One of the great pleasures of going up to buck camp is the anticipation of the hunt. We check our lists for gear essentials, target in our rifles, go deer-spotting to build excitement, hike in the woods to verify our chosen stands for opening day, and talk with our campmates about our plans and hopes for the upcoming annual deer season.
Another great pleasure is to reminisce about hunts in the past, especially the successful ones, where camp members hunted hard and aimed well, and nice bucks fell to our larder of winter meat. We scan through our Camp Journal, which illustrates with photos and journal entries the past 35 years of hunting season memories and displays bucks taken a year ago or ten or twenty, and we talk about great hunts we experienced years before.
Such as the one that happened twelve years ago, in 2009. When I arrived at my chosen hunting boulder deep in the forest and high on a ridge in State Game Lands 86, it was a little after 6:00 a.m., an hour before legal shooting time, but there was much to do. Change out of my sweat-dampened shirt and towel off before adding layers of hunting clothing, sip coffee from my Stanley thermos, quiet down the forest, let my eyes adjust as the first hints of daylight crept in and gleamed off the thin dusting of snow on the ground in the near-dark. and wait. and anticipate.
I settled in with a second cup of coffee on top of the boulder and contemplated. This boulder is hard to get to, but it rests on a high bench between the steep lower slope that’s tough for men and even deer to climb and the high mountain plateau where hunters often trek the flat land. It’s a natural in-between escape route for deer, and I see my share – I had killed 8 bucks there in the prior ten years and also spotted several others I couldn’t quite put legal points on – the best ten-year period in my hunting career.
And I remembered the year before that when pouring-down rains greeted us for opening day, and legions of lazy hunters sat fat in their camps, while a few of us real hunters hunkered down under umbrellas deep in the woods. With insufficient hunters to move deer, we endured our worst opener ever. No shooting at bucks and only a handful of deer sightings.
But this year would be different, on a cold but clear morning and a dusting of deer-spotting snow. Daylight crept in, and with it, a volley of rifle shots in the distance, then another, closer this time. The shooting continued, and at about 9:35, 2 quick shots came from direction where I knew Todd would be poised on his boulder, and I hoped it was him and that his aim had been true.
I stayed on my rock, gazing in all directions, keeping a vigil in my hunting zone. Suddenly, at a little past ten, a buck popped up over the ridge and sped right through my hunting grounds. Things happen quickly here, since my spot is an escape route, and I rarely see a buck standing or walking. I verified 3 big tines on a side through my scope and quickly moved the crosshairs into an opening in front of the deer, and he moved right into my sight picture. When the lines crossed on his chest, I squeezed, and the deer bucked and lowered his head, and I knew he would drop within sight. He turned out to be a heavy-racked 7-point with one brow tine, a large older deer.
I field-dressed the buck and sat down on a log and poured one more cup of coffee. I could either drag the deer straight down the slope to the fire trail and haul it to my Jeep in my deer carrier, or I could pull the animal laterally on the side-hill 4 or 5 hundred yards toward where I knew Todd would have posted on his sentinel rock on the edge of plateau and steep ridge near a major deer trail.
I was pretty sure that was him shooting an hour ago, and Todd’s a good photographer, so maybe we could meet up and take a photo deep in the woods along the hillside rather than a posed picture down by the vehicles on the fire trail or back at camp. I decided to meet up with Todd, and 45 minutes later, I spotted him dragging and waving to me. We arranged a photo scene on the uphill side of a big white oak, and Todd set his 10-second timer and snapped an excellent photo of 2 men, 2 bucks, and a background of big woods. A fitting tribute to a memorable day.
DON FEIGERT is the outdoors writer for The Herald and the Allied News. His latest book, The F-Troop Camp Chronicles, and his earlier books are available by contacting Don at 724-931-1699 or email@example.com. Browse his web site at www.donfeigert.com Or visit Leanna’s Books at the mall.