The Deer That Hooked Me!
After talking about it for several years, 2008 was the year it would happen… I was going deer hunting! My good friend kept telling me: “Just say the word. I will put you in ‘the big woods’.” I had been reading on the internet, buying magazines, and I was always watching hunting shows on TV. I had recently purchased some insulated rubber boots, along with some warm camo, which I diligently washed in the scent free detergent. I would be using a Remington 870 12-guage, which was dialed in with the slugs I intended to use. My license and tags were in my pocket, the only thing left to do was to hunt!
It was cold on opening morning of gun season in NW Ohio. I arrived early, and then changed into my new hunting gear, which I had stored in a Rubbermaid tote. As I was walking to the stand, I passed a guy with bloodshot eyes who was sitting in a lawn chair smoking a cigarette. He confronted me about who I was and what I was doing. I returned the favor by asking who he was; it was not a pleasant conversation to say the least! He informed me that he was not allowed in the woods, that he only had permission to sit in the field outside of the woods. (Later, I would come to find out he was not even allowed to be there!) After our conversation, I attempted to climb in to my stand. It hadn’t been hunted since the year before, and was now missing some steps and looking pretty ragged. Due to the condition of the stand, I opted to stay on the ground. Although I could hear gun shots in the distance, all was quiet where I was positioned. However, it didn’t matter to me though, “I was hunting deer!”
The next day, I was unable to get out and hunt in the morning. I returned late the next afternoon and sat in a stand with the wind in my face. I knew I needed to be downwind of any deer, so I was pleased to feel the wind blowing towards my position. I didn’t think the tree stand I was using provided a very good view. My buddy had mentioned another stand deeper in the woods about 40-50 yards west of me and I began to wonder what the view was like from that stand. I decided to stay in the old ladder stand along the edge, staring in all directions the entire hunt. I kept my ears perked for the sound of anything resembling a deer. Occasionally I would hear a tree limb crack and stand up thinking it was my chance at a deer, only to see nothing. I was persistent though, and stayed on stand without moving anymore than I had to in order to keep warm. Then I saw it… I saw a deer! It was a quick glimpse, which made me wonder if I was seeing things. Nope! “There is a buck following the first deer!” I said to myself. That was when I saw a darn good buck following the doe and boy was he on a mission! Unfortunately, they were appeared and disappeared so quickly, I never had a shot. Suddenly, I remembered the other stand my buddy told me about and I knew where I was going to hunt on day three!
As luck would have it, day three didn’t start the way I anticipated either. I had to get the kids off to school and once I did, I somehow fell back to sleep. Dang! Well… “Better late than not at all” I thought, so I headed out to find the tree stand my buddy had told me about. I wanted to sit closer to where I had seen the buck the day before. After finding the new stand, I was nestled in around 10AM. I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard some gun shots in the distance to the west of me, but that was about it. Then I heard some noise! I stood up and saw a deer coming towards me in a hurry! A small doe (looking back it was probably a yearling) came running up and stopped to catch her breath. Her tongue was hanging out and she looked in all directions, and then took off again in a little less of a hurry this time. I contemplated shooting her until she was finally gone. She just wasn’t very big and I still had the rest of the week to hunt. I began to wonder: “Did I make a mistake?”
Fast forward thirty minutes and a twig snapping on the forest floor had me on my feet again in the tree stand. It was now 11:15AM and I saw another deer coming my way. Then I saw another; and another, and another until a total of five does were coming my way, and they were not alone! The group of does were upwind of me and made a semi-circle around my stand. They came in from the west and exited heading north just inside the tree line by 40 yards or so. The buck following the group parted ways with them and moved to my south where I was unable to see him anymore. I watched all five does make their way through the woods and was not sure what to do at this point. I could have shot any of them at 35 yards. “Where did the buck go?” I wondered. This cannot be happening! I made a decision not to shoot and remembered reading about how “sometimes a bigger buck will follow behind them and show up later.” Well, it never happened. However, as the last doe exited my shooting lane and was heading north, I caught movement to the southwest in my peripheral vision. That buck was walking back to the point where he had parted company with them! I knew if he followed the same path they did, that I would have a clear broadside shot at 35 yards just before he would turn to head north towards the does! I watched him as he carefully surveyed the area. I was praying he would not see me move, hear my heart pounding, or smell the turd that was about to slide down my pant leg! He began to move towards me and at this point, my left leg was shaking like crazy from the knee down. He was starting to take the same path the does had taken! I slowly turned into position while he was behind some trees and brush, and was ready to take aim and squeeze the trigger when he reached the opening. I was steady (other than the left leg shaking), the gun was off safe and I was on the ready! I was following him with the open sights when he hit the opening I was watching. Once he was in the opening and broadside, I squeezed the trigger and watched that buck mule kick and take off!
I was in a surreal moment from the first crack of the gun. I immediately racked another round into the chamber and fired, but he was like a bulldozer going straight through the trees and I was sure I the second shot was a clean miss. I made a phone call to my buddy telling him I’d shot a buck. He said: “Was he big? How many points? Does he fit the rules of the farm?” I responded with a: “Yep! 8 or 10 points. And wider than the ears.” My buddy was in a big meeting and couldn’t break loose to help me right away. He told me to hang out until he got there and he would give me a hand. After calming down, eating my lunch, making more phone calls and waiting an hour and fifteen minutes, I decided to track him down. This was all new to me, but I had been reading and was confident I could do it. I found first blood and began following the trail. More blood! Then turned over leaves and more blood followed! I continued following the blood trail and the bulldozer path the buck had left for about 60-75 yards, until I finally saw him laying there crumpled up on the forest floor!
At this moment, it truly felt like I was in slow motion. I looked at the buck and marveled at the sight of him laying there on the ground. I was happy, proud, sad, and excited all at the same time. The woods were quiet and in slow motion as I slowly inched my way towards him. I was absorbing every detail of his fur, the blood from his chest cavity, his antlers and the leaves he rested upon as I approached him. Not only was this my first deer season, but this was my first deer, and it was my first buck! At this moment, I knew I was not done hunting. I had just begun a new journey in my life. I had started a journey that had been missing from my life for many years and I knew I would add a new chapter to it every year from that moment forward. This deer was the deer that hooked me! This is the deer which changed my life!!!
As he came to rest on the forest floor…
A look at his rack…
A proud hunter with his first deer/buck!!!
The mount that ensures lasting memories…