When it comes to stealthy deer hunting, leave the Tic Tacs at home
by: Submitted photo HUNTING GARB — Tony Mace on the hunt.

I met this guy, a friend of a friend, who wanted to go out with me for a day of deer hunting. We meet at the designated location, at which point, and against my better judgment, we caravan to my coveted secret hunting grounds.

These grounds, by the way, have not produced a deer harvest in decades. There's deer in there, I'm sure of it, but I just haven't convinced any of them to get in the way of my bullet.

We gear up and begin to sneak through the timber when the sound of something coming from somewhere on him gets the best of my patience. I can't take it any longer, so with the best I can offer in the way of tact, I whisper, 'What the (insert questionable word here) is that racket?'

From out of a wrinkled frown comes the reply, 'Tic Tacs.' Thinking I know the reason why he has them (bad breath), I present my idea.

'Dump them into one pocket and put the empty container into the other pocket, your scaring all the deer,' I said.

I could tell by looking at his face what he thought of my idea. No good. Next, through the haze of his coffee breath, which is really making me wish he'd eat a Tic Tac, comes his confession: 'The idea is that they make noise,' he said. 'Besides, they are not in my pocket.'

Now I'm confused.

'Why do you want to make noise with a pack of Tic Tacs?'

'If the Tic Tacs are making noise, I know I'm moving too fast,' he said.

At this point I know for sure that I'm dealing with a lunatic armed with a loaded high-powered rifle. I suggest we split up, you know, so we can cover more ground.

We agree to meet back at camp toward the end of the day. I make a quick getaway into the reap rod and slow down only after I'm sure all deer are out of ear shot of Tic Tac guy.

I've made a giant loop through the reap rod, down to the creek bottom, worked my way silently through that and up to the game trail that leads back toward the camp road. I'm just about to pop out onto the camp road when I hear a familiar, agonizing rattle.

'Oh (insert another questionable word here), it's Tic Tac Guy!' I think.

The sound not only irritates me, but it catches the attention of a legal deer that's been standing right in front of me with its head down behind a patch of scotch broom. I'm elevated just enough to see it lift its head in the direction of the intruder. It doesn't even know I'm here and neither does Tic Tac guy.

I pull up on it, drop it with a clean neck shot and notice Tic Tac guy is now on his face in the middle of the road off to my right. I abandon my concealment as I step onto the road.

Tic Tac guy stood up. 'You scared the (insert two questionable words here) out of me'! he said.

I pull the deer to the road and prepare to field dress it when he offers his most encouraging analysis. 'It's the size of my sister's German shepherd.'

OK, I've been nice all day so I figure I can express my displeasure with an aptly placed question.

'Where's your deer'? I asked.

To my surprise, he's speechless. Silence is truly golden, but it's also uncomfortable if left too long.

'You want to go out tomorrow and help me tag one?' he said. 'I have to be at work by 6 a.m.' I replied. If it hadn't been for that, I probably would have invented something else to do with my time rather than go on another hunt with Tic Tac guy. Even poking pencils into my eyes would have been more relaxing.

As he bent over and pulled down one sweaty, muddy, weed-infested sock, he displayed the thorn that's been digging into me all day long: The pack of Tic Tacs.

'Want a celebratory Tic Tac?' he asked.

Several seconds of silence ensue. 'Yeah, why not,' I said.

We both smiled at one another and even had a heartfelt laugh. We both know the harvest of this deer is to his credit, considering the Tic Tacs provided a nice cover for my stealth.

We then silently bonded over fresh breath.

Tony Mace is an outdoorsman who lives in St. Helens.

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