The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 8, 2013

A very thankful Thanksgiving

— Let’s see, where to begin. First, we have to rewind to last year to start this story.

Last year was a rough deer season for me, as I shot a 12-point with my bow but never found it. I looked for a solid week and into buck season without any sign of the buck. I had the neighbors on the lookout as well but the season ended and I thought for sure the buck had run off and died somewhere. I was sick and disappointed to say the least and was ready to forget the 2012 season.

As fall and another deer season arrived, things took a turn on Oct. 25 while I was watching a field bottom one evening before dark. There were several deer in the field and then out stepped a big bodied deer. I put my binoculars on him and immediately knew which buck it was. Out of nowhere, there he was — the buck I shot last year! His antlers were much more impressive with 8-inch-long bladed brow tines and good mass. The big buck was walking just fine and was obviously healthy. I vowed right then and there that it was this buck or none for me this year.

For the next month I obsessed over how I was going to hunt him. He was comfortably hanging out in a field bottom with the poor mast this year. I decided to stay out of the field and hunt my shanty on the edge as I can easily get in and out of it without spooking deer. The last thing I wanted to do was spook the big buck.

I saw him six different times and had him 60 yards in mid-November, but that’s as close as he got. I remained patient and knew there was buck season where I could take a longer shot. I saw him the Wednesday before buck season so knew he was still there.    

The first morning of buck season arrived and I couldn’t wait to get in that shanty well before daybreak. It was a cold 15 degrees and the ground was frozen. I planned to hang in there all day and that’s what I did other than grabbing a quick lunch with Dad. The day passed and although I saw several smaller bucks, the big guy didn’t show.

I conversed with my neighbor that evening, and he told me he had a recent trail camera picture of the big guy and actually sent it to me. Sure enough it was him. Tuesday provided a steady rain all day, then followed on Wednesday with heavy wet snow that covered the ground.

On Thanksgiving morning it was 18 degrees when I left the truck, with a good 3 to 4 inches of snow. I always love hunting in the snow and on this day it was exactly what I needed. Not long after I got settled in, five does came out of the hollow to my left. I could see forever and glassed the hillsides from top to bottom.

Out on the very end of Mossy point, over 500 yards away, I noticed a doe bedded down. I would have never seen her without the snow cover. As the morning wore on and a few more does and small bucks entered the field I kept an eye on that bedded doe. Around 11 a.m. I was glassing the hillsides again when I noticed a deer standing up where the doe was bedded. “She finally must have decided to stand up,” I thought to myself as several hours had passed. However, when I glanced up she was still lying there.

I put the binoculars on the deer standing up and as he turned his head, all I could see was antlers. “There he is!” I said to myself, trying to maintain my excitement. They were a long ways off and he was evidently bedded behind a tree where I couldn’t see him until then.

The field was full of deer but I locked in on that buck and didn’t take my eyes off of him. The doe finally stood up but started feeding around the point out of sight. My heart dropped because I knew the buck would follow her. He slowly walked her way then bedded down in the exact spot she had been lying at forever.    

As I contemplated on trying to put a stalk on them, the doe thankfully popped back out and started feeding around the point in my direction. I decided to remain patient and just wait as long as I could see them. In the meantime I had sent out texts on my phone that I was watching the big buck.  

For the next two and a half hours I watched the big buck feed a little then bed down. He wasn’t moving very far and in the course of that time only moved 100 yards and bedded down 3 different times. I picked up my phone to see what time it was and it was completely dead. I had no clue what the time was and had Thanksgiving dinner to go to that evening.    

The buck was bedded on a road over 400 yards away. Once again, thankfully, the doe that he was following fed down the hill, continuing to close the distance. I was afraid Tara would start to worry about me, but with the buck I was after in sight, I couldn’t leave. I continued to watch the bedded buck, not knowing how long he would lie there.    

Finally, around 1:30 p.m., the big guy stood up, shook off and started down the hill toward the doe. “Here we go,” I said to myself as I grabbed my gun. He picked up the pace and I lost him for a second in the thick underbrush. I looked up and out popped the doe and when she looked back I knew where he was going to come out.    

The doe took off and he gave chase. I followed him in my scope the whole time but just couldn’t get a clear shot. Finally he stopped for a second and I noticed an open hole to shoot through the way he was heading. I had a steady rest and waited for the buck to move, and when he came through the hole he hesitated, and I took the shot.

He took off but I could tell he was hit.  I worked the bolt and put another shell in my gun as he stopped perfectly broadside.

He was over 300 yards so I had to hold over the buck’s back and really bear down. I squeezed the trigger and he dropped.

I started shaking uncontrollably for a few minutes as I couldn’t believe it finally came to an end.  I pulled out my range finder and the buck was down 328 yards away. That was by far my longest shot on a deer.

As I collected myself and stuff, I climbed down and literally ran to the ATV. When I got up to the buck he was just as impressive as I thought with those long brow tines and heavy mass. He even had a small kicker point on his g2. He was the buck I was after and it felt great to finish the long pursuit. I truly credit the snow and being patient to being able to take this big buck. It was a very thankful Thanksgiving for me, and I’m blessed things worked out the way they did.

It was a hunt I’ll never forget as long as I live and that’s what it’s all about.      

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