Look for the annual T&D Hunting Edition in Sunday morning's print edition and online at TheTandD.com
I stood up in the climbing stand. I knew it was a mistake, but I couldn’t see well enough sitting to tell if it was him.
The stand made a low creaking sound and something fell to the ground. I could see his head go up, his ears cupped and they moved straight forward. The quarter turn he made was so quick as to look more like a jump. It was him all rright.
I’m not known for getting overly excited about the opening day of deer season. I love to go when I decide. I don’t spend weeks in advance of deer season pumping myself up for the “big day” and generally don’t hit the woods until late September. I do not like the August heat and neither do I lie in bed before the first day of season dreaming about how wonderful it will be to be carried away by mosquitoes at 5 a.m. on Aug. 15.
I’ve been poked at by friends about how I put in less time than many in deer hunt prep. They are also in wonder of how I seem to have had some fair success when I go. I don’t drag a scent bag, don’t keep my hunt clothes in any special place and do not buy all the latest gadgets.
What I do is go. Recall that I’ve said in previous writings that one of my best friends impressed on me the number one rule of hunting; “You gotta go to know.” I try to follow that rule.
This was 2005 and I had two game cameras. One worked pretty well, the other was iffy. Iffy would fire once, 5 times or not at all. It did work well enough to get a glimpse of what was the rear end of a pretty big-bodied deer. Even from the south end photo, I could tell it had a decent head. I guessed, actually hoped, the heavy scrape line I had found along the creek on the back of my property belonged to him. That’s where I set up my Cottonwood climbing stand.
Very uncharacteristic of me, I sat 10 or so out of 14 days on that scrape line. I mixed up the times of day I sat. I went some mornings, a few afternoons and went more often in the evenings. I thought I saw a big deer on one outing but maybe wished it so because it wasn’t a good enough view of the animal to confirm the sighting.
I watched the same two four-point bucks walk by more times than I can remember. Does were a pretty common sight too. Other than one sizable seven-point buck, big deer were scarce. I did think about taking the seven, but decided against it. After the seven walked by, I began to question if he was the owner of the scrape line. He did sniff the leaves as he walked and grunted a time or two.
I sat one afternoon at 2. He came. It was not the seven.
When the deer made that quick quarter turn after I stood up in the climber, I was sure I had blown it. Much to my surprise, he turned the opposite direction and looked directly away from the stand. I wondered if he was suffering as I do from poor hearing. That happens in older people, you know. Maybe it happens in deer too. Well I’m not sure about the lack of hearing part, but I do know not only did he look the other way, he stood there as still as a fence post.
The safety was already off of the Browning A-bolt. Squeeze-one-two-three BAM! That’s the way I’ve always controlled my trigger squeeze. I’ve taught my son to play the same cadence in his head when firing so as not to jerk the rifle off target.
The deer rolled down the hill some 20 yards and came to a stop mere feet from the creek. It was him all right. 200-plus pounds, a near perfectly symmetrical 10-point with high G2’s, G3’s and solid brow tines. I was so pumped up I drug that deer all the way up that creek hill with my bare hands. It was no easy chore.
The majority of deer hunters I know hunt much more intensely and more often than I do. Most have not had a chance at an Orangeburg buck of the quality I was blessed with that day on my property near Neeses. I don’t know what your big whitetail deer harvest is, but the one taken that day is mine.