Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Deer Season - Part 2, The Election Day Buck

November 6, 2012 was like no election day I had ever experienced before. It is likely I will not experience another one like it. Many people were extremely unhappy at day's end, because their candidate lost. Many were upset that Obama was re-elected. I may have been one of the few happy conservatives when I went to bed that evening. I tell the story of why below.

I love deer hunting. My appreciation and enjoyment of it has grown since my heart transplant. For about three years prior to my transplant, I was too sick and weak to deer hunt. No matter how badly I may have wanted to, it was simply out of the question. The body just wouldn't go. I also have a new understanding of what the phrase "you don't know what you've got until it's gone" means now, too.

I usually go deer hunting with some buddies, as I've mentioned before. However, I've got one little spot that I will occasionally go and hunt during the week, when they can't. It's also a place where I'm picky about which deer I will take. It has to be a trophy buck, or I let it walk. There are two reasons : 1) the area is small, so the deer are likely to be spooked for the rest of the season if I shoot one, and 2) if I shoot a deer, I have to get help getting it out. So, I want it to be worth the trouble.

The little area is surrounded by thickets with a little clearing in the middle. I've created a natural blind with an old, downed tree at the edge of the thicket where I can hide yet see the clearing and anything coming into it. If a good buck walks into the clearing, the farthest my shot will be is about 15 yards. It's basically a slam dunk. That's a good thing and a bad thing all rolled into one. The good thing is that you can't miss. The bad thing is that if a buck comes in, it will all go down fast, so you better stay on your toes. It's wham, bam, thank you ma'am and the hunt's over, or you go home thinking about what might have been. You're either gonna be a hero or a zero. I like that challenge.

Mr. 8-Pointer about 4 weeks prior to election day.
I had been keeping tabs on an 8-point buck on two different trail cameras as he cruised back and forth through the area for two years. I had hunted him a few times but never seen him. On Saturday, October 27, 2012, I got my first real life look at the dude. I saw him out moving around that morning around 8:30 a.m. The temperature was about 40 degrees at the time, and it was wet from a rain the night before. I remembered having this dude's picture on the trail cameras several times over the last two years either after or during rains. So, when I saw him out that morning, I stored it back in the memory bank. The first morning I had a couple of hours free after a rain the night before, I was going in after him. It seemed this ol' buck had a thing for cool, damp mornings. I needed to try to use it against him.

I had voted during the second week of early voting, because there was no way I was gonna fight the crowds and stand in line on election day. Plus, since my friend and now State Representative Elect Susan Lynn had won the Republican Primary back in August, and was unopposed in the general election, I was free for most of the day. Since my October 27th sighting of the 8-pointer, I had been watching the weather forecast religiously. The forecast for Monday, November 5th, was for rain up into the evening with a temperature of about 40 degrees at daybreak on election day. These were the exact same conditions I had seen Mr. 8-Pointer out in about 10 days earlier ! So, I decided election day was going to be my best opportunity to get him. The rut was ramping up. He should be out chasing does. Usually, deer hunting for me is somewhat of a crap shoot, but I felt really, really good about election day. It was an unexplainable feeling. Something I had never experienced before. It might just be "the day."

On election day, I was up early and in the woods, set up, and ready to go before daylight began breaking. I hung up a couple of scent bombs of Tink's 69 buck lure, popped a top on my usual morning Mountain Dew, and began to get the muzzleloader settled onto my Primos' Trigger Stick. Then, I realized I had a problem. It was only a few minutes before daylight began breaking, but my Trigger Stick was too high even though it was adjusted as short as it would go. I realized I had forgotten to adjust the length of the legs on my stool before setting up leaving them too short. What do I do ? I usually like to keep my gun up on the stick, so that all I have to do is ease my cheek over to the stock and squeeze the trigger without moving very much. It's wise since the little hunting area is so tight that if you move and a deer is standing in the clearing, you are busted, and it's game over. I decided it would require too much movement and too much noise to raise the stool height. So, I elected to lay the stick down, lay the muzzleloader across my lap, and just do the best I could to raise it swiftly, smoothly, and get it on target without getting busted, if an opportunity to take Mr. 8-Pointer presented itself.

Smoke begins to clear after the shot on Mr. 8-Pointer.
Things were slow. Shooting light was available a little before 6 a.m. but nothing was moving. Then, suddenly at 7:30 a.m., I hear and see movement coming straight at me. "It's him, it's him," I thought to myself. He was at 30 yards and coming fast with his head and nose only about 18 inches off the ground. He was getting a snootful of the Tink's 69. He was looking for "the doe." As soon as I saw him, I began to smoothly, but quickly, raise the muzzleloader, cocking the hammer as I brought it to my shoulder. Since the buck was "distracted" by the hot doe he was smelling, he did not see me raise the gun. Just as the buck stepped into the clearing and stopped, about 12 or 13 yards from me, the butt of the stock hit my shoulder, the scope's cross hairs settled on his right-front shoulder, and I squeezed the trigger - all simultaneously. KA-BOOM !!!!! White smoke filled the little clearing, and I heard the buck run off, seemingly back where he had just came from. Then, I heard a crash. He was down.

