The Savage Spoke Again
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The Savage Speaks Again

by William E. Allendorf

 

10 November, 2007 (Opening Day in Kentucky) 1600 EST

It’s getting on past 4 PM.  I just sent the rest of the family off.  KYHillChick and Moose are heading back to the campground,  Angus and Junior are on their way to the Jagendehutte.  I’m staying at camp.  I’m spent, but it’s a wonderful day out.  The leaves are still on the trees—close to a month behind where they should be.  It’s the sort of day you pray to God for Opening Day. My hunt is probably done for the year.  I still have one tag, but I do not think I will have the freezer space

 It was a perfect day from the start. I blew out of camp with time to spare, set up at Campground, one of my better stands, just inside an oak grove at the corner of one of my food plots.  The light came up, and long before legal hunting time, the rifles were already going off. It was a moderate morning, with shots every two minutes or so.  I started seeing deer about 0700.  They were mostly bucks and they were fairly well cranked up.  I caught one terrorizing a sapling, but I had to wait until the light came up better before I could get a fix on the size of his rack and figure out where to put a shot.  I was glad I held off.  I found out later he was only a young four pointer.  From 0700 through sunrise at 0713 and on to 0730 that process repeated itself, with bucks coming and going just at the edge of my visual range. 

   

I’m not big on calls for deer.  I never call aggressively, because I have seen even large deer turn tail and run from an aggressive string of grunts.  I guess that is one of the ways they get to be older, bigger deer.  However, I was getting frustrated and somewhat wrung out trying to get my crosshairs on these deer, only to find them wanting.  I counted a total of four different bucks, a fork, a four pointer, a small basket-six and a tall tight set of antlers that had no discernable points.

 In most years, a fast buck on the opener would not have been passed up.  I am not a rack snob. However, this year was different.  Both Angus, my #3 son, and KYHillChick, my loving consort, have seen a large buck they claimed is wearing a chandelier on its head.  I had not seen him, but I had seen some promising bucks that were better than average for our ridge.  I had resolved to hold off and wait for something of reasonable size.

 It was from this stand, Campground, that I had taken my biggest buck to date back in 2003.  See "The Savage Spoke  . . ."

It had been the inaugural year for the stand and the first year for me carrying a rifle I have decided to be my all-time favorite rifle: a Savage 99 in 308 WIN that I have downloaded so that it shoots a 165 grain bullet at 300 Savage levels.  I had brought along a Remington 7600 in 35 Whelen and a Winchester Model 70 in 30-06 as well this year, but something about the Savage caught my attention at the last minute, and that was what I chose for opening morning.

 So there I was with small bucks all around me, and hardly a doe in sight.  It was fifteen minutes into the first day of Kentucky’s Modern Weapon’s season. I was already starting to shake from one too many abortive trips to the scope and my thumb was aching from its perch on the safety.  After a second scan of the same buck that had ravaged the sapling, I decided it was time to turn things around.

 I had  won a contest from Quakerboy.com  for a story I’d written back in 2003 about my son Mooseboy.  Included in the loot from Quaker Boy was a new grunt call.

The Quaker Boy Ridge Runner

 

I pulled it out and gave a few little poots—nothing too fancy, just some letting-y’all-know-I’m-here type of grunts.  That was just what it took to convince the other bucks that it was time to go elsewhere.  The woods got quiet in a hurry.

Boyo,  I sure know how to clear out a room.  Oh well.  At least I had a chance to relax and take a breather.  I knew the real show would start between ten and eleven, when the Orange Army came out of the woods and drove all the deer onto my place.  It had been a fun show.

 Down from the opposing hillside came a deer that was hard to tell exactly what it was.  It had a big body, but it was too far out for any other assessment.  It crossed the creek and headed directly for me.  Now do not get me wrong.  A big deer around these parts does not always equate to a big rack.  My first buck weighed 255 lbs on the hoof, and had very mediocre antlers.  In 2005 I Whelenized a buck that walked in on three legs weighing 204.  His rack hangs in our dining room as a warning to others of the folly of man’s search for antler.   

As he came for me I realized that this was a buck with true menace in his heart. His head was straight out and his ears were back.  He was looking directly at me, or perhaps through me.  He had a look that made me glad I was in a tree. I brought the rifle up and sized him up once more.  Whatever I had said with that grunt call must have equated in his mind to the cervid equivalent of “Which one of you lousy biker wussies wants to get spanked first?” 

I do not hold myself out to be a good judge of antler.  In the back of my head is a small sensor that has three basic states. One is “DOE.”  The second is “HAS ANTLERS.” The third is “Quint, I think we’re going to need a bigger boat.”    I know that admission has lowered my esteem in your eyes, but I have to be honest.  I learned how to hunt deer at a time when doe were not to be taken, anything with an antler was a gift from the Gods, and big racks were only seen hanging in restaurants.   

