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There aren’t many people I know personally who get as excited over deer as I do—they come across my mind many times throughout the week. I take evening drives in my beat-up Ford Escort, roaming around with my binoculars and stopping wherever I can to just park, watch and admire them. Whether it is a mature buck, sporting velvet antlers that grow and grow as we get closer to autumn, or the lone doe who is hanging around a field edge, feeding ever so cautiously, taking her time to raise her head every few seconds to check out what that noise may have been. Sometimes it’s a couple of fawns crossing over Pump Station Road in front of my car as they try to catch up to Mama. Each one of these encounters means the same to me, and they mean a great deal.
July is a month when many people find themselves gathering at barbecues, launching off Roman candles into air, floating down river in a tube with a cold brew in hand, or sitting around a fire. Itʼs a time when bucks are trying to consume as much food as they can. They are spending a lot of their time with other bucks of their age class in groups called bachelor groups. Their antlers started growing around late March or early April and are becoming more prominent each day. By the end of the July, most bucks’ antlers are formed to the fullest and will begin to harden.
Before we know it, the harvest moon will have come and gone, and these bucks who were once grooming each other and feeding side by side in the summer sun in the same bachelor groups will become rivals. Testosterone levels will start to rise and bucks will find themselves fighting with each other in knock-down brawls over the right to mate with a receptive doe—the time of year when I canʼt wait to be up in a tree with my bow in hand.
So, this month is when I put in the work to try and capitalize come fall. I will walk my family’s property, scouting and searching for all hints of deer. I will search for the travel routes they use time after time to meander through the property. They’re the same routes my grandmother told me they would use back when she was hunting the property—the property she had been hunting ever since she was a young girl. I will search for old rubs on saplings where an older buck could have come to mark his territory, or a younger buck came to thrash his antlers against the tree in sexual frustration. I’ll look up at trees and plan out where I could place a new tree stand. I’ll head over to the end of the stone wall on the west-facing slope to sit on my grandfather’s rock and wonder why he would face the direction he did when rifle season was upon the land.
I love all aspects of this lifestyle. I love the clean protein that I am able to cook and share with family and friends. I love gathering at the Inn to listen to a stranger talk about all the squirrels that sounded like a carnival passing through the woods that day. To hear stories from those who have walked the woods before me, like my father’s story of the “lama buck” or the story of Jimmy Lynchʼs doe that “made him do the moon walk.” I am very grateful to live in area that allows me to have such a connection to wildlife, and be able to hear about these memories from others, ponder about mine and to continue to create my own.
I am very blessed to be living my “deer season” in July.
Brandon Kent has lived in Sullivan county most of his life and is an avid outdoorsman, spending a lot of time hunting, fly fishing or just walking through the woods. He works at the Center for Discovery in the town of Harris.