We drove out Wednesday morning, stopped for brunch on the way, and got to the farm in the early afternoon. It was snowing a bit, and we picked spots that seemed likely.
Neither of us saw anything.
We trudged our way back to our trucks only to get into a minor disagreement with the neighbor; apparently we'd parked on the wrong side of a fenceline and the trucks were on his property; he made not-very-thinly-veiled accusations that we were hunting without permission, had no right to be on the land, etc. Telling him I married the owner's daughter shut down that line real fast.
Don't misunderstand - we were on the wrong side of the fence - but he came out spoiling for a fight instead of just saying, "Hey, guys, just so you know, the fence is the line and for various reasons I really prefer you not park on my land in the future." We were unfailing polite, introduced ourselves, shook hands, etc, which made it a little hard for him to stay too mad, but ... sheesh. Common courtesy goes a long way.
We headed to our rented cabin, got there around 5:30 after missing a turn. It was a relatively snug little cabin but really needed some minor attention and upkeep - no deal-breakers but a lot of no-repeat-stay things. Grocery run for a few missing items, dinner of chili and tortillas, and early bedtime. Neither of us slept real well, but the alarm went off at 5:30 and up we got. The forecast was decent; partly sunny and 30s with moderate wind.
We drove to the farm, getting there right at sunrise - a hair later than intended, but so be it. I picked a spot that called to me, and my hunting partner decided he was going to still-hunt around the south end of the property (a 2-plus mile hike). I set my stool up under a likely tree with a good view of the travel paths we'd scouted, and waited. And waited. And waited.
I sipped my water, shifted my legs a little to keep them from falling asleep, and so forth. Mid-morning I leaned my gun (T/C Omega .50) against the tree behind me and started doing shoulder rolls to try to work the kinks out. I stretched left, right, left, ri- SHITTHERE'SADEERTHERE. Three does had walked up on me from my 5 o'clock and were crossing my 3, less than ten yards away and completely silent.
I grabbed the rifle as quickly as I could without being sudden, brought it down - and they were behind some brush, 20-30 yards away, and moving around to 12. There was a little swale in the land I hadn't seen, and I couldn't get a clear shot, so I slowly stood up and shouldered the gun. I picked a likely candidate, and tried to thumb back the hammer... and found my glove was keeping me from getting my thumb between the scope and hammer (note to self: buy a hammer spur). I silently cursed, fumbled the glove off and dropped it - startling all three deer.
None ran, but they were all looking my direction. I looked elsewhere. (Never make eye contact with prey; they somehow pick up on it and unass the area FAST.) When heads turned back away, I re-shouldered the gun, cocked the hammer, and picked the one that wasn't blocked by trees - a medium-sized doe at about 50 yards. She was standing still, quarter-towards me, so I waited. She turned, I squeezed the trigger...
The rifle went bang, the deer startled and ran about three steps, then stopped and looked around. I started reloading, she walked off. Walked. I watched all three as they moved through the edge of the woods and into the adjacent field as I finished reloading. I crept out to the field edge and tried for another shot, but couldn't get a clear line as they worked away from me... so I went back and sat down.
After 20 minutes or so I walked down to where she'd been standing to check for any sign. Nothing. AGAIN. I swore. A lot. I debated the merits of selling guns and buying a side of beef. When hunting partner had hunted around to me, I checked the zero on my gun with a convenient tree. Off-hand, standing, at 50 yards, I put a bullet an inch from where I was aiming. So it wasn't the gun.
- I cleaned the gun thoroughly after my last range trip to check zero. I snapped a few primers to re-foul the barrel but it may not have been enough.
- Whatever oil and water was left in the barrel from cleaning dampened the powder just enough to really screw up my ballistics.
- I missed. Flubbed. Jerked the trigger. Flinched. Who knows?
What was it? Probably some combination of all three. On the plus side, it was (yet again) a clean miss.
We went and had lunch, re-set for the afternoon, and saw nothing.
Dinner in cabin, played some cards and shot the shit and fantasized about all the deer we hadn't seen that day, and crashed hard.
Friday morning's forecast wasn't quite as pretty, nor were we moving real fast, but we got up, and got to the farm, and formed a vague plan. I went to a spot near where I'd been the day before, in hopes of seeing the same three does. Hunting partner planned to start at the south end and work north through the creekbed towards me.
He texted me about a half hour later, to the effect of, "Screw this, I'm working your way now and then we'll see." He made his way to my spot around 9, and then went to sit on the other side of the knoll I was on. Around 10:30 we were both cold and tired and headed in.
Back to the cabin for lunch, some cards, a beer, and then back to the farm around 3 to sit until dark. We were both tired - I missed a turn and we were both just moving slow. It started to snow as we got there, and the snow picked up in intensity as the afternoon wore through. I was sitting in a different spot in a one-man chair blind, which kept the worst of the snow off me. When I flipped the blind open at dusk, there was better than an inch of fresh snow down and more coming.
Hunting partner headed home; he'd had enough for the week and was cold, frustrated, and missing his family. I completely understood the sentiment. I'd been kicking around the idea of heading home that night as well; we had the cabin for one more night but sitting in a quiet cabin with only my thoughts for company - after spending the previous two days in the woods with only my thoughts for company - didn't sound so appealing.
Fortunately, MrsZ decided to come out for the night; we had the cabin to ourselves, had some dinner at a local diner, played some cards, and slept as well as can be expected on an air mattress.
Saturday morning MrsZ and I went back out to the farm; she to visit cows and me to keep her company. We saw a few deer mid-morning, several hundred yards off and moving fast. Lots of deer tracks across the fields; fresh overnight. And LOTS of coyote tracks.
So, the trip was a bust for hunting, but it was still a mostly-decent trip. I talked to my in-laws briefly and have permission to build a small cabin on the property, exact location TBD, for hunting purposes. Hunting Partner has expressed interest in this as well; it'll save us a lot of driving and time in future years, not to mention making one-night trips a much easier proposition. Stay tuned for how that develops...