Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Favorite Deer Hunting Story

The year was 1999.  On Opening Day (November 15), my dad, my uncle, and I headed for the woods.  It was a glorious morning - a little crisp, but lots of sunshine.  And, it was a very active morning - my dad and I saw many deer passing between us during the first hours of the morning (his blind was only a couple hundred yards to the south of the old tree in which I used to sit), but none of these deer had any antlers attached to their heads, so we had to let them pass us by (no doe permits that year).  Because it was such an active morning, I was in "ready-standby" mode (fellow hunters know what that means), making myself as invisible as I could and especially tuned in to my surroundings.   

Then, things got exciting.  I heard the loud crunching of leaves directly behind me, and the sound was getting louder by the second, until whatever it was making the noise had to be less than twenty feet behind me.  I slowly - very slowly! - turned my head to take a peek, being careful to use the large tree trunk to shield my movement.  I was hoping to see a big buck coming right for me, but instead, it was my uncle!  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I hadn't looked at my watch in a while, but I knew it wasn't anywhere near lunch time yet, and my uncle, dedicated hunter that he is, never leaves his blind before noon on opening day.

"What the heck are you doing, Art?" I asked.  "I've spent the whole damn morning trying to find a place to hunt!  Everywhere I've gone, another hunter was there.  They're everywhere!"  He wasn't having a very good morning, to say the least.  "That's strange," I said, "I haven't seen any other hunters over here, but I have seen a bunch of deer this morning."  He went on to say that he was going to try to find a spot over by the swamp and he figured he'd stop by and see how I was doing.  

I looked at my watch.  It was a little after ten, far too early to be taking a break on Opening Day.  But, given the interruption, I climbed down out of my tree and sat down with my uncle.  We had a cup of hot chocolate together and snacked on some cookies, and were laughing and carrying on, when all of a sudden, we hear this crashing coming right at us from behind the hill where we were sitting.  We both turned and looked, and here came this beautiful 8-point buck right at us.  The rack on this guy was spectacular - huge spread, long tines, and perfectly symmetrical.  When the buck noticed us, he stopped and stared us down.  He was less than twenty feet from us.  The dilemma:  We're both holding cookies and cups of hot chocolate in our hands.  My rifle is laying on the ground behind me; my uncle's is perched against a tree about five feet from where he was sitting.  Simultaneously, we both looked at each other in amazement at what we were witnessing.  The buck just stood there, glaring at us.  Then, he started snorting and stomping his front hooves.  He was one ticked off deer!  We thought he was going to charge us.  In all our years of hunting, neither of us had ever seen anything like this.

But, the buck didn't charge us.  Instead, he snorted one last time and starting stomping down the runway around us, never taking his gaze away from us.  He was moving rather slowly, so I slowly began to put down the cookie and cup I was holding in my hands and reached for my rifle behind me.  After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably less than ten seconds or so, I finally had my rifle in position and was ready to take aim, but as soon as I brought it up to get the shot, the buck sprinted into the swamp.  I took the shot anyway, but missed.  What a bummer!  This was a beautiful buck - a trophy!  To make matters worse, about a minute after the buck disappeared from our sight, we heard a shot.  Less than a minute after that shot, we heard a guy celebrating back in the swamp.  He had obviously taken this beauty down.

My uncle and I sat there on that hill still shocked and amazed at what we had witnessed.  That buck was visibly angry that we were in his way, and he wasn't going to let us prevent him from getting to the swamp.  After the shock and awe began to subside, I turned to my uncle and said, "You idiot!  That buck would have been mine had you not come over here and ruined my hunt!"  His response:  "What do you mean?  I lured that big guy over here for ya!"  As we were discussing this, laughing and carrying on, we heard some movement to the south of us.  This time we were both ready for whatever would appear over the hill.  But, it weren't no deer this time.  It was my dad.

