Some years ago, a friend invited me down to the true heart of the LowCountry in SC for a deer hunt - fabled Estill, SC.
I had hunted for several years with this gentleman prior to this and had seen some dandy bucks but had never taken one - fate (or my ineptitude) always intervened...
This trip was in late October when our area finds the bucks rather active and "on the move", so I had very high hopes as I joined him.
Over dinner the night before, we talked about the hunting and where we would go the next day.
"I am putting you in the swamp, for sure", he told me, "you should see deer all morning long!".
That night, in peaceful dreams of giant bucks, the skies opened up and it rained buckets!!
We woke the next morning to leaden skies and a sodden mess.
"Well", he stated, "no swamp for you - we will get stuck sure as the world if we head down there".
Off we went before daylight and he, of course, is calling the shots - and I am more than willing to listen to him - he has never been wrong in the past!
He mumbles about cut corn fields, shooting houses in the pines, the back of the fish pond and then states - "I got it! - The acorns are falling hard on this old logging road and we have a tripod down there - and you can find that stand easily by yourself... It belongs to Joe - but he will not mind if you hunt it!"
It is still raining and this stand has a roof - so I am all in.
As I make my way down the log road, acorns do indeed crunch underfoot. Nearing the area where I suspect the stand is located, I see first one... and then another... and then yet another - scrapes under the overhanging branches.
I hear a buzzing in my ears... I am pumped as I tread as lightly as I can - spotting the stand just ahead.
Up I climb and settle in.
Waiting, I conjure up images of lust crazed bucks dancing around in the darkness...
Light begins to arrive and as it pushes back the darkness of the night, I see that I am positioned at the crossroads of two old log roads. Oaks line the road in both directions.
Pulling up the binos in the half light, I count 3 more scrapes up the intersecting road - the road I have not walked in!
The buzzing returns... as I sit, in full expectation!
Rain begins now, slowly at first... then building to an all out shower... inside the tripod, the water runs off of the roof in sheets.
Full daylight has arrived now - and the rain begins to slacken... and finally quits.
A mist hangs on the ground and swirls slightly in the morning air.
Through this mist, I first see a deer... way at the other end of the road, a good 300 yards away.
Doe? Buck? Big buck?
Even with the glass, I cannot tell - it is in and out of the mist.
Feeding now, I see the deer, head down.... moving this way.
ANTLERS!!!! I see the tips now, well above his head!!!!
Closer he moves... slowly feeding - as if he owns the world! He is a shooter!
Finally, at roughly 150 yards away, I can take it no more... I rest the .308 on the shooting rail, steady my breathing... calm now... calm now... but my heart will NOT cooperate... I feel the ragged breath in my chest and work hard to control it... but it is just not working... he feeds to the edge of the road - My Goodness - he is about to leave!!! Man, oh man... I gotta shoot... I gotta shoot!
Taking the best aim I can - he is fully broadside now - I put the reticle on this shoulder.....
OK STOP... now, I would love to tell you that I calmly sqeezed off a round and made a perfect shot - but that is not the case.
What I think happened is that I momentarily closed my eyes, flinched as hard as I could flinch and jerked the trigger - hard.
What transpired, in spite of my best efforts to screw it up - was purely a blessing.
The gun did not go off - I had forgotten to let the safety off!!!
I open my eyes. He is still there. Still feeding.
How he did not hear my heart thudding in my chest is beyond me!
With this Presidential Pardon in hand, I shake my head - and start over.
I let the safety off... on to the shoulder goes the reticle... in I breate - a deep breath - and let it halfway out... I begin to apply pressure to the Accutrigger and am totally shocked when the rifle goes off!!!!
The buck, now about 135 yards away, crumples as if he just fell asleep on the spot - not one twitch did he make!!!
I calm down.
Moving out of the stand, I walk over. I am more shocked at the area than the deer. There are scrapes literally EVERYWHERE! I count no less than 20 in the immediate area. Shredded pine trees line the road, some twisted into submission.
I go to the deer and it is a nice 8 pointer - very symmetrical and even - and I sit and wait for my buddy to arrive.
Loading him in the truck, my partner and I make our way back to camp. At the kitchen table drinking coffee, I am introduced to Joe - who has just arrived....
Alarm bells tingle in the back of my head as we start to chat....
"Man, oh Man.... I am stoked... with this rain letting off, the bucks should be on the move... I have a trail cam over at my tripod and I got some pictures of a nice 8 pointer last week... plenty of acorns and scrapes in there, too... I gonna go in there and see if I can get him" he states, as he finishes his breakfast and slugs down the last of his coffee. He goes on "Jim, good to see you here - hope you have a good time, but I gotta get going."
"Just visiting," I think to myself... "just visiting!" as my buddy grins from ear to ear behind Joe.