The one trick I have learned from watching all those stupid outdoor shows is that big racks hang out past the buck’s ears.  The other trick I leaned from watching those shows with my dog, Barney, was that if the deer exits to the left of the screen you can chase him by jumping down off the bed and running into the other room.  If he exits to the right of the screen, you can run to the window and bark at him.  This buck was coming directly for me, and his antlers seemed to be well past his ears. This I took as a good sign.  He did not look like the chandelier buck that KYHillChick had warned me about.  However, it would at least prove that I had not shot the first patch of brown. 

The deer came broadside to me in that same way that a gorilla puffs out his chest or a lizard does that thing with his throat.  He wanted to show me that he was the biggest wussie biker in the bar and he was eager to throw down with me. I shot.  The deer quickly realized his error and healed over in a high- speed turn to starboard.  He made a short run down the hill on a reciprocal course, struck a log at flank speed with a loud “CRACK!” and sailed out of sight. The woods fell quiet again. 

I settled back and unloaded the Savage. My season was over.  Well, almost over.  Do not believe what they tell you about scaring deer with gun shots.  Do not believe all those things you hear about deer intelligence either.  Deer are sincerely stupid animals.  I believe that now more than ever, for in the next five minutes, the smaller bucks I had been seeing earlier all came back out and also came my way.  One little guy, the one with the tall spindly rack went as far as walking out into the field and servicing a scrape that was close by the stand.  My guess was that they figured that once the big guy was out of there, they were free to go about their business.  I waited a while for the bucks to take their act up the adjoining hollow before climbing down. 

 

Did I mention that I’m a poor judge of racks?  After I got down and called Moose to bring the truck, and doffed the heaviest layers of clothing , I reloaded and headed down the hill.  I did not need a blood trail. The buck’s path through the fallen leaves was clear.  From well up the hill I could see the buck, and my first impression was disappointing.  It was a bad case of ground shrinkage—big deer, small rack, stupid hunter—then I got down into the creek bed itself and got the whole picture.  He went 270 pounds live weight, the rack will go 150 inches or better with a 19.5” inside spread. 

There was close to seventy pounds of viscera alone.  He was missing one of several brown tines, a sign he had been fighting.  However, it was not a fresh break, and the tine had probably been lost when he was still in velvet. We tried using the game cart—the wheels kept sinking in to the dirt.  Moose wanted to call the neighbors and have them bring an ATV.  I decided finally to chance bringing down the truck. After a lot of fancy jinking I got it close enough for us to drag the carcass over and heave it into the truck.  Angus and William, my other sons came down to help. 

The Savage had done its work nicely.  I had taken a broadside shot at 60 yards. The 165 grain Hornady Interlock Spire Point had taken out both lungs and the top of the heart before exiting with a half-inch exit wound.  You really do not need any more than that, if the shot is well placed.  A light-shooting 308 Win or a 300 Savage has become my go-to rifle for treestands.

We were somewhat late getting to Meyer’s in Lennoxburg.  There was a large crowd gathered, watching the day’s take.  Bill and the guys out front were getting stacked up with skinning and the carcasses were piled up along Route 10.  One of the locals peaked in the back of my truck and motioned for his buddy.  They stared through the window. 

“That your deer?” he asked. 

“That little forkhorn?” I replied. “He’s mine.” 

“That’s no forkhorn in there.” He said indignantly. 

 “Well, let’s see. “ I said. “I’ve been known to have ground shrinkage problems.”  I flopped open the back and the big head fell out. Every other head on that stretch of Route 10 suddenly slewed to my direction. Just like that I had a crowd gathered.  They argued whether it was a twelve or thirteen pointer and decided mine was the biggest they had seen brought in quite some time.  Some thought he must be a Pendleton County buck—deer like that one don’t live in Bracken County. 

“Well,” I said. “What do you know.  I guess he grew a little coming over in the truck.  I guess he’ll do.” 

Somebody must have gotten Jake, the owner, out of his hole in the basement to come take a look.  “That’s a mighty nice deer.” He said as he shook my hand.  “A mighty nice deer.”  Right there, I knew I had my trophy.  Jake’s blessing beat any big buck contest.   They moved me to the head of the line so I could get the cape over to the taxidermist.  I gave Jake a deposit and headed out. 

 

10 November, 2007 (Opening Day in Kentucky) 1730 EST

Angus kept calling in. He‘s nine, and can see the chandelier buck behind every doe he spies.  He and Junior came in from the barn with wild tales.  KYHillChick and Moose had a nice walk about and saw a twelve pointer, a smaller rack but probably more points than mine. 

 

Click on thumbnail:  Sunset at the farm on 11/10/2007, KYHillChick is sitting in my thoughful spot

 

11 November, 2007 -- 0800 EST

We had a bonfire after they all got in and it burned well past 0200.  I got up early and sat on the back of the house with my Model 70, my laptop and the big binos.  I’ve been listening to the FRS radio on scan, but there has been no action.  I have a couple of does in the far pasture, but the shot would be well over 500 yards.

 

 

 


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