A gorgeous stand of hilltop oaks...

Every year, this time of year, I remember the first time I saw him.  I was walking along a drain, scouting a deer trail that traversed a hillside covered in a mixture of white and red oaks.  On the other side of the branch, stood a large pine thicket that spanned the hilltop.  As I ambled along, looking for the first dropping acorns, I caught movement in my peripheral vision.  I froze behind a large white oak.  I stared down the hillside at the creek intently, and felt the warm wind on my face from across the hill.  I couldn't see the water as the bluff dropped off steeply obscuring my view.  Suddenly, I spied his antler tips sticking up above the ditch bank.  I watched in awe, as with one swift jump, he silently cleared the ditch.  His ears twitched nervously back and forth, trying to determine the source of the sound he'd heard while he was down in the creek getting a cool drink.  His antlers were tall and dark, reaching upward and blending with the pines in the background.  His shoulder muscles rippled, and he flicked his tail back and forth nervously as he scanned first one direction and then another.  I was hidden, and I knew I had the wind.  He was about 60 yards away, and I had a front row seat in a show starring the finest public land buck I'd ever seen.  As he slowly made his way up the hill into the thicket, I eased down from my crouched position, sitting quietly behind the big oak.  This was my first season hunting with traditional gear, and honestly, and in a way, I felt like I was starting over as a bowhunter.  I had just stumbled on to the largest buck I had ever seen on public land, and I was buried in doubts about whether or not I could kill this buck with just a stick and a string.  

Fresh tracks and cracked acorn hulls....

He loves to go scouting...as long as there are snacks involved...