My son, Aaron, and I sat in our two-person tree stand on opening morning, but got skunked. Lots of squirrels frantically carrying on all morning, but no deer. Aaron went back home before the evening hunt, so my dad and I headed out to the woods. Sitting in my same tree stand, I had a monster buck come in about 5:10 p.m. He appeared on the hill in front of me and began following the runway that comes around to my left. That runway forks into two different runways, one that goes right by my stand, about 40 yards away and another that heads into the valley going away from me. He took the one going into the valley, but it still gave me a shot to bag him. So, I waited until I had what I thought was a decent shooting lane. He was just strutting along very slowly and had no clue I was there, which gave me plenty of time to calm myself down. When I first saw him, my heart about burst out of my chest and the adrenalin was almost unbearable - yeah, I had a true case of "Buck Fever." I had never seen a buck this big while hunting. But, as I said, he gave me plenty of time to get control of myself. So, I waited, picked a spot, and took aim. When I had my cross-hairs on his shoulder, I shot. He acted like he was shot, as he bucked up, turned around, and started running. I quickly racked another round and fired again, but that second shot was at a moving tail and I'm sure it missed. But, I was confident that I had hit him good and hard with that first shot, so I waited a bit before climbing down out of my blind to go look for blood and begin tracking him. But, when I got over to the spot where he was standing when I shot at him, there was no blood. None. I could see where the ground was scuffled by him when I shot at him, but no signs that I had hit him. I looked back up to my blind from that site and noticed that it was a longer shot than it had appeared to be, and that it wasn't nearly as open as I thought - there were definitely some twigs and branches in the way. Still, I knew I had him in my sights and he acted like he was shot, so I began following the path he took when he ran off after I shot at him. I was hoping that I'd pick up some evidence along the way and eventually find him lying over yonder. But, as soon as I started heading along that path, I heard the big guy bolt out of there like nobody's business. He was probably up on the hill watching me, wondering what in the world had just happened, and when he spotted me heading in his direction, he took off. I called my dad. He was already on his way over, since he heard me shoot and thought for sure I had one down. When he joined me, we looked around for a bit, but never did find any blood, and we decided we'd do another search the next day after the morning hunt, since it was pitch dark in the woods at that point. But, not seeing any signs, we were pretty sure I had missed. The bullet probably hit a branch or two on its way and veered off target. Talk about a major bummer!
The next morning, my dad and I headed out again. About 8:10 a.m. I had three deer approaching from behind me and to my right - the worst place they could come for me to get a good shot. I slowly stood up and turned around. Luckily, the movement didn't scare them off, and the lead deer, a huge doe, kept coming down the runway about 30 yards to the right of my blind. There are only a couple of openings there for a shot, so I picked the second opening and waited for her to appear in my sights. When she did, I fired. I knew I hit her good, as I could see the wound the bullet made as she dashed off toward the swamp. The other two deer lingered around for about 20 minutes; I couldn't believe they didn't run off. When they eventually left the area, I waited a bit longer and then climbed down to go find the deer I shot. Amazingly, when I got to the place where I shot her, there was no blood. None. Not one ounce. I couldn't believe it! Did I miss? No way! I could see the wound when she took off, and I heard her crashing around like a deer does when it has been shot. I was even sure I heard her fall. But, still - no blood? How in the world could that be? I started second guessing myself. Maybe my eyes and ears were playing tricks on me. Maybe I had missed again. I was standing up when I shot her and had nothing to steady myself, so maybe I just flat out missed. Then, I started wondering if my scope was off and regretted not sighting it in this year. I thought about following the path she took after I shot her, but decided that I should wait a bit. Maybe I hadn't hit her very good and I didn't want to push her away. So, I climbed back up into my stand, called my dad and let him know what had happened. We hunted for another hour or so and he came over to help me search.
When I showed him the place where I shot her, he was just as amazed as I was that there was no blood. But, after telling him about seeing the wound and about hearing her crash and fall, he said, "Blood or no blood, she has to be lying dead over there somewhere." So, we began heading in the direction she ran off and, less than five minutes later, I found her. She wasn't more than fifty yards away from where I shot her. And the wound was very visible - I knew I had seen it! She was a big girl, the largest doe we had ever seen. And now, having found her without there being any blood to indicate that she had been shot (the only spots of blood we found were within 10-20 feet of where she fell - I still can't believe that), I thought we might have similar luck finding the big buck I had shot at the evening before, but we didn't. But, after bagging this big doe and ensuring that we'll be eating some tasty venison again this year, I didn't feel nearly as bad about missing him as I did the evening before. And, who knows, maybe he'd show up again . . .
