BREAK ALL THE RULES__GET A BUCK
Don Schroder HHI # 2813
Unlike my last two stories, this does not involve christening another new handgun. Also, it begins with an archery hunt as sort of a prologue to my handgun hunt. The scene is the same beautiful private land south of Montgomery, Alabama, where my son, Michael, and I have been privileged to hunt as guests; a nine hour drive from our homes on the west coast of Florida.
The weather was sunny and a lot warmer than I would have liked for this October bow hunt. We set up our camp, consisting of two popup campers and a kitchen fly, near a large oak on a hill where we might enjoy a little breeze. Then, Michael, I, and our two regular hunting buddies separated to scout for places to hunt. The distance from our homes prevented advance scouting, but I soon found two promising spots for the afternoon hunt. After a brief rest in camp, I fastened my backpack to my climbing treestand, loaded the combination on my back, picked up my bow and headed for the nearest of my selected spots.
By the time I had climbed 18 feet, fastened my backpack around the tree, and pulled up my bow, I was feeling the effects of our long drive, camp setup, and scouting. But, not long afterward all feelings of fatigue disappeared as I heard the sounds of heavy footsteps in the leaves. And, heavy they proved to be! As I slowly turned my head, expecting to see a big buck approaching from behind, I was startled to see a large bull. I’m no cowhand, but from my perspective he seemed to be a monster with awesome horns. The sonofagun fed right at the base of my tree for far too long, and I further disturbed the area trying to chase him away.
Disgusted, I lowered all my gear, climbed down, repacked it all on my back and hiked to my second spot. Having completed my second climb and gotten my gear organized, I was ready for a little relaxation. I decided to read a little and let the woods quiet down. After a short while, I was feeling better and regretting the way my temper had got a little out of hand over the bull. Suddenly, SPLAATT! My open book and my hat were covered with a multicolored mess that could only have come from a bird as large as an Osprey! Obviously, this was not my day.
But, in a way it was. Before dark, I arrowed a nice doe. That persuaded me to hunt that stand again on the last day of our hunt. That time I saw a beautiful 8pt, but couldn’t get a clear shot. Soon after he left, I arrowed another buck, and during the blood trailing of that one, my son and I discovered a great looking spot where no less than five trails came together, and the ground was a mass of tracks. This had to be where that large 8pt came from. Discovered too late to hunt this trip, it would be remembered for my next handgun hunt.
We set up the same camp for our gun season hunt. Each of our regular companions enjoyed success, and had to leave camp early to attend holiday functions. This left Michael and me alone for the last day of the hunt. Michael has taken a couple of deer with a Ruger Super Blackhawk, but prefers to hunt with his rifle. He is a fine hunter, and has collected a number of trophies that I admire every time I am in his home. He bagged a beautiful 7pt the evening before we discussed plans for our next outing. He asked me where I would like to hunt that afternoon, and I said I’d like to try the spot we found during archery season, hoping to see the big 8pt again. Mike smiled and said he was also thinking of hunting that spot. We decided to flip a coin. I won the toss, and he jokingly asked if I would like to try for two out of three coin tosses, evoking my smile in return.
As we gathered our gear, I suggested that Mike should go ahead and hunt that spot, as I knew of another that looked promising. He declined, saying that I won the toss fair and square. Later, I again offered the spot to him. He declined, but said that I’d better not offer it a third time. As we separated, Mike said, “Dad, I know you like to pull that trigger, but don’t shoot the first deer you see. That 8pt is probably still in that area, so hold out for him”.
I carried my climber into the swampy area and located the spot, but the woods were thick and I became frustrated in search of a climbable tree that would give me the view of the intersection of the trails. Becoming concerned that I was spreading scent in the area, I made a poor decision and climbed the most difficult tree I’ve ever climbed. I’m not sure, but I think it was a shag bark hickory as it sure had a shaggy bark that kept snagging my stand as I climbed. To top it off, I couldn’t see the desired area after I was up in that tree. Sweating, I descended and spread more scent as I checked other trees. Finally, I climbed another tree which required sawing several limbs. Confident that I had really screwed up this spot, I settled down to wait with diminished expectations. I felt as though I had done everything wrong.
Ah, but who can predict what deer will do on a particular occasion. This afternoon, the deer ignored all my bumbling errors. First a spike appeared, feeding to my right front. The slight breeze was in my favor. Soon after, three does appeared to my left front. The spike moved closer until he was as the base of my tree, even feeding on the leaves of the limbs I’d cut off. I could spit on him and knew he should bolt any minute. Another spike and a 4pt arrived on the scene and fed to my left within 10 yards of my tree. What was going on? All these deer were feeding where I had walked my sweaty body back and forth trying to select a tree. By all the rules of deer hunting, if there are any, these deer should be snorting and running away waving their tails at me.
I was standing and trying not to breathe, afraid to move. But, something prompted me to slowly turn my head to look over my left shoulder. Maybe it was a slight sound as there were four deer coming out of the thicket and one was stamping its foot. They were downwind, and very nervous, and would probably have bolted but for the calming presence of the other deer they saw feeding around me. My heart jumped when I saw a patch of white throat and antlers in the thicket. This had to be the big 8pt I was hoping for. It was now or never, as I knew the scent was flowing toward them and these deer were about to scatter.
I took a deep breath and raised my Freedom Arms 454 casull, turning to shoot behind my left shoulder. There he was. The big 8pt was sneaking away through an opening behind me. The 300Gr Hornady XTP pushed by 32 Grs of W296 entered his left side on a quartering away angle, exiting just in front of his right leg. He was down on the spot, 45 yards away. My heart was pounding, and I was really shaking as I tried to remain prepared for a second shot, should one be needed.
After admiring this beautiful animal I said a few prayers of thanks, and then turned my attention to the problem of dragging him out of the woods. I was really pumped up. I grabbed hold of his antlers and gave a mighty heave to start the drag. My feet slipped out from under me, and I fell in the mud while he hardly moved. About that time I reminded myself that not too long before, I had my coronary arteries reamed out, and I needed to pace myself. From then on it was drag ten yards, catch my breath, drag another ten, and repeat until I reached the edge of the woods.
At dark, Michael brought our truck to within 50 yards of where I left the buck. He greeted me with, “Well, I heard you shoot. What did you get?” I replied, “Michael, I know you wanted me to hold out and not shoot the first buck I saw. I tried, but I don’t have your patience. I passed at least 10 deer, but couldn’t stand it any longer and shot the next buck that appeared. He may not be a big trophy by your standards, but I’m satisfied.” We walked to the buck and shined a light on him. I can’t write Mike’s exclamation, but he was as excited and as happy as I was. I asked him to drag the buck the rest of the way to the truck. After a few yards, he stopped and said, “Hey, come give me a hand. This suckers heavy”. Together we completed the drag and manhandled the buck into the truck. I was on cloud nine, but I do believe Mike out celebrated me at the campfire that night.