Belligerant Bucks And Bruins by James L. Bruner
The Foggy Buck
I believe it was somewhere around ’95 or ’96 when I encountered this buck during an early morning firearm hunt one foggy morning in Michigan. Unlike other mornings I opted to grab a flashlight. Safety concerns or otherwise I really have no idea why but it would prove later to be a wise choice.
The walk in was more or less silent and maybe the cover of fog was more of a help then a hindrance. I had walked nearly 200 yards without making a sound and likewise, I heard no movement either. As I approached my hunting area all of that changed as I began to hear a lot of crashing. I had definitely spooked something. As I listened I realized that it was at least one deer running in a direction opposite of me but then again another seemed to be getting closer. No doubt about it. A deer was running right towards me!
I’m not talking just towards me but on a perfect head to head collision course with less than 50 yards before contact was made. I grabbed the flashlight, turned it on, and held it to my side. The deer stopped. Whether he actually saw the light through the fog or not I couldn’t say but something stopped him nearly dead in his tracks. All I heard were subtle branches cracking but once again they were getting closer. For a moment I wondered if maybe this was a wolf or a bear rather than a deer.
I shined my light towards the edge of the woods from the field I was walking in and there was nothing. Nothing but fog. I don’t think the beam of light penetrated half the 30 yard distance through the fog. The cracking of the branches had stopped and I could now distinctly hear the sounds of hooves on solid ground. Now I knew it was a deer. I thought for sure he had stopped at the edge of the field and realized what was happening and began to stomp like a typical deer would. Not the case. The sound was getting closer and as I desperately strained to see movement, the deer appeared. A big bodied 4 point buck with his ears laid back walking straight and stiff-legged right towards me even with the beam of light shining right in his face. The buck was obviously in a full blown rutting stage and ready to take action. Whether he thought I was an intruder or not I’ll never know for sure. I raised my rifle supporting the forearm and the flashlight at the same time. If he were to charge I would at least get one good shot off! The buck walked within 15 feet of me before veering off to my left stomping his way back towards another wooded area as I followed him as long as possible with the beam of the flashlight. I made my way to my hunting area with an admittable fear that the buck still might charge from behind me through the fog and darkness. He never returned.
The Roadblock Buck
Another instance of a rut induced coma buck was several years later when I made my way to town for more provisions during the firearms season. It’s not uncommon to see deer, even bucks, run across the road during a trip to town especially during the rut when deer are moving a lot. More times than not they are nose to the ground following a hot trail with total disregard to the vehicles, using that same road, traveling by at 60 mph but this was the first time I had ever seen a deer cause a total roadblock.
I was nearly in town when I noticed a couple cars stopped ahead of me in the opposite lane. When I got closer I was surprised to see a deer walking around in circles in the middle of the road. At first I thought maybe someone hit it and maybe broken its leg but this little buck wasn’t hurt at all. This little 5 pointer looked like he had just crawled out of a swamp, dirty and as wet as could be, belligerently vocal, and drooling from the mouth! I can just imagine what the old couple sitting in the car were thinking as the buck walked within 3 feet of the drivers door and they both slid over to the other side of the car.
As more cars began to line up the buck seemed to become more bewildered and would stand his ground by walking up to several cars with his head down, ears back, and fur along his neck and back ruffed up like a rooster. My ringside seat couldn’t be better as the buck made one more pass which led him right past my window. His eyes, the drool, his appearance, everything about him reminded me of total drunken stupor that you see at a Christmas party from friends and colleagues. He didn’t even seem to be able to focus on one particular object as he made his way to the side of the road and the cars began to file through honking their horns at the buck standing there in the ditch. I doubt that buck made it through the season!
The Happy Hunter Buck
A few years back I made my trip to town as usual during the firearm season for more groceries and to eyeball some of the bucks hanging from the poles at local motels. Yes, around here many of the motels cater to a hunters needs by providing buck poles for their guests to display their bucks. We’re not talking small “mom and pop” places either. These are motel chains that you see in every city.
I had traveled probably less than 6 miles from my place when I saw a big deer standing in the road. Even from a long distance I could see a glint of antlers and sped up to try and get a good look. No need. This buck wasn’t going anywhere fast. He simply walked to the edge of the road and looked proud displaying a fine 10 point rack that any hunter would be happy to hang on their wall. Unlike the other road dwelling buck I mentioned earlier, this deer was a perfect specimen of health and, other than his swelled neck, showed no physical signs of the rut. He simply just stood there 15 yards from the vehicle looking back across the road. I thought “Why here and not my place?” Most cars whizzed right by the deer and honked their horn like it was an every day event. Maybe they were anti-hunters trying to scare the deer back into the woods? No idea for sure but back into the woods was definitely not the right choice.
