The symphony played by rain drops on the tin roof initially sounded like a lullaby, but after a while…. It had been raining “solidly” for two days without let up. Staying in camp had been fun. J. Wayne Fears and I had not yet told all our hunting stories to those in camp, but, we were thinking of ways to “repackage” some of them. It was not that I was opposed to hunting in the rain, even though everyone in that part of Alabama said it was a waste of time, problem was, the creek between camp and the hunting grounds was raging, well above flood stage and there no way to get to the hunting area.
Noon of the third rainy day, all the hunters but Wayne and I had left. He lived in Alabama and I was there for an extended stay. We were working together on a book “Whitetails East and West”. As we ate lunch our host said, “Got an enclosed blind on a couple of acres right next to town practically in people’s backyards. Larry, if you want, I’ll set you up there this afternoon. At least you’ll be able to get out for a little while. If the rain quits you might see something. I’ll drop you off and pick you up at dark.”
Secreted in the blind, most of the afternoon it rained so hard I could scarcely see more than fifty yards. Then just before dark, it slowed to a drizzle. I watched three does, two fawns and a yearling six-point step out trees. They fed on green briar and honeysuckle. It was almost too dark to see them clearly. I happened to look to my right, a narrow, six-feet wide corridor, that separated hunting land and the backyards of town. There stood a buck, and not “just a buck,” an absolute monster. His beams were as big around as his ear butts and were spread just beyond his ears. His tines were as long as his heavy body was deep. Before I could swing the rifle around in his direction, the buck stepped into a backyard where he was safe. By then too, it was dark. Rain continued falling and it got darker. I watched the buck feed on roses and could see him only because of a porch light in the yard where he fed.
I am not one who normally, even back the, hunts from permanent blinds. I love hunting on the ground, and had I had good raingear, such as the Drake Non-typical I wear these days, I would have been sitting on the ground back in the woods and would have likely intercepted the buck while there was still shooting light and before he had walked into the safety of backyard city limits.
Move forward a few years and I was hunting in Kentucky on property we used to call Game Trails. It was and is located where the Tradewater runs into the Ohio River, some of the finest whitetail habitat I have ever seen! It was my last hunt on Game Trails, earlier that hunting season I had sold my interest in the operation to another party.
It had been raining for three days. I was hunting where I had shot my biggest deer from Kentucky, a typical 10 with split back tines, which grossed scored just below 190 B&C.
I had hunted hard in the rain and had only seen young bucks and a few does and fawns. The day was coming to a close. My cameraman and I, this back when I was doing “Whitetail Revolution”, were both sopping wet. Our raingear had failed. I wished we had been wearing rain gear from Drake Non-typical!
“Got one more place I want to look before we go in…” I told my cameraman, and headed toward a food plot planted with a seed blend from Tecomate. Rain was falling and it was now turning colder. Crawling our of brushy creek bottom, I eased to the edge of the plot. There on the opposite side of the field, less than 50 yards away stood a monstrous non-typical, easily well over 200 Boone & Crockett, the biggest buck I had seen on the property in the years I hunted there. I brought to shoulder my .270 single-shot rifle I carried, loaded with a 130-grain Hornady Soft Point. The buck raised his head. “Have you got him?” Expecting to have the cameraman at my right shoulder. Long pause… No response. This time I spoke a bit louder, “Have you got him?” Still no response from the cameraman. The buck was getting nervous, even though I doubt he saw me. Maybe he simply sensed something was wrong. “Get on him!” I said in a pleading, demanding normal voice. No response…
I turned to look why the cameraman was not answering.
To my amazement he was twenty yards behind wiping raindrops from the lens of his camera. I could not believe he was not right behind me, filming. I waved to him. He did not see me… I decided to heck with the footage, turned to shoo, and watched the monster buck disappear into the woods.
Years ago I hunted just south of the Rio Bravo a considerable amount. I loved hunting the brush and cactus of Mexico, particularly when it rained, or had just finished raining. Hunting there, I used to spend time with a local vaquero with the unusual name of Juanito Schmidt. Juanito spoke Spanish, but also a few words of English and considerable German. When I questioned him about his last name, he told me his ancestors on his father’s side had immigrated to Mexico from Germany immediately after World War I.
After a busy day of seeing bucks that night around the fire, over a glass of tequila, Juanito proclaimed ,“Grosse becka lieben so louffen en das nassen sondt”. Then questioned, “Compendre?”
I did understand and in a way his statement explained why we had seen the number of bucks we had seen that afternoon. It had rained all morning long. During the rain we had seen several younger bucks during the half-inch per hour steady rain. That afternoon when it slowed to a drizzle we started seeing mature bucks, big bucks. Juantio’s explanation was simple, “Big bucks like to walk in wet sand!” When I asked him why, he simply replied, “Makes their feet feel good!”
Regardless of why bucks like to walk in wet sand, I have seen this happen many times in southern Texas and northern Mexico. After he told about this, I remembered all the times I had come to a sandy spot in areas where there was little sand, and recalled the many deer tracks I had seen in the moist sand. Maybe indeed wet sand makes big bucks’ feet feel good!
I also love hunting black bear. Quite often hunting black bear is associated with at least part of the time when it is raining. Recenly I hunted black bear in southern Alaska with Keegan McCarthy with his Coastal Alaska Adventures.
Alaska tends to be WET during the spring, regardless of whether rain is falling from the sky, or the spray of water while using a small boat to go from one area to another. Talk about putting Drake Non-typical rain gear to a test! I spent several days soaked on the outside, but Chihuahua Desert dry inside my rain gear, right up to the last afternoon of my hunt when I shot my biggest black bear to date. Shot him in the rain with my Ruger .375 Ruger FTW Hunter, loaded with Hornady 300-grain DGX ammo.
I truly enjoy hunting in the rain, especially since I no longer wear glasses, and, I have rain gear (www.drakewaterfowl.com) I can count on to keep my dry. I have several hunts planned this coming year, where I anticipate hunting while it is raining and wet; hunts in southern Alaska, western Canada, and numerous whitetail hunts. I will be prepared with proper clothing and a proper attitude knowing “Big bucks like to walk in wet sand!”