A Bird’s Eye View

Thanks to outdoor blogger, Dan Donarski for sharing his interesting experience with deer hunting in Michigan!

Michigan’s deer season for bow hunters opens on Oct 1. Sitting or standing in a tree stand is what many do when they wish to hunt deer. Of course you wish to see a deer (why else are you up in a tree playing squirrel?), but there is so much more to see than these.

Not too many years ago, after a rather unproductive day, I decided that I wanted to actually see a deer from a particular stand. Deer signs were everywhere. Rubs, scrapes, licking branches, trails– you name it, it was there. Sometime anyway. But never when I was up in that stand. Not in the morning, not the afternoon. Not even a snort.

After walking back to the truck and casing the bow, a huge full moon washed up the eastern horizon. With it came unbelievable light. Not quite enough to read by, but close.

Good light, a rather brisk night, not a hint of a breeze: why not? So, without bow in hand I went back to the stand to spend another hour hoping to catch a glimpse of the deer that were obviously using the area.

One hour stretched to two, and soon three. Time flew by as the moon continued its flight. Just after midnight a lone buck, not much more than fork-horn came down the trail. An hour later a doe and two fawns.

The deer proved the stand, but what happened before and after was what keeps me going to a stand, somewhere, after dark and just watching.

Not long after my return to the stand I felt a bit of a breeze come from above. The air being dead still just before startled me. I tried to catch what caused it and soon the first breeze was followed by a second and this time I swear I could feel feathers.

The second bird was certainly a great horned owl. I could see it plainly as it swooped down and lighted upon a fallen aspen. A small rabbit was in its talons, dead, and the owl started to feast. The sound of crunching bone must have drawn the attention of the first bird.

There, just below me, a caterwauling of demonic character erupted as the first owl did his, or her best to take the rabbit away. The struggle may have lasted 15 seconds, it may have lasted 15 minutes, I have no idea. And, I had no idea that an owl would try to steal food from another.

Walking back to the truck, it was well past 2 a.m., something scampered ahead of me. God I hate skunks, but thankfully what I thought was a skunk turned out to be a raccoon.

I didn’t have a chance to be thankful long as the raccoon screamed, and then started popping her teeth and snarling. I ran. I swear to God it chased me but it may have been just my imagination.

At another stand, this one in a small cut near the edge of a swamp, I was simply bored. Not a deer seen in three solid days. Conditions were perfect, too.

Early on the morning of the fourth day in this stand I saw a bobcat skulking along the edge of the swamp. Every now and again I’d lose him in the tangles of the cutting but he’d come into view again just down the way.

I watched him crouch, you know, the way cats crouch when they are going to pounce: head down between the front paws, eyes straight ahead, hind legs flexed and hunched to get the maximum distance. Then, launching himself, after what I was sure was a snow shoe hare, a group of grouse thundered out. Not today Mr. Cat. Then I saw him pop out of the tangle with a fat partridge in his mouth. The bobcat sauntered off, he was bringing home the bacon.

No deer came by that day, nor the next two. But, I still find myself going back to that one stand for a day or two each year, just in case I can see another cat. Someday, maybe I’ll see a deer there, too.

Then, one lazy afternoon, in a stand we call “Venison” due to its success rate, I saw nothing. Nothing except an ermine dressed all in its winter whites except for the tip of its tail which was jet black. And my first far north opossum. A red fox, numerous squirrels, a young porcupine and a dozen or so ruffed grouse all came to call on me.

Just before dark a medium black bear, maybe somewhere in the vicinity of 250 pound, stopped by to pay his respects. A bit too close for me as it started to climb the wooden ladder to my perch. A quick “git-outta-here” sent the bear scurrying over the ridge.

And I’ve watched storms boil out of the prairie provinces, quickly descending over my patch of timber. I’ve felt the wind gather strength and felt the sting of snow being whipped in its path. Up above I’ve watched countless flocks of waterfowl trying their best to keep on the leading edge. All this from a simple tree stand.

John Muir said this about storms: “When I heard the storm I made haste to join it; for in storms nature has always something extra fine to show us.”

I agree. And the same goes from a tree stand. Always something extra fine.


Dan DonarskiDan Donarski is an award-winning journalist/photographer and author. He specializes in the outdoors and adventure travel. When he’s not out and about he lays his head in Sault Ste. Marie.