By Cassie Dean
It was October 19th…
I pulled up to the field late for an evening hunt. The beans were harvested, the wind was right and the deer were moving. I had been waiting all week for this hunt!
I was thinking of all the bucks on my hit list: tall ten point, thick eight point, and massive twelve point. We had encounters with all three of these bucks last year, yet we only saw the massive twelve this year. My cousin had an encounter with him during youth, but couldn’t seal the deal. He is a clever buck and seems to always out smart us. Having three possible shooters here, I knew I was making the right choice by hunting this field for one of the last evening hunts.
As I collected all of my hunting stuff from my vehicle: range finder, reloads, gun, hat, gloves, and backpack – I realized I didn’t have my shooting stick. I scanned around trying to think of something I could use. There was a cluster of buck brush along the timber edge. I grabbed my clippers and clipped off one of the branches; making my own shooting stick at the perfect height.
I headed across the field. About 200 yards from my blind, I saw a doe staring at me. Hopeful she was unsure on what I was; we stood still with eyes locked for 30 seconds and then she put her head back down. I quietly snuck off to the edge and sat next to some logs; anticipating she would move out of sight.
I watched her for a while and a few other does joined her. They were glancing in the back corner of the field and by the way they acted, it was clear there were more deer. I carefully resituated myself to see farther down the field. When I saw what they were looking at, I could tell they were bucks. One had a large body, but I could not make out how big his rack was.
The wind was blowing in my face keeping my scent undetected. The does moved across the field and were 150 yards away. With only a little over an hour of shooting light, I decided to try and sneak up closer. The field turned just enough and there was cover from a full hedge apple tree. I could walk another 70 yards before being seen.
Gradually, I moved out from the cover of the trees. Creeping along the edge of the field, I watched every step and glanced up to make sure no deer were looking. I made it 20 yards and noticed a few does moving my way. I knelt down and stayed as still as possible. With no cover around me, any slight movement would enable the does to pick me out instantly. Motionless, I kept my eyes on them hoping they would move past me. The first doe looked at me, but kept moving forward; the second doe didn’t even look; a few yearlings passed me jumping and kicking – so far so good. Then the third doe stopped dead in her tracks, stomping, jerking her head around trying to pick me out. I stayed as still as I could, but knew she was going to blow at any moment. My body tensed up knowing what was going to happen.
Her loud snort caught the attention of every deer in the field. She jumped away from me, still snorting and moving back toward the other bucks. I looked over and I could tell the bucks were nervous. They started moving towards the timber. My frustration was building up. I told myself, “patience, patience…I should not have moved.”
After a short while, I pulled my gun up; setting it on my shooting stick. I scanned the field and saw a mature buck. He was tall, outside of his ears, and had a lot of mass. I grabbed my range finder; putting it on him. It was reading 220 yards. The cover was minimal. It would not be possible to sneak any closer without getting busted. I knew I was going to have to stay put.
Next to me was tall brush – enough brush to give me a little cover. I decided to move into it. When I stood up a doe and yearling threw their heads up and stared right at me. I froze, hoping they would look away. The doe started taking big steps, slamming her foot down.
She headed right to me. My legs were shaking from holding my stance in an awkward position. Unsure on how long I could hold my position and without any other choice, I started to kneel down slowly. As I started to bend my legs, the buck came to the rescue. Ears laid back and hair ruffled, he was chasing off a younger buck that was trying to get between him and the does. Distracting the doe from me, I quickly knelt back down.
Knowing I didn’t have much time left, I felt the excitement start to slip away. The does were moving off the field and the bucks were staying put. My only choice was to wait out the rest of hunt from there.
Finally, the bucks started moving around and heading in my direction. It wasn’t until the last few minutes of light that the bucks reached me. As I pulled up my scope, I could tell there were three bucks. Two of them were shooters and one spike buck. I quickly took a glance at my phone to see how much time I had left – three minutes. Not sure what buck to take, I glanced through my scope. There was the thick eight point that was on my list and a ten point that I had not seen before. I kept going back and forth between the two bucks. The ten point was making scrapes along the edge of the timber, but it looked like the eight was bigger. Confused on what deer to take I decided to pass on both. It was too close to shooting hours and I felt that the light I had to work with wasn’t enough. Hoping I made the right choice, I waited an extra fifteen minutes to make sure they were gone before I moved.
When I got back to the vehicle, my dad was waiting for me. I explain to him what happened. Excited for me he told me I definitely need to sit there again the next day.
The next evening came and I got setup in plenty of time. I made it back to the ground blind without seeing any deer. I grabbed my spray from my bag, sprayed everything again and pulled out my homemade shooting stick. It was 3:30 P.M. and I had about two hours before the deer would start moving.
Time flew by and at 4:11, I saw the first deer. It was a yearling and he came out jumping, kicking and twisting. Easily entertaining me, I watched him as he ran down the center of the field. A few minutes later he ran back by again. He played in the field for about fifteen minutes before a doe come out. She stopped dead in her tracks staring at the yearling. Confused, she watched him make laps around the edge. The yearling ran up to her and stopped to smell her. It seemed to put the doe at ease. She walked out to the middle of the field and stopped 50 yards from me. The yearling started to settle down and they both began eating.
They were there for 20 minutes and all of the sudden out of the corner of my eye; I saw a deer running just inside of the timber. I instantly saw antlers…big antlers. His mouth was open, tongue partially out, and hair ruffled. He didn’t stop at the edge of the field. Instead he ran out to the middle; stopping next to the doe. The doe took a few steps away from him and continued to eat. Looking at him, I knew he was the same thick eight point from our list. He didn’t grow in height much, but grew in mass. Checking him out, I knew he was a deer that I wanted to shoot. I looked down at my phone and it was only 4:30. I had about three hours of shooting left. I couldn’t believe the deer were moving so early. Knowing the big twelve was still out there somewhere, I decided to wait and see if he or any other deer would appear.
Eventually, a small spike buck walked out into the field. Looking at the four deer, I realized they were the same deer from the evening before. I continued to watch them. The big eight went around and made a few scrapes along the edge. Time was ticking away and I needed to make a decision. I patiently waited for him to come to the clearing. After what seemed like hours, he stepped into my shooting window. He was stretched out tall and chewing on the branch of a hedge apple tree. Waiting for him to turn broadside, my legs started to shake and I could feel the adrenaline rushing through me. My heart started racing and I slowly pulled my Thompson Center Bone Collector on to my homemade shooting stick. I looked through the scope and waited for him to take one step forward; opening up the perfect shot. He took that step and I slowly pulled the trigger. BANG!!! He jumped and did a mule kick, almost landing on his nose. He turned and sprinted straight into the timber. Not staying on the trail, I could hear the trees crashing as he plowed through them.
Everything came to a silence. The doe, yearling and spike looked around; having no idea what happened. They quickly ran off and out of sight. I went to stand up and take a breath, but my legs were shaking so bad I could barely move. My heart was racing and hands were trembling. I got him I said to myself. I got him. Excited I grabbed my phone and text my dad; telling him I shot the big eight. I told him “I knew I made the right decision by letting him walk last night. Patience paid off this time!”
I waited for my dad to get to the blind and we both walked together across the field. It didn’t take long to find where the buck went into the timber. His reckless behavior left an easy trail. We didn’t track him for very long before we found him piled up at the bottom of a hill. He was better than I anticipated. I reached down and grabbed his antler, unable to get my hand around the base completely. His bases were seven inches and he weighed over 270 pounds. A picture is worth a thousand words – we drug him up the hill without field dressing him. A tough drag, but an excellent shot!