Hubert D. Buck
Home Up The Black Hole Literary Review Wm. E. Allendorf, Prop.

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It was a perfect ingress.  I left the house five minutes ahead of schedule. I reached the gate and did my final check and found nothing missing.  I got half way there and realized that I didnít make a mistake by not hitting the bathroom one last time before I left.  However, I felt in my pocket and DID find the toilet paper I had put in.  I looked heavenward and beheld the tableau of Orion and Canis Major taking on Taurus, on a clear sky and knew life was going amazingly well.

The trip to Campground went just like that.  Campground is named for its location, just 200 yards from the family campground we keep near the back of the property.  Campground is a buddy-style ladder stand on a broad point that commands a view of the windward side of a saddle as it slowly dumps off into a creek.  Another hollow connects to the right of this, and the confluence forms a sheltered bottom.  Behind is a fallow field that offers bedding.  The entire point is an oak grove, filled with every sort of oak tree the property has to offer.  Deer move through this area from before dawn until early afternoon.  

I had passed on bucks and does earlier in bow and muzzleloader season. Girlfriend had sprung for a new deer rifle for me, a Remington 7600 in 35 Whelen.  It was replacing my first deer rifle, a Remington 742 that had taken mysterious unassisted fall off the gun rack a year ago, and had never been the same since. It is now destined to become a fireplace ornament.  I pulled the new rifle up into the stand and rested it on its hook, and sat back to enjoy Opening Day.  Perfect.  Everything was just perfect.  

With that, I managed to knock my orange hat off and it fell to the ground.  Oh well.  Things were almost perfect. I unhooked my strap and went down to retrieve it.  I would take almost perfect.  

Opening Day of Modern Weapons Season comes in mid-November in Kentucky .  It comes as the rut is in full swing, just prior to the peak.  If the weather cooperates, it is usually a rollicking orgy of a hunt with a string of rifle shots every minute and from every quarter.  This goes on from well before legal hunting begins and tapers off around 10 AM , only to begin again at sunset.   

The beaters do the yeomanís work of driving the deer to the serious hunters.  The beaters, at least, that is what I have come to call them, mount up on their ATVís just before sunrise and roar out to their appointed places and set up.  They shoot at everything and miss, and then roar off again, looking for more ammo and a better place to shoot.  Of course, these guys think they are hunting, but really they are just driving the deer off the surrounding property and onto my place and those of my few astute neighbors.  

This year, the beaters did not disappoint, but the overall action was light.  Instead of a shot-a-minutes I heard only 45 in the first hour. I had deer movement in fits and spurts as  does came to feed on the acorns, followed by more does just after sunrise that formed the vanguard of the refugees flowing in from off-property.  In the middle of all this, a nice eight pointer came down the logging road directly downwind from me, and cautiously picked his way through the wall of cedars. 

I had seen this fellow before. In fact, I had drawn on him the previous weekend, and not shot, deciding to wait for this weekend and a chance to give the 35 Whelen a chance.  

This buck, having spotted me the previous week as I stood with my bow drawn, locked in a cerebral battle over whether or not to release, had already seen my best.  He knew I was there, and had already devised a plan for evading me. My crosshairs followed him through the cedars as I would pick up a leg, or a bit of antler, the sound of crunching leaves or a snapping twig.  Nothing.  Three minutes in my sights, stopping on occasion to pick acorns, and I never had a clear shot.  Oh well.  

With all the finest Northern Kentucky has to offer in its free beater service you expect oddities with your hunt.  A lost ATV driver, a drunken hunter staggering through the woods, you just never know what is going to stumble up the creek.  It is a good creek to stumble up for sure.  Where it joins Yellow Willow Creek, my little creek has a flat bottom that appears like a sidewalk of paving stones.  The original cabin overlooks this creek, and one can imagine how the first settler came up the Yellow Willow, and saw the flat stones beckoning, and knew God had delivered his family to their new home.   

After the good buck left, I sat waiting for the first of the refugees to appear.  It was not long, either.  All told, I had seven does come up the creek.  Most came up singly, looking a bit lost, but overall happy to be away from what they had left behind.  I held my fire, waiting for a good buck to come up.  The last group of does I saw was a group of three. Their tails were down, but they were excited.  They ran up the creek towards the top of the saddle, held in the cedars a bit, and then ran back down. They repeated this over and over.  When they were up closer to me, they were always watching down the creek, expecting something to come.  

