Deer Hunting 2017, Part 4

The eight pointer I've been holding out for is still around.

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In which I experience success…sort of.

 

Thus far I’ve told you about Patrick’s success this deer season.  I also recounted a couple embarrassing failures on my part.  What I didn’t share with you was that the second weekend of Missouri’s season I got a text from my son JB who lives in Oklahoma.

JB told how he went out on opening weekend of their season and potted a buck with an interesting rack. As you can see in the accompanying photo, it was a mature buck and had a nice, four point antler on the right side, but only a fork on the left.  Still, it totaled six points to equal Patrick’s deer.

The pressure was building on me to match my two sons’ accomplishments or set myself up for some teasing.

Well, anybody who knows my family understands that success is optional but teasing is guaranteed.  When Patrick pointed out that JB’s six pointer equaled his, the older brother sent a couple more pictures of some sticker points on his and tried to claim it as an eight pointer.

Ye-e-a-ah…no.

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The next-to-last evening of firearms season found me in my stand watching the seven deer herd you saw in the video that accompanied Part 3 of Deer Hunting 2017.  All slickheads.  They left the woods at the northwest corner of my clearing and drifted southeast toward the sweetgum tree that stands in the middle of the open area, munching wheat as they moved.  Again, as it was rifle season and I was holding out for a bigger buck, I just watched, despite the fact that they were in range for quite a while.

The deer moved around behind the sweetgum for a bit, then came back out, heading slowly northwest toward the same spot where they had left the woods in the first place.  They came out from behind the tree one, two, three…  When only six of them moved away from the tree I found myself wondering if I had miscounted…but certain I had not.  I kept waiting for the missing member to come out from behind the tree.  I watched the other six, meanwhile glancing back toward the tree because I couldn’t believe I had tallied wrong, but I was still a little bumfuzzled.  Sure, deer herds split up sometimes but they usually stay more-or-less together.

Just as the six reached the edge of the clearing I glanced back to the sweetgum and noticed a seventh deer through the branches on the east side of it.  Assuming it was the other slick, I looked back at the six then back at number seven, and caught a glint of white antler!  It was a buck, and looked to have a decent amount of bone on its head!

I was even more perplexed for a split second.  No way would I have mistaken this guy for a slickhead.  But I wasn’t so confused that I didn’t raise my binoculars to make sure what it was before I committed to a shot.  I counted the tines on his right antler.  One, two, three, four if it had a brow tine…then made out his left antler.  I instantly recognized this guy from a few photos I’d gotten on my game cams.  It wasn’t the eight pointer I wanted a shot at.  He had an OK right antler sure enough, but the left one was a single long spike.

In seconds, before I could decide whether to cull him from the breeding population and take ribbing from my sons for tagging a five-pointer to less-than-equal their six-pointers, the odd buck disappeared into the trees.

No regrets.  He was young and MIGHT develop a more normal rack in the future.

After the odd buck faded into the brush, the seventh member of the herd emerged from behind the sweetgum and slowly rejoined the others.  I had been right after all, there had been seven slickheads in the herd.  I guess the seventh antlerless deer and the buck had been getting acquainted while the rest of the herd moved away to grant them some privacy.

I don’t know for sure.

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Modern firearms season ended without me firing a shot, not that I hadn’t tried, as I recounted in “Deer Hunting 2017, Part 3”.

Bow season was back and I returned to toting my crossbow, which restricted my shots to about 40 yards.  I was also back to work, which limited the number of days each week I could make the trek to the ladder stand.  On those days, however, my cloven-hoofed friends continued to grace me with their presence…most of the time.  As the thermometer crept closer to freezing, sunrise grew unproductive.  Most mornings I wouldn’t see any deer, even though the game camera showed that they came by it in the middle of the night, especially the antlered ones, including the eight-pointer I had set my sites on, both metaphorically and actually.

They came out in force every evening though.

I never raised my bow during that portion of archery season that fell between modern firearms season and primitive arms season, despite seeing anywhere from two to 12 deer almost every time I went out.  I wasn’t ready to settle for just meat when I could get that from the eight-point beauty, with the bonus of a nice set of antlers for the wall.

Not to mention bragging rights with my sons.

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Black powder season came in over the Christmas holiday.  With family coming in, free time for hunting was limited at first.  We had a tremendous visit but everyone left Christmas Eve so I was able to get out to the woods Christmas morning before Annie got up.

I dressed in multiple layers since winter temps had moved in.  Two pairs of socks, long johns, pants, and insulated coveralls and boots, in addition to multiple knit caps and face masks, and chemical hand warmers in the end of my glomitts (a combination of fingerless gloves and mittens) should keep me warm in the below zero temps…theoretically.

The thing about theories is that they are sometimes proven wrong.

