Report from Deer Camp– Opening Weekend 2016

In a lot of ways, this Opener started out as a replay of last year. By the time Angus pulled out on his way back to town Sunday afternoon, there were two big bucks on the pole, and neither of them were mine. For the second year in a row, the Patriarch of Deer Camp was left running a taxi service. The problem was I was that patriarch. Mind you, I’m not complaining, I’m just saying. However, by the time the walkie-talkie lit up with Supercore’s first call for assistance, I new my hunt was over. It had kind of been over already.

It was just a few minutes into Opening Day when I got my first chance at a decent buck in 3 seasons. The sun was just thinking about coming up. I was settled in at my stand at Campground. I heard a commotion coming from up Left Leg Creek. It was the freaking Easter Parade. A doe just coming into heat with three bucks trailing her. The doe was making a bee line for the neighbor’s property, and taking a smallish 4-pointer, a scraggly 8-pointer and an 8-or-more brute in a long procession, moving from my 10 o’clock position all the way to about my 4. The first three presented wickedly easy broadside shots. The last one, the shooter, was far more cagey. He trotted between trees and bushes. None of them saw me, but that older buck was not the type to take chances. It was a heartbreaker, but I never got a shot at him.

I had only an hour longer before I heard SuperCore’s call. He had a big one out in the middle of the saddle at Dead Skunk Hollow and was needing assistance. The overall action in our part of the county was lighter than usual; I counted less than half the shots we normally hear.

SuperCore had a monster. 47.5 inches at the chest translated out to a live weight of about 230 lbs. He completely overtaxed my system of buck retrieval– the ramps and block and tackle. Luckily SuperCore had found a new contraption called the Viking L-E-Vator Portable Deer Lift. Wow! This thing is great!!!

Viking L-E-Vator

We made the run to Lennoxburg to drop off the buck at the processor and then resumed hunting. They caped the buck for SuperCore and he spent the rest of the afternoon running the cape to the taxidermist in Falmouth. I went to Midway. Angus went to the S-10 blind overlooking Dead Skunk Hollow. We both saw a lot of action. In my case, there were doe and turkey when I arrived at 1500. The turkeys left after 1630. The last doe left about sunset. Right at 1700, I heard a blast from Angus’ 30-06, and knew there was going to be more action at the meat pole. Sure enough, Angus had a respectable 8 pointer, 190 lbs live weight. This was our second trip to the processor at Lennoxburg that day.

Last year, if you remember, this was sort of how things had gone as well. Angus and SuperCore had bucks before noon on the Opener, and I only managed one doe for the whole season, hoping to save a tag for a buck that never showed. It did not do my outlook any the better when I went to the Jagende Hutte, hoping for lightning to strike a third time in 24 hours, but all I saw were doe. There was a doe out browsing at the top of Dead Skunk before sunrise and there was a single doe here and there over those pastures for the next 4 hours, but never a buck.

We are not big on deer calls. I used to be, but gave it up over a decade ago. Over the years, I never saw where it increased my chances all that much. However, I still give a poot here and there with a grunt call. Both SuperCore and Angus had seen their bucks after blind calling with a grunt call. On Sunday morning, grunting just seemed to be making the doe apprehensive, so I gave up. I dozed off about 1030 reading Eddie Rickenbacker’s memoir and had a confused dream of flying my Nieuport over the trenches filled with deer.

Sunday afternoon was a replay of the previous day. There was a doe out at the Garden of Stone and a flock of turkeys criss-crossed the southern pasture until deciding to come and loaf next to my blind. A short while later, a mother-daughter pair of does came out to browse the edge of the north pasture. Angus keeps a ground blind in the north west corner we call Lazy Boy. It was just past 1700. I could already see the moon up. The light was gone from the field, but the treeline was afire with the light of the setting sun. Below the biggest oak, just down from my turkey blind at the Honey Hole, a buck waddled out and stood in the middle of our tire tracks. There was no doubt in my mind. This was the buck.

I have been using my Ruger Hawkeye out at Midway quite a bit. It is set up for the longest shots at that blind, about 230 yards. This buck was standing at approximately 150 yards, not exactly a chip shot, but not all that tricky. The buck looked my way as I began to take a position for the shot. He was paying me enough attention I decided not to risk moving my chair and just knelt at the sill. I had blown a shot there a few years previously trying to shoot from the kneeling position, but I had been nursing a sore ankle and it had given out on my at just the wrong time. This time, the crosshairs came to rest on the boiler room and the light trigger of the rifle broke just before I expected it. The buck went vertical and took off across the pasture. If I remember correctly, it is about 70 yards wide at that point. What I saw next was confusing. The buck attempted to negotiate the barbed wire fence. There was a lot of brown and a flash of white and some antler thrown in, but I could not make out exactly what happened. I came out the door of the blind, jacked in a fresh round and took off over the field. I called SuperCore and told him to get ready with the truck. However, I told him to delay leaving until I knew where the buck had landed. I did not have to look very hard.

I still cannot tell exactly what happened. The buck was on the other side of the fence facing back towards the open field. His antlers were caught in the lowest strand, and a good deal of his weight was pulling on the fence. I called to SuperCore and told him to come, and set about pulling this buck off the fence. Once he was extricated , we were able to winch him to a level spot in the field and use the L-E-Vator again to load him in the truck. This buck measured 48 inches in the chest and therefore weighed about 236 lbs live weight. He had a 9-point rack with easily the thickest bases we have yet encountered in the 15 seasons of our camp. A big buck out in a field under a super-full moon with the trees afire with the last rays of sunlight is positively sublime.

SuperCore and I are taking a day off to recuperate.  We will spend the rest of season looking for freezer fillers from among the collection of doe we have out in the fields.  There is more to follow. We’re just getting started.

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