out to be a great day. Putting aside the negatives, there were plenty of amazing moments to cherish. I am thrilled about my new hunting spot and I hope I get to share a story soon of taking down my first white tail with a bow!