During the past couple of years I have spent most of my rifles seasons in the wrestling room training to become an NCAA National Champion. While wrestling in college I could not come home to hunt and for years I have missed out on the experience of being in the woods with my family and friends. In my eyes, sharing the experience with family members and friends is the best way to enjoy the hunt. The time I did get to spend hunting over last 5 years was limited and had not been fruitful. During that time I have seen very few deer while hunting in North Central PA, but I love being out in Pennsylvania’s “Big Woods” none-the-less. This year renewed my buck fever as successful hunts always seem to do.
On the opening day of rifle season I saw only a few deer. It seemed as though it would be another year of one deer here and another there, but no shooters. The second day my family and I made the early morning trek through the darkness to our big woods treestands. I got in my stand before light and was ready to spend another cold day patiently waiting for an opportunity. Suddenly, my seat broke nearly sending me flying out of my treestand and to the ground. thankfully I stayed upright and did not suffer a terrible accident. (this is just another reason to buy a safety harness). I spent the rest of the day sitting on a piece of tubing tied to the tree. Let me tell you that can be quite uncomfortable. This stand location was new to me and it was the first time I hunted in this area.
Around 8:30am I saw the legs of a deer coming up over a hill through some laurel bushes about 80 yards away. I could see from that distance this deer had a nice rack and instantly my heart started pounding. I scoped it out trying to make sure it was a shooter and not just a big 4-point. It was hard to see through the brush, and when I did finally get a chance to get a good look, the buck stood straight behind a tree blocking my view. With his head down browsing the ground, I was getting a little frustrated not knowing what I had standing in front of me. I had to be patient as he stood for nearly 10 minutes behind the rotten tree feeding on acorns. He turned broadside and picked up his head, as it came into view outside the parameters of the old rotten tree I immediately knew I had a shooter in range but as luck would have it his vitals remained obstructed by the tree.
He was calm and I knew I had to pick a good opening for my shot. This was difficult given the thick terrain. Some low hanging tree limbs were giving me trouble and making it difficult to find a clean shot. There was one good opening that I had to be patient and wait for. I watched with anticipation and finally he walked into the opening and I took aim. Breathing out, I squeezed the trigger. The buck bolted. After the shot he was running perfectly fine and made no indication that my shot had hit him. His tail wasn’t tucked and he didn’t bronco buck so I waited to see if he would slow down. He was running right to left in front of me and after about 70 yards I found another opening and took a second shot as he jumped through my scope. “This time I hit him for sure,” I thought to myself as he bucked hard and tucked his tail. He made a hard turn to the left side of my stand and was heading towards some the VERY thick laurel. I quickly took another shot trying to drop the buck before he got into the brush, where tracking could become difficult without any snow.
After the third shot, I listened as the buck ran off into the brush, I heard him fall. “Yes!” I thought to myself. I was excited and yet disappointment at the same time. Never, since my very first kill has it ever taken me so many shots to bring down a deer. I waited a good 20-25 minutes in my stand to collect myself and my things before getting down to track the deer. I chose my third shot which was the closest to my stand to start my tracking point. As soon as I got to the point of impact I could see some blood, very little, but it was there. This was cause for concern and I started to worry as I tracked his blood trail through the thick laurel.
I tracked and tracked until finally I got to a point where I could find no more blood. There I stood, dumbfounded and scouring for the slightest drop of blood so I could pick up the trail. I back tracked and marked the last point where I saw blood before returning to continue my search. I looked all around me and couldn’t see any blood but I could smell the scent of a deer. I knew he had to be close. I began looking for a white belly or an antler, anything resembling a folded up deer. Finally, to my right, I saw him lying on the ground. He was only a few feet away. His amazing coat had hidden his body perfectly in a think patch of huckleberries. I found my trophy, a nice 8-point buck. Proud of myself, I immediately took pictures with my cell phone and sent them to my family hunting with me. “Bragging rights,” I thought to myself. A great hunt, inevitably ending with a nice buck and renewing my buck fever. At least for another year.