How do you kill a Monster Buck? Be Thankful and take a Good Luck Charm!
My story starts a little over a year ago around early to mid November 2010. I had been hunting pretty hard for about two weeks because rut was in full swing and everyone was seeing the bucks chasing doe every time they headed into the woods. Myself, I had seen some deer and even the occasional small buck, but nothing I really wanted to shoot. Prior to the season opening, I had spent the time and money to plant food plots, put up stands, put out trail cameras, and do all the things that hunters do to get ready for the season, and now that rut was here I expected some results. I was getting frustrated because I was putting forth such great effort and doing everything I thought was right. Then one day my son Drew said he wanted to go deer hunting with me. Well, that made my day because going hunting with my son was one thing that I had looked forward to doing ever since he was born. Some of my best memories as a child were of times I spent hunting with my Uncle J. So Drew and I headed out one afternoon to the hunting club. The hunt was pretty much uneventful (as most of my hunts had been) and we didn’t see anything. One thing that I did learn is when you take a six year old deer hunting you must take plenty to keep him occupied. We had snacks, drinks, toys, crayons, and coloring books. Heck, he even peed out the back of the stand. It was that or leave after hunting only thirty minutes, so he let it rip and I just hoped we were downwind from the deer. That first trip was definitely a memorable experience, and he and I both enjoyed it so he asked if he could go again. I told him yes, and in my mind I resigned to the fact that each time I took him the hunt was over before it started, but I wanted him with me and I thought somehow there was an outside chance something good might happen.
It was a Thursday night and I told him that I was going hunting in the morning if he wanted to go. He said he did want to go. I told him that I was only going to call him once to get up and he better be ready. Deep down I was hoping he would choose to go another time because this particular morning was supposed to be the best day to hunt because the GON magazine said it was and the weather had just turned cold again and everyone said this was the weekend. Five thirty Friday morning came and I called once, twice, and on the third time he sprung up and said, “Don’t leave me!” and started to get dressed. I had already packed the snacks, drinks, toys, crayons, coloring books, and Nintendo DS game to help keep him occupied in case he really did get up. We got dressed and we were off. It was amazing, it was almost six o’clock in the morning and he was wide open making plans on how we were going to kill a big ole buck. Asking question after question like, “How are we going to shoot a deer in the dark?”, “If I throw my pop tart out of the stand will the deer come eat it?”, “If he does can we shoot it?” I said no son, that’s what corn is for (hey… it’s legal now). Finally we parked the truck and got out, and it was cold, very cold. We walked to the stand in the pitch black dark. We both had our lights on our hats, but Drew wanted to carry a flashlight just in case his head light went out so he wouldn’t be left in the dark. We got to the stand and unpacked all our stuff. At first he was looking all around shining the flashlight out into the food plot looking for deer. I convinced him to settle down and eat a pop tart and play his game until the sun came up. Around fifteen minutes later the sun did come up, and it was the coolest sun rise I’ve ever seen because I watched it with my son. We took a break from all the other stuff we brought and I had the chance to explain how, why, and where the sun rises and sets. For a few brief minutes we watched the world wake up….then he looked at me and said….”Can I play my game now?” He started playing his game and about twenty minutes after day break a little basket rack eight point stepped out into the food plot. I quickly nudged Drew and took out his ear phones and instructed him to stand up and look at the deer. He immediately started asking questions. “Where did he come from?” “Does he know we are here?” “Are you going to shoot him?” “Can I scare him?” “Why don’t you shoot him?” “You said if we see one with horns we would shoot him! So shoot him!” I told him that he was too small and we wanted to wait on a bigger buck. Drew informed me that I told him we would shoot one with horns and that one had horns. For the next ten to fifteen minutes we watched and debated on whether or not we should shoot the deer and eventually the little eight point disappeared into the woods. Drew was a little aggravated with me because we were deer hunting for a deer with horns and we had one right in front of us and we didn’t do anything. The whole idea of what just happened didn’t make any sense to him. Finally, he went back to playing his game. Five minutes later, a big, wide, heavy eight point buck comes sprinting out into the food plot and puts on the breaks right where the basket eight had been feeding. This was a shooter buck and it was obvious that this deer was not going to hang around very long. I immediately punched (not nudged) Drew and said, “There he is son; hold your ears just like I told you.” I threw up my Browning .270, found the deer in the scope, waited for him to stop walking, and BOOM!! The deer spun around and took off into the woods. I know I hit him because there was an exit wound very visible as he made his way back across the food plot. I looked at Drew and said, “What did you think about that?” He said, “Daddy, you shot before I could hold my ears! What was that big red spot on his side? Where did he go? Did you miss him? Can we go shoot him again?” I explained that we had to wait a little while before we could go into the woods to recover him, and believe me, that was the longest wait ever. We did go to the site where I shot him and found some blood. I marked the spot where the deer was hit and we went to get the truck and made some phone calls telling some fellow hunters that Drew and I had a good one down. Around 45 minutes after the shot was fired we started looking and quickly found our Trophy. It was a good day that I will always remember not only because of the big buck, but because Drew and I harvested the big buck together! See the attached pictures.
