Ah, romance. It can push a man to act completely out of character. It can coax him into actions where the risk is great.
Normally, good sense and caution prevail, but when love is in the air, the judgment of a rational man goes out the window.
It is that time of year in the woods.
As a rule, white-tailed bucks are the most vigilant residents of our creek bottom lands, our woodlots and our fields of standing corn. They use their intensely-tuned senses to detect the slightest potential threat, and then disappear into the heavy cover before ever being sighted.
For most of the year, these deer are essentially invisible. It is not usual to see groups of does and fawns feeding along the edges of stubble fields and tree lines, but the bucks are never there. They are the ghosts of the deer herd.
We know they are close by, but they are far too clever to let us see them. Their movements are primarily nocturnal, and made along safe routes through dense growth.
But during the rut, the mating season for ruminant animals such as deer, elk, moose and caribou, all the rules go out the window.
Driven by a powerful instinct and the preservation of the species, bucks will get careless, and even reckless.
They will bang heads, lock horns and fight in open spaces, in broad daylight. They will parade around in pastures and meadows, and charge over stretches of land with no cover. And they will dash across highways and country roads, which can often lead to their demise.
A certain stretch of Route 23 that cuts through some rich farmland in Wyandot County has the full menu of hunters' delights. There are thickets, patches of mature woods, tree-lined fence rows, and plenty of cover along the many creeks and streams in the area.
Numerous trips though that region have produced a multitude of wildlife sightings. There are increasing numbers of wild turkeys, plenty of red-tailed hawks, ground hogs and raccoons, and rarely would an early morning or late evening drive not include seeing more than a few white-tailed does.
But the bucks are never there - until now. In this part of the country, the rut begins in October and usually peaks in November. It is triggered by the shorter periods of daylight, and timed by Mother Nature so that the young will be born in the spring when they have the best chance to survive and the does have the best opportunity to care for them.
One proud eight-point buck, driven by romance, carelessly wandered out onto Route 23 and got hit. He was laying there in the median early in the morning fog, lifeless yet still majestic.
His thick shoulders announced his strength and good genetics.
His heavy rack told us he had a good diet, thanks primarily to the skilled farmers who work his range.
It is sad to see such a great animal taken in such a manner. He was likely in pursuit of a doe or a group of does, driven by thousands of years of instinct to provide the next generation. He was simply doing what his ancestors told him to do.
When a hunter takes on a buck of this class, loaded with smarts and a keen awareness of the risks around him, it is not usually a fair fight. The deer's senses and knowledge of its habitat make it a formidable opponent.
But when love is the motivation, the wise, old buck gets a little sloppy about his safety. And when the foe is an 18-wheeler barreling down the road at 60 miles an hour, the buck meets its unexpected demise in an instant.
Matt Markey is the A-T outdoors columnist.
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