Many hunters talk about buck fever, and how they get nervous and shake when a deer comes in. I have never experienced it. I don't know if I just get so focused on the fundamentals of shooting and the objective, or what. When it came to this 8-pointer, though, there was no time for "buck fever." In the time in takes you to read the following - there he is, raise gun while cocking trigger, settle cross hairs on shoulder, and squeeze trigger- it was over. Wham, bam, thank you Tink's 69. He's going in the freezer and on the wall.

After the smoke cleared, I got up and went over to where the buck was standing at the shot to look for blood and began the tracking process. I found a good amount. However, while I thought I knew which direction the buck had run, there was not a good blood trail leading in that direction. I began to track the best I could. At one point, the blood trail seemed to indicate that at first impact he had ran right at me and then swerved to his right, my left. Unfortunately, the trail ran out quickly. It must have just been splatter. So, I went in the opposite direction. Nothing. I've now been looking for 30 minutes and not having much luck. The area is thick, so I know I've got to pick up the trail if I am gonna find this deer. Tracking him is made even more difficult by the fact that the rain from the night before has left all the leaves dark brown making it difficult to see a blood trail. Not good. I do know that he didn't go far, because I heard him go down.

I decide to start looking in the direction I thought I heard the buck run after the shot. The smoke from the muzzleloader was so thick I couldn't see him run off, but I could hear him. Next, I look right behind where he was standing at the shot and find blood. I go a few steps further and find more, then more, but then I wonder if it could have been left by the bullet exiting his left side. (I would find out later that there was no exit wound.) I continue on still finding a drop here and a couple there stopping every few steps to look around trying to find him. At this point, I know I am about 15 or 20 yards from where he stood when I shot. I look up to my 11 o'clock and see white. Could it be .... yep, that's him. I got him !! I did it !!

The buck had made it about 50 yards after being shot. When looking at his pictures on the trail cameras, I had guessed he would field dress about 125 pounds. However, as I now looked at this dude up close and personal, I realized he was huge !! I would find out exactly how huge about two hours later.

I grabbed him by the antlers, picked his head up, and looked at him. He was beautiful and easily the biggest and best deer I had ever shot. Two years of watching the trail cameras, monitoring the weather, and simply doing my homework by studying this deer's activities had paid off. My CVA Optima Pro muzzleloader, the Triple 7 Pellets, Remington Clean-Bore Primers, and PowerBelt 295-grain Aero-Tip bullets had all done their job. The Tink's 69 had done it's job, too. The 8-pointer came in throwing caution to the wind looking for the hot doe he was smelling, and I had made the right call hunting the cool morning after an overnight rain. As Hannibal Smith from The A-Team used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together." One sure came together election day morning.

It was now time to get the big dude out of the woods, so I went to get some help. We took some pictures, loaded him into my truck, and I took him to Lebanon Locker to check him in and get him processed. I did not field dress him in order to see what his gross weight was. He went 181 pounds. After the guys at Lebanon Locker dressed him, he was still 150 pounds. The 9-pointer I shot in 2010, exactly two years prior, was only 118 pounds field dressed. This big 8-pointer easily by-passed him as my best deer ever. He is a big, big deer for Tennessee, and I know it will be very difficult to top him.

Thanks again, Kent !
I took some time that morning, in the woods, when it was just me and the buck to thank the Lord for restoring my health and blessing me with the "second chance" to hunt again. I do not take it for granted. I am grateful for the meat that big buck provided and for the memories of spending two years chasing him. This marks the first time I ever set my sights on one particular deer and did my homework to get "him." It was a neat, rewarding experience, and one I won't ever forget. I also thought about my heart donor, Kent. He had a big part in this. I would not still be around to have experienced this wonderful day without him.

On November 6, 2012, my deer season was only four days old, as I do not bow hunt, and I already had three deer down. The most deer I have shot in one season is four, which I accomplished in both 2007 and 2008. Could I be on my way to beating those two years ? We'll see.

In the five weeks since I shot Mr. 8-Pointer, I've thought about some things. First, 2012's election days have been really good to me. They have brought me a lot of joy. Back in August, I had been part of helping my friend Susan Lynn win re-election to the Tennessee House of Representatives on primary day. A lot of work by many people went into that. Then, on general election day, I had shot my best deer ever. Secondly, I realized that two years of work were complete. Now, I will start the process over - find a buck, study him, stalk him, and figure out a way to get him. Mr. 8-Pointer taught me a lot about big bucks and how to successfully hunt them. I will use that knowledge to get the next one.

With Mr. 8-Pointer's steaks, roasts, sausage, etc. now in the freezer and his head at the taxidermist, it was now time to work on accomplishing another one of the goals I had set for the 2012 deer season - taking a deer with my AR15.  
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments: