Catching Up

In Episode #114, Steve and I catch up after a short hiatus. We give everyone an update on why the break was required, Steve’s wife’s health and a thank you for all the support the Angell’s have received. Then we spend some time chatting about the 3D target season and shoots across the country and then about fly fishing, fly tying, and more.

It had been some time since Steve and I sat down to record a podcast. My microphone was dusty but the batteries still had a bit of life left in them. I could think of no better metaphor for the show. These last few months of winter had been uncertain at best. Steve and I had hardly spoken save for a few messages back-and-forth and I tried to keep that correspondence as light-hearted as possible. I find that when times are difficult, one chuckle is worth a thousand “how are you doings?”.

I wasn’t sure what we would talk about when Steve started recording. The show had been a machine up until that point, posting 111 episodes with a long break after 112. We had guests on the regular and always had a plan until the pandemic arrived and life intervened. As Mike Tyson elegantly put it, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

This past year left us both with swollen lips and bleeding gums.

We were rough at first but our longstanding rapport and years of friendship removed the rust to reveal the honed edge beneath. Suddenly, the episode mattered very little. The context of Episode 113 became two friends catching up, which was fine by me.

The conversation took several turns, but we eventually landed on fly tying, which is something we both had been doing a lot of since upgrading our vises. Steve purchased a new Regal and gifted his well-loved and maintained Danvise to me. It was a substantial upgrade that leveled my fly-tying prowess from “serviceable” to “half-way presentable”. The improvements fueled my desire for materials, which had a noticeable effect on my bank account. It didn’t take me long to accumulate an assortment of hooks, feathers, beads, and thread.

I regret nothing.

Thank you for reading and please give Episode 113 a listen when you have a chance!

Visit Traditional Outdoors for more episodes. We have a tremendous back-catalog I am sure you will enjoy. Also, my second book Clumsy Predators is progressing nicely. I have eleven chapters penned and am hoping to end at around 16. I am hoping to publish in time for the 2022 Traditional Bowhunter’s Expo and would love to have everything wrapped up by this Fall. Stay tuned for updates.

The 6th Sense

If there really is a definable 6th sense, it would be the natural connection and the ability of communication between man and animal.

– Justin southwick

The best way to hunt an animal…is by not hunting them at all. I’d forged this opinion through years of trying and dozens of unsuccessful encounters and won’t be changing a word of it anytime soon.

I am convinced animals have a 6th sense and know when they are being hunted. Whether the explanation for this peculiar ability be scientific, divine in nature, or utter rubbish, I don’t care. I have witnessed the effects too many times to question its existence.

Take the North American whitetail deer for example. They seldom go the way you want them to. They look up when they should be looking down. They duck arrows at impossible proximities. Yet, I’ve walked up to the animal in plain site, out of season, and gotten near enough to have a conversation. I can recount several in-season encounters that played out in similar fashion.

One evening, while hunting hogs down south, I encountered two mature whitetail bucks fighting within ten yards of my treestand. This was the first time I’d seen such a thing afield and marveled at their size and strength. The stand wasn’t very high and the cover wasn’t great. The wind was also not in my favor. Yet, the battle raged on and off for the better part of 20 minutes before both deer lost interest and left for parts unknown.

I couldn’t shoot either of these deer. The hunt allowed it, but I opted out of the $90 big-game tag and decided to focus on hogs. Without the ability to shoot, I was able to stay calm, which made the deer indifferent to my being there. I decided to experiment by committing every hunting sin imaginable. I stood up suddenly. I clanged my seat. I tapped my arrow against my longbow. I coughed. I even hollered “hey” and flapped my arms for the finale.

Neither deer cared, which would not have been the case had I intended to shoot one. A noisy zipper can spook every deer within a radius of 100 yards under different conditions.

Another instance of this phenomenon occurred my first season — this time on the ground with a group of does. It was a brisk Michigan morning. A fresh snow had fallen the night before and I had a feeling deer would be out of bed and on the move. The setup was perfect. The wind was blowing northwest, there was a well-used staging area in front of me, and the remnants of an ancient maple at my back. I was covered in all the ways that counted and was ready to make my season memorable.

At around 9:30, a trio entered the hardwoods and began milling around in front of me at a very revealing distance. I didn’t hesitate. The arrow was away and through both lungs before I realized what I’d done. I collapsed into the snow a shaking mess and did my best to stay put to give the doe time. I laid my bow across my lap, pulled out my phone, and called my Dad to tell him the news. Had I known a second group of deer was in route, I would’ve waited on that call.

We were in mid conversation when the first group arrived. Then a second group followed. Then a third. All within moments and none of them seemed to care that a large human was talking within yards of where they stood.

“I’ve got to let you go, Dad. There are deer everywhere!” I said, hanging up the phone before the reply. For a moment, I thought I was hallucinating. I’d just arrowed my first deer moments ago. Now there was an entire herd in front of me and none of them seemed to mind my presence. The wheels started turning. The idea of tagging out in my first season seemed possible. I pocketed the phone, pulled an arrow from my quiver, knocked it, and rocked forward to a kneeling position.

My movement caught the attention of a nice doe, who’d been enjoying the remains of Autumn’s acorn crop in front of me. She was close — enough to hear her crunching jaws and see her breath float across the morning air. “You’re busted.” I thought, as her eyes met mine. “Game over.” But it wasn’t. She didn’t startle and she didn’t wheeze. She didn’t even flash her tail or flick her ears. She just put her head back down and proceeded to crunch.

I was shocked. And I was also conflicted. I already had a deer to find. Plus, the idea of tracking, dressing, and dragging two deer without help seemed exhausting. Getting them into my car was another obstacle. I was driving a four-door Buick sedan at the time and didn’t have the slightest idea as to how I was going to get two mature deer into it. Still, the idea of a second deer with my simple longbow in one sitting seemed too glorious to pass up.

“How can you not shoot this deer?” I thought. “It couldn’t possibly get any better.” Then it did. She turned, walked towards me a few yards, looked at me, and then twisted broadside to check on her companions. Her flank was now exposed and I had a longbow in my hand with a second tag to fill. I’d made my decision. I was going to shoot this deer.

Then, as if some kind of primal switch had been flipped, everything changed between us. My heart began to pound and my skin began to itch as sweat formed on my arms and back. My face grew hot and my fingers pulsed around the nock of my arrow. She snapped to attention. Her tail shot up, her ears perked, and the rest was history.

These are but two instances of my experience with the 6th sense phenomenon. There have been many more and I’ve heard and read the encounters others have had. I am sure there is a scientific reason that backs these observations, but I am not sure I want to know what they are. The mystery and speculation are far more entertaining.

Have you seen an animal do unexplainable things while afield? Do you believe that animals have a 6th sense that relates to predator detection? Feel free to comment on whatever social platform you see this.