Moose's Muzzleloader Doe
William E. Allendorf
It was the afternoon of Opening Day of Kentucky's Early Muzzleloader Season. I was on the tail end of one of the most pleasant days of hunting ever. Angus, #3 son, was all ready tagged out for the season, so I had put him in a stand by himself at the other end of a 200 yard log plot of clover. Once I had convinced him to stay off the walkie talkie, life had become peaceful. Moose, #2, was up in his new stand at a location called Virginia. This was his first time out on his own.
The morning hunt had been anything but peaceful. Once Moose had taken his shot at a nice six-pointer, Angus had found it hard to contain himself.
“Angus to Shaman, I think I see a squirrel.”
“Angus to Shaman, I think one is coming your way.”
. . . and so on
The problem wasn't so much the chatter itself. The problem was that Angus was whispering as low as he could, and I was having a hard time picking up what he said. Also each message came with a trailing annunciation tone, a nasty little chirp from the walkie-talkie. I'd let him go, because it was keeping him from getting bored.
This was Moose's first season hunting solo. I had prepared Virginia for him, starting in August, first by dragging dead cedar trees from the top of a previously un-hunted finger ridge and then placing a stand about halfway out along its length. The top of Virginia is a mish-mash of cedar thicket, overgrown pasture, and oak grove. The deer come up the hollows on both sides. By cleaning out a few of the cedars it opened up a cleaner path, both for the deer and the hunter. Moose was also hunting with a muzzleloader for the first time. I had found a 50 cal barrel for his Mossberg 500 shotgun. It is a bit of Kluge, but it shoots cast R.E.A.L. Bullets from the Lee 320 grain mold into a reasonable group using 90 grains of Triple Seven. Originally, the old 500 had been purchased with a riot barrel so my father would have a better house gun. However, it had since acquired a 28 inch Accu-choked turkey barrel and the muzzleloader barrel and had seen year round-duty with my son.
From where I was, life was good. The day had started off warm and bright. As soon as the light had come up, I had been visited by several small bucks and a few doe, and they had all had the grace to pay no attention to the incessant noise coming from the tree near their exit from the woods out into the pasture. I can only theorize that deer are predisposed to being polite, much like folks at a shopping mall, when confronted with the tableau of an exasperated father and his son.
“Yes, son. I agree we really should have snacks out here. Now lets PLEASE stop the chatter.”
Overall action seemed about normal for our early smokepole season. Every once in a while you could hear a distant boom. Mixed in to this was the occasional multiple cracks of someone touching of their new-fangled semi-automatic muzzleloader, a perennial favorite in our county.
Somewhere about mid-morning, a loud boom that was very close had shaken the woods. I had turned on the walkie-talkie to get the news. There had been a long wait, close to a half-hour, before Moose had come on to announce he had missed a six-point buck. That was when I made the mistake of answering Angus' first call.
All that was over now. Moose had reloaded, climbed back in his stand and had a few more deer come past before calling it quits. We had all regrouped at 11 and gone in for a late second breakfast of Who-Hash and gravy. On the way out Father and #2 son had gotten their point across to #3 that the walkie talkies were for essential communication only. When we got back in, KYHillChick had been listening to the whole thing-- she too had heard Moose's midmorning miss. She'd thought the whole thing was hilarious. She was right-- it really did deserve to be recorded and played at family reunions. However, it is now just another fading memory.
It was now the early evening. We had all returned to the same stands. There had been a shot just before sundown coming from Moose's stand at Virginia, and I had watched a small buck come and go. I was not inclined to shoot him any more than I had the half-dozen or so other deer that had been by.
Smokepole season is always one of my favorites. I have only taken a couple of deer over the years, though not for lack of chances. Especially in the last several seasons, the shooting opportunities have been many, and I have passed on nearly all. October 18 marks the anniversary of twice being tagged out within a couple of hours hunting two years running. I remember sitting on the sidelines, freezer full and feeling cheated. It will take a very large buck walking out for me and begging me for release from this mortal coil before I repeat that mistake.
What I enjoy doing may seem silly to you, but the season and the rifle lend themselves to counting coup on the deer rather than actually busting a cap on them. I have a .54 caliber Thompson Center Hawken with a double trigger. When a deer comes in, I practice my shots, and try to count coup on them as often as possible. I leave the hammer at half cock and instead of a “Boom” I get a “Click.” In this way, I can own the souls of sometimes a dozen deer in a weekend, and it gets the bugs worked out before the start of rifle season in November.
To the less seasoned hunter , this may appear reminiscent of Mister Tysik playing “I crush your head!” on The Kids in the Hall. However, to me it takes care of a lot of issues. For one thing, I have found that with all the layers on my upper body, and the new safety harness. I have a real constriction trying to take shots from the right. Should the need arise, I will have to swivel around to the other side of the tree and wait for a shot there. The shadow includes the location where I took the shot on my biggest buck to date last year from the same stand. Another thing I have found is that the new brand of pipe insulation that I place on the shooting rails for padding make the most absolutely ghastly noise when rubbed with the fiberglass ramrod. For all the noise I generated in the morning, the one sound that made a buck raise up like he had been goosed was the time I shifted the barrel a bit and drew the ramrod over the rail. I have a sample of that pipe insulation here, and I intend on testing it with all the rifles before the start of season.
All this time I had been waiting for Moose to call in. It had been agony waiting for the news, but I figured he had his hands full, and I did not call over.
Finally I got the call: “Mooseboy to Shaman. The Moose has shot a doe. She is down the hill from me, but I think she will be easy to bring up. Over.”
“Shaman to Mooseboy: Congratulations. Welcome to the club. Shaman to Girlfriend: Proceed to Point Victor with the truck. We're going to need a pickup.”
As I understand the story, a pair of doe had come by one side of the stand, Moose had swiveled to take the shot and managed to knock all his gear off the stand and it had fallen to the ground with a clatter. The deer had left briefly, but a brief pause, they had returned from the other side and presented him with a clear shot.
Moose admitted it was a mixed thing not having me along. On the one hand, he had the chance to stretch out in the buddy stand instead of spending hours cramped up next to the old man. On the other hand, he missed not having the middle-aged fart telling him what he'd forgotten.
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