To put the percussion cap on the rifle’s nipple I had to expose my fingers and the cold began to suck the heat out of them immediately.  By the time I got the cap on the rifle and flipped the mitten part back on my fingers were pretty cold.  The hand warmer heat was almost luxuriant as the warmth crept back in.

All the insulation I’d put on was doing a pretty good job, I thought, until I noticed my shoulders starting to cool.  Weather reports differ, but I was told that the actual temperature dropped to around zero, and the wind chill drove it several degrees lower.  Suffice it to say, the heat was being slowly sapped out of my body.  I mentally calculated that I’d be able to stay until after daylight before I’d have to climb out of the stand.  Then walking should warm me back up.

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Visibility improved as the sun crept upward.  Eventually I very nearly reached my limit of discomfort, and no deer had shown up.  I figured they were staying in their warm beds like the smart people were doing, so I removed the cap from my front-stuffer and descended the stand.

I changed out the memory card in the game camera closest to the stand, then headed to the bottom ground to change out that one.  As I headed home on the field road that bisects our farm I heard one of my dogs barking up around the house.  They do that a lot so I didn’t pay it much mind until I turned the corner to head uphill toward the machine shed, and saw the pup, Buttercup, barking at something in the waterway uphill from the shed.  She seemed quite interested in what she was barking at so I kept looking that way while I ascended the hill.

A deer stepped out of the brush in front of Buttercup.

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As soon as I saw it I knew it wasn’t well.  It didn’t move right.  A quick look through my binoculars showed that the animal looked like a walking skeleton.

CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) has been in conservation news a lot lately but hasn’t been found in our area yet.  The MDC (Missouri Department of Conservation) asks that hunters report deer with the symptoms I was seeing.  The department would investigate.

The deer didn’t run, which also made me wonder about rabies.  My dogs are vaccinated against that dreaded disease but I’m not.  Still, I wanted to get closer to gather more information before I called the MDC.  By this time the deer had his tail up but still didn’t run.  Instead he turned and walked away, a little faster than normal and with purpose, but definitely not breaking into so much as a trot.  He reached the wood-line and disappeared.

I moved quickly but cautiously uphill.  The deer was on the other side of the ravine and heading north when I got to the trees.  Figuring he would cross the brushy clearing under the powerlines I moved to head him off.  When I got there, he’d already crossed the clearing, and I heard the dogs (Buttercup had been joined by some of our other dogs.) barking on the other side of the road that cuts off a few acres of our farm to form an elongated triangle, mostly tree covered.

I headed north and crossed the road at an angle to get to the old trailer lot and moved west to the woods.  I could see the dogs barking at something that was concealed from me by a tree.

I know it is illegal to hunt deer with dogs in Missouri but I was not hunting the deer.  I did have my gun as I wanted to keep my options open in case it did have rabies and tried to attack me.  It had also occurred to me that maybe I should put the deer down to end its suffering.  As I said, it was clearly emaciated.

Picking my way through the briars I noticed a foul smell.  As I approached within about 15 feet of the deer the stench grew worse.  Up until this time the deer hadn’t paid any attention to me, but now it looked at me and turned to reveal its right side.  As he turned, I saw a gaping wound under his right foreleg, and the disgusting odor grew stronger…the smell of decay, infection, and rot.  The poor creature had gotten a serious injury and was being eaten alive from the inside.

I was relieved that it wasn’t CWD or rabies, but the pain he was going through must have been horrible.  I felt sorry for the once beautiful animal that would almost certainly not make it through the winter and would suffer a long, slow, agonizing death.

I covered his bread basket with the front sight on my .50 caliber inline and squeezed the trigger.  At the boom, he dropped immediately.

His suffering was over.

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I took time to look the dead deer over then headed toward our house.  I’d have to take my gloves off to make the phone call I knew I had to make.

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The 2017/18 deer season will draw to a close Monday night, January 15.  I don’t plan to give up until I get my deer or time runs out.  You’ll have to wait to find out if I finally have unmitigated success or if the bad luck I’ve had so far this season outlasts me…and so will I.

 

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(above) J.B.’s buck was a nice, fat one with an interesting six point (4×2) rack.

 

(below) This is the odd-racked buck I, at first, thought was the big one I’m holding out for.  Looking carefully at the game cam photos I’ve gotten of him, I don’t think he has a brow tine on either antler, which makes him a four pointer (3×1).  The other four pointer in the photo is the one Patrick passed up on opening morning of the rifle season.

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2 Comments on "Deer Hunting 2017, Part 4"

  1. Sorry about the unfortunate events this season but the wait makes the reward that much more sweet.

    • Scott Matthews | January 10, 2018 at 7:15 pm |

      It’s why they call it hunting. As long as I see deer I’ll keep going out. I don’t have to kill anything to enjoy it. Thanks.

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