I was unable to join my usual deer camp this year and had to do a little begging to find a good spot to hunt this year. A friend of mine has a farm just outside of Madison, MS, about 200 acres with a couple of small lakes, a lot of open hayfields with good thick cover on the fringes. He's set up some food plots and Oak trees have been dropping acorns in the fence lines all around the edges of the hayfields. When I first went to scout the location, I was amazed by the number and variety of deer sign over the entire area. In about 12 hunts since bow season started, I've only had one trip that I saw nothing. Most days I at least saw several does and usually a small buck or two.
During the early rifle season I discovered that the scope on my old Enfield .303 had finally just had enough after I missed a really nice 8 pointer that should have been a gimme. After scouring the area that evening and for a couple of hours the next morning, I took the gun to the range and discovered that the reticule had come loose and was drifting, so I replaced the scope with the one from my muzzleloader and got it zeroed in and tested the open sights on the smoke stick.
The next weekend was muzzleloader time, so I got set up in my climber overlooking what looked like a major trail to an oak tree and was hoping to at least see the trio of large bucks I'd seen and catch them on the camcorder if they were out of range. About 7 AM, a decent sized doe walked right up to the base of my tree before noticing me and bolting. Fifteen minutes later another, smaller doe came out of the woods about a hundred yards away, angled out into the waist high, sage grass for a little bit and wandered back into the woods. She never really got close enough for me to comfortably shoot with open sights before she disappeared. I was beginning to be a little impatient and really wanted to have something worth shooting at when I noticed a plume of steam where the small doe had come out of the woods. I looked a little closer and saw antlers coming out of the fog, following the path the little doe had taken. He was really interested in her path and not really looking around for danger. When he got to about 65 yards from me and turned broadside, I decided to let fly. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to unscrew the second safety measure on my Knight muzzleloader and the bolt just clicked. I reset it and was able to shoot, but missed him clean in my frustration over the first mishap. He started looking nervous, stamping and looking right at me, but didn't run immediately, so I figured I was busted and would at least get him on the camera.
After about 10 seconds of video, I realized that he wasn't running off and I might be able to reload and try again. As I was trying to quietly and slowly reload, he began to angle over a little closer and conveniently walked behind a tree for me to get the larger motions needed to seat the bullet and finally walked out, only 30 yards away. Having missed once, I was determined not to flinch and managed to hit him in the base of the neck and drop him where he stood. When I got over to him, I discovered that he was missing a point on one side, but still a respectable 7 pointer weighing in at 165 lbs. This was a great deer for me as he doubled in weight anything I had had an opportunity at previously.
By the time I had him processed and could get back out to the woods, rifle season had opened again and the landowner told me I could only shoot a doe or a bigger buck than the one I already had. After all the work of processing the buck, I would have been happy with a mid size doe, so I was alright with the "limit" set on me. He was going to set up where I had gotten the 7 point, so I set up on the ground in the top of a fallen tree near another food plot where I had missed the deer I mentioned earlier. The moon was full and I had seen several deer along the road on the way out and was afraid they'd all be bedded down by daylight.
By 8 AM, I had seen no deer and needed to get home soon to prepare for a family visit coming up, so I was beginning to gather my gear up to head for the truck when I noticed movement in the food plot. The 8 point I had missed Thanksgiving weekend had silently materialized right in the middle of the plot and was feeding. After a closer look to determine that he was indeed as big as I thought, I was able to place a neat shot through the collar bone into the heart, he ran about 20 yards and piled up. This one was a beautiful, symmetrical 8 point that ran almost 200 lbs. Fortunately, the landowner was still close by with his 4x4 and I didn't have to haul that monster out with a drag line.
On further reflection, I think I may have stumbled onto a new strategy for concealment. I received a cap from Delta Waterfowl at an auction this fall and have been wearing it into the field. To get this many deer, this close, they must be seeing the cap and thinking that I'm duck hunting.