Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Deer Hunting 11/30/2015

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It wasn't that I didn't realize that deer season had been open for a week, it was just that I had a lot going on. Not that I am making excuses or anything, but.....

...we hosted two different Thanksgivings with a combined 100 people. Aubree had her last softball tournament and I received the stink-eye when suggesting that Alyse should take the boys to Birmingham by herself. Add on that a weekend trip to watch the Iron Bowl. Now that I think about it, there was a lot of extra time in there. But, frankly, we have been pretty tired and have elected to sit on our behinds in our spare time. 

Other than the one fishing trip Brad and I made to Pickwick. But, honestly, who can give up a chance to smallmouth fish in late November in 70+ degree weather?


The stars aligned and I was able to shake free for an afternoon hunts. So, still in my khakis and polo shirt, I shimmied in to my coveralls in the rain and tied up my newest set of boots, which ironically are a woman's size 10. Not sure how I ended up with women's boots, but I digress. They fit and they are comfortable. 

In case you haven't looked outside or you aren't from around here, it has been raining for three days straight. 

But it was the perfect kind of rain that my uncle said would bring out the monsters. Indeed, as I had pulled in to the parking spot by the green house I was hunting, no less than 20 turkeys and 10 deer were sharing a green field across the street. A good sign. 

The day started off slow, so I broke out a book that I have been reading and kicked back in the shooting house. These shooting houses are tall enough to walk in (for me, maybe not for you normal sized people) and insulated. In fact, I cracked several of the windows to feel the cool breeze while I listened to the rain pitter-pattering the roof. 

Directly across the green field, I spotted a lone deer step out of a fire lane and eat some honeysuckle. It stepped across the lane and I never saw it again. 

Minutes later, another deer stepped out of the swampy bottom near the parking area. It slowly made its way across the field towards me. I pulled the scope up and weighed my options.

I have learned some valuable lessons from my dad and uncle over the last three years. I probably average about one lesson a year, so in about 15 years, I might have things down. But, the first lesson I learned a few years back is that, when trying to judge a lone doe, you pay attention to the length of the snout. That's because you can't gauge the relative size of the deer without seeing other deer and the length of the snout typically gives an indication of age. While this deer did appear full grown, it had a short snout. It was also by itself, which almost certainly meant it was a young button buck.
It was hard to keep watching it as it sauntered close to me, but I knew it would be a mistake to shoot it. 

To my left at the very far corner of the field, a doe and two fauns stepped out of another shooting lane. They cautiously walked the edge of the field. The fauns appeared big enough that shooting the doe was fair game. But, I am a terrible liar and my wife always questions me hard about killing does. 

The light was fading fast and already I could only make out general shapes on the far end of the field. That was when I spotted something in another fire lane, which is a favorite egress point for deer. I pulled up the scope, and thanks to its 40MM aperture, I was able to see it fairly clearly. It was a basket rack six. The antlers weren't outside the ears, which is the determining factor for shooting bucks in our club. Additionally, we are required to kill two does before a buck, unless the buck is considered a monster. Now, monster is a general term. Monster to me would be a big 8. Monster to my dad and uncle would be considerably larger. But, I haven't killed anything that large yet and they have. 

Clearly this buck didn't meet any standards, so I had to pass. I was fairly certain that the day was over as the day light was fading fast and so far all the does had done their very best to stay out of range. 

That's when I noticed the grunting. That doesn't mean that's when I first heard it. In all honestly, I had heard it as I was profiling the basket rack, but because I was so intently watching the small buck, I had tuned the grunts out. 

Eventually, it wasn't the grunts that finally got my attention, but the bizarre behavior of the three does (the doe and two fauns). Where they had been cautious, they were now absent mindedly running around the field, just to my left. 

That's when I noticed that there weren't three deer anymore, but four. One had stepped out from just behind a huge tree which was between the corner they entered and myself. 

I put the scope on the fourth deer which was obviously larger and I had to really dial it up to see as the sun was fading fast. 

It was a buck, no doubt. I didn't have to look for antlers to tell that. It was a fairly massive deer. But, sure enough, there were antlers. The issue was that he was perpendicular to me and I couldn't tell how far out the antlers extended. What I could tell was that they were long and tall, which was a great start. But, I needed to see the spread in order to get an honest assessment of whether he met the monster clause. 

I whistled and he ignored. 

I called and he ignored.

Eventually I had to scream "hey! over here!" 

Not only did he look, but he also took off at a pretty good clip away from me. But, in that moment, I could see all I needed to see. He met my definition of a monster. 

I dropped the hammer and he dropped to the ground. 

I am so glad I have two seasoned hunters to help me out. In the past, I probably wouldn't have shot the first doe and ultimately it would have been a button buck. Or, I might have given up so close to dark. But, I listened and I was rewarded with an excellent buck.

He has an 18 inch spread and was wonderfully fat. He will be terrific eating. Additionally, he will be the first deer that I will have mounted. Because he has split G2s, I call him "Crabby."