Hunter’s Journal: B.F. Grant WMA Buck
By Mike Simmons
A few friends of mine and I got selected for this year’s B.F. Grant WMA quota hunt in Putnam County from Nov. 1-3. We had attended this hunt two years ago, and although we did not see very many deer during that hunt due to the prevailing drought and uncharacteristically hot weather, we were still very excited to get to go this year, as we did find significant signs of large bucks two years prior.
We essentially returned to the same general area we were in two years prior, and after a short time scouting an area that one of my buddies had located, I placed my stand in a tree overlooking a hardwood/pine ridge that dropped down into a hardwood flat bottom pinching against the creek. We had found three or four active scrapes within a 50-yard square with new acorns falling. Likewise, deer trails filtered in and out of the area as it bordered predominately pine thickets on two other sides. It seemed to be a pretty good opening morning stand with the option of a “Plan B” if needed.
That next morning we struck out early as at least two of us had approximately a 30- to 40-minute walk from where we would park in order to get down into the area where our stands were. As it turned out, I was seated in my stand at the top of the tree approximately 45 minutes prior to daybreak. I actually had dozed off as I waited for the woods to lighten up and for the hunt to begin.
Approximately 10 minutes before first light, I was awakened in my stand by the first of what would be seven bucks walking in on me. I could hear the steady cadence of its foot steps as it steadily walked closer coming directly toward me. Soon after this deer walked underneath and passed me, another larger 8-point showed up in front of me right at the edge of light. I was fairly confident that this deer was a shooter, but he would not turn to face me enough to show me the spread of his rack, so this deer also passed. Within the next hour, bucks three and four, two more smaller bucks, passed right behind and underneath my stand.
A few minutes following this, at 9 a.m., my hearing was drawn to the sound of leaves rustling and slashing about behind me and in the thick hardwood flat bottom. At first, I considered this to be the two squirrels that I had been witnessing that morning chasing each other around. Moments later, I came to the realization that this did not necessarily sound like ground leaf clutter but more like leaves and branches being thrashed about.
I slowly stood up and turned around in my stand, fully expecting to see the two squirrels playing rag tag up and down the trees behind me. I directed my eyesight and attention to the area that I believed the sound came from. At that moment, and at the base of a tree approximately 45 yards behind me, I saw what looked to be a squirrel on the right-hand side of the tree chasing another squirrel up the left-hand side of the tree. I almost withdrew my attention and turned my back to the scene when I caught a slight movement below and a few feet behind where I saw the two “squirrels” at the base of the tree.
Having piqued my curiosity and realizing that the general area was probably just too thick for me to be looking at with my naked eye, I looked again at the area with my binoculars, and it was then that I saw that what I thought were two squirrels was actually a large deer coming up the hill.
Game on! I never once realized he was as big as he was until I finally got down from the stand and saw him on the ground. However, I knew he was a shooter, so I raised my rifle, picked my open lane and prepared for him to step into my shooting lane.
As he stepped out from behind the tree, I again noticed that he was a large deer but again was committed to the shot and wasn’t quite distracted about exactly how large he turned out to be. He took a few steps away from the tree going from my right to my left and again stepped behind two trees that left a window of approximately 3 feet between them. All he needed was another three to four steps and he would disappear in an area of thick underbrush with the likelihood of never being seen by me again. I chose to shoot through the window of the two trees. It was my best and possibly only shot.
I shot the bruiser, and I’m proud to say the .300 Winchester shorty never let him take another step. I sat in the stand for another 30 minutes trying to catch my breath, gather my senses and let everything settle down. I could see the deer easily on the ground, but as he fell down behind a large, fallen-over dead oak tree, all I could see of him on the ground was his left rack poking up in the air and the left side of his head. I still had no idea of the extent of his size.
Within this 30-minute period, two more bucks came through and nosed around the area and stared at my deer before venturing on their way.
When I finally got down from my stand and moved to retrieve my deer, excitement swelled deep within me as I watched my deer actually get larger the closer I got. I messaged my hunting buddies who had been contacting me throughout this and informed them that it would probably take more than two of us to get this deer out of the woods. Actually, it did only take two of us, and the game cart and about 2 1/2 hours with numerous rest breaks to get this bruiser back to our trucks.
At 54 years of age, at one point I questioned whether I wouldn’t join the big buck in the afterlife due to the amount of intensive labor it took getting him from woods to truck. A couple of hours of fun in the woods, followed by a steady pull of the trigger makes all the work begin, but it was well worth it in the end. This was a hunt to remember for a lifetime.
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