Angus has had a two year struggle with the deer. He’s an avid hunter. He passed Hunter Ed at 8, and cannot remember a time he wasn’t out hunting me, his Dad. However, last season the deer just have not been cooperating. In 2008, he got his first chance to go afield with a rifle and managed to take a nice doe at sunset on the first day of the KY Early Youth Hunt.
2009? Despite numerous chances, Angus was just having bum luck. He was all ready to light one up on a nice fat doe, but the other two deer at hand decided at that moment it would be a good time to suckle. Ooops. Angus later said, he wasn’t adverse to shooting any of the three, but just . . . just not then. Later in the year, he had other chances, but it was always something. Usually too many deer standing too close together and a little too far away for his taste, and the reach of his Marlin 30-30. He was holding out for a buck at first, but by the end of season, he was thinking in that brown-n-down mode. One night, at last light, he had to make a choice, and he opted to pass. I had the better optics and stepped in and bagged a nice 170+lb doe to finish filling the freezer.
Going into this season, we tried a bunch of rigs. Angus and I were thinking we’d give the Mosin Nagant M44 a try. It had been a fairly decent yute rifle for him when he first got started, but for some reason we could not get a good group out of it. Next, we tried the M1 Garand that his older brother had used. M1 Garand for a 12 year old? Look, when you have kids named “Moose” and “Angus,” there is not a whole lot more to say. The Garand is heavy, but that and the semi-automatic action are in its favor when taming the recoil of a 30-06 load. It was drawing close to season and neither the Garand nor the Mosin were giving Angus what he needed. I knew he was looking for a bit more reach than the 30-30 he’d been shooting. I had an idea, but it was going to be a stretch.
About 4 years ago, KYHillChick had gotten interested in shooting. I bought her a Savage 110 in 30-06, and she was out plugging milk jugs at 400 yards in no time. There were a couple problems. One, the stock was a bit too long. I bought her a youth stock. Second, the recoil was a bit much for her. I loaded some lead in the stock, and everything was fine. The resulting rifle weighed about 15 lbs, but it was a tack driver. Even the kids were shooting it and loving it. I was getting pressed for time now with Angus. I cooked up some hunting rounds and figured I’d carry the rifle. We would be hunting out of elevated stands with shooting rails and ground blinds– off hand shooting would not be an issue.
The Yute Opener was Saturday. There we were, trying to hoist a 15 lb bench rifle into the treestand. It all worked great, except the deer and weather did not cooperate. We’ve been in a drought for months and the weatherman was talking near-record high temperatures. The acorns were dropping everywhere. However, the deer were largely staying away from our ridge and staying down in the bottoms. We did sight 3, including a spike buck. However, Angus was deviled again– just could not get the right angle on the right animal. He had decided ahead of time: if it wasn’t suckling, it was going down.
We tried again in the afternoon. It was close to as hot as I have ever hunted deer– upper 80′s. The deer held off until way after dark to make their move. We got snorted sitting out in the backyard a good hour after last light, but by then we were kicking back and the 15 lb deer rifle had been put away.
Sunday morning, we decided to try Midway, the luxury box shooting house we built last year. It is sited in a tree line between to long, skinny food plots, and deer had been hitting what was left of the drought-ravaged clover. About a half-hour after sunrise, four doe showed up about as far out as they could be. They saw the windows were open on the shooting house, but really did not pay us a lot of mind. We watched them for a good 40 minutes, before realizing they probably were not going to work their way much closer than 180 yards. The dominant doe was causing real ruckus with what looked like maybe one older daughter and a couple of young yearling does, chasing all of them out of the choicest clover in the plot.
For grins, I tried a couple of calls. Normally I just try to be quiet and not call any attention to my location, but it was getting on into the morning, and I figured shaking things up might work. I tried a contact bleat and a few others. I go all four doe looking my way, but they were not impresssed. Then I brought out a fawn distress bleat– one of those can calls. One little bleat sent them running like they had all suddenly licked an electric fence. Oh well. Sigh!
Angus and I were sitting back quietly discussing things. Yes, it was probably going to be a long season. Yes, it probably meant schlepping that 15 pound rifle around for a month or two. No, we should not get our hopes up. Yes, there was plenty of long underwear for him if the game went to extra innings. Yes, there was going to be enough freezer space for one more, no matter how long we had to wait.
Angus had seen the doe return. This time, they were on the run. They had previously exited out the west side of the food plot. In the intervening quarter hour, they had circled around the back end of the plot, back in the woods, and had run into an amorous buck. It is nearly unheard-of to see breeding activity so early in the Fall. However, I had been seeing bucks trailing behind does for close to a month. We are supposed to have a crazy rut this year, with the full moon so close to the Equinox. Nobody had said it was going to be like this! We could not see exactly how good the rack on this fellow was, but it was easy to see he had a big body. Angus got a bead on him in the scope. I spotted with the binos.
For about five minutes, the buck kept edging the doe down the field. At first the does would run a few yards and then try to eat, but the buck was soon running from one to the next like a sheep dog trying to herd a flock. Finally, he got within about 150 yards, and stood broadside. Angus got the crosshairs on him.
“aaaack!” I grunted to stop everyone in their tracks. The buck’s head shot up. Then one of the younger does ran in front. Now we could see he had a respectable rack of 8 points. The buck took off again, chasing the doe. He covered another 20 yards, ran behind a few hay bales and then came out.
“aaaack!” I grunted again. All told this process repeated 3-4 more times before the buck finally came to rest without obstruction and offered a good broadside shot. Angus caught him in the nearside shoulder. He turned over and submarined for another 20 yards, trying to make it to the treeline. His lights went out little by little, and finally I figured it was time to go check on him.
Normally, it is a bad sign when you come up on a dead deer with its legs pulled up underneath. Usually, that means he is not dead. Of course, all we had was this 15 lb bench rifle, and a 12 year-old hunter. I put Angus back about 10 yards with a hot chamber and the safety on. I approached on the back side, with the intent of giving the buck every opportunity to get up and run if he had a mind to do so. I went forward. I thought about sending the kid in, but. . . well, those antlers looked big. I walked up and kicked the buck in the ass. Nothing. I shook an antler . Nothing. Dead deer. Angus had finally shaken his jinx, and done it with style.
The buck went 188 lbs live weight, and you can see from the pictures the
rack is about as perfect and symmetrical as you would like. KYHillChick said
she’s springing for the mount for Christmas. Angus will have his first trophy
to hang on the wall.
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