I am sure it was the same deer. Last year, on the last day of the firearms season on deer, a small four point buck wandered up to my tree stand, offering a shot at about 15 yards. I looked him over carefully, decided he would be bigger next year, remembered how much I enjoy the muzzleloading season to follow, and let him pass.
Even after two misfires and one missed shot during that muzzleloading season, I never questioned the decision to let that small buck live. In fact, I had already seen more than 20 deer from that stand, a fantastic season for any deer hunter.
Yesterday afternoon, about 4 pm, sitting in that same stand, I heard a snap out in front of me, lifted my rifle, started to pay attention, and saw a deer step through a small opening in the trees about 100 yards in front of me. I was pretty sure I saw antlers, but his nose was on the ground.
I knew just what he was doing and where he was going. He was on the trail of a doe, a trail that would take him right past me, about 40 yards to my right. From my seat, I turned slightly to get into position while he moved through a section where I had no view of him. When he stepped into an opening, I got a good look through my scope. Medium sized buck. Probably 150 pounds. Looked to have six or eight points.
Still unsure if I’d shoot him, I shifted my view ahead to the exact spot on the trail where I’d shot a nice buck five years ago, and soon, he walked into the scope. He head was up. Definitely 8 points. At least 150 pounds. So I shot him.
He bounded ahead about 30 yards, stopped, and I shot him again. Down he went. I emptied my gun, grabbed my backpack, and scampered down the ladder, hustling over to where he lay. Nice long-bodied deer, 8 points, a good one. And that’s when it occurred to me that this could be the buck I passed up last year.
Remembering how, after shooting a buck from this stand two years ago in the final minutes of the hunting day, and cleaning it out in the dark, slicing off the end of my thumb in the process, I got to work quickly, before it got dark.
That job completed, I should have gone for help – especially given my heart problems of late. But I took my time, rested often, and got him to the stream and into the canoe, paddled back to the landing, walked home in a sweat to get the Subaru Forester, drove back, heaved him into the back and got him to the tagging station. Took about 90 minutes. Missed church choir practice.
Fortunately, I still have a few friends I can hunt with, sans rifle, because there’s a lot of season still to go, and I love being in the woods this time of year, anticipating the sighting of deer.
At Ballard’s the next morning, the buck weighed in at 152 pounds. Definitely the one I passed up last year.