ARTICLE: MY SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE HUNTS – ONE MORE CHANCE
My 2019 deer hunting season wrapped up a couple of weeks ago with the last weekend of the Illinois muzzleloader season. There are other tales to share about this past season but I’ll start with the last one while it’s fresh in my memory.
I was able to hunt the first firearm weekend but couldn’t make the first weekend of muzzleloader season as the “boss” had a hip replacement a few days before it was to start. I had reserved myself to the fact that my season would be over and I’d be hanging up my blaze orange cap for a white nurse’s cap after the first weekend.
The “boss” or as I call her “yes dear” was recovering very well and since my daughter the nurse was off that weekend, I was allowed to go and try to get one more deer for the freezer.
The first morning I was running behind schedule (seems like I’m always running behind on opening mornings) but managed to get to my stand and get all set with 10 minutes to go before shooting time.
About five past seven I saw a deer across a small field to my left we call the Pea Patch working its way into the trees heading away from me. It was not a big buck and the binoculars revealed it to be a doe. It was good to see a deer early on and figured they were up and moving and I’d be seeing more.
It took another 3 hours before I saw another.
I have these earbuds made by Walker’s that amplify low sounds but shut-off instantly during loud ones such as gun shots. They’re not their top-of-the-line model but they work for me and I try to wear them the whole time while hunting.
So it was past ten when I heard something crunching leaves that sounded right next to or under the stand. I looked right then left trying to figure out if it was a squirrel playing around or if it was a deer that had crossed the fence behind me from the neighbor’s property and sneaking up on me.
I kept looking when I finally saw where the noise was coming from. Two deer were approaching straight out in front of me through some brush and trees along the edge of the field near a fence. Just as I leaned forward to grab my rifle the lead deer stopped in the only clear window between it and me catching just enough of my movement to make it and me halt in our tracks.
It only took 5 seconds before it, and I say “it” because it was either a doe or a button buck bolted to its right, across the fence and through the trees. I watched it run across the hillside with another deer that I never saw on its trail.
I never saw another deer the rest of the day.
On my way out that evening I took the camera I had setup across from my stand with me. I figured do it then as it would be one last thing to gather up on Sunday and besides I wanted to see what information it held.
After supper I grabbed the camera, card viewer and a bourbon and water and settled into a chair by the heater to review the pictures.
There had been deer in the food plot that morning an hour before I arrived. The camera also revealed that deer were frequenting the plot from just before dawn to about eight and then after four until dark. My prospects looked good for the next couple of days. I just needed to get there early and stay late. Be there when they showed up.
The next morning I was up and out early and arrived at the stand well before shooting time. It was a misty, foggy morning and everything was still and quiet. I had taken my drag line and a bottle of doe-in-heat scent figuring that the secondary rut was on and that the stuff wouldn’t be much good next fall so why not use it up. Any edge this time of year could only help. Right?
I didn’t drag it but instead hung it over a branch 15 yards in front of me and soaked it down. I also squirted the scent in all directions empting the bottle.
I climbed up and settled in for the action.
At 6:35 I noticed something out in the Pea Patch. It was a deer. I couldn’t see it too good but took it as a good sign that the deer were on the move. It stood there a bit and then trotted away from me and around a corner to the left.
At 6:40 the duck hunters let loose a couple of shots down in the bottoms a few miles away and I knew it was for sure legal shooting time. I just needed the fog and mist to clear for any shot further than 20 yards.
It wasn’t two minutes after the duck shots the deer I had seen came trotting back around the corner and across the Pea Patch toward me. It trotted across the field zig-zagging like a dog does when it’s sniffing a trail and for an instant I thought it could be a dog by its mannerisms. It wasn’t sniffing the ground but had its head up looking around.
The deer got closer and I cocked the hammer back on the CVA getting ready for a shot. It wasn’t a big buck as I saw no antlers. It was either a doe or a button buck. Either way, if I got a shot I was going to take it. This late in the season pretty much all bets are off.
