Standing beside my truck in the predawn darkness it had seemed like there was little or no wind. Now sitting in a ground blind atop a hilly clear cut I discovered that there was indeed some wind, and it was utterly fickle about which way it was going to blow. The worst time to hunt from a ground blind is when the winds are variable. Deer have the most incredible sense of smell you can imagine, and if even a whiff of your scent drifts their way, you can forget any hope of them coming in your direction. I resolved to change my location, even though the sun was already up.
Coming down off the hill very slowly, I watched as a doe ran along just inside the treeline in front of me. Moments later off to my left I saw two does being chased by what appeared to be a coyote. Well they look to be moving pretty good this morning I thought. Let’s hurry up and get into a tree stand and get up high so as to mask my scent a little better. I stepped up the pace.
Thirty minutes later I was safely ensconced about twenty-five feet up a pine tree on a completely different part of the property. Looking downhill over a partial clear cut I could see a creek bottom out about 180 yards in front of me. Gaps in the foliage gave me a clear view into the bottom in only a couple of spots. Similar gaps on my right and left gave me a view into the mixed pine and hardwood forest that flanked the clear cut I was overlooking.
Around 10:30 a.m. my hunting buddy texted me and asked if I was ready to come down and head for the house. “No… I think I’m going to stay up here until sunset” I replied. Why not? I had something to nibble on in my pack and I had water and I was quite comfortable in my tree climber. Best to make the most of an Alabama deer hunt I thought.
About an hour later I was looking into the woods off to my right when I see a doe slowly making her way downhill and towards the bottom out in front of me. I watched her through my binoculars to see if she was alone – and she appeared to be. Even though this was supposed to be the rut she looked to be in no particular hurry, and she also looked to be by herself. Passing out of my view for the moment as she headed down the hillside, I put down my binoculars and shouldered my rifle. Although I had no intention of shooting a doe, I still think it’s fun to put the crosshairs on them as a way of “counting coup”. It allows me to fantasize around the notion of “I could have had you if I wanted!”
Shifting in my seat a bit to give me a more natural point of aim, I placed the crosshairs on the spot where I expected the deer to cross into the creek bottom. And sure enough, in a couple of minutes my doe stepped out precisely where I expected. Placing the crosshairs on her left shoulder I could see her very plainly as she cranked her head around and scrutinized her own back trail. Hmmm… is she being followed? Careful to make no sudden moves – even though the doe was about 180 yards way – I eased my rifle down and took up the binoculars again and began glassing the area where I had first spotted the traveling doe. In just about a minute there appeared a big-bodied buck following the exact path previously taken by the doe.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a buck in my crosshairs. A succession of poor choices for hunting properties, and not nearly enough time spent scouting or hunting has left me “buckless” for more years that I care to reveal. So perhaps you will understand, if even a little, the excitement of having an opportunity to drop a buck that was now unfolding before me.
There is an old deer hunting rule that says once you make the decision to shoot your buck, don’t look at the antlers anymore. If you do, you risk getting excited and spoiling your shot. I had seen a shiny main beam on the rack, and I had seen that he was a good size, so I made my shoot decision and carefully looked no more at the rack. Knowing precisely where my animal would cross in the gap down below, I put down my binoculars and picked up my rifle. I spent the moments while the buck was out of my view getting situated and ready for the shot. The doe had passed out of sight somewhere along the bottom so I placed my crosshairs on the same spot where she had appeared just a couple of minutes before. I had every expectation my trailing buck would show in the same spot. He did.
Unlike the doe who casually stepped from cover, the buck did something unexpected. He bounded across the gap and gave me no opportunity to take a point of aim and thus I had no shot. In far less time than it takes to tell about it, my buck disappeared into cover in the direction the doe had gone. Curses! Damn the luck! Missed opportunities seemed to be my hunting trademark. But nonetheless I maintained my sight picture with the rifle and continued to watch the small gap thru which my two deer had passed.
Only a moment went by and I heard a deer “blow” somewhere down in the foliage along the creek. This is usually behavior you expect when they’ve been startled or frightened by a hunter, and not something I’ve ever witnessed them do in reaction to another deer. With the wind blowing steadily from the direction of the bottom up toward me, I knew there was no way they had gotten my scent, so I kept my rifle pointed at the spot where I had last seen the buck. I saw the doe charge across the opening and apparently reverse her course of a few minutes before and head back up the hill. I remained steady on the gap. The buck stepped out and moved to follow the doe. This time he stopped as if pondering what he wanted to do. I placed the crosshairs on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. At precisely the moment the trigger broke he stepped forward a bit and my point of aim was shifted to his gut rather than his shoulder. But the .270 erupted at 2850 fps and I clearly saw the animal stagger as the round impacted about six inches left of where I would have preferred.
Away into the bottom the buck ran with a discernably odd gait. I knew he was hit, I just hoped very much that he wouldn’t be able to run very far. I waited at least ten minutes there in the stand before trying to climb down. As excited as I was it seemed prudent for safety’s sake that I regain my composure somewhat before trying to climb down from the tall pine tree.
Thirty minutes later, now armed with a four-wheeler and utility wagon, I was at the bottom of the hill, and it took me no more than five minutes to find my buck. He had run maybe 40 yards from where I shot him. The bullet had hit him exactly where I had expected it would, and the view back to the tree from where I fired made me really wish I had a rangefinder with me to confirm the distance. I believe it to have been about 180 yards, and obviously I was pleased with the result.
The rack on the ole boy was a bit disappointing. But later at the processor we looked at the teeth and the opinion of those folks was that the animal was a three year-old deer. So what I had was a somewhat anemic rack that would probably never have gotten any better regardless of how long the deer would have lived. In essence this was a cull buck; one whose genetics you don’t want perpetuated in the herd. Cull buck or no, I still had a wonderful time. The morning had started off with crappy winds, but here before me I had a good kill and the sweet memory of a good overall hunt.
Alabama has one more weekend of deer season, and the late rut in Henry County guarantees it will be exciting. You can bet your ass that GunRights4US will be there!