Monday, December 8, 2014

Deer Hunting 12/5-7/2014

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I was able to shake loose just a tad early on Friday, so I headed to da club. Yes, I am aware that 50 Cent references date me a bit. But no, not "da club" but THE club. Our hunting club. While on the way, I recieved a text from my dad, giving me a scouting report. 

Well, it wasn't EXACTLY a scouting report, but instead a "DO NOT SHOOT" list. On that list was a one antlered monster, which he had spotted during his last hunt where he killed a buck. He gave me the down low on a beastly guy who had been running the show over in the area I have been relegated to hunt. It isn't the prime hunting area, but I haven't put in my share of hours at the club. Plus, it is more of a "brown and down" type area known for tons of does. The shooting house is nice and cozy, with a good view of the Flint River (floatin' down the Flint River, catch us a little catfish dinner) to boot! Which fits my lazy hunting style anyway.
There was a light sprinkle and a good bit of wind. I had my doubts on if I would see anything. But, sure enough, the local does began coming out around 4pm. There were 3 of them. I really wanted to get some meat in the freezer, so I got the scope on them. They looked small, so I though I might good glass them and see which one was the biggest. Thing is, none of them were any bigger than the rest....and they all looked small. Well, you don't want to be THAT guy. You know THAT guy. The one that brings in the dog sized deer? I have been THAT guy in the club, so I wanted to avoid it. 

Despite giving me ample shots, I held back on the trigger. Suddenly, all 3 does heads came up. I thought maybe the jig was up, as I put the scope back on them, I could see their heads pointed across the field away from me. They held their gaze, and I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. I eased the gun out of the window facing them and rotated 180 degree. I spotted a loan deer walking down the path some 150 yards away. And, immediately, I could tell it was a buck by the mass. The heartbeat began to rise as I got the scope on him. He was watching the does. The does were watching him. And I was busy trying to see if he was a shooter, per club rules. That would be, antlers outside of the ears. But, the dude was walking perfectly perpendicular to me, so I could only see the height and girth of his antlers, which was sizeable, but not the measurement that mattered....if they were outside of his ears.  

I whistled. I grunted. I did all but bang a dinner bell and he never looked over at me. Eventually, he turned off the road and gave me a head on view. He had a massive rack....on one side. The other was broken off. Since I was expressly prohibited from shooting this guy, I sighed and dropped the gun. By then, it was too dark to shoot at the does, plus my dad had left to go see a movie, depriving me of any transportation of the carcass had I shot one.
Saturday, I had no hunting plans, but my mom wanted the kids to spend the night. Anytime a grandparent wants ALL your kids, you take them up on the opportunity. We dropped them off and visited for awhile. My mom had a childhood friend who was helping her put up her Christmas stuff, and she made a comment about having run over the biggest squirrel she had ever seen. I asked her where she had hit it and when she told me, I KNEW it was my neighborhood fox squirrel. Though squirrel hunting is one of my favorite past times, I have let this guy continue to do his squirrely business, since they are rare. With a broken heart, I went down the road to pay my respects.
Some of asked if, by the look of his choice in football teams, that he decided that life wasn't worth it anymore, since the Tigers were out of the College Football Playoffs. No. I just put that in there for scale. And not, as my Facebook friends inquired, I did NOT eat him. I do have standards. Rodents? Thumbs up. Road kill rodents? Thumbs down. 

As we finished paying our respects, my wife spotted deer in the field adjacent to our property. Among them was a massive buck. Initially, I just said "wow, what a big one." But as put the car in drive, my wife said: "Are you crazy? Get your gun out and blast him!" I didn't go into how shooting within 100 yards of a road is illegal. I just didn't shoot. That doesn't mean I didn't get the gun out....

But the deer stepped into the woods, which was right about where a firelane heading to one of our shooting houses is located. I put the car in reverse and headed back to the property. Donning a rain jacket, which was the only thing I had to wear, I took off into the woods in tennis shoes, my new Academy Sports fishing wet gear, and my trusty Marlin 30-.06. 

Guessing where he had stepped into the woods, I figured him to head up the firelane and into one of the food plots. There are several entrances into said food plot, but 2 of them leave you visually exposed. One pops you out in the center of the food plot with good cover and a good view of the entire food plot, but requires you to take a longer path. I figured that he was headed to eat, not make his way up the mountain. But, if he decided to do the latter, it would put him on a different section of the road, slightly above where I planned to come out. So, I would need to hug the wood line, and when I came to the Y-in the road, one side that led down to the plot and the other up the mountain, I would need to sneak a peak from as much cover as I could. 

It's amazing how quiet you can be in tennis shoes on wet ground. I approached the Y in the road carefully. You can't view down either road until you are right on top of it. So, when I reached the apex, I stole a view down towards the food plot on my left. Nothing there. I looked right, down the path that heads up the mountain. 

The buck was 20 yards away. He looked at me and I swear I saw him wink at me before he took 3 hops into the woods and headed up the mountain. That was a slick move, since running away from me and down the path would give me time to line him up in the scope. Instead, heading into the woods distorted any shot I would have had. I am almost certain I heard him laugh. Maybe that was just a snort. And with that, I headed back the car...dejected, and yet impressed that I knew where he would be, which was 200+ yards from where I last saw him, with the chance that he could take on 12 different road combos. And, I was able to get pretty dang close to him. He was the biggest buck I have seen in person. 

So, we headed to our friends house to watch the SEC Championship. No surprises on the winner, though I still am shocked how the Top 10 turned out. At least I was close. Sorta? 

After talking it over with my dad, he suggested I hunt there instead of the hunting club, as that was easily the biggest deer I had seen all year. So, I game planned my Sunday afternoon. I was on stand by 1:30 in the afternoon and ready. And by ready, I mean with my smartphone and my book. 

At around 4:16, I heard a shot ring out. It wasn't where my grandfather was hunting. It was definitely on our property and it was definitely coming at me. After using my powerful deductive reasoning, I triangulated that it came from our road and was aimed at the spot in the field where we had seen the buck the previous afternoon. I quickly texted my wife to call my grandmother and have her investigate, which she did. She drove down the road and spotted a white truck on our road. When they saw her, they sped out of sight. 

Poachers are nothing new, of course. They are probably more common than actual legal deer hunters around here. It seems anyone with any amount of land in a rural, deer holding area, are going to experience it. And, in this case, there is nothing more maddening than knowing what just happened and being unable to do anything about it. 

Anyways, I held on for hope. Minutes later, from up the hill, came a small buck. I let him pass along with the doe that he was following. 
Then I was privy to something funny. Up ahead, I watched a faun jump from woods on one side of the road to the other, over and over. Back and forth. It was a sight. 

The big deer never came by. Sad face. Hope he isn't missing his antlers in a ditch somewhere.