The Dumbstruck Hunter and the Getaway Buck

Three amazing events happened to me on the day of November 7th. First, I turned sixteen; second, my mother let me take off a day of school, and lastly the most remarkable hunting story of my short career.

It was a picture perfect day for archery hunting. I felt as if I were in one of those show time hunting videos that all of us hunters know far too well. A damp fall breeze hit my face and I could have swore it went right through my bones. Besides the bitter temperatures, I couldn't have asked for better conditions. From past experiences and knowing the rut was in full throttle, I figured the best setup would be between two bedding areas hoping to intercept a solid buck in need of love.

Feeling like a Popsicle 23 feet above ground, I was scanning below for prey, as an eagle would. I broke out the hot cocoa to replenish my shivering body, considering not having any action since daybreak. My Thermos kept my cocoa piping hot. Sip by sip, feeling returned to my toes. Ten o'clock rolled in as did a fog. Unfortunately my empty stomach just wouldn't let up. I couldn't tell the difference between the gurgle of my food sack or a buck grunt!

So I weighed my chances to have a quick bite before "hunting" again. Now in this particular situation every hunter knows that a trophy buck is just yearning to step out and catch you off guard. Two partridge behind me nearly scared me out of my eight layered custom internal heat suit before fluttering from one thicket to the next.

Just as I turned around with a spoonful of chili dwindling from my mouth, out steps Mr. 11 pointer 50 yards out, sporting an eye popping drop-tine off his G2. His over-sized body trembled with each step. Even his neck burst in a swelled fashion. He acted like a king in his castle and by many means he was. My eyeballs watering, either from the spicy chili or the biggest rack I've seen all season, I can't remember. All I knew was I was in a pickle.

With the speed of a sloth, I managed to hook my backpack on the tree limb, slide the cocoa and chili to the side of the platform and silently unhook my weapon off the holder. I monitored the step-by-step progress of the 11 pointer the whole time. Yet unaware of my presence his sixth sense took me by surprise. The cagey buck appeared to be coming in, but on the other hand, he had a different plan of attack. Instead of coming through my shooting lane, which was ever so carefully cut, he snuck behind me through the fallen timber. He was trying to get a whiff downwind of me.

Obviously, still out of my confident shooting range, the 145-class buck presented no ethical shot. I wasn't about to fling a projectile at an animal risking a miss or even worse, wounding it. At that very moment for the first time in my life, I realized I was finally beaten by a whitetail. Even with the technologically advanced equipment and gear I employed, he got the best of me with his keen senses and ultra radar.

I felt what every other hunter out there has felt one time or another. I was as helpless as a cat in a dog pen. I gazed in awe, watching a magnificent buck's rack glide through the forest. Twisting his headgear through nature's obstacle course, delicately avoiding low hanging tree branches. The last image I saw of him before he vanished into the deep was his round rump wagging his tail at me saying, "Good luck next year."

This is what hunting is all about, successful or not, I had quite the experience. Now I can share it with family, hunting partners and you for years to come.

This particular occurrence has brought me too many "I should have, I could have" theories. Being as ready as our soldiers are in battle is what separates the hunter coming out of the woods with a bloody arrow from the hunter with theirs streak-free.

Hunters must practice minimizing the simple mistakes that deer thrive on. This holds true even during the rutting season. You should be surprised if you don't use your basic strategies you've used all year during the rut. Bucks seldom change their habits during the rut; you shouldn't have to other than a few tweaks here n' there.

Now with that said, I can only hope I have imprinted a memory of my failure to your arsenal. Use this key to increase your success rate in bagging impressive deer, and maybe next fall I will have a happier ending to my story.

By Brandon Wikman, Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Pro Staff

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