It all started back last Sunday. I was up in my stand, getting to the end of my second morning of hunting in KY’s early muzzleloader season. I had the .54 Hawken along. It was a nice bright morning. I’d seen a few doe over the weekend, but nothing worth popping cap. It was nearing 10 AM. I had decided that I would come out about then. There was a lot of things to do back at camp. I had to sight in some deer rifles. The next weekend was going to be our designated “Bye” week in season. Most years it rains that weekend. There is not much going on in season at that point, and usually we get all our fall chores straightened out so the month of November can be devoted to Deer Camp unhindered.
There is a spot just in front of the stand at Campground that never ceases to surprise me. There is a logging road running next to a pasture. Between them is the fence line. Deer coming from down the road are visible from 100 yards or more. If they come down the other side of the fence, They are about 20 yards from the stand before I see them. I had the Hawken up–my hand on the hammer; I was just getting ready to blow the load into a nearby stump and start the march back. Out pops a beautiful 10-point buck from the fenceline and stands in the opening I had cleared for the truck.
A lot of things flashed through my head. I did lower the rifle and get him in my sights. I did pull the set trigger and have a dead-on shot at 20 yards, catching him totally unawares. However, this buck was just a tad small; he was in that Twilight Zone between mediocre and awesome. If he had shown up Weekend #3 of rifle season, it would have been a no-brainer, but this was only mid-October. I realized that I could not bear to screw up my whole month of November having taken this buck so early in the season.
I have done this before, back in the 90′s I had back-to-back bucks on the Bow Opener. In two years I had less than 6 hours of hunting. That experience was enough to make me think twice. I did not kick myself after the buck wandered off. I had a lot of time to observe his antlers. He was a young fellow, no more than 3.5 years, probably more like 2.5. It would have been about my #4 or #5 rack. However, I have bigger waiting to be mounted. About 20 minutes after he left, I blew the charge in my gun and came down. I was not going to be up to my elbows in deer gore before the Rifle Opener in Mid-November.
Fate had decided otherwise. A week later, this past Sunday, I was sitting at home. I received a call from a neighbor, Pam. Pam used to live just up the street. However, she and her family had moved a couple miles away to another house, and we’d lost touch. Two years ago, she called me because she had hit a deer down near the pike and needed help gutting it. Exactly 1 week to the minute that I decided to let that 10-pointer walk, Pam calls me again. The story this time was a bit more bizarre.
Pam lives on a well-travelled road. 2 years ago, she had popped a doe about a mile West, just having turned off the pike. This time, however. The deer had come up into her front yard and taken umbrage with a collection of flags her husband had been flying on a piece of clothesline hung between two trees. The buck, a hefty 10-pointer, had gotten his rack caught in the wire and broken his neck, struggling with it. I threw a knife and a saw into the truck and headed over.
Pam’s flower bed under the tree was all torn up. The clothesline was toast. The buck was toes-up and stiff, but still warm. A neighbor dog had torn at the haunches and left a huge pile of hair. Somehow, the buck had also torn up his right rear leg to the point where the foreleg was flopping loose. Pam had already called in a police report. I had it gutted in about an hour and loaded on the back her her daughter’s pickup. We have a local butcher down in the village that does deer processing.
It was a strange coincidence that despite deliberately staying home, and despite my passing on a 10-pointer the week before, there I was with blood up to my elbows and the smell of deer innards in my nose.