A Successful Stalk and a Unicorn Buck
My boy's first stalk:
Late in 2005, there was +/- six inches of fresh powdery snow muffling my footprints as I hunted. I was hunting my way home and stalked up to 3 does bedded not far from my home. I didn’t have a doe tag. He was just eight years old. I went home and asked if he wanted to see some deer and bundled in our boots, mittens, jackets and snow suit; I brought him within sight of those does. The first he had seen in the woods. We watched them for long minutes and he took several pictures with a cheap disposable camera I carried in my day pack at that time.
The camera didn’t have a zoom feature but if you look closely, you can see at least two deer in the picture (attached). One is to the left of center and one to the right of center.
The hunting that year was somewhat frustrating. It seems that my neighbors on three sides had not only decided to hunt the same land that I was hunting, but to invite their friends and family to do the same. I did bag a buck that was just barely legal. To be legally harvested as an antlered deer, a buck in NY state has to have a three inch antler. I was standing still in some thick saplings that had sprouted up after the land had been logged off a year or two before. I heard something approach and watched as another hunter passed +/- 75 yards away unaware that I was there. The sound of his footsteps had no sooner faded than I heard something else from the same direction that he had come.
I expected to see one of his hunting companions following him. But instead I saw a deer following right in his tracks, it would occasionally stop and smell his footprints. This deer was actually following the hunter I had seen walk through. When the deer put its head down the next time (at about 75 yards), I got my rifle up and put my scope on the deer. When he picked his head up, I saw a spike antler. I couldn’t see the other antler, but this one was enough to make him legal game. I let him keep coming toward me until I knew the tracks he was following turned away. Then I sent a bullet through his chest. He ran uphill just out of sight and collapsed against a downed log.
The other hunter came back some surprised at the sound of my shot only a few hundred yards away from him. The buck turned out to have only ONE antler. The other was just a nub. It had apparently broken off or been otherwise damaged when the antlers were growing and it had never developed. So I harvested a unicorn.
I am glad for any deer so I was not disappointed with the buck at all and his one horned rack is proudly displayed on my wall along side the larger sets of his two antler kin.
The hunt ended safely and with success for me, but it convinced me that we had too many hunters in that small patch of woods, so the next fall I began putting up posted signs and the hunting there has improved every year since.