I’ll begin back in July. I was still recovering from pneumonia back during Turkey Season. We had missed quite a few weekends coming out to camp, and I was behind in my chores. I went out in mid-July to mow around the house. Just at sundown there was a herd of deer that came up out of Hootin’ Holler. I did not have any binos with me, but I was able to take a few shots with a long lens. It was after sundown, so I did not have a whole lot of light.
There were 4 of them out there. This was the biggest. I was pretty worked up over these deer. My apologies for the quality of the picture, but that was the best I could do at the time. You get the idea.
August and September showed a marked drop in deer sign. Finally, in early October, deer activity just plain ceased. Dad went into the hospital on the 5th. That weekend, I took Angus down to the farm. I’d been at the hospital for several days. I needed a breather, and Angus needed some time. ‘HillChick volunteered to take Mom to the hospital and give us some time. Of course, at that point we didn’t know it was all that serious. We had a good weekend. He got his rifle sighted in. We went squirrel hunting. It was the perfect father/son trip, except we did not see any squirrels and we did not see any deer. For the next month, that was how it went.
YUTE HUNT, 2011
The next weekend was the Yute Hunt. It was warm. It was windy. We saw just one deer, as we were walking out in the morning. About the only thing worth mentioning about that trip is that I took Angus to see a spot I picked out last New Year’s. It looks like the perfect spot to put up a ground blind. It overlooks the cedar thicket at the top of Virginia as well as the shallow hollow we call The Left Leg. I’ve got some fence posts and sections of our old garage door. It will be our building project starting next Spring. We dubbed it LazyBoy.
Saturday afternoon, we took a post at Faulty Towers overlooking the top of Skunk Hollow. Jeff, the guy who mows our hay, came out and mowed for a few hours. The full moon came up. At dusk, a few doe showed up, but at this point we were expecting a buck to show sooner or later. It got dark. We came in. Saturday night, Mom called and Dad had taken a turn for the worse.
SuperCore, Moose, Angus and I went back out the next weekend for early Muzzleloader Season. Again, Dad was seeming to be on the mend. Again we had warm windy weather. Again, not a single blessed deer presented itself. By this time I had suspected we were having trouble. This is usually the weekend we have the maximum amount of acorns on the ground. Nothing. What’s more, I scouted out at the Garden of Stone. Zip. Nada. If there was going to be any deer sign at all, it would be here. Normally, no matter what, you can usually find scat and prints at the Garden of Stone– a little patch of clover out in one of our pastures. Deer come around all months of the year to munch. Jeff had mowed it during Yute Season– a bit later than usual. However, I don’t think that had anything to do with it. The deer just weren’t showing themselves.
Moose got honked and switched to squirrel. Saturday afternoon, he bagged four nice ones over at the foot of Heatbreak Ridge. When he came in, he mentioned he had seen a bunch of deer beds. We had seen several others too, but it was hard to tell exactly when they had been made. Saturday Night, Mom called again. Dad had taken another turn for the worse. We cut things short and headed back in.
Timeout to Bury Dad
There is a 3-week hiatus between the end of Muzzleloader in October and the Rifle Opener. In that time, Dad’s condition started to swirl down the tubes. We stayed at the hospital. We moved him from the VA to Christ Hospital. He started to turn around, and then he just suddenly gave out. He died on a Sunday. We buried him the next Friday. Saturday I drove out to camp to get the last of my rifles sighted in and just hang out and brood. Angus came with me.
I wrote back a couple of weeks ago about getting ready for the Opener. Gee, all that hype and not much to show for it. The morning hunt started off just fine. 212 shots fired by my neighbors in the first two hours. Believe it or not, that is about half of what we heard last year. A good number of those shots came from over over the line in Pendleton County– that county’s on fire right now. Us? SuperCore and Moose didn’t see a thing.
Along about 0900 the wind came up, and started blowing about as fierce as we have seen it. I was out at Campground and about 0915 a buck and a doe showed up. The buck sauntered across the Garden of Stone. However, I only had a few seconds to glass him before he went into the woods. He was big and burly and all rutted up. You could tell something was wrong with his rack, but I did not have time to figure out what it was. A shot was out of the question. The buck stopped for a moment before going into the woods, and stared over in my direction. Maybe if I was completely on the ball, I might have been able to take him, but he really put on the breaks unexpectedly, and it was in high grass at the edge of the fence.
Right after he left a doe came out in the next pasture. She stopped dead in her tracks and watched me. At the time, I could not figure out what the attraction was. I was wearing my new orange clown suit– Hunter Orange head-to-toe. However, I was behind a camo blind and I had taken the extra precaution of adding a backing of black landscape fabric– more on that later. This doe was just completely fascinated with me. She stomped a couple of times and then took off the other direction. If she had not been so far out– about 225 yards, I might have chanced a shot.
I got down from my stand about 1030, with just a hint of motion sickness. That afternoon, it got to blowing even worse. We all went back out in the afternoon, not expecting all that much. I did manage to solve the mystery of why the deer were so easily tipped off at my location. Midway is a ground blind that overlooks two long and narrow pastures. Campground, the stand I had been in that morning , is in an oak grove at the southern tip of the southern of the two pastures. I had a perfect view of Campground from Midway, and as the wind gusted into the high-20′s, I could see the camo fabric flapping around wildly. Ah-Ha! That had been what had gotten the buck and the doe clued in. It was completely innocuous in all but the highest winds, but once it got at the upper limit of what I would consider safe, the camo felt was a sure tip to the deer.