Fast forward a year to November 2011. Again, I’m in the woods as often as I can be and most of the time Drew is with me. He seems to really enjoy deer hunting and if he puts in to go I make sure I make the arrangement s for him to have all his items to keep him occupied and quiet. I have even purchased him a youth model .223 so maybe he can harvest his own first deer. He is not the greatest shot right now but he gets better every time we practice shooting at targets. One Sunday afternoon I asked Drew if he wanted to go hunting with me and he said that he did not. As soon as those words came out of his mouth my little girl Emmy says, “I want to go hunting with you, Daddy.” Now, Emmy is four years old, and I waited until Drew was six before I ever thought about taking him. But it’s very hard for daddy to say no to his little princess, especially when the only reason is “you’re just too young”. That answer was not going over very well with her or me to be quite honest. So, I agreed to take her down to a little area less than a quarter mile behind my house where I had put up a stand and planted a food plot. I figured that by going down there we could ride the Polaris and when she got ready to go we could go. Just like last year, I didn’t have much confidence in the success of the hunt. My plan was to get in the stand about a quarter to five so we wouldn’t have to sit there long. I packed up all the snacks, drinks, toys, and her Leapster game to help keep her quiet so maybe we could see something. As I was getting all her items together I quickly realized that this trip was not about hunting to her. It was more about what “Hunting Costume” she was going to wear. She changed a few times because she didn’t like the way her pants that I bought her looked. After mixing and matching the camo that I had bought her and some of Drew’s camo that he had when he was that size, she finally had her “Hunting Costume” ready. Oh, she was still not ready; her mama had to fix her hair. She had to get her pony tail fixed so she could wear her Browning hat with the pink trim. When her “Hunting Costume” and her hair were just right, we loaded up on the Polaris to take several pictures (because of course we have to get pictures on an occasion like this). We finally made the two minute drive to the stand. When we got there and started walking to the stand I realized that Emmy is having trouble walking in the brush. The brush wasn’t that tall but Emmy stands at a whopping three feet tall and she was having trouble keeping up. So, now I’m carrying a bag that is three times bigger than usual because of all of her stuff, my rifle, and my new hunting buddy. We made it to the stand and climbed on in, and, just like Drew one year ago, she starts asking questions. “Where are the deer?” “What is that black thing out there?” (Feeders are legal in 2011) “Are the deer in the woods?” “Kill that spider!” I start unpacking everything and she is walking around, sticking her head out of each window of the stand, and climbing in and out of my lap. After about thirty minutes, everything is going just as I expected, plenty of noise and no deer. We did have a cow from a neighboring land owner get through a hole in the fence feeding in the food plot. Emmy was quick to point out that that was a cow and not a deer and we shouldn’t shoot it. With the cow and everything else going on, the afternoon was still great because my little princess and I were deer hunting. For the next little while she played the Leapster, we watched some Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber YouTube videos on my Motorola X2 Android device, talked about numerous subjects, some having to do with deer hunting but mostly about other things. Then she climbed in my lap and lay across my chair and I held her as if she was a newborn about to take a nap. This was my favorite part of the entire hunt, I told her that I loved her and she said she loved me and for the next five minutes I stared out into the food plot and she stared up at the roof of the deer stand with the only sounds being the occasional squirrel and the wind gently blowing through the trees. At that point, the hunt was a total success to me, although I still wanted her to see a deer. But if we didn’t, I really didn’t care. Then those big South Georgia mosquitoes started flying and Emmy declared that it was time to go. Even though there was about fifteen more minutes of good light, I didn’t argue with her and I started packing up. The previous five minutes of silence was broken by the sound of talking, zippers zipping, jackets being put on, and feet climbing down the ladder. Finally we were on the ground and were ready to head back home. As we started to walk away from the stand I noticed that the cow had moved out of the food plot and closer to the woods. Then I looked closer and realized that the cow was actually still in the food plot and that what I saw was a deer. I quickly told Emmy to be still and not move a muscle. When I first saw the deer he had his head down so I didn’t know if it was a buck or a doe. Then he picked his head up, and everything changed! If you are a deer hunter, you know what I’m talking about. I went from a Daddy who was enjoying an afternoon in the woods with his daughter to a Daddy who was enjoying an afternoon in the woods with his daughter and was about to lay the smack down on the biggest buck he had ever laid his eyes on. I’m telling you the truth, my little princess did so good; she didn’t move a muscle and didn’t say a word. I think she was amazed that her Daddy’s behavior could change so fast. I can still see her face with her eyes wide open waiting for my next instructions to her. She sat quietly on the ground beside the stand while I got my binoculars out of my bag. I wanted to get a good look at the deer