The last week of August is too early. The corn and soybean fields of neighboring farms are not yet a wildlife cornucopia, lush with filled-out ears and pods packed with beans. No hard frost has yet arrived to kill the mosquitoes and buffalo gnats. The onset of the whitetail does’ estrus – the rut that maddens the bucks – is probably six weeks away.
Scouting for patterns of deer movement, even passively scouting with trail cameras, will not reveal what the daily habits of the deer will be in another eight or nine weeks when autumn has taken hold of the North Country. The only reason I scout is my restlessness. I am eager, almost frantic, for the bow season to begin.
Siting the cameras alongside the logging roads and most-used deer trails is the least of my obsessions. I’ve already set up two ground blinds and moved one ladder stand, and I will no doubt move them again when the trailcams show that deer are walking through those openings in the woods only after nightfall.
No matter. Sometimes the photos of our farm’s resident wildlife are worth all this misdirected effort. A big doe being pestered by her twin fawns, a hen turkey and her seven poults blundering through the brush like a first-graders lost in the library, the huge face of a flicker staring eye-to-lens at the camera, squirrels playing tag, a coyote hunting on a foggy night. The camera will wait with infinite patience for the creatures of the wild to reveal themselves. I am able to sit still for only an hour at most, and so I miss the secrets of their undisturbed lives.
I never would have seen the eight-point buck with antlers in velvet, at his ease on an early morning stroll along the lane I mowed in June to drive the pickup to a red elm I had cut for firewood. I had never seen him before, or do not think I had. He could be one of the six-pointers I watched last year, now in his fourth or fifth season and coming into his full majesty.
This buck was not the biggest-antlered and certainly not the biggest-bodied deer I have seen during our 35 years on the farm. But his manner, carriage, penache, confidence, his noblesse oblige attitude toward lesser creatures make his unexpected cameo appearance the great performance of this August.
Maybe I will see him up-close and personal in October.