Now a word about the landscape fabric: I noticed last year that when the sun is shining through the camo fabric I use for my treestand skirts, it has a tendency to show what is behind it. This year, I bought 50 feet of black landscape fabric and tied it on behind the camo. It’s all basically the same stuff. I think it’s called Nylap. It’s not woven; it’s press into a felt. I find that extra layer behind the camo does a lot to improve opacity. I did 4 blinds with it for $10.
Moose was under a different set of constraints than the rest of us. He needed meat on the pole any way he could. He came to me after lunch on Saturday asking what I thought of the situation. Dang, they do grow up fast, don’t they. One year they can barely shoulder the gun, and you turn around and here is a guy telling you he needs to get back to town, because YOUR grandchild’s causing trouble in the oven and he needs to stay with her mother in the last couple months of the pregnancy. I told him meat’s meat. Take what he could. Angus and I heard the shot around sundown, coming from Virginia; Moose had plastered a button buck.
That was it for the Opener. Sunday no one saw anything until just after SuperCore left around Noon to go back to town. Moose pointed out a big buck out between Broken Corners and the JagendeHutte. The buck was similar to the one I’d seen Saturday morning, just strutting around looking for love. It would have been easy chip shot for SuperCore, but he was a good 10 miles up the road.
The second weekend of season promised to be a lot more of the same– windy, warm, and the threat of rain the longer we stayed. Moose stayed back. To complicate matters, Momma had gone to a routine doctor’s appointment mid-week and had a doe slam into the side of her truck. She was fine. The truck didn’t have a scratch, but she had slammed on the breaks and the little one had taken a quick trip into the steering wheel. The had them all in the hospital for 24 hours. The baby had shown no signs of distress, so now they were all home and doing fine.
Saturday morning I had a visit from little Lorelei, the doe that had taken a shine to me last season. She’s a chocolaty deer with a penchant for finding me. Once she does, she plays this silly deer game of hiding behind trees and snorting at me. This is not the wild hysteric snorting that Madge, the Mad Doe, used to pull. This is just a playful “I see you!” kind of thing. What’s more, she hangs around. She does not bust. Last year, I think I had her around about a half-dozen times. Once she ran a nice buck past my stand for me. After I nailed my big buck last year, I found her bedded next to my gear at the base of the stand. This year, she came by after 0900 and caught sight of me from about 100-150 yards out. She made a turn and came up broadside to me for a bit before heading into the big clump of cedars that shelter the family campground.
I watched for 20 minutes for her to show up again. Finally, I put down the binos and repositioned myself on the seat. My scalp was itching from all the baking soda, so I took my hat off and scratched. When I looked back up, there was little Lorelei, right in front of my stand, about 15 yards off. She’d stayed behind the cedars all the way to hide from me. She let out one little snort and took off out into the field. She did not run away, though. Instead she hopped from one spot to another all across that corner of the field. She would then stand still, broadside to me, practically begging me to shoot. It was some of the queerest behavior I’ve seen out of a deer. Was she. . . egging me on? I dunno. Finally, she got bored and flicked her tail at me and left.
Saturday afternoon was another zilch. The rain was due to hit around 0300, and the heavy stuff was due at 0900. We went to bed expecting a wet morning.
Whelenizing the Monster
. . . Well, half a monster at least. 0430 came and we were surprised. Yes, it was pouring rain, but the radar showed it would end before 0600 and not come back until 1100. We would get a morning hunt in. SuperCore went back to Faulty Towers. Angus slept in. I went to Midway with the Whelenizer, my Remington 7600 in 35 Whelen. It was an hour and a half after the beginning of legal hunting, and I was beginning to become dispirited.
Suddenly the big fellow I had seen last Saturday came out of our campground and starting strutting across the Garden of Stone. He was coming straight for the blind. At 120 yards he started to give me a bit of an angle, and paused.
It’s funny, but whenever I touch of the Whelenizer, everyone seems to know it. I guess it has a distinctive report. He went less than a 100 yards with the bottom of his heart shot out. Angus brought out the truck and we schlepped him back to the meat pole. When I was done with him, I looked like I’d been in a knife fight. and lost.. Just about the time I went into the house to start washing up, the rain started. SuperCore came out and drove the buck out to the processor.
I had shouldered him on the near side. I really had not meant to do that. I was just trying for a good angle on the heart and lungs and the foreleg had gotten in the way. If you recover a dead deer at the end, it isn’t bullet failure or a bad shot. However, there was no blood trail and no exit wound. I suspect the slug ended up somewhere south of the chest cavity, but did not see any sign of it. It was fully expanded after going through the leg and made a massive hole going through the ribs and heart. I doubt a .308 bullet would have made it through. The .358 200 grain Corelockt did its part. I did not have to go too far to find him. This was not what I would call the best shot of my life. It was a tad low, and I don’t like blowing up that much meat. However, I doubt I would have gotten a good broadside shot on this beast. The way he was coming I think he would have spooked before turning. I’m just glad I did it with the Whelenizer. You can’t argue with 35 caliber.
This bruiser has been cruising around the farm for months. I would love to see the buck that broke off that antler. Yikes! What a rack he had– probably would have gone 150 if it had been all there. Oh well. He’ll taste the same, right? 196 lbs on the hoof.
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