The wind changes direction constantly, and not one buck has jumped to the call – even though we have moved the blind three times already. Hunting guest Eric Poole stands tensely behind the camouflage screen clutching his S 100 Pantera. “One more series of calls, then we change our location and go to the ravine,” I tell the American. We only have two hunting days together and I don’t want to send Eric back empty-handed. The calls are having no effect, so we strike the blind once more and then carry it to our next location.
A SIMPLE Plan
Just as I had hoped, no wind can be felt in the ravine. Here I can spot two bucks, one a yearling with ear-high spikes and another that has six-pointers twice as high as his ears and is easily five years old. After two to three series of peeps on the deer call, we begin to hear a rustling in the undergrowth. Still, we cannot see a thing. I send out two more timid calls. Now some movement can be seen in the ravine: A roe deer bounds towards us in great leaps. One look through the binoculars is all the confirmation we need – a doe! But the doe keeps moving and there is no buck in her tracks. Eric puts his rifle down and I whisper to him that he should stay ready. My plan: Use the doe as a live decoy.
For the next hour, I constantly annoy the poor thing by halting her progress, always hoping that a buck will take notice and follow the doe to our blind. When, once again, the doe is only 25 meters from our blind, she suddenly runs off, squealing as she goes. I glance toward Eric. Did the journalist make some hasty movement? Did the deer see us? None of the above: A group of hikers is approaching us from behind! That was it for this place! “Off to the orchard meadow!” I tell Eric. It is the last ace up my sleeve. A buck that is ripe for the culling frequents the spot, but badgers are also there in the evenings to get their fill of fallen fruit. Eric had told me previously that he is fascinated with badgers and would love to shoot one if it doesn’t work out with the buck. And since evening was fast approaching, now might be the perfect time to make that dream come true.
Twenty minutes later, we settle in on the ladder stand, from which we can see the entire meadow. Nothing happens for half an hour. The light is fading and with it the hope of getting that buck. Suddenly, there is movement at the edge of the woods! A doe and two fawns step out into the clearing. But there is no buck with them. All of a sudden, I see a badger at the other end of the meadow about 150 meters away. A little far for a certain shot. Too many fruit trees and branches are blocking the possible trajectory, and we are losing light fast. There is nothing to do except climb down from the highseat. “We will stalk around the edge of the meadow until we can get close enough to the badger,” I tell Eric.
We use the wide arc of an access trail to stalk around the meadow, taking cover behind a wooden hut before creeping forward in slow motion for the last few meters. The wind is in our favor. This has to work! The badger is gorging himself on some apples that are lying on the ground about 50 meters in front of us. We quickly put up our shooting sticks, and Eric lays his S 100 Pantera on them and takes the rifle off safe. The report from his .308 Win. echoes through the Allgäuer landscape. “I got him, right?” he asks. Of course, he did!
Eric is tickled pink about his badger. The first seal is broken. But our chance to be able to call in a buck is endangered by heavy rainfall the next day. The shower lasts the entire morning. At some point, Saint Peter must have taken pity on us and driven the clouds away because they are gone by early afternoon. We strike out with new optimism. Unfortunately, we have no luck at our first location, and only does who suspect competition from other does in their territories jump to our calls at the other hotspots. After exhausting a total of six different blind locations with no success, we are losing both our energy and our hope for a buck.
Eric asks, “What about another badger, Thore?” “Yeah, why not? We can go back to the orchard meadow this evening …” We are about to pack up our things when a buck appears at the edge of the wood. That one will do nicely! Eric has also seen him and his rifle is at the ready. But, just as suddenly as he came, the buck quickly disappears into the woods. Then: Is that more movement at the meadow’s edge? Is it him? Wrong! It is, in fact, a doe who springs out onto the meadow, looking back into the forest. But just as quickly as the doe appears, she, too, flees into the thicket. The stage is now empty. Eric and I look at each other. What just happened? Then a barking starts up in the woods. I cannot resist grabbing my call and replying with a few peeps. Then what we have given up hope on finally happens: Albeit in a different corner, our buck shows up. Or is it? A look through the binoculars tells a different story.