As we get closer to the season starting I think of the deer I have passed up, and the deer I have not. One particular story that I will continue to tell is of my first “big buck”. Now this buck is not in any record books but it is the largest one I have ever shot and to me it is a big buck.
This memory takes place back in December 2013. It was muzzle loader season so approximately mid-December, the 11th to be exact. I was supposed to go out on a Tuesday afternoon. The wind was right, there was no real snow on the ground. It was a pleasant afternoon. However, due to an unscheduled conference call I was forced to stay at work. At the time I was also taking classes for work in Chemical Engineering so when I chose to go out that following day, Wednesday, I would leave straight from my afternoon class to the farm.
The Wednesday was different weather-wise. Overnight it snowed quite a bit. It was still chilly and cold and I had to wear my snow camo. The best way I describe snow camo on myself is a giant stay puff marshmallow with teal snow boots. But I was determined to get out one more time before season closed and off I went.
I was going to a location that we call “the neck”. It is between two sets of woods. I parked and started to walk with my muzzle loader on my back. I got into the neck and I could see about 300 yards into the field, 15-20 does. I knew this would be a good day as long as I could get on top of the crest of a hill without being smelled or spotted. I started to walk further into the woods out of their line of site and creep slowly up the hill. With the recent snow fall I wasn’t able to see the fallen limps or holes in the ground which meant that extra caution was needed.
I made it to the top of the hill and crawled until I got to “my tree”. I call it this because I always sit at this tree if I’m on the ground in the neck. There is a rock at the base and you can see all around you in the woods and out into the field. Let me just say that I did not scare any deer away, and the movement in and out of the woods was intense. 250 yards straight south of me was a bedding area of deer. 100 yards from me along the tree line edge does and fawns were running in and out of the woods playing. 150-180 yards into the field were approximately 20-30 does and fawns eating. No matter what happened, today was going to be a great day.
I watched all around for movement. I was looking for a big buck and this would be the spot I would find him. I arrived in my spot around 2:30pm in the afternoon and around 3:45pm a nice 8 point walked out of the woods. I was kind of happy. The wind had picked up and even with the multiple layers, gloves and face mask I was cold. Ice cold. I drew up my range finder to get an accurate distance and then noticed something walk into my vision. A very beautiful 9 point. He was big of body and mass and put the 8 point to shame. I ranged him. 185 yards.
It was a long shot, a very long shot, but one I didn’t know if I could pass up. I drew up my gun and put him in my sites. He was eating and walking and stopping. Creating a perfect shot. I was hoping to have him walk a bit closer but the does in the field started to get reckless. A twitch here, a head bob there. I knew they were about to run. I took my shot.
Up he jumped, in a circle he ran, and down he went. 50 yards from where I shot him to where he finally laid down which was not bad for such a large animal. I reloaded as fast I could. Single shot black powder rifles are not always the easiest, especially for me, with adrenaline pumping and numb fingers. The next was the phone calls. Nate called me and then I called my dad back, since he called as well. They both said the same thing, “How big and is it dead?” I don’t know and yes.
My size gauge is not always the best so when I say it was big, they usually think I’m lying. Well this time, when my dad, Kenny and Nate pulled up they were pretty darn happy with my choice. A single shot through the lung at 180 yards. I was sure lucky. We took the photos with the snow camo on and we loaded him into the truck. My dad didn’t want me to clean him there since they wanted to use the woods in a few days and use the cleanings for coyote bait.
We went back to the barns behind the bunker and I cleaned him then hung him at my parents. The rest is history. I know that I may never get another chance to shoot a buck in snow camo in the late season. Muzzle loader season is now anterless deer only. It’s disheartening that we have gone this way, but you can’t control DEC some days. I hope that this season is the only season of this decision and they realize the error in this choice.
If you want to check out the “big buck” you can see the photos on a hunting photo Friday post here.