"Did you get him?" he asked, excitedly.  I said, "Nope!"  "Wow," my dad said, "that was one beautiful buck, wasn't it?"  "Why, did you see him?" I asked.  "Yeah, about ten minutes before I heard you shoot, he was standing no less than ten feet from me."  "Well, what happened?  Why didn't you shoot him?" I asked.  "Because I was taking a leak at the time.  I had to pee all morning, but held it as long as I could, especially with all the activity going on.  Did you see all those deer earlier between us?"  "Yeah," I said, "they were putting on quite the show for us this morning."  "Anyway," he continued, "I couldn't hold it anymore, so I finally stood up, headed over to the base of the hill by my blind, and started to pee.  And, as soon as it started flowing, that 8-point beauty came running down the hill right at me.  He literally got to within ten feet of my blind before he noticed me.  But, when he saw me, he stopped, turned around, bolted back up the hill, and started heading your way.  I was hoping that he'd try to head for the swamp over by you, and when I heard you shoot, I was sure you bagged him.  What happened?"

Art and I told him our story, and my dad got a huge kick out of it, although we were all greatly disappointed that this big guy had eluded us.  Later in the day, we met the guy who had bagged this buck, and as he lifted up this big buck's head, the first words out of his mouth were, "I'm having this fella mounted!"  I think we all said in unison, "Whatever, dude!" :)


Logan said...

An old Bear Hunting Guide told me its the hunt you remember the most...not the kill. If you would have killed that 8pt. look at all the work you would have to do. Dressing the deer, dragging it out of the woods...Lisa would be dusting the mount hanging in the living room for here until you're old and decrepit.

BTW good luck to you on the 15th! Remember to keep your gun cased when traveling in the truck this year!

Scott Diekmann said...

And the moral of the story, whether you're a hunter, or a Christian, is always be ready! I remember walking through the wide open spaces of a plowed field with my dad one time when a pheasant got up. What's a pheasant doing in the middle of a plowed field? I was carrying my gun down at my side - way too late to get the pheasant! I made the same mistake with one of my friends. We had just finished walking an unpicked corn field, had turned around, and were headed back for the car. Again, I had my gun down by my side. This time it was a different result. As I swung my gun up, which was probably a rather futile gesture at that point, I must have accidentally hit the trigger and the old 12 gauge went off while I only had my right hand on it, sort of pistol-style. Amazingly, I hit the pheasant. Neither of us could believe it. I think hunting exists so hunters can tell stories.

sag said...

The only sad part about that story is that somebody killed the deer.

roger said...

And the moral of the story is learn to hunt out west where the shots are a bit longer, but the deer don't often surprise you while you are taking your breaks!

Jim Pierce said...

This is a great story! Thanks Pr. Messer.

I was out hunting with friends some years back and we set up shop on a knoll which had excellent position over a small creek. We knew exactly where we were going, so went in the darkness of early morning, no flashlights, basically crawled our way to our spots. The sun started peeking up over the mountains and we got ready. Just as the creek and valley in front of us was clearly visible me and my buddies heard some rustling in the bushes in front of us, then we heard some whispers to our left, and finally we could see the red hats of other hunters to our right. So, we stood up and left. Obviously our hunting spot had been "discovered." :) We got two deer that day. Not as good as your story, but I still laugh about it.

roger said...

My greatest story: Elk hunting in the Uintah Mountains of Utah. Son and I arrived one and 1/2 hours before sunrise. Walked about 6 miles one direction and than another 3 another direction. We sat and waited. Didn't see an elk all day, but we sure could smell them. They were close but not close enough. Course, I never expected one to come close enough for a shot because some hunter in front of me about 100 yeads was smoking. All animals have great smelling abilities and knowledge of what is human. He never knew we were there. As he left, he stumbled upon me, sitting against a tree, and almost jumbed out of his pants!!! So much for being aware of your surroundings!!! We saw a lot of elk later of the female kind and not listed on the tag!!!