The Bypass Buck
Like most outdoorsmen, one of the most important parts of the hunt for me is the pleasure of being with family and friends. It is an experience that I look forward to every year. Whether it is my father coming out here to shoot doves and ocean fish, or me going back east to hunt whitetails, it’s an exciting time. Since I am 3,000 miles away, he does all of his archery hunting and part of his rifle season without me, so we have rarely been in the woods together when one of us was successful. As a matter of fact, only my first year hunting (Bronco Buck story) and one time about 10 years later, we had never shared kills in the woods.
Well, my father is 63, and still a very capable hunter. However, in 2008, he was found to have a blockage of a couple of arteries around his heart. And, he also was found to have a blockage of one of the carotid arteries in the neck. So, over a few months that summer, he had surgery to have stints put in place. It was actually a relatively minor surgery in the sense that he was only in the hospital overnight, but whenever it involves the heart, you have to be careful. Anyway, the doctors put him on his meds, told him to take it easy, and he should be ready for hunting season.
Having a small child, and living away as far as I do, I am not able to get back there every year, but I try to go at least every other one. Luckily, this was my year to go back. I flew back to Vermont for the opener, and my Dad and I were both excited to go out. My father felt great, but I was still a little paranoid about things. I was constantly asking him how he felt, probably too much as I look back on it. He always replied that he was good, and to stop asking. He was a couple of months removed from the surgery, and was given a full bill of health. So, we sighted in our rifles, got all our equipment together, and were ready for the morning to come.
Morning came and we headed out in the dark. It was going to be cool, cloudy, with rain coming in a little later. It was actually my favorite hunting weather, as the deer should be moving before the storm. My dad gave me the choice heading in as to which stand I wanted to sit in. He had 3 or 4 set up, but he always hunted the one on the back edge of a pasture, in a small orchard, at the edge of a swamp. It was actually a sweet little setup. However, knowing that my Dad put all his time in there, I let him have it. He said “You sure”, and I told him to go ahead, I liked the other one. We wished each other luck, and I headed to a stand that’s on the back edge of the swamp, on a few trails coming from an oak flat just over the property line. I will also mention that we each carry a radio for communication in case someone shoots one. The deal is that we leave it off till we hear a shot, and then we turn it on to check on the other person.
Now, the area we hunt is a sliver of about 80 acres, surrounded on 3 sides by some other properties. I know that someone hunts in that oak flat, probably no more than 250 yards from my stand through the woods. One of the main trails coming to my stand is from that area, and this being opening day, I figure the odds are good that the neighbor is sitting in his stand, and I won’t see anything from that area. Still, it’s pretty thick and there are plenty of ways around it. At about 7:15 AM, I hear a shot from directly in front of me in the oak flat. I turned on the radio quickly, since I am sure that to my Dad, it probably sounded pretty close to me, and I figured he may try to call. I waited a few seconds, and didn’t hear him, so I turned it off. I then waited, watching the trails, hoping that whatever was shot at may have slipped away and might be coming in my direction.
After about 20 minutes, I heard something behind me, back down the trail where I left my Dad. I was puzzled, as I thought the deer would come from the front. So I turn around, and see that wonderful blaze orange moving through the trees. “Great”, I think. “Another hunter deciding to walk through my spot only 90 minutes into the season”. As he got closer, moving quite fast for a still hunter, I see it’s my Dad. He’s looking at me, and not so quietly yells “Why didn’t you turn your radio on? I have been calling you” I said “It wasn’t me who shot”, and he said “I know, it was me!”. I told him how I would swear on my life that it was in front of me, but it was actually him, exactly 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Once again, the woods gets the best of me, or I just need to check my hearing.
My Dad tells me to hurry up, since it just started to drizzle, and he wanted me to help track. He says he bled really good for 25 yards, then it just stopped, and he couldn’t track it in the leaves and thicker swamp. So we hurried back to his stand, and he showed me the blood. 15 yard shot, great bright blood spitting out both sides, this deer isn’t going too far. However, he was right, it stopped. The leaves are all wet already, not to mention it’s Vermont, so there are plenty of those red and orange leaves that make up our wonderful fall foliage colors. There were only a couple of trails, and I told him to take one, I’d take the other.
You could only see 20 yards or so, so we set off. I asked him how big it was, and he just said he saw a rack, knew it was legal, and shot it. He wasn’t sure exactly how big. Well, I got only a minute or 2 away, and saw the white belly of a deer upside down under a tree. He hadn’t gone 75 yards, it was just so thick. I could see it was a nice buck, and I hollered to dad and said “How big was he again?” He sounded irritated, and said “I told you I’m not sure”. I said, “Well, I found one, but he’s actually kinda small”. He asked if I seriously found him, and I said yes. He was worried about the “small” comment, since Vermont has AR’s now, but I had to laugh and tell him as he was hurrying over that it was a good one. We had a good hug, then we got to cleaning. I silently said a prayer thanking God for Dad’s health, and then being the good son, I did most of the dragging. I was still paranoid, I guess. I didn’t want him to over exert himself.
The deer ended up being an extremely healthy 2 ½ yr old, 169 pound (dressed) 8 point. To be that heavy at that age is impressive. What made it even more impressive is that after I got back to California, I received a call from my Dad. He told me that when they cut up the deer, they found 4 inches of an aluminum arrow in the muscle next to the spine, complete with broadhead. There was no external sign of this on the deer, so it must have occurred the year before when it was a yearling and healed over. Other than a small puss pocket next to the broadhead, there was absolutely no infection, or meat loss.
I hunted 3 more days before heading back. I sat in my Dad’s stand every day, and I actually never saw a deer. I didn’t care though, as I was happy to sit back quietly in the woods, thinking about the prior hunts with my Dad, that seasons success, and hopefully many more trips to come.