If you ask most deer hunters their goal, the answer will most likely be, "to kill a big buck." But beyond that, it is also enjoyable and a special part of deer hunting to just see a lot of deer even when you don't shoot one. It makes for long days in the woods when you don't see deer. Sometimes you pray to just see even one.
On the magical day that was
I usually don't get serious about my deer hunting until around October 25th when the bucks begin to stir for the oncoming rut...and the weather is usually cooler. I'm not fond of hunting in hot weather.
My hunting spot is located some
I tried out the new stand with my crossbow on October 24th
and 27th. On the 24th I saw 4 does and a
spike. On the 27th, I didn't see
anything. Then Superstorm Sandy wreaked
havoc on the East Coast bringing
As I began my mile walk before daylight down the
As the moon gave way to daylight, it appeared my moon script
was playing out. Everything was quiet. Then
A few minutes later I spotted a small four point buck making his way down the bottom from the river. Minutes later he was followed by a basket-rack eight point. The four point continued up the bottom but the little eight point circled and came down the trail on which the two does had made their exit. I thought maybe this was the one who had made the grunts.
I was watching him to my left when I heard leaves rustle to my right. I glanced over my shoulder. Coming up onto my knoll from the road that traversed the bottom was what appeared to be a possible shooter. I quickly raised my binoculars and put them right back down. He had a chocolate rack with heavy beams and odd points. In many cases it only takes a glance to tell if a buck is a shooter. This one was.
He began to pass behind me at
He passed to my left at
The buck continued on behind a thick curtain of branches then started to meander back and forth grazing on some type of vegetation as he went. He met the basket rack eight point. They sized up each other and even locked antlers once to briefly spar. As they sparred, I also heard antlers rattling up on the bluff across the creek where the grunts had come from. Then the chocolate-racked buck began to move off the same way the does went. Then...he stopped...and came back. It looked like he was heading for my primary shooting lane. Excited with anticipation, I took the safety off the crossbow, but he stopped five yards short of where I needed him to be.
He was giving me a
Frantically, I hit my grunt call twice. The first time he stopped to acknowledge it. Then he continued on. I tried my snort-wheeze aggression call, but he continued on undeterred. He vanished into the foliage up on the bluff. He was gone. I could only hope he would come back.
Trail camera picture of chocolate-racked "shooter" that got by the author early in the morning without a shot. Trail Cam Photo by David Burke
Not 15 minutes later, I saw a big deer coming down an old road on that bluff. I thought, "Here he comes." A quick look through my binoculars showed it was a different buck. I watched him through the brush as he headed toward the river. My hunting buddy, David, was at work but I was keeping him up on everything by text message. I texted this one was a possible shooter but that I needed a better look.
Maybe a half hour later, the two does that passed me earlier
came back from around the bluff, stopping to graze in the shooting lane in
front of me. They were followed by that
last buck...and now he had a partner.
The buck which had come down the road...the possible shooter...had a
massive body...the biggest I've ever seen on a live deer. He looked like you could saddle him like a
horse. His antlers were thick but their
spread was average and the tines were short. I took the safety off my crossbow
for the second time this morning, but put it back on. I wanted a trophy rack and I didn't think this
buck had one although he certainly had a trophy body. I guessed he'd field dress
The partner buck appeared to be young with a tall rack and
moderate width. At first glance I
thought he was a borderline shooter. I
didn't take a good look at him for staring at the monster body of the other one
while trying to talk myself into shooting him if I got the chance. As soon as I firmly decided not to shoot,
"The Horse" as I nicknamed him, which hadn't been giving me any kind
of a shot, trotted through my shooting lane at
The partner buck then passed just behind me. I turned my attention to him and wished he'd come back. He looked young but I had decided he could be a shooter as well. I wanted a better look. The Horse slowly headed across the bottom and out of sight while his partner walked the mowed road up the bottom and right underneath another stand I had in a boxelder.
To this point, the day had been ridiculous. I had already seen three shooters and it
I almost got to the rest spot when I heard a commotion just
on the side of the hill to my right.
What looked to be big ten point crashed through the brush and up the
hill. With him were two does. The 10 point stopped broadside at
It was a can't miss shot with a
rifle. But my crossbow was on my
shoulder with the bolts in the quiver. My
rangefinder was buried in my coat pocket...and I thought he was too far through
brush any way for my crossbow. I knew it
was futile. So I decided to treat this
as a chance encounter and nonchalantly keep moving on up the road. Deer seem to
have a sixth or seventh sense which discerns intent, and I wanted them to think
I was harmless. I've seen deer sometimes ignore coyotes like African plains
game often ignore lions. They can sense intent. The does remained frozen and
the big buck headed a little further up the bluff and stopped. I walked out of sight to my rest spot another
I laid myself down and rested for an hour and a half although I didn't sleep and spent a lot of the time sending text messages. Not only was I texting David, but also my friend, Lloyd, who was leading a meeting the following day that I was supposed to attend. I wanted Lloyd, also an avid deer hunter, to know the bucks were running wild every where and to express my sincere wishes to be excused from the meeting.
On the way back to the stand, I jumped a bedded doe who snorted some loud alerts to every other deer in the vicinity as she made her exit. As I pulled the crossbow up in the stand, a second doe did likewise standing on the hillside above me watching me. She headed up the bluff where the chocolate-racked buck had disappeared in the morning. These deer had come in while I was gone.
Things were really slow now. The two snorting does did not
help the cause. Then at
At the sound of the shot, he dashed
I saw his hind quarters buckle. But he regained his
composure. He gave a tail wag which is a
sign that "I'm OK and life is good."
And he started to walk off. I
thought, "Uh-oh." Then he
stopped, and turned and abruptly bedded down.
He was down maybe 5 minutes then got up and started to walk off again. He was at
The author's 9 point buck just after he was shot but before he bedded down.
He took a few more steps and bedded down again. He repeated the sequence a couple more
times. The last time, it looked like he
tried to run...and then he fell, breaking brush in the process. He was now at
It appeared he had taken a step as I released the trigger on
the crossbow and instead of a lung/heart shot, the bolt hit too far back. But the Rage broadhead did an admirable
job. He was a mainframe eight point with
a small kicker off the back to make nine points. His G2 tines measured
I called the property owner and got permission to use his ATV, and David, who had come out to squirrel hunt after work that evening, drove it to me the mile down the bluff road and up the bottom to the river. It was well after dark when we got the buck loaded onto the hitch-haul on the back of my SUV.
It had been one of the most magical days I had ever
experienced deer hunting. I was very
tired but still sorry that it was over.
And I was doubly sorry because I had to stop hunting bucks in