I wasn't expecting to hunt this year. I had injured my arm in a fall from my tree-stand in the off season, in August, as I was repairing a deer stand and making it "safe." One of the metal screw-in steps, the top most step, snapped and left me a free fall, interrupted by a grab of a step which caused me to burst and tear my right biceps tendon, but, kept me from breaking my neck or back. When I caught myself, my body swung back toward the tree like a pendulum, and I slammed into a lower screw-in step, which I am lucky did not manage to completely pierce my torso. I lived through this, but was told by my doctor to expect a surgery and a long painful recovery.
I won't go into great detail about my travels to Asia and the various forms of traditional healing that I sought out while there on business. It suffices to say that I returned home, the archery season in full swing, healed, at least enough to hunt. A second opinion from an arm specialist confirmed this, and I used my jet lag to arise early and provide the family with a wild turkey for thanksgiving. The turkey fell to the big side-by-side 10 gauge. I missed the first shot, but made a satisfying second wing shot and relished the thud of a big turkey falling from the sky. My 2010 season was underway. The picture here is a classic and comedic capture of me patiently explaining to my loving wife that taking pictures is not very hard.
I turned my attention to the archery deer season, managing to hunt almost every day of the nearly three weeks remaining of the season, for at least an hour or two. I saw surprisingly few deer during that time, but did see 2 different "shooters," one of which I confronted at about 15 yards head on, but was never afforded a reasonable shot. That buck was later killed on the first day of gun season, today, by my neighbor. I was able to take an antlerless deer as the season closed, a memorable shot from a tree stand down by the lake on a beautiful misty evening.
Saturday was the opening day of the firearms deer season. At around 7:30 am, I missed a moving buck, a very wide and thick 6 pointer, at about 90 yards in cover. This buck was just hammering on a small button buck, literally kicking his can all over the place. I watched this big old buck throw the little feller into the air with his antlers, chase him down, and pin him to the forest floor. When the shot (80 yards or so, moving- high winds) finally, briefly, presented itself, I was surprised and frustrated by the miss. The day's frustration continued with continued heavy winds, and the hunting pressure from neighboring farms, as it seemed every time I got settled into a new location, within an hour bright orange blobs could be seen in my upwind scent cones.
I finally decided to finish the opener in a newly installed, safe, two person ladder stand in the "square wood" otherwise known as the "hickory lot." This stand has a great view to the east and the south east of two large fields and a hedgerow. As I entered the little grove to climb into the stand, I kicked up two deer, but I could only hear them and see their tails. About an hour later, two deer, does, appeared at the end of the large field I was hunting over, out of range. They were feeding relatively comfortably on the clover. I watched them for quite awhile through the Nikon BDC scope mounted on my Ithaca Deerslayer II. They finally drifted out of the field and into the gully. Ten minutes later, another doe appeared, this one moving more purposefully toward the gate at the far southeast corner of the field. After 5 minutes, another deer appeared- the big 6 pointer.
The wind was blowing from the West, from behind me, to the field and the deer. I had not noticed any of the three does from minutes earlier obviously "scent" or "wind" me. However, as I had an aerosol can of "Buck Bomb" given to me, I thought I 'd see how well it works by spraying some in the air and hoped it would drift down wind to the buck and lure him my way. I sprayed, and within a minute, the buck could be seen scenting the air, nose high, in my direction. He immediately began to move towards me, closing the 300 yards step by step.
At about 150 yards, the buck veered slightly left (south) and was concealed by the thin hedgerow that runs perpendicular to the line of woods where I was positioned. The sun was setting, a big full moon was peaking in and out of the clouds. I assumed the buck was marching toward me. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes elapsed. No buck. I resigned myself to the fact that he had been dissatisfied with something and lured elsewhere. I packed up by satchel, slung the gun over my head and shoulder behind me, and prepared to descend from stand. Just as I extended my foot to step down to the first rung, I heard leaves crunching steadily, from behind the hedgerow where I had been expecting the buck. "It's him!" I nearly said out loud. "Better late than never." I clumsily removed my gun, knocking my hat off in the process. I settled in to a shooting position and tried to calm my nerves.
The bright moon and lingering sunset gave decent light, which was improved by the light-gathering qualities of my scope. I watched the end of the hedgerow intently. The sound of shuffling leaves grew louder . I could see feet, legs. The deer paused. Head movement. I could see an antler. "It's him!" I thought again, almost out loud. He was hanging back, sniffing. I needed two steps for a 15 yard shot at vitals, broadside. He took ones step, still partially obscured by the tangly brush of the Buckthorn and other hedgerow miscellany. As he bobbed his head I could make out his profile, tall antlers, points, some thickness... he stepped again. A clear shot at vitals. Bang. The Hornady SST was on its way.
He jumped straight up, and then went running. I shot four more times at him running, later learning that three of these running shots connected. The final shot downed him in the middle of my field, out about 150 yards. It was done. I descended the ladder, slightly shaky and well adrenalized, was smiling as I walked up to the big buck... but he got smaller as I approached. I stopped, paused... "that's a different buck" I said aloud. I walked closer, knelt over him, gently took the tall but juvenile antler, and chuckled softly. "Sorry boy- a case of mistaken identity" I said.
Apparently the original big 6 point deer, when concealed by the hedgerow, was met by the smaller 8 point 1 and 1/2 year old buck. Whatever transpired, time elapsed, and one buck went one way, one buck went my way. The smaller one went my way and is now headed towards the sausage maker.
I believe this is the same buck as pictured below from pre-archery October trail camera shots. He was supposed to benefit from QDM. Instead he fell victim to classic buck lust and "eager orange" as I call it. I have been struggling with that since the kill, but have resolved to be thankful and move on, perhaps wiser. In any case, as I have been told, you can't eat antlers. He'll be tasty. I will remember him for what he is and isn't, and for the Opening Day hunt under a full moon that I wasn't going to get to experience, but did.
Day two of the opener dawned sunny and with little wind. I set up in the second of my three two-person tree stands, the one that faces south down in the gully. I set Rich up in the "Quickie" stand that overlooks "The Bedroom," a deer bedding area that has traditionally held big bucks every year. My goal was to fill the first of my 2 DMPs (the second is for a different WMU). At 7:30 am, I filled that tag with a nice, neat, single 50 yard chip shot that anchored the deer in her tracks. In the picture, the white spot in the center is the doe's belly. There will be feasting.