Finally it came.  He came limping, holding his left foreleg.  He was huge.  Even at a distance, I knew he was a bruiser.  He emerged from the wall of cedars below me, and angled his travel in such a way that I figured he would be taking the one trail that would afford me few shooting opportunities.  There is a lip before the final drop into the creek bed.  It is only a couple of  feet high, but deer who chose this route are shielded from shots from my stand. This buck stood for a moment, deciding which way to go. He wanted to follow the path of the does, but something told him to take the low road.  

For those of you who read my work, my search for the better deer cartridge is familiar.  I had somewhat less than stellar performance from the 30-30 these past few years. I will not criticize the 30-30.  I know its reputation all to well.  It has never been all that effective for me.  Deer seem to take shots from a 30-30 from me and act as though nothing has happened.  My subsequent choices in deer rifles have all been predicated on that.  The 35 Whelen seemed to an ideal next choice, whether you look at it as a super-charged 35 Remington, or a bull-necked 30-06,  the 35 Whelen should be potent deer blaster.  

I had the scope on him, I gave his antlers a quick scan.  This was not going to be a trophy for sure. He was a six-pointer, but the far side looked like it might have been shot off.  His near foreleg was definitely giving him trouble.  This was a buck in trouble, and I knew this was the buck that the Lord of the Hunt had deigned me to take.  It had all been so perfect, you see.   

I settled the crosshairs on his chest and touched it off.  There was no impact.  The buck turned and looked at me.


 The buck stood stolidly;  he did not move. I cycled the pump and shot again.


 Nothing. No impact.  No reaction from the deer.  I have heard stories of moose that have taken shots like this, and only gone back to munching pond scum. I began to wonder if I was hitting an intervening branch, or if the scope had somehow gotten knock askew.


 I jacked a third round in and aimed slightly back from my first two and squeezed the shot. I saw the round hit, toss a tuft of hair and leave a small round hole. This time, the buck took a step that took him behind an oak tree.  He stood still again.  


He folded. He kicked. He rolled. He stopped.

I had the last round in and was thinking seriously of putting it into him, when the movement stopped.  I waited a  minute or two, and then made a hurried exit from the stand. The first item over the side was the Whelen, with a fresh magazine already in.  Just as  the muzzle touched the leaves, the rest or the rifle came to rest on a rotten log, and I was letting go of the strap, I heard rustling in the leaves below.  The deer was getting back up again.  Some inner spark had relit the remaining fire.  The buck was struggling to get his back legs under him and lift himself.

 I grabbed the strap again and started to lift the rifle back into the stand. The stock was off the ground already when the buck fell over once more. In a last ironic act, he kicked himself off the lip and went tumbling down further into the ravine.  I knew instantly that I was going to have a bigger chore getting him out.  

The blood trail went forty yards from the initial hits down to the lip and another twenty yards to the bottom.  I called for the truck and Mooseboy and the new game cart that I had not had a chance to use.  A half hour later, Mooseboy and I were using a block and tackle to hoist Hubert D. Buck up a tree for field dressing.  He measured 44 inches and change around the chest, putting him over 200 pounds in live weight.  An hour later we had him out of the ravine, and in the truck.  

The Great Hunt Master had deigned it was my day to take a buck.  I had seen my intended trophy and been denied.  That had at least let me know that I was on my game and had not failed.  Then, He had guided this deer to me and bade us both play out that trial that had left one hunter scratching his head and one noble-but-bowed buck released from his earthly torture.  

As we got him ready to take to the processor, I realized several things about olí Hubert, that got me to understand why I had been chosen. The limp in the foreleg had come from no recent injuries, and certainly not a gunshot. This had been perhaps a birth defect or some old insult. The misshapen poor excuse for an antler had undoubtedly been a reflection of this infirmity. The health of the buck was undeniable.  He had lived  his allotted one and a half years, and grown strong of will and of body. The misshapen antler had grown back into his scalp and had caused an open wound on the buckís head that was causing him unceasing distress. The new rifle had performed well, there were two good entry holes in the chest, almost together. The lungs had been pierced with nickel-sized holes. The third shot had put a thumb-diameter hole in the top of the heart.  There were no massive explosions in the organs, but there was ample damage. Old Hubert, cursed with a life of adversity, had just not wanted to surrender.  A lesser round may not have given this buck the incentives he needed to move on down the Trail.



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