The bucks curiosity finally peaked to the trail he began following in the first place and he faded into the woods. I hadn’t gone 200 yards when a shot rang out and I’m sure some lucky hunter tagged the big buck and has quite an unbelievable story to go with the mount that now hangs on his wall.
The Barrel Bear
This bear was one of my first encounters in a close situation environment. As many people that live in the country, I too have a burning barrel that takes care of many leaves and debris throughout the year. At times it also doubles as an incinerator for leftovers like chicken, pizza, or meatloaf.
During these days many years back I worked a typical factory job that brought me back to the cabin at 3:30 a.m. after a 10 hour shift. Being wound up it wasnt uncommon to burn some trash or debris that may have been left in haste from an unfinished afternoon of duties before leaving for work. As I loaded the barrel with limbs and paper I heard movement in the woods. Raccoon. We had seen many raccoons so I pawned it off as a little bandit that had probably just left.
Once the barrel was lit it became apparent that the critter wasnt leaving. In fact, it was actually getting closer as the flames began to rise. Trying to adjust my vision between complete darkness and the glare of a fire I strained to penetrate the darkness shielding my eyes from the flames and walking closer to the edge of the woods. Thats when I realized the dark area I was staring at wasnt an old stump, a brush-pile, or a mound of earth. Less that 10 feet away was a black bear who obviously was interested in whatever it smelled coming from the barrel. Or possibly me!
I decided a slow backwards retreat was in order and backed away. To my own surprise the bear walked right past the barrel, within feet of the actual flames, and flanked my left hand side. The bear paralleled my movement for a nervous 25 feet and then wandered into the woods. Now I am not beyond thinking a bear cant take down a simple door if it really wanted but I sure felt a hell of a lot safer inside the cabin. Sometime during the night, or early morning, the bear made short work out of destroying the barrel as we slept less than 20 yards from my bedroom window.
The Underwear Bear
Sometime during the early summer months we watched a cub in the back yard who seems to be nothing more than nosing around. Now common sense tells you to stay away from any cub but the intrigue overpowered all judgment for my ex wife as she wanted a closer look.
We had been getting ready for work at the time with the normal routine of changing, packing lunch buckets, all the general events leading into the day, when the ex slipped out the back door with a camera. Yes, in her underwear! I dont need to mention that we have no neighbors in this area as it is relatively barren of anything but wildlife. As I looked out the kitchen window all I saw was the ex snapping, or trying to snap, pictures of the cub. About this time is when I beat feet for the door to corral her back inside but as luck would have it mama bear showed up on the scene just as the cub became frightened and began to bawl.
As the cub ran directly away like a crying kid mother bear took her baby’s place standing on her hind feet looking bigger than ever. Although she didnt seem aggressive she dropped to all fours, closed the gap between us by half, then stood on her hind feet again. About this time the ex had made her way back to the cabin and out of nowhere here comes the cub again running full speed and bawling louder than before. The cub ran to its mother side and then back into the woods. The big sow took one last look at me and slowly walked away. Needless to say there was a quick lesson learned here.
The Cinnamon Bear
Although we have seen many bears and have had the windows torn from the cabin, the cinnamon bear was definitely the most aggressive.
It was a gloomy day when this bear appeared to pull down a couple bird feeders for a quick sunflower snack. Watching from 8 feet away my daughter was simply in awe of this animal. He, which was easily noticed by my daughter as he laid on the lawn eating, did not seem to mind that we were so close. This also isnt uncommon for bears we see here at the cabin. Most times you can open a window and they just ignore you.
This particular bear stood about 7 feet tall as measured against the shepards pole that the bird feeder hung from but was fairly lean. The woodticks that clung to his ears, the amount of flies and mosquitoes, and the stare from those dark eyes, all added to the close proximity of our view from the window. After finishing off the sunflower seeds the bear made its way to the side of the cabin where I feared he might take down the door that leads into the garage. As he passed by the side window we watched from 3 feet away when he suddenly decided to stop. He turned face to face with us with only a simple screen window between us. As my daughter and I continued to talk aloud the bear seemed to become agitated. His sides began to inflate and deflate faster as the first few woofs became audible. The woofing grew louder and the saliva was beginning to build around its mouth all the while staring us right in the eyes. At this time we decided to back away from the window and the bear advanced closer with its nose nearly touching the screen. When he woofed at this distance it sounded as though he were right inside the cabin and the realization that he could be in here in a flash suddenly seemed to be more of a threat than just a thought. As we backed away I retrieved the rifle from the next room but firing a shot was the last action I wanted to take and it appeared the bear felt the same. Seconds later he backed away, circled the cabin a few times, then disappeared just as dark was setting in for the night. That is one bear we have honestly been happy not to see again!