A few pics of the big doe I was blessed to bag:
I saw one more doe Tuesday morning before my dad came over to help me get the one I shot out of the woods, but nothing on Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday. My dad's luck was even worse. He saw not a single deer until this morning (Saturday) - more on that later.
On Thursday morning, around 8:20 a.m., I noticed some movement way out in the valley to the left of me and, lo and behold, it was the same big buck I had shot at Monday evening. I couldn't believe I was seeing him again, but I was thrilled that he showed up, since that confirmed for me that I had missed before and he wasn't somewhere out there in the woods lying dead, and it gave me another chance to bag him. This guy is huge - massive body, large rack with a very wide spread (don't know how many points he has, but I'm guessing 10 or 12). Unfortunately, the big guy never gave me a shot this time. He stayed way out there in the valley and there were just too many obstacles between him and me. I had one slim chance of getting a shot, but I didn't take it, hoping that he would turn and come into my area. He didn't. He moseyed through the valley and into the narrow gully through which I walk to get to my blind. I tried calling and rattling him back in, but he wasn't buying it. He was too busy doing this:
My uncle, Art, made it to camp late Wednesday night and was on the hunt with us Thursday morning. I heard him shoot just before 8:00 a.m., just before Big Daddy came walking through my area, and he was successful in bagging a smaller doe with that shot. So, we had two deer hanging in camp by lunch on Thursday:
None of us saw anything Thursday night or all day Friday. I heard a bunch of deer to the south of me in the swamp late Friday evening, but they never came out. Lots of sitting in the cold and staring at empty woods this year. Thank God the squirrels and woodpeckers provided entertainment. Even when you're not seeing a lot of deer, there's still nothing like being out in the woods and watching God's creatures at work and play.
This morning (Saturday), I stayed in to write my sermon for this Sunday and my dad went out to sit in my blind. He had gone a long time without seeing a deer in the woods - 14 days (9 last year, 5 this year). But, don't feel too bad for him. When he does see a deer, it's usually a big 8-pointer and he successfully bags it - he's taken two beauties in the last four years, the first of which was simply a monster that we named, quite aptly, "Brutus." Still, 14 days of hard hunting is a long spell to go without seeing anything, so we figured we might change his luck if he sat in my blind. We were hoping that he would get a shot at the monster I saw twice in the week.
Well, he didn't see the monster, but around 8:20 a.m., he had a 4-pointer come in that he could have easily taken (he said the buck was so close he could have jumped on him). But, he let him go, much to the disappointment of my uncle and myself. Had either of us been sitting there, we would have nailed that buck, but I guess my dad won't shoot anything unless it has 8 or more points (I think he thinks that he's on one of those hunting shows - you know, where they have the privilege of letting buck after buck go by, since they know they'll eventually see the big one - we ain't on one of those hunting shows, dad! :) Oh well, at least he finally got to see a deer! And, if that 4-pointer survives the winter and other hunters this year, who knows what he'll be next year.
I didn't get to go out this afternoon before returning home. Got a phone call from Tanarae, a dear member whose father, Earl, I've been providing pastoral care for the last few weeks, and returned home to pay him a visit. Earl made the decision to stop dialysis this week and is getting weaker every day. Today was his 83rd birthday and he was blessed to be surrounded by family to celebrate the occasion. It was his hope and prayer that the Lord would grant him to see this last birthday, and so He has. He also wanted to receive the Holy Sacrament of our Lord's Body and Blood with his family before being called home, and the Lord granted this blessing tonight as well. What a blessing to bring the Gospel in Word and Meal at times like this! Earl is surely not long for this world, but he is ready to go home. And, what an extra joy it is to serve in the midst of a family that speaks the same language of the faith together. We had Divine Service this evening and everybody there knew the Holy Liturgy by heart. There will be many tears shed by this family in the days to come, but they will not grieve like those who have no hope. They know where Earl is going and the Holy Gospel which assures them of that will get them through.
As for the rest of the hunting report, my dad told me that neither he nor Art saw anything this afternoon. They will go out tomorrow for one last shot before closing up camp for another year and heading home. If it works out, I may head over there for the evening hunt tomorrow - I'd love to get one last chance at Big Daddy! Is it possible to see the same big buck three times in a week? We'll see . . .
By the way, here's the best part of hunting (besides the time spent with loved ones and memories made, of course):
Tenderloin dinner for my dad and me Tuesday night - doesn't get much better than this!
Heart and Liver dinner for the three of us Thursday night - absolutely, out-of-this-world, delicious!