The deer stumps in January

By Ed Gilbert • Last Updated 9:45 am on Tuesday, February 07, 2012

It wasn’t deer season. Rather it was a crisp January morning as I stepped out the cabin door and started walking up one of the local deer trails toward one of my favorite hunting spots.

An evening snowfall had made the trail a little difficult to maintain, as the snow clung to the overhead brush and trees, while occasionally falling to the ground around me as I moved slowly through the woods.

Actually, it was a beautiful morning. The sun was rising and shafts and slivers of light sliced through the trees, causing the falling snow to sparkle in the air as it fell around me.

I moved slowly on, pausing occasionally to look to both sides and to the front and rear. By moving in such a manner I’d sometimes came within shooting distance of some fine deer. But of course that had been during some of the deer seasons.

This was different, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. So I continued on the path for about a quarter of a mile until I reached a small clearing. And there they were — two stumps in that clearing, popping through the snow like mushrooms.

I approached those stumps as I thought about the many times I and my father had sat there in past seasons. It had been a rather strange way to deer hunt, as we’d built a fire on the ground between us and just sat there and waited for deer to show up.

So that was actually my plan on this day. I cleared the snow from both stumps along with a spot on the ground between them and prepared to make a small fire. Then, with the fire lit and the smoke rising in the air, I sat on one of those stumps and simply waited.

Now, any deer hunter knows that deer are very curious animals, and their curiosity can be aroused by the smell of something strange, such as smoke. And that’s how my dad and I came to harvest some fine deer over the years. Even though we were situated right in the middle of an open area, sometimes a deer or two would work their way forward to investigate, and wind up right in our gun sights.

Actually, one season two very fine bucks came along, sneaking forward upwind to the edge of the clearing. One was an eight point and the other a four point, and dad told me to sight in on the eight-pointer and he’d take the other, and on the count of three. So that’s what we did, and both deer dropped right in their tracks!

That was the only time it happened that way, however, most often a single deer would come in to our stumps and fire.

Then suddenly, there they were. A movement caught my eye and I glanced to my left to see three deer slowly moving in toward my fire, their noses sniffing the air as they came in. Had it been deer season I could have had my pick.

But as I said, it wasn’t deer season, so I simply sat there as I wondered how close they would come. I hadn’t long to wait. The deer in front, most likely an older doe, suddenly began to “whoof” and snort, and the three wheeled about and headed away.

My fire had about ran it’s course by then, so I got up and moved slowly back down the trail toward the cabin. The sun was totally up now and I was thinking of some breakfast.

That morning’s experience had been a tad different, to be sure. But it was exciting in a way, and had also proven that some deer were in the area…Now I must look forward to next deer season, when I will return to that stump and the thoughts of my father and I, as we sat on those stumps with our fire and eagerly awaited a buck or two come along…Those were the days. Ed Gilbert is the outdoors writer for The Daily News. His email address is

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