here and here.
So obviously I went back. But my attitude was totally different the second time. During the first hunt, I was in the woods by 2:30pm, and the deer didn't move out of the woods until 4:15pm. So on the second try, I brought my climbing tree stand, didn't arrive until 4:10pm, and wasn't set up in the tree until nearly 4:30pm (sunset at 4:45pm). What the heck was I thinking? That was my first mistake, and it probably impacted the outcome of the hunt. Keep reading - maybe that's not a bad thing, in this case.
Second mistake - I also ignored the weather. My first hunt was on a crisp (about 42 degrees), clear day that followed two days of horrendous downpours. The deer were hungry and on the move. Second hunt? Sunny and 55 degrees, the day after a warm, full moon where (I imagine) the deer fed all night in safety.
Third mistake, as I mentioned, I brought my climbing stand, which I hadn't used in 4 years. At least give me credit for checking it out a few days before hand and noticing that a cotter pin was missing (a dubious replacement was procured from the Home Despot). I was in a hurry and out of practice - a bad combination. I simply wasn't comfortable in the stand, and once I was physically ready to shoot, I didn't feel 110% confident that the stand wouldn't give way if I had to lean against it to take a tough shot.
I don't know what I would have done if a big deer would have walked under the stand. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have taken a shot, because a poorly shot deer in this area means that you will be retrieving that animal from someone's multi-million dollar waterfront lawn, as they are sitting down to dinner that night.
So, what went right? Gosh, not much. The deer never moved out of the marsh. Even if I had spooked them, I would expect to see a few of them moving out of the marsh, far out on my flank to the east or west. As the sun began to set, the swamp filled up with songbirds - mourning doves, cardinals, and juncos - all hungry and just getting into town, I suppose. But no deer. No squirrels. No rabbits. Nothing furry at all!
At the end of the hunt, I was left staring into the dark and with a feeling that I used to know well, but have drifted apart from as I've become a more competent outdoorsman over the past 10 years. A sense of not knowing whether the evening's failure was a result of natural "things," or whether I created the failure myself.
Looking back on it, I realize that I made a choice after the first hunt - the choice to be overconfident. I should have operated from the standpoint of, "Everything went right last time except the shot - let's do it exactly the same next time." Instead, I let my overconfidence push me simultaneously in the directions of laziness (arriving late in the afternoon) and ironically, "unneeded challenge" (dusting off my climbing stand with no recent practice).
I plan to try it again. I will hunt from the ground, as I did the first time.
I will pick an ideal weather day, as I did the first time.
I will arrive early, as I did the first time. I won't try to utilize new (or old and recently untested) gear to "make it more interesting." Let's see what the outcome is! I may not harvest a deer, but at least I'll have an open mind to learn something new for the next hunt after that.