to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. When I got him in view I confirmed that this was indeed a shooter buck. I threw my binoculars down and picked up my gun and found the deer in the scope. Then, I realized that Emmy was standing right underneath my feet and I couldn’t shoot over her head so I put my gun down and picked her up and sat her about five feet behind me next to a tree and told her, “You’re doing great, just be still and don’t say anything”. I then turned back around hoping the buck was still there and he was. I picked up my Browning .270 and found him in the scope again. At this point the deer was in the brush at about 200 yards and walking toward the food plot. I watched him in the scope and debated with myself… should I shoot now or let him get closer? If I let him get closer he may pick up our scent and run off; there is a cow ready to meet him in the food plot (don’t know how that will work out); Emmy is bound to break her silence soon (she still hasn’t seen the deer, she’s too short); what to do, what to …. BOOM!! I decided to go ahead and shoot. The deer falls then gets up and makes his way into the woods. I don’t know if I hit him or missed him. I am beside myself and my little princess is just sitting by the tree eyes wide open and watching. Emmy asked, “Did you shoot a deer Daddy?” I said, “Baby, I shot at him and I hope I hit him; we will have to go see.” I told her how good she did and we packed everything back up and headed to the Polaris. We took our time getting back to the Polaris and once we loaded up we went to look and see if I hit the buck or just scared him really bad. After looking for a few minutes I found some blood with a good trail and I knew he was down somewhere close. By this time it was dark and the mosquitoes were out in full force so I threw my orange vest on the ground to mark the site of the shot and headed to the house. I dropped Emmy off at home with Jennifer and Drew and called my buddy Nate and told him to get ready we were about to track a deer. Nate and I met up about twenty minutes later and went back to the site of the blood trail and very quickly found the biggest buck that I have ever harvested. We loaded him up in the Polaris and soon were joined by Stan and Robert who were there to help, but the job had already been done. We all stood around admiring the buck. Then Nate pointed out that I shot the buck through the neck and asked if that was where I was aiming. I said, “Yeah...yeah, the neck, that is exactly where I was aiming”. Nate, Stan, and Robert all said that they didn’t believe me and we headed back to the house to show my new hunting buddy what she and I had harvested. See the attached pictures.
I wrote these two stories because I can’t get these two events out of my mind and am amazed that I have had such good experiences. A lot of people hunt for years and don’t kill one buck like these. I can’t explain it but I have been thinking about it a lot and I felt like I needed to put my thoughts in writing so I could share it with anyone who was interested and would take the time to read it. I’m certainly not an authority on how one should live or on deer hunting. I enjoy all types of hunting, and I’m particularly proud of the two bucks that I was fortunate enough to harvest in two consecutive years. I’m most proud of the way it all went down with Drew and Emmy. Drew and I have a deer on the wall and now Emmy and I will have a deer on the wall, and I think that is pretty cool. I don’t know why or how it happened, but I do know that all the time that I had spent working toward killing a big buck was beginning to feel like work! I was going hunting because I felt I had to, because I’ve put all this effort into it and I can’t stop now. Sometimes it wasn’t even fun, but the minute I stopped caring so much about the results and started enjoying everything around me it just happened. Was it just chance? Maybe. Was it that my efforts finally paid off? Could be. Was it the Lord telling me to stop focusing on myself and everything I’ve done and start being thankful for and enjoying what he has given me? I like to think so. So I’m going to keep planting my food plots, putting up stands, and going to the woods every chance I get but now with a little different attitude. Next time you are sitting in the deer stand, the duck blind, in the boat, or in the dove field, I encourage you to pay attention to your surroundings and think about all the things that God has put in front of you that you may have never thanked him for. As hunters and outdoorsmen, we get to see things in the world that a lot of people who do not share our passion for the outdoors don’t get to see. So going forward, why don’t we try to enjoy everything that God has created and blessed us with; like our wife and children, friends who care about us, every sunrise we get to see, every sunset we get to watch, the changing seasons, the small bucks that we let walk so they can grow another year, the fog that lifts off the water while we are sitting on the river bank waiting on the woodies to come in, the mallards that circle as they try to decide if they want to come down as the sun shines on that green head, the big bass that just rolled and told us where to make our next cast, the turkeys that like to hang out in my food plot and under the stand when it seems like they know it’s not their season, the donkey up on the hill that likes to let the world know where he is late in the evening right at dark, the train going by on the tracks that are three miles away but sounds like it’s just across the power line, the shot fired by my buddy on the other side of the club because he finally got was he has been hunting for!
Remember, be thankful and take a good luck charm hunting with you when you can!
Hal W. – November 2011