Bon Vivant River Brothers,
It was Sunday morning November 24 (second season) and about 30 degrees outside. I woke up and thought about all of the deer I saw the day before. The few unimpressive (by DCF standards) 8 points, a curious 6 and 4 does so already a great season and I’m would be more than happy at this point even if I don’t see another deer. With this “I just love being here” laid back mood I got out to my stand late at about 5:45 am. After setup, I figured “I’ll sit here until lunch time and after that, empty handed or not, I’ll call it a successful season”. With the crew at DCF laughs and camaraderie is all that is really needed for a successful season in my book.
Anyway, I’m in my stand I have my monster energy drink tapped and ready, the 500 S&W sitting next to me and breakfast waiting in the backpack. I can hear the Wild Turkeys making all sorts of commotion just as they did all day Saturday so I thought this is going to be great they will push deer again and the show will be fun to watch. It is now about 7:30 and I have had a small six already walk by and I figured at this point I better sneak in some breakfast. I slowly reach into my backpack and find my favorite deer stand snack…. POPTARTS! As I slowly lift the crinkly bag from the backpack trying to make as little nose as I can I notice that the poptart package seems bigger than normal. Well, as I pull it from the box and open the package I realize that there are 3 poptarts in one package. “YES!” I shouted in my head… “3 tarts in one package that’s a first …. This is going to be a good day!” Now, I no sooner finished my breakfast and put the wrapper away and I look to my left and sure enough an old dark horned Gladiator of the woods walks out about 25 yards away.
This old cervid was on a mission and going at a fairly good pace as he walked by the many scrapes that were left in the area by other bucks. The rut had defiantly ended and he was not interested in staking any claims to the area but what’s got him on the move I wondered? Judging by his pace and posture he had no plans on stopping so I had to act quickly. I picked up the 50 cal and rested it on the window of the stand, looked down the scope and waited for him to walk into the scopes view. Once I saw his shoulder in the scope I gave out a quick bleat and he took one last step and stopped. At this time I should have taken a second to readjust my point of aim to account for the additional step but I did not and dropped the hammer and unleashed the 300 grain Hornady FTX. Well, when the 50 cal goes off the world slows for a second as the force of the round and noise dissipate so after the 50 cal time warp subsided I noticed a branch fall and the buck gave kick and ran off about 30 yards to the edge of a ravine.
With his tail twitching and heavy breathing, I knew he was hit well but generally when you hit them with the 500 S&W they only go 3 feet (sideways) and stop. This old bruiser did not… I knew it wasn’t my best placed shot but I knew he was hit hard by his body language. He then ran another 30 yards across the ravine and laid down. “Yes” I thought he is hit hard and is going to lay down so I’ll just wait him out. As I started to put my gear away I heard the turkeys again. The same turkeys that were once my friends by moving deer have become my nemesis because they started the old boy. I watched the buck get up look up hill at the turkeys then trot down the hill toward the river.
It was now 8:02 and time to call fellow River Brother and the JEDI of deer tracking (Jorgen). I told him what was going on and he said “Stay put I’ll come get you when I get out of my stand and we will go find him besides he continued “ My Dad and Jack are at the bottom of the hill maybe they will see him”. After what seemed like forever but was really 30 minutes, I heard a noise coming up the bluff…. I looked out the window of my stand and sure enough there was Brian and Jack in the 4-wheeler heading up the trail smiling from ear to ear. I thought they found him and they were coming up to tell me… NOPE! I don’t believe Brian and Jack even knew I had made a shot never mind that I had packed poptarts so he was bringing me some banana bread (with chocolate chips) and some coffee (see earlier awesome host comment). Well no deer in the back of the 4 wheeler but a lot of laughs in those woods when I explained what had happened. You can’t make this stuff up and it’s one of my favorite parts of these hunts and what really makes the story.
Well we sat there eating banana bread and laughing until Jedi showed up then the hunt was back on. We followed the deer thru every pricker bush on the Dahl Creek Farm but the Jedi and Jack could not be shaken from the trail while Brian and I posted to make sure this old Timber Ghost didn’t double back on us. At this point it was pretty clear that he was headed toward the water. Jack, Brian and I followed the trail right to the edge of the river where the deer jumped in. As we did this no one notice that Jorgen had slipped off in another direction. He knows this property like the back of his hand and knew that at this point there is only a few places that deer can cross so he just went directly there. As Brian and Jack confirmed his launching pad location, I was looking into the river thinking “OK what now” then I heard a whistle come from my left. It was Jorgen, He had something and being a true woodsman did not scream “Hey over here” just gave a simple but reassuring whistle. I knew our boy had been found.
As we all walked up to the river, Jorgen pointed across the river and said “There’s your deer”. I didn’t see him right away because he was half under a tree snag in the river and only his hind quarter was showing…. Young sharp eyes and knowledge of the land wins the day again. At that point I started to get worried as the boys started poking at me saying “Your deer…. You swim”… I thought “Were they serious, that water is as cold as a well diggers behind”. They sure seemed serious so as I got down to my long johns the phones came out and I figured I had been had (hopefully no one will share those photos) but still I stepped into the water. Within two seconds the laughter started again, I couldn’t feel my feet anymore and I hopped outta that water as fast as an old man can.
After some more ribbing the laughter faded and we started to come up with a game plan to get that bad boy out of the water. It took a team to do but there’s not a better deer hunting team out there so the deer retrieval process was in good hands. To wrap up this long winded story up Jedi and Red braved the nasty tree snag and crawled out and tied a rope to the deer’s antlers. They then threw me the rope and pushed him back in the river. We walked him down the river holding onto the rope until we found a bank that we could pull him up.
Just like that another successful season in the books and some unforgettable memories were made.
- Tim Miller