The deer trotted up to the fence and turned to its left blocking any chance of a shot because of limbs. I watched as it by-passed the gap in the fence and paralleled the fence a short distance then turned to its left heading into the trees the direction the two deer the previous morning had made their escape.
I was able to de-cock the rifle safely and sat back to see if the deer circled back across the Pea Patch.
A minute later it did circle across and back around the corner it had come from.
What was it doing? It was looking for something.
No sooner had it went around the corner it came back around and headed straight back to me with its head up looking around.
It came back to the fence and once again shielded itself with limbs but this time I saw it coming through the gap. If it didn’t deviate it was heading straight into the food plot out to my right and hopefully into my crosshairs.
As the deer came through the gap I leaned out the right side of the stand going around the trunk of the tree waiting for it to come into view.
It cleared the tree trunk and instead of going straight out in to the plot it turned toward me.
The click-click of the hammer cocking sounded really loud thru the earbuds and it was loud enough the deer heard it too. It froze 15 yards away slightly quartering to its left.
In situations like this it feels like time stands still but a lot of things happen in a short amount of time. I’m sure you’ve experienced the feeling at some point.
I thought it was now or never. Aiming for the exit wound I put the crosshairs on the right side of its neck kind of near the base and pulled the trigger.
Moving my head around the smoke cloud I watched as the deer ran into the food plot then turn left through a path I have cut through a 30 yard finger of trees that separate the plot from an upper field. It had its tail down so I figured I had hit it for sure.
When hunting with the slug gun I like to wait at least 10 minutes before going after a deer. The exception being if I can see the deer and know for sure that it’s down. With the smoke stick I like to wait 15 – 20 minutes if I can set still that long.
While I was running a few patches thru the barrel to make it easier to reload my phone buzzed. It was my brother-in-law Tommy texting me. Tommy and my sister were up early and had heard the shot 2 miles away while taking the dog out. He wanted to know if I had shot. Replying in the affirmative I said I was waiting until 7 to start the tracking. It was 6:47.
After gathering my cleaning bag and answering nature’s call it was well past 7 before I headed out.
I found no blood where the deer was standing but didn’t worry as that’s not unusual. I knew the way it had went and headed for the path.
I found no blood when I got to the path so I started zig-zagging back and forth across it working my way toward the upper field. I was starting to get that sinking feeling I’d had a couple of weeks earlier (that’s another story) when almost to the top I spotted some blood.
The trail petered out at the upper field. Damn! The Johnson grass had died back but it was still head high in some places and I was hoping the deer wasn’t lying out in it somewhere.
I stood there looking around contemplating my next move when I saw the white rear-end of the deer lying in the brushy fence row about 15 yards away. It was a spike buck! Dang!
With the fog and mist I couldn’t see his spikes. He was pretty big for a spike weighing in at 84 lbs. field dressed.
Things were going great and I had just finished dragging him into the open when it started to rain. It wasn’t a hard rain but just enough to get everything wet. Luckily I was wearing my rain jacket. Of course when I got to the truck, loaded everything, it stopped.
Thinking later about the buck’s weird behavior I can only think he had smelled the scent I had out. His tarsal glands had been wet so who knows. When he came through the fence gap he walked right past the drag line but I didn’t see if he had reacted to it as I had leaned out to the right with the tree blocking my view.
Once skinned out I could follow the bullet path. It had entered the base of the neck, went thru the shoulder blade and into the vitals. There was no exit wound hence the poor blood trail. I did find a piece of the green plastic tip from the bullet where it went through the shoulder.
So there you have it. Earlier in the season I would have let him pass but as I told my buddies, my wife is off work for the next 2 months and we need all the meat we can get in the freezer. All I need to do now is head down to the local government office and pick up my cheese, peanut butter, rice and other free commodities. Until next time, Jim Bob.