The NY regular whitetail season opened with a dusting of two day old snow on the ground, most of the leaves down but the woods were basically bare. Temperatures were cold, rising through the mid-twenties with intermittent breezes that carried the dampness of the rain from the day before. We were down to the last of the whitetail sausage in the freezer. I had sat out 2013’s NY deer season in protest of newly passed in the dark of night, misguided, poorly written, anti-sportsmen legislation. My friend Gene had set up a trail cam and hunting blind on my mother’s property. He preferred to hunt from tree stands but the cameras had picked up several deer near the blind and he graciously offered me the use of it. I accepted his offer and spent the morning grateful for the shelter the tent offered from the wind as 6 hours dragged by from dawn until noon showing me numerous birds, squirrels, and a glimpse of single small skiddish doe about 100 yards away. I did not have a doe tag and probably did not see her long enough to shoot even if I had one. Saturday afternoon we had plans and returned home long after the early darkness had fallen. Call me superstitious but I had neglected to eat the ceremonial slice of opening day apple pie for breakfast. Is it any wonder I didn't have any luck? .
A few brief hours of sleep brought me to reluctantly rolling out of bed Sunday morning. Rob was working Sunday morning and so wouldn’t be hunting. I was all but convinced that the woods were empty and were it not for Gene’s pictures of deer on the trail cams, I might have stayed in bed. But it was the opening weekend and I was home. You can’t pass up opportunities like that. I hauled myself out of bed and into the warmest clothes I own – a tick proof under layer of close fitting clothes and socks. Heavy green wool pants, blaze orange camo sweatshirt , heavy wool blend socks, boots, hat, and glommits (glove/mitten combos), and a blaze camo parka. I added oxygen activated foot warmers to my boots, and added hand warmers when in the woods. Before I left the house, I did not take time to make coffee, but I made sure that I had a piece of pie.
I walked out with coat unzipped, and gloves off trying to keep from sweating as I walked to the stand I had mentally selected. I planned to stand against a big tree on a stone wall on the south end of my parents’ land – the exact spot from which I had shot my last buck 2 years before. As I walked to it, I prayed “Lord, please show me a nice buck, and if it is within your will help me to kill him and bring him home.”
By the time I arrived I was breaking a sweat, but I bundled up and settled in to wait occasionally alternating between sitting on a cushion I had carried out with me and standing against the big oak. Squirrels kept me company but nothing else. After three hours I was cold enough that I decided to move. I slowly made my way 100 yards north to the top of the ridge. I stopped just a few yards from where I had shot my 2010 buck. The area had been logged in 2011 and I had not seen a deer there since the logging, but I was willing to give it a try. I resolved to sit for another hour before moving again.
I was getting cold and thinking it was time to move. Getting chilled I was beginning to wonder why I was hunting at all. Maybe I should just pack it in for the day. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was about 5 minutes until 10 AM. I told myself to wait the 5 more minutes until the hour was up before moving. I raised my binoculars and started my scan right to left, then I saw a deer coming along the stone wall toward me. It was on the opposite side of the low stone wall. The wall was not in the way of shooting but the dozens of trees between us were. I put the binoculars down and picked up the rifle. If the deer had antlers I would want the rifle in my hands when I saw them. I might not have long to get a shot off if the deer veered deeper into the trees. He was about 125 yards away but coming closer. The wall came within 75 yards. I would have an easy shot if he kept moving parallel to the wall. I put the scope on him and saw several inches of antler as he passed between two trees. He was a legal buck!
Just as he stepped into view again he turned almost directly away from me then swerved quartering away. I had seen deer take that route before and it went behind some pine trees and out of sight. This might be the only legal buck I saw all season, I couldn’t let him get away. I took quick aim and fired.
The buck hit the brakes, reversed direction and trotted back the way he had come from. When he reached the wall he slowed from a fast trot to slow trot and turned broadside moving away. He was almost the exact place I first saw him but facing the opposite direction when my .375 caliber 300 grain Hornady round nose bullet pushed by 66.5 grains of Alliant’s Reloader 15 entered just above the elbow of his right front leg, passed through both lungs, creased the top of his heart and exited just below the elbow of the left front leg. His front legs went out from under him and his shoulder hit the ground before he scrambled to his feet and ran out of sight.
I took a deep breath, apparently I had been holding it while shooting. I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving and texted Gene that I had shot but couldn’t see the deer, and that I planned to wait 5 minutes before looking for him. I did not want to risk pushing a wounded deer into running. I hate tracking. Gene said that he would be right there. I topped off my magazine and used my binoculars to try to find the deer but I couldn’t see him. After 5 minutes by my watch I hung my blaze hat on the tree so I would be able to easily come back to my daypack and started down the slope moving carefully and as quietly as I could, fearful of spooking a deer that might be running on three legs or gut shot. I knew the second shot had hit him but not whether it was a good hit or not. You just can’t take anything for granted. Just as I reached the wall, Gene arrived. I cautioned him to hang back while I looked for blood. First I found the trail in the leaves where he had trotted between my shots. I followed it to a good blood trail and motioned Gene forward. When he crossed the wall he stopped and looked through his scope looking for the deer and spotted him down about 40 yards away from where I spotted blood.
The hit had been good. It looked like he had scrambled out of sight, turned to watch his back trail and then just laid down with his feet under him and passed before I ever even stood up. He was a big 2x2, in the prime of health. I was very happy to have him. Thank you Lord.
Gene dressed him out while I went to get the 4 wheeler and helped me to drag and load him, and to hang him. I was very grateful for the help since even with the 4 wheeler it can be a challenge to get these big boys out of the woods. I’d guess the deer weight at 130 lbs but it is only a guess. I am happy to say that we’ll have plenty of venison for Christmas jerky.