I arrived in Virginia two days before the opening of deer gun season. I was in the state’s western Blue Ridge Mountains. This area was very hilly with many streams and valleys. After studying aerial photos of the location, I found a remote valley that ran deep into the mountains. I spent an entire day scouting out this area. I found a handful of promising hunting spots.
I threw on my backpack, grabbed my rifle, and headed into the forest on opening day. After a 1 ½ mile hike into the valley, I found myself sitting against a large oak tree at sunrise. Even though I had been very optimistic about this hunting spot, my first day was a total letdown. I didn’t see a single deer.
I spent the next few days hunting different spots throughout the valley. I finally saw a few deer, but only does and fawns. It was buck season, so does were not legal to take. I eventually caught a glimpse of a young buck, but his rack looked small. He ran by too quickly for me to have had a shot anyway.
After a few disappointing days hunting the lower parts of the valley, I decided to move up higher into the hills. I started walking up a steep gorge. I was headed toward a large plateau up on the side of the mountain. I had seen this feature on topographical maps and aerial photos.
The hike up the gorge was harder and steeper than I thought. I was in good cardiovascular shape, but even so, I still had to stop periodically to catch my breath. I could finally see the edge of the plateau above me. I was in the home stretch. There was a huge, dead tree lying on the ground in front of me. I reached up the hill and grabbed a large root at the base of the tree. I pulled hard and climbed around the large root system. I leaned up against the dead tree and took one last break before my final ascent.
As I rested there for a few seconds catching my breath, a large, black blur exploded out from under the tree just a few feet away. I was so startled that I jumped backwards and almost toppled over some large roots. A decent sized black bear rushed up the hill as fast as it could. The bear never looked back and it quickly covered a hundred yards before it disappeared into the thick brush up the hill. My heart was racing! Similar to a few other animal encounters I have had in the woods, that bear really scared the hell out of me!
I sat there for a minute and assessed the situation. I was a little shaken up, but at the same time very excited at what had just happened! I walked over to the mid-section of the dead tree and looked underneath. There was a large, dug out depression under it. I was looking at a bear den – pretty cool! I had never seen a natural bear den before so I wanted to snap some photos. After rummaging through my backpack for a minute, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my camera. “D’oh!”
After checking out the bear den for a few minutes, I resumed my hike up the gorge. I reached the top only to find out that the plateau was extremely thick with brush. It was hard to see more than 15 yards in any direction. There were no large trees: only a few saplings. I hunted the plateau for the rest of day without seeing any deer. This area was just too thick and brushy to hunt from successfully.
I had hunted hard for five days in a row. I only had one more day to hunt before I returned home. There was good news though: does were legal to take on my last day, as well as bucks.
I needed to maximize my chances of seeing deer. I decided to head back to an area where I had seen a few does earlier in my hunting trip. I hadn’t seen any bucks there, but at this point I would settle for a doe. I really liked this area: a large, slow grading hill adjacent to a stream. There were many large oak trees and I figured that the does were feeding on the last remaining acorns. The area was also open enough to where I could take longer shots – probably as far out as 100 yards.
I arrived at the hill an hour and a half before sunrise. I was in extra early because I had brought along my camouflage tent blind. I needed some extra time to set up my blind in the most optimum firing position.
After searching the hillside for fifteen minutes, I eventually found the perfect spot on a small, level patch of ground. The stream was 150 yards away at the bottom of the hill. This spot was right in the middle of a few medium-sized trees and just wide enough for my blind. There were also two large, dead trees lying on the ground. This set up would help break up the blind’s outline while still allowing me plenty of shooting lanes between the trees. Deer would have a very difficult time seeing my blind hidden among the live and dead trees that encircled this position.
After brushing away leaves and setting up my blind, I ducked inside to set up my other gear. I unzipped each of the four windows. I placed a small three-legged stool in the center and set up a camera tripod by the front window. If I sat on the stool and placed my rifle stock on the camera tripod, I would have a very steady shot downhill at any deer. This was where I expected deer to show up. I had about a 100 yard shot downhill, a 50 yard shot to each side and a 25 yard shot uphill behind me. The trees were too thick at any point beyond these distances for a clear shot.
As sunrise quickly approached, I quietly sat in my blind while scanning the hillside below. An hour after daybreak, I finally caught some movement in the trees off to my left at the base of the hill. Two does emerged and were feeding parallel to the stream. With my adrenaline pumping, I slowly pointed my rifle out the front window and quietly rested its stock on the tripod. Leisurely, the deer continued to walk and feed. They were now approximately 100 yards directly below me. I looked through my scope and placed its crosshairs on the lead doe’s chest. I slowly squeezed the trigger and fired. The shot was good. The doe ran about 40 yards before it collapsed.