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Deer hunting and The Great Cattail Plan

It is indeed that magical time of year once again. It is when folks dress up in their brightest attire and try to get a crack at the big one. No, it is not single's night at the VFW, but rather firearm deer hunting opener in Minnesota. But just like single's night at the VFW, some folks will be successful and some folks will not. Success is, of course, up to interpretation. Success may mean some venison for the freezer or it might be the memories and tales of whitetails that are told over and over again. To me it will always be about the memories and tales of tails that keep me hunting year after year. Case in point, let me regale you with the year of The Great Cattail Plan.

A few years back I had been watching a big buck for a few weeks before season. Scouting and watching deer is important activity, because it allows you not only to get familiar with deer movements but gets you out of many obligations — specifically, yard work. "No Honey, I cannot rake the knee-deep leaves in the front yard tonight, I have to go scouting before season," for example, is one of my favorites. But, I digress. This big buck was frequenting a large cattail swamp and I had formulated an ingenious plan after watching him. I knew the buck's movements and knew what trails he tended to follow. I also knew I could not accomplish my plan alone. So, a buddy was recruited for the task. We will call him "Chuck" to protect his already shaky reputation. Right away he asked, "Got a plan?" Of course I had a plan!

The plan was Chuck would sit on the ridge near the end of the cattail swamp and I would push the big buck out of the swamp. The buck would follow a specific trail out of the swamp and run right past Chuck. Chuck would, of course as part of the plan, shoot the big buck and this would result in venison in the freezer and bragging rights for our successful teamwork for years to come. We ran through this plan several times in preparation discussing various factors, but the plan always ended with us getting the big buck.

About halfway through the cattail swamp, I was doubting my plan. The rancid swamp water was over my knee boots, the cattail fuzz was coating every part of my anatomy, and I was sweating profusely. No sign of the big buck and no shots from Chuck yet indicating the deer had ran out ahead of me as predicted by the plan. Suddenly, the big buck jumped up 10 feet in front of me in an explosion of water and cattail fuzz and lurched straight toward me. In a moment of panic, by the deer and myself, the buck ran right into me and spun around the other way. I am not sure if the deer knocked me back or I jumped back. But I did know that I had screamed in an unnaturally high octave and ended up on my back in the rather chilly water.

After regaining my wits, I scrambled my drenched derriere up on a clump high enough to see over the weeds and saw the buck running out of the swamp. It was hard to tell at this point if it was a buck or even a deer. Tangled up in the buck's antlers were a pile of weeds and cattails that covered most of its head. Trailing behind it were grass and vines bouncing with every jump the deer took in its escape route, an escape route that took it right past Chuck.

Later that day after I had dried out and picked all the cattail fuzz out of my nether regions, I asked Chuck again what had happened. Why didn't he get the deer? All he could say was, "You screaming like a schoolgirl and a buck with a bale of cattails on its head was not part of the plan."

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