While I settled gently back into my chair, I checked my watch; it was eleven thirty.  I was now convinced of my failure in this morning’s hunt for a buck.  I figured that if there had been one nearby, he probably scented me, or heard me snoring, or saw me strip and re-dress.  I was fairly dispirited, but now my concern shifted to the possibility of losing one of my few opportunities to collect a doe for the freezer.  I listened for any movement, in order to take advantage of the next chance I got to carry the doe home.  I was in this frame of mind when I heard a slight rustling to my left.  I breathed a sigh of relief that the cover scent was again proving its worth, as the sound was coming from directly downwind.  I slowly turned and stood to be able to get a good look over the intervening black berry and privet.  I spotted the tannish gray head of a deer and gently brought my gun to the high skeet position in case the animal turned out to be the doe rather than the yearling.  The deer form took shape as it cleared the brush.  Instead of the doe or yearling, there stood a buck 17 yards away, its rut-swollen neck extended in the classic ‘sneak’ pose.  I had been observing basket eight pointers since opening day, but this deer’s body was half again the size of those youngsters.  He walked with the stiff-legged gate of the mature bucks shown on hunting programs.  I saw three long tines on his left side as I began to raise my 7mm Remington Magnum to my shoulder.  He continued to ease through, acting just like a buck would if he was investigating a hot doe.  I then realized he was probably being reeled in by the combination of the Tink’s urine scent and the living, doe decoy.  I had to aim high on his shoulder to shoot over the brush that now stood between us.

I have read of animals falling from under the shooter’s sights.  Usually the writer is referring to elephants.  However, no African big-game hunter has been more excited than I when this buck dropped at the report of my gun.  Upon later inspection, I found that the 175 grain Nosler Partition had caught him in the spine.  I chambered another round and waited, hardly noticing the doe and yearling now standing frozen 10 yards behind me, looking towards the spot where the buck had fallen.  I heard a gentle rustling and then no sound at all came from where the buck had stood.  I waited another minute, closed my rifle on an empty chamber, and carefully climbed down the ladder.  As I stepped from the lowest rung, I saw that the doe and yearling had not moved.  Now they were staring intently at me.  The doe lifted her right front leg and stomped it sharply on the ground.  I moved slowly along their front, but not until I was within feet of the yearling did they turn, raise their flags and spring into the brush.

I had to circle wide of the hedge that stood nearly as high as my head.  As I rounded the corner of the obstruction, I spotted the form of my first Whitetail buck with more than 2 points to a side.  He was “only” a seven pointer, but in my eyes he was magnificent.  When weighed later, he tipped the scales at approximately 160 pounds on the hoof.  I knelt down beside him and breathed a sigh and prayer of thanksgiving.  How can one not be in awe of such a creation.  I thought of the offerings given by Native Americans at the sight of their kills; offerings to their gods and to the slain animal, offerings that reflected their recognition that the taking of a life meant they would live.  This reflects a different belief system to mine, but one that echos a proper respect for the life taken in order for memories to be borne in the hunter.

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